Thursday, 11 December 2008

House of Commons gaffe

Gordon Brown's slip of the tongue during PM questions, in which he said his government had 'saved the world', is reminiscent of a similar gaffe another British minister had made during the seven years of the junta's reign.

More specifically, the time was June 1973 and, while debating the British recognition of the Papadopoulos republican government, foreign secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home responded to a relevant question by James Callaghan.
Douglas-Home later in the same session asked to correct his slip of the tongue as he had picked up a phrase of Callaghan referring to the Colonels:

'I think I said he rightly called it "the illegal regime in Greece"'.

The statement was caught by opposition circles in London, with the European-Atlantic Action Committee on Greece publishing a rather mordant bulletin to comment on Whitehall's policy towards the Colonels:

'The indecent haste with which the British government recognised the newly declared Greek Republic on 13th June was a gratuitous favour to Papadopoulos and was rightly the subject of critical questioning in the House of Commons by the Opposition's Shadow Foreign Secretary. That the government felt some embarrasment over the decision was indicated by a revealing 'slip of tongue' made by Sir Alec Douglas-Home in referring to the Greek regime as "illegal"'.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Greek riots

Major rioting erupted in Athens and other big cities in Greece after the fatal shooting of a teenager by police two days ago.

Foreign press talks about clashes on an unprecedented scale, at least for the last twenty years in this country.
A protest was held even outside the Greek embassy in London (see photo below).

On this terrible occasion, the 1973 Athens polytechnic uprising is mentioned as the starting point of major rioting in Greece (see Times article on those events).

This article by Malcolm Brabant published on BBC's website explains the link between the two events:

'The polytechnic is the symbol of modern rebellion.

On 17 November 1973, tanks of the then six-year-old military dictatorship burst through the iron railings to suppress a student uprising against the colonels.

The exact casualty figure is still unknown to this day but it is believed that around 40 people were killed.

The sacrifice of the polytechnic was so significant that the post-junta architects of Greece's new constitution drafted the right of asylum, which bans the authorities from entering the grounds of schools and universities.

That is why places of learning are the springboards for the current wave of violence and it also explains why many of the riots are in university towns.

Students and pupils have effectively been given carte blanche to carry on protesting, because their professors have declared a three-day strike.

'Out of control'

Although many of today's protestors were not born when the polytechnic gates were crushed by the tanks, the lesson of the students' martyrdom is a key component of every Greek child's school democracy curriculum.

If Greece had already appeared difficult to govern, it will now be out of control
Nikos Konstandaras, managing
editor of Kathimerini newspaper

The latent Greek contempt for the police, which has now erupted so volcanically, has its roots in the dictatorship, when the police were regarded as the colonels' enforcers and traitors to the people.'

For a sober analysis of the December 2008 events see Professor Kalyvas' presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center.