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The Militant, 14 September 1946

Jean Paul Martin

Eye-Witness Report from Athens
Relates Background of Plebiscite

(August 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 37, 14 September 1946, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


ATHENS, Greece. – As of August 27, the balance sheet of 143 days of the Tsaldaris government of Greece was as follows: dead, 579; gravely wounded, 415; tortured, 1,664; disappeared (carried off by reactionary bands), 39; deported to various concentration islands, 1,266; new prisoners in the jails, 3,942. The number of people intimidated against opposing the monarchy cannot be calculated.

Despite the extent of monarchist terror organized throughout the country, the fighting spirit of the Greek masses is still unbroken. The two years that have gone by since the defeat of the December uprising have been filled by a series of working class struggles which several times reached the level of the general strike.

These struggles had their origin in the determination of the Greek workers to fight back against the consequences of inflation and of the attempts to impose a dictatorial regime on the country.

The action of the masses has been facilitated, furthermore, by the fact that the Communist Party is outside the government and in opposition thereto, and therefore tries to exert pressure on the capitalists in order to secure a definitive compromise with them.

These struggles of the working class have won for it partial gains on the economic plane, but have been unable to stop the drive toward dictatorship. As was the case during the events of December 1944, the Greek workers did not have the benefit of direct aid from, the European and world workers, and furthermore had to fight not only against the forces of Greek reaction but also against the forces of British imperialism which dominate the country. Recently again, in July and August of this year, several partial strikes have burst out in Athens, the Piraeus, Salonika, and other Greek industrial centers.

New Maquis

Side by side with these labor struggles, a new Maquis has developed in the mountainous North, the region of Olympus, Epirus, and the Yugoslav-Greek frontier. The Maquis is composed on the one hand of former ELAS partisans, who cannot or will not take up again their legal life, and on the other by new recruits from among the peasants terrorized by the pollice, the army, or reactionary bands.

There is also in the frontier region of Yugoslavia a population of a nationality separate from that of the Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks – the so-called Slavomacedonians, who aspire to autonomy. This population about which exact statistics are long lacking, but which is perhaps not less than 300,000 people on Greek soil alone, is terribly persecuted by the Greek government which seeks to achieve its forced assimilation. Numerous elements of this nationality swell the ranks of the new Maquis in Northern Greece.

This Maquis is, furthermore, favored by the Yugoslavia of Tito, by Bulgaria, and the USSR itself, which sees in its development a method of weakening the consolidation of English influence in Greece.

Large scale military operations, with the participation of the Second and Third Greek Army Corps, and under the supervision of English generals, “instructors and organizers of the new Greek Army,” have recently been launched against the Maquis. The army, aided by aviation, provided with tanks, flamethrowers and artillery, has carried out several pitched battles against these new partisans, and during the latter half of July and all of August the Athens newspapers published daily “war communiques” on the development of operations! Whole villages voluntarily abandoned by their inhabitants, taking refuge in the mountains on the approach of the troops, have been burned down as “reprisals” by the new conquerors.

In the trade union field, the great majority of the Greek workers are organized in the General Confederation of Labor, dominated by the Communist Party. In Greece, there is no important reformist wing in the trade union movement; its few representatives in the past were always considered as men ready to sell themselves to the highest bidder, and men whose authority rested only on police protection.


Recently the Tsaldaris government gave one more proof of the “democratic” guarantees and conditions in which the plebiscite for the king’s return is being prepared. Under the pretext that the leadership of the CGT was irregularly elected in its recent Eighth Panhellenic Congress, the government replaced it and the elected leaders of the individual unions by a leadership named by the Minister of Labor.

The strawmen of the pro-monarchist government were called on to “temporarily” take the leadership of the trade union movement, and in reality to prepare to integrate it into the state apparatus under the direct control of the police.

This action provoked a lively indignation in the working class, which replied with a general strike at Salonika and through all Northern Greece, and by a 24-hour general strike at Athens and the Piraeus.

(Next week: Politics of Greek Labor)

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