“We went to bed like men,” the bartender said, glancing to see whether any of his customers might be listening, “and we woke up like sheep. That’s what happened to us Greeks.” The scene was a sun-baked island in the Aegean, a mecca for pale tourists in search of a fast tan, picturesque peasants, and a wine-dark sea. But it could have been anywhere in this wounded land which overnight was transformed from a parliamentary democracy into a military dictatorship.
More than six months have passed since the lightning coup of April 21, when a handful of obscure colonels seized control of the Greek state—confounding not only the napping politicians, but the King and their own army superiors as well. During those six months the ruling junta—a brigadier, two colonels, and a council of nine—has tightened its grip on the nation and ruthlessly moved to crush potential sources of resistance. To make its dictatorial rule more palatable, it has enacted some economic and administrative reforms, but it has yet to show any serious interest in relinquishing power to the politicians it overthrew so easily and views with such contempt.
The junta, composed largely of politically unsophisticated provincials, has behaved in ways that are crude, nasty, and occasionally comic. It is obsessively worried about its image, yet given to the promulgation of decrees—such as the banning (never enforced) of beards and mini-skirts, and obligatory church attendance for civil servants—that make it appear ludicrous. It declares that it has saved Greece from the clutches of international communism, yet by its own repressive measures is making the once discredited Greek Communist Party (KKP) seem a fount of patriotic resistance. It declares its allegiance to NATO, with seemingly little interest in the democratic principles that organization is supposed to defend. And it blithely jails its own citizens for listening to the music of Communist composers or making unfavorable comments about members of the royal family.
Yet whatever its nastiness, or its inconsistencies, or the foreign opposition it faces, the military junta is unflinching in its determination to remake Greek society along authoritarian lines, and to form, in the words of Brigadier Stylianos Patakos, Minister of Interior in the ruling triumvirate, “a new Christian society in which man will approach near-perfection.” To help its citizens achieve this near-perfection, the junta has imposed the most severe restrictions on political liberties this side of the Iron Curtain. It has now become clear that the assumption of many Western liberals that the regime would soon collapse of its own incompetence, or that it would retire in shame because of the barbs of its foreign critics, is mere wishful thinking. The colonels are solidly entrenched, and every passing day solidifies their control over a restless and dissatisfied, but basically acquiescent, nation.
Ever since last April the Greeks have been under martial law: their parliament closed down, their Constitution suspended, and their political parties proscribed. The press has been gagged, most youth organizations disbanded, trade unions brought under government control, the civil service purged, mayors and local officials dismissed, and strict censorship imposed over radio, films, and the theater. People are picked up off the streets and disappear for weeks, eventually to be discovered in an army prison. Telephones are tapped, private mail perused, idle conversations reported to the police by numerous informers, and any overt displays of criticism severly punished.
Not only are potential leaders of an organized opposition being locked up, but virtually anyone who spreads what the regime calls “malicious lies.” This is a category that includes anything from questioning the stability of the junta to speculations about the politics of Queen Mother Frederica. The military has taken over the courts, and there is no appeal from its judgment. Recently it has sentenced students to jail for twenty years for distributing anti-government handbills, imprisoned a housewife for criticizing the colonels over the telephone, and arrested a woman for listening to the music of the banned Communist composer, Mikis Theodorakis, on her home phonograph.
It is estimated that the regime has imprisoned more than 40,000 people since it seized power, many of them on such vague charges as “leftist sympathies.” Most of these people have been released after promising to support the regime and to refrain from future political activity. While such promises may seem of dubious value in the West, they are highly valued in Greece where political leaders discredit themselves among their followers by signing such recantations. This is why the junta is trying so hard to wring such a statement from the recently captured Mikis Theodorakis, who has a huge popular following and is head of the now-banned left-wing Lambrakis youth organization. Of the 6,000 “hard-core” prisoners sent to the concentration camp island of Yaros, more than half have signed the pledge, while the remaining 2,500 have been transferred to another camp on the island of Leros, where they defiantly await the collapse or overthrow of the junta.
FROM ALL SIGNS it looks as though they are likely to have a very long wait. The colonels have solidified their authority by conducting a sweeping purge that has not spared any potential source of opposition. They have cleaned out the police and the army, retiring hundreds of officers suspected of insufficient loyalty to the new regime, and promoting others who now have a vested interest in the regime’s survival. The hope that the King could launch a counter-coup by calling on loyal officers has been made even more hypothetical by the junta’s purge. High-ranking civil servants have also been dismissed for political reasons, including the internationally respected director of the Byzantine Museum. Even the Orthodox Church has been brought under control of the junta by the installation of Ieronomos Kotsonis as Archbishop. Control over education has been tightened by making teachers responsible for the conduct of their students outside the schools, and by threatening dismissal if “the actions and behavior of professors and assistant professors indicate that they are not inspired by a spirit which befits the existing social regime and national ideals.”
The press remains under the heavy hand of the censor, even though controls have been slightly eased, and the seven remaining newspapers (of the fourteen that existed before the coup) are little more than illustrated government handouts—often with exactly the same makeup and photos, and always with similar editorial comment. A new press law was recently decreed which theoretically ends preventive censorship, but nonetheless makes it a crime to criticize the April “revolution,” the armed forces, Cabinet members and the decisions they make, or members of the royal family. It is no longer necessary to reprint government decrees verbatim, and the implementation of the junta’s policies may now be criticized—although not, of course, the policies themselves. The Athens press, which in the past was the intemperate servant of various political factions, has now become the drab mouthpiece of the regime.
The slightly relaxed censorship law was announced recently with great fanfare as though it were an extraordinary demonstration of the regime’s magnanimity. Its primary purpose, however, was not to encourage criticism, but to persuade the stubborn right-wing publisher, Mrs. Helen Vlachos, to resume printing her two popular dailies. A conservative with little sympathy for the Left, Mrs. Vlachos is nonetheless a determined republican, and suspended publication of her papers after the coup in protest against the abrogation of press freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. When the recently modified press law failed to win her over, the regime put on economic pressure by cutting off the unemployment benefits of her employees. This induced Mrs. Vlachos to break her long silence and scathingly denounce the colonels as “mediocrities”—an act which furnished the regime with the pretext for putting her under house arrest pending trial for defaming the government.
The attempted wooing of Mrs. Vlachos may seem strange behavior for a regime which has shown no scruples about throwing suspected leftists into concentration camps, and which ruthlessly punishes any overt sign of opposition to its authority. But Mrs. Vlachos is a thorn in the junta’s side precisely because she is well known as a conservative. Her opposition cannot be dismissed as left-wing subversion and undercuts the excuse by which the colonels have tried to justify their seizure of power—that they were short-circuiting a Communist-organized revolution. Conservatives such as Mrs. Vlachos should normally be the backbone of a selfdeclared anti-Communist regime, and their refusal to accept the legitimacy of the junta has now goaded the colonels into taking more direct action against its right-wing opponents. The sentencing of Evangelos Averoff, Foreign Minister in the rightist Caramanlis government, to five years in prison for holding an unauthorized cocktail party, and the arrest of George Rallis, Minister of the Interior under Caramanlis, on a similar charge, were deliberately designed to silence opposition from the Right. This action, however, backfired when an international outcry ensued, and the regime was forced to pardon Averoff and suspend the Rallis trial.
An even greater source of embarrassment to the regime has been Panayiotis Cannelopoulos, head of the right-wing National Radical Union (ERE) Party, and Prime Minister at the time of the coup. Although the major opponent of George Papandreou’s Center Union party, Cannelopoulos was not one of those who favored an “extra-parliamentary solution” to the Greek political crisis—that is, a camouflaged military dictatorship under control of the royal palace. A dedicated republican who opposed the Metaxas dictatorship and participated in the resistance against the Germans, Cannelopoulos collaborated with the Left before joining the royalists during the Communist uprising at the end of World War II. Having refused to sign a decree transferring his powers to the colonels at the time of the coup, the former Prime Minister was placed under house arrest. In late September he broke a five-month silence by denying that “freedom of speech is an exclusive privilege of those who possess automatic weapons and tanks,” called for the colonels “to rid Greece of themselves,” and ridiculed the excuse that their seizure of power saved the country from chaos. The junta responded by placing Cannelopoulos back under house arrest and by launching a new crackdown on the right-wing opposition.
The colonels cannot lightly tolerate such outspoken criticism on the Right, for they fear that the politicians, with the covert support of the royal palace and the American embassy, are plotting a counter-coup. Such a coup would presumably be directed by officials of the ERE, the party that Caramanlis made into a powerful political force and led from 1957 until 1963. The favorite of the right wing of the ERE, Caramanlis has been in self-imposed exile in Paris ever since 1963 when he resigned after a fight with King Paul over the powers of the Prime Minister. The counter-coup would be aided by moderates of George Papandreou’s Center Union party, who would be given a place in the new government of “national unity.” If such a move were successful, it would endow Greece with at least the façade of democratic government through a chastened parliament under control of the palace and the Right. The left wing, including the Center Union followers of Andreas Papandreou, and the Communist-front EDA party, would be locked out, and Constantine’s shaky throne would be stabilized.
THE COLONELS, however, are very much aware of this game, and are determined to crack the resistance of the Rightist politicians just as they have emasculated the Left. A new decree has been issued granting sweeping powers to Colonel George Papadopoulos, the real strong man of the regime. In his key post as minister to the puppet civilian Prime Minister, Constantine Collias, the colonel is consolidating his power and placing control of the key ministries increasingly in the hands of the military. Although publicity-shy, Papadopoulos is the chief organizer of the coup, and because of his strong-arm methods and ideological sympathies is pleased to be known as the “Greek Nasser.” Content to leave the puritan moralizing to General Patakos, the crafty Papadopoulos is laying the foundation for indefinite military rule under his direction.
To assuage international opinion, the regime has promised to present a new Constitution by the end of this year, and then, after appropriate review to ensure that it does not contain, in the words of General Patakos, “those clauses which allow politicians to make mistakes,” to submit it to a plebiscite for approval. While the recommendations of the Constitutional Commission have not yet been made public, it is assumed that the new document will reduce the number of deputies from 300 to 150, eliminate proportional representation, and augment the power of the executive branch. Such reforms had been discussed long before the April putsch, but it is rumored that the colonels are also demanding the disqualification of all “extremist parties” such as the EDA and the left wing of the Center Union, and is contemplating the formation of its own political party.
Even if the Constitution is approved by the junta and eventually by the voters, it is doubtful that parliamentary elections would be held within the foreseeable future. According to the Athens daily, Elefteros Kosmos, which is considered to have close ties to the regime, “The government did not come to power for a fixed period. It has undertaken to guide the nation into a safe harbor. How long will the voyage last? Circumstances and the skill of the crew will decide that. Only when the government has completely fulfilled its mission will it be permissable to think of an evolution of affairs.” Junta members estimate that the fulfillment of their mission may take a decade or more.
DRASTIC as its methods have been, the junta has garnered a good deal of sympathy among ordinary Greeks. Bureaucratic inefficiency, widespread nepotism, and a paralyzing corruption in virtually every area of public life had sapped public confidence in the old regime. Halfway between western Europe and the Middle East in more ways than geography, Greece is a country where the palms of civil servants had to be crossed with silver for the simplest service, and where parliamentarians and cabinet officials expected, and took, a sizable cut of government contracts. Under the old regime it took half a day to retrieve a package from the post office, and three months to receive a reply from a government agency. Parliament was viewed as a charade for the enrichment of a few officeholders, and even sophisticated Greeks had little but contempt for most deputies.
While Greek politicians are no better or worse than most, the system under which they operated was hardly a model of democratic government. The King, as the bulwark of the Greek upper class, was able to manipulate parliament through his control over the armed forces. Any Prime Minister intent on serious reforms would have to neutralize or overcome the military—an act which automatically would threaten the stability of the monarchy. This was the intention of George Papandreou, whose Center Union party won an absolute majority of seats in the parliament with an unprecedented 53 percent of the popular vote in the 1964 elections. Fearing that the planned Papandreou purge would strip the Palace of its political power, the King managed to get rid of Papandreou in July 1965 by breaking up his parliamentary majority and forming a coalition government between the right-wing ERE and a group of renegade Center Union deputies.
Constantine was able to pull off such a bold maneuver because of the “Aspida” affair, and the alleged involvement of Papandreou’s son, Andreas, in this supposed “conspiracy.” While the details of this strange case are murky and the evidence a mass of contradictions, it seems that ASPIDA (Shield) was a semi-secret association of army officers who banded together to combat, or perhaps merely to defend themselves against, the powerful groups of right-wing officers that have long dominated the Greek military establishment. Probably Aspida was little more than a mutual protection society, and despite a lengthy secret trial of its alleged military participants for treason, no convincing evidence of a plot has been demonstrated. Indeed, Aspida now seems to have been a red herring dragged across the trail by the Right to prevent Papandreou from purging the armed forces. By discrediting Andreas the Right hoped to bring down the government of his father. They probably would not have succeeded had not George Papandreou overestimated his power by dismissing his own defense minister, the beer baron Petros Garoufalias, and demanding the portfolio for himself. At this point the Palace balked. Papandreou dramatically threatened to resign, and Constantine called his bluff by accepting his resignation.
Papandreou’s demand of the defense portfolio, however necessary it may have been to carry through his army purge, was a strategic mistake at the time, for the defense ministry was also responsible for investigating the charges against Andreas. By demanding, in effect, to be his own son’s judge, George Papandreou furnished his enemies with the ammunition they needed to evict him from office.
Never known for his modesty, Papandreou thought he could force the King to capitulate, and spurred on his followers to months of riots and strikes. The palace, however, stood firm, and the shaky coalition government of Stephan Stephanopoulos managed to stay in power all through 1966. Finally, tired of cooling his heels, Papandreou decided to work around, rather than against the palace. He patched over his feud with Constantine—which was not difficult since he had always been a royalist, and was even entrusted by Churchill in 1944 to pave the way for the restoration of the monarchy. Eager to secure new elections which he hoped would return him to power, Papandreou, it is widely believed, reached a secret accord with Cannelopoulos and the royal palace, under the good offices of the publisher Christos Lambrakis, to form a coalition government if neither party won a clear majority. Such a coalition would exclude the extremists: the pro-Caramanlis rightists with the ERE, and Andreas’s followers within the Center Union. Andreas was becoming a threat not only to the Right, which feared that he would abolish the monarchy, take Greece out of NATO, and bring the Communists into the government, but also to his own father. The King agreed to parliamentary elections only on the assurance that Andreas would be kept leashed.
Constantine, however, was taking no chances, and to make sure that he would not be faced with a left-wing regime under Andreas, he approved the “Prometheus” plan by which his senior military officers were to launch a preventive coup d’état. While Constantine had patched up some of his old quarrels with George Papandreou, he feared that Andreas would soon take over control of the party from his octogenarian father. And Andreas had frightened the palace and the Right by questioning the validity of the monarchy and for attacking the “interference” of the United States, particularly through the CIA, in Greek politics. As the opening of the election campaign approached, Left and Right were moving toward a showdown, and there was open talk of a military coup.
WHEN the coup came, it nonetheless astonished everyone because it was launched by the wrong people. Instead of the King seizing power through his general staff, it was a group of relatively unknown colonels who moved against their own superiors. By setting forward the date for Prometheus—which was set to take place only if the Papandreous won a clear victory—the colonels beat the King at his own game and won for themselves the fruit of his plotting. Immediately upon seizing power the colonels declared that they had saved the country from a Communist coup that was to take place a few days later. While few with any political sophistication believed this fabricated cover story, a surprising number of Greeks seemed relieved that the long dreaded confrontation between the palace and the Left was not going to take place. Optimists hoped that the colonels would end the anarchy of the past two years, chasten the politicians, put an end to corruption, and then gracefully retire from the scene.
Once in power the colonels quickly moved to establish their Populist credentials (“We belong to the class of toil, and we will stand by the side of our poor Greek brothers”), and made a bid for public support by pushing through some desirable reforms. They increased the education budget, cut price-support subsidies, lowered transit fares, raised pensions, slashed the overstaffed bureaucracy, told civil servants to answer letters in three days or be fired, attacked the palm-greasing and corruption within the government, and even passed a law forbidding anyone to earn more than the Prime Minister. To stimulate the Greek economy, which has been growing at a healthy rate during recent years even though heavily overloaded toward tourism, they opened the door wide to foreign investors, and signed a long-stalled contract with Litton Industries to develop Crete and the southern Peloponnesus. Economic neophytes, the colonels may be putting too much emphasis on private investors without sufficient public control. But their primary concern is development that will provide jobs and thus win them public support.
In foreign affairs the junta has followed a considerably less chauvinistic line over the Cyprus issue than either the Rightists or the Papandreous on the Left. Without the need to prove its patriotism by intransigent postures, it has made several initiatives, although so far unsuccessful, to strike an accord with Turkey that would return the island to Greece. If it can overcome the fears of the Turks by granting enclaves on the island, and achieve the enosis (union) of Cyprus with Greece (despite the reluctance of many Cypriots themselves, including Archbishop Makarios), the junta will win itself not only enormous public esteem, but also the approval of Washington for ending a long-festering wound along NATO’s southern flank.
But this is easier said than done. While General Grivas, the extreme right-wing leader of the Cypriot resistance against the British, commands the 14,000 man Greek army on Cyprus, the moderately leftist Makarios is furnishing his own police force with arms from Eastern Europe. Makarios is determined to ensure that Grivas, in cooperation with his army friends who now rule Greece, does not depose him through a coup d’état or impose a diktat settlement upon him.
For the time being this Gordian knot remains untied, and the colonels have their hands full trying to keep Greece’s shaky economy afloat. Colonel Nicholas Makarezos, Minister of Coordination and least conspicuous member of the ruling junta, has signed up a number of foreign firms to build new plants in Greece or expand their present ones. But the regime is suffering a hemorrhage of talent as a result of its own political inquisition, and is discovering that tank commanders do not necessarily make good economists. The recent resignation of the governor of the Bank of Greece, Xenophon Zolotas, and his deputy, Michael Pesmazoglou, is a sign of the growing reluctance of the conservative Greek Establishment to work closely with the junta.
THE ECONOMY is clearly vulnerable, but according to recent figures it is not in such bad shape as many liberals would like to believe. Tourism, Greece’s major source of foreign revenue, does not seem to have been adversely affected by the coup. Walking around Athens and touring the country, as I did this summer, a tourist would not find much surface sign of military rule. Receipts from tourism, in fact, are slightly higher than last year. Other “invisible” receipts, such as transport payments and capital sent from Greeks working abroad, are also above last year’s levels. However, a 25 percent drop in foreign investment has caused a serious deficit in the balance of payments, and the recent veto by the European Economic Community of a scheduled $10 million loan to Greece has not made matters any better. To cover the payments gap, the junta has provided even greater advantages for foreign investors and is stepping up its tourist campaign. Despite the uneasiness of the current economic scene, unemployment does not seem to have measurably increased and the lowest paid workers have benefited from a 10 percent hike in salaries.
While the regime has its economic problems, they are not new ones for Greece, and certainly not enough, under present circumstances, to bring it tumbling down. It is premature to speak of a serious recession, and even if one were to occur, there is no guarantee that this would mean curtains for the junta. There are countries far poorer than Greece with authoritarian regimes, and one would be hard-pressed to think of a dictatorship that was replaced by a democracy because it got into economic trouble. The tourist boycott of Greece observed by many liberals, and even the cut-off of economic aid from the EEC, may be desirable demonstrations of opposition to dictatorship. But they are unlikely by themselves to bring down the junta, and their major effect may be to make the lot of the average Greek a bit worse than it is already. The fate of the junta, it is becoming increasingly apparent, will be determined by the attitudes and the actions of the Greeks themselves. Foreign pressure may help, but it could also backfire. It should be applied with a cold appraisal of the real factors involved, and not simply to express the indignation or salve the consciences of well-wishing liberals who are outraged at dictatorship in Greece, but indifferent to it in Eastern Europe.
Despite its blunders, its brutality, and its dictatorial methods, the regime is still accepted by the majority of Greeks. It retains the support of the conservative peasants, who have contempt for the professional politicians of Athens and are pleased that simple, honest men like themselves now run the state. Even a good proportion of the bourgeoisie, however much it may grumble about the bad manners and simple minds of the junta members, seems in no particular hurry for the return of the old parliamentary game. “These clowns may yet do the country some good,” a small textile manufacturer declared as we sipped ouzo amid the clanging horns and exhaust fumes of fashionable Kolonaki Square. Instead of making martyrs of the politicians by jailing them, the junta has heaped even further discredit on a system which has never worked very well in modern Greece. There is still a widespread willingness to give the colonels a chance, and a hope that they can somehow set the country back in order before it is returned to the hands of the politicians.
LABELING THE COLONELS as simple fascists is neither very helpful nor accurate. While they are vehemently anti-Communist, they also condemn the large landowners and have little use for the King and his entourage. They are weak on ideology, and while determined to sweep out the old regime, do not yet have much of an idea what they will replace it with. “Communism is fascism,” General Patakos declared not long ago, and this is the kind of slogan that now passes for politics in Greece. The junta firmly believes in patriotism, and sometimes behaves as though it alone would solve Greece’s many ills. Teachers have been instructed that “the first and chief objective of the school is to stimulate the national conscience,” and are warned of their obligation to “guide youth toward the eternal values of our Hellenic-Christian civilization.” The regime’s idea of the good society, it would seem, is not so much the mass rally, as favored by Hitler and Mussolini, but the conversion of the entire nation into an orderly barracks where everyone keeps his area clean and follows the instructions of his superiors.
If Greece is to be transformed into a para-military state—a “guided democracy,” if you will, as the term is used throughout the Third World—there can be no room for politicians or for any organized group that poses a serious alternative. This is why the King has been reduced to a figurehead, why the haute bourgeoisie has had its influence sharply cut, and why the political power of the Left is being dismantled. Now that Constantine is little more than a gilded mouthpiece for the regime—even allowing himself to be used recently as a messenger-boy to Washington, where he unsuccessfully requested the resumption of full-scale US military aid—there remain only the politicians to be disposed of. The severe sentence against Averoff and the house arrest of Cannelopoulos were meant as warnings to the moderate Right; the coming trial of Andreas Papandreou for “high treason” is designed to break the resistance of the democratic Left.
The regime is clearly embarrassed by the foreign attention the younger Papandreou has attracted, and particularly by the pressure which his academic colleagues have been able to put upon the American government. This may have saved Andreas’s life during the early days of the coup, and may yet succeed in having him deported from Greece rather than imprisoned for his alleged involvement in the Aspida group. The coming trial has already been compromised not only by the flimsiness of the charges against Andreas and by the alleged bribing of two major prosecution witnesses, but by the obvious intention of the regime to use the Aspida affair as the justification for its own illegal seizure of power. Whether he is ultimately exiled or kept in prison, Andreas has had his reputation enormously enhanced by having been made to appear as the junta’s number one enemy. If the regime is overthrown and democratic government restored, he will almost certainly become the leader of the non-Communist Left.
FOR THE TIME BEING, however, the only real threat to the junta is not on the decimated, disorganized, demoralized Left, but on the moderate Right, where such politicians as Cannelopoulos, Averoff, and Rallis are now openly challenging the authority of the regime. In this bold move they have the covert support of the American embassy, which fears that the Communists may ultimately benefit from prolonged military rule and is unhappy about the current dissension within NATO caused by a military regime in Greece. They are also supported by King Constantine, who fears his throne slipping out from under him. No matter what happens, Constantine is in serious trouble. If the colonels remain in power they will tolerate his presence only so long as he is useful to them. They are not dedicated royalists, and if the King ever crossed them he would be given a oneway ticket to Estoril. This, in fact, might even win the regime a good deal of approval, since the monarchy has never been popular, and Constantine’s prestige has slumped lower than ever as a result of his abject submission to the junta. At the very least this would embarrass the Left, which has long talked about the anachronism of the monarchy, but has never had the power to do anything about it. Already the colonels, in the name of defending the crown, have reduced Constantine’s power far more than old Papandreou would ever have dared. It would be an even greater irony if they carried out the Left’s dream and deposed him altogether. In any case, Constantine is in trouble. If the regime falters and is overthrown from the Left, he will be denounced as a collaborationist and exiled in disgrace. Perhaps his only hope for retaining the crown is to openly defy the junta, plot a counter-coup with his followers on the Right, and call upon the armed forces to support him. The result could be violence and even failure. But even such an attempt would take far more political courage than Constantine has yet shown, and it would require the active support of the United States.
Whatever secret intrigues it may be carrying on, Washington has so far been willing to work with the colonels rather than against them, urging them to restore parliamentary government and hoping, with unjustified optimism, that the promised new Constitution will somehow put a legal face on it all. Whether or not the CIA or the Pentagon had a hand in the colonels’ coup, the United States helped set the stage for it by its support of the most stridently anti-Communist, and thus extreme right-wing, elements in the Greek armed forces. There is little quarrel with the regime’s foreign policy, which is vociferously pro-NATO and anti-Communist, and a widespread fear that the collapse of the regime might bring to power a left-wing government under Andreas Papandreou. Also, US diplomats are reluctant to push the colonels too hard for fear they may look to Moscow for support. So Washington remains content with a largely symbolic suspension of military spare parts for the Greek armed forces and hopes that no one will notice the gap between its rhetoric and its policies. Perhaps no one will notice, for everyone knows that the US intervenes only to overthrow dictatorships of the Left, not those which pledge their allegiance to the “free world.”
BURDENED with a King more interested in saving his throne than in restoring democracy, with politicians whose past behavior has engendered little respect for parliamentary government, with an army which has never accepted the supremacy of civilian control, with a regressive social system which has prevented the poor from effectively challenging the authority of the rich, and with a powerful ally whose cold war obsessions have augmented the control of anti-democratic forces in the army and the palace, the Greeks may be plagued with military rule for a long time to come. It will not be permanent, for the Greeks are a courageous, factious people insubmissive to tyranny. But the replacement of the junta may take a good deal longer than anyone imagined a few months ago, and it is not going to happen of its own accord. Only the Greeks can decide how long they are going to live with the colonels, and what price they are willing to pay.
While they remain in power the colonels have a chance to accomplish certain reforms: to eliminate corruption, speed economic development, improve the condition of peasants and workers, stop the hemorrhage of Greek skills and manpower to other nations, reduce the power of the rich, end the feud with Turkey over Cyprus, and implement a workable Constitution. “Getting things done” is the traditional justification for authoritarian regimes, and perhaps this band of conspiratorial colonels will have something positive to show for their reign. Whether or not they will do it, and even more important, whether the price is worth it, is quite another matter. The majority of the Greek people are ready, perhaps too ready, to give them the benefit of the doubt, and their acquiescence to military rule is in itself an indictment of the inadequacies of the parliamentary system it replaced.
But instead of a social revolution on the Nasser model—a tyranny that at least offers some hope of economic advancement to the poor—the junta seems to be modeling itself on the banana dictatorships of Latin America. Instead of bringing stability to a nation tormented by political strife, it has merely imposed a surface conformity that may yet erupt into violence. Unless the colonels can find a way of restoring some semblance of popular rule, they are likely to instigate the very civil conflict that they claim to have thwarted by seizing control of Greece six months ago.
November 9, 1967