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.
IT'S A fantastic wave of arrests. They've arrested once again my remaining lawyer. They've been arresting even on slight suspicion. It's coming to us from every angle- he's been arrested. It's really a wave, and it's arrest Nazi style, that is to say, the families no longer know anything about the man, where he is, why he is where he is-nothing. No contact with the outside world. Now I ask you one question, if this be true, as it is, what are they afraid of? What's this fear?
Well, obviously, it's like a volcano, a silent volcano, so that it's eerie, the kind of thing that you see smiles on faces, or you see expressionless faces but it can turn like this, and it can turn when it is convinced that there is a resistance framework, that is to say it's a structure, responsible, consistent, and likely and capable of leading the fight against the colonels internally. We are trying to provide this, this is what our task is, to build this framework. This is what we're working very hard on.
Although I don't want to monopolize, I would say that our group-maybe-is the most important. I don't want to monopolize; there's the Patriotic Front of the Left, with which we have had, from time to time, cooperation. Ours is the Pan-Hellenic Liberation Movement. And our main task at this time is less political, and more the organization of a true liberation movement-I use the word liberation advisedly, because it really is an occupied country today.
It is not a political problem. First, we must be a nation, first we must be free from American occupation, to put it bluntly and openly. And it's a very hard task because, you see, our liberation effort is not supported directly by any government, and you know without government support, it's rather hard to build. The financial resources that must be committed are very substantial. So I don't say it's anything easy. But it's there and it'll crack one of these days.
One of the colonels' favorite propaganda devices is that they are improving economic conditions and especially in the countryside, and that the liberal governments before their regime were derelict economically . . .
WELL, first of all, even if this were the case, it would be no less an American occupation than it is, and the fight would go on even though the conditions improved, or didn't improve, so this is not really what we're fighting for at this point. It's not a higher standard of living that we're fighting for, but, since this happens to be an important issue anyway, and since I am myself tied up with economic policy in Greece, I would very much like to respond.
I think the characteristic of this regime, if I may say so, in terms of economic policy, is the massive sellout of Greek resources to foreign capital, and especially to Greek-American capital. You can, in fact, ask yourself sometimes about a dictatorship-what particular class or social group does it represent, both politically and socially. You ask this about a Latin American dictatorship, you can ask it about an African dictatorship, an Asian dictatorship, a European dictatorship. Well I've asked this question of myself very honestly, and I can say that it really reflects, it represents, theoretically, very little.
There's an analysis that is Greek. There's an analysis by a young man-Tsoukalas is his name-a very interesting analysis, in which he argues that it's the middle class somehow that is reflected in this, that it's the petit-bourgeoisie rather than the bourgeoisie. But I don't quite buy it, in the sense that I think really this is a coup of foreign capital and strictly a colonial operation. Colonial-it has a strategic component. This is the twentieth century. It's not only pillage-it is pillage plus strategy. A staging area for that part of the world. But if you study really the key characteristics of this regime, it has been commented that the more contracts they can sign, and the more attractive terms they can give-Pappas, and Niarchos, Standard Oil-the happier they seem to be. And this they do, of course, in part to relieve the pressure on balance of payment, which has gone very badly for them, not surprisingly.
NOW in return for this, what they have been doing at home, aside from selling out, and actually here we can take the crudest Marxist interpretation and do very well, provided that we don't talk about some Greek bourgeoisie-better talk about foreign capital. It's really an exercise in modern imperialism. Greece is a beautiful example of what neo-imperialism does. It's a crude story, so crude that you don't have to be too well-read to understand. The reading is there.
I want to point out that emigration has picked up again, on a huge scale. I think that's a very important fact. They're losing a hundred thousand Greeks from the labor force annually, net. Now keep in mind that the population increase in Greece is eighty-five thousand per annum, net. The reproduction rate is eighty-five thousand. But emigration is a hundred thousand now, it's nearer that number again. It had reached the number under the rightist government of Karamanlis, and it's back again. It means many things for the nation, but for them it means relief on the unemployment rate-this is an escape valve. Let the Greek go to Germany, to Canada, to Australia to find a job. And they're losing, of course, the better component of the working force, for who would risk going out to Germany or Canada unless he had some training? A semi-skilled laborer, anyway, not unskilled. So this is then proof that the economy is not quite as buoyant as they are pretending it is.
And, of course, they have admitted that in the early years of the coup it was under a slowdown, a very significant slowdown. We had a rate of growth of about nine per cent when we fell, and their rate of growth, of course, by even their own statements, was less than half that, and I think it was probably almost zero the first year, year and a half. Now they argue that it's up to eight per cent. I doubt it, and I understand that also the World Bank doubts it, but it's not inconceivable, let's put it that way, it's not inconceivable.
WHAT have they done for the small man? Well, I think that they have not dealt with labor, in a beneficial way to labor, I think that is clear. And the new taxes, most of them indirectly imposed, must in fact lower the real income of the worker.
In the Greek countryside, what happens? That is a question that is of some interest. What they've been doing there, and, in my opinion, it's the only thing they've been doing, is to be building a road system and building electricity to the village. Their rate, maybe, is not higher than our rate, I don't know, but at least represents an extension of the work that had been done in the past in this direction. These are the infra-structure type operations in the countryside.
But if you really want to see the attitude they have toward that population, the rural population from which they're supposed to come-they emphasize this all the time. I mean, where did we come from? My father did not wear shoes until he was 13, in a mountain village. Where did any Greek come from? We are a country of villagers. I don't know very many people who were born in Athens. Surely hardly a Greek prime minister ever was born in Athens, hardly ever. From some countryside. Karamanlis was a poor boy from the farm from the rural section, my father was, Venizelos was, I mean, there's hardly anyone. So this is nothing special, to come from the villages.
BUT LET me give you one characteristic example, and that has to do with something we introduced. We introduced a very spectacular measure, I think, for Greece: free school lunch for all elementary school children. And that meant that for every Greek village, no matter how remote, a kid got a solid meal once a day. That was really redistributing income if you wish, but in a way that was very, very important. A full solid meal meant that the mother did not have to worry about any other meal, because when I say they had a meal at noon, I mean they really filled up. Now that was the first thing they eliminated. And I ask you, really, why did they eliminate that? And I think that this is characteristic of their oppressive attitudes. I mean, they're not about to redistribute income through the Greek countryside.
What they want is to minimize unrest. Surely every government wants that. And therefore, their policy has to be read in this light. And they want to maximize infiltration of foreign capital, especially American, but more especially Greek-American capital. In fact, Karamanlis, in an unusual moment of brilliance, called this dictatorship a Greek-American dictatorship. And I think that this really is the better reason, and that this is really that kind of operation, it's literally a sellout. And I prefer to think of it this way.
There is no Greek industrialist class, there is no Greek capital, that's an unreal thing. In Italy there is, there's such a thing as an Italian capitalist class. The Greek capitalist class is parasitic, it's dependent upon capital, and this is very fundamental. Now, when you talk about the middle class, the shopkeeper, of course it's always conservative, it is everywhere, and that's not different in Greece, and the conservative element, this is the only element from which, I suppose, some support could have been had for this regime. But, as a matter of fact, I think that they sort of lived with the regime at first, in expectation that it was temporary, passing. I think that the domination of the Pappas-Niarchos-Onassis sort of interests is turning them off. They're things that are unbelievable, talking about that middle class. That's where Tsoukalas is wrong.
Let me give you an example, one quiet, lively example. I don't know if you know Greece, but there is this coastline, from Athens to Sunium, on this beautiful, beautiful road that runs right next to it. And then there are anumber of settlements; bank employees, XYZ employees, have managed to form co-operatives, and have established little homes right through that region. So the Greek government pulls out, the junta pulls out, some kind of arrangement with the Turks. Very old, dead, nobody knew about it, about the sale of those lands to the Greek government. And they said, "All of this area belong to us. We will give you this compensation, we're going to raze you to the ground, and we're going to bring some big outfits from abroad to turn this into a great tourist city." Now this is the middle class guys that are being expropriated. What I'm prepared to say is that the middle class took a stance of "let's wait and see," but from this to infer that this regime is the petit bourgeois regime, that's a big mistake. No, this regime is an American regime. What's happening in the long pull is absolutely devastating.
What sort of government do you envision for post-coup Greece?
Our new republic has a touch of Yugoslavia in it. We believe in a straight socialist solution in Greece. We expect by June to have this plan finalized. And I don't mean social-democratic. I mean socialist. Property rights will not be given any direct privilege, but only in the sense that they serve the people. The burden of proof will be on property, instead of the other way around.
We envision a Greece of eleven districts, each of which will be self-governing, except in overall socioeconomic planning and common self-defense. We are thinking of a decentralized army and are working very hard on the concept. No central police, by the way. Police will be strictly regional and municipal. Arms there will be mostly for guerrilla arms, for people in the 20-to-40-year range, men and women both. We will place emphasis on a permanent internal defense plan in which no enemy will be forbidden to enter Greece. He will find no tanks or air strikes. The fighting will take place within the country.
We expect to give meaning and substance to the concept of participatory democracy. It will be basically a socialist motif, except that not all private property will be banned.
It was said long ago by the Sulzbergers and other that if allowed, I would take Greece out of NATO, and I would throw the king out, that I was a socialist. Well, at the time, I was not. I was a progressive gentleman, but not in that sense. At this point, I'm quite prepared to do all those nasty things. They've acted in a way that would produce all this. But there's no way of getting back to Greece right now. The fight will be long and hard.