Greece’s so-called Polytechnic generation –- people who participated in the uprising against the military junta in the early 1970s and who belonged, politically speaking, to the Left –- has been the subject of extensive analysis and debate. However, the Polytechnic generation is not represented by one group, but many.
Apart from those killed during the events, hundreds of people were brutally tortured and suffered without advertising the fact. Coming from all walks of life, these people don’t like to talk about their ordeals. These are the people who make you think that Greece could have been a very different country had they played a more prominent role after 1974. Men of them have gone on to become fine teachers, doctors, architects and scientists, working here and abroad. Many are avid champions of human rights, enemies of racism and critics of corruption. They hurt more than anyone else at the chaos that has taken over Greek universities, feeling that their suffering was in vain.
Another section of the Polytechnic generation capitalized on its experiences to gain power and wealth in a calculated manner. For them, the Polytechnic uprising was an alibi that opened the doors of Greece’s academic institutions even though they lacked the necessary qualifications and treated teaching as just another job in the public sector. A lot of them were part of the big orgy of European subsidies, and continue to play a part in the system of corruption and dependency on state money. And if anyone dares criticize their questionable ethics, they invoke their past ordeals to deflect attention from their current behavior.
But there is also a third, distinct category of people who continue to cling to 1974. These are the ones constantly talk about those days, who refuse to update their world view and ideas. Dedicated to their goals, they live in cloistered microcosms. They see the fall of the junta and the restoration of democracy as a wasted opportunity for the rise of the Left to power.
You cannot really get upset at these people – at least they did not compromise their ideology for perks. They did what they could for the ideas of the Left – as they perceived it – to prevail in key domains of society. This generation, stuck in the past as it is, is still biding its time, as the generation that fell for the lure of money and power is cautiously weighing its interests.
However, Greece will never be reborn without a mature center-left and without the participation in it of the new, non-partisan and creative generation. These are the people who have to speak up and enter the fray of politics and public debate before it’s too late.