Markos on the Scrapheap

A Greek Sequel to the Yugoslav Affair

(10 February 1949)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 9, 28 February 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

FEB. 10 – In its smallest print and in a hidden-away corner, the Stalinist press of France and elsewhere has announced “the serious illness of Gen. Markos” and his resignation of “political and military responsibilities.” With the same terseness and discretion, the Stalinist press has in recent days carefully avoided giving any explanations of this development, or any refutations of the accusations of bourgeois newspapers.

And this comes on the heels of a long, noisy campaign extolling the “victories of the Free Democratic Army of General Markos.” L’Humanité, for example, contents itself with brief dispatches from the capitalist agencies, which merely report the “illness” of Markos and the changes taking place in the General Staff of the Greek partisans and in the “Free Greek Government.”

But no one is fooled by the “diplomatic illness” of Markos, nor by the fatal consequences it may lead to, owing to its “grave” nature. The formula for the removal of Markos prepares for any eventuality including news of his death following a “grave illness.” This is, of course, not the first time that the Stalinists, and the Greek Stalinists in particular, have settled ideological differences with drastic measures: a knife in the back, a bullet in the back of the head, etc.

Let us recall the fate of more than 400 Trotskyists and Archio-Marxists in Greece, who were basely murdered by the Stalinist OPLA (the Greek GPU) in the first few months of the “liberation” and during the uprising of December 1944. Let us also recall the fate of the Stalinist leaders who dared to oppose the policy of outright betrayal carried out by the Greek Stalinists up to the capitulation of Varkiza. There was Glafkos, well-known Stalinist leader; there was Ares Veloukhiotis, undisputedly the most heroic figure of the Greek Resistance, who opposed the capitulation; there were many others Stalinists assassinated by their “ideological” colleagues.

Linked To Tito Rift

Tito would have long since met the same fate had he fallen in the net of a GPU plot. What is more, the Markos affair is organically linked to that of Yugoslavia.

We have stated and emphasized more than once – as against those who are impressed with the Stalinist “power,” with the expansion, without collisions, without crises, without convulsions, of a Kremlin police state, to all parts of the globe and for a whole historical period – that in reality the Stalinist postwar expansion also signifies the aggravation of the internal crisis of this system, the introduction of new ferments, of new contradictions, of new centrifugal forces, which will hasten its ultimate downfall. The Yugoslav affair disclosed this aspect, and was nothing more than the first large-scale and serious manifestation of this new aspect of the crisis of Stalinism. The Greek affair is on the same plane: it is an organic extension of the same roots which fed the “Titoist deviation.”

Wherever the Stalinist movement, during and after the last war, developed as a movement closely bound with the insurgent masses, and beyond the direct and absolute control by the Kremlin’s agents, there has eventually resulted a rift with the Kremlin, and there is latent the possibility of resisting the Kremlin’s attempts to again completely subjugate these movements. The partially autonomous character of these movements, as against the absolutist nature of the Stalin regime, are at the bottom of these conflicts with the Kremlin.

Close Relations

Let us examine the Greek affair more closely. The principal base of the Greek partisans, which has enabled them to hold firm, was the aid from Tito’s Yugoslavia, and partly from Albania. With their backs to the borders of these two countries, they could always fall back there and regroup themselves, receive food and ammunition, tend the wounded, train their soldiers and officers.

The relations between the Greek and Yugoslav partisans were always the most friendly, the most close. When the Cominform excommunicated Tito, this came like a bombshell to the Markos partisans. None of his men could give serious credit to the allegations of the Kremlin. Caught between their devotion to the Kremlin and their traditional amity with the Yugoslav partisans, with their vital interests tied to Yugoslavia, the Greek partisans adopted a compromise position, avoiding any definite entry into the choir of the “anti-Titoists” and continuing their technical cooperation with Belgrade, Markos personally, along with a section of leading Greek Stalinists, seems to have resisted any definitive break with Tito; perhaps he remained unconvinced of Tito’s “opportunist and national deviations.”

Other reasons intervened to accentuate the uneasiness among the Greek partisans, and the more or less open differences among their leaders. Until the Cominform’s break with Tito, the perspective of a “Soviet” Balkan Federation, including all of Greece, remained open to the Greek partisans and galvanized their revolutionary energy. But since the split, the plan of detaching only Greek Macedonia has been sketched more and more clearly. This region is to be included in a Federation of South Slavs, sponsored if not dominated by Dimitrov’s Bulgaria

Now the Greek partisans have a traditionally powerful attachment to the integrity of Greek territory, and are violently opposed to any sacrifice to Bulgaria’s profit; they are unwilling to accept any Federation plan which does not mean the Balkan Federation including all the countries of the Peninsula on an equal footing. This deep sentiment of the partisan masses and even of the rank and file Greek Stalinists is probably shared by a number of the politico-military Stalinist leaders.

Markos, the pseudonym for Vafiades, a veteran tobacco-worker with a long revolutionary record in the struggles of the Greek proletariat, who rose from the inner cadres of the Greek CP, was very probably at the head of. this fraction. Such a position could not fail to draw him still closer to Tito.

Diplomatic Pawns

It is also possible that Moscow had for a second time wished to make use of the local partisan movement as small change in its current transactions With imperialism, and to impose a new capitulation. Let us recall that in the course of the present “peace offensive” of the Kremlin offers of a compromise were announced a month ago by the “Government of Free Greece” and rejected by Athens.

It still remains to be seen to just what extent the Greek partisans will be willing to simply play the role of pawns in the Kremlin’s diplomatic chess game, and to bend their spines conformably to all the twists required by Moscow, without considering the actual interests of the Greek masses. But the examples of serious differences in the past, of even open dissidence in the ranks when Stalin’s commissars. With Zakhariades at the head, imposed their submission to the British General Staff and their collaboration with Papandreou (i.e. their subordination to imperialism and to the bourgeoisie, which led to the bloody defeat of December 1944 and the capitulation of Varkiza), give us grounds to say that this time, too, they will not be more disposed to play the mere role of puppets for the Kremlin.

Markos represented that tendency inside the bureaucratic leadership which shied away from the direct and absolute control on the part of the Kremlin, and which was especially compromised by its attitude towards Tito, which if not sympathetic was at least ambiguous. This appears plainly from the changes effected in thd partisan General Staff and the “Government of Free Greece.”

GPU Now in Control

An entire staff of leaders, including Markos, Roussos and his famous companion Chryssa Chatsivasilou (the “Anna Pauker” of Greece) and Porphyrogenis, have been purged. The reins of power have passed, first of all, to Giannos Ioannides, until now “Minister of the Interior” and to Zachariades. Of the two, the first is the “strong” personality.

A veteran barber-worker, little known to the public, a grey personality lurking behind the scenes in the party, Ioannides has been a member of the Central Committee since the expulsion in 4,927 of the Trotskyist majority of this body, headed by the party’s General Secretary Pantelis Pouliopoulos (shot by Italian occupation authorities in 1943). Ioannides is one of the few members of the CC of the Greek Communist Party who, throughout the successive shake-ups and in spite of excommunications from Moscow, has never lost his place in that body. He is generally considered to be the “Moscow’s man” in Greece, i.e., the Kremlin’s direct agent, belonging both to the party and to the GPU.

As for Zachariades – the Thorez or the Togliatti of Greece – he enjoys, at least in appearance, Moscow’s complete confidence. Responsible for the policies of the Greek CP for several years, and particularly for its policies during the occupation and the December, uprising, he has just made, “in true Bolshevik manner,” his “self-criticism” in a long article published in the Cominform organ, For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy. As if nothing at all were amiss, he puts on display all the “mistakes” (i.e., the collaboration with imperialism and the bourgeoisie) which let to the December 1944 defeat and to the capitulation (of Jan. 11, 1945). But he breathes not a word about the fact that this policy, in no way limited solely to the Greek CP, was in reality the logical outcome, the normal application of the Kremlin’s general line during World War II.

Thus the leadership of the partisans and of the “Government of Free Greece” has passed into the hands of the direct agents of the Kremlin. The latter has gained its first victory before an open defection could break out among the Greek partisans and bolster up that of Tito in the Balkans.

Sharp Changes Coming

But there is absolutely no guarantee that the new GPU crew of Ioannides will manage to maintain its control and its prestige among the Greek partisans and workers. This action on the part of Moscow is in fact a stab in the back to the resistance of the Greek masses, it demoralizes and disorients them, and decidedly promotes the game of the class enemy, who already are rejoicing and gaining confidence.

But through this painful experience, the discontent with Stalinist treachery, among masses in Greece, in the Balkans, and throughout the world keeps making its way slowly, haltingly and painfully as yet.

The sharp changes which we shall witness on the morrow in the attitude of these masses towards Stalinism will be due in large measure to the repercussions of the Greek and Yugoslav affairs.

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Michel Pablo
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Marxist Writers’

Updated on: 10 April 2015