30. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State 1
8327. Subject: Greek Political Leadership—Andreas Papandreou.
Summary. In the 1974 Greek election Andreas Papandreou sustained deep and perhaps even mortal political wounds. With about 14% of the vote going for him, Papandreou would have a tolerable showing except for the fact that much of the balance of 86% of the vote was self-consciously cast against him.2 Papandreou’s frenzy in the final week of the campaign had the negative effect of driving undecided middle class voters toward Caramanlis. In the campaign, Papandreou tried to create the impression that he was the main alternative not only to Caramanlis, but to the political and social traditions of Greece itself. His defeat showed how unwilling the Greek people were to accept his vision of a socialist, nonaligned Greece, outlined as it was in the lurid language of class warfare and conspiracy.
Papandreou has the immediate task before him of sustaining his financing, his charisma and his liver. At the age of 56—and his father was 76 when he last won the premiership—he would appear still to have prospects, though, in view of his own weaknesses, not very bright ones. He first has to deal with the personal problems of his ambivalent personality, cope with the political and psychic drag of his American roots, and come up with a program to attract more middle class support. He is not likely to get good counsel either from the Left or Center, which resent the fact that his votes largely came out of their flanks, nor from his parliamentary base which at a dozen deputies is too small to discipline his dominant personality. End Summary.
Papandreou or simply “Andreas” as he is called by friend and enemy alike, has sounded his anti-American theme since 1964 with a brashness that strikes many as uncharitable if not psychotic. From US he gained his higher education (Harvard Ph.D. 1943), his wife, Margaret, his reputation earned at Minnesota, Northwestern and Berkeley, [Page 118] as a brilliant economist, and four children with dual citizenship. In 1967 the intervention of President Johnson freed Papandreou from junta imprisonment and possibly saved him from death. There are a number of alumni of the American Embassy who recall that Andreas and Margaret were charming and positive personalities on the Athens scene in the interim years 1959–63 when Papandreou was trying to determine his national identity and his political fortune. They also recall the tension that existed between Andreas and his father over the “Americanness” of his wife and children, and his own efforts, against his father’s wishes, to preserve his American citizenship. Even at the present advanced stage of his professional anti-Americanism, Papandreou is the only Greek politician who travels with American friends—the California liberals, Stanley and Betty Sheinbaum, and the economist Paul Sweazey, returned with Papandreou to help launch his campaign in Greece.
Papandreou has given back to America his citizenship which he voluntarily renounced early in 1964 on the eve of first standing for elected office in Greece. At the recent campaign rallies, his wife stood beside him, smiling benignly as cheerleaders led the “Out Americans” chanting. Even Greeks most critical of the United States and American foreign policy found this hard to understand or to condone. For those who view him as shamefully ungrateful to his adopted land, there is, possibly, sweet irony in the common accusation made even today, from the Extreme Right and Left, and all Greek humorists, that he is a lifelong CIA double agent.
After Ioannides and Papadopoulos, Andreas Papandreou is probably the most disliked Greek around. Some of this hostility against him is a judgment not on Andreas but on his critics—their envy, jealousy, sense of personal betrayal, frustrated opportunism, ego drives—the usual complex of rages that attend and undermine all leading Greek politicians. But the national antipathy goes deeper than the merely petty. Evangelos Averoff-Tossitsas, whom most consider a gentleman and a moderate, not too long ago told the American Ambassador, “Andreas is the only man alive who I would kill with my own hands. He is neither a Greek nor a human being.” There is a consensus among the politically thoughtful that Andreas’ own degree of opportunism and his tendency to personalize issues strain even the liberal perimeters of Greek political invective. His socialism is viewed by many liberals not as a sincerely held and carefully reasoned philosophy of government but as an expedient strategy which tomorrow could be traded for communism, personal authoritarianism, or some other tactical facade for self-advancement. His susceptibility to the latest gossip, rumor, and personal flattery is perhaps inordinate even by Greek standards.
4. Papandreou’s personal following—and he has as fanatical supporters as any Greek alive—is based on certain achievements—real or [Page 119] symbolic—in addition to the charisma of the name and the dextrous exploitation of popular resentments. He is genuinely admired, as he is feared, because he threatens the Establishment, notwithstanding his own roots in it and his personal proclivity for a luxurious standard of living. In the early nineteen sixties he was among the first in Greece to challenge the outmoded educational system and the economic distribution of wealth—again with his American experience more than true Marxism in the foreground of this thought. It is debated whether the economic boom of the junta years is more attributable to Andreas’ blueprints for economic advance, which the junta largely inherited, or to Karamanlis’ and even Markezinis’ earlier achievements in the superstructure, but Andreas indisputably brought to Greece a professional talent for theoretical analysis and organization that was novel and needed. He was an early advocate of reorganizing the old-fashioned political party organizations, and his new group, PASOK, has shown some success in realizing progressive ideas and techniques of party work. Papandreou has shown certain personal strengths in the brief campaign just ended. He is not an innately great orator, as was his father, but then neither are the other national figures. In his rallies, he successfully established rapport with the crowd, which made his speeches more exciting and more dangerous than those of the other national figures. Under the right circumstances, Papandreou will say anything. On television and in smaller gatherings, he is particularly convincing and personable. He appears to have energy and made more campaign appearances than any other national candidate, even though he is supposed to have a weak liver derived from a too great fondness for Scotch over the years. In the early 1960’s, Papandreou was the hero of the radical youth, but during the years of exile he lost some of his appeal by being exclusively a propagandist, not a resistance fighter. The rapid growth of the PASOK youth since his August 1974 return to Greece suggests he has worked effectively to reestablish his bona fides as a radical leader. At the same time, he tried to moderate in the early weeks of his return his more extreme slogans so as not to get too far in advance of the greatly enlarged middle and lower middle class. In the closing stages of his campaign, this reserve was abandoned, however, in favor of extreme attacks against Caramanlis and the old Center. Although the campaign was not based on issues, Papandreou went as far as any candidate in trying to focus public attention on knotty economic issues such as the Common Market. His vehement anti-Establishment views even had an echo among juntist apologists, one of whom said, “What Greece needs is an Andreas Papandreou committed to the West.”
- It is the matter of his uncertain political commitments and loyalties, not to mention his chameleon-like proclivities, that constitute the great divide between Papandreou and the public trust which he [Page 120] lacks. Perhaps he will never be able to win that trust because he did, in fact, spend the first twenty-two years of his adult life in an alien land and still sees Greece through American eyes. In fact, Andreas has perhaps put his fortunes in an impossible squeeze. He is the expatriate whose repeated thunderings against his adopted land only serve to underscore his ambiguous loyalties; and he is the ever aging politician committed to wooing the young vote. The results of the November 17 election suggest that he has become a political exile in his own country.
- Source: National Archives, RG 84, Athens Embassy Files: Lot 78 F 134, Box 40, POL 15 GOVT 1974, July–December. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Ankara, Bonn, London, Nicosia, Ottawa, Stockholm, The Hague, USNATO, USUN, and Thessaloniki. Drafted by Gene Preston and Monteagle Stearns, who also approved, and cleared by Elizabeth Brown.↩
- In telegram 8304 from Athens, November 20, the Embassy reported the final election results: New Democracy (Karamanlis) 54.37 percent; Center Union (Mavros) 20.42 percent; PASOK (Papandreou) 13.58 percent; and United Left 9.45 percent. The remaining 2.18 percent did not receive enough votes for a seat in Parliament. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974)↩
- The Ambassador initialed next to his typed signature.↩