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Journal of Modern Greek Studies 20.1 (2002) 163-165



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Book Review

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Michael S. Macrakis, greek 1933 -1943 (The Beginning: Andreas G. Papandreou, 1933-1943). Athens: Ekdoseis Istoritis/Katoptro. 2000. Pp. 203.

Seldom in modern history has the Greek public's perception of a national political leader been so sharply divided as in the case of Andreas Papandreou. For his admirers, Andreas (as he is universally known) inspired and empowered the masses, built the nation's first modern political party (PASOK), healed the historic greek (division), battled the evils of capitalism at home and abroad with his unique brand of socialism, freed the country of foreign domination, and elevated it to the status of a prominent international actor. For his detractors, he was the consummate demagogue whose cliché-ridden, populist-Marxist platform was a clever if transparent cover for gaining power and for the perpetuation of his highly autocratic cult of personality, turning state organs into fiefdoms for his cronies and causing serious harm to the nation's vital interests by antagonizing the United States, NATO, and virtually every institution of the Western world. If there is one point on which both sides agree it is that Andreas cast a large and deep shadow on his compatriots. It now becomes the historians' daunting task to sift through all the adulation and demonization in order to discover and chronicle Andreas's true person, his strengths and his weaknesses, his ideological underpinnings and his real achievements.

Given Andreas's long and turbulent career as well as his complex and mercurial personality, his biographers will have to search for pieces of the puzzle in Greece, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, and must also consider the impact of the evolving international arena from the 1960's to the 1990's. The materials that are now in the public domain are mountains of speeches, interviews, books, and articles by Andreas and about him, and endless journalistic accounts and commentary. Important private papers, including those of the Papandreou family, remain for now beyond the reach of scholars and, with the important exception of pre-1970's American diplomatic records, relevant government files are closed. In short, it will be years before enough sources become available for a systematic, in-depth study of Andreas and his times. For these reasons, everyone interested in Andreas's public life will be greatly indebted to Macrakis for providing a useful starting point and a foundation on which others will base the more historically important chapters of the story.

Macrakis deals with Andreas's formal education in Greece and America. Beyond establishing the facts in great detail, he seeks to discover whether the Marxist ideology professed by Andreas the politician was grounded in his [End Page 163] intellectual development from his youth or was a contrived façade adopted later in life for its popular appeal, masking the absence of any ideological conviction and moral principle.

The narrative begins in the early 1930's, when the young Papandreou was a bright, idealistic, and rather restless student at Athens College. He had already been introduced to Marxist literature and thought by his father, George, a prominent political figure and a socialist. A leading member of the school's Socialist Student Club, Andreas contributed political essays to the club's own journal, including one on "The Economic Relationship of Classes" (reprinted in this volume in full), a remarkably well-written exposé of basic Marxist dogma. He also wrote and published poetry in English free verse in the school journal, including a poem called "My Inner Self," which ends with the lines: "Ah! How I should like a world in which good men are met / in which the outside and the inside coincide / a world in which man would be free enough to show himself / and good enough to be worth looking at."

Entering the University of Athens in 1937 at the top of his class, Andreas continued to prove himself an outstanding student. He was also active in clandestine leftist agitation against the recently imposed Metaxas dictatorship, activities which led to his...

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