Remembering November 17

On November 14th 1973 students at the Athens Polytechnic took over the university and started to broadcast a pirate station rebelling against the CIA funded military junta, which had been in power since 1967.

The former elections had brought in social democrats and socialists into power with the conservative party coming third and second despite a complete repression campaign.

So in 1967 a coup took place and a new form of oppression took place,  involving torture, murder, the banning of certain types of music, the banning of books bigger than a certain thickness and any connection to the Communist Party. There were tanks and soldiers on the streets and often curfews were put in place whenever the dictators believed there was a state of emergency. Anti-government media whether TV, newspapers, pamphlets or radio was banned and terror reigned through the streets as mass arrests would take place. Many people, including my father and composer Mikis Theodorakis would be exiled and forced to flee from Greece.

The students at Athens Polytechnic were joined by others from Athens streets and soon the army surrounded the university. The protesters barricaded themselves inside, locking the gates, but on November 17th the order was given by the Junta to attack. The army sent in a tank crushing many students under the gate as it drove over it and then soldiers went in shooting at the protesters. Dozens were killed and over a thousand wounded as the Junta supressed the uprising which came to be known as the “Athens Polytechnic Uprising”. The event would become an embarrassment to the United States and Britain who supported the dictators and they would finally withdraw their funding, causing the Junta to fall.

Afterwards democracy was restored, however the Conservative Party, backed by the same powers who had backed the Junta, won the first election using their favourite campaign slogan: “Vote For Us Or The Tanks Will Return”.

Alexandros Giotopoulos a student, who had gone underground in 1971, started a group called ‘November 17’ in order to fight against imperialism and capitalism in Greece. They were responsible for dozens of assassinations on American, British and Turkish officials, as well as Greek politicians who were seen as puppets to imperialism.

In 1981 Greece joined the European Union and the Greek people would be fooled into thinking that now they could shake of the chains of centuries of colonisation and neo-colonisation and become a coloniser themselves. A vast modernisation process took place, financed mainly by German and French banks and Greece would quickly become a “1st World” nation.

However, a financial crisis hit the country; the banks in Greece were bailed out by France and Germany who in return demanded a massive austerity program. The NHS was sold and now many people rely on charity to get the medicine they need, Public Housing was sold, leaving over a million people kicked out their house and mass unemployment meant that a third of Greeks now rely on soup kitchens and charities in order to feed themselves. Germany and France, along with Britain and America, are taking control of the country.

Only a few days ago a peaceful protest in commemoration of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising was attacked by riot police (video below), drawing inevitable parallels, which embarrassed the current Greek government.

The Greek Party ‘Coalition of the Radical Left’ or ‘SYRIZA’ is ahead now in the polls, a party that was only started in 2004, and before the crisis, could only muster 15 seats at the most in parliament. They have promised to reject all austerity and blackmail the European Union into making a new plan. The party’s young and charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras is inspired by Hugo Chavez who he had met a few times in the past and even called his ‘personal hero’. The idea of Socialism being implemented through a democratic system set up to keep corporations in power has been a proven method in Venezuela and Bolivia, and is spreading across Latin America, could it be implemented in an EU country?

Putin has told Tsipras that Russia will be a vanguard for Greece and if Tsipras truly wants to create a replica of Venezuela, it will finally have to tap into the largest untapped oil and gas fields in the world, which are currently in the Aegean and Ionian seas. The fear is that if Greece moves too fast the Western powers will send Erdogan in, whose hungry imperialist aims have their eyes set on some of Greece’s islands.

It seems clear that Syriza would be a great party for Greece and could cause a ripple effect all over Europe, causing them to find the confidence to vote in leftwing parties as well. The question is: How will this affect the Global South nations? Tsipras has said he intends to stay in the European Union if he can get Angela Merkal to agree to his terms and has not mentioned whether or not he will take Greece out of NATO, maybe out of fear that fellow NATO member Turkey will have nothing to stop its imperialist intentions on Greece, which include much of the oil around the sea between the two nations.

Tsipras has been quiet on many issues, however, with the history of what happened to Chavez with the coup attempt many say that is a wise move. I stay optimistic that Syriza can be a change for the good in the world, but still remain wary.

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