Neo-Nazis in Greece

Since their election to Greek Parliament in June, the popularity of Golden Dawn, Greece’s fascist party, has been on the rise. After the elections, public support for Golden Dawn polled around six percent. In the four months since, Golden Dawn supporters have been associated with escalating violence against immigrants and increasingly nationalistic and jingoistic displays of “Greek-Only” pride, including “Greek-Only” food drives and blood banks.

Alarmingly, in a poll released late last week, national support for Golden Dawn was up almost four points with support for the party polling around ten percent. As the Greek economy continues to crumble, the conditions are ripe for a party scapegoating foreign powers and immigrants as responsible for Greek troubles. But what is perhaps even less surprising is that Europe has seen this before: a fascist party gaining power and popularity in the face of economic crisis and the imposition of harsh austerity measures.

You need not look any further than the rhetoric the party has adopted in the advancement of their platform to see some obvious parallels. The official party song is a direct translation of a “Nazi Stormtrooper hymn” and their motto, “blood, honor, Golden Dawn,” a direct translation of the motto of the Nazi SA. They even sell copies of Mein Kampf at their headquarters.

Watch a NYT video report on Golden Dawn.

Yet the news surrounding Golden Dawn is not all bad. The government, journalists and civil dissidents alike are beginning to stand against the party.

Last week, Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis announced that racially motivated crimes now carry a minimum three year sentence. Roupakiotis was blunt in his explanation of the legislation, saying:

“We condemn in the strongest possible way every act of violence, and especially actions by members and supporters of Golden Dawn against immigrants or other citizens. We believe this is an insult to our long-standing notions of justice and the defense of human rights. It is a threat to harmony in society and creates the conditions to develop fascist and neo-Nazi ideology.”

Greek hospitals have called Golden Dawn’s “Greek-only” blood drives “repulsive” and have promised to deliver blood based only on need, never on race.

Twice this year, unknown individuals have destroyed Golden Dawn offices, first in the town of Patras and mostly recently in Central Athens.

The Greek Federation of Journalists warned warned “Hitler nostalgics” that they would not be intimidated and would continue to vocalize their opposition to the party and its Neo-Nazi tactics.

While the mainstream response to Golden Dawn is heartening, the rise of the party is nonetheless deeply unsettling. As Americans, we view institutionalized racism and fascism as a thing of the past. We also tend to the dismiss the possibility of an authoritarian regime rising to power in a modern Western nation.

But the frightening reality is that we are watching this very situation unfold in Greece. Economic stress and uncertainty about the future has led at least ten percent of Greeks to express support for a party eerily reminiscent of the Nazi party in Germany. Conditions in Greece today and the Weimar Republic following World War I are not dissimilar. Unemployment and inflation have skyrocketed. Both nations owe or owed a tremendous debt to other European powers (ironically, Greece owes a substantial portion of its debt to Germany).

People in Greece are looking for answers and Golden Dawn is more than happy to provide them: the foreigners, the socialists and the EU are responsible for Greece’s problems. Blame them. Greece is for Greeks. And Golden Dawn will fight like hell to keep it that way.

Let’s hope like hell they don’t get that far.

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