ATHENS – A one-time hero of Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, famed composer Mikis Theodorakis is now being castigated by the party for speaking at a massive rally to oppose the planned giveaway of the name Macedonia – an ancient Greek province – to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Theodorakis, imprisoned by the right-wing military junta of Colonels who ruled Greece from 1967-74 and banned his music, has turned on SYRIZA and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for breaking promises to reverse austerity measures and surrendering to the country’s Capitalist lenders.
After previously mocking Tsipras for not speaking up until going to the funeral of Fidel Castro in Cuba, Theodorakis, 92, took to a stage in Greece’s capital in his wheelchair to deliver a fiery if subtle denunciation of the government for the Macedonia name giveaway and was immediately blasted in return.
“If we give in, we are leaving the doors wide open for a tragic historical lie to come through and stay forever,” he told a crowd of more than 100,000 in Syntagma Square on Feb. 4, two weeks after a similar rally in Thessaloniki failed to move SYRIZA from its stance.
“There is only one Macedonia,” he added. “It is, was and will always be Greek.” That came not long after his home was vandalized with paint stating he was taking part in “patriotic riff raff” and should not have opposed SYRIZA.
In comments to state television, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos accused Theodorakis of “shifting to bigoted and politically extreme positions,” without noting Tsipras had reneged on is promises and, said critics, betrayed Leftists principles so much that a leading French Leftist demanded Tsipras be removed from the European Left party.
“I don’t believe it was the right choice to speak as he did at the rally,” Tzanakopoulos said, adding that he was not sure whether Theodorakis’ reference to “left-wing fascism” also referred to himself and his past, a curious contradiction by the government, none of whose members went to prison to oppose a right-wing junta.
Tzanakopoulos also tried to tie Theodorakis to the ultra-right extremist Golden Dawn party, accused of neo-Nazi ideologies, which opposes the name giveaway and branded the government as “traitors” for doing so.
Tzanakopoulos charged that Theodorakis’ shift, as he claimed, to “positions that are intolerant and politically extreme is a sad development.”
The office of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, the leading force behind the plan to give Macedonia away, earlier had also done the same in linking the Church of Greece to Golden Dawn in also opposing the plan.
Alternate Environment Minister Socrates Famellos said the speech by Theodorakis was a “negative moment” in the country’s history. “Obviously I don’t agree with any part of his speech,” he said.
Famellos said that Theodorakis’s presence at a rally attended by extreme-rightists “legitimates far-right rhetoric,” although SYRIZA’s coalition partner is the far-right, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos – who also opposes the name giveaway.
Leftist SYRIZA’s spokesman Christos Mantas told Real FM that he felt very “bitter” about the speech and that “a person who has struggled for the Left, struggled against fascism… became a symbol for people who I imagine he does not agree politically with at all,” without noting SYRIZA had given up its struggle for a Leftist revolution across Europe that Tsipras promised to bring after he was elected in January, 2015.
Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who, like SYRIZA is anti-nationalist and even wants to honor Ataturk, Turkey’s leader during a time when thousands of Greeks were slaughtered in Asia Minor, told SKAI TV that he thought Theodorakis’s speech was “incendiary,” and added: “I don’t believe he should have been there,” so speak.
The major rival New Democracy, with big leads in polls after Tsipras broke his word on anti-austerity promises, has called for a unified front by the government but still hasn’t said whether it opposes the Macedonia name giveaway.
The Conservatives are led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose late father was the Premier who allowed the use of the word Macedonia for Greece’s new northern neighbor when it broke away from the collapsing Yugoslavia and former Premier and then-New Democracy leader Constantine Karamanlis also agreed to let FYROM keep Macedonia, with a qualifier.