It was an emblematic moment in our recent history. We all rejoiced following the conviction of the Golden Dawn leadership and the scenes of its arrogant and unrepentant neo-Nazis being jailed. After the long trial, many people could finally take a sigh of relief and celebrate something. We collectively had a share in this victory of the democratic state. And it became a weapon.
The trial was a great lesson. A lesson in the unwavering faith of the victims and their relatives. A lesson in tenacity from the civil action taken by some lawyers. A lesson in determination by Golden Dawn Watch, which monitored the trial,and the large but stable audience it developed. Above all, it was a lesson in the administration of justice by the judges in the case. The prosecutor also provided a valuable lesson: her attitude illustrates the perennialfocus of a part of the Greek justice system on extreme right-wing violence.
Some might think that it’s all over, that a criminal conviction is enough to take out the far-right phenomenon. Others have sought to take advantage of the conviction to absolve themselves of their own responsibilities. Since the trial, even far-right supporters have declared themselves to be antifascists. A large part of the political world showed an inability to manage the historical weight of the verdict. They tried to present it along the lines of an ordinary partisan confrontation. Unfounded theories and unthinkable offsetting over the political corpse of a neo-Nazi gang.
Now that Golden Dawn’s leaders are behind bars, democracy has a unique opportunity to heal its wounds and to reflect. How did we get here? What took us so long? How much complicity, reservation or inaction on the part of state structures was needed? How can we overcome the selective affinity of some government officials with people who share misanthropic far-right ideas?How can we say “enough is enough” to those police officers who have acted (and are still acting) as a branch of the criminal organisation in the crevices of the state, to those judicial officials who for years turned a blind eye, to those religious officials who viewed these men in black as the “sweet hope” of the nation?To those politicians who have consciously undermined any attempt to exclude neo-Nazism from the democratic consensus?
The far right phenomenon is here. Many of our fellow citizensmight believe that Golden Dawn “crossed the line” in exercising violence and committing crimes and that, if it refrained from these actions, it could be serious and useful. Part of the political world, journalists and opinion makers, despite their newly found disgust for the criminal gang, continue as if nothing happened in their normalising of racism, intolerance, nationalism.
All this is why we came together to establish the Signal for Researching and Confronting the Far Right.
Alongside us, from the outset, has been a special group people, the first Friends of Signal:
Pantelis Boukalas, journalist
Stratis Bournazos, historian, copy editor
Maro Douka, writer
Vasiliki Georgiadou, professor of political science at Panteion University
Thanasis Kampagiannis, lawyer, member of the civil action case in the Golden Dawn Trial, board member of the Athens Bar Association
Vangelis Karamanolakis, associate professor of modern Greek history at the University of Athens
Gerasimos Kouzelis, emeritus professor in sociology and philosophy, at the University of Athens
Lefteris Papagiannakis, former deputy mayor for immigrants and refugees in the Municipality of Athens
Kleio Papapantoleon, lawyer
Konstantinos Tsitselikis, professor of human rights law, dean of the School of Economics and Regional Studies at the University of Macedonia
Polymeris Voglis, associate professor at the University of Thessaly
Stavros Zoumboulakis, writer
We are very much indebted to them. With their assistance and involvement, and with the help of other friends and associates, we will try to juxtapose the principles of open, inclusive democracy, freedom and equality with hate speech and exclusion. In the belief that there is nothing inevitable about the far right, we seek a new beginning!