Greek Urban Warriors - Resistance and Terrorism, 1967-2014

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Lost in all the attention being paid to the battle against terrorism is the fact that Greece has been in the forefront of that struggle for some fifty years. As John Brady Kiesling writes in GREEK URBAN WARRIORS–RESISTANCE AND TERRORISM, violence as a means of political expression dates back to the 1967 military takeover in Greece, when a handful of dissidents attempted to undermine the dictatorship with a series of “small, basically symbolic explosions in Athens. The four deaths the bombers caused, all unintended, were minor tragedies compared to the harm the dictators inflicted upon the Greek people, but they were tragedies nonetheless.”

Kiesling, a former political officer at the U.S. Embassy (he resigned the job in protest over the Iraq War), has devoted a large part of his life to the study of Greek urban warfare, which erupted after the fall of the junta in 1974, when, as he puts it, “a far-left counterculture refused to be co-opted by a political process run by bourgeois politicians. A few figures from the radical left resistance joined forces to form Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), from which a tiny, more deadly rival group split off in 1975, Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N). 17N tried to inspire a broad ‘anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist’ insurgency by killing the CIA station chief in Athens in December 1975.

Politically, the murder of Richard Welch was a failure, since even fellow revolutionaries refused to understand it. 17N’s second murder, that of a notorious police torturer in 1976, elicited a warmer public response. By sheer persistence over a generation, 17N gradually achieved mythic status with a part of the Greek public.”

Kiesling’s 413-page book is a major, exhaustively-researched study of modern Greek terrorism. As the jacket copy states, “Not only has the author disentangled the lies and wishful thinking of Greek urban guerillas and the authorities pursuing them, he has attended the trials that put an end to 17N’s power, interviewed key participants, waded through masses of archival material, and used computer software and painstaking deduction to reconstruct the secret history of the Greek armed revolutionary movement.”

GREEK URBAN WARRIORS was published by Lycabettus Press, the English-language, Athens-based publishing house headed by John Chapple.