Golden Dawn Party Rising In Popularity As Greek Chaos Continues

The far right Golden Dawn party is gaining popularity in Greece as austerity, and the inevitable end of the Greek welfare state, take their toll:

ATHENS — The video, which went viral in Greece last month, shows about 40 burly men, led by Giorgos Germenis, a lawmaker with the right-wing Golden Dawn party, marching through a night market in the town of Rafina demanding that dark-skinned merchants show permits.

Some do, and they are left alone. But the action quickly picks up, as the men, wearing black T-shirts with the party’s name, destroy a stall with clubs and scatter the merchandise. “We saw a few illegal immigrants selling their wares,” Mr. Germenis says in the video. “We did what Golden Dawn has to do. And now we’re going to church to pay our respects to the Madonna.”

Just a few months ago, the name Golden Dawn was something to be whispered in Greece.

But three months after the extremist right-wing group won an electoral foothold in Parliament, talk of Golden Dawn seems to be on everybody’s lips.

In cafes, taxis and bars, Greeks across the political spectrum are discussing the palpable surge in Golden Dawn’s popularity, which has risen in recent political polls even as the group steps up a campaign of vigilantism and attacks against immigrants.

The poll gains come amid growing disenchantment over rising illegal immigration, and with the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which is being forced by its international lenders to push through $15 billion in additional, highly unpopular, austerity measures. If Greece were to hold new elections soon, Golden Dawn could emerge as the third-largest party in Parliament, behind Mr. Samaras’s New Democracy and the left-wing Syriza. Currently, Golden Dawn is the fifth largest, with 18 out of 300 seats.

“We have a major socioeconomic crisis in which several hundred thousand Greeks are losing ground,” said Nikos Demertzis, a professor of political sociology at the University of Athens. “And you have a rising number of immigrants in Greece, many illegal. This is creating a volcanic situation where all the classic parameters for the flourishing of a far-right force like Golden Dawn are present.”

Golden Dawn’s tactics are similar to ones it used before parliamentary elections in June. Preying on fears that immigrants are worsening crime rates and economic hardship, the group has been stepping up attacks against immigrants, many of whom are legal citizens, with the police frequently standing by. It is also trying to expand its reach with the Greek diaspora.

The group recently opened an office in New York, announcing its presence with a sleek Web site depicting a stylized Swastika against a darkened Manhattan skyline. The Web site was disabled by hackers less than a day later and remains down, and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association condemned the group’s outreach, saying that “fascism has no place in the United States.”

Golden Dawn has also established an outpost in Australia, where Greeks have been emigrating by the thousands to escape the crisis in their homeland.

The group is still far from being a major threat to Mr. Samaras’s party, or to his fragile three-party coalition government. Most Greeks express alarm at the group’s rise, and anti-fascist organizations in Athens are continuing efforts neighborhood by neighborhood to counter its increased vigilantism.

Yet, rising political and social discontent is rich fodder for Golden Dawn as it tries to cultivate a larger base. These days, it is not uncommon for conversations to evolve into laments about the ineffectiveness of Mr. Samaras’s government, before a mention of Golden Dawn’s rise in the polls slips in.

“People have no faith in the political system,” said Dimitris Kaklamanos, 41, a worker at a Shell gas station in the town of Piraeus, on the outskirts of Athens.

On some level, this isn’t surprising. Desperate conditions often give rise to extremist parties, just ask the people who lived through the final collapse of the Weimar Republic

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Europe, Policing, World Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Lynda says:

    The persistence of extreme right wing politics in Greece is even more tragic given the awful conditions experienced by Greeks during Nazi occupation. If anyone should have learnt that it is a terrible road to tread on you would think it would be the Greeks.
    Over 300,000 civilians died in Athens alone from starvation, tens of thousands more died because of reprisals by Nazis and collaborators, and the country’s economy was ruined

  2. JohnMcC says:

    No one should be surprised by extremists taking advantage of economic depression economies. In Hungary there is a neo-fascist government (we would say ‘administration’ – just to be clear) lead by the self-proclaimed “radically Christian party” called Jobbik.

    There are excellent reasons why our parents & grandparents of the ‘greatest generation’ decided that depression economies create bad politics and are a way of storing up problems for the future that can’t be quantified as neatly as a flashing “national dept calculator” displayed on a political stage.

  3. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnMcC: “national DEBT calculator”…. My how nice an ‘edit’ function would be!

  4. Ben Wolf says:

    Greece’s public debt was 126% of GDP in 2009. After eighteen months of budget cuts to eliminate budget deficits the public debt hit 165% of GDP in 2011. After its massive default in 2011 the debt/GDP ratio fell to 134%. One year later that ratio is approaching 179%. Austerity cannot balance a budget because spending cuts and tax increases are a drain on the private sector’s financial wealth, and despite mountains of evidence the only party rejecting the path of national suicide is composed of neo-nazis.

  5. superdestroyer says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    But the Greeks also refuse to pay the taxes that are required to maintain their nanny state. Tax cheating is rampant is Greece and there is no proof that more government debt and more spending will fix the problem.

    The citizens of Greece deserve what is happening to them because they refuse to fund the government that they want. A good example for the U.S. is what would happen is most Americans started cheating on their taxes?

  6. Rob in CT says:

    The citizens of Greece deserve what is happening to them

    I think this is the core of it, from the Right. They must suffer, for they have sinned. To be fair, they have: tax cheating really is a big problem in Greece.

    However, Greece has 22% unemployment, and rising. They don’t have control of their own currency, so they cannot devalue. They’re pretty much screwed. I think it has to end in an exit of the Euro, and default.

  7. Barry says:

    The Nazi party wasn’t anything in German politics until the Great Depression; then and only then did they prosper.

  8. best-dressed GUESSED worker says:


    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.