This Wednesday 7th October 2020, after five and a half years the longest trial in Greek history, that of the Golden Dawn, will come to an end and the final verdict will be pronounced. This trial is important not just to Greece, but to the whole of Europe as it is also the largest court hearing of neo-Nazis since the Nuremberg trial. 68 people, including the organisation’s entire leadership and MPs, are facing charges of operating a criminal organisation while posing as a political group.
18 former MPs and two members of the Golden Dawn are being tried for leading a criminal organisation, the members of which carried out a series of violent crimes. 45 members of the Golden Dawn are being tried for being part of a criminal organisation and a variety of other crimes such as racketeering and possession of illegal weapons. The court will also give a verdict on three independent crimes: the murder of Pavlos Fussas in 2013, the attempted murder of the Egyptian fisherman Abouzid Embarak in 2012 and the attempted murder of members of the Greek Communist Party and its trade union PAME in 2013.
During the trial the prosecutors systematically demonstrated that they were a neo-Nazi, highly hierarchical organisation and that their actions consisted of organised criminal activities and not isolated incidents. The testimonies of the victims of their acts and their families proved further the extreme violence of the group.
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 as every country in Europe has groups like Golden Dawn with hopes of breaking into the mainstream. Golden Dawn 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. Positioning itself against migrants and refugees, it was given a platform by the media that presented them as a legitimate political party and omitted to report on most of their criminal activity.
Complicit in aiding the rise of Golden Dawn also 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 political parties also legitimised them and accepted them as a political party.
However they would have never grown so big if not for people’s unwillingness to face up to the problem and fight back against it. And it is only when after the murder of Fyssas in 2013, the mass anti-fascist protests grew to such a size that the government was placed under sufficient public pressure for the case to come to court.
This is why Wednesday’s importance lies not only in what will take place inside the courtroom, but also outside in the antifascist demonstration. 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.
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 rise of fascism.
As our Greek comrades put it:
They are not a political organisation. They are not a social organisation. They are not innocent.