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Mediterranean Quarterly 14.2 (2003) 110-129

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Andreas Papandreou and the American Media:
The Salient Attributes of a Socialist

Philemon Bantimaroudis


During the last four decades of the twentieth century, Andreas Papandreou emerged as one of Greece's most influential politicians. His participation in the political arena had a catalytic effect on the development of the modern Greek society and Greece's European identity. A successful academic who, for twenty years, prospered in the United States, Papandreou abandoned his teaching and his research and chose to return to Greece where he became known as a fervid critic of the West. In 1940 Papandreou had registered at Harvard where, three years later, he earned his doctorate in economics. He then served in the U.S. Navy for thirty months during World War II. After his discharge, he began his teaching career, first at Harvard, then at the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, and the University of California at Berkeley, where he assumed the duties of chairman in the Department of Economics. 1

In 1959, Papandreou, his wife, Margaret, and their four children arrived in Athens. Papandreou had secured Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships to study the Greek economy for one year. It was, in fact, to be the end of his academic career. After a brief transition, he became a member of the Center Union, a party led by his father, George Papandreou. In 1967, after a series of dramatic events, a group of junior military officers seized control of the country, and the Greeks became subject to a ruthless military dictatorship. The younger Papandreou was arrested and imprisoned. After a nine-month [End Page 110] detainment, he was granted amnesty and was allowed to leave the country. From abroad, he led a resistance movement against the colonels. In 1974, after the junta collapsed, Papandreou returned to Greece and established PASOK (The Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement). In 1981, he won the national elections and became the first socialist prime minister of Greece. Thereafter, he dominated Greek politics until his death in 1996. During those sixteen years he initiated numerous policies but became known mostly as a fervid critic of the West and a notorious antagonist of the United States.

The First Term:

In fall 1981, the slogan alaghi (change) had a tremendous appeal for the Greek population. Papandreou's 1981 campaign touched on a number of pending issues: social equality, a national health system, women's rights, separation of church and state, democratization of the public sector, a radical restructuring of the economy, promotion of national sovereignty, and the removal of American bases from Greek soil. On 18 October 1981, PASOK become the ruling party, and the Greeks had high expectations for the former Berkeley professor. The U.S. government did not see the Papandreou success as a positive development. According to former State Department official Matthew Nimetz:

The Greek "Socialist" party was different and raised concerns among those who believe that Greece is an important member of the Western community. PASOK's leader, Andreas Papandreou, an American-educated economist, fought the election on a political platform that promised the removal of U.S. bases from Greek soil, withdrawal from [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization], a referendum to decide whether Greece should remain a member of the European Community, and a vague promise of a "third road to socialism." 2

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan was not fond of anything related to or resembling socialism. In the 1980s, there was no prospect for improvement [End Page 111] in Greek-American relations, as Reagan and Papandreou represented two different worlds. But, Papandreou did not keep his campaign promises; Greece remained a faithful NATO ally. A few years later, Papandreou renewed the leases for the U.S. bases and decided to retain Greece's membership in the European Community (EC). Papandreou's political behavior displayed the same contradictory trend in other arenas.

In the realm of domestic policies, Papandreou initiated several legislative changes. The University of Maryland economist Theodore Kariotis has outlined the most important of them:



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