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‘This is their time’: post-Golden Dawn, is the far right reviving in Greece? | Greece

“They had been massive and brawny and struck like a thunderbolt,” says Aphrodite Frangou, an activist and leftwing journalist recalling the second a gaggle of far-right Golden Daybreak sympathisers went on the assault. “They kicked us and punched us and broke every little thing, tables, chairs, even the loudspeakers we had arrange. 4 of us spent the evening in hospital.”

October was meant to be a month of celebration for Frangou and different members of Keerfa, Greece’s pre-eminent anti-fascist motion.

A 12 months in the past this week, Golden Daybreak’s neo-Nazi leaders, together with the social gathering’s self-styled ‘Fuhrer’, Nikos Michaloliakos, had been imprisoned after being handed prolonged jail phrases following a historic five-year trial hailed as a pivotal level in Greek political historical past.

Keerfa had been commemorating the anniversary when the assault occurred in a public sq. in Athens.

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Days earlier comparable scenes had unfolded at a vocational faculty in a downtrodden suburb of Thessaloniki. Black-clad youths in balaclavas, armed with golf equipment, knuckledusters, flares and knives had gone on the rampage concentrating on college students, anti-fascists and commerce unionists. In what could be a wave of far-right assaults that would depart the nation surprised, the assailants had been filmed giving Nazi salutes.

For Petros Constantinou, Keerfa’s coordinator, the incidents are harking back to the worst days of Golden Daybreak, when hit squads prowled the streets of Athens hanging “immigrant scum” and different perceived enemies as Greece, gripped by financial disaster, grew to become Europe’s first nation to vote neo-Nazis into parliament. “9 years later fascists really feel empowered by racist insurance policies once more,” he mentioned. “We’re witnessing their comeback exactly as a result of they really feel this is their second, this is their time.”

Golden Daybreak’s demise has left a spot to be stuffed. At its top, two years after being catapulted into Athens’ 300-seat home in 2012, the social gathering polled at 9.3% in European elections, consolidating its place as the nation’s third largest political pressure when about 500,000 Greeks voted for the extremely nationalists in 2015.

The 13-year sentences that the social gathering’s complete management obtained after being convicted of working a felony gang disguised as a political group in the largest court docket listening to of Nazis since Nuremberg has ensured Golden Daybreak is defunct in all however title.

However there are fears different extremist formations at the moment are trying to fill the vacuum.

Though the conspiratorial Greek Answer social gathering is believed to have soaked up most of its base, garnering 3.7% of the vote in the final basic election in July 2019, the neo-fascists solely narrowly didn’t cross the three % threshold required to enter parliament.

“When the far right can’t maintain sway at a nationwide stage it historically builds strongholds,” mentioned Prof Vasiliki Georgiadou, a specialist in far-right militancy at Panteion College.

“Golden Daybreak did the identical in 2008 when it took maintain in economically disadvantaged areas of central Athens, which went unnoticed, after which gained a seat in the metropolis’s municipal council. Two years later it obtained into parliament. I fear that may very well be occurring now with the creation of comparable strongholds in northern Greece.”

Thessaloniki’s latest avenue clashes, she mentioned, had occurred in areas of excessive unemployment the place Pontic Greeks whose households had emigrated from Russia had been vulnerable to radicalisation.

Street clashes between students backed by far-right nationalists, and the police in Thessaloniki.
Avenue clashes between college students backed by far-right nationalists, and the police in Thessaloniki. {Photograph}: NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Greek safety officers have famous the emergence of at the least 16 new far-right teams since the collapse of Golden Daybreak in line with a police report that has not but been publicly launched.

Seven had been recorded in the north of the nation, the place nationalist fervour – usually fuelled by conservative clerics in the Orthodox church – has been amplified by opposition to the 2018 Prespa settlement, which ended the title dispute with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Whereas pale imitations of Golden Daybreak, whose unhindered embrace of Nazi ideology and violent ways had been the supply of embarrassment for like-minded events in Europe, the new factions aren’t any much less racist, homophobic or antisemitic, and embody ardent believers in the supremacy of the Greek race. Media reviews citing the police inquiry counsel they’ve about 5,000 members and supporters in Thessaloniki alone.

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“There is a stronger custom of nationalism in northern Greece as a result of the far right has been legitimised in the battle over Macedonia,” mentioned Kostis Papaioannou who directs Sign, a analysis group that research far-right extremism.

“The emergence of those new teams has been linked to the anti-vaccine motion in the area as a result of it is in northern Greece that inoculation charges are a lot decrease. However there’s little question that some have had ties with Golden Daybreak and MPs in jail.”

The rise in conspiracy theories with the pandemic has additionally helped bolster far rightists now capable of faucet into the ignorance and fears of a big a part of the inhabitants.

Propatria, which began off as a martial arts faculty and has shut ties to Golden Daybreak and different militant organisations throughout the continent, is believed to be behind the Keerfa assault. “Certainly one of the assailants had the Black Solar [tattooed] on his elbow and I used to be capable of recognise him,” mentioned Frangou, referring to the image related to Nazi Germany’s infamous SS items.

The person, who was arrested and given a three-year suspended sentence, was recognized to police after beforehand being detained for fomenting violence at a protest in Athens of virulent anti-vaxxers.

What worries Papaioannou is the gradual response of authorities to the new risk.

In a transfer that prompted outrage final week, a court docket upheld an enchantment by the imprisoned Golden Daybreak cadre, Giorgos Patelis, permitting him to stroll free on the grounds that his son was ailing. As the social gathering’s chief in the capital’s working-class district of Nikaia, Patelis was serving a 10-year jail time period for ordering the killing of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist hip-hop artist whose loss of life would finally spur the group’s unravelling.

Magda Fyssas honours her son Pavlos Fyssas on the eighth anniversary of his death.
Magda Fyssas honours her son Pavlos Fyssas on the eighth anniversary of his loss of life. {Photograph}: Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

“After final 12 months’s landmark verdict, elements of the judiciary look like questioning it,” Papaioannou mentioned. “For a lot of, Patelis’ launch has put the tribunal’s resolution in doubt even when, in a welcome step, a supreme court docket prosecutor has requested to assessment it.”

It was absurd, he mentioned, {that a} 12 months on an official investigation into police complicity with Golden Daybreak had nonetheless not been carried out.

The prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has been criticised by Syriza, the essential opposition social gathering, of forging a local weather that has facilitated extremists by giving senior cupboard posts to politicians previously with the populist radical right Laos social gathering.

Whereas Mitsotakis belongs to the liberal flank of the governing New Democracy social gathering, and has sought to enchantment to centrists by additionally appointing figures from the centre left, he has been accused of kowtowing to the right by pursuing hardline migration insurance policies and a tricky law-and-order agenda.

“It has helped create a political local weather in which outrageous selections like the launch of Patelis can happen,” mentioned the Syriza MEP Stelios Koulouglou.

Georgiadou mentioned the jury was nonetheless out as as to if the nation was experiencing a far-right resurgence. “It’s too early to say if what we’re seeing is a revival or an outbreak of far-right extremist violence,” she mentioned. “However what we should not do is ignore what is occurring – as a result of the far right in Greece has not disappeared.”

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