Thousands of workers, youth, and anti-fascist activists have celebrated since early Wednesday, October 7, since the announcement of the court finding against the leaders of Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi political formation that became Greece’s third-largest parliamentary force when the scourges of the economic crisis that began in 2008 hit the Greek state hardest. The Athens Court of Appeals, presided over by Maria Lepenioti, found seven members of the Golden Dawn leadership, including its leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, guilty of belonging to and leading a criminal organization. Another 18 people have been convicted of membership in this criminal organization.
The trial dragged on for more than four years. Now that this harsh blow has been dealt to the leadership, proceedings will continue against the remainder of the 43 defendants.
The ruling banishes the neo-Nazi organization. Its online media and website have been down for weeks, and its headquarters locations are up for sale, including its command centers from which hundreds of attacks have been coordinated over the years — including the assassination of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, known as Killah P.
Michaloliakos was imprisoned in September 2013 right after the investigation that followed the murder of Fyssas at the hands of a militant from Golden Dawn. But even before that, the group had perpetrated dozens of xenophobic and racist attacks that the police and judiciary simply decided to ignore.
The decline of Golden Dawn goes back long before this adjudication of it as a criminal organization. On the date the court announced its finding, more than 200,000 gathered to hear the verdict in what became the broadest monitoring of a trial against fascism since the Nuremberg trials after the end of World War II.
Golden Dawn was an extreme right-wing party that openly defended a fascist and neo-Nazi ideology. This defeat goes beyond this court ruling, or the resounding electoral defeat that kept it out of the Greek parliament.
Η στιγμή της ανακοίνωσης ότι η Χρυσή Αυγή είναι εγκληματική οργάνωση.
— Παρα-καντιανός (@Jimmy_Korgialas) October 7, 2020
At 0:13, the crowd reacts to the announcement that Golden Dawn has been found to be a criminal organization.
It was not only the judicial system that has led to the crushing of Golden Dawn, but also a strong battle against the group by workers, youth, and the Greek people maintained over many years. The bourgeois judicial system has only recently certified that battle. Collusion between the police, judiciary, politicians, and the business community allowed the group to go unpunished for years.
Unlike other Europhobic or right-wing populist formations, Golden Dawn explicitly defended the ideological principles of Nazism and was a paramilitary organization created in the image and likeness of Hitler’s stormtroopers. This gave Golden Dawn a different character than other extreme right-wing groups, such as Vox in Spain. The Golden Dawn paramilitary undertook organized attacks against anti-fascists, refugees, trans people, people of color, people of the Left, workers, and others over a long period.
In Greek cities and towns, the unity built between different workers’ and left-wing organizations, together with anti-fascist and neighborhood collectives, has been crucially important in destroying the neo-Nazi group. Beyond the big mobilizations against neo-Nazism that take place each September 18, the anniversary of Pavlos Fyssas’s murder, coordinators have not let a day go by without demonstrating against the neo-Nazis. Thanks to that struggle over 2017 and 2018, the anti-fascist struggle managed to shut down some 35 venues Golden Dawn had spread throughout Athens.
— U (@kinimatini) October 7, 2020
After the announcement of the court’s decision is made, the police turn fire hoses on the demonstrators.
Because of the regular collaboration between cops and Golden Dawn members, Greek workers, youth, and anti-fascist activists have also had to ensure their own safety on the streets. As the movement against the neo-Nazi group grew, they took charge of the security at demonstrations, protecting participants with helmets and sticks.
This very relationship between Golden Dawn and the police, coupled with the racism and xenophobia they spread throughout Greek society for years, explains why a court ruling alone could never be trusted. It is why the movement took its forces to the street. Both the right- wing New Democracy party and the neo-reformist Syriza government tolerated Golden Dawn and its participation in parliament at the same time it unleashed fascist gangs on the streets — where the real fight against Golden Dawn played out.
First published in Spanish on October 7 in La Izquierda Diario in the Spanish State.
Translation: Scott Cooper