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Greek Independence

To the Editors:

The following proclamation was distributed in Athens, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Greek War of Independence, during which the ruling dictatorial regime organized festivities to celebrate the event. It is signed by 133 intellectuals, artists, politicians, scientists, military, etc., representing all shades of political opinion in Greece, from the right, the center, and the left. The text was published in the Athens newspaper To Vima which was obliged to omit a number of passages, on account of the severe Press Law which threatens with closing, fines, and imprisonment any newspaper and its editors who publish material considered as detrimental to the junta’s image.

On this 150th anniversary of the Revolution of 1821, we are impelled to recall its true nature and its ideological content: that it was an uprising of the people against tyranny; that its simultaneous and indivisible aims were national independence and sovereignty of the people; that it renewed the age-old democratic tradition of the Greeks.

It is a fundamental precept of 1821, expressed in the constitutional texts of the War of Independence, that a nation is truly free only when all its citizens are free.

During these 150 years, the Nation’s most glorious achievements were nearly always accomplished under unrestrictedly democratic institutions, and they were always dedicated to the democratic ideal. It was under parliamentary democracy that the greater part of our unredeemed territories were freed. It was under parliamentary democracy that all major reforms were carried out, such as the agrarian and the educational reforms, and that the country made progress in all directions. It was the functioning of democracy that revealed the outstanding personalities who have passed naturally and for all time into our history.

Today it is our duty to formulate those basic principles which will ensure that the national identity of Hellenism will be preserved, which will lead it to truly fruitful ventures and which will serve the permanent interests of the People. These principles have their roots in the ideals of the War of Independence and are as follows:

1. The foundation of popular sovereignty through equal and responsible participation of all citizens in the public life. This applies to both central and local government, because self-government is an essential democratic institution.

In democracy, no one group has the right to monopolize patriotism, or to arrogate to itself the exclusive right to represent the Nation, stating that it authentically expresses its will: the will of a nation does not exist separately from the will of the people. It is voiced by the majority and with freely elected representatives.

2. Safeguarding human rights as defined in the European Convention of 1950. Observance of these rights ensures freedom and equality under law, releases the citizen from fear and threats, favors the growth of the creative forces of the People in peaceful times and its fighting spirit in times of danger.

The suspension of the People’s sovereignty and of human rights arrests the fruitful flow of national life, opens the way to other constitutional deviations, deprives the country of natural renewal of its political forces, and leads it to spiritual and political stagnation.

The suspension of democratic institutions in our country today means, moreover, that a considerable number of Greeks—among them many distinguished for their services to their country and to its allies—find themselves in prison or in deportation either for their beliefs alone or for acts inspired by their devotion to freedom. It is a national imperative that this state of affairs should be terminated without delay.

3. An educational system truly universal, alive and modern, with one of its fundamental aims the formation of free and responsible citizens imbued with mutual respect and accustomed to confront problems with an open mind and to settle differences through persuasion.

A democratic society has the further duty to keep up a sustained effort for the educational development of all Greeks irrespective of age, sex or profession. The best means of making them familiar with more general problems and broadening their outlook are free public discussion and a use of mass media designed to raise the cultural standards of all citizens and to protect them from one-sided influences.

4. The effective integration of Greece into Europe, and the development in our People of a deeper and lasting European consciousness.

Greece’s incorporation into Europe is first and foremost a matter of freedom of institutions. The community of Europe rests upon a certain cultural heritage, democratic ethic and human values.

In accordance with these principles, we declare:

—That the Greek People belongs to the family of the democracies, as it has proved through its struggles for their common ideals;

—That freedom is indivisible, and that it is inadmissible that the liberties and the dignity of the Greeks should be sacrificed to the alleged defense requirements of other free countries;

—That only with the restoration of its liberty will our country revert to its historical tradition and recover the place that belongs to it in the community of nations.”

March 22, 1971

The signatories include lawyers, judges, writers, poets, critics, publishers, painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, film producers, architects, archaeologists, educators, professors, teachers, journalists, bank employees, librarians, historians, former army and navy officers, civil servants, and ambassadors, businessmen, private employees, including the following:

George Seferis, Professor John Pesmatzoglou, Ambassador A.G. Xydis, Anna Synodinou, George Mangakis, G. Kavounidis, R. Roufos, Lt. Gen. P. Dimopoulos (Ret.), Lt. Gen. S. Tzanetis (Ret.), Professor E. Zachareas, I. Kambanellis, K. Krokodeilou, N. Louros, Arda Mandikian, K. Tachtsis, A. Floros.

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