On 27 November Luxembourg had the privilege of welcoming Manólis Glézos. A public meeting was organized jointly by déi Lénk and by the Luxembourg sections of Syriza, Izquierda Unida, the Communist Party of Spain and Rifondazione comunista.
A hundred and fifty people packed out the hall, many more than could be seated. Unsurprisingly the biggest contingent was from the Greek community in Luxembourg.
Manólis Glézos is a legendary figure, in Greece and beyond. His first notable act was, along with Apostolos Santas, to climb the Acropolis in May 1941 and remove the swastika flag the Nazi occupants had raised there. But he did much more than that. He was in every battle over more than 70 years. He was imprisoned and tortured by the Nazis, then by the victorious counter-revolution after the defeat of the left in the civil war and again under the dictatorship of the colonels. Several times he had death sentences commuted. And last year he was triumphally elected to the European Parliament at the head of the list of Syriza, becoming its oldest member, with a personal vote of 430,000, the highest of any candidate in Greece.
But Manólis did not dwell much on his own history. Only to tell us, very movingly, that when he spoke we should hear not only his voice but that of his comrades, those who were no longer there, those who gave their lives, including his younger brother, executed by the Nazis at the age of 19. He spoke much more about the present and the future. And he did not treat us to a long speech, as many probably expected. He explained that he preferred dialogue to monologue, spoke for only 5-10 minutes and then responded to questions and debated with the audience for two and a half hours, on his feet, at the age of 92.
Manólis is solidly optimistic about the situation in Greece and about the prospects of Syriza: as he put it “History is knocking at our door” and we are at a time when change that might take decades can happen in months or years. He also emphasized that it is not just a question of replacing one group of leaders with another, nor of a leadership or party which “guides” (“a terrible word” he said) the people, but of the people itself exercising power, of popular sovereignty, in Greece and in a Europe of peoples.
Many other subjects came up in the discussion: how to break the power of finance capital, how to deal with the debt, the way people in Greece today are organizing themselves. He referred often to the village from which he came and to which he returned, and from which he said at one point that he “emanated”. But it seemed that he emanated not only from his village, that more broadly his roots were in the Greek people and its strong traditions of resistance and struggle, of which he also spoke and which seem to be the source of his own strength and his optimism for the future.
It was an unforgettable evening for those who were fortunate enough to be there. The next day, before returning to Brussels, Manólis was invited to speak to the students of the Greek school in Luxembourg.