Comment by: Alexandros Sakellariou, Panteion University of Social and Political Science
The social turmoil of the long period of austerity and recession from 2009-2010 until 2017-2018 led to profound realignments in the Greek political system, apart from the economic and social impact. One of the most salient developments was the remarkable electoral success and entry into the Greek parliament of a formerly marginal political formation, Golden Dawn, thus enabling it to foster an extreme anti-leftist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, Islamophobic and authoritarian discourse focused on anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic scapegoating and the clear rejection of what is now Greece’s third democratic political system, established in 1974. This unexpected electoral success of an extremist political organisation that, since its foundation in the early 1980s, had been identified with National-Socialism and the systematic use of violence, initially against left-wing opponents and from the early 1990s onward against immigrants as well evoked serious concern. Golden Dawn’s impressive electoral leap forwards in 2012, as well as its constantly rising influence particularly among young people, has attracted the attention and concern of the media, politicians and the academia, given the party’s penchant for extremist discourse and violent activism.
In 2013 Golden Dawn’s violent activism escalated leading first to the murder of a Pakistani immigrant (Shehzad Luqman) by Golden Dawn members in January and later that year, in September, of a Greek anti-fascist musician (Pavlos Fyssas). These events led to the arrest of almost all of the party’s leadership and MPs and put into trial with the accusation of being members of a criminal organisation. After five and a half years of trial, thousands of documents, videos and audios which supported the accusation that Golden Dawn was a criminal organisation with a strong top-down hierarchy (Führerprinzip), National-Socialist ideology and the perpetration of violence against political opponents and immigrants, the court announced its decision on October the 7th: Golden Dawn was convicted as a criminal organisation and its leadership was found guilty of the party’s violent attacks and of course of the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, the touch-paper incident for Golden Dawn’s dissolution. On October the 12th, the court declined the mitigating circumstances asked for the defendants by their lawyers, meaning that when the sentences will be announced the leadership of Golden Dawn will be imprisoned. That was an historic day because on October 12, 1944 Athens was liberated from the Nazi occupation. On Wednesday the 14th the court announced the sentences. Apart from the life sentence for the murderer of Pavlos Fyssas, the founder and Golden Dawn Leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, was sentenced to 13 years of incarceration, while other ex-MPs were sentenced from 5 to 13 years. This is considered a huge victory not only of Democracy and the Justice system, but of the anti-fascist movement as well. However, there is no space and time to relax, because according to an opinion poll conducted a couple of days after Golden Dawn’s conviction, 21% of the people argued that a party like Golden Dawn and with a similar ideology, without the violent practices, could be useful in the political sphere.
7th of October demonstration in front of the court
Photo source: https://cutt.ly/KgpYp88 (Creative Commons)