Can Europe Make It?

The social, political and electoral rise of Golden Dawn

The political and economic elites did not hesitate to present a far-right political party as a ‘responsible’ political power. This left the door open for the neo-Nazi movement.

Symeon Andronidis
20 August 2014

Golden Dawn’s good performance in the recent European elections (almost the 9.50% of the votes) coincides with the electoral stabilization and rise of the neo-Nazi formation. In addition, Golden Dawn’s candidate for the municipality of Athens received 16% of the vote, which is especially high, reflecting, unfortunately, a social, political and electoral empathy of an entire social strata with Golden Dawn. 

What is more, these results were achieved at a time when the Judicial Authorities were investigating the criminal activity of the fascist-neo-Nazi formation and its leading members were in pre-trial detention.  The electoral fall-out that some people expected simply never happened. The electoral shrinkage of a party is not the result of a combination of random factors, but stems from deep social processes that tend to affect the political situation as well.

Let’s not forget that in the national elections of May 2012, Golden Dawn received 6.97% of the vote, while in June 2012 its percentage was only slightly lower, specifically 6.92%.

What people vote does not just indicate their preference, but has broader connotations as well. It represents the attitude, the political values and behaviour that are established not only in the electoral field, but in the social field as well. The fact that the neo-Nazi formation’s candidate for Athens received 16% of the vote reveals an underlying tendency for the social and political situation to become ‘authoritarian’. Nowadays, the neo-Nazi formation of Golden Dawn is an organic part of the ideological construct of ‘authoritarian statism’, which has been made manifest in actual political action.

Its racist and intolerant political discourse, the targeting and rejecting of all ‘others’ who differ from ‘Us’ and its nationalistic rhetoric come together quite seamlessly to create a broader political and ideological framework which embraces the lower middle class social strata living and working in the neighbourhoods of large cities.

Greece, which is experiencing a deep economic and political crisis, is now witness to a related process of transformation of the far-right party. From the verbal ‘violence’ exercised by LAOS (The Popular Orthodox Rally) against immigrants, we have now passed to the ‘physical’ violence that has been and is being exercised by the neo-Nazi formation, Golden Dawn. More specifically, Golden Dawn combines all the features of an ‘extreme’ and intolerant political language with the exercise of violence against immigrants and against the members of left-wing parties. Those characteristics of ‘verbal’ and physical violence are at the heart of Golden Dawn’s action. The symbolic milestone of this transformation process was the participation of LAOS in the Papadimos government in November 2011.

It was then that the far-right party of LAOS (armed with its anti-Semitism ideology)  acquired a formal political role through its participation. The political and ideological legitimization of this party took place under the pretext of “saving” the country. This political and ideological legitimization has mainly to do with the legalization of the political language of the far-right. What it took was a situation in which the political and economic elites did not hesitate to present a far-right political party as a ‘responsible’ political power.  The institutional role of LAOS ‘within the system’ soon collapsed, as the party failed to enter the parliament in the double elections that took place in 2012. But by legitimizing the intolerant language of the far-right and attributing a ‘mainstream’ character to a far-right party, the Greek economic and political elites left the door open for the neo-Nazi movement.

From that point on, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn has succeeded LAOS by falsely promoting itself as ‘antisystemic’ and attacking the ‘established’ political order. As a result, not only has it managed to enter the parliament, but also to receive a relatively high percentage of the vote. The transformation of the Greek far-right is particularly menacing to the party-political system and to the democratic regime itself.

Where LAOS must be somehow identified with the onset of the economic crisis, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn represents its ‘qualitative deepening’, which has determined the form taken by a profound crisis in political representation.

This creates the conditions for a direct questioning of democracy, by a formation whose utmost tool of action is violence, verbal and physical violence exercised against the ‘bare’ bodies of immigrants, and resulting in the creation of support for the ‘total’ social and political marginalization of the immigrants.  The violence exercised by neo-Nazi Golden Dawn becomes ‘visible’ in large cities, where social ‘geography’ and social stratification have dramatically changed due to the economic crisis. 

This political and ideological transformation of the far-right has pierced through the social structure as a whole, leaving it with real social and political ‘wounds’. The political discourse of the far-right party of LAOS has paved the way for the social, political and electoral rise of Golden Dawn. Antifascist action again the neo-nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, especially in the social field, couldn’t be more important.

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