Written by Christodoulos Athanasatos
(Translation in English: Lisa Darilis)
My occupation with journalism and politics brings me to question everything. It brings me to search behind words, faces, and situations. It makes me play with strategy, differentiate between the "political line" and the "idealogical shade," and, call into question whether to elevate or downgrade a situation.
The anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic uprising (or Polytechnion) is certainly one of these situations. It is the type of commemoration where you determine what worth you choose to place on it, where you find the controversy which best suits you, where you extend your own message banners (if it's in your interest to do so), and finally to accept its legitimacy.
Even though 25 years have passed, I still remember my teacher in elementary school, who tried to put us in the academic climate by saying "In 1967 some members of the Greek military imposed a dictatorship." She then wrote the word "dictatorship" on the blackboard. She continued by telling us about the "Junta" in simple terms, like about the story of the tank, which put us all into shock. In years to follow, we learned about other details of this story, like about the slogan "Bread - Education - Freedom," about the demonstrations, and about the radio station created by the barricaded students, from which they voiced themselves. When we went on to secondary school, this commemoration began to take on a larger meaning. Perhaps not so much that there was no parade (as we all loved participating in parades in order to lose class time), but because it was a divided situation where the students held power. They had the opportunity to play the songs of their choice, like the "Accordion", but also to bring about the first doubt of authority. On the opposite side, October 28th "OXI Day" is an unquestionable celebration supported by all Greeks. This is chiefly due to what the Greeks said to the Italians - "OXI," (or NO) to fascism, and no one had a problem with whether Metaxas himself said it, nor what Metaxas was about.
Leaving behind this brief flashback of my school years (which I miss like most 30 something year olds), I am returning to the present, and to the purpose of my writing this article, which was no other than putting out possible interpretations, through statements and the social media, the different expressions of views on this commemoration.
On one side, you have the Leftists, who have dedicated this commemoration, since its early decades, and who move forward by comparing it to the current political situation in Greece, with reminders of its message, with The Golden Dawn Party, with the government shut down of the Hellenic broadcasting station, ERT, and whatever else is headlining in politics. On the opposite side, you have the opponents, the demonstrators, who have abandoned the Junta's barren line that "there were no deaths," and "the rioters were removed." They hold to the political stance that alot of the prominent student figures of the Polytechnion seizure, like Maria Damanaki and Kostas Laliotis (who are now politicians), were, and continue to be, the "the tools of the system that destroyed Greece." These opponents blame the "Polytechnion generation," sometimes justifiably so, for being responsible for the current situation of the country. The extremist group (or hardliners) is taking it a step further, stressing that "a Papadopoulos" will save them, and they sigh for a time when they lived under military camp conditions (whether they liked it or not), which is more or less, historically and politically, an outdated option.
I believe that these historical events, and the roles of the figures involved in them, should be taken into account under the given conditions that prevailed during that time period. It seems to me, a little inexpert for us to discuss the events, which occurred in 1973, and to identify with the acts of the protagonists after so many decades have passed. Perhaps it sounds a bit cynical, but I don't think the events of 1973 have so much to do with how the leaders of the occupation developed power, as they do about a protest proven to be expressed by a large number of Greeks, nor could one even identify with the events, its figures, and their subsequent course or actions. Moreover, politics has other boundaries, as does life - possibly, not to be at the same encampment. In my opinion, in terms of what concerns the opposing side and their identification with the Polytechnion, or with any large or small movement, is that it underestimates the value of this anniversary, as it is seen as a movement that united thousands of citizens on a social level. Whether they are justified, or just too demanding, the rivalries of certain professional and social groups (although respectful), do not always represent the same thing that was represented by the leaders and events of the Polytechnion.
In terms of what occurred during the Junta of Greece, it is my view that there is a deeper meaning involved, that has no special connection to the "Polytechnion generation," or any other generation which we bring up. It chiefly has to do with the "bad attitude" we have put in our DNA as a Greek people. We are prone to populism of any kind, and we seek the easy answer. We place "appearing just" as a priority before being truly just. We are guilty of using methods, which we ourselves reprove, like those who favor being unworthy, with the justification that "everybody does it." This attitude was probably accepted at sometime at the end of the Junta. I fear that this attitude will remain, even if some people, in trying to adjust ruinous measures, raise their flag with the words "we need to change." I highly doubt that they are pursuing this, nor that they themselves believe in it.
In conclusion, if you were able to reach the end of this article, watch the video I have attached below. It is from a concert of the great Mikis Theodorakis that took place after the fall of the Junta. I don't think that everyone on the podium is a Leftist or Anarchist. They are mainly people who felt liberated and dreamt of a better future, regardless of whether the future has shown to be less promising from what they naively believed, and regardless of whatever responsibility they may hold in that.
Let us now close our eyes and dream that in life every one of us shall celebrate the fall of our own Junta, and will honor our own Polytechnion.