The long, drawn out trial of Golden Dawn has ended in a spectacular victory for the antifascist movement in Greece. The court found Golden Dawn members guilty of the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssos, the attempted murder of four Egyptian fishermen and a violent attack on trade union members of the Communist Party. More significantly, the court put paid to the pretence that Golden Dawn was a parliamentary party by finding it guilty of being a criminal enterprise, one whose prime purpose was to carry out criminal acts planned by its leadership.
The court rejected attempts by the state prosecutor (acting more as a defender of Golden Dawn) to have the sentences suspended pending an appeal, a process that could take years. Golden Dawn’s would-be führer, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, and five other members of the ruling body, are now in jail, each serving a thirteen and a half year sentence. So is the assassin of Pavlos Fyssas, Giorgos Roupakias, serving a life sentence plus 14 years. Everyone is now rushing to claim ownership of a victory that they had done nothing to win.
The attitude of the governing centre-right party, New Democracy (ND), is particularly nauseating. On the day of the verdict, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, claimed that his party had always been anti-Nazi. Yet before the murder of Fyssas in 2013, the ND government under his predecessor had been engaging in back channel communications with Golden Dawn MPs. As the Financial Times reminded its readers in its coverage on the day of the verdict, ND had “considered co-operation with Golden Dawn as it struggled to counter a surge in support for Syriza”.
It had been forced to initiate court proceedings against the very organisation it had been flirting with because of outrage over the assassination condemned by all parties — even Golden Dawn. It was the central role played by the anti-fascist movement over many years that ensured the disintegration of Golden Dawn. Keerfa was crucial to that. It understood that Golden Dawn could not be defeated through reliance on parliamentary methods as, despite Golden Dawn gaining 21 MPs to become the third largest party in the May 2012 elections, the real aim of the party was to ride to power on the back of an extra-parliamentary street-fighting force capable of destroying every democratic element that stood in its way, particularly the working class movement.
In addition to terrorising refugees and migrants (such as the Egyptian fishermen), its squads would seek to control neighbourhoods by “removing” “illegal” non-Greek traders from local markets and offering welfare to victims of the economic crisis (provided, of course, they were Greek). The murder of Fyssas was an extreme example of its assault on what it saw as a deviant, unpatriotic culture. And the attacks on trade unionists (particularly Communist Party militants) was intended to show the bosses that Golden Dawn could stop any working-class challenge to their power. But this combination of electoral strategy and streetfighting thuggery was unstable. Those drawn by the Golden Dawn message to give them electoral support were far from being convinced Nazis.
It was important, therefore, for Keerfa to mobilise on the broadest possible basis in order to break the momentum of Golden Dawn. That meant not only hundreds of mobilisations and discussions designed to unite all those under attack — migrant communities, women, youth, LGBT+ people and trade unionists. It also meant responding to every attack, by seeking to isolate and drive Golden Dawn from public spaces in every neighbourhood and to prevent the thug squads from operating. Crucially also, workers took strike action. There were general strikes in the public sector and action in, for example, hospitals, schools and state broadcasting.
This is what broke the momentum of the neo-Nazis. Splits grew between the hardcore and more “respectable” elements. The last national election saw Golden Dawn lose all its MPs. Deprived of its parliamentary base and of its neighbourhood “offices” (where the paramilitary squads were based), it was already socially and politically isolated before the court conviction delivered the coup de grace.