It seemed like an opportune moment for Toronto’s York University to make its pitch. York was trying to woo one of the world’s top economists into its fold, and he was clearly available. At the time, Andreas Papandreou was languishing in solitary confinement in a Greek jail following the country’s April, 1967, coup. Tillo Kuhn, York’s special emissary, made the job offer to the jailed economist’s wife in an Athens hotel lobby crawling with secret police in plainclothes. But while York authorities anticipated problems getting Papandreou out of jail, they were surprised by the obstacles they encountered from another quarter. The Canadian government was less than keen to admit the man who last week led his Greek socialist party to a stunning victory.
Official Canadian reaction to the election gave every indication that the debonair 62-year-old would now be more than welcome in Canada. But relations have not always been so harmonious. Former York president Murray Ross recalls that several high-ranking government members were reluctant to admit Papandreou. “We had to put quite a bit of pressure on the Canadian government,” says Ross. In fact, it was not until Ross himself told then external affairs minister Mitchell Sharp that he would take the case to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association—and the press—that Canada came up with a visa.
Ross says he could not understand
Canada’s objections at the time because Papandreou’s political leanings were no further left than the NDP’s. He suspects that there may have been pressure on Canada from the United States, which was implicated in the coup that overthrew the democratic government in which Papandreou was minister of economic co-ordination. Sharp, however, says that he does not recall any American pressure and he insists that Canadian reluctance stemmed from fears that Papandreou would use his base at York to agitate against Greece’s military government. Once admitted in 1969, Papandreou did just that, holding meetings, making speeches and running the Panhellenic Liberation Movement
out of Toronto until he returned to Greece in 1974. Sharp says his ministry called Papandreou to task on several occasions for his political activities. “Our relations were a bit awkward,” he adds.
Staying out of politics was never easy for Papandreou. His father, George, was the head of the Greek governmentin-exile during the Second World War, later becoming prime minister. As a result, Andreas has long been immersed in politics, with forays into the academic world whenever the heat got too great. Imprisoned for underground activities in 1939, the young Papandreou went on to international acclaim as an economist at Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley. When he returned to Greek politics—and to a Greek jail for eight months—it was his academic credentials that saved his life. A group of high-powered economists, including John Kenneth Galbraith, put such pressure on the White House that Lyndon Johnson is reported to have called Athens with instructions to “Lay off that son of a bitch, whatever his name is.”
An unflamboyant lecturer who specializes in theoretical economics, Papandreou surprises even himself with his charismatic political performance. York economist John Buttrick recalls Papandreou playing back tapes of his political speeches and chuckling over his own dynamism. “It was so unlike his normal style,” says Buttrick.
With his resounding victory, Papandreou at last has a chance to put into action some of his lifelong political - dreams. If the tumultuous cheering of t Greek crowds following Sunday’s elec| tion is any indication, it may be a long « time before he makes another return to o the academic world.
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