First Published: Veteran, 1924
Online Version: Pantelis Pouliopoulos Internet Archive, March 2003
Original Greek Transcription: Nikos Lountos for the Greek section of the Marxists’ Internet Archive, 1999
Translation/English Transcription: H. Antonn
HTML Markup: Roland Ferguson
Before we speak as to what our organisations demand, the Unions of Veterans and Army Victims, we must examine how and why these Unions came to being. This is so, because their program also, that is the aims that they pursuit, cannot just come out of the heads of a few people without a reason, but through the necessities of life. The true necessities of life, these are the ones that give birth inside people’s heads the desires, the yearnings, the decisions, which after careful study and assembling, are formulated orderly, in logical sequence and systematically, and so constitute the program of this or that organisation. A program that only comes out of people’s heads without reflecting certain needs existing within life, cannot be a real program, cannot be used as a guide for the activity of many people, especially organised people. It can be well written, seem logical, but it will always remain, a philological essay like a novel, for mere reading only. So, let’s see how our Unions came to being.
It is evident, that the organisations n our country came out of the wars of recent years, from 1912 and forth. If these wars left heaps of rubble as a trail of their destructive passing, however - as if like a counterbalance and antidote to this destruction - they became also the cause that gave birth to this great popular movement, the movement of veterans and army victims. Likewise in other countries of the world where such Unions exist (France, England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Australia and many others), these also came out of the great world war of 1914 - 1918.
Now, the immediate reasons that pushed into organizing first the war and army victims (cripples, widows, orphans, sisters and parents of the dead and missing in the war and the army), and afterwards of a large part of the disbanded soldiers, the prevalent of these reasons are the following: First the great, immeasurable wretchedness and suffering of the impoverished popular masses after their disbanding. Secondly the criminal indifference of the state towards the most basic demands of both the disbanded victims, that the State itself had created through its constant wars, and the poor reservists. These people the State, having first taken away by force all supplies they had for their jobs and their lives, having kept them away of their homes for many years and did its business with their hides, afterwards, all that were still alive were fired and forgotten completely. They were abandoned with no support, defenceless in the cruel and unequal struggle of post-war life. And unequal was the struggle of their living, because now on their backs they could see big newly rich who accumulated huge profits during the wars. And thirdly, a general sentiment of utmost indignation in the whole population for the futile waste of blood and also a general repulsion and hatred against the war and the army.
These needs pushed the veterans and the army victims. They created organisations in the whole of Greece, in most cities and even the villages. Around the Unions of Veterans and AV a movement was created, a fermentation, which stood always popular and engulfed only the lower layers of the people, the poor people who, in order to live have nothing else but their work or even a small supply of labour. Reservist workers, landless and poor peasants, city and village breadwinners, clerks, refugees. This movement is always kept alive, in some places more, in others less and in the whole country in general it shows a daily tendency to expand into increasingly broader layers of the people that was drafted, that fought and was sacrificed in these wars.
Of course, the movement as we’ve already said, according to the common needs that gave birth to it, could not but have certain general characteristic lines for the whole country. Despite this, until now it hadn’t had a program, as we said earlier, that is, it hadn’t designated and formulated its aims clearly, outright, in systematic sequence, not of course simply to put them on paper, but not to have any doubts and lead all their colleagues in one direction and one road.
This shortage was very important, not only for our struggle against the war, for our anti-war aim, but also for our economic aspirations, that is, for the labour we owe, that we are forced to do, to improve our position and release ourselves from the misery and hardship of our present life. And all our colleagues in the other Unions, they were given the chance many times to see how much harm this shortage does to our struggle. The first ill is that because there is no such program, common and mandatory for all of us, on many occasions one Union demands different things expressed in a different and often completely opposite way from another Union. But both Unions are called Unions of Veterans and Army Victims and declare that they have the same aims and the same program. Therefore, without a program our movement cannot become truly panhellenic, common. And everyone understands how easier we can achieve what we ant when we all together demand the same thing, as one body with many limbs, but with one will, one heart.
Furthermore, we’ve all seen and forced to face the dishonest and foul attempts of many elements hostile to our honest struggle, of many party leaders and other sold out organs of one or the other faction of those that ruined us. Those efforts had the purpose of exploiting the confusion that the lack of a program generated in order to throw dirt at our struggle or to mislead our Unions and make them too blind organs of the parties of ruin.
It is therefore obvious to everyone the urgent need that our Unions had to obtain a program. The First Panhellenic Conference of Veterans and Army Victims, which created the Federation of Veterans and Army Victims, has paid for this need and voted these programmatic positions, which from now on will be the foundation of our Federation and the common guide of all the Unions of Veterans and AV throughout the whole of Greece.
If one looks carefully, one cannot help but see a very characteristic fact noticed on a general scale during these recent years. Within the conscience of the broader poor popular masses on one hand the national sentiment has lost the most part of its initial intensity and is found loose in a level not seen before, on the other hand the patriotic ideal is completely bankrupt, and has been shattered not only among the people also in the conscience of a big number of so-called “intellectuals.” Only a biased observer cannot perceive that for these popular masses patriotic phraseology has been reduced into something, which they hold in disbelief, and the national sentiment is not capable anymore to be used as a means to push them into sacrifices.
This great transition in popular conscience appears very clearly in the spontaneous and powerful tendency that the popular layers have always against war, even when war is covered with patriotic and nationalistic speeches. War remains always unjustified and hated. The old ideals don’t have the power anymore to justify it in the conscience of the poor popular layers.
Some people, the naïve, the pseudoscientists, and the exploiters (the latter are the most), they want to justify these phenomena and they argue, that these supposedly show us a certain “corruption of the popular morale” and this“corruption” they want to tell us that it comes not from wars and the suffering of the people, but other reasons, one time A, another time B. They are telling us, that the Greek people were always “nationalist” and “patriotic” and that now there’s just a temporary deviation of the popular psyche. That there’s only needed suitable nationalistic and patriotic teaching and “education” for the deviated people to come back to the “straight patriotic road"! That’s what say and preach teachers, priests, books, newspapers, party leaders, and generally all the agents that all these years now have been mobilized to perpetuate the war martyrdom of the drafted people and to praise from safety the “glorious” heroes that got slaughtered in the fronts by tens of thousands, they have been mobilized now to revive the long dead patriotic ideals in the conscience of the war survivors.
The facts however, stand before us concretely to prove how deep and objective and permanent are the causes of this supposed deviation of the popular psyche. And the power of reality is so great, that compared to it any teachings and “education” will forever remain fatefully inconclusive and vain. It will look like the effort of someone who sweats to erase with a sponge letters that are carved deeply on marble with a chisel.
Until the time of the Balkan Wars it can be said that the popular masses had been preserving inside them a patriotic sentiment. But this sentiment didn’t have deep roots in their conscience, it represented a vivid real memory of dreams of old, nourished among them by political, military and religious leaders in the past century. However, this vague sentiment never achieved in obtaining a substantial content, in order to lead tomorrow the people into voluntary sacrifices, despite all the efforts of the politicians of the notorious “Great National Ideal,” and the sons of the modern Greek aristocracy. They all remained set dreaming of a new “Byzantine Empire” that would resurrect the ancient majesty of the nation and demanded for the realization of these dreams the people’s blood, without being able though to adapt in modern, every-day needs that pressed the lives of these people.
The Balkan wars of 1912-1913 came. The ruin that these wars brought upon the poor masses of the people began to mark their initial disappointment and cooled the sentimental zeal, which was inspired on them on the eve of these wars by the military and political leaders with their big fat talking of Great Ideal rhetoric about “Great Greece,” “enslaved brothers” and “national majesty.”
The ruin and general strain that these wars brought upon the lives of the poor popular masses have almost remained permanent and ended up being a wound increasingly perennial and incurable. A large part of the people was loosing their foothold. In order for the state to carry out expeditions much superior to its abilities, it seized with its continuous requisitions even the most basic means of work that the peasant masses had. The war debts were growing and their weight was burdened every time on the back of the people as indirect taxation. The cost of living was constantly growing, and when, with the declaration of peace the sons of the people were coming back from the “liberated” countries where they had seen a mosaic of nations and tribes (Greeks, Turks, Bulgarians, Serbians, Jews, Armenians, Rumanians, Albanians), they were met with a situation, they would never had imagined before: Against the extension of the State borders the were seeing their lives much more difficult than before, full of hardship, and themselves the “glorious heroes of the war,” defenceless in their hard struggle. The state, to which they had offered what was most valuable to them, being even more demanding to also burden them with all the economic onus of the wars, after all this bloody sacrifice. The victims of war, cripples, widows and orphans cast off in the most inhuman way from the very State that had created them in the first place through its wars. A peace treaty signed after a thousand diplomatic haggles and behind the scenes interventions of the big powers and full of sparks of new wars. And at last they were seeing next to their own miserable condition, an emerging series of upstarts and draft-dodging nouveaux-riches of the war period, who under the protection of the organs of the state, after profiteering on the spilled blood of the nations, now with all their exploitative methods they were profiteering also on their sweat.
The Balkan wars are the first wound that was opened on the body of our wretched people. Since then, a ten-year period full of war adventures begins. That first wound was increasingly expanding, more and more blood was flowing out of it, the blood of the people’s children. The period of successive wars opened by the Balkan wars went through various internal adventures and civil strife, which were provoked by the rivalries of the party cliques, and foreign propaganda, but whose bill paid again with their blood the people’s children. (The revolution of Salonica, mobilized soldiers’ conflicts, the November and July incidents, the blockade of 1916-1917, riots, imprisonments, executions etc). And that bloody era continued without being possible to say whether it’s completely ended. The people’s wound still remains wide open, incurable.
All the events that came about against the poor people during that period, each one of course, came to make even more terrible the consequences of the Balkan wars, mentioned earlier. And during this unforgettable and tragic period, every trace of the patriotic ideals of the old times in the suffering classes was completely lost. And one more thing. These ideals began eventually to be unmasked and challenged. Since then, one part of the people used for enlisting and sacrificed in wars (mainly workers, landless and poor peasants and breadwinners) began to realise what was really hiding behind these ideals.
Since the Great War of 1914 - 1918 broke out in Europe, the foreign influence of the big powers of the West (England, France) and Middle Europe (Germany, Austria) began to cross each other on our country. Each big power used all means, even the most shameless ones (official influence, blackmail, propaganda, sold-out instruments, buying-off newspapers etc) to drag us into war on their own side. One should be blind not to see those foreign influences. And only the simple-minded and foolish did not see this evident thing: that all the politicians that ruled the country became blind instruments and servants of the foreign powers and dragged our tortured people into the most horrific ordeals to serve these foreign interests. From a multitude of such incidents, it is enough to mention here only two or three, the most unforgettable ones, which prove typically the great crime committed all this time against our country, our poor people and our whole nation. Because even our compatriots, the Greeks who hadn’t been living within the borders of the “free” state, as they call it, even they along with others too fell victims of this criminal policy.
We all remember the fat talk of Venizelos about our “enslaved brothers” of Eastern Macedonia. With that fat talk they dragged us into the Greek-Bulgarian war. Much blood was spilled - who has forgotten the butcheries of Tsoumagia, Kilkis and Doirani. The “occupied” Eastern Macedonia was “liberated” eventually in 1913. Before two years passed since then, the very same politician suggests officially and shamelessly to give up that country (Kavala) together with the brothers for which we spilled blood in order to “liberate” them, to give them up to Bulgaria, that “age old enemy,” as they used to call him. And he suggested that in order to succeed in making Bulgaria to come out of neutrality on the side of Britain. Our “enslaved” brothers were haggled as a piece of merchandise because so demanded the war aims of England - and so the loud-mouthed rhetoric about “liberation” and the such was proved to be lies and demagogues.
And we all again remember, that this very same country together with the “liberated brothers,” another politician, the politician of the royal court, Gounaris, was giving it away with admirable ease for a few days to the Bulgarians, because the Bulgarians were allies with the Germans, the Germans were allies with the palace of king Constantine, and Gounaris was the chancellor of that palace and executor of the orders of the German-serving court camarilla.
The “liberated slaves-brothers” of Eastern Macedonia, were haggled like a sack of sugar in the English market by Venizelos, and by Gounaris in the German one.
And afterwards came - which one of us can forget - the Ukrainian and Bessarabian campaigns of 1918. It was so glaring that these campaigns were dragging the sons of the people to die for completely foreign interests, that truth was so much leaping to the eyes of the whole world, that even a general of Venizelos, general Dagklis, resigned in protest.
And who did they send us to strike up there, in the snowy Russian steppes? The Russian peasants came back from the battlefields of the European war in 1917, arrested their officers and killed the bloodstained Tsar, they created their own Soviet state and declared that they will not pay back any of the Tsar’s debts to the bankers of Paris in order to wage his wars of conquest and send the Russian people into the war slaughterhouses. We are free, they said, and we don’t mean to work ourselves to pay the Tsar’s debts, our executioner, to the millionaires of Europe. And so the French bankers sent in their French troops, that is, the poor workers and peasants of their country, to strangle the Russian Revolution and to re-install Tsarism, so that the big capitalist money-lenders would take back the money owed. But our French colleagues, awaken long before us, refused and many of them preferred to get shot by military tribunals, and they declared that they are in solidarity of the Russian soldiers who revolted for their rights, that they were their brothers. And then the Greek state offered to carry out the plans of the French bankers with our own blood. Thus the Ukrainian campaign will remain the most typical proof of the role that the Greek State played as an agent of foreign interests.
Those who washed their hands with the blood of the people that was spilled in Ukraine, those responsible for that big crime, sought to justify themselves and declared: the Ukrainian Campaign was in order to go to Asia Minor and “liberate” there too our “enslaved brothers,” in the usual way.
And now we have to remember in that era of the war in Asia Minor and recollect that crime that all the politicians, of every colouring, committed; the greatest crime that was ever committed against our people and our nation. The campaign of Asia Minor 1919-1922 has got this historic significance, that it stripped of any deceiving guise the so-called “national” policies of all political parties that ruled this country.
For us, who lived the Asia Minor front these years, who suffered on our bodies all its torments and horrors - no matter what is written or said about it is completely superfluous. The whole and naked truth that emerged daily in front of our astonished eyes, lit by the gunfire of the battles and on the smoking ruins of that country - the truth about the war we don’t need to know from papers nor hear it from the mouth of rhetors. We saw with our own eyes a people broken from the long past wars being dragged by the political blocs into a new war adventure, such that a logical person nowadays, realising its vast extent, stops and wonders: Crime or insanity? With our own eyes we saw the national lie: the Greeks didn’t constitute even one-fifth of the population in those territories, and in the areas of their highest concentration didn’t reach half of the total. 1 With our own eyes we saw our brothers fall and getting maimed by tens of thousands, endless trains and caravans running through that country of death and despair, full of rotten flesh and dried blood. With our own eyes we saw the whole of our country’s wealth, the accumulated toil of the people, burning like a firework at the command of the Western diplomats and crowned criminals, and all the wealth-producing sources of our country in mortgage by the state to the European and American bankers to secure the means of continuing the havoc.
And at last, we saw with our own eyes that the “liberation” war, after liberating many thousands by sending them to the other world, it ravaged the whole of Asia Minor from Eski-Sehir and Afion Karahisar and Aidini to the shores, subjected all the peoples of the country of all races and religions to unspeakable misery, drove out of their homes more than a million people and into servility and brought about general instability and economic deadlock to the country and the state.
And now that the guns are silenced, let’s take a look around.
Every day we see more and more clearly the destructive consequences of the wars tormenting like terrible nightmares the lives of the disbanded soldiers and generally of all the poor popular layers. A general and permanent crisis, an incurable illness has set in throughout the land. Everything is broken down, the state, the society, the economy and the family. Wherever one looks, sees in front of him yet more of the rubble the wars have piled up. Thousands of people that came back from war that can’t get a job to live and are hungry. Misery, undernourishment and a huge increase in sickness and the number of the people’s children dying every day. The social misery and poverty continuously grow begging, prostitution and the number of criminals whom the prisons cannot hold anymore. The national currency is downgraded and the price of exchange has terrifying fluctuations. A clique of financiers is gambling on the backs of the people, making their lives even more problematic. The national debt that surpasses twenty two millions and imposes huge weights on the state budget, weights that the State, not daring to burden the big plutocrats and the war upstart profiteers with it, seeks to squeeze it out of the very same people, with the blood of which it waged its war ventures. Brutal taxes on necessities, taxes that milk the people in everything they eat, wear etc. The war victims, the cripples, the ones with tuberculosis and the miserable beings who lost their guardians in the war, suffer the most horrible and excruciating life of the outcast, and the State, which is the only cause of their misery, doesn’t provide them even what they need in order not to die (450 drachmas to a complete 100% invalid!).
The old “democratic” methods were abandoned by the political parties, the so-called popular rights have been reduced to a mere joke on the people, and there is no means of oppression, violence and terror that is not being used on them. The state has become the private playground of every casual demagogue charlatan, the social services are merchandise in his hands and finally a whole train of sinecurist parasites of the public fund, which follows any party clique in the ups and downs of political power.
But what we veterans and army victims have to look out for are the following three distinct defining characteristics of this period after the wars:
First. A class of bankers, big ship-owners, industrialists, big merchants, big landlords and arms suppliers, after accumulating many easy riches during the wars and taking advantage of every internal abnormalities in order to profiteer on the needs of the population, now holds in its hands huge concentrated economic forces (stock-market capital, land, factories, ships, building estates etc), that is, it holds in its hands almost completely the lives of the people.
Second. The causes for new wars develop daily and the important resources of the country are wasted in new war preparations.
Third. The military officer class despite the blow taken from its defeat in Asia Minor, not only did it not lose its power but after dominating the so-called “Revolution of 1922,” has been stabilized, developed, received big privileges, put into action a plan of thorough militarisation of the land and, most importantly, has enthroned itself on our backs for good and has become a decisive factor in the political life of the country, a factor that transfer the methods of bestial stratocratic violence from the barracks and the military schools in the service of the various tyrants and exploiters of the people.
Only some who knows nothing of what is happening in the world can think that everything we mentioned before happens only in Greece. Of course, this phenomena, the post-war wounds as we described them in a few words, have some distinctly Greek points, but in total are general symptoms of a situation that prevails in the whole world today. And especially in the big countries of the old and the new world.
Let’s go back for a while in the time when the European war was declared in 1914. We all remember well the celebrated speeches trumpeted by the rhetors and printed by the various newspapers. The “rights of nations,” the right of “self-determination of nations,” “international justice,” for these the various governments said that the war was all about. And every government was trying to persuade its people that it had right on its side. And that war was made and peoples where slaughtering each other for more than four years. And when the slaughter and the cannon ceased, the peoples wondered: Why all this destruction? But no answer was to be found.
Now they’re without doubt, that these lies about international justice and freedom of nations and the like, were uncovered. No people believe in them anymore. After the nations were deceived by them and were dragged into the great slaughter, the time has come, things themselves opened their eyes and they saw the great truth. They saw clearly, that is, that the war was not about their own interests, rights and freedom, but that war was a terrifying conflict between two predatory groups, the Entente and the Central Powers (England, France, Italy - Germany, Austria), who quarreled about who will conquer and subdue the whole world.
A handful of big bankers in each of the big Powers managed first of all to beat all their opponents locally, absorb them and conquer in their own countries. Even the state machine passed to their hands. The existence of the state was in the hands of this clique of bank capital sharks. The instruments of the State, were their people. And the whole of the press was bought off by them. In their inextinguishable thirst for new profits, that clique of big bankers sought other countries, outside of their own, unexploited countries, the colonies. And they sought to place in those countries their excess capitals, in order to steal their raw materials and exploit their living forces, their cheap labour. But what the capitalist clique of one Power sought, the same things the banker sharks of the other Powers sought too. And the unexploited countries of the world are not infinite. Thus, with those ravenous tendencies, the various imperialist gangs (coalitions of the biggest capitalist Powers) could not but come to fatal conflict. And these national gangs, having as their representatives, the states, the “fatherlands,” with their armies and all their means of destruction, launched themselves against each other. And the expenses of these conflicts no-one pays but the peoples with their own innocent blood.
Through such a conflict of imperialist interests and views, that butchery of 1914-1918 came to be. The world had never seen anything like it. Thirty-one states took part in it, 13 million people died according to the latest statistics (three times more than those dead in all the wars from 1800 to 1900) and hundreds of thousands of death-stricken victims were created. For four and a half years, the “civilised” world of the 20th century, had regressed to the most distant time of barbarism, the time of cannibalism.
If the great historic crime of the world imperialist war buried forever in the conscience of the slaughtered peoples all the false ideals about “fatherland” and “freedom of nations” etc, at the end of the war, its terrible outcome gave a push to the peoples of the world into direct action against their executioners, and against the regime of bloody domination upon the world.
Nothing in the world was left stable in its position after that war. Everything was shaken, unbalanced. There was a terrible, irresistible and permanent crisis in the economic life of all the countries, without exception. In one place, there were colossal quantities of unsold products (super-production) and elsewhere a lack of the most basic ones. Hunger, death in the streets, millions of unemployed, misery for the working and poor popular masses in all countries, both victorious and defeated, a misery that the world had never seen before, not even during the biggest disasters. A general uncertainty for tomorrow in all aspects of life of every country, political conflicts and overthrows, terrifying fluctuation of exchange etc. And above all that, the capitalist gang of every country is trying with every means of violence, terror, mass murder and oppression of the people to keep its hegemony, to squeeze even out of the surviving people’s misery new profits constantly and prepare for new bloodthirsty enjoyment tomorrow.
Therefore, it is not strange at all that the economic and political organizations of the exploited popular masses took in the end of the war a revolutionary character and sought to overthrow violently the imperialists and their governments. The peoples, mainly of the European countries, where the catastrophe is more extended, now realise that they can’t secure their living but only when the power of Imperialism in their countries collapses and when the International Economy is built on a new basis, securing the peaceful cooperation and co-existence of all the working peoples and abolish once and for all imperialist conflicts and their inevitable result, war.
This revolutionary movement, in head of which is the most wide-awaken, the most educated and most active part of the working people, the organised wageworkers (the proletariat), really broke out a year before the war ended (October 1917) in the most ruined country International Imperialism resided, the tsarist Russia. And it dominated thoroughly.
But the world war became the cause of the breaking out of another popular movement, equally dangerous to he imperialists of the world and equally hopeful for the exploited and slaughtered peoples: the revolutionary movement of the colonial peoples. Hundreds of millions of all races, in India, in Africa, in America, in the islands suffer under the yoke of the conquerors. These conquerors, the imperialists of the Great Powers supposedly go there to tame and “civilise” the barbaric peoples of the colonies. But every one of us understands the kind of civilization the sharks of the Capital and executioners of the peoples transfer to these unfortunate nations. With the policeman’s club, blood, iron and fire millions of colonised people work not like the ancient slaves, but like beasts, to fill with gold the coffers of the big capitalists. The suffering the English Imperialists impose on the Indians and Muslims of the East are unutterable. And the world sold-out press is bribed expensively to spill to the ends of the world the lies, to cover the crimes that the European “civilisation” commits over there and praise with a thousand golden words the majesty and justice that the British Empire hands out to those peoples.
All the races of the world have been armed by the imperialist states of Europe, have been trained in arms and war and were dragged to the European war fronts, to join the world-wide slaughter too. Like the innocent peasant who wakes up in the army, so war, by mixing the slaves of the colonies with the metropolitan civilised peoples, opened their minds and showed them that there can be a humane life for humans, different from the sweaty life they’ve been living until then, and awoke in them the feeling of freedom and taught them to demand their rights themselves. And when they returned to their countries with the end of the war, when the conqueror began to demand more of their toil, in order to have enough profits to satisfy the demands of the metropolitan slaves, the workers that is, and extinguish their revolutionary flame, then the slaves of the colonialists began to rise. And their uprising is terrible to their conquerors. In all the colonies of the Imperialist Powers a huge revolutionary wave grows more and more. Away with the conquerors, we want to live on our own in our land, to rule on our own, autonomous. Our conquerors to stop plundering us under the guise of “civilisation"!, this voice is heard throughout the colonised peoples.
The foundations of International Imperialism are shaking everywhere.
It is not difficult now to realise that this anti-imperialist movement of the colonised nations is the natural brother of the revolutionary movement of the exploited metropolitan peoples. Both movements, associated, are moving forward with increasingly bigger steps. Freedom and peace in the world are the end of this historic course.
Nearly six years have passed since the great imperialist war ended. The imperialists that lit the fire of the war are desperate to persuade the nations, that this war was the last one, and that rule the world from now on. But if we want to take a careful look towards all these countries, we will make sure that this is yet another one of their very big lies they use to deceive the peoples and thus to drive them unsuspected tomorrow to new slaughters. If the Central Powers were beaten during the last war, the conflicts among the victors never ceased. A huge economic antagonism among them (England - France - America - Japan) leads fatefully to new armed conflicts, to new bloody hecatombs of the peoples.
Today, our world presents from this point of view the following image: In Europe two giants of militarism, England and France, like armed hedgehogs, are staring threateningly each other. From the other side, America and Japan, the navy titans, in the Far East, in China, in South Africa and Mexico are straining the rope increasingly with their imperialist desires and expansion. And above all, the manic race of the military and navy armaments among these countries.
In more detail. Who doesn’t remember the Greek-Italian conflict over Corfu? The League of Nations, who touted that it would give the small nations their infringed rights, proved to be a mockery to these nations, and an instrument in the hands of the big ones. They also touted the ceasing of the arms race. There were even international conferences on disarmament, like the one in Washington. They all went bankrupt, and their bankruptcy was revealed in the most magnificent way. The war preparations carry on in all countries, only this time not like before, but increasing day by day. Today, while we’re writing this, there are more soldiers under arms in the whole world than in 1914, by 700000. Colossal war credits are being voted in all parliaments. Air and naval fleets are being constructed, and in the factories they prepare great colossi of war (tanks, dreadnaughts, planes, submarines) that the world has never seen before. Service is being prolonged, the officer corps is growing. All scientific means are applied in inventing the most perfected killing mediums (poisons, gases, etc).
Everywhere there are volcanoes of imperialistic conflicts ready to explode and bury under their lava the whole world again. Ruhr, Fume, Morocco, Yavarina (Polish-Czechoslovakian conflict), Bessarabia, Afghanistan, the Balkan Peninsula, the Far East, etc.
French Imperialism, after occupying Ruhr and keeping the coal, iron and an important part of the railway network of Germany under its control, now makes secret treaties with the small states, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Poland, offering them war credits, cannons, war material, and officers, and thus trying to become the dominating tyrant of the whole Europe. But on the other hand, English imperialism seeks the same thing. All those who had fooled themselves into believing that the so-called “Labour Party” in England would ensure world peace, were forced to realise very quickly their error. The very facts made them realise that this party, despite its “labour” title, became a blind instrument of the powerful English capitalism. It built new navy bases (Singapore), new navy and air armaments and finally, what France did with its small vassal states, the same MacDonalds’ England does along with Italy, Spain and Yugoslavia. If alongside this anglo-french antagonism in Europe we take into account the influence conflicts in the Balkans, the aims of Serbian nationalists on Salonica, their conflict with the Bulgarian nationalists on Parnik (the Balkan Ruhr), the great fermentations happening inside Macedonia (nationalists, autonomists, guerrillas), then we clearly see that the threat of a new war which of course will surpass in horror all the wars that mankind has ever seen, even the world war of 1914-1918, hangs over us like the sword of Damocles.
He who wants to explain how wars come to be, both the past ones and the ones that threaten us in the future, and what are their causes, is obliged to examine and learn first the international position of Greece, or else he’ll be considering things unconnected, and build on the air. And first of all he has to take into account a very important thing, that many people miss: that Greece and the other small Balkan states are today bound hands and heels to the imperialist Powers of Western Europe (France, England) and is an obedient servant of their interests.
Let’s not go back to find the real reasons that compelled the powerful of the world to form small, supposedly independent states, just like our own, states that are always incompetent of fulfilling their own needs. 2 Let’s just examine only what are the aims of Western Imperialism in the Balkan states which primarily interest us, and in Greece, which is even more interesting:
First. These imperialists want to subjugate financially the Balkan countries. That is, they seek to place their excess capital in the companies of these small countries, in order to obtain bigger interest and more profits. To have these countries as markets for their merchandise, which would otherwise remain unsold, and therefore their factories would close down and many of their workers would be thrown to the street unemployed, and they would revolt, which is not in the interests of the capitalists. And finally, to lay their hands on the raw materials of the small unexploited countries (coal, iron, other minerals, etc). In a few words, the imperialists want to make our small countries a kind of colonies, let’s call them half-colonies.
Second. To subjugate them politically. That is, to have their governments under their own influence. To play them in their hands like puppets, to drive them wherever their interests lay. And so they intend to use the Balkan states as a bridge that will connect them with Asia and Africa and secure Constantinople; and
Third. To have live material for their wars, since their own peoples are difficult and dangerous for the imperialists to arm and send to war. So the Balkan peoples, Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Albanians, the imperialists of the West want to use them as cannon-fodder, either in the wars they make for their commercial interests, or for drowning in blood any revolutionary movement that may erupt in the future and threaten the regime of their dominance.
We don’t need much effort to realise that French and English imperialism manage very well to achieve their previously mentioned aims in our country. He who has been living in Greece for the last few years and didn’t realise that the state has become an instrument in the hands of the foreigners, and our people many times truly became cannon-fodder when foreign interests demanded so, must be very naive or blind or serving interests. For this question we wouldn’t have anything more to say than to repeat what we have said in the beginning of our position. Concrete and undeniable facts from persons of good faith, have proved clearly the political subjugation of Greece to the Western Powers.
But we won’t need any more effort to make sure that Western European imperialism achieves its other aim too in our country, its economic subjugation. From the banks, the electricity companies, the big mining companies and state loans, to the waterfalls of Macedonia, there is no major source of our national wealth where the anglo-french finance capital has not laid a hand on. Without we, the poor and miserable and simple workers using our hands or minds3 realising it, billions of what we create with our labour each year leave our country and through a thousand secret channels end up in the coffers of the bankers in London and Paris. Were these channels not secret, and this rip-off happened in front of our own eyes, of course we would shudder and our conscience would revolt against this robbery happening daily against us.
Many, even of us, before coming to know all the previously mentioned truths which now seem to us so simple and understandable, that we are taken aback if anyone doesn’t want to admit them, many sought before to find the causes of wars in other improvised phenomena, like the ones that the newspapers print daily. Thus others said that the war is waged to achieve national unity, that is, to further the borders of the state, to include our fellow countrymen who live in other countries. Others said that war is made because of the X or Y government, because the foreign policy is wrong, that it’s not right, or because X or Y governor is a warmonger and ambitious and an adventurer, that is, he seeks glory for himself and doesn’t care if the people is massacred. Others say, because the officers impose the war, with their influence on the state, which for them is the only purpose in life, since they are professional men of war. And finally, others said, that war is made because the State is forced to make it, because it is found in a “defensive” position against enemy attack.
But he who truly wants to know the causes of war today, the real causes, will not stop to these improvised and worn-out reasons we mentioned above. He would be very shallow if he stopped at these only. Out of these reasons, there are of course some that play some role and should not be forgotten. We should however, give to each one the place it deserves, the importance that each one has. Suddenly we would make a very big mistake if we said that if Venizelos was missing, this war nightmare, this adventurer politician and criminally ambitious man, we wouldn’t have been dragged to war and we would live quietly and peacefully. For even if Venizelos wasn’t there, the forces that pushed the Greek state to war were so powerful and so irresistible, that even if another politician held power, the butchery of war would still be upon us. And clear proof of this, is that both the king and Gounaris who had declared that they wanted peace, when they succeeded Venizelos initially, they then sent us to Saggario. The same holds for the influence of the officers, and the interests of the throne and the court. All these are reasons that play a very small role, secondary in the birth of war today. And this is very important to know, for us who want to fight for our lives and our peace, against the war. We must strike evil at its root, not its branches.
Now, the other remaining reasons, “national unity” and “defence” are nothing more than guises and lies whose aim is to cover up the real causes of wars. The first lie, it’s true, was uncovered completely on an international scale in the conscience of nations. Nowadays, he who speaks out seriously about enslaved brothers, national grandeur and the like, can only cause us irony or disgust. We don’t need to persist too much on this, after what we’ve mentioned earlier.
In the “defence” argument however, we need to give much more attention, for it’s this lie that is much more dangerous than any other for us. It is the last lie to which the executioners of the world have found refuge, and will do so again tomorrow to justify the new war they are preparing. And if we don’t take care of it, then we can say from now on: we are prisoners in the claws of our executioners. We are about to die!
We don’t need to persist on a point that is now crystal clear. Our country is so tightly bound to the chains of economic dependence from the Western imperialist Powers, that every government is forced to follow a policy of blind obedience towards the daily interests of the imperialists in the East and the Balkans. And we have seen that the interests of the various imperialists do not agree with each other, but they antagonise each other, they are in constant conflict. Thus, every time that this conflict reaches a war outbreak, the policy of the Greek governments, tied to the chariot of one of the warring imperialist Powers, leads inevitably the people to bloody adventures, and takes now this, and then another self-righteous pretext. If this depth of the war policy of the Greek governments is not leaping to everyone’s eyes, this is happening because these charlatans and jingoists take all possible measures to hide it, to cover it up. The diplomatic backstage and antechambers of the bank offices are the workshops where the executioners, local and foreign, sharpen their murderous knives.
But the economic chains and the attachment of the state to the chariot of European imperialism wouldn’t be enough to completely justify the wars if there wasn’t yet another factor, another power in our country, allowing and facilitating foreigners to carry out their plans of conquest with our blood. And we must find this power, we must examine it carefully and persistently from all sides. Because it is the most important, the most basic point of our whole program.
There is an oligarchy in our country too, which holds in its hands the most important means of the national wealth and whose interests oppose and counter those of the great majority of the people. Many want to deny this, either out of self-interest or narrow-mindedness. They say that there is no such class here in Greece, such capitalism as in the other big countries, who have a more advanced economy and their big industry concentrated to a few hands. They say that our country is petit-bourgeois, where all wealth is shared, where every one has his own and no-one is complaining and that there is no inequality in our society. But those who suggest such things do not want to look around them. They don’t see from one side the infinite misery that torments the poor people, and all the small ones who “own” something (small landlords - small manufacturers, poor peasants etc) they don’t see that themselves, in order to live, are forced to work and work more excruciatingly than those who own nothing, but their labour is stolen by the merchant with his speculation, the shylock with his loan sharking, the predatory State with its taxes, the landlord with his rents. They don’t see that this “something” whether it is a small house, or a small shop, or a small amount of money, the poor in order to keep it “theirs” are forced to work for it day and night with all his family, to painstakingly earn his bread! 4
And they don’t want to see from the other side, these parasites, bankers, big merchants, financiers, ship owners and industrialists, all those idle squires who accumulate capital from the sweat of all the working people.
And what is happening in our own country, is happening also in the other small Balkan states. There too such a privileged oligarchy holds the most important parts of the national wealth in their hands and exploits the labour of the people, accumulating huge capital.
As the gangs of big plutocrats of the big Powers demand today to conquer the whole world becoming imperialistic, thus the privileged oligarchies of our Balkan countries of today show similar aspirations of conquest: Each one them seeks to extend the kingdom of their economic sovereignty, to make it bigger and to exploit even more working hands, more extensive lands and sources of natural wealth. 5 The bankers seek new countries to place their capital with bigger profits in new enterprises. 6 The big merchants seek to they grow their circle of speculative action. 7 The ship owners seek to acquire new harbours under State protection. The industrialists seek to sell in more speculative prices their merchandise under the protection of the State, that is, by paying fewer customs duties. Finally the predatory State with its sinecures, in order to have more poor people to milk and thus avoiding the taxation of its protected ones, the rich. And generally every plutocrat, of any sector, always sees something good for his interests and supports always war. For this reason, when war is imminent, while the workers and peasants and the poor people in general tire and ask for peace, the rich are ready to gouge their eyes out in order to convince us that the war must go ahead, that the homeland blah-blah, etc.
Now it’s easier for all of us to realise that the imperialists find in these tendencies, in this greed and profit mania of the local oligarchy, their best ally for their interests and purposes. Of course, the aspirations of conquest of each one of the Balkan plutocracies come to conflict, since their lands are not immense. For example, Macedonia is claimed by the Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek plutocracies and even by the Turkish lords. The States arm themselves and confront each other like roosters ready to fight. The slightest pretext is enough for war to break out. Thus, every now and then the unfortunate peoples are called to resolve these trade differences with their own blood. Pretexts are found in abundance. Today, national unity, tomorrow a diplomatic incident, the day after in defence of the first one to be attacked and the like.
And of course, before the wars, the plutocratic oligarchy was there and exploited the labour of the people. But until then, this was happening with out us realising: Underneath a thousand lies and prejudices and customs this great evil was hidden. But when wars began and carried on for so many years and especially when the were over and “peace” came, then the whole affair was uncovered in front of the eyes of even the most distrustful. Only then the poor popular masses began to realise that these drones constituted a class on their own, with its own separate interests, and that the poor workers of cities and villages are another class with its own separate interests, opposing those of the exploiters class’. And then they began to understand well, that they must wage a social struggle, to fight that exploiting class with their own forces and not wait passively for its charity. That they had to organise themselves.
There are many instances of exploitation and tyranny against us. We must know all their kinds, in all their expressions, to see afterwards how to fight them and how we’ll relieve ourselves from them.
First. Economic exploitation and tyranny. We have said enough about it. On one hand, in the whole country and especially in the cities, the sharks of bank capital, the big industrialists and big merchants, speculators and the upstart newly rich of the wars; on the other hand, out in the rural areas, the big landlords and money lenders hold the lives of the people in their hands, and with more or less “legal” methods they usurp, they steal, the labour of the vast majority of the people, comprising of workers, poor peasants or landless ones, clerks, small bread-winners and disinherited refugees.
Second. Political exploitation and tyranny. They tell us that “the people is sovereign” and decide on their own on their fortunes with elections. They send their own representatives to the parliament and they take decisions with their interests in mind. Especially now, with Democracy, the sovereignty of the people, they say, will become even greater, since only they will be able to elect the Head of State, the President of the Democracy. But we know well that the great majority of the poor people, whether they want it or not, remain still illiterate and cannot know about the various issues concerning the country. They don’t have the chance to educate, because they are condemned to work only.
We know also, that most poor and working people, apart from their compulsory ignorance, which makes them easily, without them wanting, instruments of every charlatan demagogue, they are also bound hands and heels to the various rich local party leaders by various obligations, and that these party leaders manage very skillfully with all their demagogical means to create an election herd, and lock it up whenever they wish in their party sheepcote. We won’t mention the terror, violence, state pressure and rigging methods which have become the main means of electoral domination lately.
After all that, every logical person understands that the “people’s sovereignty” and “universal suffrage” when the people find themselves in this situation, end up to be the most disgraceful comedy against them, the ultimate hypocrisy and lie, that conceals from the eyes of the deceived the political dictatorship of the privileged upon the people.
The recent political history of the country has been nothing else but a long line of sequential events, which proved most clearly that the so-called “representatives” and “fathers” of the nation never really expressed the will and desires of the popular masses, whose votes had usurped those demagogues, those professional political crooks, in an atmosphere of deceit, which methodically and by all means they create during election periods. 8
And third. Physical exploitation and tyranny, exploitation of our blood.
The military road roller passes over the most vigorous parts of the popular layers, the youth, as soon as or even before it comes of age.
Under the violence and brutalising discipline of the professional servicemen, the drowning of every human feeling, the complete mechnisation of the people’s children and their transformation into blind and inconscient instruments is systematically pursued. And after this, the war. Those who’ll dare to let their human feelings against militarist tyranny, or dare to deny its yoke, they meet death by the fratricidal bullets executing the verdicts of the military courts or find languishment in prisons, like the worst of criminals. The rest, the majority, are dragged in the war slaughter. Alongside their militarist slavery, their most sacred right is removed in the most brutal way, life itself.
Only through their own organisation and their own struggle will the working people, slaughtered and sacrificed, be able to gain hold of their lives and a means to free and save themselves. As there are various kinds of tyranny and exploitation against them, their organisations must also be varied; there must be various ways for their struggle. And so it happens. The very needs for life itself push them to join in various organisations. It is obvious that all these organisations have common traits and final goal: the abolition of the plutocratic oligarchy and the liberation of the people.
Workers and peasants’ economic organisations take up the struggle against economic exploitation. They seek to improve the position of wage earners and all workers in general! To impose to the exploiters and the State their demands.
Political organisations wage the political struggle of the exploited. They fight against the political parties of the exploiters, they pull the masses out of their influence, they awaken and educate them, and want to give the people true political domination, to raise them to state power, to turn the state into an instrument of their own interests, instead of the instrument of plutocratic interests that is today.
Finally, the ultimate and most horrible kind of exploitation, of our own blood, and all its consequences on the lives of its victims, is being fought against by the newly born after the war Unions of Veterans and Army Victims.
The Unions of Veterans and Army Victims based on the above founding principles, are the main and powerful instruments of struggle of the people against the criminal wasting of their blood, against militarist slavery and against the inhuman and foul indifference of the State towards the suffering of its victims.
In their struggle, these Unions of Veterans and AV are the bold defenders of all by and large victims of war and the army.
And when we say victims, what do we mean?
First. The victims of recent wars and recent militarism. Such victims are: Criplles, war fthisicals, widows and orphans, the sisters, the defenceless parents of people killed in the war, of those who died in the army or military prisons, the executed by the military courts. They are the unfortunate beings, that lost their stands in the war and in the army, and whom the State has abandoned completely defenceless. The standing laws supposedly concerning their welfare are the clearest proof of the inhumanity of the State, which like a true contractor of war, doesn’t feel the obligation even to compensate the people who suffered during its war campaigns. People who lost both their legs, or arms, cannot even buy their daily read with the ridiculous pension that the State hands out to them. Such victims of previous wars and militarism are finally the whole mass of poor reservists who came back alive from service and now remain with no help and their living has ended up being problematic. For these victims the Unions of Veterans and AV demand from the State: compensation, adequate pensions relevant to the cost of living, free medical care and every other assistance that would ease the suffering of the victims. Special measures for the protection of the disbanded people, drastic measures against profiteering, improvement of the living conditions of all workers and challenging social exploitation in all its forms, merciless war against the tax policy of the State throwing the economic burden of its wars on the backs of the poor popular masses according to the special program of economic requisitions.
Second. The victims of yesterday’s and today’s militarism. Such are the military convicts, the people’s children who now rot inside military prisons for disobeying the orders of the sword-bearers, because they didn’t want to submit or they couldn’t stand the bestial discipline of military rules and military criminal law. To these victims, the Unions fight to give freedom, demand general amnesty for all military convicts, and
Third. The victims of future wars of today’s and tomorrow’s militarism. Such are the soldiers, our brothers for whom only we can fight who have known war and the army and have lived the miserable life that they now live. Our Unions will demand a whole series of reforms for the soldiers, according to their own program, to make their lives more comfortable, to free them from all the misery we tasted before. Such victims are also those liable for military service, the youth receiving the poisonous ideals of false patriotism in schools and the society, and is duped by the false and deceitful ideals that the jingoists, the profiteers of blood and their instruments systematically inspire to them. On that point our Unions wage, according to their own program, the broadest propaganda against war and militarism, and spread among the people the spirit of true internationalism with their slogans. War against war! Down with imperialism! Down with militarism!
We all know, and if we don’t, then experience will teach us, that the great purpose for which we fight will be achieved if our Unions take in their organised lines the great mass of the disbanded and the victims. The more united and more concrete we are, the more our power will be greater and more terrible to the exploiters and militarists, the more our imposition upon the State will be more powerful. Our today’s Unions must organise to awaken and move the indifferent and sleeping masses, to analyse our program to them, to give them consciousness of their interests and the dangers that threaten their lives.
On this task, the Unions will count on the devotion, honesty and self-sacrifice of the vanguard.
According to what we mentioned previously, the Unions are not political, neither can be ever the instruments of the X or Y party. They will remain autonomous and independent of any other political or other organisation.
The Unions finally, cannot wage their struggle against war and militarism effectively, if they don’t clearly link to the other anti-war organisations of the other countries. It is derived clearly from what we said before that the source of war is not out of a sole country, but international.
Consequently, the struggle of the peoples against war must also be international and world embracing. This truth was recognised by the veterans and war victims of all countries. Reconciled to the common struggle for peace in the world are our colleagues of other countries (French, German, Austrians, Alsatians, English, Italians, Bulgarians, etc), who after founding their anti-war organisations in their own countries, hurried in convening into an International Conference in the 3rd of April 1920 in Geneva in Switzerland.
There was founded the International Union of Veterans and Army Victims (Internationale des Anciens Combattants et des Victimes de Guerre), the supreme international organisation that concentrates and unites the struggle of veterans in all countries.
In this International, our Panhellenic Federation of Veterans and Army Victims cannot but take part and become its Greek section.
Under the flag of the International unfolding from Paris over the borders of countries, embracing all the sacrificed peoples of mankind, under this flag the Greek Veterans and Army Victims fight like faithful soldiers of a sacred struggle for peace in the World, for the dethroning of the Exploiters, of Tyrants and Executioners, for the Brotherhood of nations.
[A] This text, written by Pantelis Pouliopoulos (under the pseudonym Fillipos Orfanos) and voted for by the conference of Veterans and Army Victims in the 6th of May 1924, was first published in 1924 in the weekly organ of the federation of Veterans and Army Victims, Veteran. It was re-published later by the International Library, in the book War against war (with no publication date).
1. When we realised this lie we weren’t much surprised. How we had got accustomed to living in this lie! They even got us accustomed to crime. How many of us -let us not forget- didn’t carry out acts of cruelty against the innocent population, out of habit, without intention, just like the Turkish barbarians! Acts for which they now repent of course. But many of us will still find it difficult to uncover now that lie about the population, the one we saw then without wondering. But this must not be. A people cannot free themselves, neither from tyranny, nor from poverty and exploitation, or threats against their lives, unless they uncover this lie and begin their struggle telling first and foremost the truth, regardless of shock, regardless of how much it contradicts habit and custom.
2. Look at the small “independent” states that came out of mutilated Germany and the pieces of the dissected Austria after the war; Czechoslovakia and Poland. They are supplements, branches of the imperialists of England and France. They buy their merchandise, their excess guns and military equipment, and are ready to throw their peoples to war at the first command of their masters. And all that on the pretext of “independence” and “self-determination of nations"!
3. A worker is also a person that has nothing else but a science or technical knowledge in his head and sells it for a wage to live, an accountant, an employee of any technical or scientific service and the like. We have got used to consider them different from us. On many occasions, we even consider them being against us, allies with the exploiters. But his is incorrect. Many of the “intellectuals,” as they are called, may think that they are better than the majority of the people on manual labour. And perhaps they may sometimes become the instruments of the rich. But they don’t cease to be workers and exploited, like us. Our brothers in our common misery.
4. Some people -those that interest has erased inside them every human feeling, or whose narrow-mindedness keeps them from seeing further than their noses- don’t hesitate to say that: Our nation is “austere” and “self-contained” and work-loving, that little is sufficient for us, that eating bread and onions is enough to get us working non-stop. But these gentlemen deem very natural and justified the fact that next to this miserable life of the working people to see the plutocrats in their cars, with their cocottes on their sides spending nights in orgies while the poor workers are thinking what to do to feed their children tomorrow.
5. This tendency of the plutocrats of the small states, the Europeans call it expansionism, a tendency towards greater expansion, as we’d say.
6. We should all remember the time, when Stratos had come with a few capitalists in Smyrne [Izmir in Turkish trans.] and managed to get mining rights for some mines in the territory occupied by the Greek army.
7. Who will forget the swarms of merchants, who, like vultures on a corpse, had gathered in Asia Minor, leaving nothing not passing through their filthy hands, and profiteered even on what the army was eating.
8. Whoever remembers the elections of the 1st of November 1920, understands how true are the above. Why did we vote down Venizelos then? Because he wanted war. Why did we bring the king back? Because they had been trumpeting before the elections that he would make peace. Instead of peace, he gave us Saggario. [place of the bloody battle marking the beginning of the retreat of the Greek army out of Turkey trans.]