It’s 1980. After six years in the prime minister’s seat, Constantine Karamanlis becomes president, leaving behind a divided party and a financially troubled country – it’s only a few months since the second oil crisis in the summer of 1979. Greece is going through political upheaval: strikes, university sit-ins, and near-daily protests.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Andreas Papandreou is fiercely attacking the government, promising better days and change.
In late October, Greece returns to NATO’s military command structure six years after withdrawing its forces following Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus. Anti-Americanism is running high.
The government (rightly) bans the annual march in memory of the dozens killed in the 1973 uprising against the junta at Athens Polytechnic from reaching the US Embassy building. The National Students Union of Greece (EFEE), controlled by PASOK socialists, agrees (and so does the Greek Communist Party) that the demonstration must dissolve in front of Parliament. And it does.
However, an EFEE minority, together with anarchists and independents, decide to ignore the hundreds of police officers, riot police and police vans along Vasilissis Sofias Avenue. They call upon demonstrators to “march all the way to the embassy.”
Severe clashes ensue between the police and protesters. Two demonstrators, Stamatina Kanellopoulou, a worker, and a Cypriot law student named Iakovos Koumis, are fatally injured by police.
In statements after the march, Papandreou does not attempt to exploit the tragedy for political gain.
He says: “Regrettably, after the conclusion of the big, peaceful march of the people of Athens, small groups of irresponsible elements and provocateurs, whose background is unknown and suspect, caused unfortunate incidents with the obvious aim of tainting and defaming the great popular anniversary of the Polytechnic [uprising]. We express our indignation and we deplore before the Greek people the instigators and instruments of the unfortunate incidents.”
Anyone who wishes to imitate Andreas Papandreou should first study Andreas Papandreou. Society is thirsty for progress and creative overtures.
Similarly, they are put off by cost-free attacks on right-wing policies and flirting with the minority of reactionary troublemakers.