Ernest Mandel

The Lessons Of Greece

(May 1967)

Source: From World Outlook, 16 October 1967, Vol. 5, No. 24, Paris and New York City.
Translated: by World Outlook.
Transcrition & Marked-up: by David Walters for the Marxists’ Internet Archive, 2009.
Public Domain: Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

[The following succinct commentary on the broader import of the military take over in Greece for the revolutionary forces of Western Europe and the rest of the world was written by the well known author of Trait#e d’Économie Marxiste soon to be published in England and the United States. It appeared in the May 13, 1967 issue of the Belgian socialist weekly La Gauche of which Mandel is editor in chief.]

It is too soon to draw up a definitive balance sheet of the military take over in Greece. We still lack the necessary information, especially on the extent of the popular resistance since the coup d’état.

But certain lessons are already imperatively evident and it is time for them to be absorbed by all workers and vanguard militants.

(1) Any assumption that the acuteness of social contradictions will be softened – internationally or nationally – and the stability of democratic liberties will be guaranteed and socialism can gradually triumph through the peaceful parliamentary and electoral road has once again been refuted. The maintenance of these liberties is a function of a determinate relationship of forces between the contending classes.

When parliamentary democracy incurs the risk of no longer serving the interests of big capital, and the latter is not paralyzed by the action of the masses, this regime can be castrated or discarded within a few hours.

(2) The illusion that we live in a regime where the real power is in the hands of parliament, or the voters, has likewise been refuted. Parliament and the electorate hold no more than a superficial and limited power. The decisive power is in the hands of capital and the “armed men” in its pay. The state is not parliament but an apparatus based on these “armed men.”

Those who refuse to see this obvious fact and simply affirm that we live “under democracy,” while forgetting or concealing the bourgeois nature of this state, deceive themselves or deceive others.

(3) The arrest of all the militants of the left – including, according to General Patakos, numerous people that the dictatorial regime itself considers “innocent” (Le Monde, May 11, 1967) – was carefully prepared by a system of blacklists, informers and wire tapping devices operating for years. This system functions in the NATO countries, under NATO’s cover, within the framework of the struggle against “internal subversion,” including Belgium (now NATO headquarters).

It has been reinforced in our country within the framework of the measures taken “to maintain order” voted for by the Belgian Socialist party. Those who have endorsed NATO as an instrument for defending “democracy against communism” should now be red faced.

(4) Those who deny that there is any difference between a bourgeois democratic regime in which the workers have a minimum of liberties to organize trade unions, prepare strikes, stage demonstrations, publish papers, and a dictatorial and fascist regime, and who wrongly employ the term “fascist” to designate regimes which are not so, have once again exhibited their political stupidity, a stupidity that is worse than mere foolishness.

Such a view disarms the workers confronted with the threat of a “strong” or fascist state which can still be crushed if the workers combat it in time with sufficient force and vigor.

Go now and explain to the eight thousand Greek political prisoners, to the workers deprived of their trade unions, that the military take over has changed nothing, since fascism already prevailed in Greece before the colonels took power!

(5) The military coup d’état followed upon formidable demonstrations of the Greek working masses in the summer of 1965. At that moment the masses were disposed to overthrow the monarchy and dismantle the army, if not to take power and bring about the downfall of capitalism. Their leaders curbed their struggle and penned them into a purely electoral perspective. That demobilization has now borne its bitter fruit.

Every extensive mobilization of the masses which is halted halfway without fundamentally modifying the relation of forces provokes demoralization among the workers and a thirst for revenge in the camp of reaction. The entire history of the twentieth century confirms this law. We lived through its application in Belgium after the general strike of 1960–61.

This is a warning to those artful tacticians who wish to start this business all over again and are likewise preparing the triumph of the “strong state” in this country – provided the masses let them get away with it!

Last updated on 29.12.2011