mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Neo-Nazis Become Greece’s Default Police Force

Greece’s far right neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn has taken on policing responsibilities in Athens, with disturbing results. An article in the Guardian paints a dismaying picture of Greece’s trouble with politics and immigration these days:

One victim of crime, an eloquent US-trained civil servant, told the Guardian of her family’s shock at being referred to the party when her mother recently called the police following an incident involving Albanian immigrants in their downtown apartment block.

“They immediately said if it’s an issue with immigrants go to Golden Dawn,” said the 38-year-old, who fearing for her job and safety, spoke only on condition of anonymity. “We don’t condone Golden Dawn but there is an acute social problem that has come with the breakdown of feeling of security among lower and middle class people in the urban centre,” she said. “If the police and official mechanism can’t deliver and there is no recourse to justice, then you have to turn to other maverick solutions.”

Other Greeks with similar experiences said the far-rightists, catapulted into parliament on a ticket of tackling “immigrant scum” were simply doing the job of a defunct state that had left a growing number feeling overwhelmed by a “sense of powerlessness”. “Nature hates vacuums and Golden Dawn is just filling a vacuum that no other party is addressing,” one woman lamented. “It gives ‘little people’ a sense that they can survive, that they are safe in their own homes.”

Steve Coll calls it “Greece’s other crisis.” As he writes for the New Yorker:

[Greece] has been saddled not only with unmanageable debts, austerity budgets, and German condescension but also with the frontline burdens of a broken European Union asylum and migration regime that combines high ideals with deep denial.

“At least eight out of ten illegal migrants to the European Union enter through Greece,” he continues. This problem has been growing steadily worse as austerity measures bite into the broken Greek economy. During June’s parliamentary elections, Golden Dawn, an anti-immigrant neo-Nazi group, won a record number of seats (18), making it clear to the world that such far-right nationalist groups have found new support among the wider population.

That support is growing fast:

One survey last week showed a near doubling in the number of people voicing “positive opinions” about Golden Dawn, up from 12% in May to 22%. The popularity of Nikos Michaloliakos, the party’s rabble-rousing leader had shot up by 8 points, much more than any other party leader.

Bad things happen when European politics are dragged to the fascist right. Is Golden Dawn’s rise a sign of things to come in Greece and elsewhere?

Features Icon
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service