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Athens under the Americans II

Athens Under the Americans II

The Fake Democracy (1948-1967)

Fake Elections

In March 1950 elections were held to demonstrate to the UN that Greece was a functioning democracy. Previously governments had effectively been appointed. Intimidation was not resorted to in the towns, with the result that the Liberal Party and the centre won the elections Plastiras became prime minister. This mattered less than it seemed, since the centres of real power lay in the American Embassy, CIA Headquarters, the royal palace at Tatoi and the Greek Pentagon. The forms of parliamentary democracy were a sham. The dominant figure in Greek politics, until his death in 1955, was General Papagos. In 1952 the Greek Ambassador insisted upon changes to the electoral system to enable Papagos and his Greek Rally to win the election, which he did in November 1952, when he became prime minister.

At the end of the civil war Greece could hardly claim To be an independent country. Between 1951 and 1957 Greece received $1,491,000,000 in aid, of which $1,150,000,000 was in military aid. Although corruption was rife, and there was no doubt some 'trickle down effect', little remained for any kind of aid which would directly benefit ordinary people.

Inside the NATO Empire

In 1955 Greece became a member of NATO, as much an empire as the Delian League had been more than two millennia previously. The Hellenic Raiding Force was set up as a crack commando unit

To suppress any opposition, its officers were trained in the USA, and in many cases actually paid by the CIA. Tom Keramessines built up the CIA operations so that Athens became an American espionage hub for the entire Balkans and Middle East. Greek espionage agency, the , was set up and funded by the CIA. In addition to spying on Eastern bloc radio traffic, it was employed against the population, being used to detect "subversive elements" in Greece. Many of its members were also paid by the CIA. By 1961, when the had files on twenty per cent of the population, the CIA kindly provided computer facilities to enable better handling of their 'intelligence' - no doubt the better to preserve their 'freedom.'

In 1953 foreign companies and wealthy Greek ship-owners were given extraordinary tax exemptions. Police control ensured low wages and industrial peace. This 'crony capitalism' ensured that wealth came to be even more concentrated in the hands of a few businessmen.

The Staged 'Economic Miracle'

Greece participated in the economic recovery which followed the Second World War, and having entered later from a lower position, the results seemed more impressive. Roads were built, the water supply improved, etc. Some of these 'improvements', such as the replacement of trams with buses, were not. Mass tourism first made its appearance during the 1950s. The area on the north side of the Acropolis was landscaped. Glyfada was developed as a tourist resort. 1n the area around the centre, apartment blocks began to replace houses.

The person most associated with this 'economic miracle' was the Macedonian politician, Constantine Karamanlis. hitherto obscure Macedonian politician, he was promoted above senior colleagues at the insistence of Alan Dulles, US Secretary of State. Andreas Papandreou described him as 'an American product.' From 1952-55 he was Minister of Public Works, and on the death of General Papagos became Prime Minister. Refoundng Papagos' Greek Rally as the National Radical Union, he held power until 1963. His style was autocratic, and in general he bypassed parliamentary forms.

However, the benefit to Greece of the 'economic miracle' was limited. It was designed to snit the needs of the often foreign entrepreneurs, and not the long term development of the country. Significant profits were confined to a few very wealthy people and their dependants. Much of it was exploitative, by companies which, like the wealthy Greek ship-owners, promptly moved their profits abroad. Education was under funded, and based upon rote learning to foster uncritical acceptance of authority. There was rise in the standard of living, but after war, occupation and civil war, that was only to be expected.

Once again, Athens benefited proportionally more than the rest of the country. Between 1951 and 1961 net immigration was nearly 331,000. Not only was ! the seat of the highly centralized bureaucracy, industry, banking and shipping, but the services were far superior to anything outside the capital. In 1961, 70% of all students in higher education studied in Athens, while the Greater Athens area held 85% of the medical specialists of the entire country.

The Suppression of Folk Traditions

During this period the government made great attempts to ensure that all those traces of the traditional Greece which were still to be found in Athens were eradicated, and in doing so, they destroyed something of the traditional life of the city. In 1961 the milkmen of Athens were forbidden to hold their usual festival at the Temple of Olympian Zeus. In 1964 the traditional carnival figure of the gaitanaki was banned from the streets. At the same time, Athenians were forbidden to fly kites on Clean Monday on the Mouseion Hill. Perhaps such manifestations of popular culture reminded the ruling class too much of that other Greece which was being so assiduously suppressed.

The Pericles Plan

In 1961 the CIA and army officers conducted extensive enqiries about voting intentions, and when they had digested the results, they put into operation the ironically-named 'Pericles Plan' to ensure a conservative victory. They located the key marginal constituencies, and organised the systematic intimidation of the voters. The leader of this plot, General Dovas, was then appointed by the king caretaker Prime minister during the voting to ensure fair play. They were assisted in their work by TO, a group of right-wing officers, mostly former Nazi collaborators, who regarded all non- conservatism as communism. Support for the Karamanlis' right-wing National Radical Union (ERE) in the election was exactly one hundred per cent in the army, while 200,000 fictional voters were conjured into existence to support the right in Athens. Some polling stations did not have voting papers with the names of non-ERE candidates on them. In one village in Crete the ERE candidate received more votes than there were citizens eligible to vote. It is hardly surprising that on 29th October, the ERE won a clear majority of seats in the parliament

The plan backfired. Both centre and left rejected the legitimacy of the resulting government, and criticised the right's subservience to the Americans, its favouritism towards big capitalists, its support for social inequalities, employment of wartime collaborators and repression of dissent.

In 1963 Queen Frederika visited to London. Although the civil war had ended fourteen years before, there were still almost a thousand political prisoners in jail, and nearly a thousand languishing in internal exile. The Welsh wife of prisoner Antonios Ambatielos led demonstrations against her. The 'doughty' Frederika was reduced to bolting into a citizen's house to call the police to rescue her. When Mrs. Ambatielos' cause was taken up by Piraeus Dr. Gregory Lambrakis, back in the safety of Athens, the humiliated Frederika demanded that someone do something about him. Lieutenant General ts arranged that when Lambrakis was in Thessaloniki for a Nuclear Disarmament rally, a bunch of thugs would attack him and the police would see nothing. Lambrakis was killed, but embarrassingly, some of his supporters caught one of his attackers. The funeral in Athens was attended by over 100,000 people. Thessaloniki magistrate, Christos Sartzetakis, later president, tried To get at the truth but he was impeded by the authorities, while several key witnesses 'died in mysterious circumstances.' The major significance of this affair was that it demonstrated to anyone with an open mind that behind the forms of democracy there existed an extreme right-wing 'parastate' of former azi collaborators who were prepared To use illegal means, including murder, against all those who threatened the dominance of the court, the army officers and the USA. It revealed the Greek democracy as a Mafia state. It also inspired the foundation of the Lambrakis youth movement under Mikis Theodorakis.

King Paul and Queen Frederika unwisely decided to return To the UK in 1963, against the advice of Prime Minister Karamanlis. Frustrated at the endless interference of the royal family, Karamanlis resigned and went into exile. Not unexpectedly, the royal visitors were harassed by demonstrators everywhere they went. The leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party boycotted the state dinner in their honour and joined the demonstrators. This convinced many lower rank army officers that while the monarchy was a useful symbol, this weak king and his interfering mother were a liability.

US Control Temporarily Relaxed

Elections in November 1963 were not generally rigged, and Papandreu won the largest number of seats. In February 1964, after a new election, he won a majority. The normal US interference had been reined in by a new ambassador appointed by President Kennedy, Henry Labouisse. He soon transferred CIA station chief Laughlin Campbell out of Greece. When approached by a group of generals asking how he would react to a coup to prevent a Papandreu government, he replied that he was against it. This new 'hands off' approach did not last long.

At Christmas 1963 communal fighting had broken out between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The British had spying facilities in the Troodos Mountains, and were unwilling to see them threatened. The Johnson administration proposed partition, rejected by Greece on behalf of the majority Greek population. In mid-1964 a proposal was made that Greece give up Kastellorizo. When the Greek ambassador said that the Greek parliament and constitution had not authorised to him to give away parts of his country, President Johnson let the customary cover of diplomacy slip, revealing the realities of US power politics, and yelled: 'Fuck your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked good ...We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your Prime Minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitution, he, his parliament and his constitution may not last long... Don't forget to tell old Papa-what's-his-name what told you.' When Athens complained, Johnson rang up the ambassador and threatened him: 'You had no call putting in all them words used on you. Watch your step.'

Before the Coup

King Paul died in 1964, and was replaced by his son, Constantine II. The accession of the young, impressionable king increased the real influence and power of his mother, Queen Frederika. An arrogant woman who was a grand-daughter of the Kaiser and a member of the Hitler Youth, she tended to believe whatever was in her own interests, such as that the Greek royal family was descended from the emperors of Byzantium. Already criticised for her administration of tax money for her own 'charitable purposes' without any public accounting, i.e. as a source of patronage, she was clearly quite deficient in her understanding of the role of a constitutional monarch in a modern state, and managed to pass this disability on to her son.

Early in 1965 a military report on the subversion of the 1961 elections revealed the Pericles Plan, and the part played in the e1ection by army officers. The king accused Papandreu of aiding the communists and sought the dismissal of the investigating officers. As a diversionary tactic, a counter-accusation was launched that there was a conspiratorial left-wing group of army officers, known as Aspida, which sought to take over the country for the communists. The claim was made by right-wing Nazi collaborator General George Grivas, supported by allegations and manufactured evidence from a certain Colonel Papadopoulos. An investigation into the Aspida affair by members of ID led to the arrest of twenty-eight officers, including the officer who had led the investigation into the Pericles affair.

The final breach between Papandreu and the king centred upon the desire of George Papandreu to dismiss General Gennimatas. The king was stiffened by his mother and CIA station chief Jack Maury. He insisted that he, and not the elected rime minister, decide who shou1d control the Ministry of Defence and the anned forces. This left the Prime minister with no option but To resign. The king replaced him with George Novas without calling for elections.

The streets of Athens resounded to mass protests, known as the 'July Days'. Hundreds were injured and dozens killed, as the disturbances continued. Some Centre Union politicians, including Constantine Mitsotakis, moved over to the king to give Novas' government a slim vote of confidence, but that did not help secure legitimacy. In February 1966, 700,000 people demonstrated in support of George Papandreu.

In March 1967 fifteen of the accused in the Aspida trial were given prison sentences. An army officer who called it 'a witch hunt' was promptly dismissed. The defence lawyer was later murdered.

Pressure for elections proved overwhelming, and they were set for the next spring. Everyone expected an overwhelming victory for George Papandreu. The key marginal constituencies were identified, as had happened in the Pelicles Plan, and a scheme drawn up by CIA station chief Maury for the character assassination of Andreas Papandreu, and the funding of politicians opposed To him. Ambassador Talbot was against such interference in the democratic process. Historian Peter Murtagh has shown that when Talbot reported To Washington on the preparations, he had originally stated that a Centre Union victory would be preferable to a coup, but Maury had secured the removal of this passage.

The CIA knew that the generals had no intention of allowing elections to go forward and had long been planning a coup. The chief of the General Staff, Spandidakis, had decided to ask the king to implement a plan To seize power, but the king vacillated. They wavered only about the date. The 16th April had been chosen to coincide with a left-wing rally, but it was cancelled. The 24th May was then chosen, but postponed on 20th April. cabal of middle-ranking army officers led by CIA employee Colonel George apadopuls, Nicholas Makarezos and rigader Stylianos Pattakos, decided to go anyway, acquiring the patronage of Spandidakis, and implementing the Prometheus Plan, officially originally devised to counter 'communist insurgency'.

In the early hours of the morning of 21st April 1967, they seized control of the state. The CIA trained Hellenic Raiding Force took over the Pentagon in Holargos, and Colonel Pattakos' tanks left Goudi barracks for central Athens. The cover of democratic forms was to be removed. This was the first time that a Western country in Europe had fallen to a dictatorship since the Second World War.

John L. Tomkinson


Athens Timeline


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