Andreas Papandreou’s PASOK victory in 1981 marked the beginning of the first so called socialist government in Greece.
The promises made by the new government were many: power to be decentralized to the local level, heavy industry, nationalized, social services improved, and corruption (including the ubiquitous custom of bribery) ended, and bureaucracy made more efficient, closing of US bases and withdrawal from NATO and the EC.
The party was to be anti-authoritarian (unlike its predecessors), based on principles and ideology rather than on the power of charismatic leaders. Things started well.
ELAS received recognition and permission to participate in ceremonies to do with the Resistance in the war. Women’s rights were furthered with the legal abolition of the dowry system, civil weddings, divorce, and abortion legalized, and village women given pensions equal to those of their husbands. Family law was amended in favor of wives and mothers.
But NATO and the US bases remained after seven years (though with some reduction of the US military), unemployment was high and welfare and education reforms unimpressive.
The shipping industry was in terrible straits due to the world recession, this industry heretofore the main provider of foreign currency, and foreign remittances from emigrant workers dropped severely due to unemployment abroad.
The warning to tourists to stay away from the Athens airport because of potential terrorist related danger, didn’t help matters economically. Domestic production was totally unequal to imports and the foreign debt was huge.
During Papadreou’s second term, achieved with a smaller margin than the first one, PASOK initiated a two year wage freeze and restrictions on imports, devalued the drachma and did away with the wage indexing program.
It was the European Community which saved the day, offering a loan, to be delivered in two stages, and conditional on an austerity programme. These moves, along with the soliciting of foreign investment, soured both the Communists and even the inner circle of PASOK.
Dissent was met with the firing of trade union leaders and the expulsion of three hundred members of his own party by Papandreou, actions quite contrary to the socialists principles he had espoused so strongly, and strikes multiplied.
Nea Dimokratia won the mayoralties in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patra, Greece’s three chief large cities. After that, with changes in cabinet makers that included none of the old PASOK contingent, all pretenses to socialism were gone.