Panagiotis Sotiris: “The Crackdown on Golden Dawn”


Comment by Panagiotis Sotiris

We must make sure that the Left is not simply voicing anger and protest, but also offering a radical alternative narrative for Greek society, transforming the subaltern classes into a collective subject of resistance and emancipation, a new ‘historic bloc.’

Panagiotis Sotiris is a professor of political philosophy at the University of the Aegean and Mitilene.

Panagiotis Sotiris is Professor of Political Philosophy at University of the Aegean and Mitilene.
He may be contacted at Photo from

For many people in Greece – including the writer of this comment – watching the Golden Dawn leadership in handcuffs, with only a handful of supporters protesting their arrests, was a happy moment. A neo-Nazi organization, with a long history of attacks, beatings and cold-blooded murders, is finally accused of being exactly what it is: a criminal organization. Although a small comfort to all those who suffered from Golden Dawn’s attacks, recent developments are indeed a victory for anti-fascists and the mass movement against Golden Dawn, especially after the murder of 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist rapper in a working-class suburb of Piraeus.

However, the decision by the Greek government and the Greek judiciary to finally bring charges against Golden Dawn should not make us forget the responsibility of successive Greek governments and pro-austerity parties for the rise of Golden Dawn. Both New Democracy and PASOK not only tolerated for a long period the activity of Golden Dawn, but also took advantage of its rise in order to shift the political debate to the right. Golden Dawn is being penalized but the agenda of the far-right has become part of the political mainstream. Racist anti-immigrant policies, authoritarian attacks on protesters in the name of “law and order” and anticommunism are the trademarks of the Greek government. In the name of the theory of the “two extremes,” both the radical Left and anarchist groups haven been attacked. Pundits in big-business controlled media have suggested that a more “serious” and modernized version of the Far-Right could be part of a potential government coalition against the Left and anti-austerity movements…

Nor should we forget that the electoral rise of Golden Dawn was fueled by the consequences of an extreme experiment in neoliberal social engineering. Recession, unemployment and poverty, along with a sense of loss of any form of sovereignty, have led to massive shifts in political allegiances, both to the Left, leading to the impressive electoral rise of SYRIZA, but also towards the Far-Right.

A combination of reasons prompted the current Greek government to attack Golden Dawn. First of all, Golden Dawn, despite its impeccably pro-business voting record in parliament, is not just another Far-Right formation, similar to those parties that have proliferated in Europe since the 1990s, which have combined racism and authoritarian conservatism with neoliberalism and loyalty to “liberal democracy.” Golden Dawn remains, to its core, an openly neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, anti-parliamentary party that was set on a course to gain electoral momentum. As such it was perceived as a political threat for New Democracy, which wanted to stop bleeding votes towards Golden Dawn, and also for the political system in general. To this we should also add the anxiety of international organizations, especially the European Union, that were not keen on the idea of a neo-Nazi party as a major player in Greek politics.

Finally, the mass movement of protest after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas and the widespread demand for justice put the pressure on the government to do something in order to avoid being accused of a cover-up. The many interconnections between Golden Dawn and the security apparatus of the State (Michaloliakos himself started his career as a paid informant of the Greek intelligence service) made it rather easy to gather evidence against them.

It is obvious that the Greek government is investing politically in the arrests of Golden Dawn so as to gain the political initiative, shift the focus of the political debate from austerity and the devastating consequences of the bailout packages to questions of “political stability” and “defending the rule of law,” and re-attract right-wing protest vote to Golden Dawn. It is also going to use the crackdown on Golden Dawn as a means to legitimize “law and order” policies against all forms of “extremism” including mass protests.

However, it is far from certain whether this strategy will work. On the one hand, the rise of Golden Dawn cannot be attributed to the skills of its leadership but to a prolonged period of social, political and cultural crisis that increased the appeal of the mixture of socially cannibalistic hatred and authoritarian paternalism that Golden Dawn proposed. Therefore, the social roots for the rise of the Far-Right remain in place. On the other hand, the rupture in relations of representation for New Democracy and PASOK, because of the austerity policies, is not easy to heal.

Consequently, whether the Greek government will manage to shift the political balance of forces to its favor is far from sure. And this is the challenge for the Left: how to regain the political initiative instead of simply watching the government crackdown on Golden Dawn.

This means that must wage the anti-fascist struggle with even more determination. We must demand full disclosure of the activity and organization of Golden Dawn, including who funded it, and full dismantling of its attack groups and its ties to the police and the army. We must fight to uproot neo-fascism from society, by winning back working class neighborhoods and the masses of the unemployed, by making sure that fascism loses its appeal to desperate youths, by building networks of solidarity in order to make sure that no-one is left alone facing the consequences of the crisis.

At the same time, we must make sure that the Left is not simply voicing anger and protest, but also offering a radical alternative narrative for Greek society, transforming the subaltern classes into a collective subject of resistance and emancipation, a new “historic bloc.”

However, this will not be possible, if the Left limits its politics to positioning itself as a potential systemic alternative that will renegotiate a milder version of austerity – one possible outcome of the SYRIZA leadership’s “pragmatic” turn – or if it limits its role to critique and protest, which is the problem with the tactics of both the Communist Party (KKE) and many groupings on the anticapitalist left.

What is needed is a Left strategy that should include exit from the Eurozone and the constraints imposed by the “European Integration” project, a collective effort for the productive reconstruction of Greek economy through nationalizations, self-management and workers’ control, and a “constituent process” that will reinstate democracy and popular sovereignty.

The current conjuncture in Greece still has the potential for historical surprise. It is up to the Left to seize the opportunities offered.

The opinions are the author’s.

Print format (read all)