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Mikis Theodorakis speaks of “left-wing fascism” and gets new surreal friends

The Macedonia protest on Sunday showed the real surrealism in a deeply-divided and often ignorant Greek society. There was the clergy that did whatever it could to destroy the ancient Greek world and religion defending Alexander the Great. There was the once legendary hero of the Greek Left Mikis Theodorakis hand in hand with those who persecuted him and tortured him during the military junta, who banned his music and hated his songs as much as they hated communism and everyone who did not follow the Junta dogma “Homeland – Religion – Family.”.

There was Mikis Theodorakis, who shaped the cultural heritage for decades with his anti-fascist and anti-Nazi song as key note speak of a nationalist rally.

The ailing 92-year-old addressed protesters sitting in his wheelchair, speaking of “left-wing fascism” in the name of  “Macedonia was, is and will remain Greek.” And there were the loud speakers playing his music and his songs with lyrics like ” this soil is theirs and ours.”

I don’t know whether non-Greeks and non-Greek speaking foreigners can feel the absurdity of what was taking place on the stage installed at Syntagma Square in the first hour of the Macedonia protest in Athens.

Did the organizers have Macedonia and FYROM in mind when they had played the song “Keep silent, the bells will ring soon!”? I have no idea. Probably the choice was in the context of a shallow and superficial approach to great and meaningful lyrics written by legendary poet Yannis Ritsos who praised the Greek resistance against fascism.

Among the crowd that cheered Theodorakis “patriotic” speech were members of neo-nazis of  Golden Dawn and far-right descendants of notorious junta torturers who tortured Mikis while he was imprisoned in the island of Makronisos. Segments of society who always hated his songs – symbols of freedom and struggle for whole generations of Greek democrats.

With a trembling voice, Theodorakis started his speech saying addressing the crowd.

“My brothers, fascists, racists, nazis, anarchists, terrorists, thugs” he said and a shower run down the backs of millions of  Greeks. The far-right was pleased to hear Theodorakis public declaration of repentance. What torture, persecution, imprisonment and exile had not managed, it was “Macedonia” that did it. The democrats and left-wing were simply shocked.

In his introduction, Theodorakis may have wanted to emphasize a sarcasm or send a signal that “Macedonia united” hundreds of thousands of  concerned Greeks.  But he failed. He failed because exactly these “racists, nazis and fascists” were present in front of the speakers’ stage and applauded him. And the left-wing was absent.

Right after the first sentence of his speech, Mikis poured more oil into the fire. “I am a patriot, an internationalist, and I am battling the fascism and its most dangerous form, the left-wing fascism.”

Shower run against down the Greeks’ backs. The far-right was pleased to hear Theodorakis public declaration of repentance. What torture, persecution, imprisonment and exile had not managed, it was “Macedonia” that did it. The democrats and left-wing were simply shocked.

With one single sentence Mikis erased decades of his own past, his struggle against the military junta, his years in exile, the pain of his own family. With a few words he nullified the great solidarity movement launched by important international political and intellectual personalities of the times struggling for his freedom, appealing to the junta colonels to release him form prison.

He rolled over his own and the country’s history like the army tank rolled over the students in Polytechnic School uprising in 1973. Note; they were playing his songs although his music was banned.

Mikis and every Mikis ownership of every right to exorcise his own past in front of nationalists. But insult a whole country? No.

As if finding a compromise in the name dispute equals with the “treason” the junta colonels claimed towards everyone who did not follow them: supporters of the political center, the modest right- and the left-wing, the communists, the democrats.

At the age of 92, Mikis Thodorakis has the right to abandon his old friends/”comrades” and  choose his new friends if he believes this is the only way to defend “Macedonia is Greek.” He did it and it worked.

The spokesman of Golden Dawn praised him tweeting Mikis political path “ends together with patriots and nationalists. We forgive his previous somersaults”.  The son of a notorious junta torturer who tortured also Theodorakis in Makronisos tweeted “Mikis speech is like I hear my father speaking  about Macedonia in Makronissos.”

Of course, the Macedonia name dispute rose in 1991 and it was non-existing in 1967-1968. But hey, it was the communist Tito in neighboring Yugoslavia threatening the Greek “communist-eaters”… . Whether Macedonia was an issue or it wasn’t back then, these are the fine details in the history of confused minds who claim to be better patriots than the other ones.

Several SYRIZA officials criticized Theodorakis with spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos saying  “Theodorakis’ bigot and politically extreme positions are a sad development.

Mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris said “Theodorakis is a legend, but he made a mistake.”

The daughter of poet Yannis Ritsos was annoyed to hear her father’s poems/lyrics during the rally. “My father wrote Romiosini during the Greek civil war 1945-1947 and is an heroic praise for the Resistance of the Greek people against the Nazis.”  She wrote that Theodorakis wrote the music to the poem “within hours when he came with the blood dripping after he and other left-wings were beaten by the police on the Blessing the Waters day in 1966.”

Several internet users dug up in Mikis’ past and found a concert he gave in Skopje in 1997 to honor famous ” Zorba the Greek” who died and buried there in 1941. Theodorakis has written the music for the film around the Zorba’s life and attitude.

In 1997, Mikis Theodorakis gave a concert in the city of Skopke), where Zorba the Greek died in 1941 and is buried. Back then, he said it was a problem that Fyrom seeks the “exclusive” use of the name “Macedonia”. What changed in the meantime?, wrote someone

“It’s senility” the most tolerant Greeks commented on social media showing still a little respect to the old legend. They blamed his family for dragging him to such an event.

Mauthausen (lyrics Iakovos Kampanellis),  Canto General (Pablo Neruda), Axion Esti (Odysseas Elytis), Romiosini, Epitaphios (Yannis Ritsos), Z & Lambrakis (director Costas Gavras)…

It must have being another Mikis Theodorakis who got inspired by the texts for those he called on Sunday “left-wing fascists” and “nation-nihilists.”

Somebody wrote on Twitter: “All Theosorakis’ songs are now hiding and cry silently.”

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  1. my, my, can we please get past brand names and forget this ridiculous left-right obsession? these people who call themselves left certainly _behave_ like fascists. Instaed of the meaningless left-right division, which is about as meaningful as coke versus pepsi, how about freedom versus power-drunk, corrupt state?
    these people who use this left=good right=bad brand name type of reasoning are the ones who win the prize for surrealism. Exactly the same words, exactly the same _actions_, if perpetrated by someone they don’t like, are ‘fascist’ or ‘racist’, whereas if perpetrated by people they like, are ‘diverse’ or ‘progressive’. This is pure hypocrisy and doublethink.
    of course the same people would condemn objective judgement to also be ‘hate’ , and suppress it as much as they could.

  2. Thank you Anon, my feelings exactly. The left-right paradigm has long crumbled to dust, along with our old context. All of it…dust.

  3. costa sakellariou

    and i’m sure the ritsos lyrics were ” this land is theirs and ours”…were people really too dim to see the irony? very glad that you made the extra effort to point out the greek-american connection in an earlier posting. for the most part, they are conservative, bigoted and organize themselves around the church.

    as far as the other commenter here, while i sympathize with the need to get on change, i cannot help but think that this is someone who has not really lived through the torturous history of modern greece…and how much pain it causes many people to see theodorakis appear at a jingoist rally. the left-right thing in greece is blood drenched, and unfortunately – the country has never dealt with the damage caused by the civil war, or the harsh years that followed it. no ‘truth commission’ ever cleared the air. and today, we are seeing all the sickness that never was exorcised coming back with a vengeance…

  4. Excellent op-ed.