In World War II, the people of Greece faced a fascist threat from invading German and Italian armies. Now, over seventy years later, the threat of fascism comes from within, and it goes by the name Golden Dawn.
Ken Matziorinis, an economics professor at McGill University, has compared the current crisis in Greece to the socioeconomic conditions in Germany during the 1920s which fostered the rise of the Nazis. Like the Nazis, Matziorinis claims Golden Dawn has accumulated support because of these conditions. The increase in support is notable. Recent public opinion polls in Greece have seen Golden Dawn’s support rise to 22 per cent of the populace, a far cry from the irrelevant sideline status it rightfully deserved in prior years.
A great deal of the support for Golden Dawn arises from the fact that the party offers easy answers to the tough questions facing Greece. One of the party’s main policies is the deportation of all illegal immigrants from Greece – with force if needed – as a means of solving the economic crisis. Yet the party’s disdain often goes beyond illegal immigrants, and scapegoats all immigrants in Greece as the cause of the crisis. As it stands, Golden Dawn thugs act like a gang, patrolling Greek cities and attacking minorities – legal or not – often fatally. In fact, citizens’ complaints are often forwarded to Golden Dawn by law enforcement because of the great deal of support the party enjoys among the police force.
Yet Golden Dawn supporters do not exclusively live in Greece. A Golden Dawn chapter, which boasts a membership of over 200 people, has opened in Montreal. The leader of this chapter, Spiros Macrozonaris, has defended Golden Dawn’s political program through and through. For example, in an interview with the CBC, upon seeing footage of Golden Dawn members engaged in one of their brutal attacks on helpless citizens, Macrozonaris claimed that it was justifiable because the only people being targeted were illegal immigrants.
Still, Macrozonaris claims that Golden Dawn is not racist – despite the fact that the leader of Golden Dawn, Nikos Mihaloliakos, has explicitly stated that it is – and that the Montreal chapter only exists to help fellow Greeks by donating food and medicine. “Fellow Greeks” does not mean all of the people in Greece. Golden Dawn’s support only extends to “ethnic” Greeks, and minorities are excluded from any sort of handout.
At the very least, those in Montreal who wish to aid the Greek people should refrain from doing so through Golden Dawn. This may require some investigation: Golden Dawn chapters have repeatedly hidden their identity until after donations are made. Other organizations, such as the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, provide an alternative to Golden Dawn, as they ensure that any sort of donated aid will become available to all people, regardless of their ethnicity.
President of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, Nicholas Pagonis, claims that Golden Dawn gives the Greek community in Montreal a bad name, and that it has no place in the city. The Greek community in Montreal, and their allies, should take direct action against Golden Dawn to ensure that this is made clear. The eviction of a Golden Dawn chapter from their lodgings by the concerned community in Astoria, Queens, in New York, is an example of what this sort of action can look like.
Beyond supporting the people of Greece, the most important thing concerned citizens can do is realize that Golden Dawn is not an exclusively Greek phenomenon. While the party may take on different names elsewhere, the sort of rhetoric espoused remains the same.
In fact, the xenophobia and racism made explicit by Golden Dawn, while often barely lurking under the face of North American society, have violently surfaced in events such as the Wisconsin massacre, when an Army veteran gunned down six at a Sikh temple. North America is not above Golden Dawn-type politics. Unless Canadians can refrain from the unjust demonization of immigrants and minorities, a Canadian Golden Dawn may not be too far away.
Davide Mastracci is a U2 History and Political Science student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.