From Fourth International, vol.6 No.4, April 1945, pp.99-102.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
FACTS ABOUT GREEK EVENTS While the complete story of the Greek civil war still remains to be told, more and more details are becoming known. And each new fact serves to make more graphic the full scope of the counter-revolutionary work perpetrated in Greece by the Allied imperialists and the full enormity of the Stalinist betrayal of the Greek masses. Let us briefly review the Greek events in the light of some recent factual accounts, especially the one provided by Leland Stowe in a series of articles which appeared beginning with February 14 in the New York Post.
In justification of their bestial intervention in Greece, the British imperialists, headed by Churchill, cite an alleged “well-organized” plot by the Stalinist-dominated EAM-ELAS to seize control of Athens and Greece as a whole. The seizure of power by the masses is precisely what the Stalinist traitors in Greece have worked might and main to avert. The real power in Greece was the ELAS. This is corroborated by Leland Stowe who writes as an observer on the scene and who reports that the ELAS “could easily have seized power between October 12 and 15, the time between German departure and British entry.”
As a matter of fact, the very entry of the British into Greece was made possible by the ELAS, or more correctly, by its perfidious leadership. According to Stowe, this was admitted in so many words by a British Brigadier who served for 18 months as liaison officer in Greece and who told 30 American and British correspondents on October 18, 1944 that were it not for the ELAS the British “should never have been able to set foot in Greece.”
MOUNTAIN BRIGADE Long before the British set foot on Greece – thanks to the ELAS! – they organized the nucleus of the armed force with which they plan to keep the Greek masses in subjection. This nucleus was the Greek Mountain Brigade into which, as Leland Stowe writes, “only officers and soldiers with strong royalist or reactionary convictions were admitted.” The Mountain Brigade was brought on Churchill’s orders into Athens the moment that Lt. Gen. Scobie took military control of the city. Stowe goes on to relate:
Premier Papandreou promised ELAS that the Brigade would be disbanded, but a day or two later Papandreou retracted his promise. He gave an EAM Minister a letter from Scobie which said Prime Minister Churchill would not permit the royalist Mountain Brigade to be disbanded.
This was a deliberate provocation. The ELAS leaders had previously agreed to disarm their followers. But they could not carry out this act of treachery in the face of such brazen provocation. The ELAS misleaders thereupon “asked governmental permission to stage an unarmed protest demonstration on Sunday, December 3.”
Here is Stowe’s account of what then transpired:
Late Saturday afternoon the government granted this permission. Saturday night Papandreou spent more than an hour with Scobie. Just before midnight Papandreou canceled permission for the demonstration and declared martial law. In Athens it’s assumed that Scobie recommended this aboutface. British sources informed me that Scobie told Papandreou it was time to be severe with the EAM.
In other words, a calculated and cold-blooded trap was set for the deluded masses of Athens. For, as Stowe goes on to point out:
The EAM’s demonstrators had long since gone to bed. They were mostly poor workers. They had no telephones. At midnight Saturday there was no physical way to call off the demonstration, already announced as permitted by the government.
An account by Frank Gervasi which appeared in February 10 issue of Collier’s magazine informs us of what was done while the workers slept:
In the cold dawn of December 3, gray-uniformed Greek gendarmes, who for nearly four years had enforced “law and order” for their German masters, marched out of their headquarters ... They carried rifles, machineguns and grenades but looked more like armed bus conductors than soldiers. They took up positions blocking the approaches to the hotel and to the Royal Palace and around the broad, long Constitution Square that slopes down from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in a formal pattern of trees and shrubbery and empty concrete pavement for two city blocks in the capital’s heart.
This was the ambush into which the unarmed demonstrators, among them women and children, walked unsuspecting.
EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY The testimony of every eyewitness correspondent interviewed by Stowe was that the ELAS demonstrators had done no shooting whatsover. “Only the police shot.” And Stowe adds that “news photographs, taken by Dimitri Kassel of Life (magazine) show men, women and children being mowed down by police fire – without a weapon in their hands.”
Rex Leeper, the British Ambassador, coolly denied that the police had shot first and then blandly went on to lie:
“Grenades were thrown first by the ELAS. The Communists put their women and children in the front row, as they always do, to hide their armed men. They had their guns behind and were shooting.”
This was how the British “democrats” deliberately precipitated a struggle which lasted 33 days and which took the toll of thousands of lives and more than $200,000,000 in “property damage.” Thus the truth is that the ELAS leaders, by their false and treacherous policy, left the Greek masses to be caught off-guard by a real conspiracy – the conspiracy of the British imperialists to impose the monarchy on Greece and to crush by brute force any attempt of the masses to establish a government of their own choosing.
Throughout the December struggle the Stalinist leaders sought one thing and one thing only: to effect a “peace” – at the expense of the workers. The face-saving formula for this “peace” was provided by the appointment of Archbishop Damaskinos as regent. The ELAS leaders thereupon agreed to withdraw from Athens and to disarm their followers.
In the meantime the British imperialists succeeded in their initial objective, namely: implanting a new army in Greece, as the main instrument of reaction. Incorporated in this army bearing the fancy label of “National Guard” is the Mountain Brigade. Intended originally as a nucleus, it is now actually serving this purpose.
COMPONENT PARTS OF THE NEW ARMY These royalists who had been recruited outside the country are reinforced by other royalists who remained behind to collaborate with the Nazis. Stowe reports that the “fanatically royalist X-ites” had received shipments of “several thousand tommy-guns smuggled into Athens by the British a month before the Germans got out.” These counter-revolutionary detachments were of course employed during the December battles against the Greek workers. They have likewise been incorporated into the British-sponsored “National Guard.”
Included in the new army are the remnants of Gen. Zervas’ EDES. As far back as December 1943 Foreign Minister Eden announced in Parliament that the British government would send arms only to Gen. Zervas. The weapons supplied by the British were employed by the EDES against the anti-Nazi fighters in Greece. This, too, is corroborated by Stowe who writes: “For two years prior to June 1944, EDES collaborated with the Germans and fought ELAS. Correspondents have seen German documents which prove EDES was on excellent terms with the Nazis until last summer.” In the course of the December battles the EDES forces in Epirus were virtually wiped out by the ELAS. The British succeeded in evacuating a remnant of these troops, who now reappear as guardians of “law and order” under the British domination.
Side by side with this scum, as if to round out the picture, are to be found the notorious Security Battalions originally organized,, outfitted and armed by the Nazis. “These battalions,” reports Leland Stowe, “had arrested thousands of Greek patriots and delivered them to Nazi torture and execution. Thousands of witnesses to their Quisling role can be found in Athens today.” When Scobie entered Athens he simply ordered these hirelings of the Gestapo to be confined to barracks. When the fighting broke out in Athens, thousands of them were thrown against the ELAS. Stowe writes: “Hundreds and probably several thousands of these same ‘Security’ troops today have jobs in the new Greek national army being formed by Premier Plastiras.”
THE SAME POLICE Supplementing the army is the police force the same police that served the Germans; the same police that were used to slaughter the demonstrators on December 3. The city police and the provincial constabulary, reports Stowe, “have not been purged of Nazi collaborators – and never will be, according to present indications.”
Today, the chief occupation of this same police backed by the “new” army – is to conduct, in the words of Stowe, “a gigantic ‘Red hunt’ ... openly encouraged by official British remarks and by British propaganda.” Being checked are “the political affiliations and personal associations of all middle and working-class people. The prisons overflowed with ‘suspects.’”
According to the Daily Worker, April 2, which so fervently hailed the “peace” in Greece, “100,000 persons were arrested in Athens and Piraeus ... Under the terrorism of spies, thousands in Athens and Piraeus shifted from one neighborhood to another.”
Stowe flatly states that there is no freedom of the press in Greece today. “There was no free press under the Germans. There’s no free press in Athens today, under the British.” The above-cited report in the Daily Worker likewise states that the “EAM newspapers were not yet circulating legally.”
THE REIGN OF TERROR Added to police terror are the “weapons of hunger and threatened joblessness,” reports Stowe and he goes on to explain:
After the Athens fighting, employers refused to take back tens of thousands of their workers as a retaliation for ELAS resistance. Long lines of boycotted employees stood in front of shops, offices, or hotels day after day. The families of many were starving. There was work to do, but the men stood helplessly in line and went home, hungry and crushed, each night. Some of them had relatives in EAM or ELAS.
According to the Daily Worker report it appears that the Government initiated this policy and the private employers followed suit:
Following the hostilities in Greece, civil servants who sympathized with the EAM were discharged from the civil service. The big companies followed suit and fired employes suspected of EAM sympathies. After a few days, the small companies in Athens and Piraeus also adopted this policy. (Daily Worker, April 2.)
Leland Stowe is a supporter of the “democratic” imperialists and their war. To him the events in Greece represent simply a series of “tragic blunders” committed first and foremost by the British, abetted by Washington and the Kremlin. As a trained observer, however, he cannot help noticing that all these “blunders” fall into a definite pattern. He is alarmed lest this pattern be repeated further. He warns:
The Greek civil war threatens to set the pattern for postwar governments throughout the Balkans, in Italy and Belgium – possibly in Holland and France – and perhaps in eventual post-Franco Spain. The relative chances for free democratic choice in all these countries have been ominously foreshadowed in Athens.
The pattern of the Greek civil war is the pattern of the counter-revolution. It represents the real program of the Allied imperialists for Europe. It epitomizes the treachery and bankruptcy of the Stalinist-dominated “liberation movements.” It underscores once again that the only road of salvation for the masses in Greece and all of Europe is the road of the Socialist revolution.
FLUNKEYS OF IMPERIALISM In the course of the second World War the labor lackeys of imperialism have deported themselves with an impudence that puts in the shade even the conduct of their peers during the first World War. Among the most brazen today as in 1914-1918 are the British labor bureaucrats. Their actions bespeak a boundless contempt for the masses. They feel themselves completely immune. They permit themselves anything and everything. This was strikingly revealed at the time of the civil war in Greece.
The news of Churchill’s bestial deeds in Greece sent a wave of revulsion through the ranks of the English workers. Laborite members of Parliament received sharp letters of protest. There was talk of engaging in strike action in sympathy and solidarity with the embattled Athenian workers.
The annual conference of the British Labor Party fell on December 13, that is, in the very midst of the battle of Athens. More than a score of unions presented resolutions condemning the policy of the British imperialists. Thereupon Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labor in Churchill’s War Cabinet, got up to openly flaunt his own guilt. Said Bevin:
The steps which have been taken in Greece are not the decisions of Winston Churchill. They are the decisions of the Cabinet. I and my colleagues participated in these discussions over nearly four years ... I say boldly that I am a party to these decisions, and looking back I cannot convince myself that any of these decisions were wrong.
This self-admitted criminal, boasting of his complicity in the butchery of the Greek workers, was not even hooted down. The assembled bureaucrats listened respectfully and the overwhelming majority voted to uphold the policy of Churchill-Bevin.
But that was only a part of the whole filthy job. It was likewise necessary to justify the bloodletting in the eyes of English workers as well as of world public opinion. This particular assignment fell to the lot of Bevin’s colleague Sir Walter Citrine, knighted for his past services to British imperialism. In the capacity of General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, Citrine headed a Congress delegation to Greece. To do what? To completely whitewash the Churchill government. And as a necessary corollary, to besmirch in vilest manner possible the heroic Greek fighters.
CITRINE’S REPORT The Citrine Committee reported that the ELAS was nothing but a gang of murderers who had organized “brutal murders” of civilians; that “little actual fighting took place between them and the Germans ... Arms dropped by the British had been hoarded presumably for other purposes.” The Citrine Committee swore that the ELAS did not at all represent the labor movement of Athens or Greece; reiterated that “ELAS was more concerned with returning to Athens to seize power than with fighting the Germans”; and expressed satisfaction over the timely and beneficent intervention of British troops, tanks and planes, failing which “there would have been a wholesale massacre in Athens.”
That several thousand ELAS fighters were slaughtered was doubtless hardly worth mentioning inasmuch as the Citrine Committee found that “ELAS were the dirtiest fighters our troops had encountered.” And so forth and so on. In brief, everyone of Churchill’s vile lies was repeated, embellished and countersigned.
There is a scurvy footnote to all this. It was added by such veteran renegades from communism as Liston Oak and Max Eastman. Once upon a time both Oak and Eastman ranged themselves on the side of revolutionary workers against the imperialists and their lackeys. But times have changed and so have they. It is far more comfortable nowadays to beat the drums for the imperialist bandits. However, unlike the British bureaucrats, neither Oak nor Eastman have any power to betray the workers. They represent exactly nothing. Nevertheless they are eager to help out, if only in an advisory capacity, if only as publicity agents for Bevin-Citrine and Co. And so, they, too, have rushed – in the pages of the New Leader – to whitewash the British imperialists and to heap the vilest slander on the insurgent Greek workers.
THEY DO NOT WANT PEACE The imperialists have accomplished in the second World War what they failed to attain in the war of 1914-1918, namely: they have succeeded in bringing about a clear cut decision on the military arena. Germany, the dreaded rival of Anglo-American imperialism, lies vanquished. Yet the unequalled slaughter and destruction continues. Casualties multiply while more and more European cities are reduced to rubbish and the countryside is turned into wasteland. Additional millions are left homeless, famine conditions spread, epidemics threaten. The war continues. Why?
To justify this monstrous crime the “democratic” capitalists and all their apologists are circulating through the press, the radio and the pulpit one of their most staggering war lies. For some time now they have been saying that the hostilities must continue indefinitely – and must be followed up by a prolonged military occupation of Germany – because the Nazis plan to unfold a large-scale underground resistance movement.
How realizable is such a plan? The primary condition for any large-scale underground movement is that it receive the sympathy, if not the outright support, of the mass of the population. Wherever the masses remain indifferent, let alone hostile, underground movements cannot even take root. The German people have been the first and greatest sufferers from Nazi oppression. The moment that the apparatus of ruthlessness by means of which Hitler’s regime maintains itself is shattered, the Nazis far from finding a cover among the masses will confront implacable foes everywhere. It will require, as in Italy, the intervention of Allied bayonets to safeguard these enemies of the people from the wrath of their erstwhile victims. As a matter of fact, in the German territories thus far occupied, the Allied military authorities have already sanctioned collaboration with Nazi functionaries – on the grounds that no other “qualified administrators” are available. These are the same gentlemen who talk about “rooting out” fascism, “reeducating the German people,” etc. etc.
HITLERITE DEMAGOGY The current Allied propaganda is merely a variation of Hitlerite demagogy. Whereas the Nazis preached the racial superiority of the Germans, the Allied imperialists are now propounding the racial degeneracy of Germans, who are all presumably predisposed to fascism, or some other form of totalitarianism.
In this campaign of vilification of a great people the cowardly liberals have gleefully come to the forefront. Hypocritical posturers like Max Lerner, one of the editors of the New York daily PM, take jaunts to Europe only to report that the “future of democracy” appears quite dark in Germany, and that 90,000,000 Germans are – of course! of course! – to blame for this. Editors of the New Republic vie with their colleagues of the Nation in harping on the same theme. But the most original contribution to date must be credited to Alfred Kantorowicz, former foreign correspondent of Vossiche Zeitung. This expert on Germany denies that the Nazis have any intention of waging “a long, desperate underground battle inside the Reich.” They are too smart for that. They will instead carry on a large-scale secret struggle. By what means? By a tried and tested means. It is the secret tribunal of the Middle Ages, the Vehmgericht. The houses of those doomed by the Vehm were marked with a red cross. It was by these secret Vehm courts, the liberals are assured, that the Nazis really came to power after the first World War. No more, no less. The world, explains Kantorowicz, has unfortunately “failed to recognize the significance of the many vehmic murders which inevitably broke the democratic backbone of the country.” (The Nation, February 10.) The Nazis real strategy is to repeat the same thing but “on a far greater scale.” It is to this end that “Himmler has trained tens of thousands of his most reliable, fanatical Nazis.”
“DEMOCRACY” HAS OUTLIVED ITS DAY Whether one derives fascism from psychology or the properties of race or from the Vehm courts, the end result is the same thereby the truth is hidden that it is capitalism that breeds fascism. And at the same time one hides the corollary, namely that bourgeois democracy is completely bankrupt and can never be stabilized, either in Europe or in the United States, in the epoch of the death agony of capitalism. The choice confronting the peoples of Germany and of all Europe today is not between fascism and bourgeois democracy, but between barbarism and Socialism.
The impending downfall of fascism in Germany will prove the most catastrophic event in modern history, catastrophic, that is, in its social consequences to the capitalist system. The advanced German proletariat will resume its struggle for a Socialist Germany. This will invest the unfolding European revolution with unconquerable power. The capitalist rulers of the world know and fear this. That is why they are prolonging the war. That is why they propose to keep indefinitely millions of troops on the soil of Germany. That is why they are spreading their latest monstrous lie.
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Last updated on 12.9.2008