Papandreou: Fighting the Junta

( This is the second and final part of an interview with Andreas Papandreou, conducted by M. David Landau and Michael J. Ryan in Amherst on March 12. The first part appeared on Saturday. )

You mentioned earlier that, in December of '66, you didn't think the country would accept a coup. How did the colonels manage to insure that there wouldn't be an uprising?

THIS IS a very important question. I think you have to look in two directions. One is the army. When you say uprising, that means acceptance by the army first. And second the people. We have to see what happened to each.

What happened to the army first. This is part of the little twist that was added to Plan Prometheus. On April 20th, all the generals in the field, commanders of various outfits, were called to Athens for a meeting with the Minister of Defense. The Minister of Defense called this meeting on the basis of recommendations by Papadopoulos and that group. So all the generals were in Athens. This is key now: the night of April 20th onto the morning of the 21st, the button is pushed-execute Plan Prometheus, Suppose that you are, now, deputy in command of some division. You know that your boss is in Athens. You know there's a meeting of generals in Athens. And then you get the signal. (By the way, all communication is immediately cut, except the special communications between army units by wireless telephones, and everybody has to execute the way he has been trained to execute, you know, you open up your envelope, these are your duties-I don't know exactly the form this takes.)

There is a call-back feature in the plan. That is to say, at some point the field must cheek back to make sure that this order is valid. And the plan provides that the authority to confirm it is the army chief of staff. Not the prime minister, not the king, but the army chief of staff. The difficulty with the Papadopoulos thing-it almost faltered in this-is that they couldn't find the army chief of staff. He was actually playing cards, next to my home, in fact, two or three houses down the street. They found him, they dragged him out, they said, "Look, you've got a choice, either you confirm this, and then you become vice president of the army government, or you don't confirm it and we have to shoot you." So he gladly confirmed it.

THE officers in the field assumed that this must have the approval of the generals and of the king. Navy and air force, not quite. Gendarmerie and police were doubtful-they were not included in the plan. And in the morning, they started checking back with the American embassy, some officers. And they started trying to reach the king to check with him. There were many doubts, you see.

The king was confronted with this particular coup; he was planning a coup of his own. Now we know that the date had been set for May 13. So he was really quite surprised about these upstarts doing it without his knowledge. And as usual, he let his mother handle the problem. After they contacted the embassy, the American embassy, they went to the American embassy in fact, and then to the British intelligence headquarters in the British embassy. And the conclusion was that they should go along with this coup, except that they should get some of their own men in it, and especially the prime minister should be their own, their own choice, and you know whom they chose, Kolias. In the film Z-you probably have seen the film-he is the fellow who goes up from Athens to Salonika to put pressure on the young investigating judge to stop the investigation. This is the first prime minister, and this is the king's and the queen mother's choice.

So the king then is broken, and it is important-he's taken in. It's very important for the coup that this happen because, if the king had taken a stand, the fact that they had executed Plan Prometheus didn't mean that beyond the first twenty-four hours they would continue to execute Plan Prometheus. If the king had taken a stand there would have been a confrontation, and I could guarantee that at that time, the colonels wouldn't have had a chance. So the king's role, the American embassy's role, the British embassy's role, have been decisive in maintaining discipline within the Greek armed forces behind this coup.

NOW, the people. What about the people? I have now come to understand the following things. It took me a long time to understand them. My first question was, why isn't there fighting in the streets? My question. I fully understand why there wasn't. It's not only the fact that the leadership was away, put away. Between six and eight thousand people were picked up-labor unions, political leadership, whatever you have. But even that would not explain it. What explains it was the nature of the coup, and its source. You see, a coup, to crystallize, requires something like three days or so, I should think. I'm not a specialist but I think it requires something like that. The first 72 hours are terribly important. If you can avoid clashes the first 72 hours, you may have it. And, you see, these people came from nowhere. It is true that the name Papadopoulos had been known, somewhat, in connection with some sabotage and things like that. But there was no wide knowledge of the name, and the other names were absolutely unknown. So, for the average Greek, and I ask myself, as a matter of fact-I was not an average Greek, I was in polities-who are they? And what do they represent?

If the king had made the coup with the generals, there was enough inertia in our confrontation, this huge confrontation, that there would have been massive confrontation and very bloody confrontation. I think we would really have swept the thing out. The target was clear-the junta. The establishment really prevented the people from expressing their views and exercising their constitutional prerogative over a number of years, but had built the right kind of spirit for fight. In one demonstration alone, we had one million Athenians. I mean, Athens was full. We have pictures of this, not one, but composite pictures. From one square, Constitution, to the other, Omonia, you couldn't drop a needle in it.

So where did they go? Well, the point is, what is the target? Suddenly they hear there's a coup, and they hear that arrested is also the rightist prime minister. Right and center and left all are being arrested. The king's adjutant had been beaten; they passed this around. In fact, there were some rightist circles then saying, you know, maybe this is the coup of Andreas Papandreou, and they've arrested him, you know, just to make things look right.

This question of where did this come from, whose coup it is, and what it represents, was not cleared up until after a number of days in people's minds. A search was needed, it was paralytic, it really paralyzed actions. If you know your enemy, and finally you come in the field and fight but something else shows up-not the enemy you expected-and you have to bring it closer to vision, to see what this is, that's exactly the time I think they needed. My guess, to a large extent, is that the decision to use the colonels-which was an American decision-was made for exactly this reason, that it was really a very intelligently executed thing.

THIS is fact number one, we don't have the kind of confrontation we had expected. That does not mean that there has not been resistance in Greece of a different kind. And very important resistance. I know much of the feeling abroad is that nothing very much is happening in Greece, and many Greeks say it too. But allow me to say that there is one little bit of evidence that is objective about the mood of the Greek people. And that is that they have not been able to lift martial law-it's almost fouryears, and they have not been able to apply even their own fake fascist constitution, their so-called democratic constitution. They haven't been able to use it; not one article of that constitution really is functioning today. The country is still under direct, arbitrary, unbridled military rule. There is no framework-they do what they want. And the reason for this is clearly their fear. But there is more than that.

My own guess is that at least 100,000 Greeks have gone through the mill of arrest, intimidation, jailing, torture, release. This is a systematic intimidation, in waves. At any one time, the number of people in jail, and in concentration camps, is not huge. That is to say, it's like a bathtub, you have water coming in, you have water coming out. You've got a certain level a certain number of prisoners, generally speaking. But the number coming in and the number coming out is what's important. And this, as you see, spreads intimidation throughout the country. Recently, the wave of arrests and the treatment of the prisoners has passed all previous experience. The last three months have been absolutely horrible. They have arrested massively, and they have arrested in the elite, in the Athenian elite. That is of course, democrats, but lawyers, judges, teachers, doctors, enmasse. And all of them pretty much people associated with our particular movement.

I'd like to mention the name of Sartzetakis. Now Sartzetakis is Tertognon in the film Z, the hero. He was arrested on December 25, on Christmas Eve, black humor. By whom? By the son, also a gendarme, of the chief of the gendarme in Salonika, who was responsible for the death of Lambrakis. You know, this is the way they pay back their debts. He disappeared in the military police headquarters, as by the way have all the other people they've arrested.