The response on social media was one of celebration centered on, of all things, chickens. The festivities began with Barbarousis’ renouncement by Golden Dawn’s main parliamentary group and his own claims that “he in no way intended to question the Constitution!” And they were wholly justified, If we consider how Golden Dawn MPs loudly applauded Barbarousis’ comments, or ask ourselves how someone so concerned with constitutional legality could ever call on the army to cut off the head of the President of the Hellenic Republic!
Beyond, however, this revelation of the Nazis’ cowardly nature; beyond the way that the lion that foamed at the mouth was, in a matter of hours, transformed into a guardian of the Constitution (cue the roaring laughter), this whole affair clearly demonstrates something else, something very serious: how the Golden Dawn straightens up when it’s threatened by the state, but is unaccountable--and murderously so--when it senses that the state is tolerating or even indulging it. This isn’t (only) a psychological matter of courage and character, but a deeper political issue that shows the limits of the Golden Dawn’s “anti-establishment” ideals, which go so far as Christos Pappas’ public urination outside the offices of MEGA, one of Greece’s largest private TV channels, and other similar performances. If, however, Golden Dawn really wanted to prove itself anti-establishment, the Barbarousis incident would have been a golden opportunity to do so: they might have insisted on Barbarousis’ line and cried “traitors” right along with him, while Barbarousis himself might have gone off to prison for these moronic politicians and become a hero to rally the crowd. But exactly the opposite happened: he raced off down the National Highway to avoid being apprehended by the police; Golden Dawn threw him out of their parliamentary group; and so on and so forth.
This incident demonstrates the serious error of both the belief and worry (widespread even among well meaning people and those close to us) that criminal action against the Golden Dawn back in 2013 would be a mistake because it would only serve to heroize them. On the contrary, that action not only did not heroize them; it dealt them a serious blow and became decisive for limiting their criminal activity.
The reasons have nothing to do with personal character (i.e., just how chicken these Nazis are) but are profoundly historical and political. Throughout the postwar era, the Greek Far Right was able to exist only in close relationship with the state. It was never autonomous. The relationship was multifaceted (operating on levels of people, ideas, mechanisms, economic policy, and so on), and it was from this relationship that the Far-Right--in all of its varieties--derived political, material, and symbolic power. Cutting the connective tissue (and sometimes the umbilical cord) with the state not only does not lead to Golden Dawn’s heroization; it is a necessary precondition for their weakening.
Thanasis Kampagiannis, an invaluable ally and someone to whom we owe so much in the struggle against these Nazis, put it simply, dramatically, and truthfully: “if there had been no mention of initiating criminal prosecution of Barbarousis, he would still be a Golden Dawn MP. If this had been the reaction from the beginning--and not the nonsense about “party” and “freedom of ideas”--then Pavlos Fissas [the anti-fascist rapper murdered by the Golden Dawn in 2013] would still be alive.”