- Children of the Dictatorship: Student Resistance, Cultural Politics, and the “Long 1960s” in Greece by Kostis Kornetis
Kostis Kornetis’s long-anticipated book offers a genealogical examination of the student movement that confronted the Greek military regime of 1967–1974. This is the first systematic study presented in English by a nonparticipant of the events, state policies, and youth cultures that lead to the 1973 Polytechnic occupations in Athens and Thessaloniki. As the author explains in the introduction, his intention is to consider student mobilization in the early 1970s and the various ways in which political change was demanded at the time. He argues that, first, certain subjects of contestation constituted an “avant-garde” both at the level of action and at the level of self-perception, and, second, the movement in question needs to be studied in the larger context of ’68 movements. [End Page 198]
Who are the students on whom Kornetis focuses? They form a very specific yet diverse, fragmented group. The author delineates a generation Z, “conditioned by the past” and mostly comprising the Lambrakides (born between 1944 and 1949 and decisively shaped by MP Grigoris Lambrakis’s 1963 assassination), and a subsequent Polytechnic Generation (born between 1949 and 1954). At this juncture an important clarification needs to be made. When the author refers to a “Polytechnic Generation,” he does not mean all persons born within its temporal borders. Rather he focuses on members of various organizations who clearly differentiated themselves from the student majority in actively opposing the colonels’ regime. As he says, “Although the ostensible focus of the study is on protagonists of contestation, this is not to suggest that the Polytechnic Generation dominated student circles during these years. Its members were rather a strict minority, while the vast majority of students remained indifferent” (4). It is these antiregime students’ “action repertoire” (such as circulating pamphlets and banned music records, viewing films and attending plays, reappropriating tradition through music and fashion, and occupying university buildings) that Kornetis examines over five chapters. In the course of this examination, he considers issues such as the country’s socioeconomic and political situation in the 1960s, the military regime’s ideology, the Cold War, receptions of May ’68, student resistance in France and Italy, the poetics of Dionysis Savvopoulos, subversive usages of folklore, neo-Marxism and the New Left, fashion semantics, rock music, auteur cinema, experimental theater, and the Vietnam War.
To give a broad outline, the first chapter discusses the changes that Greek society and its progressive youth underwent in the 1960s through a focus on the ideology and practices of the Lambrakides. The following chapter tackles the colonels’ takeover, the junta’s university policies, Greek students abroad, resistance groupings, and the gradual radicalization of segments of the student body. Chapters 3 and 4 describe the coming of age of the Polytechnic Generation and its cultural cosmology, while the final chapter chronicles the student revolt during 1973 that reached its climax in the Polytechnic occupations in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Fundamental to the book is Kornetis’s decision to consider student dissidence through the prism of the “long 1960s,” understood to commence in 1958 and continue until the oil crisis of 1974, and to center on the events of 1968. For Kornetis the projection of the concept of “the long 1960s” onto Greek history facilitates the transcendence of mainstream periodizations (namely 1967–1974) and thus a consideration of the military regime not merely as a sudden rupture but also as a continuation of certain political cultures, ideologies, and practices (for example, elite fears of the Lambrakides, communistophobia, national mindedness, and the displacement of “dangerous citizens” to remote islands for political rehabilitation). Moreover the long 1960s allows Kornetis to place particular emphasis on “cultural transfer” (the dynamic flows of cultural products) as a means of understanding the cosmology and poetics of the Polytechnic Generation.
While it is difficult to argue with the claim that a consideration of continuities is equally important as one of ruptures in...