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Labor Action, 7 March 1949


Mike Stevens

Presenting the First Full Account of Upheaval in Greek CP

GPU Agent Replaces Markos in Greece


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 10, 7 March 1949, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


When the announcement was made two weeks ago that Markos Vafiades was resigning as premier of the “Provisional Democratic Government” and as head of the “Democratic Army,” it was obvious that the Stalinists in Greece were having difficulties. Nobody believed that Markos was resigning because of his health, as reported. This disbelief was not based on any actual knowledge, but because everybody now knows that the Stalinists are not to be trusted, especially when their propaganda is intended for the working class.

Reports now coming out of Greece, from Communist Party internal documents, and from CP members, reveal that everybody’s suspicions were correct.

Markos was removed from his posts by the Central Committee of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece). He was removed on the charge of holding views of a “right wing opportunist nature.” These charges were made at the full meeting (fifth plenum) of the Central Committee of KKE held during the later part of January. At this meeting it was decided to drop Markos as head of the “Democratic” army and premier of the “democratic” government. He was replaced by John Ioannides.

Ioannides is known as “Moscow’s man” in the KKE. He entered the radical youth movement during the First World War and eventually was sent to Russia where he attended the School of Eastern Studies. Since that time he has been the “disciplinarian” inside the party. He headed a group of fanatics whose methods of discipline ranged from mere threats to outright murder.

Usually a capable GPU agent is not used for work of this kind. The native gangsters are employed. But the KKE has had more difficulty keeping its members in line, and keeping oppositions from springing up, than most other Communist parties. So, Ioannides, a top leader, had to be used for the job. Now, the KKE has another job.

How Markos Became Head Man

Markos Vafiades was just another member in the KKE when the Stalinists decided last year to set up a “government” in opposition to the Royalist government in Greece. Nevertheless, the Stalinists chose Vafiades as head of their government and as “General” of their army.

Markos had been in the movement for many years, leading the life of a typical radical militant until the resistance movement developed and he became second in command of a guerilla section in the north. Dozens of other underground military and political leaders were far better known to the working class than Markos, but the Stalinists chose him as “leader” for a number of obvious reasons.

Many of the KKE members with military backgrounds objected to the party entering into a coalition with Papandreou in 1944. This was the coalition government that took over in Greece when Hitler’s army retreated out of Greece. Papandreou’s government, with the Stalinists in it, was so rotten the workers rebelled against it within a matter of months, and fighting broke out. The Stalinists hoped to work out a new coalition and did everything in their power to stop the fighting. The thousands of guerilla fighters who were awaiting in the north were never permitted by the KKE to come to the Athens area where the fighting was going on.

It is known that at that period and even later in the party fights, both policies were widely condemned. But not by Markos. He wanted to prove he was a good boy, because he wanted to show that he had learned not to disobey the party leaders as he had done once before.

In the early thirties, the KKE had yielded to Moscow pressure and had accepted the slogan of an “autonomous Macedonia.” This slogan really meant the incorporation of Greek Macedonia into Bulgaria. Markos refused to accept this slogan and walked out of the KKE. For the next few years, Markos was involved in strike struggles as a worker and eventually was imprisoned for two years. Here he rejoined the KKE, and when he was released followed orders faithfully to show that he had repented.

All of the above made Markos a natural for the KKE’s purposes when they set up their “government” last year. He was the one man in the KKE who had a reputation that was linked with the best traditions of the liberation movement against Hitler’s Nazis. Even the critics WITHIN the KKE or in the working class could not accuse him of any of the political errors of the Coalition government or the December Days. He was a soldier up in the north and wasn’t involved. All of this, plus the fact that for fifteen years he had followed the party line consistently, even though he was abused and never permitted to remain in any one place too long, made Markos a “natural.”

In addition to this, if any situation developed where it became necessary to remove Markos, his break with the party during the thirties could be brought up to show he was. always no good and a “right wing deviationist.” Markos, we repeat, was a natural.

But – Deviation Appears Again

But a couple of things have happened since last year which make it a little difficult to announce to the “democratic” army, to the KKE members and to the world as a whole that Markos is a “right wing deviationist.”

For one thing, the Stalinists had built Markos up too high to knock him out that fast. In the United States, you may remove an Earl Browder without too many questions from the membership, except that some will leave the party, while others may remain with the illusion that some day they will stop these bureaucratic happenings.

But in Greece, or elsewhere, Where persons are facing death every day by being in the guerilla movement or even by distributing handbills, they want to know why a person was removed.

This is the answer the KKE leaders cannot give to the army or to their membership. Markos’ deviation seems to rest on the following: He is still against the slogan of “independent Macedonia” and against the KKE carrying on any activity that may stop supplies coming in from Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Although this may seem as two points it is really only one. If the KKE pursues the slogan of “independent Macedonia,” which means giving the Greek section of Macedonia to Bulgaria, then Tito will immediately realize that Moscow controlled Bulgaria’s next step will be to claim the other section of Macedonia that is now part of Yugoslavia.

Whether Markos is thinking only in terms of military material or weather he is against the slogan of “independent Macedonia” on political grounds it is difficult to say. But that is not important information for anyone.

What is important is that the members of the “democratic” army are against the slogan of “independent Macedonia” or any dismemberment of Greece. They joined this army because they wanted a government of their own choosing, freedom and civil liberties, and against foreign domination and intervention. And one can rest assured, that the soldiers as well as members of the KKE, no matter what their background, feel that “an “independent Macedonia” means intervention by Bulgaria.

Stalin’s agents Eye Macedonia

All of this is the opposite of the new line of the KKE. The KKE now realizes that the Royalist Government in Athens, no matter how corrupt and rotten it is, will be able to continue the struggle. The United States will make sure that Athens keeps fighting. The millions upon millions of dollars being poured in by the United States in money and material will mean the continuous whittling away of the guerilla movement. But, as important, is the fact that the KKE views Russia’s peace maneuvers with some apprehension.

The KKE has lost all hope of taking over in Greece for some time to come. They feel that the only thing they may be able to salvage is Macedonia. So, they are going to press for victories in that region, hoping that eventually, at some future peace conference, no one would permit the Macedonian question to delay more important issues. Thus, the Stalinists hope they will gain this toehold by default.

The problems now facing the Stalinists are many. They must conquer all of Greek Macedonia. Their maneuvers must not be too obvious or else the soldiers will desert. For, who would remain and fight if he is told that he is not fighting to return to his home a free man, but that he is fighting for an “independent Macedonia.” Politically advanced and politically backward soldiers will rebel at this, even if for entirely different reasons.

This is why the “disciplinarian” and GPU man, John loannadies, is now [in] charge of the army and the government. The new task does not call for a front man like Markos. The Stalinists know that this is the last straw and that is why one of their leaders has been put in. Ioannides will try to control the army with strong arm methods. But they will fail.

The poor mistaken workers and peasants in this army followed the Stalinists, for they had nowhere else to go in their search for an organized resistance to the Athens regime. But now, even if all issues are still not clear, they will depart. Some will surrender, others will go along with their morale completely broken. What Churchill’s, cannons and Truman’s planes could not do – the Stalinists have accomplished.

Four Points on the KKE Agenda

The agenda and the decisions of the meeting of the Central Committee of the KKE are the most revealing documents ever published by any organization. Not so much in what they say, but in the way they try to hide various facts.

If was a four-point agenda starting off with a long speech by the general secretary on conditions in Greece and the main aims of the Stalinist army during 1949. He went into detail on what towns and areas must be taken, etc. This may seem foolish, telling the enemy where you are going to strike and who will be there to tight. A maneuver? Yes, but not to fool the Royalist government, but to fool the “democratic” army into, thinking that the KKE is planning overall actions in every part of Greece, and thus hide the fact that Macedonia remains the only goal.

The second point on the agenda was on the “Right wing opportunist deviations” and this is where Markos and others were pulled apart. In the report of the meeting distributed to party henchmen throughout the country, the KKE leaders claimed that the deviationists believed that progress could be made and that the foreign aid was necessary before any army should engage only in small guerilla skirmishes. But that is camouflage.

Third point of the meeting was the reason why a new Political Committee was necessary, and the fourth point was the election of the new committee. Among those dropped from the Political Committee are Chryssa Hatzivasilliou, a leader of the Athens organization, who was considered too soft for the tasks ahead, and Porphyrogennis, a lawyer who served as Minister of Labor in the Papandreou cabinet. Another member, P. Rousos, husband of Chryssa, and one who had helped form the Papandreou coalition at Lebanon, was reduced to an alternate on the Political Committee.

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