The Greek Civil War

Greece on Path to Open Dictatorship

Date: January 21, 1950
Source: World News and Views, Vol. 29, No. 44
Author: Pat Sloan
Transcribed/HTML: Mike B. for MIA, 2005
Proofread by: H. Antonn
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 RECENT government reorganisation in Athens would be, for slick sharp practice, hard to beat. The Royal Palace, obviously with American backing, is rapidly preparing the ground for an open dictatorship tinder the leadership of Field-Marshal Papagos, Commander-in-Chief of the Army. At the same time the terror against the 50,000-odd inmates of prisons and concentration camps is being stepped-up following a series of glowing accounts in the Anglo-American press of the Quaker-like "reform camps" which an enlightened Athens is now said to be providing for the spiritual betterment of captive Communists. And, to deflect world opinion from what is actually going on in Greece, an intensified campaign has been launched round the question of the "abducted" children.

Rigging the Government

In March 1946 a "Parliament" was elected in Greece on the orders of Mr. Bevin at a time when the then premier, Mr. Sofoulis, had declared that the armed right-wing terror made fair elections impossible. Not a single working-class organisation or Party supported the election. They all abstained.

One of the purposes of this "Parliament" was to re-write the Greek Constitution. This has never been done.

Having given their blessing to the 1946 election as being "fair", the British, American and French observers in 1946 recommended that "a new census should be taken and a complete revision of the lists made before the opinion of the Greek people is again sought." This was never done. A "plebiscite" was held six months later on the old registers, admittedly out of date. And now a new election is to take place, on the same old inaccurate and obsolete registers. Nevertheless, The Times pompously considers that "all in all, Greece seems to be at least one step nearer to a fair and free poll of the people." (9.1.50.)

Today some 50,000 are in the prisons, in exile or in concentration camps. This would correspond, proportionately, to 350,000 people in Britain. The Extraordinary Measures of 1946 remain in force, people can be exiled without trial on a simple police decision. And now Athens prepares a new "election".

Already for months the Palace has been dissatisfied with the Parliamentary parties and there has been open talk of a "strong man"—Field-Marshal Papagos—being necessary to take over. But the "Liberal" premier, the aged banker Diomedes, opposed this "dictatorship" talk and even started an investigation into certain goings-on in the Navy in preparation for a Papagos regime.

A few days later, General Papagos resigned as Commander-in-Chief. A number of "Liberal" members of the government resigned too. The King, who normally consults with the Party leaders in such circumstances, sent a special plane to Corfu to fetch Mr. Theotokis (a known member of the Papagos camp). Theotokis flew back to Athens, became premier, and formed a new government.

This new government then dissolved Parliament without ever coming before Parliament for a vote of confidence; a violation of the Constitution of every Parliamentary country. Thus the elections will be held by a government which has not even a pretence of a democratic mandate. It is already considering abolishing proportional representation. It is hoped that such a government will get enough members of the Palace-Papagos faction into the new Parliament to move on to dictatorship by "constitutional" methods. But the Constitution has already been thrown to the winds.

Suppressing Communism

To get the required results, the terror has to be intensified. It is openly declared, with the earlier full support at U.N.O. of Hector McNeil, that the Communist Party—the only mass working-class Party in Greece—shall be banned from the elections. (Though in Athens some attempts are being made to create a new false "Communist Party" out of police agents and renegades.) The "Socialist" Party, E.L.D., is now completely subject to British instructions and no longer has the slightest claim to represent any section of the Greek workers. A number of leaders of smaller political groups, like Tsouderos of the "Progressives" and General Plastiras—imported to Greece to be premier by Churchill in 1945—have openly stated that fair elections are at present impossible.

By a recent law, there is to he a concentration of prisoners, exiles and deportees on the island of Makronisos which is regarded by Greek Democrats as even worse than a Nazi concentration camp. Reports from the Athens Tass correspondent, from Free Greece Radio, and from other reliable sources inside Greece, confirm that since the United Nations Assembly adjourned the terror has been intensified. Indeed, one relative of one of the ten Greek trade unionists sentenced to death in November 1948 has since written that she would prefer him not to be reprieved as, in that case, he would now be sent to Makronisos and maimed for life or driven insane like some fifty to seventy others, or driven to suicide.

Even General Sarafis, former Commander-in-Chief of E.L.A.S. and aged fifty-nine, is now reported to be forced to carry heavy stones from morning to night, a favourite form of torture on Makronisos …it leaves no marks, but can drive people to complete collapse.

Democratic Unity

In the present situation the policy of the Communist Party of Greece is to call for the broadest possible People's Democratic Front, including all sections and personalities who support a democratic solution to Greece's problems, but excluding the E.L.D. Socialists owing to their present role as direct instruments of British intervention. The unconstitutional measures already taken have created an undoubted basis for such a Democratic Front. Even the very reactionary correspondent of The Times warns, on January 9, that if proportional representation is abandoned "there will be political heartburnings and possible abstentions from the elections".

Discontent and abstentions, however, under the present reign of terror, will not overthrow the present ruling clique. A firm fighting Democratic Front, capable of mobilising workers, peasants, the urban middle class and the professions is essential before the aim can be achieved of restoring democracy and putting an end to Greek fascism.