Arthur Rosenberg


Greece between
the Revolutions

(6 October 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 86, 6 October 1922, pp. 648–649.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

War is a dangerous lottery game for Monarchs, and no less so for the ruling classes. In war the governing men and, governing classes are compelled to mobilize the broad masses of the exploited, who must defend with weapons in hand the interests of their masters. A military defeat usually contributes towards destroying the illusions which clouded the minds of the broad masses of the people; and then comes the reckoning. The influence which the defeat of Czarist Russia exercise upon the course of the Russian Revolution is well-known. Napoleon III, Wilhelm II and hundreds of other supreme “War Lords” have had to vacate their thrones when it became evident that they were no longer “Lords” of war, and when the slaves of war began to rebel. This fate has now overtaken the throne in Greece.

Greece is free from its war lord. But the war lords remain. The so-called revolution which brought about the overthrow of Constantine does not signify an insurrection on the part of the working class. It is no uprising of the workers and peasants, it is no revolt of the soldiers against their officers but it was an inner, domestic affair within the ruling class itself, that caused the disappearance of an all too compromised personality, in order to maintain the more securely its power as such. Indeed, the importance of the Grecian stage rebellion is even less: it is an operation within the military clique which holds. the reins of the state in Greece. The mutinies on the Greek warships, the revolt among the troops, the alleged radical proclamations of the patriotic officers, all this is no revolution. The real Greek revolution is yet to come.

Party politics in Greece today, are just as complicated as at the time when Demosthenes thundered forth his orations against Aeschyles. The deciding role in Greek politics it played by a small clique of big businessmen and bankers. Industry in Greece is very limited in its development. Large land ownership prevails in the Northern areas, Thessaly and Macedonia. The broad mass of the peasants, petty bourgeois and workers have up to now willingly let themselves be humbugged by the bourgeoisie and the militarists. Apart from the bourgeoisie it is the Military Party as well as the pack of professional and business politicians who determine the course of modern Hellas. Venizelos, who has again come into prominence in the last few days, is in reality the champion of the Greek great bourgeoisie. King Constantine represents the opposing Military Party.

Venizelos is a native of the Island of Crete, whose peasants and shepherds carried on a century-long war against the Pasha domination, until, thanks to the great powers, they were liberated from Turkey and handed over to Greece. Venizelos began his political career as head of the Cretan peasant and shepherd movement. But he aimed higher. Crete was too small for him, as was Macedonia for Alexander the Great. He transferred his activities to the capital city of his new and and greater fatherland: to Athens.

In Greece at that time there was the open division between the ambitious bourgeoisie which supported the policy of conquest, and all little groups of professional politicians who plundered the state and hindered the state machine from functioning as promptly as the dreams of the politicians desirous of making Greece a great power wished it. Greece stood under the influence of the first Young Turkish Revolution in which apparently, a group of energetic men had succeeded in rejuvenating the rotten state of the Sultan and again making it an effective force in foreign politics.

Supported by the bourgeoisie, Venizelos succeeded to the head of the state. As Prime Minister his chief care was to introduce order, cleanliness and punctuality, of course in the bourgeois sense of the terms. Venizelos deposed the petty politicians and placed the Greek political apparatus at the service of expansion. Through clever diplomacy, he procured the allies necessary to the military successes of Greece. Together with Serbia and Bulgaria, he defeated the Turks and then went arm in arm with Serbia against Bulgaria. The diplomacy of Venizelos celebrated its triumph in the two Balkan wars: the aim – Great Greece was accomplished.

But Venizelos and the bourgeoisie were not satisfied with this. They wished to take advantage of the World War in order to get hold of Epirus and Macedonia and still further, Asia Minor, Thrace, and Constantinople.

This, of course, was only to be achieved by siding with the Entente, which policy was self-evident to the Greek capitalists. There existed for decades the most intimate connections between the most prominent Greek firms and the banks and business houses in London and Paris. But Venizelos met with an unexpected resistance. The wars of the Venizelos period had vested the deplorable Greek army with authority. The Officers Corps had not only become numerically great, but had also become endowed with the necessary conceit. And the incarnation of this new Greek militarism was King Constantine. He persuaded himself that he was a highly gifted strategist, because in the two Balkan wars he was able to pluck the laurels that others had won for him. Constantine possessed an elegant guardsman’s figure and he wore with dignity the uniform of a Prussian Field Marshall which his brother-in-law, Wilhelm II, had bestowed upon him. This brother-in-law became Constantine’s fate. He convinced himself that he could transplant Wilhelm’s militarism to Athens, and the Military Party began to go its own way and no longer permitted itself to be led by the nose by the bourgeois politicians. When the Greek capitalists wished to play their strongest trump card in the World War they were opposed by King Constantine who was friendly to the Germans on account of the glory of his brother-in-law and in remembrance of the Potsdam parades. Venizelos wished to enter into the war on the side of the Allies; Constantine however, was for neutrality.

Constantine’s policy oi neutrality procured for him the great popularity of the broad masses of the people who had no desire to enter into the slaughter house of the World War. It is still fresh in the memory how Venizelos with the aid of the Entente chased the King out of Athens, how Greece officially entered the World War, and in 1919, received the desired gratuity. Venizelos then instituted the war in Asia Miner in the service of British capital. The King’s Party however, then delivered a counter-stroke. They again took advantage of the longing for peace on the part of the masses, and brought about the fall of Venizelos. Constantine came back. He brought no peace with him, but prosecuted the war in Asia Minor still further. The Prussian Field Marshall had become the Captain of the mercenaries of English capital.

The military collapse of Greece had made the supporters of pro-English tendencies in Athens very dubious. They believed that the only possible means of escaping from the wreck at all was through a reconciliation with France. But for Constantine, the brother-in law of Wilhelm, and for the neutralists it would have been useless to attempt a rapprochement with Paris. The only statesman to whom such a task could be entrusted was Venizelos. The latter enjoyed to the full the revenge which the situation afforded. lie declared that he could not move a finger so long as Constantine was allowed to act as King in Athens. The overthrow of Constantine was thereby assured. The return of the Venizelos Party to power, however, would have meant the discharge of all the generals who had played at politics together with King Constantine and had allowed themselves to be beaten by the Turks. The Greek military clique then attempted a stroke of genius: they forestalled the approaching Venizelos “Revolution” and made the insurrection themselves. The generals played the part of the finest revolutionaries, they sacrificed Constantine to the anger of the people and issued the proclamation of a military government which should fight for the possession of the province of Thrace.

For the masses of the Greek people it is a matter of indifference, whether King Constantine or any other militarist governs, or even Mr. Venizelos himself. The only thing which can concern the Greek peasants and workers is the destruction of the entire corrupt clique of generals and bankers, of ministers and big business people who remorselessly drove hundreds and thousands of Greek proletarians and peasants to the shambles. It is in this sense that the Communist Party of Greece, together with the Greek Trade Union Federation, recently addressed itself to the masses in a manifesto.

Mr. Venizelos holds himself in readiness in Paris to play the part of the saviour of the fatherland, if the appeal is once again sent to him. But times have changed. In pre-war times, when the line of development of imperialism still led upwards, the Greek bourgeoisie could hope to be drawn in the wake of the great capitalist powers of Western Europe. Venizelos could have successfully led this movement. But today, in the Balkans and in the Orient, the whole capitalist policy has broken down. Where Lloyd George has been wrecked, Venizelos will be unable to save anything. The political chaos which for the time being prevails in Greece and it appears no different in Bulgaria – will bring forth a new order of things. The struggle for the liberation of the Oriental peoples will be maintained by the workers and small peasants of the Balkans. The “revolution” of the Greek generals which we have witnessed in the last few days had only a sword of tinsel, but the revolution of the Greek workers and peasants, which is coming, will wield a stern sword of execution.

Last updated on 4 January 2021