In a context of chronic economic dysfunction and political upheaval, a small fascist party in Greece named Golden Dawn (Χρυσή Αυγή) gained international notoriety when it secured 7 per cent of the popular vote in national elections and eighteen seats in the Greek parliament in June 2012. Support for the party has remained fairly steady since, but a criminal investigation into the party’s alleged criminal activities, launched in September 2013, and the murder of two of its members in November 2013, provoked an internal crisis. The results remain to be seen ahead of elections to local council and the European parliament in May: some argue that the crackdown will actually boost its popularity at the ballot box. In Australia, the party has a very small but active following among the local Greek population and is currently seeking to broaden its activities in collaboration with the Australia First Party (AF).
Golden Dawn (GD) has roots in the Greek neo-Nazi movement. According to Antonis A Ellinas (‘The Rise of the Golden Dawn: The New Face of the Far Right in Greece’), the party’s violent antics have allowed it ‘to establish an anti-system and anti-immigrant profile, and capitalise on these sentiments’. Until recently, the party also operated to help repress the Greek Left, often in conjunction with the Greek police. Following the murder in September 2013 of antifascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by GD member Yiorgos Roupakias, however, the state has begun to move against the party.
According to another analyst, ‘rather than running the risk of being manipulated by the Nazis of Golden Dawn, the state itself has always manipulated the extreme Right for its own benefit, ready to sacrifice it when the cost outweighs the benefits.’
Shortly after its surprise victory in 2012, the party announced it would be opening offices overseas, in Chicago, New York, Montreal, Nuremberg and Melbourne. These projects have experienced varying degrees of success. In February 2013, GD MP Ilias Kasidiaris claimed on 3XY Radio that the party would send an official delegation to open its office in Melbourne. The announcement sparked outrage locally and as yet no MP has managed to make it out to Australia to cut the golden ribbon. A Facebook page in support of GD in Melbourne (established in March, 2010 but since closed), had gathered over 2,500 fans by the time John Ferguson wrote about it for the Australian in July, 2012. Most supporters were Greek residents; only a few hundred resided in Australia.
In March of that year, a small number of GD supporters attended Greek Independence Day celebrations at The Shrine in Melbourne, and did so again in 2013. According to antifascists who attended in 2013 event officials instructed them to stop leafleting or be forcibly removed. When asked why GD members were allowed access to the Shrine, the stewards replied that GD had obtained prior permission to attend from event organisers. It’s unknown if GD attended 2014’s celebrations, but if they did, it was not as an organised group.
Despite tepid support from local Greeks, the local party’s efforts, spearheaded by Iggy Gavrilidis, appear to have been at least partially successful. Based in an office/warehouse space in the northern Melbourne suburb of Thomastown, in early 2014 the organisation sent a container vessel full of goods to GD in Greece. The goods were collected in the name of Voithame Tin Ellada (‘We Are Helping Greece’). VTE announced its existence with a Facebook page established in November 2013: ‘A group of us have come together to help our people in Greece. We are in need of clothes, blankets, and packaged food.’
Draping itself in the Greek flag, VTE initially disguised itself as a non-GD project, designed to appeal to an audience receptive to ‘helping Greeks’ but not to GD’s political line (Jewish bankers are ruining the Greek economy; politicians and the Left are traitors; undocumented migrants are running rampant, etc). It appears that a number of unsuspecting donors may have friended the page without realising they were supporting GD. As an unregistered charity, VTE may not have informed donors precisely who would receive their donations: in Greece, many local GD branches are under investigation for selling donated goods on the street and pocketing the proceeds. Further, while this kind of ‘charitable’ work has served a distinct propaganda purpose for GD, as antifascists have observed ‘the knife that cuts the bread at their soup kitchen is the same knife that killed Pavlos Fyssas’.
In any event, in recent months VTE has openly declared itself to be operating in support of GD, draping containers in GD flags and attending meetings wearing GD clothing. Curiously, among the few hundred Facebook users to have indicated their support for VTE is the former Mayor for the City of Monash, Peter Vlahos – support which has extended after it became clear VTE was a project of GD.
In addition to ‘charity’ work, GD members have also been active in Sydney, attending Greek community events and collaborating with GD activists in Melbourne in organising the shipments to GD in Greece. In Melbourne, the Australia First Party (AF) has distributed leaflets at Greek community events, including one titled, somewhat incongruously, ‘Multiculturalism Means Death!’
AF declared itself to be in political solidarity with GD in February 2013. In its statement the party welcomed GD’s decision to open an office in Melbourne and noted that while ‘there are no official links between the two parties, there are clear parallels of ideology and politics’. GD has close links with other fascist parties in Europe. On 1 March, representatives from GD, Forza Nuova (Italy), Democracia Nacional (Spain), Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Germany) and the British National Party (BNP) gathered in Rome to discuss ‘Europe Rises Again’.
In December 2013 and February 2014 AF organised rallies at the Greek consulate in Sydney to express this support and to oppose GD’s attempted criminalisation. Party leader Dr James Saleam has previously cultivated links with the far Right in Greece by way of membership of the online ‘Academy of Social and Political Research’ and publishing in its journal Ab Aeterno.
AF’s latest exercise in solidarity with GD is a rally and march scheduled for Friday 2 May in Brisbane. According to organisers, AF and GD supporters will be meeting at The Greek Club in South Brisbane before marching to and then picketing the Greek consulate in Central Plaza. The march and rally is an ambitious goosestep forward for the Brisbane branch of AF, which previously distinguished itself by unsuccessfully attempting to disrupt marchers at an Invasion Day event. How successful the attempt to rally proves to be will, like that of Golden Dawn Down Under, depend in part on the opposition it generates. My hope is that this opposition will be considerable.