The events at the Athens Polytechnic in 1973 consist one of the most significant moment of class struggle in Greece during the second half of the 20th century. But what was the historical background and the socio-political developments that led to the uprising of the Greek youth?
the night of the 20th to the 21st of April 1967, the reactionary
military circles of the country, which were closely connected to the
secret services of the USA and NATO, conducted a military coup. The
operation of the surrender of power to the army had been developed at
the staff of NATO, under the code name “Prometheus”. Colonels G.
Papadopoulos and N. Makarezos, who were actively involved in the
preparation of the coup, became known as “the black colonels”.
the fascist occupation 1940-44, several of these officers participated
in the security forces and the mopping’up operations against communists;
some of them even worked with Gestapo and were later connected to the
secret services of the English and Americans. The military junta, headed
by G. Papadopoulos, N. Makarezos and the generals S. Pattakos and G.
Zoitakis, having planed a conspiracy with the king and based on the
article 91of the Constitution of Greece, published a decree stating the
transition of all of the power to the army and the abolition of a series
of articles of the Constitution, concerning democratic rights.
seized the power, the military dictatorship proceeded with the
materialisation of the “Prometheus” operation. Every democratic liberty
in the country had been abolished, a marshal law had been imposed,
strikes and meetings were banned, harsh censorship was introduced,
political parties and progressive social organizations were also banned.
The army took upon it extensive authority, arrests and searches had
been conducted. By the order of the dictatorship, thousands of political
and social fighters of our country were arrested, first and foremost
cadres of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the legal, until then,
political party, United Democratic Left (EDA), through which,
communists also fought. According to statements by the officials of the
dictatorial regime, more than 40 thousand communists had been arrested
till the May of 1967.
order to deceive people, the colonels named their coup “national
revolution”, which was supposed to have been conducted “for the benefit
of all the classes of the Greek society”. The army and especially the
officers, were declared “driving force of the revolution”, and the
struggle against communism had been set as the main goal.
coup became possible in Greece, because the military forces of the
country were under the strict control of the reaction. The labour and
democratic movement had not still reorganized its forces after the
defeat in the civil war of 1946-1949. The development of the mass
movement in Greece was impeded by the emergency laws, which first of all
prohibited the action of KKE. The leaders of the “Centre Union” Party
followed a policy of fragmentation of the democratic forces,
disintegrating any common stance of the opposition, aiming at the
repulse of the reaction, thus enforcing it. The opportunist elements
that existed inside KKE during that period had succeeded in 1958 a
decision to be taken for the dissolution of the illegal party
organizations, to be taken, supposing that KKE, could, at the end,
allegedly be replaced by a wider structure of the Left, EDA. EDA,
despite its’ high election results, up to 28%, not only failed to
develop a true alternative, but even failed to prepare the party forces
and the popular movement before the coup.
regime of the 21st of April of 1967 was an overt terrorist
military-fascist dictatorship of the domestic and foreign monopolies. A
characteristic particularity of the military-fascist regime has been no
other than the close involvement of the American imperialism, in the
preparation and the establishing of the dictatorship.
after the coup, KKE strengthened its’ struggle for the rallying of all
of the democratic and patriotic organizations. It summoned all the
patriots, despite their party belonging, at factories, neighbourhoods,
villages, universities, schools and state institutions, to organize in
resistance committees, in order to overthrow the fascist dictatorship.
On the initiative of KKE and EDA, the Patriotic Anti-dictatorship Front
(PAM) had been formed on the May of 1967. Later, other anti-junta
organizations made their appearance, such as PAK and the “Democratic
at deep illegality and in spite of the blows it had endured not only
from junta, but also from the opportunists who had split the party in
1968, managed to regroup the party organizations, created the “Unified
Trade Union Anti-dictatorship Movement” (ESAK) and set up its’ youth
organization, the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE), which was going to
play an avant-garde role in the Polytechnic uprising in 1973.
sharpening of the socio-economic contradictions in Greece and the rise
of the anti-dictatorship movement, in 1973, lead to the deep crisis of
the regime. The dissatisfaction grew even in the army, the regime’s main
the mid of 1973, the demonstrations of the workers embraced one branch
of the economy after the other. One federation after the other gave
notice of termination of their collective contracts and demanded a
45-50% rise in their salaries. These mobilizations were characterised by
the vivacity and unity of workers, independently of their political
beliefs and lead to the isolation of juntas’ people in the trade union
struggle of the university and technological institutions students was
an important parameter of the political developments in Greece,
especially in 1973. Their main demands were the progressive reforms in
the educational system, the restoration of trade union, academic and
political liberties. The students of Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra,
Ioannina, conducted meetings, assemblies, demonstrations with slogans
such as: “Democracy”, “Down with fascism”, “Down with the dictatorship”,
“One is the leader, the sovereign people”, “Freedom to the political
of the worsening of the financial standing of the poor peasantry, mass
manifestations started to break out through the whole of Greece, and
took the form of refusal of handing the goods over to the trade. The
solidarity with the political prisoners and their families’ movement,
aiming at the release of the political prisoners, also developed.
order to diminish the pressure towards the regime, the military
dictatorship, Papadopoulos went on to remove several of their
collaborators from the government and to form a “political” government
headed by the leader of the ‘Progressive Party’ S. Markezinis. The main
task of the new government (October 8 1973) was to prepare
political manoeuvres of Papadopoulos did not lead to the stabilization
of the situation the in the country. The anti-government manifestations
persisted. It is worth mentioning that the opportunist fraction that
split from the party in 1968 and created the euro-communist
‘KKE-interior’ supported the manoeuvre of ‘politization’ of the
dictatorial regime. A top moment had been the uprising of the students
of the Polytechnic University of Athens and of the young workers of
Athens, on the 14-17 November 1973, which gave the final blow to the
attempts to disguise the regime. The main slogans of the uprising were:
‘Bread, Education, Liberty’, ‘National Independence’, ‘Down with
Papadopoulos’, ‘Out the Americans and NATO’ e.t.c. Large masses of
workers supported the students and the young workers. The students’
mobilizations acquired the form of university building occupations, in
Thessaloniki and Patra. Demonstrations had also been organized in
Trikala and Drama.
Athens, the students managed to create a radio station and inform
people from the building of Polytechnic of the mass manifestations. KNE
in Athens and the Anti-dictatorship Students’ Union (Anti-EFEE), played a
special role in the organization of the struggle.
the 17th of November, at night, tanks had been thrown at the revolted
students and workers. At that night, 56 people were killed, according to
official records. According to police records, 1103 citizens and 61
policemen had been injured. As it became known after the fall of the
dictatorship, 34.000 bullets had been used by the police, in addition to
the 300.000 cartridges of all kinds, used by the army, so as to repress
the revolt. In the days of the revolt, the regime went on to arrest
2.500 people, although it announced merely the arrest of 866, having
made the following presentation of their social status: 475 workers, 268
students, 74 pupils, 49 Polytechnic students.
the revolt had been drowned in blood, the overall reaction to the
regime grew. Eight months later (24 July 1974), the dictatorship fell
under the weight of its treason and adventurism in Cyprus, where the
coup, that it had organized in cooperation with the secret services of
NATO, aiming at the extermination of the progressive regime of President
Makarios (15/7/1974) led to the Turkish invasion and occupation of the
37% of Cyprus.
mass demonstrations against the dictatorship had been held in a lot of
cities of Greece. The pressure of the masses had been so great that the
Greek oligarchy, decided to remove junta and to hand the power over to a
coalition of bourgeois parties, in which right-conservative elements
persisted, in order to avoid the worst. This coalition had been but an
expression of the compromise among the junta supporters, the imperialist
circles of NATO and USA, as well as of the bourgeois political powers
of Greece, for the ‘legal’ handing over of the power to the latter.
the same time, and without waiting for the release and return of the
comrades in exile and from abroad, the illegal organizations of KNE and
KKE regained legality. The legal activity of KKE had been won de facto
and the circulation of the daily party’s newspaper ‘Rizospastis’ began.
The new bourgeois government was forced to abolish the anti-communist
law 509, through which the political activity of KKE had been prohibited
for whole decades, since 1947.
year, activities are held in honour of the students and workers, who
revolted in the November of 1973. The culminating moment of these annual
manifestations is the demonstration to the US embassy on 17th of