4th of August Party
The 4th of August Party (Greek: Κόμμα 4ης Αυγούστου, Komma 4is Avgoustou, Κ4Α) was a radical Greek nationalist political party, founded in July 1965 by a group of young nationalists and led by Konstantinos Plevris. It was named after and inspired by the 4th of August Regime of Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas.
The 4th of August Party emerged during the postwar period and belonged to the revolutionary current of nationalist thinking of that time that opposed both major forces of the Cold War and sought a “third path” beyond capitalism and communism. The political party was made up of members that belonged to, and have been considered to represent, the radical nationalist movement, such as Konstantinos Plevris and Dimitrios Dimopoulos.
The party was described as being made up of idealistic youths that “sought a truly revolutionary proposal of life and believed in higher values and ideas, having lived through the degeneracy and counter-culture of Western capitalism, while recognizing the tyranny and ideological bankruptcy of communism”. In addition to opposing communism and capitalism, the party also rejected liberal democracy and parliamentarianism, which were deemed as unstable and degenerate political systems.
Instead, the 4th of August Party advocated and worked toward the formation of a New National State. The form this new state would take was declared by the party’s emblem: a double-headed eagle resting above a meander. The double-headed eagle symbolized the Eastern Roman Empire while the meander symbolized ancient Greece as well as the synthesis of thought and action. The 4th of August Party had inherited from its namesake, the 4th of August regime of Ioannis Metaxas, the task of furthering the ideal of the Third Hellenic Civilization: a new state which would draw inspiration from the very best elements of classical and medieval Hellenism and, in the process, create a new Greek epoch.
Internally, the 4th of August Party was structured on a military model and members were required to abide by a strict code of conduct in public as well as in their private lives. Since all supporters and sympathizers of the party could not be expected to follow the same strict discipline of full members, the party created subsidiary organizations to facilitate these individuals. However, members of the party's youth movement were expected to abide by the party’s code of conduct, earning them a reputation for “military discipline”.
The origins of the 4th of August Party trace back to the late 1950s student nationalist movement. The close interaction of various groups possessing both a national and social character, such as Auspicious Young People (Greek: Ελπιδοφόροι Νέοι) and Neo-Hellenic Movement (Greek: Νεοελληνικόν Κίνημα), brought together individuals who would play a major role in the formation and ideology of the 4th of August Party. In this way, the political circle of Konstantinos Plevris, Spyros Stavropoulos, and Fanariotis was introduced to the circle of Dimitrios Dimopoulos and Passadelis and the two united their forces in a joint effort. In the Spring of 1964 in a restaurant in Fokionos Negri the decision was made to create a broad nationalist front under the name of the "4th of August Party". In July 1965 the 4th of August Party was formally created. Konstantinos Plevris was chosen as its leader while, among others, Dimopoulos, Andreas Dendrinos, Spyridon Manolopoulos, N. Vasilopoulos, and Telemachos Kombis held administrative positions.
The Party's Height: 1965-1967
Immediately following the party's formation a period of intense activity began, especially amongst the Greek youth. Within six months of the party's formation it had established offices in 14 cities and combatant cells in even more cities. On 1 August 1965 the first issue of the party's bi-monthly newspaper "4th of August" was published under Dimopoulos as its editor. While the party's offices continued to expand to other areas of Greece the city of Thessaloniki stood out as a strong power base, particularly among university students. The party's youth movement, Student National Vanguard (Greek: Φοιτητική Εθνική Πρωτοπορία), dominated the 1966 student elections of the University of Thessaloniki. By 1967 the party was publishing literature (e.g., books, magazines, pamphlets, posters, etc.), holding events (e.g., marches, speeches, lectures, symposiums, galas, dinners, etc.), and creating organizations to work in conjunction with the party. Aside from the Student National Vanguard, these also included Scholastic Nationalist Movement (Greek: Μαθητικό Εθνικιστικό Κίνημα), Union of Friends of the 4th of August Party (Greek: Ένωση Φίλων Κ4Α), and a trade union. It is notable that prefects and mayors were counted among the ranks of the Union of Friends of the 4th of August. The party also had a close relationship with Konstantinos Maniadakis, a personal friend and confidant of Ioannis Metaxas as well as the Minister of Security of the 4th of August government.
The 4th of August Party enjoyed international relations with numerous nationalist political parties and governments around the world, as far away as Japan. The party had an especially close relationship with the Italian nationalist movement. As a result, a nationalist student organization called National Association of Hellenic Students of Italy (Greek: Εθνικός Σύνδεσμος Ελλήνων Σπουδαστών Ιταλίας or Ε.Σ.Ε.Σ.Ι.) headed by Spiros Stathopoulos (a member of Union of Friends of the 4th of August Party), which had a close working relationship with the Italian Social Movement (Italian: Movimento Sociale Italiano), was formed in Italy for Greek university students enrolled in Italian universities. The 4th of August Party also cultivated friendly relations with Colonel al-Gathafi’s Libya. Regarding Europe, the party believed in a united nationalist Europe (i.e. a Europe of sovereign, nationalist states united in cause and living in harmony with one another), which at the time was an original idea.
Relation with the military government of 1967-1974
Though the advent of the military government on 21 April 1967 was initially welcomed by a number of members of the 4th of August Party, the relationship would prove to be very shaky and, at times, quite turbulent as a result of serious ideological differences between the radical 4th of August Party and the rightist 21 April regime. Immediately after the Colonels came to power the 4th of August Party, along with all other parties, was forced to disband by the government. In addition, the 4th of August Party's newspaper was censored by the junta, a fact that caused a considerable amount of indignation within the ranks of the then-defunct party. However, since the junta seemed to profess nationalist values, the party believed that it could transform the 21 April regime from reactionary right-wing military dictatorship to something more akin to Ioannis Metaxas' 4th of August regime and, ultimately, to a manifestation of the envisioned Third Hellenic Civilization ideal. As such, a number of high-ranking party officials such as Plevris and Dimopoulos accepted positions within the government and set this pursuit as their chief goal.
The junta's opinion of the 4th of August Party was deeply divided and a source of constant strife. Some junta government officials—such as Konstantinos Aslanidis, Ioannis Ladas, Antonios Mexis, and Patilis—welcomed officials from the party into the new government while others were vigorously opposed on ideological grounds. This latter group, who believed in gradual democratization and capitalism, characterized their radical anti-capitalist and anti-democratic ideas as "extreme" and "fascistic" and, consequently, did what they could to neutralize the party's influence in directing the regime towards a more radical course. Ultimately, this faction won out and the junta actively began the political persecution of 4th of August members. During May 1974, after the counter-coup had placed Ioannides in charge of the junta, many members of the 4th of August Party, including significant figures such as Plevris and Dendrinos, were arrested and imprisoned.
Post-Junta Period and the end of the party
After the collapse of the junta, Plevris and all of the other imprisoned 4th of August Party members were initially released in July as part of the general amnesty. The 4th of August Party was then reinstated in its second organizational phase and attempted to continue its pre-junta activities. However, the new liberal democratic regime of Karamanlis not only continued but intensified the political persecution of the 4th of August Party (and nationalists in general) that had begun during the junta period. During this period, there were allegations of state-sponsored persecution against 4th of August Party members which included police illegally entering and searching their homes, allegedly groundlessly arresting them, police allegedly overlooking para-state terrorism directed against the 4th of August Party, alleged police frame-ups of members of the party, and even alleged judicial bias directed against the party. In addition, Plevris and other leading figures of the party were arrested and detained; this led to the 12-year imprisonment of Aristotelis Kalentzis for terrorist activities (causing explosions, possession of explosives); Plevris himself was cleared, causing Kalentzis to launch a polemic against him, accusing him of being a para-state agent that framed him. Under such an atmosphere, the party could no longer function and a decision was made to suspend its activity in 1977. The final issue of the party's newspaper circulated in October of that year.
The 4th of August Party had a tremendous impact on the course of future nationalist parties and the contemporary state of Greek nationalism. The party's major contribution was that it gave contemporary Greek nationalism its ideological direction by drawing it away from both the political right and political left. While left-wing nationalism and right-wing nationalism are both very much alive in contemporary Greece and manifest through political parties, newspapers and magazines, and organizations, the transcendent nationalist ideology of the 4th of August Party has not only influenced those two camps to one degree or another but, moreover and far more significantly, is chiefly responsible for influencing the various strains of contemporary radical or revolutionary nationalism. In addition, most anti-junta sentiments among nationalists are based on the premise that the 21 April regime first halted and then destroyed the 4th of August Party’s ascendant course, something the party never recovered from. While many political factions have, over the years, aspired for the same unprecedented growth, popularity, and widespread appeal of the 4th of August Party (especially in regards to galvanizing the youth), none have ever achieved such success, even when such parties in question have achieved parliamentary representation.
- Vaggelis Haniotis. "4th of August Party, 1965-1977", Patria, October 2007, page 30.
- Dimitrios Dimopoulos died, 20 June 2007
- Vaggelis Haniotis. "4th of August Party, 1965-1977", Patria, October 2007, page 32.
- Vaggelis Haniotis. "4th of August Party, 1965-1977", Patria, October 2007, page 33.
- Vaggelis Haniotis. "4th of August Party, 1965-1977", Patria, October 2007, page 31.
- Spyridon Manolopoulos died, 26 June 2006
- Η κατασκευή του χαφιέ - β Eleftherotypia, 23 June 1996