What makes a middle-aged man go out into the night to drive a knife into the heart of another? What was he thinking when he pushed the blade in? That he was killing for a righteous cause? That he had to defend himself, his family, his friends? Was he in a daze caused by rage, hatred or some substance? Or did he act as he did because he felt that he had to defend his unit, with the certainty that, as a good soldier doing his duty, he would not have to face the consequences?
From the events of preceding days – the beating up of Communist Party members, the paramilitary show of force at a 1944 massacre memorial in Meligala and the roughing up of the local mayor – and from the first evidence after the murder, it is most likely that the killer acted as a member of a raiding party, believing that he had the cover of his group. With the rapid rise in tension, maybe he thought that the country really is living through the civil war that reigns in the fantasies of many Golden Dawn members.
The murder of Pavlos Fyssas in the Piraeus district of Keratsini in the early hours of September 18 was not a bolt out of the blue. For years, Golden Dawn members acted with seeming impunity, threatening opponents, beating up and killing passers-by (mainly immigrants). The reactions which followed Fyssas’s murder – from the panic of Golden Dawn’s leadership, which has tried to distance itself from the killer, to the police releasing a long list of alleged crimes by Golden Dawn members – reflect the long period of “asylum” that the group enjoyed. This underlines how lax democratic institutions were in allowing so many crimes to be committed without anyone being tried.
The long-term undermining of institutions created a climate of illegality and impunity which led to the economic, political and social crisis. The crisis opened the way for Golden Dawn – until then a small nucleus of paranoid racists – to play a substantial role in Greece’s politics. The irony is that the institutions’ laxity lulled Golden Dawn’s members into outrageous shows of arrogance and violence – from the group’s leaders in Parliament to its street fighters. They thought that they could do as they pleased. It is not only Golden Dawn members who live in this fantasy world – the divorce from reality is a fundamental of public debate in Greece.
We are living through a crisis that affects every aspect of our lives. Insecurity, despair and rage helped establish Golden Dawn. The only way to avoid greater woes is to battle the group with every institutional measure available, as the government belatedly seems prepared to do. The argument that a revived economy would drain the swamp in which Golden Dawn thrives is no longer valid. If our democracy does not impose stability, there will be no improvement in any sector of our lives. And the dance of death will go on.