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Golden Dawn: Greek fascists come Down Under

Melbourne has long been known as one of the biggest cities for Greek diaspora in the world, and the “world’s most liveable city” is fast becoming the latest battleground for the swelling fascist movement…

The plans of far-right Greek political party Golden Dawn to visit Australia have caused much consternation in the local Greek diaspora communities. EPA/STR

Melbourne has long been known as one of the biggest cities for Greek diaspora in the world, and the “world’s most liveable city” is fast becoming the latest battleground for the swelling fascist movement sweeping Greece.

Golden Dawn, the nascent political party capitalising on deep resentment to the European Union’s austerity measures, recently secured 18 seats in the national parliament. In further concerning developments, it is now looking beyond Greece to countries with a large Greek populations like Australia, England and Canada to broaden its political reach.

Typically described as fascist or a neo-Nazi movement, Golden Dawn is currently led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, a Holocaust denier who has spent time in prison for attacking journalists and carrying illegal guns and explosives. Golden Dawn has been accused of sparking xenophobic violence by promoting anti-immigration policies, and its political symbol bears a striking resemblance to the swastika.

The group now plans to “create cells in every corner of the globe”, and as part of this plan has established a group in Australia to “fight and defend both of our countries with pride and honour“.

Reports suggest the group has more than 200 members and 3000 followers in Melbourne, and plans for Golden Dawn MPs to visit later this year have sparked a firestorm of protest from Greek communities and civil activists. Many prominent Greeks are attempting to prevent them from entering the country, but early indications suggest the government won’t deny them visas.

The rise of Golden Dawn is alarming. There is widespread anger in Greece at the austerity measures imposed by the government and the EU, and by tapping into this fury, movements such as Golden Dawn can draw a level of support previously unattainable.

Expanding the base beyond Greece is the obvious next step when you consider the Greek diaspora is estimated at over seven million, compared to the 11 million people living in Greece. Of the diaspora, 300,000 live in Melbourne alone, making it the world’s third largest Greek city. Many of these expats would now be relatively wealthy compared to those still living in Greece, and their support would go a long way to prop up the organisation financially and give it a sense of international legitimacy.

In saying that, many within the Greek community I have spoken to are both concerned and adamant that the Golden Dawn has no place in contemporary politics. It was reported the Golden Dawn did turn up at the annual Greek festival in Melbourne in mid-March.

This was a sore point with many in the Greek community who were quite angry at their attendance, while simultaneously emphasising that in democracy, all voices emerge. The organising committee, whose members recently invited me to speak at the Antipodes lecture series, made it clear in conversations that the Golden Dawn were neither invited nor welcomed.

This group of progressive, liberal-minded cultural and even political activists, also raised the irony of migrants taking an anti-migrant position.

The rise of far-right extremists in Europe, however, is not just limited to Greece, as many new parties in countries from the United Kingdom to Finland are seeking to capitalise on growing unemployment and rising immigration to help spread their nationalist sentiments. Most of these groups target young adults, pointing to the depressed economic conditions and entrenched youth unemployment to promote strident anti-immigration rhetoric.

Like Golden Dawn, these groups typically espouse extreme right-wing positions of blaming migrants, detecting Jewish conspiracies in any successful business and communist sedition in anyone wearing a red t-shirt, it has no other discernable features.

This is not to make light of an organisation like Golden Dawn that seems to be comfortable promoting violence, racism and take advantage of genuine frustrations. Rather like any other fascist movement, it is based on a brittle and somewhat absurd foundation that would be comedic if not so concerning.

Melbourne is home to the third largest Greek population in the world, many of whom have voiced their displeasure at the prospect of Golden Dawn coming to Australia. AAP/Joe Castro

These are the unintended consequences of the austerity package placed on nations such as Greece: and it is time to recognise that forcing a nation into ever deeper recession sows the seeds for such movements.

Golden Dawn is not alone in looking beyond national borders to further the cause. In February this year, the Dutch far-right nationalist Geert Wilders visited Australia on a speaking tour organised by the anti-Islamic Q society – who even hate halal food – sparking protests and renewed discussions about immigration. It appears as though Australia might have to get used to MPs from these far-right movements visiting our country.

I am not a fan of withholding visas from visitors I do not agree with. But perhaps the government should prepare a series of behaviour protocols for those who do come – explaining to them the history of migration, the thousands of years of peaceful co-existence of cultures and as Paul Keating still reminds us, the many risks of letting the racial genie out of the bottle.

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23 Comments sorted by

  1. Vasili Gramanis

    logged in via email

    Firstly, stop over exaggerating the number of "diaspora Greeks" in Australia, there are not 300 000 Greek diaspora living in Melbourne alone, the ABS Census of 2011 records that in the whole of Victoria, that there are 116 802 "Greeks" in the whole of Victoria. Therefore this nonsense that Melbourne is somehow the third largest "Greek" city in the world is just that - nonsense. This deliberate inflation of numbers is characteristic of a deeper nationalistic mindset that occupies mainstream Greek…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Vasili Gramanis

      well put vasili...

      another name comes to mind in regards this issue - pauline hanson.

      germany has been thru this with turkish and other migrants awhile back i seem to recall.

  2. Liam Hanlon


    "This group of progressive, liberal-minded cultural and even political activists, also raised the irony of migrants taking an anti-migrant position."

    Thinking has never been a strong point of the far right.

    As dumb as they are though, they are dangerous with their rhetoric that does appeal to many in times of economic crises. As such they must be stopped.

  3. Iain Cook

    Project Manager

    Two points. We already have entrenched fascists here operating without fear. A group of violent fascists attached Lord Mayor Doyle last night in a brazen attack, with no arrests or repercussions. Another fascist group held a conference ("Marxism 2013") at U Melbourne over Easter. Again, an ultra-violent political movement with 100 million civilian victims and limitless crimes against workers, peasants and farmers operated without let or hindrance on a campus meant to promote freedom of thought and opportunity. I think a few Greeks are the least of our problems.

    Second, stop calling these groups far right. They are nationalist socialists, enamoured of state control of freedom of thought, action and movement and the enemy of liberal thought and free enterprise. They are left wing patriots. Please get the terminology correct.

    1. Matthew Wyres

      Mechanical Engineer

      In reply to Iain Cook

      Fascism is by definition a far right ideology, if the people you desribe identify themselves as fascist then they are far right. The poeple you describe as attending a Marxism conference however would not be fascists, as Marxism is a socialist ideology and hence far left. Your comments about people being "enamoured of state control of freedom of thought, action and movement and the enemy of liberal thought and free enterprise" would apply to the socialists who attended the conference, but not the individuals and political parties described in this article. Perhaps the author of the article understands the terminology better than you thought

    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Matthew Wyres

      Either left or right, extremism fits, most closely, under the single banner of Totalitariansism, with all the confected distinctions merely conforming with the divide and conquer tactics of the original Totalitarian example, that of Medieval Church under the Inquisition. That was all about foreigners as well.
      It sits there, still, like a bloated cane toad, blinking in the undergrowth while the Left-Right pas de deux of deluded, useful idiots perform their dance of diversion from the clear recognition…

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    3. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Matthew Wyres

      I think Iain has a valid point, remembering people call the German National Socalist Party (NAZI's) fascist and immediately aqssosiate that as "right wing" (whatever the hell that means). They are two sides of the one coin, not polar opposites. I mean look to the name .... Friedrich Hayek wrote at great length trying to dispel this "myth".

      That aside, making the debate binary (left vs right) serves little purpose. Nationalism is an ugly stain on humanity, whether it be J Howard, J Gillard or N Michaloliakos espousing it.

      If the Climate Guys are right, I can't see nation states surviving anyway. What are people going to do ? they freak out over a couple dilapidated boats and disheveled souls now, stand at the shores and shoot the millions of climate refugees ?

      Between now and then though, it will be ugly, that's humanity.

    4. Mike Hansen


      In reply to Iain Cook

      The idea that fascism is a left-wing ideology has been heavily promoted by European ultra-nationalist and far-right groups and their apologists here in Australia.

      For example Norwegian fascist Anders Breivik's "manifesto states that the "Knights Templar are not in any way Nazi sympathizers. Preserving your tribe, cultural and demographical, is a basic human right and has nothing to do with 'white supremacy'." It claims that the Nazi party "was a left wing organisation, they hated Christendom…

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  4. Lynne Newington


    What's more frightening is if classed as a religion, it can claim certain benefits in Australia, unless the criteria has changed.

    1. Mike Hansen


      In reply to Spiro Vlachos

      This may help Spiro.

      Not surprising that Golden Dawn's symbol is the Meandros.

      Each form of ultra-nationalism will take on its own country's cultural symbols.

      As Sinclair Lewis noted in the 1930s
      "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

    2. In reply to Mike Hansen

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    3. In reply to Mike Hansen

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    4. In reply to Mike Hansen

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    5. In reply to Mike Hansen

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  5. Bob Down

    logged in via email

    The politics of fear drives the likes of these groups. They prey on the ignorance and nationalist feelings of their target group and serve to include people as brothers in a struggle with the outsider, the immigrant, the one who is different. This has gone on since time immemorial and will continue to do so as long as there is an audience to preach to, and a group of people to demonise. Grouping these groups all together as right wing is unfair to people who do not hold extremist views and opinions…

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  6. Michael Birch

    Retired teacher

    There is a familiar pattern here. It was the austerity measures imposed by the Allies in 1918, that stimulated the rise of fascism in Germany. When will we learn?

  7. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    The most persuasive depictive analysis of fascists positions them across the Left-Right spectrum at the Centre (and owes its persuasive argumentation and evidence to the remarkable analysis of the policy sociologist, Daniel Bell of Harvard). This often comes as a shock to centrists who conceive of themselves as moderates. However, in order to understand such a typology one would have to imagine a North-South or Top-Down insecting 'personality' dimension (i.e. intersecting the Left-Right continuum) with 'pragmatic' at the top or Northern end and authoritarian at the other 'deep Southern' end. Hence, fascists are sometimes described as extremists of the Centre, and are neither right-wing (or free-market) economic and social liberals, nor even left-wing (or collectivist) economic or social conservatives. To illustrate, and according to this typology, Bob Santamaria came perilously close to being a fascist. QED

    1. Lynne Newington


      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Do you really think that of Bob Santamaria?
      Before I became a Catholic I would never miss his Sunday programe: A Point of View, there weren't many grey areas which appealed to me and I kept up my connection with his NCC.
      Like many of us, he must have become very disillsioned with the church during his last years and
      I still maintain my admiration for him and his stand on justice.

    2. Mike Hansen


      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Probably best described as a fellow traveller. From his Wikipedia entry.

      Santamaria was a political activist from an early age, becoming a leading Catholic student activist and speaking in support of Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War. He also was a strong supporter and wrote about Mussolini's regime in Italy, but denied that he had ever been a supporter of fascism. He always disliked and opposed Hitler and Nazism. While favouring, on the whole, Mussolini's policies up until 1936, he attributed Mussolini's late alliance with Hitler to the failed policies of Anthony Eden and expressed regret that Mussolini went with Hitler.

    3. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Not sure where you're coming from, Lynne. I would until now have placed you as an ex-Catholic abuse-victim renegade, as your discourse never seems to flow far off this mark. Leaving aside Mark Hansen's response, which provides the evidence for my hunch, your's is a new sociological phenomenon in my view: a conservative proto-fascist Catholic convert, who never misses an opportunity on The Conversation to have a go at people like Pell, who is an avowed admirer of Santamaria. It just doesn't make sense to me unless (ahem) you are just trolling.