The trial of the Golden Dawn party is the longest trial in Greek history ever – after starting officially on the 20th of April 2015, the final verdict will finally come out this Wednesday, the 7th of October 2020. It is also the largest court hearing of Neo-Nazis since the Nuremberg trial as 68 people, including the organisation’s entire leadership and MPs, are facing charges of operating a criminal organisation while posing as a politicall group.
During the trial, testimonies have been heard from the families of the murdered Fussas and Luqman, the attacked Egyptian fishermen and communist trade unionists, as well as a whole host of other victims of their violence. The prosecutors systematically proved that they were a neo-nazi, highly hierarchical organisation and that their actions consisted of organised criminal activities and not isolated incidents.
The importance of this trial however goes beyond its length and the unprecedented volume of evidence material. In a country whose public institutions have a legacy of fascist sympathising dating back to the aftermath of the WWII and the Civil War, the final verdict will send a very clear message. And it is in no way self-evident what that verdict and that message will be.
We got a taster of the entrenched fascist state fighting back when at the end of last year, as lawyers prepared to make their closing arguments, the state prosecutor – an official who sits alongside the judges and recommends what course of action they take – officially suggested that Golden Dawn’s leadership should be acquitted of the most serious charges, since the violent crimes were “isolated acts for which the leadership was not responsible”.
The story of Golden Dawn is a powerful cautionary tale. It is the closest we have come to seeing fascism in its most extreme form regain a foothold in European politics in this century. Every country in Europe has groups like Golden Dawn whose hopes of breaking into the mainstream lie in economic collapse, intense social conflict and a state that doesn’t enforce the law. Golden Dawn’s power lay in the social unrest created by extreme austerity and the failure of the state, but also in the platform given to it by the media, and people’s unwillingness to face up to the problem and fight back against it
It took advantage of the anger, social erosion and poverty created by the aftermath of the debt crisis and the extreme austerity measures imposed by the IMF, Eurogroup and European Central Bank with their bailout programmes to position itself as a radical alternative to the corrupt state and mainstream political parties. It also harnessed the anti-immigration sentiment that had also begun to rise at that time by openly positioning itself against migrants and refugees.
Complicit in aiding the rise of Golden Dawn were the country’s institutions. The existence of tight links between the Greek police and Golden Dawn was an open secret, and as such police would largely turn a blind eye for them during their attacks against migrants and leftists. The mainstream media covered for them, presented them as a legitimate political party and omitted to cover most of their criminal activity. The mainstream political parties also legitimised them by accepting them as a political party.
It is most probable that the case may have never even come to court if it were it not for mass anti-fascist protests in the autumn of 2013 placing the government under public pressure. As important as this verdict is, fascism is not only beaten in court-rooms. The most important fights happen in the streets, in the schools, in the workplaces and the neighbourhoods. It has to be rooted out in the places where the conditions are created that aid in its growth and “average” people are turned into far-right extremists.
In GAF London we believe that is absolutely necessary for environmental activists to actively oppose fascism in all its forms. Not only to stop it from infiltrating our movements using the rhetoric of ecofascism, but also because in the coming years, when the effects of climate change become even more evident and the social order starts to fracture, fascism could play an important role in shaping the outcome. The same economic and social crisis that Golden Dawn took advantage of in order to raise to prominence will occur again in an even more extreme form. These could give fascist movements another opportunity to gain power by presenting themselves as the only alternative to the chaos caused by capitalism and the environmental catastrophe. And even if they never attain full control over the state apparatus, we have already seen them being used as the pawns of governments to repress emancipatory movements. Such as during the George Floyd uprising in USA, where they violently attacked BLM protesters; often in coordination with the police forces. Any environmental movement that tries to implement radical change will have to face these same threats.
Wednesday’s importance lies not only in what will take place inside the courtroom, but also outside in the antifascist demonstration. From London we stand in solidarity with all our Greek comrades and support the broad movement that has risen in Greece to fight for the conviction of Golden Dawn as a criminal organisation and the protection of their society from the insidious creep of fascism.
As our Greek comrades put it:
They are not a political organisation. They are not a social organisation. They are not innocent.