The Greek Civil War

Two Sides in Greece

Date: March 5, 1949
Source: World News and Views, Vol. 29, No. 10
Author: Pat Sloan
Transcribed/HTML: Mike B. for MIA, 2005
Proofread by: H. Antonn and Hari Kumar
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


THE GREEK SITUATION today has reached such a point that every observer, no matter what his or her political outlook, is agreed that decadence and despair are the main characteristics of the present Athens regime. "The Greek war has reached a point where resistance is in danger of collapsing if it is not strengthened", writes Anne O'Hare McCormick in the New York Times of February 5. And she cites the Minister of War, Canellopoulous, as saying that "at no moment since the Communist attacks against Greece started was the situation as critical as it is now". And Mr. Denis Healey, Transport House's Number One Expert on foreign affairs, describes the Athens regime in the Tribune of February 18 as an "inefficient, dishonest police State ", though he tries to save Bevin's face by adding that this is "not fascist". He writes that "the rich Athenian makes his money by speculation and finance ", refers to the "corrupt reactionary incompetence of the recent Governments" and notes that "the bankruptcy of the present Greek Parliament is self-confessed—it has now accepted four months' prorogation so that the Government can rule by decree ".

True, Healey could have dwelt more on how this affects the population. He could have described the poverty and disease of the workers, the smashing of the trade unions (not mentioned by him)* and the tragedy of the 700,000 so-called refugees, mainly forcibly evacuated by the Athens authorities to prevent them living and working in territory liberated by the Democratic Army. Nevertheless, when Transport House's own expert visits Athens and then labels the Athens regime a "police State" he has knocked the bottom out of all possible justification for further aid from Mr. Attlee to bolster up this rapidly rotting regime.

And only British and American aid keep it going, as Healey admits: "The rebels have no chance of total military victory so long as there is a handful of Western troops in Salonica and Athens."

That is the Athens regime, which is exiling tens of thousands, executing its democratic opponents at the rate of two or three a day, and only the other day did to death the elected secretary of the Greek T.U.C., D. Paparigas, who was stated to have committed "suicide" in his cell exactly six months after Free Greece Radio had warned the world that a plot was on foot to do away with him under the mask of "suicide" rather than bring this hero of the working class to open trial.

While all observers of the Athens regime note its decadence and decay, all reports from Free Greece speak of the optimism of the people and their confidence in victory. When Kenneth Matthews of the B.B.C. paid his visit to Free Greece his impressions must have been similar, for ever since then his lips have been sealed; he has been made by the British authorities to "disappear" after a single broadcast, in which he said in effect: " I was captured, well treated, interviewed a vast number of guerillas, and was set free."

The Greek Communist Party is full of optimism. It recently thoroughly discussed the strategy which the Democratic Army should adopt in 1949. In reaching its decisions the Central Committee noted that Athens cannot possibly this year put in the field an army equivalent to that with which it entered the Grammos battle in 1948. No matter what material aid comes from the U.S.A., the morale of the troops and the war-weariness of the population of monarchist Greece make a repetition of their Grammos offensive impossible.

In the Grammos battle of 1948 the monarchists enjoyed a superiority of fifty to one in equipment and ten to one in personnel. Yet the Democratic Army proved superior, and is stronger today than ever it was when that great monarchist offensive was launched.

While the United Nations have been told time and again that only help from Greece's northern neighbours keeps the Democrats going, a firm base has now been built up in the Peloponnese, where over 300 villages live a free life under the Democratic Government. As the Peloponnese are almost entirely surrounded by sea, and lie in the southernmost part of Greece, the fairy tale about the northern neighbours obviously cannot hold water. For two months now the monarchists have been proclaiming an offensive in the Peloponnese. Their gains so far are nil.

In the Greek Communist Party there have been two opposing views on the way forward. One view, condemned at the recent plenum of the Central Committee as "the basic enemy and danger" inside the Party, was that a temporary stabilisation had been effected, that no final victory for the Democratic Army was possible within the present balance of forces and that only foreign State aid could make possible such a victory. In the meantime, partisan activities should be continued, but with no serious aim of liberating all Greece.

That view has been condemned as a right-wing deviation of long standing in the Greek Party. In its place a vigorous forward policy has been adopted, aiming at the liberation of Greece by the energies of the Greek people themselves. The Democratic Army must become a People's Revolutionary Army and must liberate towns as well as villages. In Northern Greece large towns must be captured, says the Central Committee, while the Democratic Army's 3rd Division creates a Second Front in the Peloponnese and a Third Front is created in the towns.

At the same time democratic propaganda and education among the forces of the monarchist army must be intensified. As the Democratic Army extends its activities, the appeal for reconciliation and fraternisation must be launched with more energy, and every effort must be made to prevent all incidents that could antagonise the ordinary working population. (The recent plenum warned sharply against any act of looting, requisitioning of the property of small businessmen and unnecessary damage to buildings, etc.)

The Democratic Army's repeated appeals for a peaceful solution of the Greek question are one of its main weapons for demonstrating to the civilian population where responsibility lies for the continuation of the war. The essential condition for a democratic peace is the withdrawal of all foreign troops and "advisers" and the abrogation of all unequal treaties, Such a proposal, though' it finds no favour in ruling circles in Britain and U.S.A., has an enormous appeal to the rank and file of the Greek people, who have suffered ever worsening conditions as a result of this same foreign intervention.

A significant example of the conciliatory attitude of the Free Greek authorities is the amnesty given a short while ago, to seven monarchist officers who were tried and condemned to death for crimes against the people. At the very time that executions in Athens-controlled territory were averaging nearly three a day, these seven officers were reprieved as a demonstration of the humanitarian standards of the Democrats as against the terrorism of Athens.

Stress is being laid on recruitment to the Democratic Army and on the improvement of military education. More and more examples are occurring of officers and men being taken prisoner, and then publicly appealing to their comrades to do likewise. So surprised were they at their " brotherly " treatment—in contrast to the torture and murder which they were led to anticipate by their superiors—that twenty-two monarchist officers captured at Karpenisi, for example, openly called on their friends and relatives in a broadcast message "to campaign for reconciliation ".

The parallel of Greece and China has been noted in many quarters recently. Denis Healey mentions it in the Tribune. In the American Press, the New York Star, the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times have all shown an awareness of the parallel. True, the scale of the country is different, but everything else is strikingly similar. If pouring 4,000 million dollars into the ever open mouth of Chiang's corrupt bureaucracy could not save China, will the pouring of further dollars (in addition to the 1,500 million that have already gone) down the Greek drain produce any betters results?

Common sense answers "No". The Greek Communist Party, the Democratic Government, and the Democratic Army answer "No". The ordinary people in Britain and America answer "No ". But so long as we allow British troops to remain in Greece, so long as we acquiesce in the imprisonment, execution and murder of trade unionists and other democrats, and so long as we allow British policy to bolster up the dishonest police State of Athens, we are prolonging the strugg'e and enormously increasing its cost, in lives and money.


* See They Shall Not Die, Greek Trade Unionists on Trial, with a foreword by D. N. Pritt, K.C., M.P., just published by The League for Democracy in Greece.