Basically, the Golden Dawn, as I learned when I was in Greece, operates as a kind of quasi services mafia. If you're an (ethnically Greek) old lady worried about getting robbed when you go to the ATM, a menacing Golden Dawn thug will escort you.http://www.businessinsider.com/popularity-of-golden-dawn-2012-9#ixzz27gYDowqy
According to a source in Greece we heard from today, the Golden Dawn will also perform rent collections on behalf of landlords. The Golden Dawn even distribute free food and have opened up a Grocery store for Greeks only.
With the public sector hobbled and unable to provide what it used to to the citizens, the Golden Dawn has been able to step into a vacuum.... what's key is how the Golden Dawn has positioned itself as an aid to many Greeks at a time when other institutions are decaying.
When central authority declines, those who can step in and provide financial security and stability for the average person take over. This dynamic has been repeated throughout history down through the present day. The warlords that stepped in after the fall of the Roman Empire became the European nobility for millennia. Dmitry Orlov has often written about how street gangs and former KGB became the de facto authorities in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Communism. In the Middle East, groups like Hezbollah provide social insurance, schools, pensions and meal programs (widows whose husbands are killed fighting are taken care of for life). In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere tribal warlords rule in the absence of central authority. Will we see that exact same dynamic in the West as capitalism breaks down? In America, I imagine it will be the evangelical mega-churches which will fill this role (and have a similar far-right agenda as GD). Orlov puts forward drug gangs, which already rule much of Mexico.
Libertarians often say that government is bad and we need to rely on each other instead. But this is where that often leads, and the results aren't pretty.
More and more it seems to me like the centralized authority of the empire or nation-state is a transient phenomenon in human history. Perhaps we’re just not wired to cooperate on that level.
UPDATE: Via The Guardian (UK):
Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party is increasingly assuming the role of law enforcement officers on the streets of the bankrupt country, with mounting evidence that Athenians are being openly directed by police to seek help from the neo-Nazi group, analysts, activists and lawyers say.
In return, a growing number of Greek crime victims have come to see the party, whose symbol bears an uncanny resemblance to the swastika, as a "protector".
One victim of crime, an eloquent US-trained civil servant, told the Guardian of her family's shock at being referred to the party when her mother recently called the police following an incident involving Albanian immigrants in their downtown apartment block.
"They immediately said if it's an issue with immigrants go to Golden Dawn," said the 38-year-old, who fearing for her job and safety, spoke only on condition of anonymity. "We don't condone Golden Dawn but there is an acute social problem that has come with the breakdown of feeling of security among lower and middle class people in the urban centre," she said. "If the police and official mechanism can't deliver and there is no recourse to justice, then you have to turn to other maverick solutions."