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M. Morrison

Social-Democrats Back
Imperialists in Greece

(7 April 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 14, 7 April 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In the New Leader of March 10, 1945, Liston M. Oak who left the Stalinist party after his experience in the Spanish civil war and is now a staunch Social-Democrat (a right-wing one, if such a thing is possible) attempts to show that the Trotskyists talk “gibberish” when they explain and justify their support of the EAM-ELAS in the recent civil war in Greece. My explanation for our material support of the EAM-ELAS, which appeared in my article in The Militant of February 24, is to him utter nonsense.

There is no doubt whatever that he is unable to understand it. That simply means that he does not understand the language of revolutionary Marxism. The fact that he left the Stalinist movement some time after it had ceased to be a revolutionary force and then joined the decayed social-democratic movement is conclusive evidence that he never understood the language of Marxism.

Oak characterizes the struggle between EAM and the Papandreou Government backed by British imperialism as a war between “Russian and British imperialism.” The victory of the former means totalitarianism; the victory of the latter means democracy. Hence we must support British imperialism.

For Marxists the term imperialism has a definite connotation. In general it means to us a stage of capitalist society where monopoly has displaced free competition, bringing with it the reactionary policies of finance capitalism. There is no law preventing one from using the term in any way he pleases; one can use it to designate the drive on the part of the Stalinist bureaucracy for prestige, power and wealth. But we insist on defining it in the Leninist manner. There is, however, no need to enter into a discussion on the nature of imperialism with Oak. It is really not relevant to the issue.

* * *

It is necessary in the first instance to examine what forces fought on each side of the Greek civil war, what were their aims and the probable consequences of their victory. On. the side of the EAM was the overwhelming majority of the workers and peasants. Were it otherwise the Greek Government would not have had to depend upon the British armed forces. What were the workers and peasants fighting for? They had no written program but it can be taken for granted that the masses fought for the right to determine their own fate, for the right to live without being exploited, for freedom, democracy and for their national liberation. Undoubtedly a large section of the working class hoped to establish a socialist regime in case of victory.

Stalinists and the Masses

In addition, to analyzing what the masses fought for it is incumbent upon us to state what the organization which led the masses was fighting for. What program did the leadership of the EAM have? It is clear that the EAM was not fighting for a socialist government. The leadership consisted of Stalinists, Social-Democrats (of the Greek and not of the New Leader variety) and liberals.

It is probably true that the Stalinists played the most important role in the leadership but that does not mean that they completely controlled the masses. All the information we have indicates that the Stalinist leadership did its utmost to avoid the struggle and to compromise it after the conflict began. Mainly responsible for the compromise which left the Greek masses without arms and therefore helpless against the tyranny of the reactionaries are the Stalinists.

What would have been the result of a victory for the EAM? In all probability the establishment of nothing more than a bourgeois republic. But it would have meant also an advance in the power of the masses who would have gained greater class-consciousness. and self-confidence by virtue of the victory. It would have meant a big stride forward in the establishment of a workers’ republic.

It is perfectly true that an EAM victory would have meant an increase in the power of the Stalinists and therefore an increase in the danger of totalitarianism. But the masses, with arms in their hands, with the confidence that victory would have given them, would not have easily succumbed to any dictatorship by the Stalinists. The probability is that the masses would have fought the Stalinists to the bitter end. There can be no guarantee of victory in any struggle. We are sure that had the EAM been victorious the masses would have had a greater opportunity to go forward.

The reactionary forces did not win a complete victory. Because of the resistance of the Greek masses and the British workers, Churchill had to retreat. The wonderful struggle put up by the masses gives them an opportunity to struggle in the future. Had no resistance been offered the workers would have been crushed completely.

Oak calls the Trotskyists the most deadly enemies of Stalinism. Correct. But we do not adopt tactics by virtue of hatred of Stalinists. Our support of a movement depends upon the direction in which a movement is travelling. Under Stalinist leadership a movement may be caught in the dreadful coils of Stalinist totalitarianism. But the workers, while in motion, can wrench themselves loose from these coils. A victory of British imperialism against masses of workers and peasants can never help the masses.

* * *

What Oak Fears

In reality what Oak is afraid of is not only Stalinist totalitarianism but the Bolshevik revolution. For he expressly states that we would be better off now had the British, French and American imperialists helped Kerensky and the Mensheviks defeat the Bolsheviks. Now we know exactly where we stand. Oak prefers British imperialism to a workers’ revolution. That is why he would have been shooting on the side of British imperialism, against the Greek masses had he had the chance, and we would have been in the forefront of the struggle urging the masses to defeat the British imperialists and then to settle scores with the Stalinists.

Oak blames the Bolshevik revolution for the existence of Stalinism. One might as well blame the mother who gave birth to the child for the disease that strikes the child. Stalinism came after the Bolshevik revolution but the basic cause of Stalinism lies in the betrayal of the German Social- Democrats. Had they not submitted to German and British capitalism the German workers would have taken power in 1918 and Stalinism would have never come into existence. The union of industrialized Germany with agricultural Russia would have assured the complete success of the Russian and German revolutions.

Living in a backward country and unaided by the workers of Western Europe, the Russian workers permitted Stalinism to gain control of their destinies. The main responsibility for the victory of the Stalinist bureaucracy lies upon the leadership of the German Social-Democrats, the spiritual predecessors of Liston Oak.

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