The Background: From Parliament Seats to a Prison Cell
It was in 2012 when the Greek elections made headlines around the world. The Greek nationalist party known as the People’s Association – Golden Dawn won a dramatic 2,000% rise in its electoral support. For Nationalists all over Europe, that was one of the strongest “white pills” of the decade. Golden Dawn had not only gained a level of popularity that was unheard of for a nationalist movement in most parts of the Western world, but most importantly, it did so without any compromise in its positions or its rhetoric.
Instead of falling for the mostly failed mindset that drives nationalists into “smoothing their edges” in order to appeal to a wider audience, Golden Dawn focused instead on grassroots activism that addressed the Greek people’s everyday problems, thus normalizing nationalism in a crystal-clear form. As expected, that success spread waves of panic within the political establishment of Greece. After more than a year of fruitless smear campaigns, the Greek Government – that saw its opinion poll numbers “evaporating”, with the numbers instead rising for the nationalists – decided to drop the democratic pretenses, resorting to the most extreme measures against its new political opponents. In September 2013, the leader of the movement, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, alongside several other MPs, were arrested on charges of “running a criminal organisation”. Two ministers of the government had compiled a huge case file of violent attacks against nationalists by Antifa thugs, interpreting their actions of self-defence as evidence of some huge conspiracy operated by Golden Dawn.
The goal of this ridiculous show was to achieve the pre-trial detention of the party leadership and thus eliminate its ability to sustain its growing public support. Indeed, Nikolaos Michaloliakos was kept behind bars for a whole 18 months in detention without a trial – that is allowed in Greece – but against all odds, he was re-elected as an MP in 2015 from inside his own prison cell. After this second “impossible” success followed 4 years of immense pressure against much of Golden Dawn’s activities. Now with a leftist government, the Antifa gangs were officially allowed to hold counter-demonstrations at every nationalist public event and organise more terrorist attacks against nationalists that had to apologise to the authorities for every defensive move they made, despite the fact that two members, Giorgos Fountoulis and Giorgos Kapelonis, were murdered and several offices had even been bombed. The media did, of course, their part by constantly referring to Golden Dawn as “a criminal organization”, despite the lack of such a verdict, banning any voice of opposition to their propaganda and calling the conservative voters to rally behind the neo-liberal party as a means to prevent the leftists from reclaiming government power. All the combined forces and strategies above did not succeed in dissolving the nationalist party, but they did, however, manage to reduce in the 2019 election their electoral results just enough so as to not reach the 3% threshold required to enter Parliament. With the party that started the political persecutions in the first place in power, and nationalists excluded from their institutional role, now was the moment for the second act of the judicial show.
It took 7 whole years for the corrupt politicians of Greece to find the proper people and timing for the case of the so-called “criminal organization” to be finally presented as somewhat litigable to their own supporters. In July 2020, Nikolaos Michaloliakos was convicted alongside many ex-MPs and simple supporters of his party. They were all subsequently deprived of their rights for parole until an irrevocable verdict. But Nikolaos had already shown what he was capable of even when imprisoned, so an even more vicious propaganda campaign followed resulting in today’s perception about Golden Dawn.
The Current State of Things: A Fight Against All Odds
As a result of all these events, mass media around the world persistently claimed that Golden Dawn had been outlawed in Greece. At the same time, a fierce new wave of censorship took down every official website and social media account, thus depriving the party of the ability to spread the truth. There were even cases of imposters claiming to speak on Golden Dawn’s behalf that contributed to this misinformation. But what has really happened? Despite the wishful thinking of its enemies, Golden Dawn is still a legal political movement, which practiced, practices and will continue to practice freely its political activities to this day. The fact that some members of the party were unjustly convicted by a court of first instance – a verdict already appealed – and are held as political prisoners, has no legal effect the movement, its function and its legality. All of the above are based on the Greek Constitution that outright forbids the banning of any political party.
Now, Greek nationalists face once again an “impossible” mission – reinvigorating the nationalist appeal after years of propaganda, terrorism, legal restrictions, imprisonments and even lethal attacks against its members. Yet anybody following the Greek nationalist scene cannot help but notice that Golden Dawn is pioneering once again in Greece. The old successful strategies are coming back and are now combined with fresh ideas. The simple political offices are turned into nationalist social centres, including libraries, bars, exercise facilities, ideological seminars, etc., with more people joining them each week. A series of activist actions all over Greece, ranging from food distributions to Greek families in need to protests against LGBT propaganda and mass immigration once again brings nationalism back into the public eye and smashes the false perceptions of the Greek people.
At the same time, the leadership of Golden Dawn seems to heavily prioritise the upbringing of a new nationalist generation. The “Youth Front” is now the “spearhead” of the struggle, proving the be most effective. Mass media are constantly reporting in panic about how Golden Dawn support has taken over high school classes in almost every major city of the country, while the activist presence of nationalist students in university campuses breaks the leftist narrative that for almost 50 years maintained an exclusivity in every political expression in academia.
A typical example of what Golden Dawn’s actions look like was a demonstration that took place in the center of Athens on the 28th December. Golden Dawn had publicly announced for the first time that after the years of the COVID-19 restrictions, its annual event in honour of the three Greek Navy officers that were killed by Turkish fire during the Imia dispute would be held. As a result, more than 20 Antifa groups, alongside the former government coalition group SYRIZA, held a counter-demonstration. Despite having the full cover of the police and the support of the government to their illegal call, the leftist mob did not prevent the Greek nationalists from gathering by the hundreds, with young people being an obvious majority, causing a frantic delirium within the Greek media and countless expressions of support from Greek passersby.
Looking to the Future
It is obvious that things aren’t going to be easy any time soon for Golden Dawn and Greek nationalism in general. Several new parties label themselves as “patriotic” and try to mislead nationalists, while being pro-EU and without having any real national goal. Golden Dawn’s leadership will have to spend many more months in prison, and even their otherwise mandatory release for this year is uncertain. However, the party has recently been regaining some power in opinion polls that has led the government to announce new legislative measures that will attempt to prevent the party from participating in the coming elections on bureaucratic grounds. Much remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – Golden Dawn serves as a great example of what an open “war” with the elites looks like, and its story has not yet come to an end.