The far-right Greek nationalist party Golden Dawn, which won 18 seats in the June 2012 Greek legislative elections, has opened a chapter in Montreal.
Golden Dawn Montreal has had a Facebook page since July. Facho-watch, a Quebec anti-fascism group, told The Daily that Golden Dawn members organized a conference in August with Quebec neofascist groups Faction Nationaliste and La Bannière Noire. Golden Dawn Montreal held a fundraising event on September 15. The event was advertised in the Greek Canadian Tribune (BHMA). Facho-watch participated in a protest against Golden Dawn on the same day.
Golden Dawn stated on September 18 on its official website that they are “already expecting the first shipment of aid from the core of Montreal in the coming days, which gives us hope that Greek nationalists never forget Greece.”
“They are only going to give those benefits, or those charitable boxes, to people who are legally resident in Greece,” Steven Slimovitch, spokesperson for B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy group which fights antisemitism, told The Daily.
“We are utterly disgusted,” Slimovitch said about the creation of a Golden Dawn chapter in Montreal. “You have a party which is xenophobic to the nth degree, which has built itself on a racist platform and there is no place for a group like that in Canada. They believe that our lax laws against hate speech allow them to open up an office and spew the kind of hate that they’ve been spewing in Greece.”
On May 14, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos told Mega TV in Greece that the Holocaust was a “fabricated exaggeration.”
Spiros Macrozonaris, deputy leader of the Golden Dawn Montreal chapter, told the National Post that Golden Dawn has recruited 152 members in the city.
“This is totally false,” Facho-watch told The Daily in an email. “When they organized the food collect, they were only a dozen of members. On the group pictures we found, there aren’t more than 12 individuals.”
“We will continue to monitor them very closely with [the Canadian Security Intelligence Service] and the federal government and the Sûreté du Québec to […] make sure that a group like this does not establish a foothold in Canada,” said Slimovitch.
“The real lead in all of those should be taken by the Greek community,” he continued.
An online petition created by ‘Kat M,’ a Greek Canadian living in Greece according to the National Post, asked Stephen Harper to shut down Golden Dawn in Montreal. The petition had collected 2,450 signatures at press time.
The Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal and the McGill Hellenic Students’ Association could not be reached for comment.
Alexander Kazamias, senior lecturer in Politics at Coventry University, told The Daily that “all Greek parties set up local branches outside Greece, especially in cities with large Greek diaspora communities,” despite the fact that Greek citizens cannot vote from abroad.
McGill Economics professor Ken Matziorinis told The Daily that “since [Golden Dawn is] a legitimate party in Greece, they have the right to voice their opinions, even if their views are dangerous.”
“They have a right to open a chapter anywhere else in the world, unless they involve themselves in terrorist acts.”
Both Kazamias and Matziorinis say that it is important to understand the political and economic context in which this breed of nationalism has developed.
“Golden Dawn is a neofascist party. To some extent it represents a continuation of the military dictatorship that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974,” Kazamias said.
Michaloliakos “was handpicked in 1984 by the leader of that dictatorship […] to lead the youth organization of a […] quasi-fascist party which enjoyed some support in the 1970s and 1980s,” Kazamias continued.
“The austerity drive that the northern countries – especially Germany – are advocating is certainly making the situation worse,” Matziorinis said.
“[Greece’s Gross Domestic Product] has been contracting for more than five years,” Matziorinis said. “The Greek public is being asked to make sacrifices through tax increases and income salary cuts while unemployment is at 25 per cent.”
This has created “a perception that the social contract has been broken” in Europe, according to Matziorinis.
The situation in Greece is an “exact repeat of what happened with the collapse of the middle class in Germany [in the 1930s], which gave rise to extremist parties,” he continued. “The economic circumstances that Greece is facing are similar to those of a country that has lost a war, that has debts, and that at the same time is forced to make reparations.”
Kazamias, on the other hand, pointed to contrasts between Greece and 1930s Germany. “Fascism might be a rising force across much of Europe today, but it is still far from becoming a dominant ideology,” he said.
“For a fascist party to rise to power, it is necessary for the forces of the left to experience successive defeats. In Greece, however, so far the Greek left has seen its position enhanced and its popularity is rising sharply.”
Golden Dawn has been accused of leading attacks against immigrants in Greece. “Golden Dawn is a racist party that hates all non-white immigrants, however, there is a clear class dimension to the racism of Golden Dawn,” said Kazamias. “Their thugs prefer to attack […] poor manual workers.”
Facho-watch described collusion between Greek police and Golden Dawn members, in which some police units are allowing Golden Dawn to act as law enforcers.
Kazamias believes that “the connections of the Greek police and certain army units with neofascist elements which go back years,” and have contributed to the success of Golden Dawn.
“We do have a solution [for these immigrants] though. Greece, everybody knows, we have a very strong shipping industry. We’re going to bring them all to Canada. Canada needs immigrants here,” Macrozonaris told the Montreal Gazette.
“When there is too much illegal occupation all of a sudden, in a climate of economic uncertainty and depression, that accentuates these [anti-immigrant] feelings,” he said.