Rot – Part 17

If justice was done in the Trial of the Six, it was a vindictive and malignant justice. Which is why, decades afterward, its memory would add to the toxicity of a political culture already poisoned by the division among royalists, Venizelists, and, from the Thirties on, the left. The trial constituted the century’s foundational ideological “blood crime,” which the right would seek to avenge (and which it did, unhappily, a thousand times over), legally or illegally, constitutionally or paraconstitutionally, until the monarchy was finally ended (by overwhelming popular vote) in 1974. The current republic is, in fact, the third and only successful attempt in modern Greek history to create a genuinely democratic constitution. As such, it is directly related to (in many ways, the long-sought ideological offspring of) the republic that was the ultimate constitutional outcome of the anti-royalist revolt of September 1922. This doomed Second Republic, proclaimed in March 1924—16 months after the execution of the “six”—would be overturned 11 years later, remaining unvindicated until 1975.

Yet, the far-right deputy, Adônis Geôrgiadês, praised Nikolaos Plastêras for the courage, despite its fundamental “error,” of his convictions in executing six men who are still considered political “martyrs” (or, at the very least, innocent victims of an odious partisan conspiracy) by a vast majority on the right (and not just the reactionary right). Is it possible that historical “reconciliation” has advanced much farther in Greece than anybody cares to admit? Hardly. There is something else, hidden in plain sight, in this revisionism by the right of what was until now its version not only of Greece’s history, but of its own role in the political developments of the previous century.

The acronym of Geôrgiadês’s party is LAOS. The word, “λαός,” of course, means “people” in Greek. The acronym itself stands for Λαϊκός Ορθόδοξος Συναγερμός, Popular Orthodox Rally. The name says it all: LAOS is a populist right-wing party whose reactionary foundation is based precisely on an opportunistic reactivity to unfolding circumstances. Since LAOS entered parliament in the last elections a year and a half ago, it has trimmed its ideological sails. Beginning as a motley assortment of elements from various far-right groupuscules (most infamously, the fascist Χρυσή Αυγή, or Golden Dawn), specifically designed to sabotage the political project of mainstream conservatives by peeling off voters on New Democracy’s most extreme right flank, it has now become a parliamentary (and, thus, “serious”) party, validated by its very presence in the national assembly. As such, it is now after much bigger fish to fry, in both major parties. Seeking to develop from radical sect into broad (or, at least, broader) church, it has quickly become unusually ecumenical. Characteristically, a month before the 2007 elections, it stage-managed the announcement of a former PASOK deputy that he was joining LAOS because, according to him, PASOK’s “patriotic” wing had been purged under George Papandreou’s leadership, which, furthermore, was “submissive” (ενδοτική) and “in retreat” (υποχωρητική) on the “εθνικά θέματα” (national issues).

The εθνικά θέματα: that notorious Greek political Molotov cocktail. What crimes—not to mention less tragic idiocies—have not been committed in its name? Just in my lifetime, we have Cyprus, Macedonia, and relations with Turkey or (before 1989) Albania. In the post-junta period, however, it’s been the ostensibly “left-wing” PASOK that, to its disrepute and the country’s ill luck, has been the most nationalist of the (electorally or ideologically) significant parties in the country, its ”panhellenism” invariably trumping, and marginalizing, its “socialism.” Andreas Papandreou came to power riding a wave of legitimate popular anger over decades of wounded and humiliated national sovereignty; in office, he (masterfully, if obviously) elaborated a demagogic, self-serving esthetic of rhetorical nationalism that masked utterly conventional—in fact, conventionally compromised—politics. It held him in good stead electorally, but (predictably) ruined any possibility of genuine social or political reform. (That might that have been its ultimate purpose given that Andreas was the cynical, demagogic son of a cynical, demagogic father, on whose political knee he undoubtedly absorbed the secrets and lessons of a political life rich in deceit and self-promotion.)

This irreducible link between nationalism, right-wing extremism, and left-wing opportunism (albeit almost always of the soft and squishy center-left) explains, regrettably, much of the history of Greece during the last hundred years. It certainly clarifies the newfound admiration on the part of the right, including the far right, for Plastêras, pointing, as it does, to the embrace that never dared speak its name in the Greek politics of the first three quarters of the twentieth century: namely, the union of fascism and liberalism in support of the “nation.”

(To be continued)

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