Golden Dawn: Nazis on rise in Greece

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The Global Economic Crisis has had adverse effects in many parts of the world, especially Europe. However, of all European countries and European Union member states, Greece is suffering far more than most. Its economy is predicted to be 25% smaller than it was in 2009, unemployment stands at 25.1% and those still in work have gone weeks, if not months without pay as harsh cuts to public spending bites hard.

The dire economic situation in Greece has caused a great deal of helplessness and distrust of its main stream political leadership. This has created a vacuum which has now been filled by a boastful and confident Neo-Nazi party, calling itself the Golden Dawn.

Golden Dawn has existed for close to 20 years, mostly as a tiny fringe organisation, which many Greeks would not have previously heard of. However, as the Eurozone Crisis hit the country especially hard, with all the real life consequences it entailed for the poorest in society, Golden Dawn were able to gain popularity by placing the blame for massive drop in living standards upon outsiders, mainly the country’s immigrant communities. Immigrants from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East have been subject to racist attacks by Golden Dawn members, recognisable by their Nazi style black outfits and shaved heads. As a result migrants are attacked by these thugs, some losing their lives in the process.

The organisations success stems from not just positioning migrants as the main problem in Greece, but also the party’s drive to feed the Greek indigenous poor in the form of soup kitchens and employment agency. Their rise in popularity has been striking: in the May General election, the party went from 0.3% of the vote at the previous election to 7% of the vote, winning 21 seats in the process. While the number of Golden Dawn MP’s has reduced slightly since then, their impact is still being felt in Greek society, with the passive help of the Greek establishment.

The anti-immigrant mood in Greece has followed a trajectory that is typical to countries suffering severe recession, fear for the state of the economy driving a wish for opportunities to stay with those who are from the country and are thus ‘more deserving’ and as such has been pandered to by politicians seeking votes. The leader of the centre-right New Democracy party and current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras made incendiary statements on the campaign trail, describing immigrants as ‘society’s tyrants’ and calling for their removal from the country. The media has also played a role in scapegoating migrants for a lack of jobs and poor economic prospects, creating an anti-immigrant climate where extremists such as Golden Dawn were likely to flourish.

The passivity of the establishment has extended to the police, who have been accused of directly colluding with Golden Dawn, using the party as an indirect way of targeting the anti-austerity left in Greece who have been active in highlighting the damage such severe cuts are causing. It is also feared that Golden Dawn have taken advantage of low morale within the police to infiltrate it and win support, thus preventing censure for attacks and even giving the party confidence to launch its racist attacks within full view of police officers.

Whether such links are real is hard to confirm or deny, but what is clear is that a far-right party in Europe is benefiting from widespread discontent and a feeling that the elites who run the country are not solving any problems, as well as an anti-immigrant feeling that has emerged thanks to these insecurities. As a result, it seems as if Golden Dawn is increasing its support, with more people supporting the party now than during the summer elections. All of this means that immigrant groups in Greece are under real danger as the economy continues to fail and people’s livelihoods continue to suffer. The rise of Golden Dawn sends a clear signal that people need to be always vigilant against extremism, as it can easily flourish when conditions are right.

Robert Austin

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