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Greece’s prime minister is appealing for calm. Antonis Samaras said Thursday that his government would not allow the “successors of the Nazis” to destabilize Greece.”
His message comes after violent protests in cities across Greece last night, in response to the stabbing murder of anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, who goes by stage name Killah P — allegedly by a member of the country’s far-right Golden Dawn party.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
PRIME MINISTER ANTONIS SAMARAS: (Foreign language spoken)
HOBSON: Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is appealing for calm, saying his government will not allow the successors of the Nazis to destabilize Greece. His message comes after a member of the country's far-right Golden Dawn Party allegedly stabbed to death the leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, setting off protests in cities across Greece. Last year, Golden Dawn won nearly 18 seats in Parliament, out of 300 total. Joanna Kakissis joins us. She covers Greece for NPR, and she's here in the studio. Joanna, welcome.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
HOBSON: Well, first of all, tell us more about Pavlos Fyssas, also known as Killah P. What was his message? Who listened to him?
KAKISSIS: His message was basically that Greece has no room for fascists; that Greece has to be a society that's open to everybody, and not stuck in the past. And the people who were listening to him are people who were young - relatively young; and the older folks who listened to him are - believe that fascism is embedded in Greek society, and it must be stamped out. And so he had a very select audience. But they believe very strongly that fascism is one of the biggest problems - if not the biggest problem - in Greece.
HOBSON: And when you say fascism, is he rapping specifically about this party Golden Dawn, this neo-Nazi party?
KAKISSIS: He's rapping about their beliefs. He doesn't single them out, but he does believe that fascism is embedded in Greek society, and it needs to be stamped out. And this party is the latest and most dangerous incarnation of that.
HOBSON: Well, tell us about this party, Golden Dawn. Where does it come from? And how much power do they hold, at this point, in the Greek Parliament?
KAKISSIS: This party has its origins as a very obscure group of Hitler lovers, basically. Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who is the party leader, has openly worshiped Hitler in the past. And today, he says he's not a neo-Nazi. But if you go back and look at his past, you'll see very clearly that he's not telling the truth.
But what happened is after the debt crisis, and after the economy started collapsing, people started to see them as an anti-establishment party and as patriots because they would wave around the Greek flag at their rallies; and they'd say, we're the true Greeks, not the political class who destroyed Greece and who betrayed all of you.
And the less-sophisticated voters in Greece, who didn't have time to weed through all the messages, said yes, OK. These guys are not real politicians. And they're Greeks. They hold their flags. And we're going to vote for them.
HOBSON: And this party is very anti-immigrant.
KAKISSIS: Very anti-immigrant. And that's how sort of they sold their message to - especially to very poor Greeks who were losing their jobs. Immigrants are taking your jobs. Immigrants are ruining Greece. They shouldn't be here. They're not even Greek. They don't have Greek blood. They're going to pollute us. And so that was the - the immigrants were the symbols of hate for a long time, especially during the campaign.
HOBSON: Now, Greece's government has said that Golden Dawn is jeopardizing the country's security. But what can the government really do, at this point, about that?
KAKISSIS: Well, I think not much, at this point. There has been talk about banning the party. But the problem is, if you ban the party, it could reband as something else - Silver Dawn is what the government spokesman said. I think the government should have combated this party a long time ago. They shouldn't have let it form so many cells and so many grassroots organizations. They should have combated it from the beginning. And they should have showed Greeks that they were capable of solving the problems in the country, rather than let a bunch of para-state groups - this para-state group do that work for them.
HOBSON: And this allegation, now, of a murder is not the first allegation against this party, Golden Dawn, about violence in Greece. Tell us about the other things that they've been accused of.
KAKISSIS: No, absolutely not. They have been attacking immigrants practically every day in Greece, for the last three years. And Greeks have turned to some - I think to some extent, a blind eye to that. And the party is very anti-Semitic. They blame Jewish bankers for the country's problems. They accuse people who don't believe in what they believe, of not being patriots. And so it's a party whose doctrine pivots on hate - not on anything else, really.
HOBSON: It is surprising that this party even exists. I think a lot of people will be surprised just to hear that there's a neo-Nazi party in Greece. But it's especially surprising because there's been a lot of controversy in Greece over calling the Germans today - who are helping to bail out Greece but also, putting a lot of restrictions on what Greece can do - calling them Nazis.
KAKISSIS: Yes. I mean, many Greeks see the Germans as overseers. And because of the history of the Germans in Greece - the Nazis, primarily - many Greeks don't trust Germans. And the Germans have not done a good job of building trust in Greece. They come over and they say: If you do this, then we'll give you the money. And be better students. Pay your taxes. But they don't offer any words of support and any words of solidarity. And that is what troubles many Greeks.
Now, some of that is unfair - the comparison to Nazis, obviously. I think it's very unfair. But you can see why that's their first reaction because the past is so dark, with the Germans. I mean, so many people died during World War II of starvation, in the streets, shot to death. And people are always looking over their shoulder and seeing that history, and they can't move forward.
HOBSON: As you mentioned, this party got some of its popularity because of the austerity measures that are going on in Greece. Where are we with the debt crisis, at this point? Are things getting better, or are they still getting worse?
KAKISSIS: They're still getting worse. Youth unemployment is nearly 65 percent. General unemployment rate is around 27 percent, and that's much higher than it was during the worse years of the Great Depression here. Things are terrible - 400,000 businesses are projected to close. Greeks are not seeing any improvement. So things are very bad right now, and Golden Dawn continues to feed into that.
HOBSON: Well, when we hear 27 percent unemployment, it's a number - it's a shocking number. But you've been talking to young Greeks. What are they saying about how they see the outlook for the future there?
KAKISSIS: Many Greeks that I interview are either - young Greeks I interview are either unemployed or very underemployed. And they keep talking about a black future ahead of them, a dark future ahead of them. They can't see a future. They can't plan for anything.
They don't know what's going to happen if they - when they finish college, are they going to work at the supermarket? Is that job even going to be available? A lot of young people don't want to get married. And a lot of people think, well, maybe I need to leave. But then the question after that is, if I leave, what happens to the country?
HOBSON: And we'll have to see what happens to the country now, given all that has happened this week. Joanna Kakissis covers Greece for NPR. Joanna, thanks for coming in.
KAKISSIS: Thanks for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF RAP SONG, "I WON'T CRY, I WON'T FEAR")
PAVLOS FYSSAS: (Rapping in foreign language)
HOBSON: And we're listening here to a little bit of "I Won't Cry, I Won't Fear" by the late Greek rapper Pavlos Fyssas. He raps: The world has become a big prison, and I'm looking for a way to break the chains. There is a place waiting for me there at a high mountain peak. You're listening to HERE AND NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF RAP SONG, "I WON'T CRY, I WON'T FEAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.