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Greek People Force Regency on Churchill, but —

They’re Still Battling for Democracy

(8 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 2, 8 January 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Our readers should not be surprised that despite agreement by all the parties on the appointment of Archbishop Damaskinos as regent of Greece, fighting should continue to rage in that country between the ELAS forces and the British troops. The establishment of the regency does not solve a single problem over which the Greek people took up arms.

That the masses of the Greek people don’t want King George II back on the throne of Greece, that they want the monarchy itself overthrown and the establishment of a republic is a foregone conclusion. No one knows this better than the King himself, who fears a plebiscite on this question like death. And also his boss, Mr. Churchill.

But what is more important is the reason for this almost unanimous opposition to the monarchy. The Greek people want the King out because of what he represents – namely, totalitarian rule, absence of democratic freedoms, suppression of the aspirations of the Greek working people, and subservience to the imperialist interests of Great Britain. The desire for freedom from foreign rule and for the right of self-government is what impelled the Greek people to take up arms against the Nazi invader. The same desire, which has not been met by Allied “liberation,” impels them to continue this struggle.

The temporary substitution of Damaskinos for the puppet King, which is what the regency actually signifies, in no way meets any of the demands of the Greek people, as expressed by the EAM, The basic demands of the EAM still remain to be fulfilled and the people of Greece are still fighting in the streets to gain them.

Peace Terms

The peace terms of the EAM, as listed in the newspapers, consist of ten points, the first of which is agreement on the establishment of a regency. This is obviously conceived of as merely a temporary measure, since the other terms deal with the basic demands, and until these are met there will be no laying down of arms. These may be summarized as follows:

The holding of a general election of a National Assembly in which the Greek people will be able to select their own government. Prior to that election, the EAM demands, a plebiscite to decide on the return of the monarchy. Until the time of the election, the EAM wants the punishment of all collaborationists, the purging from the government services of all fascist elements, most particularly the town police, which are the same police who served the Nazis so well.

Although these demands, as far as they go, are in keeping with the general aspiration of the Greek people for self-government, there are some serious omissions! The holding of a general election, a demand which we wholeheartedly support, requires certain guarantees in order that it be fully democratic. These guarantees consist of the right of free press, free speech, the right of free assemblage, and the right of organization, in order that all political parties, especially the working class parties, may appear before the Greek people for judgment. Without these guarantees, a holding of a general election cannot serve the purpose for which the Greek people want this election, namely – to be able to choose a government which will in their opinion best serve their interests.

After denouncing the fighters of the ELAS as nothing but a lot of “bandits from the hills,” Winston Churchill had to spend his Christmas holiday in Athens trying to negotiate with them.

His trip to Greece was not made because his feelings for the Greek people had suddenly changed, but was made under the pressure of the outspoken criticism of British labor, which, over the heads of its official leadership, demonstrated by work stoppages and resolutions that the British working class had no interest in the suppression of the democratic rights of other peoples. Compelling Churchill to negotiate with struggling Greece is but an initial triumph both for the Greek people and British labor. It shows what determined struggle and international working class solidarity can accomplish.

Meaning of Churchill’s Trip

We call Churchill’s trip to Athens an initial triumph because of its symbolic nature rather than because of the actual concessions granted to the Greek people. Actually, what Churchill agreed to was more or less an accomplished fact. He, more than anyone else perhaps, knows that the Greek King cannot return. He gave away the Greek King – the puppet he could no longer use. In his place, Churchill seeks to establish the regency. The Greek people see this only as a temporary step in the direction of getting rid of the monarchy and British control altogether. Churchill sees the regency as a substitute for the King who has outlived his usefulness and will try to use this institution in the same way as he used the monarchy.

The very manner in which Churchill told the Greek King that he was turning the country over to a regent characterizes the whole relationship between George II and British imperialism. The mighty monarch of Greece was simply summoned to 10 Downing Street and told that he was through – that he had lost his job, whether he consented or not, a regent was going to be appointed for Greece.

At this, the King decided to “issue a statement” – in which he announced that having “deeply considered the terrible situation” into which Greece had fallen, he had resolved not to return to the country “unless summoned by a free and fair expression of national will.” For this to happen, we might add, King George has about as much chance as a snowball in hell. In the meantime, the King was “appointing” Damaskinos as regent.

The archbishop’s first official statement called upon the Greek people to lay down their arms as an “indispensable precondition” toward solving the present situation. To this, the ELAS properly replied: It would order the laying down of arms only when the current political questions were settled.

It is because the establishment of the regency has not solved any of the current political questions in Greece that the fighting continues. If Mr. Churchill thought that by putting up a regency he could give his old orders through another mouth, that the Greek people give up their struggle for independence, he would be more successful, he now finds that he is very much mistaken. The Greek people see through this as they will see through any other ruse attempted by Churchill.

And such a ruse is in the making. The Greek people have made the situation too hot for Mr. Churchill. He is now seeking the aid of the other Allied imperialists to maintain British domination. This he expressed at a press conference in which he hoped that agreement could be reached between Russia, the United States and Great Britain for “some sort of joint responsibility” for the maintenance of “law and order” in Greece, through the establishment of an “international government.”

Statement to Tommies

The Greek people will accept that kind of solution as readily as they have accepted General Scobie’s orders, that is, with arms in hand. Their attitude has been eloquently expressed in a message sent from the ELAS to the British soldiers fighting in Greece. We have room to quote it only in part:

“We have resolved to die till one, for our independence. The independence for which we struggled three and a half years, and will fight three and a half more if necessary.

“We believe that the British people do not appreciate and will never allow such an action. But we believe that it’ll be condemned very soon.

“British brothers:

“Do not accept to be sent to do such a crime. Do not accept to be the executioners of a people that does not support any kind of slavery.

“Do not assassinate the Greek people, which has no difference with you.

“If you’ll accept the murderous orders of General Scobie for the continuation of such distructeous fight for our countries, then the history of tomorrow will notice this action as the greatest crime, and your descendants will be ashamed to spell your name.” – (Literal quotation)

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