Easy myths about November 1973

The anniversary of the 1973 student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic has become useful as a litany of convenient myths about the dictatorship. It has been said that it is the fate of every crucial turning point in history to be – literally – celebrated to death, to be interpreted so many times, and in so many different ways, that it eventually loses its very meaning. It is the fate of every revolt to become a subject for exploitation by politicians serving transitory interests, to such an extent that finally the true picture is entirely altered. It is the fate of every incident that is worthy of being remembered to be interpreted within the current circumstances, a translation that drains it of the significance it acquired when it occurred. So what was the student uprising at the Polytechnic all about? Was it an expression of universal resistance by the Greek people to the military junta established in 1967? Of course not, because there was no universal resistance. Was it a planned revolt by the parties who today claim to have been at the «helm of the revolution?» No, because those parties who are today preying upon the memory of the uprising had at the time criticized «agents provocateurs playing the junta’s game.» The Polytechnic uprising, as all other significant historic events, was the result of a coincidence of circumstances. One thing led to another, culminating in those three spectacular days in November 1973 that shook the whole country. An entire population of 9 million, which wants to show that it stood up to those who deprived it of its freedom, is actually indebted to the youthful boldness of just a few thousand people. This boldness has been the springboard for a lot of subsequent political maneuvers and ambitions. And that’s the way it always is. The achievements of the few – it was only a small minority which resisted the junta – are exploited by the many. Everyone has something to say about the Polytechnic uprising today – presumably everything they failed to say in November 1973. Even those who condemned student sit-ins at the time – such as the Communist party (KKE) – now praise pupils for sit-ins at state schools. How ironic. The anniversary of the Polytechnic uprising has gone the way of all traditions. It has became a senseless litany of ambitions, a celebration which only has relevance to the past and not the present, much less the future. Unfortunately, the Polytechnic died many years ago. We simply carry its corpse around the streets of Athens every November. May it rest in peace.

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