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Fourth International, February 1945


The Editors

Civil War in Greece

2. The Greek Civil War


From Fourth International, vol.6 No.2, February 1945, pp.41-46.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


Hitler’s “New order” was a streamlined organization for the purpose of exploiting to the limit Europe’s resources, economy and manpower for the benefit of the Nazi war machine. To the insoluble crisis that wracked Europe before the war was added the grinding exploitation of Nazi oppression. This exploitation became most unbearable at the perimeter of European economy, in those countries where capitalist industry was least developed, where slim peace-time reserves were soon exhausted by the demands of a total war. As a consequence the standard of living quickly plummeted into the abyss of starvation. The strain was greatest in the countries like Greece.

Grim starvation drove the Greek proletariat and peasantry to revolt against the German conqueror. The Gauleiters ruled by the bayonet and concentration camp. The Greek bourgeoisie collaborated with the Nazis from the very beginning, provided them with Quisling rulers, preserved “order” and ran the state apparatus with virtually the same personnel as under the Metaxas dictatorship. In return the German overlords gave them the compradores’ reward, a share in the profits. As we have already demonstrated in the preceding section, the Greek bourgeoisie was collaborationist from the first hour that the proletariat became an independent force on the social arena. The German conquest merely required their adaptation to the new master.

The resistance movement in Greece rose to mass proportions without – and against – the bourgeoisie. The masses were no less hostile to Churchill’s collaborationists in Cairo than to Hitler’s Quislings in Athens. The decisive force in the resistance movement was the working class. This working class predominance is partially revealed in EAM’s program for nationalization of the railroads, public utilities and banks. More significantly, EAM’s methods of action are thoroughly proletarian in character. It was demonstrations and general strikes in Athens and Salonika that prevented the mobilization of slave labor to Germany, halted conscription for the German army and forced an increase in the bread rations.

Behind the proletariat was ranged the vast majority of the toiling masses, poor peasants and ruined middle class. EPON, the EAM youth organization, according to Nation Correspondent Michael Clark, has an estimated membership of 500,000.The mutinies in Alexandria showed that the decisive section of the Greek navy and army supported the EAM. Anthony Eden credited EAM with the support of 75% of the Greek people; the London Times credited it with 90%. In addition, its organized military force, ELAS, probably far better armed than the Bolshevik Red Guard of 1917, was strong enough to put 25,000 armed men into action in Athens against the British “without stripping other regions under its control.”

The Stalinists, who since the Russian revolution, have played the predominant role in Greek working class politics, easily emerged as the leader of the new mass movement. The old Venizelist Liberal Party, which in the past enjoyed widespread middle class support had split up. Its right wing had gone over to the monarchists, its left wing to the EAM. The Greek masses were burning with revolutionary determination and wished to prepare the overthrow of all their oppressors – Nazi and Greek. Instead of providing the mass movement with a revolutionary program, similar to the Bolshevik program of 1917 and preparing the masses for the seizure of power, the Stalinists steered the movement into the blind alley of People’s Frontism. The Stalinists, who enjoyed virtual hegemony of the mass movement, joined with a lot of petty bourgeois politicians, lawyers, professors, who had neither mass following nor influence, and artificially worked to limit the struggle to the fight for capitalist democracy.

By their capitulation to the petty bourgeois democrats, the Stalinists as leaders of the proletariat subordinated the working class to the rule of the native big bourgeoisie in combination with imperialism. The middle class program of a democratic republic for Greece where trade unions would function freely, where the state machinery and its armed forces and police would be purged of Nazi collaborationists and the creatures of Metaxas, the nationalization of public utilities, railroads, etc., proved a utopian dream. The very threat of effecting such a program by EAM lead to civil war and British intervention. Frightened by the inexorable logic of the struggle – which could only triumph with the dictatorship of the proletariat – the Stalinists and petty bourgeois leaders sought an agreement with the reactionary bourgeois government in exile and through them with British imperialism.

The fall of Mussolini in July 1943, under the impact of great strikes and demonstrations, struck all of Europe like a series of electric shocks. Revolutionary ferment raced wildly through Italy and broke over its boundaries, especially into neighboring Greece where large detachments of the Italian Army were quartered for occupation purposes. The Italian troops, infected with the anti-war fever that gripped the population at home, began to fraternize with the Greek workers, exchanging arms for civilian clothes. The Nazis were forced to dispatch picked troops into Larissa to disarm the largest exclusively Italian garrison in Greece. A general strike broke out among the Greek workers. 300,000 Athenians, defying German machine guns, grenades and tanks, marched in demonstration. It lasted for hours, and when it was over 300 demonstrators had been murdered by Nazi guns and more than 100 wounded.

The flare-up of class warfare accompanied by demonstrations of international solidarity brought into sharp relief the treacherous character of the Stalinist-dominated leadership of the EAM. The EAM leaders, frightened by the revolutionary upsurge, soon dispatched a delegation to Cairo to persuade Tsouderos, the reactionary Premier of the King’s Government-in-Exile, left over from the Metaxas regime, to set up a government of “National unity.” They asked for only one concession: that King George issue a statement that he would not return to Greece until a plebiscite had been held. Tsouderos gave them a traitor’s welcome.The delegation was placed under house arrest by the British authorities, held incommunicado, and then sent back to Greece under the most humiliating circumstances.

The Greek armed forces, stationed in Egypt, were bitterly anti-monarchist. Eight months before, the King called upon the British to disarm the Greek Brigade in the Middle East. The British imperialists, alarmed by the developments in the Greek mainland, now launched their counter-revolutionary terror. A mutiny was quelled on the destroyer Ierax, and five sailors were sentenced to death. The army was drastically purged. A Nation correspondent described the events that followed:

“Hundreds of other persons, not only army men but civilians, were arrested ... People disappeared without a warrant having been issued, without any specific charge having been issued, and without notification to their families. The Greek military headquarters in Cairo were occupied by force. The offices of the Greek government were placed under British supervision. The editor of the newspaper Hellin and the director of the Hellenic League of Liberation and the Seamen’s Association of Alexandria were arrested.”

Britain’s Brutal Intervention

The Greek soldiers and sailors fought back. Resisting “the efforts of the Cairo government to impose the most notorious fascist officers” upon them, (statement of Greek Maritime Union) the Greek Brigade stationed near Alexandria mutinied. The mutiny soon spread to the Greek warships lying in the naval base; the sailors formed ship committees and took charge of the vessels. On the invitation of the King’s Government, with which the Stalinists had sought collaboration the month previous, the British High Command moved against the rebellious forces.

Churchill reported to the House of Commons the brutal intervention of British imperialism:

“The Greek brigade was encircled by British forces some 30 miles from Alexandria and Greek ships which mutinied in Alexandria harbor were lying under the guns of both shore batteries and our superior naval forces which had gathered. The tension lasted nearly three weeks ... The disorderly ships were boarded by Greeks under the Greek government, and, with about fifty killed and wounded, the mutineers were collected and sent ashore. The mutinous brigade in the desert was assaulted by superior British forces which captured the eminences surrounding the camp, and 4,000 men there surrendered.”

The Greek Maritime Union appealed to the British workers to cease granting any help or recognition to the self-appointed Greek government in Cairo, under whose repressive fist “thousands of Greek civilians, officers, soldiers, and sailors are today confined in concentration camps for the sole crime of being anti-fascists.”

First to flout the appeal of the Greek seamen were the Stalinist-EAM leaders themselves. Over the still fresh graves of the martyred sailors, not more than three weeks after the mutiny had been subdued, they again addressed themselves to the Cairo butchers for a coalition. Venizelos (son of the famous Greek leader), who succeeded Tsouderos, had been toppled by the mutiny and George Papandreou, a social Democrat, became the King’s first minister. (Papandreou had been brought out of Athens on the recommendation of the notorious Rex Leeper, British ambassador, after he had delivered a memorandum to British agents on how to destroy the EAM.) In line with the new “Teheran” revelation, the Stalinists reversed their previous position on the monarchy and agreed to serve in a “Pan-Hellenic” coalition under the King. This agreement was embodied in the Lebanon Charter signed in May.

Just as in Italy the Stalinists had rescued Badoglio when he and the House of Savoy were about to crash into limbo, so in Greece they propped up Papandreou and the House of Glucksburg. No wonder the Beirut (Lebanon) conference sent a message to Churchill thanking him for “his interest in Greece and its future.” In the heat of the class struggle all fictions are burned away. The Stalinists could not bolster up the Greek puppet without publicly approving the British master behind him. Churchill, his hands still red with the blood of Greek soldiers and sailors, smirked in the House of Commons that he had received a “very agreeable letter” from the Stalinists.

It was precisely at this point that the masses intervened to block fulfillment of the sell-out agreement and keep it a dead letter for more than three months. Papandreou accused the Stalinists of violating the Lebanon Charter and threatened to outlaw EAM-ELAS. But popular indignation at the murder and imprisonment of the soldier and sailor rebels was running too high for the Stalinists to act rapidly. The Cairo court martial was still grinding out death sentences and long prison terms for the mutineers. The masses wanted amnesty for the convicted, not coalition with the jailers and executioners. In July 1944 the London Sunday Observer reported that EAM leaders

“are quite ready to enter the government. But they have hesitated to take this step without the full approval from those they represent lest this should further split the resistance movement and bring about civil strife in Greece ... The main obstacle to complete unity is the intransigent attitude adopted by certain EAM leaders of secondary rank.”

Here is the key to an understanding of events in Greece. A great gulf separates the insurgent masses from their treacherous Stalinist leaders. Yet so long as the Stalinists remain at the helm they cannot escape the revolutionary pressure of the workers and peasants who hate the king and will never peacefully countenance his return, who are determined to purge Greece not only of the German collaborationists but of all the satraps of the Metaxas dictatorship, and who instinctively are striving towards a socialist solution. This indomitable pressure delayed for months the consummation of the Stalinist betrayals and forced the Stalinist leaders to withdraw agreements previously made.

Stalinist Treachery

The EAM was finally able, after three months of internal struggle, to send five representatives out of the mountains to sit in the Papandreou cabinet. To palliate the distrustful masses, EAM announced a program which included nationalization of the railroads and public utilities that constituted surety for the $400,000,000 national debt held by British bankers.

The entry of EAM representatives into the Papandreou Cabinet gave Churchill a tremendous advantage. It was a victory for reaction. The heretofore thoroughly discredited Cairo government was for the first time provided with a semblance of popular support. Behind the façade of “unity,” the Greek capitalists and British imperialists could intrigue with greater confidence for the disarming of the masses. This became the decisive question and only its decision could resolve the issue of power. The People’s Front, whose aim is to sidetrack the masses from the highroad of socialist revolution onto the detour of capitalism must inevitably capitulate to the disarming of the masses. Under Stalinist leadership this capitulation occurs rather sooner than later. The problem was particularly acute in Greece because the regular army, shot through and through with revolutionary moods, was unreliable and had to be violently disbanded. Only the forces under Zervas, commander of EDES, plus two remaining Royalist detachments in Egypt and the despised Security Battalions (the “Cossacks” who had maintained “order” under Metaxas and the Nazis) could be counted on.

As far back as December 1943 Eden proclaimed in Parliament that the British government would send arms only to General Zervas. By the end of September 1944 the question of power could no longer be postponed. The Germans were withdrawing from Greece with Partisan bullets hastening their retreat. The Greek people began taking over. ELAS levied taxes on the rich and distributed food stocks to the famine-stricken people. Politophilaki, the ELAS police force, took charge of law enforcement arresting collaborationists, Metaxas agents and Black Market racketeers.

Churchill had anticipated this situation and subsequently he revealed in a speech to the House of Commons that he had previously obtained the agreement of Stalin and Roosevelt to install the Greek Monarchist Government on the peninsula with British troops.

The Greek Government towards the end of September, now residing at Caserta, Italy, called upon the Allies to occupy Greece. The EAM representatives dissented but remained in the government. Thus the Stalinists, by remaining in the government, permitted their prestige to be used as a cover for the conspiracy that was being prepared against the Greek people.

The betrayal of the Stalinists takes on huge proportions when we consider that the situation was revolutionary and power was within the grasp of the Greek workers. But the Stalinist leaders dreaded workers’ power just as much as Churchill. Poulos, Nation correspondent, wrote from Greece: “The EAM could have seized the power. They had plenty of time to do it betweenthe German withdrawal and the British arrival.” Why didn’t they? Poulos answers: “The ... major reason was Teheran.”

The counter-revolutionary conspiracy was no secret – except to the masses. On August 21, Papandreou met with Churchill. He refused to produce the minutes of this conversation when he reported to the cabinet. An official statement declared ominously that they had “reviewed every aspect of the Greek situation and found themselves in complete agreement.” A month later, the Stalinist leaders became full-fledged participants in the organization of the British imperialist-monarchist conspiracy. On September 27 General Seraphis, Commander of the ELAS had a conference in Caserta with Zervas and the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces and signed a secret agreement. Here are the terms, finally made public by Anthony Eden on December 20 in the House of Commons.

The Caserta Agreement

“1. All guerrilla forces operating in Greece place themselves under the orders of the Greek Government of National Unity. The Greek Government places these forces under the orders of General Scobie, who had been nominated by the Supreme Allied Command as the general officer commanding in Greece.

“2. In accordance with a proclamation issued by the Greek Government, the guerrilla leaders declare they will forbid any attempt by any units under their command to take the law into their own hands. Such action will be treated as a crime and punished accordingly.

“3. In Athens no action is to be taken except under orders of General Scobie. Security battalions are considered instruments of the enemy unless they surrender.

“4. All Greek guerrilla forces, in order to put an end to past rivalries, declare they will form a national union to coordinate their activities in the interests of the common struggle.”

Thus the stage was set for the occupation of Greece by British troops and the imposition of the Monarchy. Not only did the EAM leaders fail to warn the people and to organize them against this sinister invasion – they facilitated the invasion. When the British troops came ashore in the first days of October, the deceived and hungry populace gave them a lavish welcome. And for a time the British fostered the deception by bringing in food on relief ships at the rate of 2,500 tons a day. But this miserly gesture only sharpened the edge of discontent. The supplies fell into the hands of Black Market profiteers who sold them at astronomical inflationary prices. Longshoremen at Piraeus, the Athens harbor, struck for greater allotments of food. Women and children marched in the streets with placards: “Bread for the People!”

While the workers were spontaneously taking the road of action, EAM leaders were busy negotiating for the disarming of ELAS. An agreement was signed with Papandreou that both ELAS and EDES would disarm and be superseded by a National Guard. Scobie, feeling very much in the saddle, set December 10 as the deadline for turning in all arms to the police.

It appeared as if the counter-revolution would triumph without a struggle. Poulos, Nation correspondent, vividly describes the situation in Athens at this time:

“Thousands of traitors and quislings were permitted to roam freely around Athens. No collaborators were called to trial or punished by the government. Royalist organizations were secretly armed. Members of the Nazi-organized Security Battalions were spirited out of prison and armed. Wild stories of red terrorism were fed to the heal and foreign press. High officials of the various ministries who had faithfully served the Nazi and quisling government were kept at their posts. No attempt was made to purge the police and national guard, both of which had worked for the Gestapo. When the Under-Secretary of War, on November 24, appointed fourteen officers to organize a new national guard, eight of them were former officers of the Security Battalions. The Mountain Brigade was withdrawn from Italy and brought to Athens. More British troops kept landing in Greece. And long after the last German had left the Greek mainland British tanks rumbled along the streets of Athens.”

By now the masses were thoroughly alarmed. Under their angry pressure the EAM leaders were forced to tear up the October 18 agreement. Again negotiations began. Another agreement was reached. This time ELAS’ disarming would be contingent on the disarming of the Metaxas-Nazi police force, the Mountain Brigade and the Sacred Battalion in addition to EDES.

“Thereupon, Rex Leeper, British Ambassador,” the December 8 British Tribune reports,, “informed Papandreou that His Majesty’s Government would not allow the demobilization of ... the Sacred Battalion and the Mountain Brigade. These two, Leeper said, were incorporated in the British forces and consequently outside the authority of the Greek Government. Also, His Majesty’s Government were of the opinion that these were the only reliable troops available to protect the Greek Government against a possible coup d’etat.”

British Provoke Civil War

The British methodically and cold-bloodedly gathered together their military forces. By November 28 they were ready to act. ELAS General Seraphis was ordered on that day to carry out the Caserta agreement and sign an order disbanding ELAS. He dared not agree, he said, because

“his people would think he had signed under Allied pressure. He said he would rather go back to the mountains and discuss it with his people.”

On November 29 Scobie’s headquarters absorbed the Military Liason, in charge of distribution of food supplies, and UNRRA came under British control.

On November 30 RAF planes dropped leaflets all over Greece announcing that EDES and ELAS must demobilize between December 10 and December 20. No mention was made of the gendarmerie, the Mountain Brigade or the Sacred Battalion.

On December 1 Scobie threatened the people with starvation unless they submitted. His proclamation read:

“I stand firm behind the present constitutional government until the Greek State can be established with a legal armed force behind it and free elections can be held. Unless we all succeed together in this, currency will not remain stable and the people will not be fed.” (Scobie underscored the “nots”.)

Only now, faced with this declaration of war, did the EAM leaders resign from the government. They could no longer participate with impunity. Thus had they betrayed the revolutionary masses step by step. And when the inevitable civil war finally burst forth, despite Stalinist treachery and cowardice, it took place under the most advantageous circumstances for the counter-revolution.

Churchill had given Scobie precise, cold-blooded instructions:

“When shooting begins, said Churchill, he expects ELAS will put women and children in the first line. Scobie was instructed to be clever and avoid any error. Scobie was instructed not to hesitate to open fire on any armed male who assails authority of British or of Greeks collaborating with them. Scobie’s forces should be augmented by forces of the Greek Government. British Ambassador is advising Papandreou not to hesitate.

“Scobie should act as if confronted by local rebellion and should teach ELAS a lesson, making it impossible that others will behave along these lines, and that British must keep and dominate Athens. It would be splendid if Scobie could accomplish this without bloodshed, but said he should do whatever he has to. (Signed) Kirk.”

This report was transmitted on December 5 to the US Ambassador in Italy and made public by Drew Pearson on December 11. It has never been denied.

The provocation was organized and the Stalinists stepped right into the trap, or rather they led the unarmed workers, and their wives and children, into the trap. Permission for a demonstration had been granted by the Government for December 3. On the night of December 2, the permit was cancelled. It was too late to warn the workers, who poured into the streets. Without warning, government police from ambush opened a murderous fin on the demonstrators with machine guns, tommy guns, mortars and light anti-tank guns. British armored cars stood by for action during the massacre. When the “wild and savage” firing ceased 23 dead lay in the streets. More than 150 were wounded. Most of the victims were boys and girls under 18.

Now the counter-revolution went to work in deadly earnest. Martial law was declared. General Katsotas, acting Military Governor of Athens issued an ultimatum giving armed formations 72 hours to quit the city or be treated as enemies. Court martials were set up. Workers were being forcibly disarmed.

But the masses, now thoroughly aroused, began fighting back. They could no longer be confined to the role of helpless spectators and victims. Defying martial law, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Athens waving the blood-stained banners of yesterday and shouted: “Down with the Government!” For a quarter of a mile outside Athens cathedral people knelt in homage to the martyrs. When they arose they shouted: “Revenge! Revenge! Down with Papandreou!” On December 5 when word spread that police had killed four more civilians, the cry changed to “Death to Papandreou!“ Strikes broke out in the harbor the day after the massacre and spread throughout the city. EAM was forced to recognize the accomplished fact and declare a general strike. A demonstration was held before the British Embassy with signs: “British Soldiers! Let us choose our own government!”

Feeling their strength, the workers were now determined to finish once and for all with their oppressors. Dockworkers in Piraeus paraded armed with clubs, knives and a few guns. Machine gun nests were set up at some points. ELAS seized two police barracks in the harbor town. Meanwhile partisans poured into Athens seizing 21 out of 28 police stations. Hundreds of other armed workers battled British and government troops for possession of key government buildings.

When the first round of fighting was over, although the British had brought tanks and Spitfires into action, the workers’ detachments were in control of all of the city (and the country too) with the exception of three square miles in the center of Athens. Papandreou and his cabinet fled from the government offices and took refuge in the Gran Bretagne Hotel guarded by British tanks. He proclaimed a government “crisis” and resigned. The power was in the streets with the workers of Athens.

But no revolutionary workers’ government was established in its place? Why? The workers had displayed magnificent courage, superb heroism and a genius for organization. But tragically, their leaders were not revolutionary fighters but cynical counter-revolutionary Stalinist adventurers. They headed the revolutionary masses only to behead the struggle. These unspeakable wretches were preparing to betray the struggle on the very day the fighting broke out. On December 4 the CP paper, Rizospastis, proposed that a Regency be instituted. The Stalinists offered to enter a new government which included “all parties” (including the murderer Papandreou). At this point Churchill stepped in and ordered Papandreou to stop thinking he needed to represent anyone but the British Empire, and get back in the Premiership.

After another week of fighting EAM agreed to give full powers to a Regent and to disarm under the direction of a new “national unity” government. But Scobie was in no hurry. He was only beginning to make headway against ELAS in Athens. So he stalled for time. First he demanded ELAS disarm before a new government was set up. Then he had Papandreou cable the King to ascertain his opinion on the Regency. Papandreou himself changed his mind three times on the question. Finally King George of Glucksberg insisted that EAM be left out of the cabinet. Churchill supported his stand. Meanwhile, British warships were shelling the workers’ district in Athens.

After almost a month of fighting, ELAS remained in control of all Greece, with the exception of sections of Athens. 20,000 ELAS troops attacked the White Guard forces of General Zervas in Epirus and wiped them off the map. The vast majority of EDES deserted to ELAS and the remaining few Royalist troops were evacuated by the British. Indian colonial troops sent against ELAS went over to their side. Faced with the prospect of a long drawn-out civil war whose outcome could not be predicted, and the rising indignation of the British working class, Churchill decided to sheath his claws and make peace with EAM.

The “Peace” Offer

The Stalinists on their side were only too anxious for “peace” – at the expense of the workers. Each week the struggle continued could only further expose them and prepare the way for their elimination in favor of a genuine revolutionary leadership. Their new “peace” offer was again an offer of capitulation: ELAS would withdraw from Athens provided Papandreou’s troops would likewise be withdrawn, the gendarmerie to be placed on reserve and Nazi collaborators purged; British troops would be employed as specified by the infamous Caserta agreement cited above.

On December 25, Churchill and Eden arrived in Greece and concluded an agreement to have the King appoint a regent as requested by the EAM heads and settle other questions under his supervision. Emboldened by Stalinist treachery and cravenness, reaction resumed its political offensive. Even while the conference was meeting, regent-to-be Archbishop Damaskinos called on the working class fighters to lay down their arms. Scobie reaffirmed his ultimatum that ELAS withdraw from Attica, hand in its arms and disband. On January 2 General Plastiras took office as Premier, appointed by the new regent. Since his arrival he continually denounced the ELAS and called on them to disarm.

Who is Plastiras? The British Tribune describes him as the commander of the Greek contingents that invaded Soviet Ukraine in 1919. More recently:

“He lived unmolested in France during the German occupation. At the height of the German success in the summer of 1941 Plastiras was negotiating with the Germans to reach an agreement with them similar to that which he has now with the British. He took up contact with two of Abetz’s agents: the SS General Thomas, and the SS Leader Roland Nosek, but the negotiations broke down when Plastiras’ faith in the Germans was shattered by their reverses in the winter of 1941.”

This congenital Quisling is now being groomed for the role of a Greek Franco.

And despite British crimes against the Greek people, the Stalinist secretary of EAM Dimitri Partsalides kissed Churchill’s feet declaring that he “wished to express the Greek people’s feelings on behalf of the EAM for the efforts of Mr. Churchill, the Prime Minister of our great ally, England, in coming to Athens.”

Thus was Churchill enabled to return to parliament and take the offensive against his critics. He hypocritically disavowed any intention of Great Britain to intervene in the internal affairs of Greece. Then he denounced ELAS as “Trotskyist ... a name that is equally hated in Russia.” With this one winged phrase he showed he had far more understanding of the Greek situation than all the stupid scribblers of the New Leader. At one stroke he revealed what had already become abundantly obvious. First, that Stalin had no independent territorial aims in Greece. This was confirmed even more directly by Bevin when he told the Labor Party Conference that Stalin had agreed at Teheran to Greece becoming a British sphere of influence in return for Rumania, Bulgaria and other Balkan territory as Russian spheres. Second: That Stalin was no less the enemy of the revolutionary Greek masses than was Churchill; that Stalin had not only abandoned the Greek workers to the onslaughts of the counterrevolution organized by British imperialism (during the entire course of the struggle Stalin did not pronounce even one syllable that might be construed as support of the Greek masses), but he gave Churchill his full support. “These matters,” Churchill said, “were first discussed at Teheran.” Third: That the Stalinist leadership could not always control the mass struggles which often took on a revolutionary character.

Trotskyism in Greece

ELAS is “Trotskyist” in one sense only – in the revolutionary instincts of its indomitable fighters, in their great capacity for struggle and sacrifice. But its program and leadership has no resemblance to “Trotskyism.” Churchill forgets that during the real “Trotskyist” revolution, he never in his wildest dreams conceived of going to Moscow to secure the agreement of the Bolsheviks to set up the white guard Baron Wrangel as regent for the Czar while the Red Army quietly surrendered its arms. How could he? The Bolsheviks had shot the Czar, declared war to the death on Wrangel, demobilized the British troops sent in to aid Wrangel. By fraternization and direct appeal to international solidarity, the Bolsheviks had spurred the British workers to threaten a general strike against the government if the British imperialists did not keep hands off the Russian Revolution.

Under the terms of a truce arrangement signed by the Stalinist leaders on January 11, ELAS was to withdraw from the Athens area on January 15 but not lay down their arms. But days before the truce was to go into effect Plastiras was appealing to ELAS to lay down their arms. Scobie’s forces were mopping up in Athens and pursuing ELAS troops for 90 miles outside the capital. Warrants were being sworn out for the arrest of the “leaders of the rebellion.” On January 14 the Plastiras cabinet announced that 25 three-judge committees would soon begin receiving cases of persons arrested in order to try all who had borne arms against the state. The Greek military governor of Athens proclaimed Draconian measures virtually equivalent to martial law. Damaskinos became “profoundly shocked” that ELAS retained hostages (a defensive measure against hostages seized by the counterrevolution). Plastiras announced he was not bound by the truce agreement since he was not a signatory to it. Meanwhile the Royalist scum, despite the Military orders, was permitted to demonstrate in Athens shouting slogans against Communism, for Scobie, Churchill, and Roosevelt. The climate looked good to the Greek King and he cabled his friends in Athens that the Regency was only temporary and he would soon return. For the workers it looked like the beginning of a terrible white terror.

Then for an entire month an unprecedented campaign of vilification, led and inspired by Churchill himself, was conducted from the rostrum of the House of Commons and into the world press, against ELAS. The most harrowing atrocity stories of fiendish ELAS acts were invented, tales that parallel and sometimes leave in the pale the lies invented about the Paris Communards by Churchill’s ancestors and by Churchill himself against the Russian Revolution. And the “labor” scoundrel, Sir Walter Citrine, lent the authority of the British trade union movement to Churchill’s calumnies by returning from Greece with “evidence” manufactured undoubtedly by the unspeakable Rex Leeper. All these slanders have a familiar ring: they are the “moral” screen behind which the counter-revolution perpetrates its hellish deeds.

The Stalinist EAM leaders are now concluding their “Peace agreement” with Plastiras and British imperialism: ELAS is to disarm by March 15, but the Mountain Brigade, the Sacred Battalions and Metaxas’ gendarmerie remain. A Christian Science Monitor reporter correctly observes:

“There is no doubt the agreement leaves EAM in a generally weakened position when compared with that it held prior to the revolt.”

The Greek masses suffered a definite setback in this first armed encounter with the forces of the counter-revolution. As this analysis makes clear, not primarily because of Britain’s superior armed might, but because of the duplicity and criminal treachery of the Stalinist leadership. The Greek workers will now absorb the political lessons of this betrayal and prepare for the next stage of the struggle.

The glorious chapter that the Greek masses have already written in the annals of working class struggle will forever remain a shining inspiration to revolutionary fighters everywhere.

Part III: The Lesson of Greece

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