In the present crisis over Greece there is a furious argument about whether the Greek people should be allowed to vote on the proposed solution. Many of the voices against this come from the world of finance and economics. They say that the crisis is too dangerous to leave to the will of the people.

I just wanted to show why some Greek politicians - and especially George Papandreou, even though he may have retreated from a referendum - might think it important to allow the people a voice.

I have discovered a film in the archives that dramatically tells you why. It was made in 1974 and is an engrossing history of the Colonels' coup in Greece in 1967 - and what life was then like for the Greek people under the military dictatorship that held power for seven years.

As you watch it you realise, given what the Greeks have been through, it is no wonder that politicians, especially Papandreou, think the mandate of the people is important.

The present language of the finance technocrats, and their supporters in the media, portray the Greek people as just another group of lazy southern Europeans who have fed too long at the trough of state money. A bit like us - but more crap.

What is forgotten is that from 1967 to 1974 the Greek people lived under a harsh and violent dictatorship that tortured and murdered thousands of ordinary people. The Colonels also corrupted the society by handing out vast loans to individuals in towns and villages across the country - to buy their loyalty. At the same time the repression and torture bred a powerful resistance that finally burst out in incredible bravery in 1973.

This is the strange and twisted society that the present Prime Minister's father, Andreas Papandreou, inherited when he became the newly elected leader in 1981. He was faced by the task of rebuilding the peoples' trust in democracy and the state. Partly he did it through state spending - and in that policy lie many of the roots of today's crisis.

The discussion of Greece today in the press and the political offices of Europe is almost completely ahistorical - everything is couched in utilitarian terms of economic management. I just think it is important to put the present crisis in a wider historical context. Above all the extraordinary history of the military dictatorship and the savage effects it had on the whole of Greek society.

First - here is a short compilation of some of the best bits of the news coverage from the time.

Back in 1965 Mr Papandreou's grandfather, who was also called George, was the Prime Minister - leading the progressive Centre Union Party. Young right-wing officers in the military became increasingly concerned about the influence of George's son, Andreas who they saw as a dangerous leftist.

The officers were convinced that Andreas wanted to remove Greece from its frontline role in the Cold War - they believed this would open the door to communists. For eighteen months there was political chaos. Then new elections were scheduled for May 1967 - which George Snr. was certain to win.

So, on the 21st of April, the officers mounted a coup. They used a NATO plan for neutralizing a communist uprising in the event of a Soviet invasion.

The news coverage starts with a wonderful piece of reporting by the Panorama reporter John Morgan at the first press conference held by the officers after the coup. Then there are sections from other reports that both give a brilliant sense of the absurdity of the military men who now took control of the country, but also of the total fear they induced. I have included some vox pops taken by a crew inside the country in 1972.

Here is the film about life under the Colonels. It is called Greece - The Seven Black Years. It was made in 1974 - and broadcast in early 1975.

Its commentary is very much of its time - but the film has a power both in the details and in the way it is made. It shows that along with the terrible torture, the Colonels exercised control through financial means - or what one villager calls "the big money".

The film starts with these details and some great interviewees, and then builds to a very moving climax with the students who took over the Athens Technical University in November 1973 and stood against the military might of the Junta. There is extraordinary film of what then happened - and it also tells you a lot about the radicalisation of many of the Greek people today, and how important democracy is to them in the face of unelected elites who try and control them and their society. A belief in democracy born out of struggle - something that we may have forgotten.

But history also shows that coups don't always happen because of a power-hungry military. The Times pointed out today that the cuts being demanded of Greece are on a scale similar to the reparations imposed on Germany by the victors at Versailles in 1919. And look what that did to the belief in democracy.

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  • Comment number 45. Posted by theartteacher

    on 16 Dec 2011 11:17

    @Melville - I don't think the point of his last series was that people can't change the world. He was looking at why they feel they can't. It's a challenge, I think. It was very bleak and harrowing, really visceral stuff, and I thought it could be interpreted as pessimism. Perhaps it just reflects the extent of the problem.

    What the Greek people displayed was solidarity and bravery. And probably some loving grace, escaping their isolation, becoming powerful as part of something greater. And they did change the world.

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  • Comment number 44. Posted by Melville

    on 15 Dec 2011 19:26

    Adam I'm not really sure why you posted this material on Greece was it just for archival interest or do you actually believe that people can change the world - contary to your last BBC series? Looking at what happened in Greece and in Portugal in 1974 it shows that you were wrong. With this post are you doubting your own thesis?

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  • Comment number 43. Posted by eyebrow2

    on 3 Dec 2011 21:28

    Just wanted to express appreciation to Adam Curtis for finding this amazing film - I was in Athens in September 1974, only 18 and really shockingly unaware of what had been going on. So brilliant to be able to pick up the detail of this - I met a lawyer who'd been involved in the first protest while on holiday in Crete as usual this year. Rightly very proud of his action in those days...

    The blog comments are fascinating, especially Kevin Ovenden's critique. But people don't seem to be picking up much on the way that this powerful really quite recent history must be having an effect on the way people are now, which is what I took from Adam's commentary and his motive for posting the film. Is it the case that the families that profited from the Colonels' handouts are also the ones laughing all the way to the bank these days?

    I'd love to know what Greek people think of this film and these blog posts.

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  • Comment number 42. Posted by worotan

    on 29 Nov 2011 23:48

    Another great and interesting post. I loved the comment "You picked the wrong man to ask the right question."

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  • Comment number 41. Posted by costas68

    on 27 Nov 2011 20:51

    How the IMF Broke Greece, if you google it on amazon books it will come up, in response NausikaDalazBlindaz question about a broken link...

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  • Comment number 40. Posted by Debbie L

    on 26 Nov 2011 08:41

    My apologies for posting this comment here, but the Henrietta Lacks story is taking off again in the U.S.A. as word of mouth about the recent book propagates, and I can't find any other means of contacting Mr. Davis. Please consider re-opening the comments, or posting again. I have learned so much from the documentary and the book. I think the failure of the researchers and the 'system' to pay the Lacks family any of the practically incalculable millions that some people have made from HeLa cells is glaringly wrong. There was another case in the book which eventually was considered by the U.S. Supreme Court; how they arrived at their decision in favor of the medical/research establishment and against the man whose spleen cells were taken and used commercially without his informed consent, is worthy of a new documentary. How can it be that he has no claim to his own cells?! The judgement said that owing to his having laid no claim to his cancerous spleen after its removal, he had treated it as waste; rubbish. It seems to me that he would not have treated it as rubbish if he had known it was valuable, and the honorable thing to be done by anyone who finds something of value in the rubbish is to inform the person who has thrown it away, ask them if they are aware that what they have thrown away is of value, and ask permission to have it if they don't want it. I'd like very much to hear the argument against having a system akin to royalties for people who are the source of valuable/profitable biological material to share the proceeds.

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  • Comment number 39. Posted by materiality

    on 20 Nov 2011 10:58

    Thank you, Adam. Performing a genuine public service, as always.

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  • Comment number 38. Posted by NausikaDalazBlindaz

    on 19 Nov 2011 21:44

    @ Aris: I can't predict what will happen eventually with the EU; at present it has turned Greece and Italy into technocrat satellites of the German political elite and doubtless will do the same to Spain, France and all other countries in the eurozone eventually. EU states not already in the eurozone will be under pressure to join.

    You may like to read the various articles on future economic, political and social trends on Anatoly Karlin's Sublime Oblivion blog site at http://www.sublimeoblivion.com. I only found this blog while looking for Esteban Morales's article "Lessons from Argentina's Economic Collapse" on Google which I was going to suggest you read. Looks as if several websites and blogs refer to this article and they may have links that enable you to read the entire article so just go ahead and Google!

    In particular Karlin posted an article "The Return of the Reich" to the site in 2009 which you might find interesting and scary!

    If you find Sublime Oblivion heavy-going and it can be, there are links to other blogs and websites Karlin considers important including the Exiled Online http://exiledonline.com which itself has a link to Kostas Kallergis's blog When the Crisis hit the Fan; Dmitry Orlov who I've mentioned elsewhere on Adam Curtis's blog; James Kunstler who's written a fair bit on American collapse scenarios; and others (choose the ones Karlin has highlighted or put in capital letters). I wouldn't read anything by Juan Cole these days though as he's squarely on the side of NATO in invading Libya.

    See how you go and let us know if you feel better or more depressed!

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  • Comment number 37. Posted by Aris Gardelis

    on 18 Nov 2011 16:44

    The most importaint is that the real stories of the humble people, poor people and people with no power are not heared at all. In every sosciety there are people that are not interested at all about power and try to make their living with an open and honest way. There are a lot of such people in Greece. People that are not and never insterested to work in the public sector. These are usually the first people that pay the price of such situations. People that work in 3 jobs to make their living and pay their taxes at full. Sometimes even more because of various "mistakes". Trust me, it's hard to see people with absolutely no talent and perception to be in the public sector and be responsible for serious matters and on the other hand to see yourself working hard night and day trying to pay the bills.
    About the debtocracy documentary i have not a clear opinion. Yes, it's easy not to pay our debts, but what's next? Yes, I don't trust anymore the European Union, because I saw from the start that it had flaws. You cannot have a real Union with 20 different Goverments nor have people who live in this Union to refuse to give up their "National" conquests for a real 1 country Union. You can see everywhere that Germany has sucked up everything. There are many German supermarkets that are sucking money, industrial production is stopped due to Germany's cheaper and better quality products. In a first look, there's nothing wrong about this.... BUT... In a real union, the state would take taxes from the companies. In this model, the only one that benefits is only 1 country. The country that produces everything. German and other European Union products have flood Greece. You cannot even sell tomatoes, because German supermarkets are importing cheaper tomatoes from Turkey with absolutely NO TAXES!!! It's like being in a family that the father sells food to his children and paying rent for living in his home and then give them loans to pay for the rent and then go to the University. It's absolutely sure that the children will hate their father and want to get off this sick family.
    The other problem is that the private sector and by that I mean the big corporations have replaced the Goverments and States role. Everybody is talking about privatisation of all the goverment services. From electricity and water, to health and Education. Here also applies the same model. In a sosciety that all the vital things are private, you get nothing in return by paying taxes. The role of the state is completely replaced by a company that simply gets money. A profit that was made with an already estamblished infrastracture payed by the people.
    So, what's the solution? There are good news and there's bad news... The good news is that there's a solution, the bad news is that it's simply never going to happen. I don't want to say that the people are corrupted. There is a clear and obvious reason why everyone is behaving this way. I believe that noone wants to be the "bad guy" movie style. But in most cases my good is your bad. Usually there's an equilibrium but when this becomes the rule, then there's a problem. The system is so rotten that now everyone can see what's wrong. Germany has realised that the game is over, but will fight to the end. And that's normal. Germany will not give up the national rights that gained over the past years. Is absurd to start sharing resources for Greece. Especially when we are now labeled as corrupted. You can see the talks between Sarcosi and Obama for Papandreou. When you are the bad guy, you are expected to pay for your wrong actions. There's no matter if the people that accusing you have gained from you. You must pay!!! In what conditions? Noone askes. If you see the last agreement, it is absolutely sure that we are doomed. We are not protected in any way. It's EXCACTLY like Adam said in his last words.
    "The Times pointed out today that the cuts being demanded of Greece are on a scale similar to the reparations imposed on Germany by the victors at Versailles in 1919. "
    When this agreement is signed, there's no way back. The only way to get out is war. When a French, or German or even a UK agency will come to your home and tell you that this is not your property any more, you have nothing to loose but fight. Fight not only our European friends, but our goverment too, because they have agreed to take your home.... Our job is already taken and i don't mean the cuts on the public sector....
    What would YOU feel is an electric bill was brought to you and had a huge tax that you had to pay? And the "good" thing is that there's no matter if you don't have to pay, you MUST pay it or the electric company must cut the electricity... Well, stop imagining that and get real, because this is happening here.
    Anyway, this talk can never end and will never end. I hope, hope will never end....

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  • Comment number 36. Posted by mididoctors

    on 18 Nov 2011 12:51

    A coup by a cabal of financial technocrats. Well I suppose In a way they have been flushed out into the open and hold position center stage.

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