by Takis S. Pappas
May 27, 2014
Golden Dawn is a racist neo-fascist party, openly hostile to representative institutions and political pluralism. After coming third in this weekend’s elections, the question arises of how to confront it?
Never mind that he bears a swastika tattoo on his arm, denies the existence of the Holocaust, and considers Hitler “a great social reformer” and “military genius”. At voting for the first round of Greece’s municipal and country-district elections on May 18th, Ilias Kasidiaris, spokesman of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party and its candidate for the Athens mayoralty, was the choice of 16.1 percent of the voters. On the same day, Ilias Panagiotaros, another party strongman who was candidate for the governorship of the Attica region, gained 11.1 percent of the vote. Nationwide, Golden Dawn was estimated to enjoy the support of about 8 percent of the voters. It was an underestimation. At the elections for the European Parliament on May 25th, Golden Dawn won a stunning 9.4 percent of the total vote, or a rise of about 30 percent over its results in the June 2012 national elections. It finished as the third party in Greece and entered for the first time the European Parliament with three deputies. The party leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, declared from his prison cell, while still awaiting trial for running it as a criminal organisation: “We are already the arbiters of political developments; we are the forthcoming Greece.”
Who voted for this party, and why? Contrary to what you may have expected, the typical Golden Dawn voter is not an illiterate unemployed skinhead. As recent research shows, he (men are over-represented in the party) has the characteristics of the median Greek voter in terms of social status (middle class), education (university), and residence (urban). Still, having lost about 40 percent of his purchasing power since the start of the crisis and living in the country with the highest unemployment rate in Europe, he is uneasy with capitalism and market competition, mistrustful of mutually reinforcing institutions, and uncomfortable with the idea of political consensus. And, like most other Greeks these days, he is angry. But not because the crisis has robbed them of a future; it is because they lost, almost instantaneously, what the old parties had given them foolishly, and in most cases unreservedly, in the past.