Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Could an Ecocide Law Actually Make Corporations Responsible?

It can sometimes seem to outsiders such as me, that when company board rooms discuss their responsibilities to society it must resemble the scene in The Godfather when the mafia boss, seeing that the family need to move with the times and start dealing drugs, decides to "keep it respectable" by not selling them outside schools or to their own people.

Not that Corporate Social Responsibility is useless. Almost by definition CSR is invisible when it works. It's difficult to Google the companies not linked to the Rana Plaza disaster, who are not implicated in paramilitary death squads or who are not in hand-to-hand conflict with either indigenous people or eco-warriors, but they do exist. Some of those just haven't been caught yet, but others may actually be doing good work.

Looking at the performance of CSR in general though it appears to me that there are more successes in the field of human rights than the environment. Why that should be is an interesting question.

When CSR works, and when it doesn't.


CSR claims to be a profession. However although it has some unique quirks, such as an impenetrable vocabulary and dizzying number of awards, it is not self regulating.  To work in CSR is to work for a corporation and to obey the corporate rules of  "buy low, sell high, keep your job".

CSR folk have to justify their every move, and even their daily existence, in terms of  profit it, which sounds a fairly soul-destroying way to earn a living.

That's why the unfortunate truth seems to be that no matter how much a corporation wants to 'be good', CSR only appears to work when the pull from inside is matched by a push from the outside.

When the alternative is the locals sabotaging your pipelines or occupying your plants, spreading a bit of peace and love amongst the natives before you build your oil refinery makes a bit of sense. When Greenpeace give you the sort of publicity you can do without by occupying the oil platform you're about to dump into the sea, you understand the wisdom of doing the environmental impact assessment first.

So why does the Human Rights 'push' work better than the environment one?

Possibly it's that the Amnesty Internationals of the world are much better at providing it than the Greenpeaces. Maybe, but having done work for both I'm not convinced.

Maybe child labour tugs at the heart strings of C-team execs better than oiled seabirds, although I doubt personal guilt has much to do with it.

What is a big factor, I'm sure, is the sheer scale of the change needed to become environmentally sustainable.

An oil company that wants to be a good neighbour just needs to spend a bit of more of its cash on community engagement, and bit less on death squads. What comes out of the ground afterwards is still oil. An oil company that wants to be green needs to go out of business and leave the stuff in the earth.

However I suspect the other big factor is that the Human Rights folk have the law on their side.

Corporations and Human Rights


Superficially it may seem rather odd that, nearly seventy years after it was agreed the we have a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whether it applies to corporations is even up for discussion.

The live issue though is not whether or not corporations should be allowed to kill people - most people agree they shouldn't - but how guilty you are if they only pay for the bullets, supply the Jeep that takes the assassin to the scene of the crime, know about the hit beforehand but don't act or merely make a tidy profit out of the victims demise. These distinctions may seem tricky to lay folk, but they are meat and drink to Human Rights lawyers.

The responsibility of politicians and the military in crimes against humanity was established at
Nuremberg after World War Two. Unfortunately the next round of trials, which put the leaders of German industry on trial for their complicity in genocide and use of slave labour, was affected by the Cold War. Alfred Krupp, whose company had used 100,000 slaves during the war was found guilty, but within three years he had been released from prison and was back in charge of the company. Other business leaders escaped prosecution completely.

As a result it was far from clear whether "we were only making a profit" really was as useful a defence as "we were only obeying orders" and it has taken a lot of time and effort to get to the present situation where we have a set of volunary principles.

Still, that's better than nothing.

International Companies, National Laws


But even where there is a real law, prosecuting multinational companies using national laws is as tricky business.

Global brands can suddenly turn out to be very local when the chips are down. When Union Carbide's Bhopal plant blew up and killed 14,000 people, and when Coca Cola's Columbia plant called in a right wing terrorist group to bump off a couple of troublesome unions guys, it suddenly turned out these were independent local operators and not part of the parent company.

Similarly, just like the Moonshine runners fleeing to the county line, Capital can escape across international borders where the law cannot follow. In Ecuador, the 'Chernobyl' of oil disasters, US oil company Texaco, now part of Chevron, used the country as its dustbin for twenty years. Rather than spend money cleaning up spilled oil, Texaco would just send it by truck into the jungle to be dumped. The result was over a thousand toxic pits scattered across the country.

All that time the profits flowed back to the USA, but when Harvard trained lawyer Steven Donzinger took up the case against Chevron in Texas, the US appeals court told him they didn't have jurisdiction and he'd have to go to Ecudor.

This he did, and remarkably Chevron were finally brought to book and fined $27 billion, but by then they had no assets left in the country. When Donzinger went back to the US and Canadian courts to get Chevron to pay up he was once again told the courts didn't have jurisdiction. Donzinger must now be the only Ivy League lawyer in the world poor enough to claim Social Security.

Even when there are no international borders, and the company is as guilty as a puppy sat next to a pile of poo, things aren't straightforward.  Take the Exxon Valdez disaster, in which a US ship owned by a US company fouled up a pristine part of the US because the Captain was drunk. Exxon spent 14 years fighting the case and eventually got the $5 billion damages reduced to $500 million. Did CEO Lee Raymond dip into his pocket to pay the fine? Of course not, it was paid by the company. In the world of the big corporation bosses get bonuses, but shareholders pay fines.

A Law on Ecocide


What needed, according to Scottish lawyer Polly Higgins, is a universal law aimed at making it a crime to trash the environment that is both universal and which uses the nice simple mechanism of strict liability when determining whether you are guilty or not.

Higgins says she was inspired by William Wilberforce, whose campaigning led to the abolition of slavery.

(Unfortunately for the analogy Mr Wilberforce was an arch-conservative and spent the rest of his days campaigning against giving workers the right to form Trade Unions and the emancipation of Catholics, whilst supporting the oppressive Combination Act and the suspension of habeas corpus. Oh well, another hero bites the dust.)

Although anti-corporate activists like me salivate at the thought of a law that sees CEOs being dragged away in chains, Higgins actually favours restorative justice. That is; you made the mess, you clear it up.

So how would, this work? Well, take Climate Change. At present some of the most profitable companies in the world are extracting a raw material that, when used, produces a gas that is destroying the world. Other industries, from power generation to cement production, are also locked into high carbon use. There are alternatives, from wind and solar power, to carbon capture and electric cement kilns, but they can't complete on cost with oil and coal whilst they are allowed to pollute for free.

A minimum carbon price would solve the problem, but that would effectively mean introducing a global tax on fossil fuels which would need to be introduced, at the same rate, in every country in the world. We just don't have a system of global governance that can do this.

An Ecocide Law, universal and up there with the big four international crimes against peace; genocide, crimes against humanity (such as torture and rape), war crimes and crimes of aggression, could be the answer.

Long tail risks


Corporations do not change because they believe "shareholder value now comes from delivering social value" or because they "recognized that business needs society as much as society needs business" or any of the other slogans that they spout today.  They may do lip service to the idea of a Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profit) but execs may themselves in hard cash, not good vibes.

Assessing short term risks to profits is what businesses are good at. But it is also why we are in this mess.

What we are currently very bad at is long term risks, especially - to deploy my most overused phrase of the moment - long tail risks. That is small risks of big problems, and they are responsible for almost all the disasters that get companies on TV.

Just as selling mortgages to people with no assets must have seemed a terrific wheeze to the banks, right up until the moment they crashed the entire economy, so not wasting time waiting for the supply ship to bring those extra centralisers probably seemed a really smart cost-cutting move for BP, right up until the moment the Deepwater Horizon exploded. Similarly saving a few dollars by moving production to Savar in Bangladesh probably seemed a good move by Benetton, until their labels started showing up in the ruins of Rana Plaza.

Rewarding short term risk taking before the long term effects have played themselves out is a bit like applauding the magician after he's sawed his assistant in two, but before you find out whether he can stick her back together again. If businesses can solve this little problem, and start to spot long term risks before they bite them on the bum, then even the idea of an Ecocide Law could be a huge wild card in the boardroom.

At present it may just be an idealistic lawyer's pipe dream, a risk of a risk, but there is the chance that somewhere down the line that this could become real. Looking into the crystal ball, seeing what harm we've done to the planet so far and what horrors await us if climate change is not stopped, seeing the angry people behind the compliant politicians, who can be sure that one day this law will not become a reality?

CSR to the rescue?


A mock trial in the UK Supreme Court three years ago suggested an Ecocide Law really could have legs.

If it does, crafting the case that pins the Ecocide on the C-suit will be the job of lawyers like Higgins. Getting them off the hook will be the job of the much better paid company legal team. But steering the company in a direction that ensures it never gets near the dock is the job of the CSR officer.

I know expecting you to believe lawyers can save us from the corporate psychopaths is a bit of big ask. I know expecting people who sit in the boardroom, and whose pay cheques depend on not rocking the boat, to save us is an even bigger one.

I wouldn't pack away the climbing harness and the D-lock just yet, but signing up to the campaign is quick and easy and, you never know, it may just work.

Eradicating Ecocide Global Initiative

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Stop TTIP or we're fracked

Trade deals are usually rather straightforward.

They are mechanisms by which rich, powerful nations get poor, weaker nations to open their borders to trade on their terms enriching the large corporations, a small elite and, if you're very lucky, a few in the middle as well whilst driving those at the bottom off the land and into the sweatshops.

However every now and again something comes along that's a little different.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a free trade deal between two trading blocks, Europe and the USA, neither or which are particularly poor and which have very few trade barriers.

So what's going on?

Regulator race to the bottom

What there is between Europe and the USA is a different of regulations. Europe has a lot of faults - an awful lot of faults - but they have been pretty good in passing laws that try to make the world fairer, safer and touch greener. Usually these rules were passed over the kicking and screaming objections of the British delegation, but passed they were.

So there is the Water Policy Framework, the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive, the REACH Directive on chemicals, the 2020 Climate Goals and so on and so on. You can be cynical - I frequently am - but you won't find an international body with anything better.

In the USA meanwhile they have, well, nothing much that is very effective.

So whilst negotiations over TTIP may take in the French subsidising their own film industry or the US ban on haggis, but I rather suspect the issue of environmental regulations will take up more time.

ISDS

So what happens if we get TTIP and a corporation takes exception to the EU objecting to the Genetically Modified growth hormones in its milk causing cancer or the pesticides sprayed on its fruit wiping out the bees?

The answer is that the affronted company seeks redress via the investor-to-state dispute settlement.

Now ISDSs do have a place in the world. They allow companies to do business in parts of the world where the rule of law is not the norm, as if the local warlord decides to nick the plant they will get compensation. However this is very unlikely to happen in Luxembourg or even, nowadays, in Leeds.

We live in a world in which governments have largely failed to regulate the activities of powerful corporations, but ISDSs go one better than this and actually allow corporations to sue governments.

What constitutes a 'dispute' is not defined, so anything that upsets the company is fair game, and being stopped from dumping your toxic crap wherever you want would do.

A Stitch Up?

So what happens when you get a dispute?

An ISDS is resolved by a panel of three people. That's not very many for such a big decsision, but it gets worse. One panel member is chosen by each side and the third by mutual agreement. Sounds fair enough, but wait.

Let's assume we win and the government bans fracking. A US based oil company objects and we get a ISDS. Who does the government pick? Well, not someone who opposes fracking anyway. If the government has been forced to do something it doesn't want to by those pesky voters the ISDS gives it a get out of jail free card. They can hold up their hands and say, don't blame us?

We can't very well prove it, but this sort of thing is rumoured to go on all the time. Environmentalists get a corporation to bring in less destructive practises, thereby threatening the bottom line of a useful party donor. Solution? Easy, just get some friendly corporation to call in an ISDS. Donor happy, party treasurer happy, environment fucked.

But surely that wouldn't happen here?

But surely only anti-capitalist conspiracy theorists believe any of this stuff will actually happen?

Well, the Canadian state of Quebec doesn't think that.

Quebec is a region of Canada that takes self government seriously, so when concerns arose about fracking under the St Lawrence river their parliament imposed a moratorium whilst they tried to figure out if this was safe. The experts didn't get a chance to submit their report though before the oil and gas company Lone Pine Resources Inc. landed them with a $250 million lawsuit.

They were using the ISDS mechanism of the North American Free Trade agreement. Pretty much
everyone agrees this is a bad thing, but the suit still stands. Nor is this case a one off. in 1997 Canada banned the chemical MMT as it a dangerous toxin. They were sued by Ethyl Corporation and the ban was reversed. The $13 million compensation payment was more than the annual Environment Canada budget for enforcement and compliance and the agency even issued a statement saying MMT was safe, which they almost certainly didn't believe.

You may not think of Canada as a poor county able to be bullied by corporation or its southern

neighbour, but that is what appears to be happening. If Canada can't stand up to NAFTA and the USA, who in Europe could?

My biggest fear for the anti-fracking movement used to be that we'd put in all the hard work trying to get fracking banned, only to find it wasn't commercially viable anyway. Now my main worry is that even if we get the government to listen to the people and ban fracking, TTIP will override democracy.

What would happen then is anyone's guess, but I suspect in that case Russell Brand would not be the only one calling for a revolution.

Stop TTIP

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Great Trees of England #4: King of Limbs

M Porter
As the Joshua Tree is in the USA, and the Porcupine Tree isn't real, I guess this is the only British tree with a rock album named after it.

Thom Yorke doesn't like the album being called 'experimental', but to my folk and metal attuned ears that's what it sounds like. A native of neighbouring Oxfordshire, he said he chose to name it after a tree over the border in Wiltshire as "environmental worries in my head have become this weird obsession."

King of Limbs is one of several 'significant' trees in the mighty Savernake forest. This wonderful place, on the edge of the almost equally wonderful town of Marlborough, is four and a half thousand acres of oak and beech forest. It is the only ancient woodland in England in which you can really lose yourself.

M Porter
There is history here. A Roman road crosses it, it is mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon document of 934AD, it was given away as war booty by William the Conqueror, Henry VIII met one of his father-in-law's here and in World War II it was an ammunition dump.

The forest is owned by the Earl of Cardigan, descendant of him of Light Brigade fame. In 1985 a convoy of New Age Travellers camped there before heading off the next day to their own Valley of Death in the Battle of the Beanfield.

This recent heritage sits lightly on the forest. Under the canopy of great trees I think of Roger Deacon's phrase that being in a forest is like being under the ocean, with the tops of the trees the surface. Immersed in this great inland sea of green it is just about possible to imagine a time when the trees really did stretch across this land from ocean to ocean.

Thanks to a smart little Forestry Commission run camp site you can stay virtually in the wood itself. If you are lucky to enjoy a clear night and a full moon then you can explore the forest by night and enter a truly magical world.

The sentinels of this night realm are the mighty oaks. All told there are close to a hundred important trees here. Indeed, it is thought that there is nowhere else in Europe you can find so many grand old veterans as in Savernake.

c. Zachariah Wildwood and Donald Twain.
According to local legend Merlin is buried next door in the grounds of Marlborough College. The Victorian designer and socialist William Morris was a pupil there and explored the woods in his spare time. Along with the other forests of his youth; Epping and the New Forest, the spirit of Savernake infused his writing.

In his later life, his socialist dreams in tatters and his marriage a sober ménage a trois with the Pre- Raphaelite painter and poet and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti, he escaped into a literary fantasy world. In The Wood Beyond The World the hero, betrayed by his wife, is haunted by the vision of beautiful woman who the hero eventually meets beyond a primeval forest.

M Porter
The quest for the King of Limbs is an enchanting walk across the length of the forest. On the way I
pass through the Arboretum and find myself rather incongruously standing next to a coastal redwood tree from California. I've campaigned to save these trees, but never expected to meet one in person.

Awesome though these foreigners are, they don't compare with the mighty oaks and beeches of the forest. The former outnumber the latter as they tend to fall over in storms. With wonderful names such as Spider Oak and Old Paunchy each old tree is a character in itself. To get to King of Limbs though I need to leave the broadleaf forest behind and enter the coniferous plantation that is the east of Savernak.

M Porter
Eventually the distintive profile of King of Limbs comes into sight through the fir trees. It is not the tallest or the largest tree in the forest, but it has the most dramatic profile, a great fan of limbs, and being set amongest short lived evergreens gives it the air of a venerable elder amongst juvenile trees. Like many of the older oaks it is also hollow, a place a to shelter from the English weather.

We are now on the edge of the forest and the real world of intensive mono-crops is starting to intrude. Just beyond the edge of the wood, in its own grounds, is Tottenham Court House, an "old country pile ... crumbling at the seams." where Radiohead recorded part of their album In Rainbows.

Perhaps Radiohead's music is not the first thing that comes to mind in Savernake Forest. Trad. instruments round the fire or the singing of distant harps would at first seem more appropriate,  but just as William Morris found an inspiration here that helped him transcend the ugliness of Victorian England and enter a proto-Middle Earth, the other-worldliness of these trees takes you to places in your imagination that you never expected to go, and that can include progressive indie rock.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Great Trees of England: #3 Major Oak

Why can't they just let the thing die?

Well, because it's a huge tourist attraction, one that draws visitors from all round the world to the centre of England. They overlook the decrepit, seventies visitors centre and head off into trees, imagining themselves back in Merrie England.

At the heart of what's left of Sherwood Forest is Major Oak, a geriatric old tree held up with scaffolding. You don't get many oak trees this large and this old still standing. Most fell over in the great storm of 1987 and, tragically, were subsequently chopped up and taken away. Tragic, because even a dead oak is still an amazing ecosystem. Major Oak, even if horizontal, would still be something amazing.

But surely even the most gullible tourist can't really believe that Robin Hood and Maid Marion really courted beneath its branches. This isn't a giant redwood, and even with the most optimistic dating the tree can't have been much more than an acorn when bad King John ruled the land.

Not that anyone really thought it did until relatively recently. It was originally 'The Major's oak', a reference to one Major Hayman Rooke, a Georgian antiquarian who went around cataloguing   significant oak trees and drew a picture of it. Tourists soon followed and before long the tree had an important role in the story of England's most famous outlaw.

However as well as having the wrong tree, they may even have been in the wrong part of the country. The first version of the story (c1420) has him in Cumbria and the next two in Barnsdale, Yorkshire. Medieval England was peppered with Robins and Hoods and the most promising candidates come from York and Northamptonshire, not Nottinghamshire. So the odds against the chap in green being a Notts Forest supporter look rather slim.

However there is hope. A 15th century manuscript in Lincoln Cathedral Library that mentions "Robyn hod in scherewood stod, Hodud and hathud, hosut and schod. Ffour and thuynti arowus he bar in hi hondus". This is pretty cryptic but translates as  "Robin Hood in Sherwood stood, Hooded and hatted, hosed and shod. Four and twenty arrows he bore In his hands", so here you have the man and his bow in the Sherwood Forest.

So there is a chance that the man himself was once here.

And even if he wasn't, other outlaws were. One Roger Godbeard, for example, had a price put on his head in 1270. It is not known if it was collected.

Sherwood Forest in those days was 95,000 acres and stretched from Nottingham to Worksop.

There is less of it now, but is still magical. The paths keep the visitors from trampling the undergrowth and so if you slip over the fence in the early morning or evening twilight you are in an unmistakably ancient forest.

And Major Oak itself is a majestic tree. Up close it turns out to be hollow and apparently made of plastic, a result of conservation measures. Someone skinny could even slip inside.

I don't try, lest I damage the most famous tree in England. Or rather trees for either by Nature, or the hand of Man, it is believed to be at least two trees welded together so thoroughly that you can't see the join. Similarly whether or not England's most famous outlaw really did walk these woods, and pass it by when it was a sapling, his legend has so completely fused with this place, and this tree, that they will forever be joined.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Ροκ Ενάντια των Συνταγματαρχών

 English version

Αθήνα, στις 21 Απριλίου 1967.
 

Δεξαμενές είναι στους δρόμους. Στρατιώτες φρουρούν κυβερνητικά κτίρια. Ο πρωθυπουργός βρίσκεται υπό κράτηση. Η γενέτειρα της δημοκρατίας είναι υπό το στρατιωτικό καθεστώς.

Σε αυτό το σκηνικό φαίνεται ότι υπάρχει μια παράξενη εμφάνιση. Μόνιμη έξι πόδια πέντε και φορώντας ένα κινέζικο μετάξι καφτάνι, ένα ζευγάρι χρυσά λαμέ παντελόνια καμπάνα και ένα κολιέ από λευκό πλαστικό κρανία πιθήκων,
ο άνθρωπος περπατά παρελθόν από το δύσπιστος θυρωρό του ξενοδοχείου Hilton και τα κεφάλια στο κέντρο της πόλης, οπλισμένοι μόνο με καλά vibes και τη δύναμη της ψυχεδέλειας.

Αυτό ήταν το μέλλον θρυλικό NME δημοσιογράφος Tony Tyler, Νονός του James Bond ηθοποιός Daniel Craig, στη συνέχεια, απολαμβάνοντας ένα residency ένα μήνα το Hilton Athens παίζει Hammond όργανο για μια μπάντα ιταλική ροκ συγκρότημα. Ονομάζεται Patrick Samson Set, γιόρταζαν μια Number One σε όλη την Αδριατική με τη διασκευή του A Whiter Shade of Pale.
 

Ούτε οι στρατιώτες, ούτε οι πολίτες της Αθήνας φαίνεται να έχουν notived αποστολή σόλο Τάιλερ της Ειρήνης και της Αγάπης. Πράγματι, φαίνεται ότι μόνο ένα άτομο παρατηρήσει ακόμη και αυτή η ειδική οπαδός της μόδας, όπως ο ίδιος μπήκε στους ήσυχους δρόμους. Ήταν ένας Βούλγαρος, και γι 'αυτόν αυτό το υπέροχο δείγμα της βρετανικής ανδρισμού, στολισμένο με τέτοια θαυμάσια ενδύματα, ήταν πάρα πολύ πάρα πολύ να αντισταθεί. Παρά το γεγονός ότι ένα εμπόδιο της γλώσσας και του πολιτισμού τους χώριζαν, κατάφερε να κάνει τις προθέσεις του είναι αρκετά απλό. Αλίμονο, amour του δεν ανταπέδωσε και η αποστολή Tyler τελείωσε με το ψηλόλιγνο θύμα της μόδας που φεύγουν πίσω στην ασφάλεια του ξενοδοχείου.

Τόσο μεγάλο μέρος για την Flower Power τότε. Τουλάχιστον Tyler είχε παρατηρήσει ότι υπήρχε ένα πραξικόπημα. Μακριά στο νησί της Κρήτης, όπου οι χίπις ζούσαν στις σπηλιές των Ματάλων, τόσο για τη διασκέδαση των ντόπιων, όλα φαίνονταν να τους περάσουμε. Όταν το περιοδικό Life επισκέφθηκε ένα χρόνο αργότερα Wayne Walvoord τους είπε: «Είμαι ανησυχούν για την Αμερική, ανησυχούν άρρωστοι γι 'αυτό που άκουσα από ένα κορίτσι στο Τόκιο ότι η Αμερική έχει γίνει ένα αστυνομικό κράτος Μπορεί αυτό να είναι αληθινό?.». Wayne ήταν προφανώς αγνοούν το γεγονός ότι ζούσε σε ένα αστυνομικό κράτος. Τρία χρόνια αργότερα, Joni Mitchell κάλεσε, έχασε γραφεία της μυστικής αστυνομίας, θαλάμους βασανιστηρίων και γκουλάγκ νησί, και αντ 'αυτού έγραψε ένα ωραίο τραγούδι για την κατανάλωση του κρασιού κάτω από το φεγγάρι. Φαίνεται ότι εάν η χώρα σας έχει εξαγοραστεί από μια δέσμη των αντιδραστικών συνταγματαρχών, μην περιμένετε ένα χίπης για να σας βοηθήσει.


Sex And Drugs And Rock 'n' Roll

Ή ίσως όχι. Επειδή είναι πιθανό ότι η Ελλάδα μπορεί πραγματικά να είναι το μοναδικό μέρος στον κόσμο όπου Rock 'n' Roll πραγματικά αλλάξει τα πράγματα προς το καλύτερο. Είναι ένα κομμάτι από μια ισχνή απαίτηση, αλλά σας παρακαλώ να κολλήσει μαζί μου.
Δεν έχει πάρει καμία ικανοποίηση

Τέσσερις ημέρες πριν από το πραξικόπημα οι Rolling Stones είχαν παίξει στην Αθήνα μία συναυλία η οποία διήρκεσε μόλις τέσσερα τραγούδια. Κυρίως θυμόμαστε για τη βιαιότητα της αστυνομίας, που έληξε κατά το πέμπτο τραγούδι, ικανοποίηση, όταν Mick Jagger ζήτησε manager δρόμο του για να δώσει έξω κόκκινα γαρίφαλα. Αυτό θεωρήθηκε ως κομμουνιστική διέγερση και έξι αστυνομικοί τον χτυπούσαν στο έδαφος. Χάος στη συνέχεια ξέσπασε, καθώς το συγκρότημα προσπάθησε να βοηθήσει και η παράσταση ήρθε σε ένα πρόωρο τέλος.

Μετά από αυτό τα ζώα και οι Kinks ακυρώθηκαν προγραμματισμένες συναυλίες και οι μεγάλες μπάντες έλειψε η Ελλάδα από τις περιοδείες τους. Αντ 'αυτού οι Έλληνες έπρεπε να συμβιβαστούν με stadium shows απίστευτο κιτς που διατίθενται από το στρατό. Κάτι σαν μια παράξενη διασταύρωση μεταξύ Ben Hur και του Εδιμβούργου Tattoo, που ξεκίνησε με τους άνδρες σε φούστες και τα άρματα καταπολέμηση εικονικές μάχες ενάντια στους κομμουνιστές και τους Πέρσες και τελείωσε με ελικόπτερα πέφτουν πεζοναύτες στο arena.
Δεν ήταν Monterey.

Socrates Drank The Conium
Ωστόσο, αυτή ήταν η εποχή του ραδιοφώνου τρανζίστορ. Σε όλο τον κόσμο οι έφηβοι είχαν γλιστρήσει στο κρεβατοκάμαρές τους για να ακούσετε τη μουσική τους γονείς τους αποδοκίμαζε, και η Ελλάδα δεν ήταν διαφορετική. Οι συνταγματάρχες μπορεί να παίξει μουσική σε πολεμική των επίσημων διαύλων, αλλά υπήρχε και η αμερικανική Ραδιοφωνικός Σταθμός Εξωτερικών, και οι σταθμοί λαθραία που ήρθε και έφυγε, το οποίο έπαιξε πολύ πιο δροσερές κομμάτια.

Η προσπάθεια της χούντας να γυρίσει πίσω το ρολόι της πολιτιστικής μπορούσε να εργαστεί αν και δεν είχε την οικονομία τους ήταν τόσο εξαρτημένη από τον τουρισμό, και την ασφάλειά τους στο στρατό των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών. Ήταν ένα πράγμα να απαγορεύσει Έλληνες να φορούν μίνι φούστες ή σημάδια ειρήνης, αλλά δεν μπορούσε να σταματήσει τους χίπις που πέρασε όμως στην πορεία τους προς Κατμαντού φέρνοντας μαζί τους το σύνολο σύνεργα των εξήντα υποκουλτούρας. Ενώ μια χούφτα των νέων Έλληνες είχαν ήδη ανακαλύψει καλή μουσική, και το σεξ δεν ήταν εντελώς άγνωστο, τα φάρμακα ήταν σίγουρα κάτι νέο.
USS JFK off Κέρκυρα, Ιούλιος 1969
Ενισχύσεις από καλές δονήσεις, επίσης, προήλθε από, από όλους τους χώρους, το έκτος Στόλος των ΗΠΑ. Μέρος της τεράστιας στρατιωτικής παρουσίας των ΗΠΑ που ενίσχυσε τη νομιμότητα της χούντας, τους ναυτικούς της έκαναν το καθήκον τους για να υπονομεύσει την πολιτιστική εμπάργκο. Matt Barrett, ένας Αμερικανός έφηβος που ζουν στην Αθήνα εκείνη την εποχή, θυμάται το σχολείο του κόμματός του που πωλούνται ποτ στο κατάστρωμα κρεμάστρα του αεροπλανοφόρου John F Kennedy, η οποία είναι υποθέτω τι συμβαίνει όταν αναφέρουμε πολεμικό πλοίο μετά από ένα πρόεδρο ο οποίος έσκασε περισσότερα χάπια Ozzy Osborne από.

Η αστυνομία παρακολουθούσε από τους συλλόγους, έτσι οι περισσότεροι χρήση ναρκωτικών συνέβη αλλού. Οι άνθρωποι θα φτάσει για ένα βράδυ έξω λιθοβολήθηκε εντελώς και να πιείτε ένα ποτό και μόνο για το υπόλοιπο της βραδιάς, η οποία δεν ακούγεται τόσο πολύ διαφορετικό να είσαι έφηβος στο Merseyside. Διαφορετικά, οι άνθρωποι θα χαλαρώσεις απολαμβάνοντας την Ακρόπολη το βράδυ υπό την επήρεια του LSD. Δεν έχω πάει ποτέ, αλλά φαντάζομαι ότι είναι μια βαθύτερη και πιο ουσιαστική εμπειρία από την προβολή Southport προβλήτα στην ίδια κατάσταση του νου.

Aphrodite's Child
Μετά το φιάσκο των Rolling Stones Δυτική μουσικοί δεν επισκέπτονται την Ελλάδα στο πρόσωπο, αλλά δεν χρειάζεται να, καθώς η χώρα παρήγαγε περισσότερο από το μερίδιο της μεγάλες μπάντες. Μερικοί, όπως της Αφροδίτης παιδιών, ο οποίος χαρακτήρισε ένα από Βαγγέλης Chariots of Fire φήμη για πληκτρολόγια, έγινε διάσημη και μετακόμισε στο εξωτερικό.Ορισμένοι, κυρίως οι folkier αυτά, πήρε πολιτικές και είχαν απαγορευτεί, αλλά άλλοι έμειναν και συγκλόνισε τα νυχτερινά κέντρα της Αθήνας.Ένας από εκείνους που πήραν μακριά με αυτό - απλά - ήταν ο Σωκράτης ήπιε το Conium, που ακούγεται σαν Ritchie Blackmore κάνει Jimi Hendrix. Ήταν θαμώνες στο Kitaro Club, αλλά δυστυχώς πολιτιστική απομόνωση Ελλάδα σήμαινε ποτέ δεν έκανε μεγάλη εκτός της χώρας καταγωγής τους. Όπως Matt λέει:
"Η καταπίεση μπορούν να αναπαράγονται μεγάλες τέχνες ως μέσο της εξέγερσης. Σωκράτης με μακριά μαλλιά τους, τα γένια και τα υψηλής ενέργειας blues και rock and roll ήταν ένα παράθυρο στον έξω κόσμο και ο λόγος που οι άνθρωποι στριμωγμένος στο Κύτταρο κάθε Σαββατοκύριακο. Για το λόγο αυτό ανήκουν παράλληλα με τα μεγάλα συγκροτήματα της Rock and Roll ιστορία. "
Άλλες μπάντες έπαιξαν άλλους συλλόγους, όπως Poll, που χαρακτηρίζει Κώστας Τουρνάς στην κιθάρα (και σκόπιμα ειρωνικό όνομα), Exadaktila, Morka και Beloma Beque.
Διονύσης Σαββόπουλος
Ροκ αν και δεν ήταν η μόνη μουσική διαμαρτυρία. Υπήρξε, επίσης, ρεμπέτικα, μια ανατολική προσανατολισμένη λαϊκή μουσική που αποβιβάστηκε στην Πελοπόννησο, με δύο εκατομμύρια περίεργο πρόσφυγες από την Οθωμανική Αυτοκρατορία το 1920. Μουσική συνέβαλαν στη διατήρηση αυτής της κατώτερης τάξης μέσα από τη ναζιστική κατοχή και εμφύλιος πόλεμος και προέκυψε στην επικρατούσα τάση, υπό το στρατιωτικό καθεστώς. Ρεμπέτικα τραγουδιστής Διονύσιος Σαββόπουλος, ο οποίος απέκτησε φήμη στη δεκαετία του εξήντα, όπως το ελληνικό Bob Dylan - εάν θα μπορούσατε να φανταστείτε Dylan διοχέτευση Frank Zappa και Jethro Tull - θα παίξει επίσης το Kitaro Club, και ξόδεψε το χρόνο στη φυλακή για τον κόπο του.Το αποτέλεσμα ήταν μια περίεργη κατάσταση όπου οι πέτρινες δυτικοί εμφανίστηκε για να ακούσετε Έλληνες μουσικούς που παίζουν αμερικανική μουσική σε κλαμπ, όπου μια επιδρομή από την Μυστική Αστυνομία ήταν ένα κανονικό μέρος της βραδιάς.Όταν αυτό συνέβη ένα εκπληκτικό αριθμό των ανδρών ESA θα τους αποσπάσουν από γελοία μεγέθους αυτοκίνητά τους και να σταματήσουν τη μουσική, ενώ θα ελέγχονται όλοι έξω. Αν είχατε ένα δυτικό διαβατήριο θα ήταν μια χαρά, αλλά αν ήταν Έλληνες θα μπορούσατε να βρεθείτε ξαφνικά αφαιρεθεί. Αν ήσασταν τυχεροί που είχαν το κεφάλι σας ξυρίζεται και βρήκε τον εαυτό σας στο στρατό. Αν ήσασταν άτυχοι θα μπορούσατε να βρείτε τον εαυτό σας να πάρει δέκα χρόνια στη φυλακή για το κάπνισμα κατσαρόλα.

Όχι ότι το μεγαλύτερο μέρος της μυστικής αστυνομίας, απλά αγόρια αγρόκτημα κακοποιούνται από ένα παχύρρευστο πρόγραμμα κατάρτισης, θα μπορούσε να εντοπίσει πάντα μια κοινή. Πράγματι, σε ενιαίο minded αναζήτησή τους για τους κομμουνιστές, η ελληνική αστυνομία λίγο πολύ αγνοηθεί μια κουλτούρα των ναρκωτικών που τελικά θα γίνει αρκετά ένα πρόβλημα.

Καλέστε Out Οι ηθικοί αυτουργοί


Ως τη δεκαετία του εξήντα μετατράπηκε σε εβδομήντα οι συνταγματάρχες χαλαρή πρόσφυση τους σχετικά με την ελαφρά.

Το καθεστώς είχε ξεκίνησε με την απαγόρευση των Beatles, ο Σοφοκλής, ο Τολστόι, ο Αισχύλος, ο Σωκράτης, ο Σαρτρ, Τσέχωφ, ο Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett και ο Ζ. επιστολή Αλλά το 1971 επέτρεψαν την ταινία Woodstock να εμφανίζεται. Το κοινό που πραγματοποιήθηκε επάνω χιλιάδες αναπτήρες και κεριά, όπως Hendrix έπαιξε Star Spangled Banner. Matt λέει "Ήταν μια καταπληκτική χρόνο". Η δεκαετία του εξήντα ήταν τελικά φτάνουν στην Ελλάδα.

Οι φοιτητές στο Πολυτεχνείο της Αθήνας, όπως ονομαζόταν τότε, αισθάνθηκε επίσης την αλλαγή στον αέρα. Φτάνοντας στο πανεπιστήμιο βρήκαν υπερπλήρεις κτίρια και τη χειρότερη αναλογία μαθητή-δασκάλου στην Ευρώπη. Βρήκαν επίσης ασήμαντες ρυθμίσεις, οι οποίες περιλαμβάνονται επιτρέποντας συνταξιούχους αξιωματικούς του στρατού το δικαίωμα να συμμετέχουν στις όποιες συναντήσεις, και κατασταλτική αστυνόμευση που εμπόδισε ράλι Berkeley στιλ.
Ωστόσο, από το 1973, με την οικονομία παραπαίουσα, τι λίγο στήριξη η χούντα είχε αρχίσει να εξατμίζεται. Το αποτέλεσμα ήταν μια έκρηξη των διαμαρτυριών της δεκαετίας του εξήντα στυλ. Τα παιδιά που είχαν μεγαλώσει σε rock 'n' roll είχαν τώρα την ευκαιρία να το κάνουν στους δρόμους, όπως τους Βρετανούς και τους Γιάνκηδες υπό το σύνθημα «Ψωμί και της εκπαίδευσης και της ελευθερίας."
 

Μαραμένα Λουλούδια

Δυστυχώς δεν ήταν στη Μεγάλη Βρετανία ή την Αμερική.

Αν αυτή η ιστορία φαντασίας όλα θα τελείωνε εδώ, στο Πολυτεχνείο της Αθήνας, σε ένα γιγαντιαίο ψυχεδελικό μέρος του σεξ, τα ναρκωτικά και τη μουσική και την ελευθερία.

Αλλά αυτό δεν ήταν η πραγματικότητα.
Δεξαμενές στάλθηκαν και όταν ήταν όλοι πάνω από σαράντα μαθητές περίεργο ήταν νεκρός και ο στρατός ήταν πίσω στους δρόμους εγκαινιάζοντας ένα νέο στρατιωτικό καθεστώς τέτοια κτηνωδία που έκανε σχεδόν τους ανθρώπους που νοσταλγούν την παλιά.

Η Ελλάδα είχε να υπομείνει οκτώ μήνες από την κόλαση πριν από μια απερίσκεπτη πόλεμο με την Τουρκία πάνω Κύπρος τελικά έπεισε την πολιτική κυβέρνηση μαριονέτα που ήταν όλα νόημα.

Αλλά τι συνέβη στη συνέχεια ήταν μια πραγματική επανάσταση.

Ελλάδα γνώρισε οικονομική ανάπτυξη και τη δημοκρατία και τους Έλληνες κατέληξαν να ζουν, κατά μέσο όρο, τόσο περισσότερο και πιο ευτυχισμένη ζωή από τους Αμερικανούς για το ήμισυ του εισοδήματος, η οποία είναι ειλικρινά ό, τι είναι όλα σχετικά.
 
No Direction Home

 
Όμορφες γυναίκες. ΜΑΤ. Καλώς ήλθατε στην Ελλάδα.
Όλα αυτά πρέπει να κάνει την επακόλουθη πτώση που πολύ πιο δύσκολο να φέρουν. Στην Ελλάδα σήμερα λιτότητας δολοφονία, αυτοκτονία και η νόσος είναι επάνω, ο φόρος παρακάμπτουμε από εκατομμυριούχους με τους φίλους σας στην εξουσία είναι διαδεδομένη και μια αστυνομική δύναμη με φασιστικές συμπάθειες ελέγχει τους δρόμους.

Ροκ δεν είναι η μουσική λιτότητας. Είναι η έκφραση μιας ηδονιστικής νέων, οι οποίοι γνωρίζουν ότι το μέλλον τους ανήκει. Παρά τη μυστική αστυνομία, τα κέντρα βασανιστηρίων και στρατόπεδα συγκέντρωσης, τα παιδιά στο club Kitaro στη δεκαετία του εξήντα ίσως να είχαν περισσότερο λόγο να σκέφτονται σαν ροκ μουσική τους από τα παιδιά της σημερινής Αθήνας.

Παύλος Φύσσας, θύμα της Νεο-ναζί
Ποια είναι ίσως ο λόγος για όλη την Ελλάδα είναι σχετικά άγνωστη rap και hip-hop καλλιτέχνες, όχι μεγάλο όνομα rockers, οι οποίοι μιλούν για την χαμένη γενιά. Και ήταν ένας ράπερ ο οποίος τον περασμένο μήνα πλήρωσαν το υπέρτατο τίμημα για τη μουσική του.

Σύμφωνα με τους συνταγματάρχες διαδηλώσεις ήταν παράνομες. Τώρα επιτρέπεται, αλλά λίγοι μπορούν να ενοχλούνται πια. Στη συνέχεια, η απάντηση φαίνεται απλή. Τώρα κανείς δεν ξέρει τι πρέπει να γίνει.

Μεταξύ 1967 και 1974, ο κόσμος γύρισε την πλάτη της στην ελληνική χούντα. Σήμερα δεν πρέπει να γυρίσουμε την πλάτη μας στην Ελλάδα. Είμαστε πραγματικά όλοι μαζί σε, ή τουλάχιστον το 99% από εμάς.

Και αν υπάρχει μια μουσική ελπίδας σήμερα πρέπει να είναι μια μουσική που ανήκει σε ολόκληρο τον κόσμο.

Αναφορές

Το Seventies Unplugged από Gerard DeGroot  
I Hate Rock And Roll από τον Tony Tyler
Life 19 του Ιούλη του 1968  
Matt Barrett (ιστοσελίδα και προσωπική αλληλογραφία)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Tom Cruise Gets The Drift

I saw a Tom Cruise film where I'd read the book first!

Okay, I know there aren't that many other films where this possible (The Color of Money, Born on the 4th July, Interview With The Vampire errr......), but whilst most people were probably content to point out that the film was Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers and Saving Private Ryan, I was able to sit in the cinema with my children (it was there idea to go you understand, this isn't my time of film at all....) and think smugly to myself "this is based on The Defence of Duffers Drift".

That's pretty damn smug really as there can't be that many people who have actually read Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton's Edwardian book on small unit tactics during the Boer War, and very few of them I imagine go to watch Tom Cruise films.

The good General has a minor place in history as the person who came up with the code word 'tank' for Winston Churchill's Top Secret Landships. Fifteen years earlier he'd been working with a different type of heavy metal, building railways in South Africa. However he took a keen interest in how a few ragged Boer farmers could repeatedly kick the backsides of Queen Victoria's previously all conquering British Army.

The repeated defeat of the army of the globe's most powerful empire, the soldiers who had smited the Sudanese and bested the wily Pathan just two years earlier and who were mowing down scores of sword wielding Chinese Boxers even as the fighting went on in South Africa, was a such a massive shock to the system that the army would probably have been less surprised had it found itself fighting the Martians from War of the Worlds (published 1897).

The reason was that two of the factors that were to make the wars of the twentieth century so bloody, namely nationalism and breech loading rifles, were possessed for the first time by Victoria's enemies. The Boers were not numerous, but they were a nation ready for total war. They were also armed with guns that could kill at 1000 meters and, thanks to the recent invention of smokeless ammunition, the men using them were virtually invisible at that range.

By contrast the British Army still regarded the rifle primarily as something on which to fix a bayonet, whilst its mercenary soldiers, although still happy to massacre people of a different skin colour, found they had no quarrel with the Boers and once they discovered they took prisoners were very happy to surrender whenever they had the chance.

The age of easy imperial victories was over. Spain had been struggling to contain an uprising on Cuba since 1895, the Americans fought an insurgency in the Philippines even as the Boer War raged and in 1904 rebellious Hereros in neighbouring Namibia gave the German Army as much of a headache as the Boers gave the Brits.

In Swinton's book his hero re-fights the same battle over and over again in a dream. As he does so he moves from the toy soldier antics of an earlier age to more savvy modern small unit tactics until he eventually wins. There's a little casual racism thrown in for good measure, but it is a good analysis as far as it goes. In reality though defeating insurgencies involved a lot more than teaching soldiers to shoot straight and take cover properly.

The old imperial strategy of marching into another country with the flag flying, defeating the ruler's army in battle and then expecting his subjects to may homage to the White Man instead no longer worked. Fighting an intransigent population and guerrillas who would run but never surrender called for something different. You could never call imperialism friendly, but it certainly got a lot worse from here on.

In these new colonial wars causalities weren't just in the battlefield. In fact the battlefield could be the safest place to be for the target for the invaders was often not the invisible guerrillas but the civilian population that supported them.

In the Philippines the United States used waterboarding for the first time, whilst in Cuba and then South Africa civilians were rounded up and put into concentration camps where they died of disease and neglect. In Namibia the Germans went one better and drove the population into the waterless desert and wiped out most of the tribe in the first genocide of the twentieth century.

Which brings us to the real comparison between colonial history and this science fiction film; we were the aliens, a destructive race whose behaviour would be no less inexplicable to the victims of our wars of conquest if we had had eight legs and sucked their brains with straws.

H G Wells realised this, that's why he wrote the original alien invasion novel, but what he didn't realise was that, like Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in this film, the victims would learn to turn the West's own weapons against us and fight back.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Spain and Greece: From Dictatorship to Democracy

So Juan Carlos of Spain has resigned - although they call it something different when you're a King.

Once he has gone will his people forgive him for the corruption and lavish spending and remember him instead as the man who led them to democracy? Maybe. Because whilst the transition from fascist dictatorship to liberal democracy was long and hard for Spain, it was at least comparatively bloodless.

And if the Spaniards want an example of what things could have been like without Juan Carlos, they only have to look to the other end of Southern Europe. There you will find - or rather won't find - a somewhat less happy monarch and a country whose transition from dictatorship to democracy was anything but peaceful.

Death In The Afternoon

The recent success of Far Right parties in the 2014 European Elections led any to recall the dark days of the Thirties. But you don't have to look back that far to find fascism stalking Europe.

There was Franco, of course, who came to power in the Spanish Civil War and was still around when I was born. That war, the crucible in which the ideologies that were to tear the Europe apart in the Second World War tested themselves, was fought on a number of fronts, both geographically and political. As well as the battle between left and right, there was conflict over the role and power of the Church, the monarchy and the regions.

The lead up to the war had seen the inept King Alfonso XIII make such a complete hash of things that everyone except the army ended up hating him. However when he eventually saw the game was up he retired with such good grace that even otherwise sensible people like Winston Churchill believed the right wing propaganda that he'd been ousted by a Communist coup.

The left then won the next election, lost the one after that then won again in 1936 before Franco bought the Army of Africa over in German planes to start the war. The Republican side included, along with the Communists and the Anarchists, very conservative regionalists such as the Basques, whilst the Nationalist side include fascists and two flavours of monarchists; those who wanted Alfonso back and those who wanted the old Bourbon kings instead.

In the end the Communists wiped out the anarchists and then the Nationalists wiped them out. The monarchist and regionalists also lost and so Spain ended up with a short fat General as dictator. On the plus side though they were so worn out by their own little war they wisely decided to sit out the big one that started in 1939.

And Franco was still there, older and fatter, when the Sixties came to an end. The last grotesque spectre from the days of the Nazis.

"A Rape of Democracy"

But Franco wasn't that out of place in the Europe of the early Seventies.

In Northern Ireland soldiers were on the streets, whilst on the British mainland the National Front was marching and Enoch Powell was talking of Rivers of Blood. In Italy right wing terrorists caused carnage, whilst in Portugal a dictatorship continued to try to hold on to its African Empire in defiance of the world and common sense. However the darkest place in Europe at that time was Greece.

Greece had flirted with fascism in the Thirties under the brutal regime of Metaxas, whose favoured method of torture was strapping opponents to blocks of ice. However despite his aping of Italian fascism, in one of the numerous ironies of Greek history he found himself under attack by Mussolini.

The Greeks had no problems dealing with the Italians, but the Germans were another matter. Occupation was accompanied by oppression, often as not carried out by locally raised Security Battalions. Winston Churchill - him again - armed the Communists to fight the Nazis, but then when the war was over rearmed the Security Battalions to fight the Communists.

Greece then limped into the post war world as a bitterly divided nation. A fiercely contested election in 1967 was expected to be won by the centre left. However before the vote could take place power was seized by a group of Army Colonels. This was a big surprise to the King as he had been plotting with a group of Army Generals to seize power after the elections.

The Colonels asked King Constantine to endorse their regime and, after a polite discussion, he agreed. The Colonels then got exactly what they wanted, a picture of themselves with the King bestowing his regal authority on their "military regime of collaborators and Nazi sympathisers."

Constantine then went off and attempted a counter-coup, which was a dismal failure. He was arrested and sent into exile in Rome, but the damage was done.

Tilting at Windmills 

However as the Sixties drew to a close both Franco and the Colonels could see that their regimes had no future. Franco killed up to 50,000 people since 1945 whilst the Colonels had tortured more than three and a half thousand, but that was not enough to keep the the spirit of the time away.

In Greece the Colonels relaxed their grip and tried desperately to find someone to hand power over to. Papadopoulos, head of the Junta, approached the old political establishment but only found one man willing to talk to him, a former minister from the 1950s called Spyros Markezinis. In September 1973 he became Prime Minster and the loneliest man in Greece.

Two months later an uprising took place at Athens Polytechnic, with the students demanding peace and love and democracy. Instead they got the army. In the confusion afterwards both Papadopoulos and Markenzinis were deposed and a new hard man took over, the head of the Secret Police Dimitrios Ioannidis. Suddenly the torture chambers were busier than ever.

Watching this from Spain was Franco. Old and ailing, and with his henchmen squabbling, he was planning his own transition from power. Then, in December 1973, his chosen successor, Admiral Blanco was killed by an ETA bomb so powerful that it was joked he became Spain's first man in space. Franco needed a Plan B.

In 1969 he had promised to restore the monarchy. The son of old Alfonso was Juan de Borbon, a well known liberal and opponent of his regime, so Franco decided to skip a generation and promise the throne to his son, Juan Carlos.

It should have been his older brother really, but he'd accidentally shot himself whilst cleaning his revolver, further proof that Royals really shouldn't be allowed near firearms. With Blanco dead Juan Carlos was now in line for power and it was assumed he'd be a convenient sock puppet for Franco's supporters.

But in 1974 everything changed.

On 15 July Ioannidis launched a coup in Cyprus, intending to annex the island to Greece.  Four days later Franco fell ill and made Juan Carlos acting head of state. The next day Turkey busted Ionnidis's flush by invading Cyprus. This humiliation was the end of the line for the junta and, with none of his brother officer willing to support his madness any longer, Ioannidis's puppet administration invited former Prime Minister Konstantine Karamanlis back from Paris to form a government.

Franco lingered on for another year, but to all intents and purposes Western Europe's two most brutal regime's had fallen within the space of a few days.

Spain's transition to democracy was not yet complete though and there would be one final test for Juan Carlos. In 1981 a man in a silly hat seized parliament in a coup. Just as in Greece fourteen years earlier, they asked the King to endorse their action. Juan Carlos though was not Constantine. He refused to take their phone call and instead contacted his own Generals one by one to tell them he wanted democracy restored.

Juan Carlos then leaves office tarnished by scandal, but probably ultimately to be well remembered. Former King Constantine of Greece meanwhile remains in exile, unable to return home until he stops calling himself King and gets a normal surname.

Lessons Learnt

Drawing lessons from all this though is very difficult.

In Greece the liberal opposition appeared to play the game by the rules. They refused to compromise with the junta and demanded the restoration of democracy before they would become involved in government. The result though was bloodshed and the tyranny of Ioannidis.

In Spain the liberals and the reactionaries fought it out in secret behind closed doors, and then when Franco was dead they argued in parliament. The ending of the fascist regime was long and drawn out, many people were compromised, but ultimately it was bloodless.

But it was facilitated by a terrorist bomb and the linchpin of it all was Juan Carlos, the democratic monarch, one of the few examples of the blind chance of hereditary accession throwing up the right person at the right time.