Thursday, 15 November 2012

Rehabilitating the Greek junta: Stylianos Pattakos has his say

The re-emergence of the far right in Greece in the last decade, first with LAOS and now with Golden Dawn, was inevitably going to involve an attempt to rehabilitate the junta that ruled the country between 1967-74, particularly its first incarnation, i.e. the junta of Nikolaos Markarezos, Stylianos Pattakos and Giorgios Papadopoulos. There has been less interest in rehabilitating the dictatorship of Dimitris Ioannides, who deposed Papadopoulos in November 1973 and led Greece to humiliating adventure in Cyprus in July 1974 that resulted in Turkey invading and seizing 37 percent of the island.

Apologists of the 1967-73 junta seek to portray it as a relatively benign regime that offered stability, economic progress and law and order; achievements they compare to what they perceive to be the corruption, permissiveness and national degradation that came after 1974 and eventually led to the political and economic crisis affecting Greece today.

Coup leader Papadopoulos died in jail in 1999, Markarezos under house arrest in 2009, but Pattakos, released from prison in 1990, celebrated his 100th birthday last week, and above is an interview the Cretan gave to SKAI TV in 2007 in which he justifies the seizure of power on 21 April 1967 and extols the rule of the junta.

Below is a summary of what he says.

By the mid-1960s, Greece seemed to be experiencing political meltdown caused by the inability of politicians to form stable governments. Pattakos blames journalists for adding fuel to the crisis by proclaiming that Greece couldn’t take any more and pressing for the military to intervene to save the country. He even suggests that when Markarezos approached prime minister Stephanos Stephanopoulos [in 1966] urging him to find a way out of the impasse, Stephanopoulos told him: ‘Come and seize all 300 MPs and throw us into the sea. We’re not fit to run the country.’

Pattakos also explains that Andreas Papandreou had stated that if the Centre Union party, headed by his father, Giorgios Papandreou, won elections slated for May 1967, then this would be regarded as a repudiation of King Constantine, who had engineered the fall of Centre Union government in 1965, and that a new government would refuse to be sworn in by the monarch. Pattakos argues this would have amounted to tearing up the constitution and proclaiming a revolution.

To reiterate his view that Greece’s politicians were driving the country off a cliff, Pattakos quotes former prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis who, in an interview with Le Monde, in November 1967, said that democracy in Greece was destroyed by its incompetent politicians and that the junta simply gave it the coup de grâce. In fact, Pattakos says, it wasn’t the coup de grâce we gave democracy, but the kiss of life. Pattakos adds that it’s false to consider Karamanlis a right-wing figure. He calls Karamanlis a liar and describes him as more left than the left.

Asked what the junta believed it was saving the country from when it carried out the coup, Pattakos replies: ‘communism’.

As for the reaction of foreign powers to the coup, Pattakos says initially they sought to isolate and keep their distance from the junta, though only Sweden went so far as to break off diplomatic relations with Greece. The Russians [the Soviet Union] couldn’t have been friendlier, Pattakos says, while it’s a lie that the Americans encouraged us to carry out the coup. He says on the day of the coup the Americans were scrambling to find out who exactly was behind it and what they represented. Pattakos claims that when the US ambassador eventually tracked him down and asked whether the coupists were leftists or rightists, Pattakos says he replied: ‘We are Greeks, no more no less. We are in favour of Nato, the West, the free countries. However, we oppose subordination of our country. We are supporters of the ‘NO’ of Ioannis Metaxas. Whatever you tell us to do, we will say: “No, leave us alone”.’

Pattakos reiterates that it’s a lie that it was the Americans who were behind the coup and the regime of the junta and he blames Greek leftist propaganda for perpetuating this myth. In fact, Pattakos suggests, it was the junta’s independence from Washington – and particular its refusal to allow Greek facilities to be used by the USA to support Israel in the Yom Kippur war in October 1973 – that prompted the Americans to plot the junta’s overthrow, which occurred in November 1973, when Brigadier Dimitris Ioannides deposed Papadopoulos. Pattakos says that it was US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who encouraged Ioannides to oust Papadopoulos, with the promise that he would be dictator for 30 years and we’ll make sure you get Cyprus for good measure. And, Pattakos says, Ioannides fell into this American trap.

Pattakos then lists his achievements in government, in which he served as interior minister, claiming he brought to every Greek household running water and electricity. He also takes credit for the expansion of telecommunications and the building of roads. ‘We enriched the country. We imposed the rule of law. We came up with a new constitution. Everything was going like clockwork.’

Pattakos blames the student disturbances at the Athens Polytechnic in November 1973 on Papadopoulos’ premature attempts to liberalise and civilianise the regime, which a month earlier had seen Spyros Markezinis become prime minister and Pattakos leave government.

On Cyprus, asked why the junta took the decision in 1967 to recall the 5,000 Greek troops stationed on the island (leaving Cyprus defenceless), Pattakos says they did this after being persuaded by the Americans that otherwise Turkey would invade and seize the whole island. Pattakos argues that if the Turks did invade Cyprus, Greece was not in a position, given the diminished state of its armed forces, to respond effectively.

Pattakos insists on the distinction between the regime that held power from 21 April 1967 to 8 October 1973, i.e. the regime he served in, and what followed, first with Papadopoulos’ tentative attempts at liberalisation and civilianisation, and then the dictatorship of Ioannides, who on 25 November 1973 overthrew Markezinis and Papadopoulos and seized power.

Pattakos then talks a bit about the reluctance of King Constantine on 21 April 1967 to swear in the junta as the new government and the five-six attempts he says the king made in the first year of the military regime to overthrow it.

Finally, Pattakos recalls, that two-three months after seizing power he returned to Crete, where he was confronted by his mother, who said to him: ‘Who put you up to this evil, my child?’

The journalist asks: ‘And why didn’t you listen to your mother?’

‘Because I wasn’t doing evil. She thought I was doing evil, but why was it evil? Because she got running water; because she got electricity; because I built the road from Rethymnon to the village, which never, never would have built otherwise?’

Pattakos goes on:

‘And I ask what did the “resistance” do on the day of the coup, from five in the morning [when the tanks came out onto the streets] till six in the evening, when we sworn in as the government? Where were they to topple us?’

The journalist asks: ‘And what would have happened if people had come out to protest on that day?’

‘We would have left. If the people had come out on to streets and said “go to hell, get out of here”, we would have gone.’

In a fuller version of this interview, see here, the journalist then asks:

‘Wouldn’t you then have started killing with the tanks?’

‘Maybe. Maybe there would have been a massacre.’

*Another, longer interview Pattakos gave to Giorgos Karatzaferis, leader of LAOS, can be seen here.


Hermes said...

Say what you will about the Junta, they would have found Xrysi Avgi very strange.

I know someone who's father was close to Pattakos. Apparently, as a man, he is quite decent.

John Akritas said...

Pattakos is an engaging character, if a little cynical. Generally, military men should stay out of politics, although I'm sure a few of them are getting nervous about Syriza.

Hermes said...

I think any decent person would get nervous about SYRIZA.

Sean N said...

My grandpa just told me a story about how Pattakos pardoned him of his farming debts and how good of a man he was. He was happy to hear that Pattakos was still alive at 102!