If a week is a long time in politics, the last two weeks must have seemed like an eternity to the Golden Dawn, a more spectacular reversal of political fortunes could rarely be found. Earlier this month, the mainstream press were heavily promoting them as a potential ally and collaborator with the embattled Samaras coalition, facing a week of closed schools as teachers went on strike. And then everything went into reverse.
The murder of Paul Fyssas, an anti-fascist rapper who used the moniker Killah-P shook up the national complacency around the violence of the Golden Dawn. Fyssas was not the first to be murdered at the hands of the fascists, neither was he the first Greek. He was however the first Greek man, and in a society where the structures of sexism and racism lie deep, he was the first killed that full personhood was conferred upon. When immigrants are stabbed, the racist narrative that portrays them as the aggressors can be invoked to ward off the anger; when women are beaten to a pulp, the sexist narrative of “just a domestic” can be utilised, but a white male is far more difficult to shrug off.
Initially, the media did its best to spin the murder away as a fight between football thugs and then later, as the link to the Golden Dawn became harder to deny to attempt to portray Fyssas as starting the conflict, but the testimonies of eye-witnesses, including one who gave a video recording of the murder to the police, which has mysteriously disappeared, together with video and photographic evidence of the relationship between the murderer and the Golden Dawn made this harder and harder to spin. When a former member of the local branch exposed its inner workings, which could no longer be brushed away, revealing the extent of the collaboration between the police and the fascists as well as the existence of hitmen paid to intimidate and assault anyone who challenges them. The speech that Samaras was due to give the following day, widely pre-reported to be making links between the violence of the Golden Dawn and of the anarchists had to be hastily changed as popular conciousness was raised. Truth was starting to break through the media veil.
As soon as the word came out, Golden Dawn offices in Greece came under attack from anti-fascists. The demonstration that evening held in the Athens suburb of Pireas turned violent almost as soon as it started with police releasing multiple rounds of teargas and aggressively pursuing demonstrators. The anger was palpable as bins were set alight to diffuse the effects of teargas, and banks, pawn shops and the shops of mobile phone multinationals were smashed and set alight. Footage emerged that night of men in casual dress standing behind police lines throwing rocks at demonstrators, within a few days people had identified them as Golden Dawn supporters.
Yet still the violence of the Golden Dawn continued, the negative publicity around murdering people no barrier to their ongoing campaign of terror- a high school student was stabbed leaving school after making disparaging remarks about the party, while a woman in Dafni wearing an antifa t-shirt was grabbed from the street and attacked with a knife. In another incident a Golden Dawn supporter pulled a gun on anti-fascist protesters. Multiple other incidents of fascist violence occurred the length and breadth of the country.
But by this time the worms were turning. The Golden Dawn, previously the darlings of the mainstream media, had become pariahs as they started printing stories which previously would only have been available through foreign outlets or obscure blogs. When a major newspaper printed the testimony of a former member – detailing the structure and organisation of the party: an inner core consisting only of men, all pumped up on pills who would arrange the hits; the organisation of a hit went straight to the leadership, anyone who squealed was badly beaten, and that money was paid for beatings – the whole can of worms threatened to escape. The Golden Dawn “brand” was severely tainted.
On the 20th September the police protection that Golden Dawn officials had enjoyed was withdrawn, as its leader threatened to sue anyone and everyone who said anything nasty about them. A poll conducted between the 21st and 23rd September showed support for Golden Dawn flailing; the first time it had seen a significant drop in its previously uninterrupted rise. On 24th September, the first arrests started, the immunity with which the party members had operated with for so long now under threat. Five members were arrested in Thessoliniki and three in Chalkida. Found with a variety of weapons including clubs, knifes and pepper spray. Further raids on Golden Dawn offices found yet more weapons as well as police equipment including a belt with 15 shotgun bullets stored. Later it emerged that one of the Heads of the Units of the Psychiatric Hospital of Attica was a Golden Dawn member and had been issuing “Certificates of sound mind” to his patients to enable them to obtain gun permits.
The collusion between the Greek police and the fascists is an open secret, but one which is denied by the narrative of “rotten eggs” who have surreptitiously maneuvered their way into its lower ranks. The collusion however goes straight to the top. Two “resignations” were tendered on the 24th of September, of the senior police chiefs for central and southern Greece. A dozen other police officers also “switched roles”, including the Heads of the anti-terrorist squad, the organized crime squad and the guns and explosives units; the Head of Security of the Police’s Headquarters; the Director, Commander, Deputy Director and Deputy Commander of the Counterterrorism Unit (EKAM); the Director and the Heads of the Organized Crime and Human Trafficking Units in Attica; the Deputy director and Head of the Weapons and Explosives Unit in Attica and the Head of the MAT riot police squat in Keratsini. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of senior police officers, and senior police officers with significant responsibilities and consequent powers.
Not just the police however were affected. On the 27th September, the government removed the senior investigating officer into the activities of the Golden Dawn after it was revealed that he was a close relative of a senior member of the party. Apparently no-one had ever noticed this before. But then he did know a little bit about torturing immigrants, he was involved in the 2005 case where the at the behest of the British Secret Service MI6, the Greek authorities abducted and tortured twenty seven Pakistanis living in Greece. When the Pakistani community finds the neo-nazis playing football with their heads, or when one of their community is murdered, it must be horrifying to find out that the person in charge of the investigation into the perpetrators has colluded with a foreign government to do similar.
The army too is not free from the fascist disease, a member of the party claimed in a major national newspaper that there was an entire military structure comprising 3,000 people trained by the elite special forces unit within the Greek military who were “ready for anything”. On Wednesday 25th September, the fascist sympathising KEEF organisation produced a list of demands, including that the government stepped down, and called on people to attend Syntagma on Saturday the 28th to demonstrate their support for this form of action. The reaction in Greek society was one of dismissal and hilarity, but the Government immediately called crisis talks, eventually banning any gathering.
On the evening of the 25th September, a massive concentration and march was held, starting in Central Athens headed for the main Golden Dawn office. Approximately 50,000 people gathered in Syntagma with the majority participating in the march. Loud, active and noisy it was clear that Greece had woken up from its complacency and was determined to see the end of the Golden Dawn. Approximately 500 meters from the office, the Greek police which had been shadowing the march along side streets moved in to protect their ideological compatriots. Teargas met molotovs and flashbangs met ripped up marble as the main body of demonstrators retreated. After the march was re-routed, the police again moved in, splitting the march and isolating some protestors, defending themselves by creating a cordon from flagpoles to keep those inside safe as the police approached. Eventually the standoff passed without incident, but the spectacle of scared young people in flimsy summer wear protected being only by the bravery of those who stood at the front as fully tooled up riot police with guns drawn approached menacingly is one which is hard to forget.
Despite the reshuffling in the police and the investigation going on in the army, the Golden Dawn were still pugilistic, attending court on the 27th September to attempt to sue PASOK for financial irregularity, and suggesting that they may withdraw all of their MPs from the parliament, triggering by-elections the breadth of the country, hoping to blackmail the government into ending the clampdown. The majority of the Samaras/PASOK coalition is paper thin, and 18 by-elections could well see the end of them. PASOK is way down in the polls and with no Golden Dawn to back them up, New Democracy could be forced to give up the leadership of the country.
On the morning of 28th September, three Golden Dawn MPs, including the leader of the party, and its candidate for the Mayor of Athens were arrested as per leaked information published the previous evening. Thirty two other Golden Dawn members were also arrested while warrants for another two were outstanding. Charges included multiple homicides and money laundering. Decapitated, the members were thrown into confusion, with first a call to gather at the Golden Dawn offices, and then subsequently at the Police Headquarters were put out. Yet, in a testimony to its ongoing cosiness with the police, there were none of the double rows of tooled up riot police there to meet them, unlike when anti-fascists gather, instead they were met by a loose line of friendly bobbies on the beat.
News of the arrests reached social media quickly, with the primary reaction being relief that finally action was being taken, yet in amongst this relief was an outpouring of homophobic, misogynist, racist crap which looked forward with glee to the arrestees being feminised and sexually assaulted in jail, ideally by Black men (because everyone knows thats where Black men live). The problem of fascist ideology in Greece goes way, way, way beyond the Golden Dawn and the county will be forever vulnerable to the poisonous ideology they peddle unless they rid themselves of it from the root.
For remember that while the official fascists may now have been arrested, the concentration camps are still there. There are many more fascists in Greece than just the ones in the Golden Dawn. Only two weeks ago, the government was prepared to consider a coalition with these people and the spoutings of senior members of the party, demonising immigrants, while turning a blind eye to their violence, belie their similar philosophies.
And all the while, the austerity measures which fueled the rise of Golden Dawn continue apace. In the two weeks since Fyssas’s death, 90% of Greek schools have been closed for a week as teachers protested against the 15,000 redundancies; civil servants have been on strike for two days, also in protest at the cuts, and the University of Athens has closed, unable to continue to educate its students with the skeleton staff that remain after nearly 2,000 workers were made redundant.
This clampdown isn’t based on new found morality or repugnance at the deeds of the Dawn, but on cynical political calculation that its brand is tarnished by the murder of a proper person, unlike those dark skinned or beskirted ones whose deaths can safely be ignored. The fall of Golden Dawn in the polls has made them worthless as a potential alternative collaborator to PASOK, while their hold over critical areas of Greek operational capacity – particularly within the police force, is becoming a challenge to the government itself. Tough times are ahead, more cuts to come; more misery and more hunger. The Golden Dawn has outlived its usefulness to the masters of capital and consequently must be starved.