In this issue, readers may peruse a captivating and informative excerpt from the threevolume set of memoirs written by the now ailing former king of Greece, published last year by the Lambrakis Press Group. It relates to Constantine’s stance against the junta, which sent tanks onto the streets of Athens on April 21st, 1967, violating the constitution and abolishing the people’s freedom, imposing censorship upon the press, and arresting politicians and citizens it considered to be enemies of the regime.
That is how Greece’s great national decline began half a century ago. It was a terrible period in Greek history. That day marked the start of a downward spiral, where values were abandoned, the Cyprus tragedy occurred, and Andreas Papandreou came to power, ushering in an era of corruption and social decay that was continued by his successors, who resorted to unrestrained borrowing and “devoured” the loans together with the people.
Another consequence of the junta was that an army of socalled “resistance fighters” subsequently appeared, occupying key positions in the public sector after its fall and imposing a regime of intimidation against anyone who did not lay claim to this title. The truth is that after Alekos Panagoulis, the true resistance fighters were very few in number, and Constantine was first among them. His immediate, instinctive resistance to the junta and his refusal to cooperate with the colonels cost him the throne.
We are not “royalists.” We believe that sovereigns are no longer needed, even though Constantine and his father proved themselves more democratic than many politicians.
Democracy operated fairly well under Paul and Constantine. And it would have overcome the serious political crisis of 1967 without the coup that brought communists to power and resulted in anarchists setting Athens on fire.
Objectivity demands that we recognize that the junta improved the people’s standard of living. The country was flourishing, devoid of loans, memorandums, and unemployment. When the junta fell, the country had a budget surplus. It didn’t owe anyone a dime. There was no corruption, there were no scandals being reported, in contrast with the countless ones associated with its successors, and there was no poverty like there is today. The architects of the junta died as paupers, without a penny to their name. These facts are undeniable, but under no circumstances is it possible to justify the dictatorship as a solution.
The reaction of the Greek people to the junta was disheartening. They tolerated it for seven whole years. There were no uprisings. There was no indication that the citizens were suffering from the abolition of their freedoms and no sign that they were in anguish. Popular rejection was virtually nil. The people were preoccupied with soccer, tavernas, and syrtaki.
Fifty year later, the question is if anyone has learned anything from this tragedy.