“I was elected as a deputy in 2012 by the Greek people. How could the Greek people possibly elect the leaders of a criminal organization?” Eleni Zaroulia, the wife of Golden Dawn chief Nikos Michaloliakos, told judges during her testimony last week.
Her question was an acknowledgment of the Greek people but, at the same time, a hint at its complicity. Also, it appeared to be a rhetorical question, but it was not. In 2012, around half a million voters gave Golden Dawn the third largest share of seats in the Greek House. The party managed to maintain most of its power in the elections that followed – after the 2013 killing of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas.
The party now appears to have unraveled and it had to leave its headquarters on Mesogeion Avenue north of central Athens as its percentage dropped below 3 percent (the threshold for entering Parliament). However, there appears to be no reasonable explanation about how a neo-Nazi party managed to occupy such a prominent political space in the heart of Greek democracy. Standing before the judges, the defendants’ testimonies pretty much boil down to the expected excuses: “I did not hear, I did not see, I did not know.” However, apart from their widely reported activity, there is also the hair-raising claims of the protected witness: “The way some people say ‘Let’s go for coffee,’ we would say ‘Let’s go out’ and we would beat migrants,” the witness said. The witness said that he was “taught how to kill” by dealing fatal “stabs to the kidneys” with a knife.
There are two answers to Zaroulia’s question. The Greek people did of course elect a criminal organization and, worse, they might well elect a similar party in the future. Here lies a very important point, namely the constant transformations and metamorphoses of evil both within Greek society but also within any totalitarian ideology that finds an expression in Parliament.
It is not just the crisis, poverty, unemployment and extremist populism that feed bigotry and energize phobic reflexes. This is why the prime minister’s recent remarks were very significant: “We will not tolerate xenophobia or racism. I feel happy when I attend a parade and I see a society turning into a multicultural society,” Kyriakos Mitstotakis said.
Golden Dawn as we came to know it is no longer here, but nothing can guarantee that it will not resurface in a different form. Evil does not just cease to exist. However, it is exposed when it runs into the institutions of a state that is determined to apply the rule of law. What follows is ridicule and self-destruction.