I am indebted to James A. Boon, who fleshed out this idea of the forgetting of the Left.
Chapter 8. 1974–2007: After History
Askesis in Forgetting
The fall of the junta, on July 23, 1974, was precipitated by a number of things: a botched attempt at a coup in Cyprus by the junta; a botched attempt at the assassination of the president of Cyprus, Makarios, by the “unionists [enotikoi]” of ex-Chi leader George Grivas ; the “de facto” (and long sought by the British) partitioning of Cyprus; and the fiasco of a general mobilization of the army, calling to arms against Turkey, the strongest member of the NATO alliance after the United States, the entire Greek male population between the ages of twenty and forty-five, into an army that was as ill equipped as it was untrained. The fall came, as Kevin Andrews notes, “not [by] a revolution, not a riot, not a strike—no mass movement—nothing inevitable like the Polytechnic: just a noiseless and discreet withdrawal by those directly responsible, with their patriotic invitation to civilian politicians to take over” (1980: xvi). Constantine Karamanlis was recalled from self-imposed exile and under his leadership a new conservative, Right-wing party, New Democracy, was voted into power. Prime Minister Karamanlis legalized the Communist Party and established a new Constitution, one that retained severe political restrictions but was deemed to be “consonant with Greek reality.” While guaranteeing political freedom, individual rights, and free elections, the new Constitution left the issue of accountability for the dictatorship and for Cyprus largely untouched. In an attempt to close the cycle of violence and revenge, the Greek government expected the country to engage in an exercise of forgetting, an exercise that required an almost eremitic and ascetic discipline in divesting from the past. The government took the questionable decision to prosecute only the protaitious (“the main culprits”) of the junta, while allowing the vast majority of those who made the operation of the junta possible to exit the system without ever giving an account of themselves and their actions. There were two major trials, one that tried and convicted the main culprits, and another that tried and convicted the five torturers eventually studied by Mika Haritos-Fatouros. At the end of the trials, the then minister of defense, Evangelos Averoff, when pressed for a full disclosure of cleansing (kátharsis) of the armed and security forces and the public sector, replied that such a cleansing had indeed happened and that only “droplets [stagonidia]” of the “mad” remained. When on May 1, 1975, Alekos Panagoulis, now a deputy in Parliament, pressed the government on the issue of Cyprus and promised that “on Monday” he would make public all the incriminating evidence that he had managed to collect, which he thought would seal the case against those responsible for Cyprus, he was, curiously, killed in a car accident.
In 1981 the party of Andreas Papandreou, PASOK, a socialist party that is a member of the Socialist International, was elected with a substantial majority. When it formed a government, it engaged in the following three conciliatory gestures. (1) It decided to abolish the use of security files on citizens kept by the Greek Central Intelligence Service (KYP), and it finally incinerated the existing files at the furnace of the steel mill outside Athens in 1989. (2) It allowed the DSE fighters who had taken refuge in Communist countries to repatriate to Greece. (3) It issued pensions to all Resistance fighters. These gestures not only promised reconciliation and a (re)turn to normalcy but also secured the past in the furnace of the steel mill. There was no longer any trace of real accountability, no way of unpicking the skein of twentieth-century history back to when the state started to imagine and produce itself as something cohesive and self-recognizable, no fear that the actions of Venizelos, Plastiras, George Papandreou, the involvement of the Center and the implication of the Left in its own demise would ever be exposed. The Left was made, at once, both legal and forgotten. Enforced amnesia.
With the downfall of the junta, when everyone in Greece expected complete and total catharsis, it became apparent that neither the willingness nor the ability for such an undertaking was possible. This inability or unwillingness eroded any remaining sense of trust between the public and the state, thus enabling the most successful, long-lasting, and never-infiltrated urban guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Organization 17 November (as its full name is, or 17N), to appear on the political scene as the organization that “could and would”: (1) dole out justice where justice had not been done, punishing collaborators with the junta, many of whom had previously been collaborators with the Germans; and (2) act as the perpetual enforcer of public conscience in safeguarding against corruption and exploitation of the public by a complicitous state within an irresponsible corporate sphere.
This is the term actually used both by the democratic government that followed the junta in 1974 and by the legal apparatus that handled the trials of the dictators and their collaborators.
In brutally schematic terms, Cyprus became a protectorate of Great Britain in 1878, when Great Britain bought the island from the Ottoman Empire at the Congress of Cyprus. The protectorate status ended when the Ottoman Empire attacked the Entente Powers in 1914, during the First World War. As a result, Great Britain annexed Cyprus and offered to cede it to Greece (fulfilling the hope of Greek Cypriots) in return for Greece's participation in the war on the side of the Allies and for launching an attack on Bulgaria. Greece refused. Great Britain declared Cyprus a Crown Colony in 1925 under an oppressive constitution that did not grant Cypriots the right of participation in the government. Resistance to the colonial administration of the island and expressed desire for unification with Greece started in earnest in 1931. During the Second World War, Cypriots joined the British army and fought alongside British soldiers. Pressure for unification mounted during the years after the war, until King George of Greece declared in 1945 that Cyprus desired unification and that Greece was willing to proceed. Great Britain refused. Resistance escalated, meeting with violence on the part of Great Britain, in measures ranging from raids to executions, assassinations, and outright murder of the agonistes (“fighters”) as they came to be known.
George Grivas, a Cypriot and the ex-chief of “X” in Greece, returned to Cyprus in 1955 to organize the decolonization of the island, independence, and (eventually, although not openly stated at that point) union with Greece. To that end, on April 1, 1955, he formed the organization EOKA (Ethnike Organosis Kyprion Agoniston, National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), which carried out guerrilla operations against British targets, primarily tactical sabotage of British installations, assassinations, and general interruption of the flow of administration. In 1959, given the promise of independence as Great Britain bowed to international pressure, Grivas dismantled EOKA.
The independence of Cyprus was ratified in 1960, and Archbishop Makarios, who had headed the political branch of EOKA, was elected first president. He had abandoned unification with Greece as an objective. Greece and Turkey were placed as guarantors of the Cypriot Republic, keeping armed forces there at a ratio of three to two, while both enosis (“unification”) and taksim (“partition”) were prohibited.
Grivas returned to live in Greece. In 1971, with the support of the Greek junta, he returned to Cyprus to organize EOKA-B, with the explicit aim of effectuating union with Greece. While EOKA was accepted and approved by the majority of the Cypriot and Greek populations as an anticolonialist organization, EOKA-B was immediately recognized for what it was: a fascist organization that did not hesitate to terrorize civilians, persecute and assassinate socialists, and create a climate of intense fear for anyone supporting independence against enosis. The organization carried out two assassination attempts against President Makarios.
When Grivas died in January 1974, EOKA-B came under the direct power of Dimitris Ioannidis (who had overthrown Papadopoulos in the intrajunta coup of November 25, 1973, after the Polytechnic uprising). He installed Nikos Sampson as the new leader of the organization. On July 15, 1974, EOKA-B, in a plan approved by the junta and carried out by Sampson with the help of the Cypriot National Guard, organized a coup against Makarios, overthrew him, and installed Sampson as President of the Cypriot Republic.
This was considered a casus belli by Turkey and was quickly followed by an invasion of the island. Turkey occupied 38 percent of the island, displaced two hundred thousand Greek civilians, relocated sixty thousand Turkish residents from Anatolia to the northern part of the island, and thus forced an illegal partition.
For two spellbinding first-hand accounts of the madness that was the Greek army at the time of the general mobilization see Darveris 2002 and Katsaros 2000. Both these authors had been detained and severely tortured by the junta, then, at the time of the mobilization, found themselves serving in the army. The experience of the general mobilization was ludicrous. The army did not have enough military camps to hold the reservists, so they had to pitch their tents in olive groves, on the beach, in public squares. There were not enough items of clothing to go around, so someone might be dressed in a military uniform but still wearing his personally owned flip-flops; in other cases someone might have been given army boots but no uniform, so he would wear the boots but still be dressed in beach shorts. Nor did the army have enough resources to feed all these men, so they depended on the kindness of area residents, who would cook food at home and take it to the camps. In the darkness of the junta, which still was (nominally) in power, neighborhood organizations were set up, in which block by block residents were entrusted with providing food and water for the reservists. But none of this was as serious as the fact that case after case of arms and ammunition would be opened to find that only the top layer would be arms or ammunition, everything below that having been replaced by rocks.
Andrews notes the strangeness of this turn of phrase used in the new Constitution when he writes: “The protective note in this good rough hint at a national immaturity is reminiscent of the attitude of Greece's foreign benefactors through the ages: as it were 'You are too individualistic and disorganized to rule yourselves; let us, who have the know-how and the wherewithal, govern you instead and help you to defend yourselves against our enemies. This may keep you back a bit or even permanently stunt your growth, but the longer you remain backward the longer you can profit from the generous use we make of your important peninsular location” (1980: xvi).
In the first years of the PASOK government, the names of a number of municipal streets (King George Street, for instance) were changed to Alekos Panagoulis Street, and with the expansion of the subway system his name was given to the station built at the place where his accident occurred. That is how Panagoulis's name circulates among the post-PASOK generation of new Athenians.
An announcement of a lottery run by the Department for Protection of Minors, a semi-governmental organization under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, signed by the president of the organization and the head of the Department of Guidance and Propaganda of the department. The important point is that such a department existed.