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The Revival of the Extreme Right and Fascism in Greece

December 16, 2003


Searchlight Magazine

GREECE -- The twilight world of Golden Dawn

From Anna Stai and Kostas Koutelos for Antinazi Initiative in Athens

The revival of the extreme right and growth of fascist political currents have caused mounting concern across much of Europe. In this special Searchlight report, the Antinazi Initiative in Athens reveals that Greece has been no exception and examines the scandalous political protection and absolute immunity from prosecution that Greek nazis seemingly enjoy.


Hardcore nazis are a distasteful and dangerous political phenomenon anywhere, but it is probably only in Greece their printed materials are sold freely at every news stand and kiosk. And it is probably only in Greece that, despite numerous violent attacks in the past few years, they have had only one criminal conviction and no jail sentences. Worse, not a single parliamentary party in Greece has ever had the courage to demand that these thugs, hell bent on the obliteration of democratic rights, should be outlawed.

This appalling state of affairs is an intolerable insult to European Union, of which Greece is a member state.

The main Greek nazi organisation is Chrysi Avgi or Golden Dawn. Established in 1987, it advocates open national socialism, virulent racism and murderous antisemitism. Hitler, the Third Reich, Rudolf Hess, the Waffen SS and the swastika are Golden Dawn’s idols and emblems of choice and appear repeatedly in its publications. When the organisation organises public events, however, it prefers only to dress itself up as “nationalist” and “patriotic”.

Quite how many members Golden Dawn has is uncertain but when it stages demonstrations in the centre of Athens it always gathers at least 200 people. Apart from Athens, it has offices in six other big cities – Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Kalamata, Trikala, Volos and Korinthos – and “core groups” in 20 more together with one in Cyprus.

Despite its very small membership compared with mainstream political parties, Golden Dawn does not lack resources. They include a strong publishing operation and its own bookshops in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki.

The scale of its publishing operation is demonstrated by its seven regular publications, including two weekly newspapers Chrysi Avgi and Eleftheros Kosmos (Free World), two bimonthly glossy magazines, a twice yearly journal, the magazine of the Greek branch of Blood and Honour and the monthly magazine Signal, which is a just a reprint of the original magazine published in Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944.

Golden Dawn campaigns around schools, a key source of recruits, and organises public gatherings and demonstrations in Athens and elsewhere. Music is also important for the transmission of its sick ideas, and it concentrates on the white power skinhead and black metal scenes. As a result, it has connections with and promotes hate music bands from all over Europe and distributes their CDs free of charge through another of its magazines, Antepithesi (Counter Attack).

Mirroring the activities of its German counterparts, Golden Dawn’s activists have taken part in big demonstrations, especially against Israel and USA, without hindrance from the organisers. They also organise around football and formed their own “group of football fans”, the so-called Azure Army, four years ago.

With such an infrastructure, it is hardly a surprise that Golden Dawn’s open nazism finds violent outlets. Indeed, ever since the organisation was founded, reports of its violence, which includes stabbings but is mainly savage beatings, have filtered into the media. Most of its violence, however, never reaches the public domain because the victims are immigrants, afraid to bring charges against the nazis or even to report them to the police. They remain silent even in the face of attacks by groups of thugs armed with clubs, iron bars, knives and other weapons.

As well as attacking individuals, these thugs have launched onslaughts against ethnic minority communities, destroying community offices and shops. They have also wrecked bookshops and invaded student campuses.

Despite all these violent acts, it is significant that very few incidents have led to prosecutions. Where this has occurred, it has only been because the victims had the support of organisations of which they were members, or could identify their assailants.

Taking the nazis to court is a hazardous business.
Golden Dawn’s most vicious attack took place in 1998 right in front of a court building where some of its members were on trial. The attack put one victim in hospital with serious brain injuries, where he remained in intensive care for a long time. The lout responsible was Antonis Androutsopoulos, a deputy leader of Golden Dawn, who to this day has not been arrested for the assault and is now on the run. Although a prosecution has been brought against him and he could be tried in his absence, his trial has been mysteriously postponed.

Even when cases do reach the courts, Golden Dawn mem-bers are only ever charged as individuals. The organisation as such has never been prosecuted even though it is obvious that it actively conspires to organise violence.

Golden Dawn appears to be well connected internationally, its printed material highlighting its links with other European nazi organisations. It is effusive in its backing for parties such as the British National Party, the German National Democratic Party (NPD) and the French Nation Front (FN), at the same time proclaiming its closeness to hardcore nazis such as the British Movement, the National Alliance in the USA, with which it jointly publishes a youth magazine called Antepithesi + Resistance, Nationaler Widerstand in Germany and the Spanish nazi rag Cueste lo Que Cueste. It also has contacts with nazis in eastern Europe.

In October 1998, Golden Dawn hosted a major international nazi conference in Thessaloniki. The sole response of the Greek government to widespread protests against it was to insist that “Greek laws were not violated”.

Golden Dawn has fielded candidates in Greek elections since 1994 and has even been invited to participate with all the other political parties in presenting candidates on television and deciding which parties will get television time. In October last year, four Golden Dawn members stood for election to the Athens city council with an extreme-right party called LAOS, which is represented in the Greek Parliament by its leader, George Karatzaferis. LAOS scooped up 14% of the votes.

Other European nazis admire and envy the activities of Golden Dawn, and express astonishment at the freedom their comrades enjoy in Greece. To reciprocate, Golden Dawn regularly publishes the jail addresses of nazi prisoners in European countries and urges its supporters to send messages of support.

Greek anti-fascists have not been passive. On 14 May 1998, the Antinazi Initiative submitted documentary evidence demanding that the government outlaw Golden Dawn, including a complete dossier on the organisation’s activities, legal and political arguments and the signatures of hundreds of ordinary people. The petition, addressed to the Prime Minister Kostas Simitis, the then Minister of Justice, the late Evangelos Giannopoulos, and the President of the Greek Parliament, requested them to comply with the international Anti-Racist Convention, CERD, which Greece has ratified, and to introduce laws banning nazi organisations.

After receiving no answer, the Antinazi Initiative requested a meeting with the Justice Minister. When that too was refused, the anti-fascists resorted to the Greek Ombudsman. The Justice Ministry finally answered the Antinazi Initiative in February 1999 but suggested only that independent prosecutions should be brought against Golden Dawn, a move that is futile without political and legislative support.

The Greek state’s persistence in defending the legality of the nazis may have something to do with the fact that the nazis’ propaganda on foreign issues dovetails neatly with political ideas that have gained increasing currency in the country. According to this viewpoint, the absolute enemy of the nation, indeed the entire planet, is the USA. This theory is not based on any anti-imperialist concept but on notions of the “cultural superiority” of an “Orthodox Greek nation” threatened by “Western bourgeois culture” and a supposed “Jewish conspiracy”.

Correspondingly, the real “friends of the nation” are Russia, Serbia and other Orthodox countries, the Arabs “oppressed by Zionism” and every right-wing regime worldwide as long as it is an enemy of the USA and Israel. Nowhere else in Europe was there such massive public satisfaction at the terrorist massacre of 11 September 2001 or such support for Hamas and Radovan Karadzic’s Serbia.

In such an environment of rampant ignorance and crude nationalism, the Greek nazis move like fish in the sea as two characteristic examples show.

During the Serbian Army’s bloody “ethnic cleansing” of the Bosnians, the public service trade union, the General Confederation of Greek Workers, and the Archbishop of Greece, with the full support of all Greek political parties, welcomed the Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic as a hero in the biggest stadium in Piraeus. At exactly the same time, Golden Dawn sent some of its members to join the so-called “Greek Volunteer Guard” to fight on the side of the Serb Chetniks. After the bestial massacres at Srebrenica, this “Guard” triumphantly raised the Greek flag side-by-side with the Chetnik flag. No wonder then that the Russian fascist Vladimir Zhirinovski subsequently invited Golden Dawn to participate in an “international conference of right-wing parties” at the Russian parliament.

Last April, the publisher Govostis invited the British fascist historian David Irving to present the Greek edition of his book Hitler’s War at Athens Museum of War History, which belongs to the Ministry of National Defence. Retired top Greek Army officers were present as was Vyron Polydoras, a leading MP of the major opposition party New Democracy, who bizarrely claimed that Irving is “the man who holds the truth”. Together with this august audience sat members of Golden Dawn. The rest of the gathering evidently found this perfectly acceptable.

Greek anti-fascists need international support and are hoping to win backing from the international anti-fascist movement for their campaign to force the Greek government to ban nazi organisations, including Golden Dawn, and to bring to an end the shameful situation in which Greece has become a playground for Greek and international fascists.

Copyright © 2003, Searchlight

     
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