Greeks trying to find out: What gave rise to Golden Dawn?

Greeks trying to find out: What gave rise to Golden Dawn?

The cartoon was striking: the leader of the Greek fascist party Golden Dawn, sitting in his cell in the Korydallos prison in Athens, wearing a typical prisoner’s striped uniform and listening to his transistor radio waiting to hear the next winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace. In his hands he holds a pen and a notebook, with “Black List” written on its cover.

If anyone expected that the leaders of the Greek fascists would be silenced once they were locked up and that the movement would miraculously disappear, they might need to think it over. Just over a week after their arrest pending trial, the three elected parliamentarians the supreme leader, his purported second in command and one hardcore member, were quick to gather their “political thoughts” and send them for print in their party paper. “As long as even one supporter of the Golden Dawn exists, nothing has finished,” Nikos Michaloliakos, the General Secretary of the party, proclaims in an article entitled, “Pseudo-democracy without its mask”; predictably he links the recent visit by the Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras to Israel with the purge against the Golden Dawn following the brutal murder of a popular rapper three weeks ago. Equally intransigent and unrepentant, Michaloliakos’s right hand man, Christos Pappas, in a separate article emphasizes that the movement is “against the system” and not “controlled by foreign centers.” And after calling Samaras’ coalition government “a criminal gang,” he predicts that “after Crucifixion comes Resurrection.”

The initial shock after the cold blooded murder of Pavlos Fissas and the subsequent wave or arrests of elected parliamentarians and active members of Golden Dawn led to a hot debate on whether its almost half a million voters in last year’s general elections were aware of their party’s fascistic ideology or were ignorantly dragged there out of economic despair, falling living standards and pure rage. Until the murder of Fissas the profile of the Golden Dawn supporter, reflecting from their paramilitary like parades, was of young apolitical men and women largely ignorant of the world – and their country’s - history who would confuse patriotism with nationalism or elderly impoverished pensioners in fear of falling victim to immigrant criminals and seeking protection from the Golden Dawn.

This was only part of the truth as it was shown in an interesting survey published by Kathimerini daily, yesterday. It showed that the majority of the voters of Golden Dawn are men of 25-55 years old who call themselves moderates and centrists. They have medium or low education, they belong to the middle classes and were severely hit by the economic crisis. Only 27.2% would admit that they belong to the “extreme right.” And only one in four are women.

Even more interesting are the data regarding their professional background. The majority (24 percent) work in the private sector. There are unemployed (17 percent), pensioners (17 percent) and freelance professionals (16 percent).

In the lower scale there are scientists, farmers, housewives and public servants but each category attracts only 4-7 percent. Only 3 percent percent are businessmen and only 2 percent are students.
Social scientists, historians and philosophers link the “return of fascism” to Greece as a phenomenon which may have been the result of adverse economic conditions; but it is also related to history, political culture, and generally the moral standards of a society. They claim that there is a factor of collective psychology and the search for an identity by individuals and groups with destructive or self-destructive tendencies. These tendencies, given the adverse conditions end up in turning into feelings of hate for the “other.” This leads the ignorant, oppressed, insecure, dejected people to adopting extremist ideologies that breed contempt of “common moral standards.”

There are also analysts who are looking into specific issues like why did a movement like the Golden Dawn, one the most extreme fascist movement in Europe, grow up in Greece, a country which lost 10 percent of its population during its occupation by the Germans in the Second World War?

The restricted length of this column would not allow me to go over all the interesting arguments that are being debated currently in Greece as well as in Europe over the phenomenon of the Golden Dawn.

Whatever the reasons are and in spite of the collective condemnation of the ideas and actions of the Golden Dawn, lately, a significant percentage of almost 7 percent of the Greek public supports this movement which only a few years ago could only attract 0.5 percent of the population.

And no analyst can deny the fact that if the social and economic conditions in Greece and in the south of Europe do not improve significantly in the near future, this percentage would continue to increase.