From Workers’ International News, Vol.7 No.4, June 1948, pp.23-30.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
EDITORIAL NOTE: We have just received the following article from our Greek comrades which deals with the character, the social base of, and the attitude of the revolutionary Marxists towards the guerrilla movement in Greece. Our comrades write:
“We think that it is necessary and interesting for the British working class to learn the Marxist point of view on this important international question. Though the article was written in haste, it represents the official position of our Party, which publishes the illegal Workers Struggle.”
They write further,
“Here the situation is getting more terrible every day. Many comrades are in prison, exile and concentration camps. Up to now, none of our militants have signed the infamous denunciation of Communism, and we are therefore very proud.”
The Editors of W.I.N. entirely, subscribe to the article, its analysis and its conclusions. One passage, however, we do not accept. Namely, the reference to the “imperialist” aims of the Yugoslavs and Bulgarians, which reads as follows:
“Another danger (to the guerrilla movement) is that, if it remains unaided by the working class of Greece and by the world proletariat, it will degenerate and pass under the total dependence on the Yugoslavs and Bulgarians who will use it for their own imperialist and the expansionist aims of the Soviet bureaucracy which demands an outlet to the Aegean sea.”
The Stalinist bureaucracy will seek to use the guerrilla movement, as it did the Polish and Eastern European movement. But we believe it would be wrong both in theory and in fact, to speak of the “imperialist” aims of the Yugoslavs and Bulgarians. Imperialism, in the modern Marxist scientific sense of the term, especially since Lenin, means essentially the export of finance capital in the field of economy, and an aggressive annexationist policy in the field of territorial expansion to back up, supplement, and consolidate the economic control by political subjugation. While the Yugoslavs and Bulgarians may aid the Greek guerrillas with the same expansionist aims as the Russian Stalinists, this is not an imperialist policy as understood in the Marxist movement.
The guerrilla movements manifested themselves on a large scale during the period of the second imperialist war, particularly in the backward peasant countries of South Eastern Europe.
The classic form of the class struggle of the proletariat for its economic and political emancipation is through strikes, demonstrations, etc, the peak of which is the general strike and the armed insurrection which brings the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the proletarian regime.
All these struggles of the workers take place in the towns: in the factories and the streets, They do not take place in the mountains. This leads to the conclusion that the guerrilla struggle which is carried out mainly by groups of peasants in which workers, intellectuals and other petty bourgeois elements participate, does not constitute a pure form of class proletarian struggle.
What is then the guerrilla movement? Whatever its aims, its mentality, its perspective? And finally, what is the position of the working class in regard to it?
In order to reply to these questions, and finally to define the position of the revolutionary Marxists in regard to the guerrilla struggle, it is necessary for us to describe briefly the guerrilla movement in Greece: which has become an international question and which threatens to become the pretext for more serious dissension among the great powers.
After the, heroic armed struggle of the popular masses during December, 1944, and the shameless Varkiza Agreement by which Stalinism handed over the best fighters of the working class and the peasants to the talons of the reaction, there followed an orgy of terrorism, imprisonments and rope. Armed hooligans of the reaction massacred without rendering account to anyone.
The resistance of the masses in the towns and the villages was unbending. In 1945 magnificent strikes, demonstrations and militant assemblies took place, which were seen in Athens for the first time. The same in the other towns of Greece.
Hundreds of thousands of workers, salaried employees, peasants, intellectuals, declared their faith and their will to struggle in order to put an end to the sovereignty of reaction which was supported by the British imperialists. The slogans and policy of the Trotskyists began to find more and more response among the masses. But even in this case, the Stalinists stabbed the workers in the back with the slogan of “making friends.” Although this slogan found no response, the Stalinists continued propagating it for months and months.
The proposal of the Trotskyists to form self defence groups, which at that time in conjunction with the workers’ struggles would certainly have broken the reaction, was rejected by the Stalinists as an “anti-national provocation”. The workers’ struggles continued insistently and with determination, but under a compromising and irresolute leadership. At the same time, however, ideological misapprehension appeared among the masses, and firstly among the fighters who adhered to Stalinism. As a result of this situation, the Stalinists started a polemic against the Trotskyists and at the same time agreed to take part in open discussions which took place towards the end of 1945 and the beginning of 1946.
The reaction, taking advantage of the confused situation of the masses as a result of the traitorous policy of their leadership, organised themselves continuously and dealt blows when the opportunity arose against the working class.
This situation lasted all through 1946. The masses, in spite of their heroism and self sacrifice, started to become disappointed because they could not see a way out. They started to lose confidence not only in their leadership, but also in themselves. An attack by the reaction from all fronts on the trade union and political liberties of the workers followed, and has today reached its climax in the establishment of a police state in which the spy and the thug reigns.
The distance from this point to the creation of the guerrilla movement was not long. In large numbers, the condemned peasants and workers took the path which they know since the occupation and reached the mountains from where they would fight for democratic freedoms.
From this brief history of the labour movement in Greece, every worker understands that if the working class had come victorious out of the previous struggles and safeguarded its democratic liberties which were being trampled upon, there would be no reason for the hunted workers and peasants to take to the mountains. This is why we Marxists state that the guerrilla movement is a form of struggle which follows the defeats of the workers in the towns.
The post-war guerrilla movement manifested itself as a spontaneous popular movement of all the hunted fighters, who, fleeing the terrorism of the state and para-state organisations, took to the mountains. It must be taken into consideration that the Stalinists were at first hostile to these movements still advocating the slogan of “making friends.” Let it, incidentally, not be forgotten that the first “captain” of the ELAS, Aris Velouhiotis, who refused to submit to the treacherous Verkiza Agreement and desired to continue the armed struggle in the mountains, was chased by the Government troops and “mysteriously” killed. The Stalinist finger is not missing from this affair either. Many old fighters of the guerrilla movement whisper something about betrayal.
Each defeat of the workers in the towns increased the numbers of guerrillas in the mountains. The first small battles between guerrillas and Government troops started to develop into proper battles. At first isolated privates and later whole groups and army units started joining the guerrillas. At the same time the “purge” of the army of the “anti-nation” elements was intensified. In the beginning, the “undesirable elements” wore given temporary releases or leave of absence for an indefinite period, but later the camps in Crete were created together with the modern Dachaus at Makroniso and Yura. In spite of all this, the unwillingness of the army to fight the guerrillas continues to be great.
With the growth of the dimensions of the guerrilla movement, Stalinism started to embrace it, at first hesitatingly, and later with greater willingness. Stalinism in this struggle, as always, had not forgotten its treacherous mission. The “honest democratic understanding”, the creation of a “national democratic government” (of the Papandreou type), and the rusty slogans of “national independence” and equal political friendship with all the great allies – these were, and are, the whole content of Stalinist policy. The Stalinists do not fight for the workers’ interests. In the same way they do not fight for the guerrillas and their interests. In their capacity as agents of the Stalinist Soviet bureaucracy, they are struggling to serve the interests of their masters. By an agreement with the local bourgeois class they are trying to neutralise it, to persuade it not to be so pro-American and so anti-Soviet, and not give the “fatherland’s soil” to the late great allies, to be used as bases for the war against the Soviet Union which is now being prepared.
Instead of issuing the slogan of an all-peoples resistance against the attacks of the reaction and its imperialist patrons; instead of combining the armed struggle of the guerrillas with the struggles of the working class in the towns; the Stalinists betrayed the strikes and the struggles of the working class on the one hand, while on the other they were trying to achieve an “honest agreement” which would grant them a portfolio in a bourgeois cabinet.
We have defined above briefly the various forms of proletarian class struggle and whore they take place. The guerrilla movement has no similarity with any of these forms of struggle. What is it, therefore, that determines the class character of the guerrilla movement in the permanent class struggle?
Many people desire to present this guerrilla movement as a continuation of the guerrilla movement of the time of the occupation. If we accept this as correct, which it is not, even those who support this view must admit that there is a very great difference between those two guerrilla movements. The guerrilla movement at the time of the occupation was created and developed in the period of the imperialist war, aligned itself with one imperialist camp and fought against the other imperialist camp. It aim was clearly “national liberation.” With the delirious chauvinism of its leadership who cultivated mainly the hatred against the German soldiers, it prevented the international fraternisation of the troops of the two fighting camps or blocs. Its dependence on the Middle East Command Headquarters transformed it objectively into an instrument of the imperialist war and its continuation.
The great difference, therefore, between the two movements, lies in the fact that the first was fighting against a foreign invader, while the second carries out a direct civil war against a bourgeois Government and its state machine. And this is a great, an essential difference.
However, many of the characteristics of the first guerrilla movement exist in the second: its dependence on Stalinism, its petty bourgeois intellectual leadership, its dependence, through Stalinism, on the Russian bureaucracy, etc. But the fact that it carries out a war against its class enemy gives it the potentiality, at a certain definite stage, of passing over the heads of its treacherous leadership, and becoming an invaluable ally of the proletariat in the towns, to whose struggle it does not cease even now, to be of assistance.
The guerrilla movement is composed in its majority, of peasants, petty bourgeois, with a percentage of “workers.” In the first spontaneous period of the movement, there existed within it a considerable democracy, and the leaders used to be elected from below on the basis of their ability. With the passing of the movement under the totalitarian influence of the Stalinist machine, it was made bureaucratic. The leaders are appointed on the basis of their servility to the Stalinist bureaucrats and against the will of the base of the struggling guerrillas. With the creation of appointed General Staffs, procedural castes, chiefs and sub-chiefs, and the announcement of the appointed Government of the Stalinists, the Stalinist noose has, been placed round the neck of the whole movement.
In spite of this, as we said above, the “lower” leaders who are in direct touch with the fight side by side with the guerrillas, come from the petty-bourgeois intellectual class (school teachers, junior ex-officers of the bourgeois army) and in many cases are peasants or “workers.” Owing to the present peculiarity of the movement, the terrible centralised discipline which existed during the occupation, does not exist. This does not mean that the Stalinists have ceased to direct and guide the struggle of the guerrillas, or that the Stalinists have turned “democratic.” This looseness of cohesion which results from the lack of severe discipline, allows initiative to the lower leaders who are in direct contact with the masses. In a turn of events, they may wrest themselves free from the Stalinist influence under pressure from the masses. This situation created first class opportunities for revolutionary Marxists to influence and guide the guerrilla movement towards a correct road of struggle for class liberation under the leadership of the working class.
The present guerrilla movement is also free from the Stalinist “brass hats” of the bourgeois army who were at the head of ELAS. But the chief characteristic of this movement, on the subjective side, are the changes in the mentality of the fighters and their freedom from the old deception and illusions – mainly the nationalistic ones. With a correct approach, and with the gaining of experience, the internationalist revolutionary ideas can find a greater response than they found during the war period.
As a conclusion from the above analysis, comes the deduction that the guerrilla movement, owing to its composition, its petty bourgeois radical leadership, its aims, its aspirations, its slogans and its final objectives, and chiefly owing to the form of struggle it carrion out (on the mountains), is a popular revolutionary movement.
The guerrilla movement runs the serious risk of being struck down, dissolving and degenerating. The first danger for it would be if it fell under the blows of the Government and its imperialist sponsors. This danger, no matter how serious it is, or appears to be, can be removed with the struggle of the world proletariat against world imperialism, and particularly Anglo-American imperialism, which directly helps the struggle of the Greek guerrillas.
Another danger is that, if it remains unaided by the working class of Greece and by the world proletariat, it will degenerate and pass under the total dependence of the Yugoslavs and Bulgarians who will use if for their own imperialist aims and the expansionist aims of the Soviet bureaucracy which demands an outlet to the Aegean sea.. This danger has made its appearance with the “totalitarian” control which the Stalinists have imposed on the movement. But the majority of the guerrillas do not fight as a conscious instrument of the Stalinist bureaucracy and its lackeys. They fight for democratic political, trade union and economic freedoms. This fact alone, gives to the movement a dynamic which under certain conditions, can give an unusual push to the revolutionary movement of our country, reaching up to the very overthrow of capitalism. But this needs the conscious class intervention of the proletariat of the towns which, at the head of the popular masses and, naturally of the guerrillas, would guide the struggle up to its final logical conclusion: the overthrow of capitalism.
Insofar as the guerrilla movement fights against local reaction, dislocates the state machine and fights for freedom, the revolutionary proletariat of our country, as well as that of all other countries, supports it with all its power. At the same time, however, the revolutionary vanguard of the workers emphasises and warns the movement of the dangers which threaten it, chiefly those of the treacherous adventurist policy of the Stalinist leadership.
However, in all cases, the guerrilla movement is doomed if it remains without help from the working class of the towns and the world proletariat. The only effective assistance which can be given to the new guerrilla movement is the mobilisation of the workers in the towns, which, on the basis of the most immediate economic demands, will enter the struggle combining the economic with political demands, a general amnesty, freedom of the press, speech and assembly. The guerrilla movement with its armed struggle, will give invaluable aid to this struggle of the workers. Once the struggle of the workers succeeds in obtaining the most elementary democratic trade union freedom, automatically there ceases to exist any reason for the existence of the guerrilla movement in the mountains – the armed workers, peasants, intelligentsia will then form peoples civil guards which will safeguard the conquests. But this is another question which we are not examining here.
The duties of the revolutionary proletariat and its party towards the guerrilla movement are, therefore, quite clear; support of the armed struggle of the peasants and the guerrillas and at the some time, the call for the mobilisation of the workers in the towns as the only way out for the revolutionary movement in our country.
The Stalinists, in exploiting the movement in the interests of the counter-revolutionary Soviet bureaucracy, and as n scarecrow against American imperialist intervention, have announced the formation of a “Government of free Greece.” The revolutionary Marxists who base their struggle on the revolutionary class consciousness of the mosses, cannot in any case recognise a Government composed of people appointed, and which includes in its ranks none but Stalinists of the kind of Mpertziotes (Phanis) and Co.
We support a provisional government democratically elected by the armed peasants, workers and the population of the areas occupied by the guerrillas. Our attitude in regard to the Markos Government is the some as that in regard to any other appointed anti-democratic, counter-revolutionary government. In support of the struggle of the armed guerrillas? Yes. With all our powers! Against the treacherous Stalinist leadership? Yes! The way shown by the revolutionary Marxists is all too clear. It is the way of the ruthless class struggle, which is the only way which leads to victory.
G.D. from Workers Struggle
Last updated on 11.9.2005