The Greek Civil War
Date: November 1946
Source: Fourth International, Volume 7, No. 11 (Whole No. 72)
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 plebiscite which sanctioned the return of King George II to the throne of Greece at the end of August marked a new stage in the efforts of Greek reaction, backed by the British and American imperialists, to set up a "strong regime" capable of stemming the still fast-running tide of revolution which set in with the "liberation" in 1944. Because of the state of civil war in the country, the refusal of the broad masses to tolerate the old oppressive order of things, the ruling class cannot organize a regime of parliamentary democracy. It must rely on a police-military dictatorship to preserve its rule. The Tsaldaris government came to power last March through rigged elections which were boycotted by all the parties of the Left. Lacking any semblance of a popular base, it requires a central "authoritative" figure around which all the reactionary riffraff can be rallied. That is why the restoration of the hated Glucksberg monarch was a life and death question for the Greek capitalists and landlords, as well as for their imperialist patrons.
Since George II could not be replaced on the throne by a genuinely popular vote, recourse was had to the fraud of the Hitler-type plebiscite. Precisely how fraudulent it was can be seen from just a few of the outstanding facts as reported in the press.
Out of a population of some 8,000,000, about 1,500,000 were arbitrarily certified as voters and placed on the lists. A special voting system was provided for men in the armed services and for government employees: special voting booths were set up and an uncontrolled number of special voting certificates was issued. Since no effort was made to indicate on a certificate that a vote had been cast, their holders could and did vote, not once, but several times. After voting in one area, they used the same certificates to vote in other areas. This led in the final count to the ludicrous result that more votes were cast than there were registered voters. Two slips were handed to each voter. A white slip was marked: "For King George." A blank colored slip, denoting a vote for the republic, could easily be identified through the thin tissue envelope in which the voter had to place it, so that those voting for the republic became marked men. In the villages armed bands drove up to the booths, voted for the king, then stood around to intimidate the peasant voters. The final tally gave the king 1,603,000 votes as against 521,540 anti-monarchist votes.
The plebiscite was held in an atmosphere of civil war. No wonder the king refrained from returning to Greece when the voting was over! He remained in safety in London while the reactionary government which he was to adorn pressed forceful action to put down popular resistance and revolt against the monarch and all he stands for. In Athens, a week after the vote, police occupied the headquarters of the Communist Party (Stalinists) and the Cabinet considered a martial law proclamation for the whole country. In Thessaly, in the northeast, the gendarmerie were reported battling "leftist bands estimated at more than 10,000 men."
Demetrius Partsalides, secretary-general of the Stalinist- dominated National Liberation Front (EAM), declared there were more than 10,000 "freedom fighters" who had been driven into the hills by "excesses of the monarcho-fascist government, which is controlled by Britain." The all-out attempt of the Greek counter-revolution to smash popular resistance and consolidate a regime of police.military-monarchist dictatorship is reduced by the Stalinists to the petty dimensions of "excesses."
Here we have the key to the whole policy of perfidy and betrayal which the Stalinists have practised in Greece from the time of the "liberation," and even before. Earlier manifestations of this policy have been described and discussed in detail in this magazine (see Fourth International for February 1945 and April 1945). Its total effect was to confuse and disorient the masses, to disarm them in the face of their mortal foes, to prevent them from fighting back effectively, to aid the counter-revolution and its imperialist allies in smashing all resistance. The keynote of Stalinist policy was and remains a renunciation of the socialist struggle, coupled with a people's frontist line of class conciliation.
On the eve of the plebiscite and weeks before, while the reaction was marshalling its forces for fresh blows against the masses, the Stalinists, far from preparing their tremendous following for resistance and struggle, were preaching class conciliation. As reported from Athens by a special correspondent of The Militant (September 21)
The thesis which it (the Communist Party) daily develops in all the columns of its central organ Rizospastis is the following: It is the monarchist reaction in whose interest it is to feed and spread civil war. The CP says to the people: "There are no monarchists and democrats, there are no Rightists and Leftists. There are only and above all the Greeks. Greeks of all parties, don't play the game of reaction. Reconciliate yourselves…" etc.
Thus in face of the armed assaults of the reaction, the workers and peasants are told to play 'possum, to "conciliate" with the class enemy. Is it any wonder that the reaction has made such great strides?
The explanation for this perfidy is simple: The Stalinists are opposed to the socialist revolution. They have no real concern for the needs and interests of the Greek masses. Carrying out the orders of the counter-revolutionary gang that rules in the Kremlin, their one aim is to secure a coalition with the Greek bourgeoisie and a government which will withdraw Greece from the orbit of British imperialism and be "friendly" to the Kremlin.
But the Greek masses refuse to tolerate the old order of capitalist exploitation and oppression in any guise. All the conditions of their existence, and now the raging economic crisis from which there is no way out save through social change, drive them along the road of revolutionary action. The ruling class can make no concessions to the needs of the people. The British imperialists, for their part, will not let Greece slip from their bloody clutches if they can possibly help it. Hence, in spite of Stalinist conciliationism, civil war continues to rage in Greece.
In the past two years the Greek workers and peasants, though struggling and fighting with magnificent heroism, have suffered the most cruel blows and have been compelled to retreat again and again. Thanks to Stalinism, victory has eluded them. In October 1944 the Stalinist-dominated ELAS (military arm of the EAM) commanded the allegiance of the overwhelming majority of the population. An on-the- spot observer, Leland Stowe of the New York Post, reported that the ELAS "could easily have seized power between October 12 and 15, the time between German departure and British entry." And a British brigadier who served as liaison officer in Greece for eighteen months told American and British correspondents on October 18, 1944 that had it not been for the ELAS the British would "never have been able to set foot in Greece." The Stalinist traitors sold out the Greek struggle, sold out the revolution. The two-year struggle without victory, the awful plight of the Greek people today, are due in the main to Stalinist perfidy.
Nevertheless, the struggle still goes on. For although there has been no proletarian revolution, neither have the forces of reaction succeeded as yet in inflicting a definitive defeat on the masses. As the Athens correspondent of The Militant was able to report, "the fighting spirit of the working class is not broken." But civil war cannot go on indefinitely. Unless the masses can deliver a decisive blow to the reaction, the latter will deliver a decisive blow to the masses and consolidate its regime of black reaction.