- - Wednesday, October 9, 2013

During last year’s Greek elections, some fringe political parties were able to gain seats in the Hellenic Parliament. These included the Independent Greeks (right-leaning Euroskeptics), Democratic Left (socialists), SYRIZA (a coalition of radical leftists) and Golden Dawn.

It was that last political party that caught most observers’ eyes. Golden Dawn has been called everything under the sun over the years, including “right-wing extremist,” “neo-Nazi,” “fascist,” “neo-fascist” and “authoritarian.” In reality, this party is nothing more than a bunch of thugs who have regularly engaged in violent activity and riots in Greece.

This is exactly the problem Golden Dawn is facing right now. Various party members and its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, were recently arrested in connection with the high-profile killing of left-wing political activist and hip-hop artist Pavlos (“Killah P”) Fyssas.

These individuals remain innocent until proven guilty, of course. If the Greek courts prove a connection exists in this crime, it will likely lead to Golden Dawn’s imminent collapse on the political scene. For mainstream political conservatives in Greece and beyond, nary a tear will be shed.

Golden Dawn is a political blight that the vast majority of rational individuals on the right have to deal with occasionally.

Senior party members have acknowledged great respect for former Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas in the past, for example. Mr. Metaxas modeled his authoritarian 4th of August Regime (1936-1941) after Italy’s fascist regime under Benito Mussolini. Even worse, Mr. Michaloliakos expressed admiration for Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler in a 1987 issue of the party’s magazine. Here’s a small portion of the translated version: “We are the faithful soldiers of the National Socialist idea and nothing else … we raise our right hand up, we salute the Sun, and with the courage that is compelled by our military honor and our National Socialist duty we shout full of passion, faith to the future and our visions: ‘Heil Hitler!’”

That being said, Golden Dawn never came close to crossing the 1 percent barrier in popular support in either the Greek or European elections. Yet when Greece faced its terrible debt crisis last year, this gave them a golden opportunity to make significant political gains.

In the May 2012 election, they became the sixth-largest political party in Greece by winning nearly 7 percent of the popular vote and 21 seats. Although this number dropped in the June 2012 election — after talks to create a new coalition government collapsed — to 6.9 percent and 18 seats, Golden Dawn actually became the fifth-largest party.

It’s not surprising to see a fringe outfit achieve some measure of electoral success owing to a country’s political and economic crisis. Notable recent examples include France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, Austria’s Jorg Haider and Russia’s Vladimir Zhirinovsky. In the end, these parties frequently collapse owing to internal strife, changes in the political atmosphere, or voters simply waking up to political and economic realities.

Regardless, the liberal media went bonkers over the news that Golden Dawn was sitting in the Hellenic Parliament. Why? For the same reason they erupted over Messrs. Le Pen, Haider and Zhirinovsky: The sudden rise of the “extreme right.”

Ah, yes. The so-called extreme right, even though its supposed adherents barely have any right-of-center views or values. Isn’t it strange that we don’t hear much about the “extreme left” in politics?

The left-right political axis has never been a perfect science when it comes to extremist parties and movements. Marxist and communist parties sit on the far left — the same side as modern liberals, socialists and Greens — while ultranationalist and neo-fascist parties such as Golden Dawn sit on the far right — the same side as economic libertarians, classical liberals and conservatives.

Aside from occasional jokes and snide remarks, most people are fundamentally aware that communists are different from liberals, and fascists are different from conservatives. Yet when the political terms “left” and “right” are used interchangeably, it opens the door to some confusion. Case in point: Golden Dawn.

Hence, Greece’s mainstream conservative parties must take this opportunity to permanently remove the stain of Mr. Michaloliakos and Golden Dawn. This can be done by supporting right-leaning ideas and policies (smaller government, lower taxes, more individual rights and freedoms) that will help the country achieve some measure of economic stability and success.

In turn, Greek conservatives will prove Golden Dawn was another flash in the pan that frightened everyone for a spell but only ended up embarrassing their nation more than anything else.

Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a contributor to The Washington Times.