Pantelis Pouliopoulos

The Dictatorship of August Fourth

Written: July 1939
English Translation: VN Gelis
HTML Markup: MIA volunteer
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1. The Metaxas dictatorship of 4th August has now completed 3 years of rule. In this period the bourgeois parliamentary parties were erased from the political scene. The organisations of the working class were dissolved and most of its militants were either in exile or imprisoned. The proletariat didn't express any resistance. Metaxas organised national labour unions and agricultural cooperatives on the basis of the 'leadership principle' and a hierarchy like Mussolini and Hitler. He every now and again organises popular demonstrations where he is declared to be the first worker, the first farmer etc. of the country. In the Administration, in Education, even in the Church, he implements the same bureaucratic totalitarian policy of autarchy in the economic field, just like fascism and he hasn't been slow to show his energetic support towards the fascist countries — including in trading with the Nazis. In the controlled press, in schools, in universities — everywhere — Metaxas has established the dominant ideology of the 'absolutist' state, of anti-communism, anti-liberalism and anti-capitalist demagoguery. Finally he created paramilitary units, just like those of National Socialism and Fascism. The whole political life of the country permanently revolves around what Metaxas says and does. Thus Greece became a Fascist country, with a Duce, a Fuhrer, Ioannis Metaxas. Such observations like the above were made by Stalinism. Such were also made by various Fourth Internationalists.

2. Stalinism didn't require as many signs as above to see Fascism appearing from the royalist proclamations of the 4th August 1936 when Parliament was dissolved. From the era of the "twin brothers" (Fascism and Social Democracy) and the 'Fascist' Bruning and before, they had characterised as Fascist, according to the period: Venizelos, Kondilis and Tsaldaris and every government which passed anti-labour legislation or overturned the so-called democratic freedoms of Bourgeois Democracy or Parliament. And the leading members of the KDEE (State-Capitalist, Stinas) needed a few months to pass after these events so they could raise a whole series of 'new political tasks'. This they incorporated into a new programme so as to justify the creation of the 'Workers Internationalist Party of Greece', as they declared in their official illegal bulletin. I summarise these tasks because that is imposed on us by the political reality (of imprisonment): due to the defeats of the workers by the fascist regime, they say, we must limit ourselves to communist propaganda, to cadres operating with all the restraints imposed by illegality and to wait in particular foreign victories of the European proletariat before we can re-propose active political slogans against the Dictatorship. As this was followed by the defeats in Spain and France, mass direct action against the Dictatorship became a political impossibility for an indeterminate future period. Stalinism produced different conclusions from the same characterisation of the government of the 4th August. The KKE sold out the rebellious workers in Thessaloniki on 9th May 1936 to the supporters of Metaxas and the Liberals. And it supported Sofoulis in the Parliament. This gave power to General Metaxas. They then called on the bourgeois parties to form an alliance with them against the Dictatorship. The raise the 'antifascist democrats' reactionary officers and overemphasizes the chauvinism of Metaxas with indescribable socialpatriotic cynicism.

3. The practical result of this 'antifascist' policy has been the total erasure of the Fourth Internationalist KDEE within the first six months of the Dictatorship. It isn't the case that this total disappearance — from the beginning of 1937 — was due to numerical and organisational weakness. In fact, its leaders and some of its members were free and it even had the technical capability to publish illegal documents. These comrades had been instilled with a spirit of defeatism, political indifference and reductionism: 'nothing can be done'. The practical result of Stalinist 'antifascism' was that most of its leaders and members were untouched by the regime: 90% of the CC and of the central and local cadres, their parliamentary leader, their second in command, MP's and prospective MP's and their regional committees, and theoretical leaders such as Glinos were free in Athens, in his case guaranteeing he wouldn't bother the government. The KKE officially declared for the 'patriotic policy' of the Dictatorship, "for the defence of the borders from external and internal enemies" and became followers of Metaxas' Okhrana. The Sklavenas-Sofulis agreement found its logical consequence in Sklavenas-Metaxas and this a long time before the KKE, first of all the democratic parties shook hands with the Palace and the British backed liberal George II.

4. If the proletariat were to choose either one of these two policies, the Workers United Front pessimism and the Stalinist Social Betrayal, it would be incapable of overthrowing the Dictatorship and to proceed to its historic liberation from the capitalist yoke. We believe that such a dilemma isn't currently in front of it. So the political considerations are to a great extent unclear and pessimistic and the Stalinist conclusions mistaken. If they told us only that a regime which abolishes parliament and dissolves workers organisations must be called fascist, as most liberal bourgeois have done in all the totalitarian countries, it would then be just a question of choosing the most suitable propagandistic label. But the question isn't the name, despite the social bases and political support of the current dictatorial government in Greece, as well as our tasks in confronting it. It is also known to us that confusion and the double edges in conditions which we always use, we end up with a mistaken confused opinion for the determined situations.

5. We all agree that there are differences within the dictatorship of 4th August and in the regimes that dominate today in Germany and Italy. But the truth is that what basically characterises both these regimes doesn't exist in Greece. Even were we able to talk about the 'Fascism of 4th August', our political conclusions would be very different. In those countries the dictatorship is an agency of finance capital and the 'still hungry' imperialists, which is based on a big social base: petty bourgeois (post war dust) and workers masses disappointed by their experience of democracy (workers who are in provisional despair from the revolution which was sold out by the Social Democrats and the Stalinists). From here came the mass and paramilitary organisations (the basis on which these dictatorships to a large extent rely on) and from there we had vicious bureaucrats who comprise fascist and national-socialist unions and 'professional associations' and an alleged new state. This mass base fascism can to a greater or lesser extent be occupied either before or after its coup. It presupposes a long experience of the petty bourgeois masses from bourgeois democracy and bourgeois parliamentarism and a partial despair from the conditions of post-war bankruptcy of this parliamentarism. It is also sure that the enraged petty bourgeois masses are used against the proletariat. Fascism deceives them and contains them by means of a very effective organised social and chauvinist demagoguery. In these countries, due to their economic and technical coordination, the objective possibilities allow them, for a period of time, to carry out economic experiments known as 'totalitarian autarchy'. Despite the protestations of various circles, rotten capitalism in these countries provides sufficient to allow expansionist war preparations. They accept and support even this policy of economic isolation as a situation of extreme emergency. On the basis of such economic, social and historical conditions lies the relative stability of the regime. They explain the relative domination of the bourgeois and pettybourgeois intelligentsia (in Germany and many Junkers (the big landowners in Germany translators note) inside the political, administrative, military and educational hierarchies of fascism. Thus fascism in those countries became the only party of the national bourgeoisie, but it permanently despairs about the excessive cost which the over-bloated parasitic administration of fascism spends. Despite this it is known that the accumulations of internal contradictions which is expressed and highlighted by the fascist pyramid, is being undermined, more and more threatening contradictions are being accumulated from their own policies which will blow the pyramid apart with either revolution or war.

Outside of the above essential features this particular from of class absolutism of monopoly capitalism called fascism can't be understood. This particular character of fascism in its birth and its historical development has been analysed scientifically by the Communist International's 3rd and 4th Congresses and by Trotsky from 1931-38 — including comparing fascism and the current Soviet regime in his work Revolution Betrayed. Never did the Left Opposition and the 4th International tire of emphasising that we don't have fascism when every dictatorship dissolves the labour organisation and attacks democratic freedoms. If we do, we confuse every form of absolutism, we don't aid in a more clear understanding of the many varied and contradictory political developments which fill our era or the more precise determination of the corresponding tasks of the revolutionary proletariat.

Which of the above characteristics exist in Greece and Romania e.g. in which other country of the Balkans where we have to a smaller or lesser extent destroyed or abolished parliaments, where the Courts rule with military-political cliques? None. That is why the sister party of our French organisation, last year, when writing about the Rumanian dictatorship of Karl, had called it not fascist, but Bonapartist. And of course the attacks against the workers' movement elsewhere is done by fascism, but here it is done by dictatorships of Kings and their cliques, even if we can call many of their measures 'fascist'. Despite all of their fascist trappings, the Bonapartist regimes aren't governed by the same historical laws nor do they follow the same path.

Here the masses never had the time, as in Western bourgeois democracies, to be so disillusioned by Parliaments so as to pass over into 'counterrevolutionary despair'. They maintain their relative illusions untouched to a large extent. With all the disillusion in their old parties and with all their distrust to the old leaders, the literature of Metaxas leaves the masses untouched and they are still waiting for their parties, despite the fact that now they have fallen prey to political apathy. The fact that Metaxas lasted three years and wasn't able to manage an administration of his own nor even a ruling party coalition #8212; his political friends left his and the composition of the government appears to be a ship in stormy seas which every now and again throws the passengers into the sea #8212; this shows how wrong is the estimation of the power of the dictatorship, characterising it as fascism.

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