In response to:
Letter from Greece from the November 9, 1967 issue
To the Editors:
There are two things in particular with which I would take issue in Ronald Steel’s report on Greece [NYR, Nov. 9, 1967]: one, the idea that the Greek people are basically in accord with and are likely to benefit from this dictatorship of “politically unsophisticated provincials,” and the other, that the Greek political leadership is somehow deserving of this turn of events because of its corruption, irresponsibility, etc.
In relation to the first point, it doesn’t seem likely that anyone could speak very authoritatively about what the majority of the Greek people think of the new government. Statements like “…their [the Greek people’s] acquiescence to military rule is in itself an indictment of the inadequacies of the parliamentary system it replaced,” are simply unsupportable. Obviously enough, the censorship and intimidation tactics of the junta would preclude any expression of opposition except in the most intimate company. There are, however, some indications from prior elections that something less than a majority would support this regime. A 53 percent majority voted for Papandreou in the most recent election and this does not include all of the leftist vote, which if added would increase the majority to something like two-thirds of the total electorate. Add to this a certain number of rightists who by Mr. Steel’s admission represent an important and growing opposition, and one wonders where the “good deal of sympathy among ordinary Greeks” is coming from. (Even junta spokesmen have publicly admitted that the majority of the people are not “yet” behind them.)
Nor is it possible to imagine how the Greek people can benefit from this course of events. In addition to the detrimental effects to the economy—in spite of Mr. Steel’s claim to the contrary, tourism has fallen off, and the real-estate market is depressed as, I should imagine, are other forms of local investment—one must ask about the effects of Greece’s more recent “human resources hemorrhage.” On May 13, 1967 the junta announced that all scientific personnel employed as advisers to the government bureaucracy were dismissed. (After individual cases were examined, the “loyal” were reinstated.) This plus the general persecution of anyone accused of being a leftist has desiccated the top-level professional and scientific elite that Greece was slowly building up from the time of Andreas Papandreou’s return in the early Sixties. The result is that the reform elements are now in exile, in prison, or simply unemployed, and it is difficult to see where reform is to arise in such a context. On the contrary, the old forces of corruption and irresponsibility will undoubtedly become further entrenched in spite of anything the junta might say it is doing to the contrary, and this, unfortunately, seems to be the result whenever America intervenes to “save a country from communism.”
As to the second point and whether or not the leadership deserved to be “saved,” this must be examined in the light of forces originating outside of the political leadership itself…. Since Karamanlis’s departure the king has used every means possible to forestall a Center Union election victory and possible control of the government. It should be emphasized that each time the king intervened he did so outside of his legally constituted authority, and probably with the diplomatic and, on some occasions, financial support of the State Department or CIA. He had on separate occasions denied the legal right of the prime minister to appoint his cabinet ministers, refused to call an election within the constitutionally specified period after a prime minister’s resignation, and aided in the bribery of Center Union representatives who changed their votes and party affiliation to bring the downfall of the popularly elected Center Union party. This almost frantic succession of royal interventions with American approval and perhaps instigation is, ironically enough, the source of the political instability that has exasperated the Greek populace, and provided the rationalization for Mr. Steel’s and many others’ insinuations that maybe the coup wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The right-wing and defecting Center Union politicians who have participated in this moral debacle cannot be excused, of course, but the fact that the prime movers were outside the political arena must condition any conclusions about how deserving were the politicians of the disenfranchisement they have all suffered.
This is to say nothing about the importance of Greece as a US military base, the obvious connection between what happened in Greece and what was happening in the Middle East at that time, and the subsequent turnabout in Greek foreign policy in relation to the Jews and the Arabs.
Office of Urban Projects
St. Louis, Missouri
February 15, 1968