Interpreting the Polytechnic

Although it was included among the official school holidays and incorporated into «normal» history, provoking the customary heroic (and thus ahistorical) bombast, the annual celebration of the 1973 Polytechnic student uprising continues, thankfully, to resist being taken for granted. This is the first proof it is not worn threadbare, frozen and ready for burial. Further proof is provided by the rabid attacks upon it every November by extreme right-wing groups, either pro-junta elements or opportunists who managed to take up high posts in the republic. In the three decades since that three-day culmination of resistance to the junta, most interpretations of the event predicted a shrinking of the significance of its spontaneous and unsponsored nature, and above all, its retrospective compliance with the discourse and will of one party or another. The conflicting interpretations oddly verified a slogan heard at early anniversary rallies: «One, two, three, many Polytechnics» (some of those who originally chanted that have since changed political horses). If we conclude that the uprising was the crowning moment of popular unity, we invalidate its political character. Those besieged in the Patission Street complex were a minority; and those providing practical support were also a minority – as were those who resisted the dictatorship and paid for their love of freedom. They may have tuned into the same slogans and even united in the face of death, but they arrived there by different ideological paths. The Polytechnic was a small civil war, in which one side was unarmed, and that is how it stayed after democracy was restored in 1974. It probably doesn’t fit into today’s political formations that promote general and indefinite consensus.