Goldman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

M. Morrison

Why We Supported
‘EAM-ELAS’ Struggles

(24 February 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 8, 24 February 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

To explain why we supported the struggle of the Greek masses under the leadership of the EAM-ELAS, against the British imperialists and their Greek puppets, it is necessary to analyze the character of that struggle.

In the Spanish civil war the Trotskyists gave material support to the Loyalist government in its fight against Franco because we considered that fight to be one for bourgeois democracy against fascism. Every one who read our literature knew that we were opposed to the Loyalist Government and would not have hesitated to replace it with a workers’ and peasants’ government had we had a majority of the people behind us. But our opposition to the Loyalist Government did not prevent us from giving it material support as against Franco. Bourgeois democracy is an evil which we want to replace with workers’ democracy but it is to be defended against fascism.

Was the struggle of the EAM-ELAS one that can be said to have been similar in character to the struggle of the Loyalist Government against Franco? On the side of the EAM the leadership was certainly fighting for no more than bourgeois democracy. Undoubtedly there were fascists supporting the Greek Government and its British masters.

But it would be stretching the meaning of fascism far too much to say that the British imperialists and their Greek puppets represented fascism. As events showed they were perfectly willing to cover their rule with democratic promises, later to be fulfilled or not, depending on the militancy and power of the masses. While they used the methods of fascist dictatorship, the language was bourgeois democratic in character. The British masters and the Greek servants represented reaction in general but not that specific form of reaction which we designate by the term fascism.

* * *

Since the dominant role in the civil war against the EAM was played by the British imperialist army, it is very easy to fall into the error of considering the struggle to have been predominantly a national liberation struggle. That it had aspects of such a struggle is undeniable. For a long time Greece has been a semi-colonial country dominated by British finance capitalism. The fact that the Greek monarch, of German origin, remained loyal to the British imperialists shows how closely the Greek ruling class is connected with the class represented by Churchill.

National Liberation

The Greek masses had just gotten rid of the German imperialist yoke and consequently were very sensitive to Churchill’s attempt to decide the fate of Greece. It is undoubtedly true that many joined the EAM because they wanted the Greek people to be free of any alien control.

Revolutionary Marxists support struggles for national liberation except where they are submerged in an imperialist conflict. Under the particular conditions of the Greek civil war we could readily support those aspects of the EAM struggle which can be said to have been part of a struggle for national liberation. But it would be wrong to consider the struggle of the EAM as primarily a struggle for national liberation. One need only consider a struggle of the masses of India against British imperialism to realize the difference between the character of a struggle which is primarily one for national liberation and a struggle like the one waged by the Greek masses, in which the aspects of national liberation are present but are secondary in importance.

* * *

The essential nature of the Greek civil war was a struggle of the masses against all the reactionary capitalist forces represented by the monarchy and supported by British imperialism. When the Papandreou Government, under Churchill’s orders, directed the ELAS troops to surrender their weapons, the masses realized that it could only mean an attempt to reinstate the monarchy and the reactionary forces behind it and thus to prevent the workers and peasants from establishing a government devoted exclusively to their interests. In a certain sense the action of the Greek masses is analogous to the action of the Russian masses in February 1917, when they overthrew the Czar, and in September 1917 when they fought against Kornilov who organized the reactionary monarchical and bourgeois forces in an attempt to overthrow Kerensky. The Russian masses did not want the monarchy and all that it represented and the same is true of the Greek masses.

Popular Front

The struggle of the EAM was not one which had as its aim the establishment of a workers’ and peasants’ government determined to do its part in organizing a Socialist United States of Europe. The masses followed the EAM at the head of which was a combination of Stalinists, Social-Democrats and liberals. The leadership of the EAM is similar in character to the Spanish Popular Front Government. The Greek masses undoubtedly want a fundamental social change. That was also true of the Spanish masses in the Spanish civil war. But the Greek masses were following a leadership which limited itself to a struggle against the reactionary forces represented mainly by the monarchy and supported by British imperialism, just as the Spanish masses followed a leadership which limited itself to a struggle against fascism and for bourgeois democracy.

A common factor in the Russian Revolution of February 1917, in the struggle of the Russian masses against Kornilov, in the Spanish civil war and in the Greek civil war, is that objectively they can all be considered a stage in the struggle of the masses to establish their own workers’ and peasants’ government. The victory of the Russian masses in the February Revolution and against Kornilov permitted them to go on to the October Revolution. The defeat of the Loyalist Government was a set-back to the workers’ revolution in Spain. The compromise between the EAM and the reactionary forces in Greece, disarming the ELAS soldiers, constitutes a terrible blow to the Greek workers and peasants.

On the part of the masses the struggles I mentioned above were' struggles to make possible the victory of the workers’ revolution. As revolutionary Marxists we were obligated to support those struggles.

* * *

Attitude Toward EAM

At present we do not know to what extent Trotskyists participated in the struggle on the side of the EAM. We can take it for granted that there were many doing their utmost to defeat the British imperialists and their Greek puppets. Participating in that struggle, they undoubtedly explained to the worker-soldiers of the ELAS why they gave material but not political support to the struggle of the EAM. Their explanation must have been in somewhat the following manner:

  1. We are fighting with you for the defeat of the reactionary forces represented by the monarchy and supported by British imperialism. We give material support to the EAM because the struggle it is waging is a progressive one.
  2. We give no political support to the EAM because at the head of that organization is a Popular-Front combination that is satisfied with capitalist democracy. What the Greek masses need to solve their vital problems is a government of workers and peasants dedicated to the task of aiding in the establishment of a Socialist United States of Europe.
  3. We warn you that the leadership of the EAM will make some compromise with the British imperialists and their puppets. Take power into your own hands and call upon the working masses of Europe and America to come to your aid.

Goldman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 19 June 2016