Liakos, Antonis. 2006. “To Hameno Rendez-vous” (The Lost Rendezvous). Archeiotaxio, 8, no. (May): 47-49.
Chapter 7. 1967–1974: Dictatorship
The Red Housecoat
On April 21, 1967, a group of colonels from the far Right, some of whom had been trained at the War College in the United States, some of whom had participated in the Tágmata Asphaleias, some of whom had been members of “X,” and others of whom had been torturers in Makrónisos and Yáros, seized power from the government, using as an excuse the political instability and tension of the time, and established a dictatorship. The leader of the coup, Georgios Papadopoulos, was a member of the paramilitary organization IDEA (Ierós Desmos Ellênōn Axiōmatikôn, “Sacred Bond of Greek Officers”). He was flanked by Nikolaos Makarezos and Stylianos Pattakos. Many more participated, but the three came to be the public faces of the first months of the dictatorship. James Becket made the connection between the Truman Doctrine and the junta when he wrote at the height of the latter, in 1970, “twenty years [after the Doctrine] America would find itself with an empire and Greece would find itself with a military dictatorship. The Greeks, a free people, would be subjugated by a minority armed by the United States, and the outside pressures would be American” (1970: 12).
That Friday morning of April 21, 1967, my mother did not wake us up to go to school. We woke up at our leisure, and I walked outside, where my mother, dressed in her bright-red, ankle-length woolen housecoat, was standing at the crossroads in front of our house with my grandfather, looking up and down the streets. There were almost no cars about; a deafening silence reigned save for the occasional military truck going by.
I reached my mother and grandfather just in time to hear my mother joke with her father-in-law: “Do you think they would pick me up because of my red housecoat?”
“Why didn't you wake us up?” I asked her.
“There is no school today,” she said, “There is a dictatorship [egine diktatoria, literally, “a dictatorship happened”].” My sister and I started cheering about not having school. We wouldn't understand what this meant until that evening.
I cannot remember my father at all on that day; he is completely absent from my memory. In the summer of 2006 I asked him how he found out that a junta had happened. “I was in the car with Spyros,” he said. Spyros was an old friend and neighbor and the two of them worked at jobs very close to each other. “We left the house at 4:30 a.m., and I was driving down Vassileos Konstantinou [the main avenue that connects the area where we lived with Syngrou Avenue, off which their respective jobs were located]. Everything was very quiet, abandoned, there were no cars, no people, no buses; there were military vehicles everywhere, tanks, hardly any police. I turned on the radio. There was only classical and military music on, no news, no human voice to say anything. And from that day on we knew, every time there was classical music on the radio, that something serious had happened.” He laughed at this point; everyone in the room laughed, because it was true, at that time classical music was not played on the radio except in specific programs in the evening and as accompaniment to broadcasts about serious events (a dictatorship, the death of an important political person, things of that sort).
Then he continued, “At Truman's statue there was a police car. They stopped us, or rather, we stopped to ask what was happening. They said they weren't sure. 'We don't even know,' one of them said. We said that we were going to Kalithea [the district where they worked]. 'I don't know if you can get there,' he said, and then he said, 'Why don't you turn back, go back to your homes? We are not sure what this is.' I explained to him that I was responsible for shutting down the equipment at the lab [my father worked as a chemical and mechanical engineer] and the whole plant, and that my friend had to report to the electric company where he worked. 'Try to go, what can I tell you,' he said. 'But I don't know if you are going to manage to get through to the other side [apenanti was the word used]. So we kept going a bit longer. We tried to go by the Stadium so that we could catch Kalirroes [Avenue] to go down to Syngrou, but they turned us around before we could get there. We pleaded with them; we wanted to go by the Stadium and get a glimpse of the palace, see if we could see anything. Impossible, impossible, they wouldn't let us. 'Go by Pangrati,' they said, a young lieutenant. 'You might be able to go across from there.' At any rate, I don't want to belabor the point [na min sta polylogo], we went up to Pangrati, we went through the refugee settlement [ta prosfygika], we tried to go by there, it was impossible.”
“Did you realize what had happened?” I asked.
“Eh, after two hours on the road, with so many road blocks [bloka], we knew that this was a junta. But who had done it? No one was expecting it to happen then. At any rate, we realized that we wouldn't make it to Kalithea, so at some point somewhere in Dourgouti, behind Aghios Sostis [so, really, on the other side of Syngrou Avenue, about five hundred meters away from where they wanted to be, but on the wrong side] we decided that even if we did make it to Kalithea, we probably wouldn't be able to make it back, and I turned around and tried to go back to Zográphou. We couldn't go by the same roads because they were closed by that time. Everywhere we were being turned around and away. Finally I found the old streets, what streets, some goat paths they were, over on Hymettus [the mountain of Athens], and we came back from there. I think we made it back home around noon”—which explains why my father was not there when my mother was preoccupied with the potential danger posed by her red housecoat.
No one was expecting the dictatorship to happen just then, so even the members of the KKE, even the leadership of the Party, went to bed that night not suspecting anything. By the morning almost every single one of them had been arrested. Account after account of that day shows how unexpected it was for everyone, from the Palace to the Party. These accounts show that even specific warnings, by people who knew that the coup would happen that night, who had specific information, went unheeded. Yet published accounts of that day have been scarce. As I was researching this particular experience in the summer of 2006, the journal Archeiotaxeio, the flagship publication of the Archives of Contemporary Social History (ASKI), issued a special volume on the memories of specific people of the Left from that particular day. Leonidas Kallivretakis recounts how, like me, he cheered when his mother told him that there would be no school that day, but the rest of the accounts are from people slightly to significantly older than Kallivretakis and myself, people (the older ones) who were arrested in their pajamas or (the younger ones) who were not arrested that night because they had been out with friends and had not yet returned home when the police were sent to pick them up between 2 and 3 a.m.
Antonis Liakos, who at the time was a student at the University of Thessaloniki, reports how the night before the dictatorship he and his friends were spending the wee hours discussing the dictatorship of the proletariat and when it would end in the people's republics of Eastern Europe, so that an authentic socialist democracy would be possible. Liakos remembers how, for the first time, the questions of sovereignty and applied Marxism as they were developing in the people's republics “resonated with the Greek Left and were finding a space in its journals and newspapers. The irony, of course, was that we were discussing one dictatorship as another one was happening. We left as the first tanks made their appearance in front of the White Tower and the owner of the bar said that he was closing up because a dictatorship had happened” Liakos, 2006: 48). Liakos goes on to talk about how the cartography of the city immediately changed; how everyone who was on the Left and charactērisménos (“characterized, classified as such”) changed his everyday itinerary, how a new conceptual map of dangerous places was immediately produced and unspokenly acknowledged. “The city that we had been crisscrossing leisurely until now stopped being the same from one day to the next. The Diagonal, the Square of St. Sophia, Aristotelous Street, the White Tower, became off limits. Crossing Egnatia Street, Tsimiske Street, was dangerous, traveling to the eastern suburbs became an adventure.”
But the most important event of the day of the dictatorship, Liakos mentions, was that he missed a date with a young woman to go on a three-day trip to Chalkidike. He wonders why this sense of loss should not constitute a political moment. Why should not desire, and the loss of its fulfillment, constitute a political gesture? Even more, he wonders, why would he actually think that they should not? Would the inclusion of desire in the revolutionary process betray a lack of political commitment? Of course, the questions that Liakos so craftily poses are rhetorical now, when it seems that we have cleared desire of the suspicion of false consciousness, when we have weeded through piles of Marxist analyses to bring to the surface the importance of desire both in Marx's own writings and in the psyches of revolutionary actors. But in 1967 desire was politically suspect.
I have no clear recollection of what happened later in the day on April 21. Some time in the early afternoon, my uncle, who was a high-ranking officer in the Special Security Police, came to our house. It seemed strange to me, because he had never before come to our house during the day. He pulled out the keys that were in the keyhole on the front door. “Don't leave the keys in the door,” he said, as he had said countless times previously. “And don't go out of the house after dark; do you hear me?” he said to me. “Not even downstairs to your grandmother's. There is going to be a curfew.” He left.
In the early evening I remember my mother coming home (but I do not remember her having left); my father was there. She started naming names: Mimis, Spyros (the person that my father had been carrying in his car all morning), Nikētopoulos, Takis, Nikos and his parents—no women's names yet. These names of friends, which were spoken as she sat down to smoke a cigarette with my father, were repeated over and over. Where she had gone to get this information I don't know, and it's all gone from her now. At what peril and what cost she had managed to get as much as she did I don't know, either. There did not seem to be any pattern on who had been arrested other than that everyone who had been arrested had been involved with the Left and Leftist organizations or with the Center and Centrist organizations, or had held public office, such as having been a mayor, or a dignitary in the Boy Scouts, or an officer in any of the cultural associations that had sprung up between Papandreou's 1963 liberalization of politics and the day of the junta (e.g., the Union of Democratic Women, of which my mother was a member; .They had been picked up, but no one knew yet where they had been taken. And the arrests were continuing.
Both my parents were afraid. A little later, as my mother started making dinner, she introduced me to a practice that would come to organize my life for years to come, until the junta fell. At a quarter to nine in the evening, she sat me down in front of the radio, a fairly new one, a gift to them on their wedding day in 1957, one with the button that all Greeks knew or thought at some point would be needed: a shortwave button. My mother sat me down in front of the radio, turned it on, turned the volume down, pushed the large ivory button, and turned the dial to the right. A bit before the dial reached the end of the band, among all the screeching and garbling static, and all the unintelligible languages, my mother slowed down, listened carefully and discerned German. “You stay here and listen to it,” she said. “When it says, 'And now news from Greece,' call me.”
I listened to this news in German, understanding nothing, thinking of all the stories about the German occupation that I had heard over the past nine years of my life—the tortures, the executions, the bodies of the hanged dangling from trees, the security cage full of civilians that the Germans would place in front of a train engine to deter sabotage, the stories of the screaming of the tortured, the famine, the dead children in the streets, massive executions as reprisals, the collaborators, the hooded ones, treason, hard-boiled eggs in underarms, the iron vice, terror. Suddenly there was music that sounded familiar; I found out later that it was the opening to Mikis Theodorakis's Antonis, from his album Mauthausen. Then the voice came on. “Radio Station Deutsche Welle. And now, news from Greece,” a woman's voice said in Greek, a voice that had a slight hesitation when it pronounced the letter r. I called my mother and was promptly sent out of the room.
I could not understand why I had been sent out of the room, and I tried to get an answer from her in the summer of 2006. “Why did you not want me to listen to the news then?” I asked.
“It was dangerous,” she said. “Had anyone asked you in the street if we listened to foreign news, what would you have done?”
I pointed out that I already knew that they were listening to foreign news, the only thing I didn't know was what the news said.
“It was too dangerous,” my mother said again, even more emphatically.
“It was one of the three times in my life when I saw my father carry his gun,” my friend Alexandros said when I asked him what he remembered from this day. “Are you interviewing me?” he asked. I said that I was. “Good,” he said, laughingly. “Can I have my picture in the book, too?” I said that if he had one from then I would use it. “Yes, I will give you a picture from then. So, it was Sunday morning…”
“It was Friday morning,” I interrupted him.
“Do you want my story or not?” he said.
I nodded. Of course I wanted his story, even though I knew that the beginning of it was wrong. This is the nature of fieldwork. How could I get the story if I kept interrupting him? But how could I go on pretending that I did not know that what he was saying was wrong, since I myself “had been there,” I had seen it, I, too, had cheered at not having school that day? I had to be the ethnographer, but my “nativeness” kept tripping me up. As Renato Rosaldo has put it, “I didn't know if I had to put on my loin cloth or pick up my pencil and paper.” I decided to err on the side of my discipline, but not before one last attempt. “It was not Sunday morning,” I said, “because it was a school day and every other account that we have from that day of people our age mentions exactly the same thing: cheers at not having school.”
“We didn't have school that day,” Alexandros said. “It was not a school day. It was Sunday, because my grandmother had gone to church,” he continued.“Your grandmother could have gone to church because she was, obviously, a very religious person,” I said.
“My grandmother had gone to church because it was Sunday,” he said again, “and my mother would know.”
I gave him my cell phone. “Call your mother,” I said.
“Let me tell you my story, and then we'll call her, but you are wrong,” he continued.
I gave in for the moment. “Go on,” I said, “tell me what happened.”
“We were sitting down at breakfast; it was 8:15 in the morning. I remember this very well—my father was there with a glass of milk in front of him.”
“What did your father do for a living?” I asked.
“He was a policeman,” he said, “and at that time he was teaching at the School of the Gendarmes.”
“A policeman or a gendarme?” I asked.
“A gendarme,” he responded. He continued, “So, my father was putting bits of bread in his milk, and my grandmother came in. My mother said to her, 'You didn't go to church?' 'No,' my grandmother said, 'because three blocks up there are soldiers, and they said to me, 'Where are you going, little grandma?' I said, 'to church,' and one of them said, 'Go back home, grandma, there is no church today; there has been a revolution [egine epanastasis].' 'Opa,' my father said and got up from the table with such force that his glass tipped over and all the milk spilled on the floor. So, for me, the memory of how the junta happened is that of spilled milk on the kitchen floor. And then, the funny thing is, we didn't know who had done the revolution, because there were rumors that the Left was planning a revolution, too. But we didn't know, and we didn't know if my father should go to the police station or if we should hide him in the attic [to patari]. We were looking for places to hide him. But I bet you anything, come on, let's place a bet, what will you give me when you find out that it was a Sunday, and not a Friday?”
I said that it was certainly not a Sunday, but maybe it was a Saturday, the Day of Lazarus, the last Saturday before the Day of Resurrection, and maybe that was the reason his grandmother had gone to church. The dictatorship happened the week before Easter. He called his mother. She recounted the same story as he did, down to the Sunday detail. We resolved to check it out on the Web. We did. April 21, 1967, was, of course, a Friday.
“But it was not a day that we had school,” he said when I called to tell him about it. “Oh, you just destroyed my childhood,” he continued, jokingly. There were three times in his life, Alexandros had said, when he saw his father carrying a gun. On the day of the junta, on the day of the Polytechnic uprising (in 1973), and “the day he saw my name on the ballot of the KKE of the Interior . He came to the house; he put the ballot on the table. I was cooking green peas, I remember this very well. He put the ballot on the table and said, 'What is this?' 'A ballot,' I said. 'What name is this on it?' he said again. 'Mine,' I said. He left, went to the other room, got out his gun, and came up to me and said, 'Out of my house, now.' So, I got out of his house.” The dictatorship had managed to split the political DNA of Alexandros's father and make a “Communist” out of his son.
The first night of the dictatorship was apparently not only a terrifying but also a bizarre event. Not only were the active members of the various political parties and smaller political groups (what in Greek are playfully called groupouskoula, “little groups”) arrested, but so were elderly people who had been politically inactive since the end of the civil war. Since these men and women had been required to report to the police station at regular intervals for about fifteen years, they knew their neighborhood policemen, although no one would claim that they were on friendly terms with each other. When the policemen went to his house to arrest him, Tzavalás Karousos mentions the hesitation and even gentleness that the first policemen he encountered showed to everyone, from the moment that they picked him up, allowing him to dress, to the police station, where the policeman on duty treated him “politely, maybe even amicably. …Everyone received me smiling. They even offered me coffee. They all knew me as a movie actor, because none of them had any affinity for the serious theater. …They searched me. They took my eyeglasses, my belt, my pen, my keychain, my money. They wrapped everything in a piece of paper and asked me to sit down. They offered me coffee again. I refused. I asked again what had happened. The response was the standard one—'We don't know anything. We are just following orders. It's others…” Karousos 1974: 24). The awkwardness of the police is palpable. For the first time since the Metaxas era the police were in the dark about political developments.
Karousos was put in a cell measuring 2 x 2.5 meters, with a barred transom on the top, along with fifteen other people: lawyers, doctors, the mayor [proedros tes koinothtas], two members of the city council, various entrepreneurs. He mentions that, despite not knowing what had happened or what was in store for them, for the moment they were in good spirits. Obviously they had the resources they needed; they knew, as Karousos says, that they “should not allow the prison to turn them upside down. Every Greek knows that. Because for decades now, half of the population has been in the prisons and the camps. Just like that, for no reason at all, simply because of their political thoughts.”
Is there a way of escaping this determinism of history, a warped determinism that becomes recognized as such only once it has happened? The recognition of the repetition of history offers him a sense of familiarity, and through this familiarity it produces again, it re-produces, a collective “we,” a “we” that can easily be forgotten in the lull of history, in an existence where an (almost always) imminent crisis becomes occluded by the apparition of normalcy.
In the tiny cell where Karousos was placed, there was not enough space for everyone to sit on the floor. Some stood while others sat. Karousos, tall and erect, heard a voice coming from the floor, saying: “This smells like Indonesia [referring to the 1965 Suharto coup]. American stuff.” Karousos recognized the man: he was a worker who had managed clandestinely to get a job at the oil refinery. The two of them had been exiled at Makrónisos and Ai-Stratis together. The worker could not procure a certificate of loyalty, and he was working undocumented. He said all this very fast, adding, “It's a good thing that the king organized [made] this dictatorship and saved me from all this [the agony of being discovered and fired],” not knowing yet, as no one did, that it was not the king who had organized the coup, that his planned dictatorship of the generals, as it came to be known, was superseded by this ridiculous dictatorship of the colonels.
“The word Indonesia, the case of the worker, everything darkened the place… We were all forty-five years old or older… The unknown weighed heavily on us [mas plakonei]” (ibid.: 25). But Karousos recognizes that this experience would not have been the same in other parts of Athens, in other parts of Greece. He lived in a very good bourgeois neighborhood, but he wonders what the situation was like elsewhere, in Piraeus, for instance, where the most committed working-class Leftists lived in well-recognized neighborhoods. He did not know that in Piraeus a small child had been arrested, along with his mother, and had been tortured in front of her so that he would give away the hiding-place of his father. He did not know that this small child had died of the torture in front of his mother. But he was himself puzzled at what had happened, and he sought refuge in doubting the present moment, if it were really what it seemed to be. “We are not in the time of Makrónisos any longer where, when the wind took away our tents, when the dust storm came, in the midst of the rain and the hail, we fought to put them back together in the thick darkness of the angry night. As soon as we were liberated from the camps of the Germans, we found ourselves in camps guarded by the people of the Germans, whom our allies gathered up and put above us. But there is something else, now… We left our jobs [to go home], and we found ourselves chained, shamelessly, without knowing whether we are to live and what's in store for us” (ibid.: 30).
What was in store for them was the temporary camp of the Hippodrome and then transport to Yáros. The army had taken over from the police by then. At the Hippodrome, Karousos noted again the age of those arrested, ranging from forty-something to the upper eighties, with some being over ninety years old. He remarked to someone there that they were all out of commission, they were too old, their arrest was nonsensical. Everybody knew everybody. Here was the leadership of the Communist Party, all of them just barely out of prison, the cadres of the Party; they all knew each other from various camps and exiles. “This is the result of this modern disease, anti-Communism,” Karousos thought (ibid.: 53), turning the tables on all the medical metaphors that had been used throughout the century to describe and fight Communism.
Meanwhile, the news of the new government appeared in the newspapers, and Karousos was able to steal a glance at the paper of one of the officers. The new undersecretary of public security was T. Totomis, who had been a snitch for the Gestapo, a collaborator. He had fled the country with the Germans and had been found by the Americans, who took him with them. Twenty years later, they sent him to Greece as a high-ranking official in Tom Pappas's businesses (the same Tom Pappas who financed part of Richard Nixon's campaign, advised Spiro Agnew, and collaborated with the junta).
“It was the same, the same story,” Karousos says (ibid., 79). They didn't know what would happen: collective torture or execution? “The memory of Indonesia never, not for one moment, left the camp,” he writes (ibid.)
If those arrested never forgot their history, if the compounded experience of persecution, terror, and abjection never really left them, if their memory was riven by fissures that could not be sutured, the same was true for the junta. The arrested and the junta traveled across the same familiar cognitive and conceptual topography, a topography that, in turn, produced two drastically different topologies: one of extraction, the other of inclusion.
Obviously, the junta could not keep the thousands of people that it had arrested in the Hippodrome, in military camps, and in football stadia. At some point, Karousos says, it became clear that they would be transported. Indeed, military lorries were there to pick them up. With his indefatigable sense of humor, he notes, “The optimists expect Ikaria. [They say] 'They will be embarrassed to take us to Makrónisos or Yioúra. They have to take international opinion into account.' You are lucky that you haven't realized yet what American gangsterism means. The pessimists are thinking, 'Indonesia.' Most of us expected Makrónisos or Yioúra.”
Then Karousos describes what has become a commonplace in the topology of crises: he engages in radical topography. In the total absence of any information, he tries to decipher the intentions of the junta by applying himself to basic geography: “Now we will see. If [the lorry] turns left, we are headed to Lavrion, so that from there we can be easily transported to Makrónisos. There is the advantage of water. It takes just half an hour for the water-transport boat to come from Lavrion. If they turn right, then we are headed to Piraeus. Yioúra, undoubtedly. We are all hoping for Makrónisos. At least from there we could see the opposite shore, we could see cars' headlights at night as they appeared and disappeared on the winding road to Athens; we could even see, during starry nights—and those are the majority in Greece—far away, behind and over the peaks of the hills of Mesogeia, the glare from the lights of Athens… We come out from the street. We turn right. We are going to Yioúra. Some of us still do not want to believe it. No! We might embark on Piraeus to Makrónisos. Not Yioúra! Not Yioúra! No one wants this” (ibid., 84).
The generational difference among the detainees continued to be acute. The navy ships kept transporting political prisoners, “but they never bring young ones,” Karousos notes. The younger ones were kept in prisons where tortures even more intense, and certainly more scientific, took place.
An interesting development, engendered by the junta's profound climate of suspicion, fear, and deep anti-Communism (an anti-Communism that lapsed into anti-anti-juntaism, as Clifford Geertz might have said), was that after the coup attempted by the king in December 1968 a whole group of Right-wing, royalist, high-ranking officers, primarily generals, admirals, and air-force commanders, was imprisoned on the mainland and exiled to Yáros, along with the Leftists and the “democrats,” against whom they might have fought during the civil war or whom they might have helped convict and imprison only a few years before their own arrests. “I didn't have anyone to talk to, except another general,” one of them said to me. “Imagine that,” he continued, “what could I possibly have in common with them? What could we talk about? They wanted the breakdown of the state [ten dialyse tou kratous], I wanted the preservation of the king and order. But we had to eat together, and suffer together, although the gendarmes were more kind to us, they showed us the same respect that they had shown us before.”
This required yet another reordering of space: where the Rightists' tents would be, where they would sit down to eat, where they would relieve themselves, so that they would not be forced to interact with the “others,” would not have to expose to them their private parts, their intimate gestures. But one should mention here a recent comment by Konstantinos Metsotakis, honorary president of the Right-wing New Democracy Party, who, in a celebration for Leonidas Kyrkos, deputy of the Left-wing party Synaspismos, mentioned in public that when he himself was (briefly) arrested by the junta on April 21, 1967, he realized how “valuable it was for the bourgeois politicians to understand what the Left-wing politicians had been through thus far” (Mitsotakis 2008).
This particular interview was conducted in English. Alexandros grew up in Athens, where he went to school and then studied medicine at the University of Athens. After graduate work in the United States, he is currently on the faculty of a major teaching hospital there.
Karousos, Tzavalá.s. 1974. Yáros: He Prosopike Empeiria Enos Exoristou (Yaros: The Personal Experience of an Exile). Athens: Pleias.
Mitsotakis, Konstantinos. 2008. Speech in honor of Leonidas Kyrkos. Eleutherotypia April 18..
There has been a general notion that Georgios Papadopoulos, the leader of the colonels' coup in 1967, had been a member of the Tágmata Asphaleias during the occupation. Leonidas Kalivretakis, by meticulously tracing the literature on Papadopoulos's involvement with any organization (including “X” and the Tágmata) during the occupation has shown conclusively that Papadopoulos was never involved in any organization, not out of a sense of patriotism or resistance against the Germans but because of cowardice. Even though Papadopoulos himself had not been a member of the TA, other members of the junta had such compromised lineages. Dimitrios Ioannides, the general who overthrew the colonels' junta in 1973 and brought on the most brutal phase of the dictatorship, had been a torturer on Makrónisos. Even more intriguing, the fathers of other actors of the junta had served either in the TA or in “X” during the war. Vassileios Dertiles, who had participated in the mutiny of the interwar period, was the main inspiration, organizer, and first general director of the TA. His son, Nikolaos Dertiles, became a lieutenant colonel in the junta and one of its most fierce and feared torturers. He was the officer who gave the order to the tank driver outside of the Polytechnic on November 17, 1973, to drive through the main gate, thereby running over a number of students. Kalivretakis also mentions, with some reservation, the case of another torturer and collaborator of Ioannides, Lieutenant Colonel M. Pelihos, whose father, Lieutenant K. Pelihos, had also been a member of the TA (Kalivretakis 2006: 109–47).
By all accounts King Konstantine and his mother, Frederika, had been preparing a coup of their own, which would have been carried out by a group of generals, not colonels, a few days before the general elections scheduled to take place on May 14, 1967. The royal family moved to Rome shortly after the April 21 coup and from Rome organized and directed a counter-coup involving the royal navy. The members of the naval forces who carried out this counter-coup were eventually arrested, tortured, and exiled just like any “common Communist [san koinoi kommounistes],” as one of them said (a story passed on to me by one of the members of the ASPIDA group who was in the same prison as one of the naval officers). For a personal account of the involvement of the Palace in the politics of the country before the junta and during the turbulent decade of the sixties, see Deane 1976. Deane [Gigantes] was a personal counselor to the king until shortly before the coup.
Accounts of that day, but also scholarly research on the junta as a whole, are scarce. Very few conferences have been organized, very few studies have been published, and most of the existing information is either anecdotal or comes from the media of the time. The historian Leonidas Kallivretakis, commenting on this lacuna in Greek historical research, mentions that the National Research Institute has established a special research program with the expressed project of systematically collecting archival material concerning the political and social history of the twentieth century. Kalivretakis 2007 gives a good bibliography of memoirs, journalistic reports and accounts, and scientific studies. For an analysis of the political and ideological parameters of the junta, see Athanassatou et al. 1999; see also Clogg and Yannopoulos 1972 and Tsoucalas 1969. Poulantzas 1976 remains an important political analysis of the junta and the neo-imperialist project.
For all practical purposes, these are the archives of the Communist Party prior to the split of 1968, established and directed by the late Philippos Eliou, son of the late EDA deputy Elias Eliou, and one of the group of soldiers who were the last to be transported from Makrónisos when it was finally shut down in 1958.
As late as 1997, during a presentation at Princeton University, a famous Greek political scientist responded with contempt when a literary critic in the audience asked about the role of desire in the revolutionary process. Desire is of no importance at all, the speaker said, either for social analysis or for politics. To consider this an idiosyncratic and individual response would be to overlook: (1) the importance that the social sciences have placed on the scientificity of their discourses, with affect and desire being thought of as excluded from the scientific method and (2) the epistemological rift theories of desire had in opening up the space of analysis when desire is posited as an analytical category. On desire and the processes of delimiting it in social analysis, as well as the complexities that arise from Foucault's analysis of desire in reference to the question of race, see Stoler 1995. See also Foucault 1985.
George Papandreou, who had won the elections in 1964 with a 53 percent majority, was driven to resign on July 15, 1965, after intense meddling in the political affairs of the government by King Constantine II and his mother, Queen Frederika, and their support by Panos Kokkas, publisher of the newspaper Eleutheria (Freedom). The Palace managed to install a number of short-lived governments following the dismissal of Papandreou, which were supported by the twenty-five apostate members of the EK (Enosis Kentrou, Center Union), an event that came to be known as the Apostasy. A time of great political upheaval followed the Apostasy, with political assassinations, intensified political violence, state repression, and manufactured trials. Major strikes and demonstrations in Athens ended in police brutality. The demonstration of July 21, 1965, resulted in the death of the university student Soteres Petroulas when he was hit by the canister of a smoke bomb. A week later, on July 27, a major strike and demonstration organized and led by the union of construction workers turned downtown Athens into a war zone. The Apostasy, and the governments that it supported, made the junta of 1967 possible. Among the apostates were: the later leader of the Right-wing New Democracy Party and prime minister, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who is still considered to be the leader of the apostates; Theophanis Rentis (the son of Konstantinos Rentis, who was implicated in the Beloyiannis execution); Elias Tsirimokos, member of the Resistance, secretary of justice in the PEEA government of 1944, and then exiled to Makrónisos, who in August 1965 constituted a pro-royalist government, which failed to gain a vote of confidence and was dismantled.
The Union of Democratic Women was formed as a (small and local) center of resistance to escalating political corruption, violence, and violation of the democratic rule of law by women ranging from employees in or retirees from various branches of the private and the public sector, to housewives, to women who were informally helping in their husbands' private medical and law practices. Interestingly enough, the women who formed the Union, some of them members of the Left during the emphýlios, seemed to have forgotten or forgiven Papandreou's role in establishing the camps on Makrónisos and Yáros and in the persecution of the Left. Or, as one of these women mentioned to me recently, Papandreou in 1964 presented a chance for a liberal democracy in the face of the rapidly advancing Right wing and its political excesses.
The Union was local, and the women either had known each other since childhood or, for those who had moved to the area as a result of marriage, had been acquainted through their husbands. By all accounts, there was an astonishing level of familiarity among them, resulting in friendships that have lasted until now. The Union was involved in various cultural and charity projects, from organizing poetry readings to running a soup kitchen, which was still in operation in the 1960s, for the children of the victims of the emphýlios. As one of these women mentioned in a recent interview, when the Union was closed down a few days after the junta in 1967, they all thought that this was a temporary suspension of operations and anticipated that the Union would resume operation after the fall of the junta. “But,” she said, “with the fall of the junta things were so changed, we were all so tired and exhausted, we were older, and with the creation of PASOK we had no reason to run an organization just for women.”
Photograph of the Union of Democratic Women in 1966. The lone man standing with the women of the Union is Mimis Beis, then mayor of Zográphou, later mayor of Athens. Note the wide diversity in age. Private collection.
Photograph of a lapel pin (1965) with the letter delta (for Democracy), on which rests the profile of George Papandreou, prime minister of Greece. The pin was designed and used by the Union of Democratic Women in Zográphou, an association formed after the July events of 1965 (). Collection of the author.
Renato Rosaldo has commented convincingly on the nuances and perplexities of maintaining a secure and fixed position in anthropological accounting, particularly in the context of the complications and complicities always inherent in the act of conceptualizing, recording, transmitting, translating, mediating, inhabiting, and living in the position of the ethnographer (Rosaldo 1989: 45).
Opa could be loosely translated “Here we go.” It is an exclamation used to express high spirits, singing and dancing. But it is also used to express bewilderment, as Alexandros's father did here.
After much friction over the practice of socialism and as a result of the deep divisions that appeared within the KKE after the emphýlios concerning questions of responsibility and accountability for the results of the war, the Party split in 1968. The KKE of the Interior (KKE-ES.) was formed by the majority of the members of the Central Committee, who had been living clandestinely in the country after 1949, whereas the remaining members of the Central Committee had been living as political refugees in Eastern Europe. Poulantzas reports that the split of the Party was, in effect, the final triumph of Soviet interventionist tactics: “the Soviets succeeding in splitting the Party in the way that [Santiago] Carillo [Solares] prevented them from doing so” in Spain (1976: 161). The split [he diaspase, as it is known in Greece] has been a particularly traumatic event and experience for members of both Parties. It solidified divisions that had been present within the Party and the movement from the beginning, certainly since 1936. It also further aligned the Party with and subordinated it to the Soviet Union, at a time when Communist parties in Europe had started questioning such dependency and developing a more flexible interpretation of the practice of Marxism than the dogmatic orthodoxy being produced by the Soviets. The only European Communist party that kept the same orientation toward the Soviet Union was the French.
Of course, historical conditions and disagreements about orthodoxy notwithstanding, it would be safe to say that what finally did the party in was the fact that it (its members) had lived in the shadows of legality, in a climate of fear and paranoia, since 1936. In many ways the plan of Maniadákis and Metaxas succeeded in the end. The Greek bibliography on the split, in the form of Party analyses and accounts by both parties, is vast and impossible to reproduce here.
The issue of recognizing a tortured intersubjective relationship between the police, the torturers, the snitches, and the objects of their charge is very complicated and not enough attention has been paid to it. The Greek situation is replete with information that could be used to examine this, from Mikis Theodorakis's comment that he came to welcome the gendarme into whose charge he had been given during his ektopismós at Zatouna simply because the daily requirement of reporting to the station allowed for an exchange between two human beings (dyo ánthropoi), to Lili Zographou's wrenching short story in which her heroine is incapable of suppressing an orgasm during her rape by a Special Security agent, to the countless accounts of tortured Leftists who have mentioned both in writing and in private interviews that occasionally, during breaks in the torture, they would feel a human connection with their torturer simply because he was there.
The reference is obviously to Suharto's 1965 coup, which was staged to indicate that it had been carried out by the Communist Party. Later on Karousos makes an even more specific reference to Indonesia. At the temporary camp at the Hippodrome, the guards demand that an old man pick up a huge barrel full of rubbish and empty it. As he tries to pick it up, it keeps slipping from his hands, spilling all the rubbish on the ground, which he then tries to pick up with his hands and put back in the barrel. After this happens a number of times, the people who are around him move to help him. At that point, Karousos says, “All the guns are turned toward us. And the soldiers from the tanks are ready to use them. We understood. It was a trap. They were trying to goad us into helping the old man so that they could claim that we had revolted and then they would kill us. Indonesia! was what we all thought” (Karousos 1974: 64).
Lavrion with Makrónisos in the distance, 1945. Photograph by Dimitris Harissiadis, from the exhibit catalogue , Benaki Museum. Reproduced with permission.
Karousos stayed in Yáros until July 1967, when he was transported, still in custody, to the hospital of the Averof Prison in Athens with a massive infection. After being hospitalized for fifteen days there, he was suddenly released and allowed to seek better treatment privately. But, as he states, he had been proscribed: it was against the law to mention his name publicly or to perform his work at the national theaters. He traveled to London, Paris, and Strasbourg, where he denounced the dictatorship openly and tried to find treatment at various hospitals. He died in Paris on December 3, 1969.
Perikles Korovesis, one of the younger political prisoners, states that at one point Theodoros Theophiloyiannakos (one of the chief torturers and director of the Special Interrogation Unit of the Military Police, the ESA) advised him: “Talk now, because what we are doing to you is simply barbaric. If you don't talk now we'll send you further in, for a more scientific treatment.” It would be trite even to attempt to analyze the distinction between “barbarism” and “science” proposed in this statement. The reference to “scientific treatment” was not simply metaphorical but refers to the training of the Greek Military Police by the U.S. Army and what became the CIA in techniques of interrogation, starting from the time of the civil war.
The ruins of the infirmary on Makrónisos, with the mainland and Lavrion in the distance. Photograph by the author.
Under the junta “democrats” inhabited the zone of danger heretofore occupied by Leftists, Communists, and world peace activists. “Democratically minded” citizens thus expanded the category of the dangerous citizen.