A beginner’s guide to Golden Dawn

The poisoned well that today’s Greek neonazis’ sprung from can be traced back to the 1967 Junta, writes Augustine Zenakos

The magazine Golden Dawn was first published by Nikos Michaloliakos, the party’s General Secretary, in 1980. Long before that however, the views of the publisher were hardly unknown.

In 1973, at the age of 16, Michaloliakos became a member of the August 4 political party, named after the August 4th 1936 coup that established the dictatorship of General Ioannis Metaxas August 4 had been founded in 1969 by the neonazi ‘theorist’ Konstantinos Plevris, known for literary feats such as Jews: The Whole Truth.

In 1976, Nikos Michaloliakos was arrested for assaulting journalists who were covering the funeral of Evangelos Mallios – a notorious torturer of the Colonels’ junta – assassinated by terrorist group November 17. Michaloliakos was also arrested in 1978 and sentenced to a year in prison for being a member of an extremist far-right group and for possession of explosives.

In 1984, Michaloliakos became leader of the youth organization of EPEN (National Political Union), another fascist party – this one openly nostalgic of the dictators that governed Greece between 1967 and 1974. Michaloliakos himself has expressed his pride in the fact that he was appointed to this position on the order of the leader of the Colonels himself, Giorgos Papadopoulos, who by then had been sentenced to life in prison. The “National Popular Movement Golden Dawn” (later, “Popular Association Golden Dawn”) was founded in 1985 but its exploits intensified after 1993 when it began organising protests over the issue of Macedonia, aka the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

Michaloliakos bears the title of General Secretary, though members refer to him as the “leader”. In December 2005, the “leader” announced that Golden Dawn would cease operating autonomously and would form part of the nationalist Patriotic Alliance party, which he founded. It was a first effort at blurring the organization’s neonazi character. It didn’t work. In March 2007, Golden Dawn withdrew its support, and Patriotic Alliance faded out of the picture. Golden Dawn’s sixth political convention took place in the same month. An unprecedented rise In the Athens municipal elections in 2010, Michaloliakos was elected in the municipal council.

If there was ever doubt as to whether his organisation had abandoned its neonazi views, they quickly disappeared: at the end of a council session, the Golden Dawn leader gave everyone the Nazi salute. Despite this, the Greek mainstream media are not eager to delve into Michaloliakos’s murky past, even when a document surfaces in which the leader of Golden Dawn appears to have been on the clandestine payroll of KYP (State Service of Intelligence, later EYP, “National”, the Greek Intelligence Service) in 1981. According to the document, his monthly salary was 120.000 drachmas. Michaloliakos has denied this and has claimed the document to be a fake. Golden Dawn appeared in national polling in November 2011 at 1 per cent nationwide.

The following Spring, according to political scientist Efthymis Papavlassopoulos, there comes a crucial moment: Illegal immigration is focused on by the [Greek] media, which presents it as the first and foremost threat that Greece is faced with. In the beginning of 2012, Golden Dawn begins to be presented by the media as a counterpoint to SYRIZA, the left coalition party, which at the time is also rising in popularity. Golden Dawn seizes the opportunity and steps up its rhetoric, condemning the government’s pro-austerity policies. But, in contrast to SYRIZA, it also has a vehemently racist anti-immigrant side to its rhetoric.

The government responds by stepping up its anti-immigrant police action, even opening concentration camps for illegal immigrants. But Golden Dawn still offers up the more “authentic” version: it speaks of Greece as a place for those with “Greek blood”. In the following months it will give out food to the poor, but only if they can prove their “Greekness”, and it will set up a blood bank, with “Greek blood only”. In the national elections of June 2012, Golden Dawn gets an unprecedented 6.92 per cent of the vote, and secures 18 seats in the 300-seat Greek Parliament. Golden Dawn poses as “anti-systemic”, but its party program does not bear this out. The party is certainly not anti-capitalist. Its rhetoric is vague, full of attacks on “thieves”, “banks”, and “corrupt politicians”, and exclamations about Greece’s “huge strategic depth”, through which the country can acquire “inexhaustible power and international influence”.

The party’s proposal for economic recovery is drilling for oil. About the only concrete thing in the party program is what to do with immigration, a subject where proposals take on a ghastly specificity: Golden Dawn proposes to reinstall the anti-personnel land mine fields on the Greek borders – a criminal weapon, banned by the Ottawa Treaty, which Greece has of course signed. ‘Olympian greatness’ Browsing through Golden Dawn magazine, it is difficult to keep a straight face. In its pages, one finds gems such as: “Is the great god Pan dead? The racial soul answers: NO”… The text is signed by the “leader” Michaloliakos himself, who also asserts that “the renaissance of Hellenism means a return to the Models of the Olympian Gods, with which our ancestors achieved greatness”. There other great finds also, such as the story of Rudolf Hess’ Greek ancestry or the story of the resurrected Hitler roaming around Berlin for 40 days.

But nostalgia for Hitler and nazism is not all in the sphere of naive metaphysics. There are titles such as: “May 1945 – May 2005. We have nothing to celebrate”. On the contrary, one reads, in a text bemoaning the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, the “[real] winner is the young fighter of the Hitlerjugend, who fell fighting in destroyed Berlin. The soldier of the Wermacht and the Waffen SS, against the forces of nature and the forces of the enemy”. International ties Golden Dawn has paraded its neonazi beliefs in other ways. In May 2005, for instance, it joined the German neonazi party NPD in Berlin in a ceremony paying respect to Hitler, on the anniversary of the defeat of nazism. And in 2010, Nikos Michaloliakos addressed the audience in a gathering of the Italian neofascist party Forza Nuova.

It is curious, of course, how a Greek political party that claims to be “patriotic” can at the same time be nostalgic of Hitler and mingle with Italian neofascists, given that in Greece, Italy’s defeat by the Greek Army in the Albanian front – as well as fierce resistance to the nazis throughout the occupation – remain a major source of national pride. Coupled with the aforementioned views on the Olympian gods, such beliefs might tempt one to dismiss these people as buffoons and turn away laughing; but our laughter would be cut short. ‘We the strong will crush you like worms’ “We want to create”, Nikos Michaloliakos has said, “a fighting guard that will punish traitors at the crucial time”. And Yiorgos Mastoras, a member of Golden Dawn, has put it in even clearer terms: “It is time for you to understand that the streets now belong completely to us, without a hint of retreat.

You can change your mind and walk on our path, on the road of Nature, Power, and Human History. Do it, or else vanish from our sight, because we, the strong, will crush you like worms”. They mean every word. In 1998 Antonis Androutsopoulos, known by the nickname “Periandros” was second in command of Golden Dawn. In June that year, a student -Dimitris Kousouris was set upon with wooden clubs by Androutsopoulos and nine other GD members. The attack took place after Golden Dawn took exception to a demonstration by trades union members and students outside the Athens Courthouse.

The case, which went to trial, found Androutsopoulos and his accomplices guilty of attempted murder. The place of Antonis Androutsopoulos as Michaloliakos’s right-hand man was filled by Ilias Kasidiaris, who serves as the party’s spokesman and has been an MP since June. Kasidiaris achieved worldwide notoriety when he attacked two other members of Parliament – throwing a glass of water on SYRIZA MP Rena Dourou and striking Liana Kanneli (a KKE MP) in the face, while on a panel discussion on live TV. He was not arrested. In what has become a trademark misinformation act by Golden Dawn, Kasidiaris stated in a speech in the Greek Parliament on September 20: “Let everyone know that they should not speak of neonazism. For us, this is hubris. And criminal defamation”. Facts prove him less than truthful. Recently he wrote an article in Golden Dawn’s newspaper, on the occasion of the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Hitler, he wrote, was “a great social reformer and an organizer of a model state”.

The Greek media’s culpability Despite Golden Dawn’s recent electoral success, not that many people read its paper. A great many on the other hand, read the mainstream newspapers, particularly the “yellower” ones and watch the gossipy TV shows. These media’s attitude towards Golden Dawn’s number-two is, to say the least, peculiar. He has become the new “golden boy” of lifestyle shows and populist tabloids, which go on about whether women find him “sexy”: the fact that he still lives with his parents “because they are a close family”; whether he is romantically involved with a triple-jumper (who was disqualified in the Olympics due to a racist joke she made on twitter), whether or not he has paid 800 euros to get rid of his body hair or has used botox on his face, and why he abandoned tango – his first love before politics.

It will suffice to say that this type of “laundering” through media banality does a lot more to blur the public’s perception of Golden Dawn’s criminal actions, than strenuous denials of neonazi beliefs in Parliament. 425,000 people voting for a neonazi party, in a country that suffered greatly under Nazi occupation and boasted some of the fiercest resistance in the world, is shocking. Shocking, however, doesn’t mean incomprehensible. The reasons can be found in the deepening debt crisis and recession, while interesting analyses point to the structural characteristics of traditional Greek society and contemporary popular culture – that in combination explain in part why such a portion of the public seems enthralled with Golden Dawn.

The most important historical parallel to be drawn, though, is that Golden Dawn’s intentions, the same as those of their original source of inspiration, are plain for all to see. “They do not understand”, said Nikos Michaloliakos in a speech in 2011, “that when we become strong, we will be merciless. If need be, we soil our hands. If need be, we are not democrats.” On this, if on nothing else, Golden Dawn should be taken at its word.

This article is an edited version of Augustine Zenakos’ report ‘Golden Dawn 1980-2012, The Neo-Nazis Road to Parliament’, published in the online blog ‘Reports from the edge of borderline democracy’ www.borderlinereports.net