Is the Golden Dawn saga over?
The date Jan. 1, 1985, might mean nothing to most of us; nothing major happened in the world on that Tuesday, apart from the fact that people all over the world were celebrating the beginning of a new year.
For the secret and dark world of the Greek neo-fascists and neo-Nazis, it was the date when their party was officially founded under the name of Popular Association-Golden Dawn. After the fall of the colonels’ junta in 1974 with the enthusiasm of democratic restoration, freedom for this ultra-right new party was seen as an evidence of freedom and was being granted to every political idea, even the potentially dangerous.
It took 35 years for the party to be officially banned by the Greek courts who concluded that it was nothing more than a criminal gang linked with hate crimes. The decision was made on Oct. 8. The founder and leader of the party, Nikolaos Michaliolakos, a mathematician in his late 50’s, who remained an admirer of ultra-right politics with declared racist beliefs, was convicted together with 67 other key members of the party including Michaloliakos’s wife. The court gave Michaliolakos and five more members of the party a 13-year sentence. All six were former members of the Greek Parliament; one of them an active member of the European Parliament.
The phenomenon of the Golden Dawn, its emergence, its growth and its shocking entry to parliament in the double general elections of 2012 with 6.92 percent of the vote runs parallel to Greece’s descending to its deepest economic crisis in recent history. The year 2012, was also the year that the leftist Syriza party came to power, the first time for a leftist party. Of course, there are obvious links between the sudden drop of living standards of most Greeks and the anger against the painful bailout agreements imposed on the society, with the rise of a party of anger and hate like the Golden Dawn. But it was the brutal murder by knife, in plain view, of a popular rapper by a member of the Golden Dawn that brought the organization eventually before justice. After more than five years of police investigations, which also revealed other racists crimes by Golden Dawn, the core members were found guilty and would be sent to prison.
Is this the end of Golden Dawn? Is this the end of fascism under the travesty of a political movement? Of course not. Such an ideology is running parallel to mainstream political thinking, usually in the shadows, but emerges each time the society suffers.
Mikis Theodorakis, the almost centenarian emblematic composer and leftist political figure, sent a message on the occasion of the banning of the Golden Dawn. He points out that Golden Dawn emerged “not under the threat of tanks but with the tolerance of political and judicial powers.”
He warns that fascism does not end with a court decision. “We are witnesses of a rising fascist mentality in our daily life, in our personal relations, in the lack of respect for the ‘other,’ in the relations between political parties lacking any notion of respect and the right to a different opinion. It is the proof of a deficiency of real education and culture. The issuance of a judicial verdict should not lead us to complacency.”
This deficiency seems to be the spirit of our times.