Platon E. Drakoules, Justice December 1920
Source: “The End of Venizelism,” by Platon E. Drakoules, Justice, p.2, 2 December 1920;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Greece ten years ago made a revolution and entrusted to Mr. Venizelos the direction of her destinies, partly because she believed in him and partly because he was the favourite of England and France. He thus became supreme ruler and had the devotion of the entire nation. But these last three years he became intolerably autocratic, and moreover he was not constitutionally elected in 1917, butt imposed by England and France The Greek people never endorsed this, except so far as it was unavoidable in view of the abnormal international circumstances. The moment the first constitutional chance was given through the elections of November 14, Greece voted against his domestic policy, but not against his foreign policy and it is virtually the Labour element that defeated Venizelos.
His home policy was the negation of constitutionalism. No King and no Prime Minister can ever hope in Greece to retain for long the confidence of the people while suppressing constitutional liberties. Both Constantine, as King, and Venizelos, as Prince Minister, have in their time each made freedom of speech impossible, and that alone in Greece would be enough to discredit them. Restrictions were inevitable during the great national work he was carrying on in the European capitals, and the Greek people bore patiently all restrictions until that work was accomplished. Had Mr. Venizelos removed those restrictions the day after the signature of the Bulgarian Treaty, without awaiting the signature of the Turkish Treaty, as I advised him to do when I saw him on the eve of the Neuilly Conference, his popularity would not have suffered so much, although there was, even two years ago, great discontent against the doings of his Ministers. Especially the Labour element was bitter against him because it had built great expectations since it helped him to assume absolute power, and was disappointed Mr Venizelos was profuse in promises for Labour when he first came from Crete, but has not been able to fulfil them, and his plutocratic leanings have always been regarded with disfavour and distrust.
Greece holds that Thrace, Smyrna and the Dodecannese, just as Macedonia and Epirus, are inseparable parts of Hellenism, and that under favourable circumstances no democratic country would refuse to sanction their political union with Greece. She therefore resented the impression spread all over the world that those parts of Hellenism were only a gift to Mr. Venizelos, as if Greece owed them to him and not to the spirit of justice recognised by her Allies. By the elections the people were anxious to show that on no account is a dictatorship to be tolerated longer than it was absolutely necessary. Greece cannot be an exception from other peoples. Humanity is tired of dictators, and Mr. Venizelos acted as a dictator during the last three years. The Greek voters decided that there must be an end of Venizelism in the sense of dictatorship but in no way can the meaning of the elections twisted so as to imply unfriendliness to the wishes and the ideals of the Entente.
Mr. Venizelos is a personal friend of mine, and if I know anything of his character I am sure that in his heart he is glad that the Greek people showed spirit enough to reject him rather than abjectly to surrender themselves to his absolute will. I am sure that this moment he is more optimistic as to the future of Greece than when I saw him last, a year ago. England and France cannot punish Greece because she voted against a Prime Minister who served her for ten years. Her reason for doing so was simple. It was that she no longer approved of his Governmental policy. England and France have taken this vote as the expression of the sovereign will of the Greek people. If they restore Turkey, against which Greece fought as one of the Allies, they will be liable to the impeachment that their motives are not so much inspired by the wish to promote freedom and justice as by the desire to secure financial benefits, or to entice Turkey away from the Bolsheviks. A possible result of this policy will be that hatred against England and France will be engendered among the masses of the Greek people, and Greece will be allied with the Bolsheviks. Rather the Balkan unity ought to be the policy of the Entente.
For this, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece could co-operate, and there is no earthly reason why Constantine should not be rendered an efficient agent for the promotion of this policy. The Balkan unity policy would be the best guarantee against German intrigue in the future. It was disunion which brought Germany in the Near East and caused the war. It must be unity which will keep Germany away and ensure peace. I am no longer afraid of Germany as a menace to the Near East, provided proper care is taken for watchfulness and enlightenment of the masses of the peninsula. Personally I should prefer Greece, as also all the other Balkan countries, to assume the Republican form of Government; but if kings must be maintained for the present, Constantine is no more undesirable than any other, either as regards the Labour conscience or as regards the foreign policy of Greece. The Greek people have given an excellent lesson to the democracies of Europe by the vote of November 14. They have proved that a revolution can be effected in twenty-four hours by a determined use of the vote, without necessity of having recourse to dictatorship. When the voters know what they want, what need is there of violent methods? May the democracies of Western Europe take this Greek lesson to heart.
Mr. Rallis cannot be in power long, nor Mr. Gounaris, nor any other, if their domestic policy is not distinctly pro-Labour. The Labour conscience in Greece is fairly strong and no Government will henceforward be stable without Labour support.
It would be a mistake to oppose the return of Constantine, or to disapprove of it, in contempt of the expressed will of the Greek people. It was a good thing Constantine was removed for the duration of the war, and I have done my best for that removal, owing to his wife being sister of the then Kaiser. (See “Justice,” October, 1916.) But now that the war is over and Germany helpless, to thwart the will of a nation would be a gratuitous affront to it not unlikely to be fraught with danger in the Near East. To say, “We withdraw friendship from Greece or we take back the Greek provinces,” for the liberation of which Greece has made enormous sacrifices as an ally, is to misread history and place Might above Right.