Golden Dusk: A Long Overdue Reckoning for the Greek Fascist Party

(Originally published on The Diplomacist)

Pavlos Fyssas, or MC Killah P, as fans and enemies alike knew the 34-year old left-wing hip-hop artist, was leaving a cafe this past Wednesday when approximately thirty supporters of Greece’s fascist Golden Dawn party encircled him. A driver sped up, hastily parked, and stabbed Fyssas twice in the heart.  Eyewitnesses report that police present did nothing to stop the deteriorating situation. Fyssas died in the arms of his girlfriend before an ambulence arrived, igniting a long overdue reckoning for Greece’s fascist party and its supporters.

The assailant, a 45-year old member of the Golden Dawn party, was soon caught and confessed to both the murder and his political motivations. The apparently premeditated attack has spurred a crackdown on the Golden Dawn Party. The party's premises have been raided, five of its members of Parliament arrested with the charge of having founded a criminal organization (the first mass arrest of MPs since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974) and fifteen party members have also been arrested. Within law enforcement two senior police officers have resigned, another two were suspended, and one officer was arrested while working as a bodyguard at Golden Dawn offices. The government is also pursuing a law that could strip the party of state funding—that’s right, the neo-Nazi party receives state funding.

Supporters of Fyssas and the anti-Fascist movement have also led massive demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki, clashing with police at the site of the murder.

Golden Dawn was founded in 1980 along neo-Nazi lines but remained a fringe group until the economic crisis. Capitalizing on a desperate need for order and uncomplicated solutions, the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party took nearly 7 percent of the vote during 2012 general elections, making them the third most powerful bloc in Parliament. Opinion polls before the murder of Pavlos Fyssas showed 14 percent support for the party, though this figure has since dropped to around 6 percent.

The murder of Pavlos Fyssas was a particularly brazen, but by no means isolated act. Golden Dawn members of parliament have been known to personally destroy the stalls of immigrant street vendors. Ilias Kasidiaris, a Golden Dawn MP who has been accused of armed robbery, famously struck a female politician on live television during a discussion panel. More seriously, across the country, its members have perpetrated numerous beatings and murders, usually targeting members of Greece’s vast Middle Eastern and African immigrant population. This month, a Golden Dawn attack on Communist Party members with iron rods and spiked bats left nine in the hospital. Though their rhetoric and organizational resources have been the cause of many deaths and violence throughout the past few years, the government and police have failed to officially draw a connection between the high ranking party members and the violence on the ground until this week.

The larger political consequences of this event remain nebulous. If Golden Dawn pulls its eighteen MPs out of Hellenic Parliament, Greece would be forced to enter by-elections. If a recent opinion poll showing growing support for the left-wing SYRIZA party transfers into votes, this would threaten Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s 155 seat coalition.

More important, perhaps, is the reflective nature of this event. The death of Pavlos Fyssas will force Greece to face the fact that an explicitly un-democratic party has been permitted to participate with absolute impunity within a supposedly democratic system for so long. It is a disgrace that the murder of a well-known Greek, and not the countless, nameless immigrants who have fallen victim to Golden Dawn brutality was needed to awaken the senses of the Greek government and law enforcement to act. Therefore, it is not only the Golden Dawn and its thuggish sympathizers who are at fault, but also the political system and its security apparatus that have not only permitted continued atrocities, but have perhaps even capitalized on the spectral fear that the Golden Dawn generates to consolidate their own power and legitimacy.