A torrent of world-wide publicity has followed the murder of leftist musician Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn supporter Giorgos Roupakias, two nights ago. In Greece, understandably, the discussion is even more tense. But what is missing in this discussion -partly obscured by the horrific, if murderously delayed, realization that this gang of thugs is out of control, and partly purposefully concealed by the mainstream media- is that there is a very profound sense in which Golden Dawn is not “the problem”; the problem is rather this perverse coalition of “socialist modernizers” and far-right nationalists, who are governing Greece ostensibly to safeguard its “European perspective”. Next to the thugs themselves, it is the Greek government who must bear the full responsibility not only for Golden Dawn and its crimes, but also for the fact that a brutal, racist, totalitarian agenda now forms a significant part of the Greek state’s attitude towards democracy and its institutions.
It is not Golden Dawn who created concentration camps for immigrants. Centre-left and centre-right politicians did that. Concentration camps for immigrants, drug users and homeless people were first talked about in pre-Olympic Greece, in 2004, with the purpose of “improving” the image of the streets of Athens. The Olympics were planned by the centre-left government of Kostas Simitis and took place during the centre-right government of Kostas Karamanlis. The first concentration camp was to be constructed in the old NATO army base, in Aspropyrgos. The plan never materialized due to the reaction by NGOs and left-wing parties. It was discussed again when Christos Markogiannakis took over the Ministry of Public Order, in 2009, but again was not put into practice. The one who finally gave life to the idea that a modern democracy should imprison immigrants without due process or trial in containers fenced off with barbed wire was Minister of Public Order Michalis Chrysochoidis, a “socialist” with centre-left PASOK, currently Minister of Transport in our coalition government. The creation of concentration camps was hailed as a major breakthrough by Andreas Loverdos, Minister of Public Health at the time, another “socialist”. And the practice came into full bloom under the direction of current Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias, an MP for New Democracy, a self-described “liberal”.
It is not Golden Dawn who criminalized HIV. Centre-left politicians did that. When a group of HIV-positive women were detained by the Greek Police, forcibly tested, charged with a felony, imprisoned and publicly exposed, with their mug shots and personal data published in the media, in the run-up to the country’s 2012 national elections, only for the charges to be quietly dropped by the courts in the months that followed, it was none other than the aforementioned Ministers Loverdos and Chrysochoidis who engineered the whole operation.
It is not Golden Dawn who tortured hand-cuffed detainees in police custody. Nor was it Golden Dawn who covered for the torturers by lying in Parliament. It was the democratic police of an EU country that did that. And it was a centre-right politician who covered it up, Nikos Dendias yet again, who vehemently denied any wrongdoing in Parliament, although forensic reports showed extensive beatings and even taser gun scars on detainees. And when we interviewed him for UNFOLLOW magazine, he again denied any wrongdoing, despite the forensic reports. The Minister even said he was going to sue the Guardian over a report on the Greek Police’s use of torture. Up to now, of course, he has done nothing of the sort. Moreover, these incidents appear against a background of innumerable complaints for abuse and torture by the Greek Police, as reported by Amnesty International, which also documents 12 cases where Greece has been convicted by the European Court of Human Rights for police crimes.
And one should of course not neglect to mention that poisonous anti-immigrant rhetoric is by no means the sole province of Golden Dawn. It was our Prime Minister Antonis Samaras who proposed that we should “reoccupy our cities”, that have been taken over by illegal immigrants. It was Minister Nikos Dendias who concurred, with the rather colorful remark that it is as if “we are standing on the walls of Constantinople”, with the Ottoman armies about to invade. It was Andreas Loverdos who called Golden Dawn “an authentic movement”. And it was New Democracy MP Chrysanthos Lazaridis, the Prime Minister’s foremost adviser, who even now, a day after the murder, blamed the Left and the main opposition party SYRIZA in particular for “undermining democracy”.
These examples, of which there are many more, should make the targeting of Golden Dawn, as directed by the Greek government only after its many attacks and murders of immigrants gave way to the murder of a Greek, all the more transparent. It is not just that having Makis Voridis, a prominent New Democracy MP, call Golden Dawn a “criminal organization” is the height of hypocrisy, as Mr Voridis was formerly a leader of the extreme nationalist party National Front, and before that had served as secretary for the Youth Organization of EPEN, a fascist party, having succeeded in this position Nikos Michaloliakos, the current leader of Golden Dawn. It is that is should become clear to all that in the erosion of Greek democracy, Golden Dawn never was and still is not the principal culprit; this honor rather belongs to those who have been governing Greece for the past years.
Golden Dawn’s unmistakably neonazi constitution, the crimes of its thugs, as well as its collusion with the Greek police, have been exhaustively documented – by Borderline Reports, among countless others. So, even now, Golden Dawn should be dealt with as a criminal organization, that much is certain. It would however be an unforgivable misreading of the situation not to point out that if the so-called “centre”, this perverse coalition of “socialist modernizers” and far-right nationalists, who are governing Greece ostensibly to safeguard its “European perspective”, are allowed to press on with their attack on democratic institutions, undermining human rights and fueling racism, with their dogma of “zero tolerance”, targeting strikers and demonstrators more than neonazi gangs, encouraging police violence and torture, and presenting public indignation as a precursor of fascist brutality, and with their rhetoric of the “two extremes”, denouncing the left-wing opposition as “terrorists”, then this government will have succeeded in tearing apart the very fabric of Greek society. Politicians deluded in such ways have led people to civil wars before. We should not allow them to do it again.
_________________The title of this article initially was: “The Problem Is the Greek Government, Not Golden Dawn”. It was changed after some readers pointed out that it did not adequately reflect the main point of the article, which is not that Golden Dawn is not a problem, but rather that the main ‘player’ in Greece’s continuing erosion of democratic liberties is its government.