Comments on the Article
"Greek Civil War"
By LEONIDAS SAMOUILIDIS,M.D.
This paper is prompted by the very informative (in general and brief terms) article on Greek Civil War by Androniki Janus. However there are certain areas that can be approached from a different interpretative angle; there are other points of misinformation. These I would like to stress in my article.The so-called facts of a historical event are always open to nterpretations that follow basic and even diametrical points of view.
For the sake of completeness I would like to bring forth my opposing views. One thing should be clear is that as far as the communist experience, I am in total agreement with Miss Janus. The Communist party in Greece (KKE) started in 1918 as a socialist party and added the word "Communist" in 1920 when its first representatives joined The Commintern for a meeting.
I would like now to describe some of the events that predated the formation of the August 4th regime (or dictatorship of loannis Metaxas).
In the 14 years (1922-1936) of the Republican Regime, Greece was deteriorating progressively, in spite of the stated accomplishments. It was disturbed by at least 14 different strikes, rebellions, and uprisings. Most of the strikes were promoted by the Communist party. The last big uprising took place March 1, 1935, was repressed, and most of the insurgents were imprisoned for life, but later they may have gotten amnesty. One would wonder what all these centrists and leftists, after having gotten rid of the monarchy in 1922 were trying to accomplish all these years. After a favorable plebiscite in November 1935, the King (George II) returned to Greece. A new government was formed under Constantine Demertzis, a university professor with vice president loannis Metaxas (January 26,1936). In the mean-time the communists were practicing strong propaganda, with threatening proportions. Disillusioned by rotten politics some republicans were encouraging them, hoping that they would find some encouraging improvement there. April 13, 1936 prime minister Demertzis died and Metaxas took his place. Parliamentary rules continued to fail; the country was going to chaos; communist induced strikes were increasing with more violence. July 31,1936 "Rizospastis" the official communist newspaper wrote a threatening article to the effect that laborers were preparing a bloody strike for the 5th of August, which would continue as long as victory in throwing out the govemment, would be accomplished. Late of August 4th Metaxas decided to react swiftly and effectively. He called for a meeting of the ministers, informed King George II and declared martial law (or a dictatorship). The King consented wholeheartedly, but one cannot say that he was disliked for that or disliked at all. As a matter of fact both plebiscites involving the same King (George II) one of 1935 and the other of 1946 showed that the majority of the Greek people were in favor ofthe King.
Metaxas to perform this feat just used two evzones placed in a crucial spot at the gates of Ypourgion Exotericon and logical surveillance from the police.This event was applauded immediately by the entire Greek population except the communists, whose leaders were arrested and imprisoned. The event indicated the end of depraved parliamentarism and a new era for Greece. Later in the regime, republican leaders who seemed to like disturbances wrote several times to the king complaining about different political issues. Metaxas, in turn, went to the King and asked him if he was dissatisfied with the administration and if he said "yes," he was willing to resign and let somebody else (for example Themistoclis Sofoulis, the main instigator) to lead the country. For obvious reasons, the control of the government against these politicians became more rigid.
Thus, it is inaccurate to say that Metaxas and his regime was unpopular in Greece. It is as accurate to say that the August 4th regime was fashioned after the Nazis. Only the superficial manifestations (uniform of EON and salute were similar). The basic differences of a deeper nature were: Metaxas did not create a regime based on any particular party like the Nazi or Fascist. Did not have any form of indoctrination to make brainwashing an essential part of the Nazi philosophy. Metaxas only wanted to start creating a well functioning and disciplined country (given that no gevernmental function was adequately functioning.) He set as a goal for this 10 years (in my opinion that was too little). The emphasis in the military is explained by the fact that as early as 1935 the clouds of a new war were appearing in the horizon (violations of the Versailles treaty by Germany-Italy invades Ethiopia-Seizure of the Rheinland by Germany-Spanish civil war). Furthermore all the neighboring countries were rearming. Thus Metaxas quite wisely put the emphasis on building the military, the result of which was the astounding epic of the Albanian front and the resistance to German attack. Whoever understood the emphasis on the military as being an aggressive move a la Nazi has grossly misunderstood goals of the Metaxas regime. Needless to say that the Greek army was at shambles at that time.
We come now to the events of the second world war and the occupation. Metaxas died January 29,1941 where-as the German attack started April 6, 1941. Thus there is a lapse of the months before Tsolakoglou became the puppet prime minister and the King with government under Emmanuel Tsouderos left Greece to continue the struggle from abroad.
The resistance (sporadic at first) started sometime in June when EAM (backed by hidden communists at the time) appeared with writings of the wall. EAM's military branch, ELAS was formed April 10, 1942. There was no mention of communism at that time. People viewed them as the liberators who were going to fight the armies of occupation. ELAS hidden goals were: 1) To liberate the country. 2) To punish the traitors of 4th August (meaning the King and few of the old ministers. 1) To reinstate the popular liberties.
Later we learned that this meant "to institute a communist regime after the war." That became a major goal of the EAM/ELAS particularly after 1943 when the turn of the war became in favor of the allies. There was only a tri-party membership in each group.The military, the politician (or instructor) and the kapetanios.The latter one was the most powerful of the three. This structure, nevertheless caused major rifts in the KKE internal affairs/as the differences between the kapetanios and politician became more focused. By May 1943 when ELAS was at the peak of its strength, was composed by Kapetanios: Aris Velouhiotis (real name Athanasios Klaras who was not a military man but had been a student of agriculture to end up as a teacher in Larissa.) He ended up being a bloody sadist. Politician: Andreas Tzimas (or Samariniotis) official member of the KKE; and Military leader: Stefanos Sarafis (military man who participated in the uprising of 1935, imprisoned and left free with the opening of the jails in Athens in 1941.)
Beginning of June 1942 another resistance group was formed, the EDES under Napoleon Zervas (another member of the 1935 uprising). He was elected by a group of EDES leaders in Athens (Stylianos Gonatas) after and against Nicolas Plastiras' advice who was then in Paris closely watched by the Germans. Plastiras secretly summoned another EDESite Komninos Pyromaglou, urging him to start a guerrilla organization in Greece. This is what Pyromaglou did, after travelling through German occupied Europe to reach Greece from Nice (France).
There were other smaller groups that developed such as the EKKA under Dimitrios Psaros, some other small royalist groups that eventually were absorbed or destroyed by ELAS. By the end of the occupation ELAS had conquered most of Greece except EDES in Epirus, the Tsaous Anton (Antonios Fosteridis) in Thrace and East Macedonia, some independent guerilla groups in Crete and the areas already dominated by the Security Battalions (Tagmata Asfalias) mostly in Peloponnese.
In statistics brought by Chris Wood-house (British liaison officer for the andartes,) about 80% of ELAS leaders were communists against 20% of enlisted men.
By the end of October 1944, a Soviet envoy colonel Grigori Popov arrived at th ELAS headquarters and that gave a boost to the ELAS sites that they were going to receive the long awaited support of their "Motherland" the Soviet Union. However the opposite occurred and Popov kept silence for some time. Another important event occurred on October 9, 1944, a few days before the Germans left Athens. Winston Churchill had a secret meeting with Josef Stalin in Moscow whereby the fate of the Balkans was determined in a conference where the famous "Blue pencil" was used. This resolved that Greece would be left at 90% under the British influence, which in turn meant that the Soviet Union would stay out of Greece. Thus Popov's mission was never cleared.
As the civil war progressed and Churchill was getting flack from everybody about fighting an allied nation, he was almost ready to abandon the struggle, but the cautious King George II in a touchy letter to him written about December 12, 1944 stated that it would be an injustice for Great Britain to abandon Greece, now when Greece was the only country fighting the Axis 4 years ago and protected the British troops and interests. That letter had an effect on the prime minister. It is not clear how the civil war started in December 4, 1944 in Athens, nevertheless it looked by the facts that the event was unavoidable. At first the ELAS forces gained control of most of Athens with the exception of Scholi Evelpidon, Regiment of Gen-darmes at Makryianni, and an area around the Theseum which was a strong-hold of the right wing organization X lead by George Grivas (the future leader of the EOKA in Cyprus). On December 13, 1944 arrived in Athens from Paris General Nicolas Plastiras who was soon to be nominated as the next prime minister of Greece.
To conclude I would like to say that it seems that Miss Janus has been following what are the generally accepted as facts in this period of time. However I think it is important for people to know some obscure, and yet equally important facts which I have outlined here.
Nikos Antonakeas: Favlokratia (Corruption)
Stefanos Sarafis: O ELAS
Komninos Pyromaglou: Ethniki Antistasis (National Resistance).
Ioannis Metaxas: Imerologion (Diary)
Winston Churchill: World War Two
Chris Woodhouse: Apple of discord
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