A JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL MARXISM
VOLUME 8 NUMBER 3 WINTER 1973
A Letter from the WORKERS VANGUARD 2
War Question and Pabloite Revisionism 2
"Reply" by Greek Section of ICFI 10
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE FOURTH
INTERNATIONAL 186A CLAPHAM HIGH STREET, LONDON, SW4 7UG.
Fourth International Winter 1973
The Workers Press attempted in articles published on January 29, 30 and 31, 1973 to deal with the role of Stalinism in Greece without the serious application of the historical method. No mention at all of the role of Greek Trotskyism in the workers’ movement today was made.
Further these articles made no mention of the following:
1) How and when the Greek Communist Party came under the influence of Stalinism; how and when the tremendous attack by Stalinism was made against Greek revolutionaries organized by the two groups - the Archeio Marxists and the group of P. Pouliopoulos - influenced by the International Left Opposition of Trotsky.
2) How and when did the Greek Trotskyist movement become one of the biggest sections of the International Left Opposition?
3) What was the role of the Greek section in the preparations for the founding of the Fourth International?
4) What was the role of the Trotskyists under the three oppressions of Nazi occupation, anti-Trotskyist Stalinists and the Greek bourgeois nationalists?
5) What was the role of the Greek Pabloite revisionists during the Second World War who laid the basis of the later betrayals when the Greek Trotskyists were fighting against fascism and Greek capitalism?
This history of the Greek Trotskyist movement is being written for publication in the near future. With this letter is a previous statement made in 1966 by the Central Committee of the Workers Vanguard when it was the official Greek section of the International Committee.
We are asking you to publish this letter and the statement to clarify internationally the role of Greek Pabloism during the Second World War.
February 7, 1973.
The War Question and Pabloite Revisionism
A Discussion Document by the ‘Workers’ Vanguard’
1. The crisis of the Fourth International began since the war, particularly since the Nazi occupation of Europe. At a time when the Third International was liquidating itself during the war, sunken deep in the quicksand of social patriotism, at a time when the Stalinist and Social-democratic parties were en¬tering the service of the local bourgeois class and the imperialist war, and when a huge current of opportunism was spreading across the world led by the Soviet bureaucracy, it was impossible for the Fourth International not to feel these influences on the workers’ movement.
2. Trotsky’s ideas on war, and the Transitional Programme were and remain today the solid founda¬tions of the Fourth Internationalist movement. It is precisely this (method of dialectical materialism behind this programme), and the constant war against the attempts to revise it, which enabled the Fourth International to survive the world war upheaval. But it was not able to emerge completely unscathed from this upheaval. It was threatened by liquida¬tion from the Pabloist tendency. The erosion process began from the position adopted by the International Secretariat towards the “Resistance movement” and the “struggle against the invader” during the period of occupation.
3. We believe, and we declared this together with Leon Trotsky, that occupations during the imperial¬ist war are nothing but a phase, an incident of a smaller or greater significance of the prolonged war, and therefore it neither changes the relations of the capitalist forces, nor does it turn the occupied countries into colonies. It neither raises a national question and a question of National Liberation, nor, finally, does it change the basic duties of the proletariat, i.e. the transformation of the war into a civil war. This position was defended by Lenin against Kautsky and his likes when he said that the character of war is determined by the particular class that is waging it, regardless of who is the invader, regardless of whether the “enemy” has set foot on “our land”. The defence of the Fatherland under whatever capitalist governments (Russian absolutism, Prussian militarism, Democracy, Fascism) and under whatever “sugar - coated” slogan (anti - fascism etc.) amounts to betrayal of socialism.
4. The participation of the USSR in the war on the side of the imperialist “allies” does not change the character of the war either for the imperialists of both camps or for anyone else. And it does not change our strategy - Lenin’s strategy - of revolutionary defeatism inside all the capitalist countries. “War is the continuation of peace - time politics with other means.”
5. When Pablo writes in his article “20 years of the Fourth International” that: “The first time that we had to take a position on the national question during the war was as early as 1941” and that “this was in some way the result of the facts of the definite national oppression which will be the outcome of the enslavement of Europe by the Nazis, and of the beginnings of a class resistance against this oppression he conceded in fact clearly that the occupation created a “national question” and a “definite national oppression” in Europe as a whole (our emphasis). “National question” and “definite national oppression” mean a struggle not for the class, social liberation, but for the national liberation. From this moment Lenin’s line for the defeat of “our” fatherland is thrown overboard, and the deviation of Pabloism and the real betrayal of revolutionary defeatism begins.
6. If the I.S. condemned the “three points” of the German section I.K.D. it did so not because the latter placed the “struggle against Hitlerism” as the main duty, but rather because it divided in stages - in a Menshevik way - the duties of the “struggle against the invader” from the duty for the socialist revolution. Pablo too proceeded from the “national liberation struggle” and the struggle against the invader. But he raised the dilemma: “Should the national liberation struggle be the main, if not the only, objective or should it be secondary to the struggle for socialism?” In other words he posed for Europe a dilemma which might have been permissible for the colonies. Similarly our French section at the 1941 Conference declared “the need to combine the determined struggle against Hitler with the policy of fraternization with the German soldiers and opposes the policy of the National Front for the independence of France”. In both these Pabloite variations “the determined struggle against Hitler” was basically opposite from the work to exploit the defeat of the fatherland and the social crisis which came out of its collapse for the goal of the overthrow of “our own” bourgeois class. Even without the “National Front” with the bourgeois class the front remained a national one. Even with the “fraternization with the German soldiers” (not however for the joint transformation of the war into civil war on both the opposing sides, but for the “determined struggle against Hitler” i.e. against the capitalist enemy of “our own” capitalism), all these were entirely a defence of “our own” fatherland.
7. The discrimination which Pablo makes (in the same article) between the “National Resistance in a large defeated country like France and in small oppressed states like Yugoslavia, Poland, Greece”, and the praising of Tito’s tactics which “under conditions of Nazi occupation managed to enter the armed struggle based mainly on the peasantry and to orientate this struggle which began on the level of national liberation towards the social revolution”, all this is nothing but deceptive grading of the capitalist countries in order to make a qualitative move over to the anti - fascist line which he lays down for the whole of Europe. He simply introduces the “new form of the revolution” where the rebellious peasantry carries out a “liberating struggle” with guerrilla warfare, “leading to socialism” and by passes the leading role of the proletariat. The characterization of the slogan of “national uprising” as “vulgar and deceptive” by the European Conference of 1944 is now rejected by the Pabloite tendency which calls this characterization itself a “vulgar and deceptive slogan of the sectarian tendency of the Fourth International”.
8. The resistance movement both in the great and the small capitalist countries during the occupation is for us characterized thus:
(a) by its subservience to the aims of the imperialist war.
(b) by its double dependence on the imperialist General H.Q. and the Kremlin bureaucracy.
(c) by its programme for “national unity”, the “defence of the fatherland”, “the defence of the independence and the wholeness of our country”, “for an allied victory”, “for a government of national liberation” etc., - in short by its “anti-fascist tactic” in words but social-betrayal in action.
(d) by its co-existing leadership of Stalinists, bourgeois
-democratic generals, priests, etc.
(e) by the consistent compromises of the Stalinists with the bourgeois class and at times even with the fascist right wing.
(f) by its plebian, particularly peasant, base, which it managed to carry away with antifascist and pro-soviet slogans, and to exploit the masses and canalize their efforts to the “service for the allied victory”.
9. The positions of the European Conference “for an end to the war” and for the “revolutionary upsurge’, while proceeding from the correct position that the “proletariat must not be trapped by the slogan of the bourgeoisie and must prepare not for the national uprising but the socialist revolution”, nonetheless smuggles in the national-liberation view that the proletariat “must not remain indifferent to the struggle of the masses against oppression by the German imperialists”, and it proposes entryism in the “machinery” of the resistance movement on the pretext of the need for our participation “in the mass movement”. The tactic of entry into the resistance guerrilla groups which were condemned as reactionary by the same 1944 Conference, meant nothing but conciliation with the Stalinist organizers of the “national defence”, with their military discipline, the activity under the Middle East GHQ, and with the betrayal of the line of Zimmerwald and Kienthal, conciliations that undermined the foundations of the Fourth International.
This “entryist” tactic of the Pabloites had nothing in common with an attempt to exploit the patriotic illusions. On the contrary, it was a capitulation to the “objective conditions”, to the Stalinist machinery of guerrilla warfare and its revival. This tactic later led to the “deep entry” tactics.
In Greece the capitulation to the mass “resistance” movement which was nourished on the “epic of the Albanian War” and on the unprecedented nationalism led the I.S. openly to attack our tendency of revolutionary defeatism which the I.S. condemned as “sectarian” for its opposition to “entryism”, without defeating it, however. In this attack the IS went so far as to excuse the Stalinists for the mass murders of Trotskyists who fell under Lenin’s and Trotsky’s banner of the transformation of the war into civil war.
10. Socialism embraces the idea of the right of the oppressed, underdeveloped countries to freedom and defends their right to self-determination. But Lenin, attacked forcefully social-traitors like Noske, Scheidemann, Renaudel, Longuet, Kautsky, Dan, Axelrod and company who on the pretext of standing for self - determination in World War I, assumed the right to defend the fatherland when the “enemy troops enter our territory” (Lenin.) Such “self determination” was for Lenin “an insult to socialist theory and a shameless sophistry”. (See Lenin The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.) The Pabloite International Secretariat, in betraying these Leninist principles and objectively covering up the deception of the Atlantic Charter for self determination of the Nazi-held countries, condemned the left wing tendencies of the Fourth International and particularly the Greek Trotskyists for “their sectarian negation of the existence of national oppression”, or for “not taking a clear position on the question of self-determination because they failed to organize the struggle against German Imperialism under our banner, the banner of the revolutionary party”. (What philistine hypocrisy this ...internationalist spirit of the struggle against German Imperialism, which by...luck happened to be the enemy of our own bourgeoisie!!!..)
And again, we are accused of “underestimating the importance of working inside the popular resistance organizations”. Thus the left wing of the Fourth International was clearly attacked, and this attack was based on an opportunist “national liberation” basis.
11. However, the opportunists could not reverse the historical laws of the revolutionary struggle of the class. By springtime in 1944 mutinies broke out in the Greek Army of the Middle East. The soldiers laid down their arms and shouted “Down with War”. This was a significant event, a message for the social revolution. The military chain broke at its weakest link, Churchill sent colonial troops to disarm the mutineer soldiers and the Middle East was filled with concentration camps. Thus they succeeded in preventing the mutiny from rising to revolution.
The Stalinists ran wild because this movement was undermining “the victory of the allies”. They sold it out in return for their demand for a government of “national unity”. Only the Trotskyists struggled to raise the movement to the road of civil war and socialist victory. But their forces were weak and were defeated.
12. The agreements in the Lebanon and Caserta between the Stalinist E.L.A.S., the reactionary E.D.E.S., the Papandreou government and the allied H.Q., unanimously condemned the mutiny movement, took an oath of allegiance to the “government of national unity” (Papandreou), voted for disciplinary steps against the mutineers and against all those who might attempt to take power, and placed a guerrilla and government forces under the direction of the butcher of the Colonial and the December Revolutions, General Scoby.
The Lebanon and Caserta agreements and the Varkiza agreement for the disarming of 70,000 E.L.A.S. guerrillas after December rising were condemned as a “mistake” by the C.P. of Greece. But the Stalinists followed, from Stalin to Thorez, Tito, Togliatti, Zachariades, and Mao, this line was never condemned. Because this was the very essence of Stalinist opportunism. Thus the Resistance Movements were enlisted in the National Armies and were represented on the capitalist governments under the slogan of “Reconstruction”, i.e. first of all hard work (for capitalist reconstruction).
13. The Third International died in 1933 and was formally dissolved in 1934. But the Fourth International based on Trotsky’s ideas and on the living Transitional Programme is not dead. During the war it underwent a deep transformation, i.e. two basic tendencies took shape. The right - wing opportunist Pabloite tendency degenerated further in the subsequent stages of the Fourth Internationalist movement the left tendency, maintaining the Trotskyist traditions alive in constant struggle against revisionism is now grouped around the I.C. The Fourth International lives on in the I.C. which has the task of becoming the central axle of the reconstruction of the world proletarian Trotskyist movement.
Reply to “Workers Vanguard”
from the Greek Section of the International Committee
BEFORE WE begin to comment on the theses of the ‘Workers Vanguard’ on Pabloite revisionism and the Fourth International in the war, we must make an observation, perhaps of secondary importance, but a necessary one:
The writer of this letter demands that comrade Jack Gale should know inside out the history of the Greek working-class movement of the last 50 years, and even complains because Jack Gale did not set it out in his article on the role of Greek Stalinism.
Now the question arises immediately: How is it possible for our friend Nikolaou to complain about this movement, a movement in their own country, when he and his group have not written a single word about it? About the civil war, the most turbulent period of modern Greek history, they have, indeed, formulated theses. But a quarter of a century after the conclusion of the civil war they have never tried to set out and analyse the historical events in order to help whoever is interested in criticizing the theses of the ‘Workers Vanguard’ to do so in the only possible way, i.e. confronting these theses in their historical framework.
They do not have a monopoly of silence. The Stalinists also have ostentatiously condemned the past to eternal oblivion. In both cases the cause is the same: the issues involved are dangerous for them.
Now Nikolaou announces to us that some history of the Greek Trotskyist movement is going to be published in the near future. We shall see.
Dialectics and Dead Schemata
The document of the ‘Workers Vanguard’ The War Question and Pabloite Revisionism stirs up historical questions. This is not accidental. Today’s social and economic crisis is a disturbance not only of the most important and fundamental relations but also to the very smallest. And when this happens, everyone is obliged to interpret these disturbances, to return to the history of these relations, which have evolved through conflicts.
Marxists realize every retracing of history consciously in order consciously to bring the present into conflict with the past, to negate the past within the present, not in a sterile way, not with scepticism and doubt, but in a creative way, preserving everything positive and developing knowledge through the negation of the negation, to a higher level, which will also be negated in their new practice.
However, if the approach to historical questions must not be sceptical, this does not mean that it must be apologetic. But from the ideological fathers of the ‘Workers Vanguard’, we have not seen up to now anything but apologetics. Instead of struggling to overcome their errors of the period of the Occupation and Civil War in Greece - errors which must objectively be characterized as criminal - they are interested only in ‘justifying’ themselves, and thus they become incapable of drawing the necessary lessons about the methodological roots of their errors, as well as about the roots of Pabloite revisionism, with the result that they are not able today to fight for the Fourth International.
We do not have to go far to ascertain this apologetic disposition of theirs. Their document had been submitted at the 3rd Congress of the International Committee in 1966. In paragraph two they wrote:
‘Trotsky’s ideas on war, and the Transitional Programme were and remain today the solid foundations of the 4th Internationalist movement. It is precisely this programme, and the constant war against the attempts to revise it, which enabled the 4th International to survive the world war upheaval.’
In the copy they have now delivered, paragraph two has been amended in this way:
‘It is precisely the method of dialectical materialism behind this programme, and the constant war against the attempts to revise it, which enabled the 4th International . . .etc.’
In this way the letter writer uses the conceptions he had in the past to bring himself into harmony with what he understands to be the ‘fashion’ of the epoch, i.e., the emphasis placed by the IC on the dialectical method.
But the question of the dialectical materialist method is to be found at the centre of the period under discussion and is essential for the understanding how Pabloite revisionism appeared. And this question (of the dialectical method) cannot be put aside solely because the letter writer made an insertion with his pen in the printed copy.
But beyond this, the dialectical method is neither a fashion nor a patent that we frame and hang on our wall. It must be consciously adapted to thought and practice. For this reason, and while we have all the goodwill to ignore the amendment, the rest of the document does not at all convince us that its composers ever gave dialectical materialism this prominent position.
It is precisely here that the essence of the matter is to be found - in the dialectical method. This method is in reality the deepest theoretical foundation of the Fourth International, which enabled it to survive in the International Committee and to defend its programme. On the contrary, wherever central importance was not given to the struggle for the training of revolutionary cadres on the basis of dialectical materialism the result was a sliding back to the idealist philosophy of the ruling class, revisionism, liquidation-ism and finally the rejection of the Transitional Programme.
We do not wish here to perform acrobatics with the history of the international Trotskyist movement, which must be studied and written seriously. But so far as Greece is concerned, we are well aware that the long deprivation of the Trotskyist movement of its proven and theoretically developed leaders - like P. Pouliopoulos - who were rotting in prison, and who finally were shot by the Fascists or murdered by the Stalinists, was a serious reason for the Greek section to slide slowly into a situation where Marxism was confronted more as a storehouse of schemata than from the standpoint of dialectical materialism as a theory of knowledge.
P. Pouliopoulos, particularly after 1936, in the prisons of the Metaxas dictatorship, declared war, as he said, ‘against the schematic blocks of stone which fill the heads of Greek Communists’. This struggle was interrupted. And the result was that his comrades who lived and continued the struggle were unable to conceive what was continually new in reality, which was being rapidly transformed; they turned their backs on the contradictions of the class struggle, they created childish schemata about how things should (!) have been, they compared in a sterile ultimatistic way the ‘programme’ to the living movement of the working class, and they hoped fatalistically that this programme - the substitution for method - would win the following of the broad masses. All this, when they did not abandon themselves to the ‘spontaneity’ of the masses.
When one is aware of this neglect of dialectical method and the elevating of the programme to a ‘foundation’ (and indeed a ‘solid’ one), it is possible to be horrified with the theses of the ‘Workers Vanguard’ on the Occupation and the civil war, but not surprised.
We must note here that we speak above about the Trotskyist section and not about the ‘Workers Vanguard’ (‘Workers Struggle’ at that time). Its ideological leaders originate from the middle-class revolutionary organization of ‘Archeiomarxism’ which dissolved in 1933-1934, and from which they never consciously broke. So as far as leaders of ‘Workers Struggle’ are concerned, they always found themselves in disagreement with the dialectical method of Marxism.
As it appears from the theses stated in this document, the ‘Workers Struggle’ group condemned every conflict of the Greek working class with the German-Italian Occupation Authorities as reactionary and social-patriotic, which meant participation in the imperialist war on the side of the ‘Allies’. By identifying the movement of the working class and the other oppressed masses with its Stalinist leadership, it characterized EAM-ELAS (organizations of the CPG) as ‘of a reactionary nature’ and ‘an extension of Anglo - Saxon imperialism’.
‘. . . The Resistance movement came into the service of the war, of imperialism, of the national bourgeoisie and of the conservation of the status quo. All the militant offensive groups (Popular Home Guard, guerrilla bands) with their nationalist and reactionary military practice, entered formally and essentially into the service of national capitalism and the imperialist headquarters and contributed to the re-establishment of the army and the bourgeois state.
‘8. The practice of the Resistance movement with guerrillas, sabotage, national mobilizations, because of its nationalist nature, the objective targets it set, the class character of its leadership and the methods of struggle it accepted, has nothing in common with the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and remains reactionary and counter-revolutionary to the core. Its victory in countries after the liberation gave yet another corroboration of the correctness of our assessment.
‘9. The Resistance movement…was a terrible brake on the development of the revolutionary movement, it drove the soldiers of the occupation to be tied to the chariot of the bourgeoisie of their own countries, it undermined and objectively struck a blow to the European revolution.
‘10. To the Resistance movement and especially to its leadership the revolutionary party and the proletariat took and were obliged to take a strict stand of irreconcilable hostility, exposing their foul nationalist and chauvinist role…’ (Internal Bulletin International Secretariat, 4th International, April 1947, Volume II, No 14.)
Irreconcilable hostility, therefore, not only to the leadership, but to the movement itself of the masses, who played a ‘foul nationalist and chauvinist role’! These are the logical results of the irreconcilable hostility of formalism to the dialectical method…
The formalist ultra-lefts erased with one stroke of the pen all the contradictions through which the real struggle moved: the contradiction between the “patriotism” of the bourgeoisie and the “patriotism’ of the masses, between the fighting base of EAM-ELAS and its Stalinist leadership, between the nature of the movement and the programmatic targets set by the Stalinists, etc., etc.
That is, they did what Trotsky warned against:
‘Ultra-left scholastics think not in concrete terms but in empty abstractions. They have transformed the idea of defeatism into such a vacuum. They can see vividly neither the process of war nor the process of revolution. They seek a hermetically sealed formula which excludes fresh air. But a formula of this kind can offer no orientation for the proletarian vanguard.’ (L. Trotsky, ‘Learn to Think’, Writings 1938-1939.)
With these theses on the ‘resistance’ movement, the Archeiomarxists of the ‘Workers Struggle’ came into conflict with the comrades of Pouliopoulos, in that epoch, and these theses - of irreconcilable hostility towards the mass movement which was led by the Stalinists - were written on their banner when they broke with the Pabloites in 1958.
This was their right. But they go even further. They propose these theses as a foundation for the International Committee. But the IC separated itself from the Pabloites for exactly the opposite reasons that they ‘separated’. The IC fought and is fighting against the revisionists first and foremost for the materialist dialectic as the theory of knowledge of Marxism, against the idealist philosophy of the bourgeoisie, which is found at the basis of the attempt of every sort of revisionist to transform Marxism into a repository of empty and static schemata.
It is characteristic that the former leaders of the ‘Workers Struggle’ and now leaders of the ‘Workers Vanguard” never spoke about the character of the historical epoch, nor about the way that within it (in that epoch) the movement was formed and developed, the movement which they, together with the Stalinists, call ‘national resistance”.
The sharpest clash between Trotskyism and Stalinism in our country had as its epicentre the character of the coming revolution. UP to 1934 the Communist Party believed that the revolution would be proletarian. Suddenly, its Stalinist leaders discovered that there existed in Greece such important remnants of feudalism that the character of the revolution would inevitably be bourgeois-democratic. The power it would establish would not be the dictatorship of the proletariat but some ‘democratic dictatorship’ which the working class would exercise in partnership with the ‘medium-poor’ peasants.
The leader of Greek Trotskyism, P. Pouliopoulos, answered the Stalinists from prison with his book Democratic or Socialist Revolution in Greece? In this book, Pouliopoulos shattered the anti-dialectical method of the Stalinists and ripped apart their historical and economic criteria, on which they were trying to base the new orientations and the tasks they set for the Greek proletariat.
But it was not only the Stalinists who regarded the coming revolution as democratic. From 1933 the Archeiomarxists had launched an analogous theory: the Greek ‘Kerenskyada’. According to this, Greece, like Russia, would have her ‘February’ and her Kerensky before she managed to proceed to her own October.
Today the Stalinists have amended the obviously mistaken position they adapted in 1934. Not, of course, in order to return to the road of the proletarian revolution, but to cover up their renegacy with more refined pretences. The leaders of the Workers Vanguard, too, admit today that Pouliopoulos was right on this question, and not the ‘Archeio’. But they never understood the essence of the differences. Pouliopoulos did not fight the Stalinists and the Archeiomarxists by appealing to the superiority of Socialism in relation to bourgeois democracy, but he showed with his materialist analysis where the historical process was inevitably leading.
The question was not for the Communists to decide on the character of the coming revolution, but to conceive what character it could objectively have and correspondingly to prepare themselves politically and organizationally to lead in the mass struggles.
The democratic slogans the Stalinists adopted and with which they fought during the period of the occupation, expressed the crossing of the CPG to the camp of the bourgeoisie, but this did not at all mean that we would be led in this way to a democratic revolution. Only people accustomed to thinking in prefabricated schemata could put the question in this way. In Greece, historical development had long ago left behind it the stage of the democratic and national struggles. When the class struggle developed to the point of revolution, it would inevitably take on a proletarian character. It happened precisely like this in the period of the German Occupation, against the wishes of the Stalinists who were trying to limit the movement to the ‘patriotic’ struggle against the ‘occupier’. A study of the historical events of the epoch will confirm it.
The national democratic revolution took place in our country in 1821, against Ottoman rule. But for its completion, the Greek bourgeoisie had to carry out a series of ‘peaceful’ revolutions, led by Army officers. We mention this precisely because the leaders of the Workers Vanguard see nothing in the civil war of 1943 - 1949 except a violent repetition of the revolutions of the bourgeoisie.
With this mind, they speak in paragraph eight about some ‘plebeian, particularly peasant base’. The same formulation appears in their document as well, the one published in 1947 in the Internal Bulletin of the International Secretariat.
In another of their articles, entitled ‘The December Events and the Proletariat’, published in the journal Internationalist two decades after the civil war, they are categorical:
‘. . . Behind the ELAS movement, in the background of social developments, a plebeian revolution, whose leadership led it towards degeneration and capitulation, was reproduced and evolved under the pressure of objective events.
‘. . . it is nothing other than the movement of the lowest and poorest layers of the middle classes, which drag along behind them sections of the proletariat with more or less class consciousness, such as were all the plebeian movements after the bourgeois revolution of 1789.’ (They mean the Great French Revolution.)
This ‘plebeian’ revolution is not at all far removed from the Archeiomarxist ‘Kerenskyada’ or the ‘medium-poor’ revolution of the Stalinists, or Pablo’s ‘Jacobin’ revolution. If it bears any relation to Trotskyism, it is that it constitutes its negation.
The ‘First Round’
The ‘Workers Struggle’ considered EAM - ELAS to be a movement, not only bourgeois ‘plebeian’ but also an extension of the Anglo-Saxon imperialist front. One would be able to finish with them by putting to them today (today, when life has noisily given them the lie) the question: what would have happened if EAM-ELAS had won?
They would not need to search very far for the answer because this is shouted out all along the northern border of the country. And then all discussion with them about the nature of EAM-ELAS and about the social significance of the civil war would fail to be of any interest.
Let us insist however on details. Let us show what were the real relations of EAM-ELAS with the British imperialist front and with the Greek reaction.
We do not find a better way to do this here than to begin by quoting an extract from a telegram sent by the British Brigadier Myers, of the ‘Allied Mission’ in the Greek mountains to the ‘Allied Middle East Headquarters’.
‘X.12 August 1943. Strictly confidential 85 - 4 A.S.
General Papagos does not have any influence of the Greek army. And he is considered a ridiculous person. His organization is not worth speaking about. The political and military organization EDES made important progress, especially in Epirus. It needs however to be supplied with war material and moral support. In my opinion, this band will be useful to us as a counter balance against ELAS and it may be that we will use it against ELAS when it is strengthened. One day it will be necessary to dissolve ELAS in order to be certain that Tito will not have armed and dynamic allies in Greece.
I mention to you that I executed your orders and I support as much as possible the small political and military band of EKKA without however making my dispositions apparent. The commander of EKKA, Colonel Psarros is honourable and constant in his promises to us. His political advisers Kapsalopoulos and Kartalis continually ask for economic aid, and I do not know to what extent they make good use of the sums we give them. As I have learned, a great amount, is spent by them on their personal affairs. At any rate, both until now have worked towards the dissolution of ELAS. I consider that it would be useful for our agents to be in contact with representatives of the government [Editor’s note: the Rallis government], that is with higher officers, police etc. for the purpose of driving home the idea that they have the duty and the right to inform on the commanders of EAM and ELAS to the Occupation Authorities and to aid in the arrest of the agents of EAM and ELAS so that when the time comes these organizations will not be able to damage English interests. From this point of view, the organization of EDES did many things. It informed to Colonel Dertilis and the Minister Tavoularis on several active members of EAM and ELAS who are now in the hands of the Germans and generally of the Occupation Authorities.
General Spiliotopoulos works exclusively for the king and considers that ELAS must be dealt with even to the detriment of the allied affair in Greece…’
A month after the date of this telegram, in September 1943, EDES pushes its detachments forward from Epirus into the Zagorios-Konitsa area. In October, it attacks the 2nd Company of the 1/15 Battalion of ELAS, in the village Tsepelovo. Then, while it never stops its provocations and arrests of EAM-ites, it generalizes its attack against the 3/40 and 24 Regiments of ELAS, in Tzoumerkon of Soulios and against the 15th Regiment in the Mourkgana-Kasidiaris area (see Chronicle of the Resistance: To Arms, to Arms).
In October 1943, ELAS is obliged to launch a large counter-attack. Its fighters, although they are not so well trained and organized, overcome EDES, whose resistance is very rapidly collapsing and whose men are in danger of being captured, with their impetuousity.
But suddenly surprise: An unforeseen saviour of EDES appears: the Germany army which for the first time intervenes in the Greek mountains. The German detachments take up a position between the two camps and strike ELAS which is obliged to abandon - temporarily - the operation and to withdraw.
The episode is also recalled by the British Major Edgar O’Ballance in his book The Greek Civil War.
‘This failure was a disappointment to EAM/ELAS, and another one followed. EAM/ELAS had been of the opinion that the Germans were completely indifferent to what was going on in the mountains away from the beaten track, but this was not so. Having lulled the guerrillas into a false sense of security, German forces struck hard when they had just paused for breath, attacking them from both the western and the eastern sides of the Pindus Mountains. German units cut right into the mountainous areas and got in amongst the guerrilla units. The very best of the ELAS fighters could not stand up even to second-rate German troops, and were compelled to disengage rapidly and withdraw in order to survive.’
However, ELAS resumed operations in January 1944 and continued them until February. Its blows were now very strong. EDES would not be able to recover its strength any more. If the leaders of the CPG had wanted to, they would have been able to dissolve it conclusively. But, while the battle continued, they met in the village Myrophilo with a delegation from EDES, EKKA and the British Mission in order to negotiate a truce.
The Myrophilo truce was the first link in the chain of betrayals by the CPG. As the British expressed it, ‘without the Myrophilo truce, the Lebanon Conference would not have been possible, and without the Caserta Agreement the Lebanon Conference would have been unfruitful’. (C. M. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord.)
But after the truce the battles between ELAS and the armed bands of reaction did not stop for a moment. The provocations at ELAS’s expense continued also on the part of 5/42, which had been dissolved by ELAS in May 1943, but arose again after an intervention by the leadership of the CPG.
Major Capentzonis and Captain Dedousis had a field day at the expense of EAM and its followers. Dedousis, on March 4, 1944, declared the region North Doridos under a state of siege. He arrested a member of the District Committee of EAM, Fokidas, at Pentagioi. Subsequently he disarms the headquarters of the reserve ELAS of Doridos and the militant bands of Pentagioi, Krokyleios and other neighbouring villages. He murders Varsos, the person responsible for ELAS of Krokyleios. He cuts the telephone lines and, taking hostages, moves towards the South Mornos region in order to join with Capetzonis’ Battalion in order to confront the counter-attack of ELAS. And in fact, ELAS surrounds the 5/42 at the place Klimata and liquidates it following a battle. The men of the 5/42 who escaped went from there to Patras where they were enlisted in the Security Battalions of the Occupation government of I. Rallis.
In these battles of ELAS with EDES and the 5/42, the reaction saw what was really happening. It characterized them as the ‘first round’ of the civil war. When it was finally imposed, with the aid of the British and American imperialists, it declared that the country had ‘been saved from Communism’!
But for the Stalinists and the Archeiomarxists, there existed only ‘national resistance’. Their persistence today in this same reactionary view demonstrates a complete contempt for the historical events or their complete distortion. So we see in paragraph 11 of the theses of the ‘Workers Vanguard’ that they write:
‘By springtime in 1944 mutinies broke out in the Greek Army of the Middle East. The soldiers laid down their arms and shouted “Down with War”. This was a significant event, a message for the social revolution.’
All this is an oriental myth. (If the history of the movement they are going to publish will be like this, we would be better off without it.) The sectarians put historical events on Procrustes’ bed. In one place they cut them, in another they stretch them like elastic, to make them fit into their wooden mould.
In the Middle East, there was a Greek army of 20,000. Besides the crews of the Greek fleet, who sailed to Alexandria after the capitulation, most of the soldiers were volunteers, from Greece or from the Greek communities in Egypt. And not only did they not lay down their arms, crying ‘Down with War’, but they fought the Germans furiously. They believed that they were fighting fascism in this way. Within the camps they seized the reactionary officers and had set up a regime of dual command. The reaction and the British imperialists replied with arrests and murders. On April 2, 1944, after dispatching a vote which supported PEEA (PEEA - short-lived government in the mountains which was formed by the Stalinists on March 10, 1944) the British surrounded the Greek units and the ships in the harbour of Alexandria, cut off the provisions of the soldiers and sailors and obliged them to give themselves up out of thirst. Following that, they put the soldiers and sailors in concentration camps, in the deserts of Libya and Eritrea, and many died there of privation, illness and hardship. The British kept only 2,500, of whom most were former gendarmes, and grouped the so-called ‘Mountain Brigade’ which a short time later was used as a counter-revolutionary body.
The events were like this. We find within them crystal clear the social revolution and we do not need to create other, imaginary events that fit into childish schemata.
The ‘Workers Vanguard’, instead of intervening independently in this revolution, took a stand of ‘irreconcilable hostility’. When the working class was fighting in December 1944 in the streets of Athens, at the barricades, there is no other word for one to characterize such errors, except as treachery. Such a political line, which cannot be corrected at the moment when the whole country has found itself in the fire of civil war, is something more than simple confusion.
In every case, let us suppose that it is never too late for one to correct old mistakes and to draw the necessary lessons. There is no question however that the critique of these mistakes constituting ‘Pabloism’, as the ‘Workers Vanguard’ maintains, nor that Pabloite revisionism appeared in the Fourth International during the war, precisely through the critique made by the International Secretariat on the stand of ‘irreconcilable hostility’ towards EAM-ELAS held by the ‘Workers Struggle’.
This does not mean that in the period of the war there did not exist sections of the Fourth International that acted opportunistically and social-patriotically. The French section, for example, said: ‘We are obliged to make the maximum efforts to influence the bourgeois side to create with us a party, a national resistance movement.’ (Verite, November 1940.) This position was no less reactionary than the positions of the ‘Workers Struggle’ in Greece. Also, in both cases there exists, as a common denominator, the abandonment of the dialectical materialist method.
But you can call this opportunism Pabloism, just as you could call Eduard Bernstein a Pabloite. From one point of view, you would certainly not fall short of the mark, because in every case the essence is the same: subordination to the bourgeoisie and its capitalist system. But in this way you would approach all the forms of opportunism and revisionism with supra-historical schemata, not with the dialectic, and you would not be able to draw a single lesson from the struggle waged by the International Committee against this concrete form of revisionism - Pabloism.
The appearance of Pabloism is connected to the extension of the revolution in Eastern Europe through the Red Army of the USSR, to the cold war, to the Keynesian policies of imperialism, with the ‘de-Stalinization’, the national revolutions in the colonial countries, and with many other events of the post-war period, and it cannot be really understood outside this framework.
From its own viewpoint, the ‘Workers Vanguard’ treats the past in its own eclectic and empirical way. It takes certain external features of Pabloite policy (especially, in relation to the guerrilla movements, entryism or the role of the peasantry), it creates a dead and supra-historical schema and tries to compare it with the critiques made on its own theses in the Occupation.
The demand ‘for the decisive struggle against Hitler to be combined with the policy of fraternization with the German soldiers’, or any attention whatsoever to the fight against German imperialism, the enemy of ‘our own’ bourgeoisie, according to the leaders of the Workers Vanguard, was ‘smuggling in Pabloism’. Finally, the clearest manifestation of Pabloite corrosion during the Occupation, was the stern criticism the Inter-national made of the WV’s sectarian policies.
And another thing, not a humorous anecdote but something they claim in all seriousness: The leaders of the Workers Vanguard discover elements of Pabloism in the Greek working - class movement as early as 1922! Argument: the fighters who at that time supported one point of view or another and were followers of Pantelis Pouliopoulos and not of the Archeio, wound up as Pabloites! Result: the leaders of the middle-class revolutionary group of Archeiomarxism and protagonists of the well-known leftist policies in the Occupation are elevated in this way to the prime opponents of Pabloism, to the forerunners of the post-war International Committee. With this sleight-of-hand trick which is based on complete contempt of the dialectic - the essence of Marxism - the apologetics of the policies of pre-war Archeiomarxism and its followers, during the period of the Occupation, are disguised as a theoretical interpretation of Pabloism.
One could add that on the basis of this method and with a little consistency and daring, the leaders of the Workers Vanguard would be able to go as far as saying that Pabloism is the legitimate child of Trotskyism. They would, perhaps, be able to go even further.
Our subject can be dealt with at much greater length. But up to this point, a conclusion of invaluable importance can be drawn: The revolutionary party, which will lead the working class to power in the present crucial epoch, cannot be built without the most irreconcilable fight for dialectical materialism as the theory of knowledge of Marxism, against this formal, schematic and empirical thought.
WE DID NOT decide to write these articles about the civil war by accident, nor with the intention of writing ‘history’. We were obliged to concern ourselves with this so-recent but so-obscure period, from the concrete needs of the struggle waged today against the military capitalist dictatorship.
After the coup d’etat of April 21, 1967, and after the crisis and split in the CPG, a series of newspapers and journals of the so-called ‘anti-dictatorial resistance’ movement suddenly began to concern themselves intensely with the civil war, after so many years of absolute silence. This phenomenon is striking but not inexplicable: It reflects the fact that the working class itself returns to the history of its struggles, in an attempt to explain the battle-less defeat of 1967, which puts it under the yoke of the Papadopoulos junta.
It was natural, within this so crucial epoch of history, for the working class to wonder what, after all, is the role of the CPG, which it built itself and which has led it to repeated catastrophes.
But it is true that the answer to this vital question demands a return to the even more distant past: to the struggle between Stalinism and Bolshevism (Trotskyism) within the CPG; the defeat and expulsion of the Bolshevik wing of the Party; its theoretical and political degeneration, which was followed by a change in both its programme and its composition. Why the CPG made the programme of middle-class radical democracy (this deadly trap for the proletariat in the imperialist epoch) its own, why men like Petsopoulos, Glinos and others - from theoreticians of Venizelism - appeared in its ranks as theoreticians of Marxism.
Above all it is necessary for one to study this period - the turn of the CPG - as part of the transformation of the whole of the Third Communist International, of its degeneration, of the degeneration of the USSR, the first workers’ state, and of the struggle between Trotskyism and Stalinism within the Bolshevik Party in Russia.
Whatever happened in Greece during the Occupation and the civil war had its roots in this past. And when we speak of a real understanding of historical events - indispensable to today’s struggles - we are speaking exactly of an understanding from the ‘roots’.
When one comes into contact, face to face, with the monstrous and criminal treacheries of the CPG in the civil war, the need for a deep study and interpretation of the historical nature of Stalinism itself as a world current within the working-class movement, presents itself as imperative.
If these articles incite the fighters of the working-class movement to such a study, then they have fulfilled their purpose. They have made a gain in the struggle in healing old wounds of the movement within the building of a new revolutionary party, which, enlightened by the bitter experience of past defeats, will now lead the working class to victory and to the taking of power.
We must finally note that when we tried to investigate the events of the civil war, we came up against the total lack of historical references on the part of the CPG. Besides a semi-official ‘chronicle’, and this itself incomplete, nothing else has been written, despite the fact that the CPG was then at the centre of events.
The CPG really does not dare to write its own history. And as can be ascertained from our narrative, this is the best thing the Stalinists could do for their own self-preservation.
The ‘Resistance’ Movement
The armed forces of Hitler and Mussolini, after having broken the resistance of the Greek bourgeois army which had lasted several months, placed the country under their occupation. On April 26, 1941, they entered Athens. The period which had begun was to be the most convulsive in Modern Greek history, a period of great trials, for the working masses, but also for the capitalist status quo,
Before Mussolini declared war in October 1940, the monarchist Metaxas dictatorship which had governed the country for almost four years had rejected an Italian ultimatum which demanded free use of Greek territory by Axis forces as a supply route and a base for their operations in the Middle East.
The Glucksburg monarchy and the Greek bourgeois class, attached to British imperialism, were determined to resist and to drown the Greek people in blood in defending the road which led to the oil of Monsouli and the East. This was the meaning of the famous ‘NO’ of the monarchist-Metaxas dictatorship which has been celebrated ever since with displays of ‘emotion’ by the whole of the reaction and the Stalinists.
Thousands of Greek soldiers left their bones on the inaccessible mountain tops of the Epirus and in the mud of Albania in the interests of the British monopolies and local capitalists. The real Communists cursed the ruling class for the mass human sacrifice to the monster of imperialist war and were not sorry in the least about the collapse of the front.
The Greek working class and poor peasants had no obligation to spill their blood for ruling-class interests. There was certainly a mortal hatred for the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. But the monarchist-Metaxas dictatorship was no less hated. And if the soldiers fought under its emblems, they did so only at gunpoint.
But, if it was incomprehensible how the Communists came out in favour of the resistance of the working class to the intervention under the leadership of the monarchist-Metaxas dictatorship, this did not mean that the installation of the German-Italian Occupation Authorities did not change anything in their lives, as in the lives of other working people. Fascism had not entered Greece wearing white gloves. It harshly oppressed the workers in Italy and Germany and it needed neither provocation nor pretext to do the same and worse in Greece. From the beginning it established a regime of black servitude and brutal violence. It was not from a ‘misunderstanding’ that the word ‘occupation’ passed into the vocabulary of the Greek people as a synonym for mortal starvation and conditions where the lives of ordinary people were worth no more than a bullet.
No one, has ever forgotten the nightmarish winter of 1941, when thousands of people died like dogs in the streets, swollen from starvation and with their skin black from the frost. No one has forgotten the barefoot battalions of skeleton-like youth who risked their lives to take a loaf of bread from a German lorry. No one has forgotten the disembowelling of pregnant women, the shootings without warning, the blockades, the commandeering of houses, the murderous face of the SS.
For this reason the resistance was not long in showing itself, a desperate struggle of the working class and the peasants for survival. In this struggle, the masses did not have opposite them their ‘own’ bourgeois class, whose state had dissolved and whose ‘government’ was in Cairo. They were confronted, mainly, by an oppressive power concentrated in the hands of the Occupation Authorities, in the hands of an alien ‘occupier’.
What was the social character of this struggle and what was its true slogan? Perhaps the fact that the working class was confronting the German-Italian army effaced the class character of the struggle and introduced tasks of national liberation?
The Stalinist leaders of the CPG gave a positive answer to this question. They regarded the struggle which had begun not only as a continuation of the Albanian ‘epic’ but also of the national struggles of the Greek people which began in 1821.
During World War I the Bolsheviks, and especially Lenin and Trotsky, had given to the whole of the world Socialist movement lessons in class orientation and internationalism. True to the declarations of the Socialist conference of Zimmerwald, they denounced every idea of defence of the Tsarist fatherland, defied the knout and Siberia, and, making use of the conditions created by the war, they raised the banner of Socialist revolution.
But in the CPG, degenerate to the very marrow, these lessons had been long forgotten. The Stalinists were marching along the road of social-patriotism and of betrayal, which the Social Democrats had opened in the First World War. When war was declared, the leader of the CPG, N. Zachariades, in a letter written in prison asked the dictator Metaxas to allow prisoners to fight the front. For the duration of the occupation, the CPG continued along the same chauvinistic road.
Despite all this, the character of the struggle of the masses could not be determined by the chauvinistic policies of the CPG nor by the policies of any other leadership. This was a question decided by the character of the historical epoch itself. And without a deep understanding of this fact, there could not have been, during the occupation, really revolutionary policies.
There were however, organizations which, while they spoke in the name of Marxism and came into opposition to the CPG, approached this question in a subjective way, starting from the policies and programme of the Stalinists.
Marxism means consistent materialism: To accept first of all the material existence of this world in a state of becoming through contradictions. To start therefore from the fact that it is not men who make decisions according to their subjective desires, about the stages of history, even though these are realized by their own actions.
The Black Berets, select corps of ELAS
Marxism is the consciousness of the objective and spontaneous becoming, and not a schema which can be imposed. We do not need to emphasize that it has nothing in common with fatalism: Man makes his history. He does so, however, in conditions which he does not choose, but inherits.
So, for Greece, the national and patriotic struggles had long since ended. The imperialist war certainly gave birth again to all the barbarism of past epochs, like that of the Turkish domination, but it was not possible to bring the past to life.
When we refer to history, we often speak of returning to the past. This is, however, only a conventional expression. History never repeats itself. In Greece, the Occupation and the war, with all their savagery, could not recreate a ‘national question’. The struggle of the Greek workers against the Occupation Authorities, not simply ‘should’ not, but could not have been a national struggle against the ‘occupier’. Despite its national colouring, which it possibly took in the initial stage, it was in essence necessarily a class struggle.
Did the armed struggle of the Greek workers against the Occupation Authorities perhaps mean a participation in the patriotic war of the bourgeoisie - in the imperialist war, as certain sectarians maintained? (Remnants of Archeio-marxism and Defeatists.)
It is sufficient for one to draw out the logic of this view to the end, in order to ascertain its absolute illogicality: War is a continuation of politics. And if the armed struggle of the proletariat for its demands, in conditions of imperialist war, meant an involvement in that war, then every ‘peaceful’ form of struggle as well - for example a strike - would have the same meaning, because it would benefit one of the belligerent camps while damaging the other. So by adopting this sectarian conception, the Greek working class, as long as the war continued, would have had nothing else to say to the Nazis and the occupation government except ‘slaughter me, master, so I can become a saint’.
The character of a war is determined by the class which is waging it. The capitalists are able to lead in imperialist wars, not the working class!
With the occupation of Greece by the Germans, the bourgeois state dissolved and the working class was not acting under the leading class in society, the bourgeoisie. With these conditions, its1 struggle against the Occupation Authorities could in no case have been a continuation of the imperialist war. Besides, the working class never undertook this war. The sectarians, like the Stalinists, who saw ‘patriotism’ in the struggle of the working class against the ‘Jerries’, confused it lamentably with the patriotism of the bourgeoisie.
Just before the imperialist war broke out, L. Trotsky, in the Transitional Programme of the Fourth International, warned about the necessity of making a distinction here:
‘When the small farmer or worker speaks about the defence of the fatherland, he means defence of his home, his family and other similar families from invasion, bombs and poison gas. The capitalist and his journalist” understand by defence of the fatherland the seizure of colonies and markets, the predatory increase of the “national” share of world income. Bourgeois pacifism and patriotism are shot through with deceit. In the pacifism and even patriotism of the oppressed, there are elements which reflect on the one hand a hatred of destructive war, and on the other a clinging to what they believe to be their own good - elements which we must know how to seize upon in order to draw the requisite conclusions.’
We can say that, from the first spontaneous instances of resistance to the Occupation Authorities, the provincial gendarmerie understood better the social meaning of this resistance than did the willingly blind Stalinists, the sectarians of the remnants of Archeiomarxism and the defeatists (Stinas). The document communicated by the director of the Gendarmerie, Stereas, in Cairo is characteristic:
‘A number of peasants, ill-treated under the Italians, are resorting to acts of violence and are taking to the mountains. Whether it is a question of spirited peasants or of insubordinate elements, the result is the same. At every given opportunity they will cause injury to the Italians, thus changing into national heroes. There are exceptions however, who with their dim intellect will not distinguish between enemies and friends, and will not fail to commit clear robberies as well. Thus, having gradually come to an agreement [of arming] a gang under the most dynamic of them, they will become extremely dangerous for the reasons cited…’
No special intellectual effort is necessary for anyone to conceive what the gendarme means when he speaks of ‘dim’ intellects which cannot distinguish between ‘enemies and friends’. The war on the Occupation Authorities was indissolubly tied up with the civil war.
One would have to look through distorting lenses, like the Stalinists, to find patriotism in the peasants’ acts of violence and their subsequent fight to the mountains. Similarly one would need sectarian blindness in order not to distinguish the class character of their acts of violence and to accuse the peasants (and the workers who did the same in the cities with different motives) of ... participation in the imperialist war!
The reaction became interested very early in the guerrilla bands which were being formed in the mountains, and being unable to impede them, undertook to manipulate them and to subordinate them to the needs of the imperialist war. To this end it created its own bands of ‘nationalist’ resistance.
K. Pyromaglou, second-in-command of the anti-Communist resistance organization, EDES, much later commended the bourgeois politician, G. Kartalis, for being one of the first to conceive the urgent importance to the bourgeois class of the formation of such bands.
‘G. Kartalis made a correct assessment of reality and how right he was to be indignant about the delay in the exit of Psaros and the beginning of his operations in the Giona-Parnassus Region, but also how right was his view that “less suitable people will appear on the scene”.’
It is worthwhile to quote another extract from Pyromaglou, which is very helpful in understanding the nature of the guerrilla bands which were appearing in the mountains. Pyromaglou is referring to EKKA (National And Social Liberation). The organization whose title combines ‘national’ with ‘social’ tasks, with a capital A for ‘And’, had as political leader G. Kartalis, a corrupt bourgeois politician who started out in the period of the Occupation as poor as Job and became as rich as Croesus. Military commander was the officer of the regular army Dim. Psaros. Second-in-command was Thymios Dedousis, a vehement anti-Communist who later ‘excelled’ himself in the Security Battalions:
‘And the only line, which EKKA should have followed, was the line of collaboration of all the resistance organizations based on National Unity for National Liberation. But, besides, taking the national position, the appearance of this new organization, EKKA, for both general and particular reasons, would not have taken place outside the general climate and spirit of that period, “the occupation cosmogony”. Otherwise, a resistance organization, even a political one, cannot stand on its own feet.’
And what was the ‘climate’ and the ‘spirit’ prevailing over the masses in that period when the bourgeois reaction had the required perspicacity to call it a period of ‘occupation cosmogony’? It can be clearly seen in the kind of demagogic devices used by the reaction in order to ‘stand on its own feet’. The first two articles of the programme published by EKKA in the first edition of its newspaper Liberation (April 17, 1943) constitute a document much more convincing than the Stalinist and sectarian affirmations “about the national liberation character of the movement and the ‘patriotism’ of the masses:
‘1. The basic economic and technical means of production [banks, big industries, means of transport, big home trade, quarries and mines] are to be socialized directly and at the same time.
‘2. The great estates beyond certain amounts which, as the highest limit of small property, will be defined and will be permitted in future, are to be confiscated for the people. The national debt and private debts are to be abolished.’
It is indisputable that these demands had been formulated in a purposely abstract way, in order that nothing is promised in reality. But what is important is that an organization of the extreme right was obliged to put forward a programme which it imagined to be socialist.
ELAS unit on the march
The first guerrilla bands and the CPG
The Stalinists of the CPG, because of their broad links with the masses, were in a position to have at least a suspicion of the problems which the armed struggle against the Occupation Authorities could create for them. Despite the official myth that they proceeded consciously to the organization of an Army of Liberation, ELAS, the truth is that they undertook to control the spontaneously formed armed bands only when they understood that they were in danger of becoming the fifth wheel of the cart.
The founding of the Central Committee of ELAS was announced in February 1942, but the first guerrilla bands had been formed as early as the summer of 1941. In Nigrita was that of Thanasis Genios, in Kilkis that of Christos Moschos, in Roumeli that of Thanasis Klaras (Aris Veloukhiotis), in Attica that of Andreas Mountrichas (Orestes, former sergeant in the Gendarmerie).
Moreover, in September 1941, the night of the 28th/29th, the inhabitants of several villages in the province of Drama rose up against the Bulgarian Occupation Authorities. More than 2,000 armed men took part in the uprising, and with the participation of almost the entire population, armed with axes, crowbars and hatchets, they seized the Gendarmerie stations at Doxatos and the surrounding villages. The uprising was suppressed by large forces of the Bulgarian army. More than 3,000 peasants were massacred. The CPG at once condemned the movement as ‘premature’ and accused the local members of the party of ‘being led astray by the provocations of the Bulgarian occupiers’.
The most important guerrilla band, “that of Veloukhiotis in Roumeli, was condemned by the CPG because its leader was a ‘declarer’ (Veloukhiotis had signed a declaration of ‘repentance’ in Metaxas’ prisons, carrying out the party line which was to declare). Generally, the CPG condemned the guerrilla movement. The Stalinists had just in time remembered Marxism and ‘proletarian’ methods of struggle. The guerrilla war, they said, was a ‘middle-class form of struggle’. The fight must be carried out, not in the mountains but in the cities, within the factories, with strikes and a General Strike. And in this way they used Marxist phrases in order to avoid the revolutionary tasks they did not want to take up.
The guerrilla bands were formed spontaneously by peasants who were defending their crops from being seized and used to fulfill the needs of the German, Italian and Bulgarian armies. The workers wanted to avoid forced labour. They were all living with the spectre of being taken hostage, with the danger of being seized and sent as slaves to the German factories and farms. Above all everyone was looking for a way to save himself from hunger and death. They took the law into their own hands or resisted in any way they could. Later, so as not to be arrested and shot, they took refuge in the mountains and there began the guerrilla action.
The guerrilla war was not of course a ‘classic’ form of workers’ resistance to oppression. But then, was the oppression itself classic? Were they perhaps fighting against the Greek bourgeoisie and its state in which it has no confidence, when it has serving in its army the same people who have every opportunity and possibility of defeating it from within? Was there perhaps a classic situation, where demands are put forward, political and economic struggles are waged and, in an exceptional crisis, a General Strike breaks out and possibly a revolution? No! Against the working class was an inaccessible army - at least as long as the militaristic machine of fascism stood firmly on its feet - ready to use unhesitatingly all its power to raze villages to the ground and to execute hundreds of people in the city. For this reason, despite the fact that the ‘classic’ forms of struggle were never lacking in occupied Greece, and many strikes and demonstrations took place, the workers and poor peasants ascertained the fact that the most effective way of defending their right to live was to seize a gun and go out to the mountains. The long guerrilla tradition that existed in the country strengthened this inclination of theirs. It happened like that. Not with some ‘middle class’ ‘adventurist’ plan, as the Stalinists maintained (with the sectarians always on their side), but from the needs of life itself and the desperation arising out of the occupation.
The guerrilla war against the Occupation Authorities did not overthrow the theoretical schemata about the proletarian forms of struggle or about revolutionary defeatism - far from it. It only proved what should have constituted consciousness for every Marxist, that reality developed through dialectical contradictions, has infinitely more facets and is much richer than theoretical schemata.
The Stalinists recovered quickly from their torpor and decided to intervene in the armed movement, in order, naturally, to make it dependent and to lead it in a chauvinist, popular-front, bourgeois manner; but the sectarians snored on.
In the cities, with Theos as leader, the Stalinists had already advanced to the creation of the Workers National Liberation Front (EEAM), which contained some Social-Democrat trade unionists, like Stratis, Kalomoiris and others. The EEAM assembled within a year, broad working class masses and youth in all the notable centres of the country, which the Stalinists could not even have dreamed of before the war.
In September 1941 the foundation of the National Liberation Front was announced. ‘Five Socialist parties’, besides the CPG, were supposed to have participated in it, among which was the ELD of Tsirimokos. In reality, the five ‘parties’ existed only in the imagination of their leaders and more so in the imagination of the Stalinists who, when they did not find partners in their ‘popular front’, were obliged to invent them.
EAM was directly controlled by the CPG and its popular-front character was not constituted so much by its composition as by the politics of its Stalinist leadership, which subordinated the movement of the working class and of all the oppressed to a bourgeois democratic perspective and to the military needs of the ‘allies’.
With the Stalinists in its leadership, EAM declared that it was accepting into its ranks ‘even honest royalists and honest supporters of Metaxas’; that its purpose was the ‘joining together of Greek patriots for the fight against the occupier’. Despite all this, the ‘honest’ royalists and Metaxas supporters never took part or played any role in EAM. The reaction came together in its own independent armed bands.
EAM drew together, almost exclusively, the oppressed masses of workers and poor peasants, who through the tragedy and destruction of the war saw that the hour of their social emancipation had struck. It is not without importance that the masses were being pulled increasingly into the organizations of EAM-ELAS-CPG as the Red Army won victories over German imperialism and especially after the utter defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad.
Still EAM, despite the attempts of the Stalinists, could not stand firmly on the ground of the ‘patriotic’ fight ‘against the occupier’. Historical laws proved stronger than the bureaucratic machine of EAM, and its leaders found themselves involved very early in civil war.
The patriotic and democratic policy of the CPG had its own history. So did the conception of a series of fighters-who generally took up a position against Stalinism - that the mass movement behind the CPG was ‘by its nature bourgeois’ and even ‘reactionary’, because of its ‘participation’ in the imperialist war.
We must look back at this history, because only in this way is it possible to arrive at an understanding of the events of the civil war and to draw the necessary lessons about today’s class struggles.
The Greek national revolution started in 1821. The modern Greek state, when it was founded, was not purely capitalist. To become so, struggles lasting a whole century were required. The cause was, basically, the defeat of the revolution. Contrary to the teachings of bourgeois education, the revolution was stifled when the Greeks were defeated by the Turks at Keratsini. The foundation of the Greek state was decided upon diplomatically behind the scenes among the three great powers (England, France, Russia) and Turkey. The three ‘Powers’ favoured the formation of the Greek state exactly in order to make use of it as a bridge against the Ottoman Empire in order to dissolve and seize the territory owed by it. In order for the new state to be stillborn, they limited it to the extent of the Peloponnese. But the vigour of the national revolution endowed it with more vitality than they had imagined. It survived, completing its revolution geographically, economically and politically.
But in the way in which the Greek state was founded, the landed aristocracy managed to conserve and initially even to increase their power. A direct foreign guardianship was established in the country as well. These conditions predetermined a very slow capitalist development.
On the other hand, for historical reasons, the Greek bourgeoisie had realized its initial accumulation abroad (North Balkans, shore of the Black Sea, Western Europe) acting mainly in the parasitic sectors (trade, shipping). So its development was not accompanied by an analogous development of the Greek proletariat. The weakness of the industrial bourgeois class and of the proletariat was yet another retarding factor in the general evolution of the country.
The bourgeoisie advanced slowly, through compromises with the landlords and the Crown. Its course upset a series of ‘peaceful revolutions’, in 1844, 1863, 1909 and finally, and least important, in 1922. What was characteristic in all of them was that they were led by the army, which was supported by the broad popular masses. Within these military movements factionalism among the officers was never lacking, officers, who were above all, interested in their careers. Nevertheless, only subjective short-sightedness could ignore their social significance. History was never the average result of the personal aspirations of the men who make it. The military movements were above all the completion of 1821, stations through which the peasant reform and capitalist relations dominated in the countryside, the state was modernized and the purely political role of the bourgeois class was imposed.
Finally, within the first quarter of the 20th century, the bourgeois democratic transformation of the country had been completed in every respect. For this reason the ‘peaceful’ military revolutions could not be repeated. After the Plastiras movement of 1922, the then young Communist Party recognized only one revolution as being possible: the proletarian revolution, for the destruction of the capitalist state and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The army intervened again several times in political life and even later, but always in opposition to the masses, in order to impose capitalist dictatorships. (Pangalos 1926, Metaxas 1936.)
This continued to be the case until January 1934. The Communist Party had of course already succumbed to Stalinist degeneration. Suddenly the Sixth Plenum of its Central Committee announced to its thunderstruck members, as a paradoxical fact, a new strategy for the Greek proletariat, contrary to the one which until then had been accepted. The coming revolution would not be proletarian but another ‘bourgeois-democratic’ one. It would supplement the ‘incomplete’ (according to the unforeseen discovery by the geniuses of Stalinism appointed by Moscow), bourgeois-democratic transformation of the country. The rule it would establish would not be the dictatorship of the proletariat, but a ‘democratic’ dictatorship which would not be practiced exclusively by the working class, but shared with the ‘medium-poor’ peasants. And naturally, it would not apply socialist measures but would be the framework within which ‘sooner or later’ the prerequisites for the commencement of the Socialist transformation of the country would ripen.
The slogan ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’ was not, however, new. It had a historical precedent in a more general expression (Trotsky called it ‘algebraic’) at the alliance of the proletariat with the poor layers of the peasantry in the Russian Revolution at 1905.
What exactly the ‘democratic dictatorship’ meant is very apparent in the following extract from Lenin’s polemic against Martynov, theoretician of Menshevism and subsequently of Stalinism:
‘In the provisional government, they tell us, Social Democracy will have the power. But Social Democracy, as the party of the proletariat, cannot keep the power in its hands without attempting to carry out the Social Democratic overthrow [revolution]. But as soon as it would start such a job, it would fail today and would only be put to shame. . . .’
According to Lenin’s hypothesis of that time the coming revolution in Russia would uproot feudalism and would put in its place a radical democracy, on whose ground a whole historical stage of proletarian struggle for power would unfold.
The slogan of ‘democratic dictatorship’ was overtaken by life. Finally, it was buried by the October Revolution together with the Provisional Government which embodied it. Lenin himself, as soon as he set foot in Russia in April 1917, immediately started a war against the adherents of the ‘democratic dictatorship’, Kamenev, Stalin and most of the ‘old Bolsheviks’ who held the party back from the masses in supporting the provisional government and in defencism. He said:
‘Whoever speaks of “revolutionary democratic dictatorship” has essentially passed over to the side of the bourgeoisie against the class struggle of the proletariat. This formula has grown old. Life has brought it from the kingdom of general formulae to the kingdom of reality, filled it with flesh and bones, made it concrete and thus amended it.’
The Stalinists of the CPG, by disinterring the slogan of ‘democratic dictatorship’ realized their own transition - the conclusive one - ‘to the side of the bourgeoisie against the class struggle of the proletariat’. P. Pouliopoulos, the initiator of the building of the CPG, its leader before it slid back into Stalinist degeneration, and then the leader of Greek Trotskyism, answered the Sixth Plenum immediately with his book Democratic or Socialist Revolution in Greece? In this book, which was justly regarded as the compass of the revolutionary movement in Greece, Pouliopoulos lacerated the economic criteria of the Sixth Plenum according to which Greece was a ‘semi-feudal’ country. He did the same in relation to bourgeois-democratic historical evolution, industrial development, agrarian reform, population-wise, from the viewpoint of incomes, and with other national and international comparative statistics, although the Stalinists never went so far and never tried to give a foundation to their ‘medium-poor’ strategy, even with some semblance of science. Pouliopoulos also invoked the Russian experience, the German experience of 1923, the Chinese, as well as the then current experience of the Spanish revolution, and defended the theoretical heritage of Marxism for the ‘permanent revolution’ in the work of Marx, Luxemburg and Trotsky, against the Menshevik revolution ‘in stages’ launched by the Stalinists. Finally, Pouliopoulos proved that the resolutions of the Sixth Plenum had nothing in common with the objective perspectives of the class struggle in Greece.
However, the Stalinist resolutions meant that if the CPG continued to constitute the leadership recognized by the working class, the outcome of the coming revolution had already been determined as being to the benefit of the bourgeoisie. If one looks at the period of the Occupation and the civil war through the prism of the Sixth Plenum, one will find nothing obscure or incomprehensible in the way the CPG acted. The Stalinists were waging, from start to finish, a struggle for bourgeois democracy, against the independent class struggle of the proletariat for power.
In January 1942, the Eighth Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPG reaffirmed and made concrete this strategy of the party. Also at this Plenum Siantos was elected to the position of General Secretary because Nikos Zachariades had been turned over to the Germans by the administration of Metaxas’ prisons and had been sent to Dachau.
According to the Eighth Plenum, the CPG should have been seeking the formation of a government of ‘National Unity’ in which the parties of the ‘patriotic’ bourgeois class would have taken part. This hermaphrodite government plan devised by the Stalinists could not, of course, have been viable and the bourgeois class would have accepted it only as a solution to extreme need and as a means of violently imposing its exclusive rule.
But the bourgeois-democratic perspective was not a monopoly of the CPG. Archeiomarxism, ever since 1933, had put forward ‘in an avante garde way’ its own democratic theory: the infamous ‘Greek Kerenskyada’. According to this, Greece, like Russia, would have her own February before she could have her October.
The ‘Archeio’ was dissolved years before Greece found herself under the German-Italian Occupation and before the proletarian revolution became directly the order of the day. Its ‘Kerenskyada’, however, continued to live in the consciousness of many fighters, especially those who came from the ranks of this middle-class revolutionary organization. They had rejected its policies, but not its anti-Marxist method.
The ‘Archeio’, without taking account of the radical changes which had contributed to the economic and class structure of Greek society at the beginning of the century, continued to see in every movement of the reactionary army officers the middle-class radicals ‘who drew the working masses along behind them in the struggle for democratic freedoms’. The Archeiomarxists dressed the military-political group of Kondylis-Metaxas-Tsaldaris-Lomverdos with such a characterization when it came to power in March 1933. The characterization of EAM-ELAS as a bourgeois movement by the ‘Workers Struggle’ group (the most closely related to the Archeio), the comparison of ELAS with the bourgeois military movement of the last century and the beginning of this century, with the military men ‘who sought to be embodied in and find a career in the bourgeois state’, expressed not only the spirit, but also the letter of the Archeiomarxist ‘Kerenskyada’.
In the Occupation and the civil war, the followers of Pouliopoulos were the only group that really represented Greek Trotskyism, the only opposition to the CPG in the fight against Stalinist degeneration. But this group, too, when the leader of Greek Trotskyism no longer existed, sank into confusion. Of course it never arrived at the point of characterizing EAM-ELAS as bourgeois and reactionary, and defended it against the bourgeoisie and the imperialists. But it proved in its own way that the lessons of the struggle of P. Pouliopoulos for a dialectical materialistic approach to the strategic and tactical tasks of the revolutionary movement had not been deeply absorbed. It proved this, and the fact alone that in 1945-1946 it joined not only with the ‘Workers Struggle’ but also with the ‘defeatists’ who had played an objectively counter-revolutionary role and arrived at the point of comparing ELAS with Hitler’s ‘Attack Battalions’ (!!) proved this. The ‘defeatists’ could not co-exist within the
Trotskyist organization and withdrew after a few months. But this did not refute the fact of the inconsistency presented by the Trotskyist organization on questions of principle, like the Trotskyist view of the class nature of the Stalinist organizations and on the class character of the revolution in Greece, which principles ruled out every co-existence with the ‘defeatists’, as well as the Archeiomarxists.
Finally, the Trotskyist organization, the only one which would have been able to fight for the class independence of the proletariat and for the building of a revolutionary leadership, successor to Stalinism, was lot able to carry out this role after its tested leadership was decapitated.1
1. On June 6, 1943 political prisoners in the jails at Akronauplia, who had been turned over to the Italians by the Metaxas dictatorship, were led to Kournovo for execution. Among them was the leader of Greek Trotskyism Pantelis Pouliopoulos and three other leading cadres, Yiannis Xypolitos, Nontas Yiannakos and Yiannis Makris.
Before the firing squad, Pouliopoulos, who knew many languages, spoke to the soldiers in their mother tongue about the war, fascism, the class task of the proletarians in the fascist and ‘democratic’ countries, the Socialist revolution and the Socialist United States of Europe, while the fascist officer furiously gave the order to ‘fire’, in order to close forever the mouth of the dangerous speaker. The shooting of Pouliopoulos and the most important leaders of Greek Trotskyism left an enormous void in the revolutionary movement and the struggles of their comrades who continued the fight would have had to multiply two or threefold in order to fill that void.
No one can be certain that with a correct policy and method on the part of the Trotskyist organization the course of events would have changed radically and the smashing of the working class in the civil war would have been prevented. But there is no doubt that only with a correct, i.e. Marxist policy and method of the revolutionary party was an evolution favourable to the working class and Socialism possible.
The result of the confusion that reigned in the groups that generally took up a position against Stalinism was that some fighters who in their words correctly confronted the basic questions of the workers’ movement did not find the way to give their ideas flesh and blood through their practice; others stayed out of the way with a position of ‘irreconcilable hostility’ towards EAM-ELAS; others who believed that the CPG would try to take the power entered ELAS and there either became absorbed into Stalinism or were killed, stabbed in the back by the executioners of OPLA (security force of the CPG).
So the CPG, freed of every organized and serious opposition, was able to strengthen and extend its influence in the working class and over other oppressed layers of this people and lead them to defeat.
The Greek bourgeoisie in the occupation
The bourgeois-democratic strategy of the Stalinists meant in practice the defence of the bourgeois class and collaboration with it for the accomplishment of some ‘progressive’ tasks. But the capitalist class in Greece, as in every capitalist country in the epoch of imperialism, was historically in a position only to be overthrown by the proletariat.
About the Greek bourgeoisie, we must also add certain other features which made it especially reactionary and incapable of playing any progressive role: It had established its sole political rule in the country at the beginning of the century, in an epoch when capitalism as a world system had come to its last stage. Confronted with the spectre of its destruction by the proletarian revolution before it had time to celebrate its domination, it was nurtured from the start on a mortal hatred and fear of the working class and every radical idea and movement.
The Greek bourgeois class never acquired any democratic tradition. It always maintained the Monarchy as a Bonapartist institution, above parliament. (In its constitution, the king is the Sovereign.) Confronted by the big imperialist monopolies, it was condemned, within the world division of labour, to the role of the poor relation who is limited to gathering the crumbs from the rich imperialist table. Unable to make concessions to the workers, it never learned to negotiate, relying only on the gendarme’s club. On its pinnacle of ‘radicalism’ it could put nothing down to its credit except the bloody repression of the peasant movement (1910), the counter-revolutionary intervention in Russia against the workers’ regime established by the October Revolution (1919), the imperialist campaign in Asia Minor (1919-1922) and the law against the Communists which is applied in our day by the Papadopoulos junta (Venizelos Special Law (Idionymo)).
By the German-Italian Occupation every trace of the doubtful ‘left’ wing of the bourgeoisie had disappeared as well: Pangalos had established a Bonapartist dictatorship and Kondylis in 1935 had restored the monarchy.
After the collapse of the Front, whichever bourgeois politicians did not leave with the King, who was responsible for the Metaxas dictatorship, remained in Greece and collaborated with the Germans and Italians in the fierce oppression of the working class and peasant masses.
Initially the bourgeois class conspired with the Germans and allowed them to seize the country an hour earlier, provoking the righteous indignation of the Stalinists who wanted the defence of capitalist interests until the last worker fell at the Front . . . Later, the commander of the armed forces, General Tsolakoglou, became the first occupation prime minister.
But the role of the bourgeois class in the Occupation is splendidly reflected in the Athens Press of that era.
The newspaper Estia on April 29, 1941, in an article entitled ‘Spiritual Demobilization”, wrote:
“The war ended for Greece as well, as it ended for all the nations of continental Europe. The Greek Army laid down its arms. But this is not enough. For the real restoration of peace, of which the country has so much need, spiritual demobilization of the Greeks is also necessary, their quick return to spiritual calm and intellectual tranquility, in order to adapt themselves with all their energies, to the multiple tasks which the new order of a question of external conduct. It is above all a question of internal feeling. Real spiritual sobriety is needed in order to apply ourselves undistracted to the intense labour which is demanded for the execution of our new tasks.’
The newspaper Kathimerini, on April 30, in a commentary with the same title (‘Spiritual Demobilization’), wrote:
‘Yes! The spiritual demobilization, about which Estia writes, should take place. The war is over: and we must believe it and concern ourselves with our peacetime works. This service is the most important of all we have to offer to our country.’
On May 11, 1941, the same newspaper, in a commentary entitled ‘The Foolishness of Irresponsible People’, wrote:
‘Foolish and irresponsible elements carried out certain actions in favour of British hostages who were being transferred, ostensibly disapproved of on the part of the public present.
‘It was natural for the Germans who were accompanying the hostages to show their disapproval towards these actions, which were so improper . . . We would like, with absolute sincerity, and we stress this absolutely freely, to add that the Greek people in their great majority accepted the Germans to the country, not as occupiers and enemies, but as friends, bringing peace, security and normal working life. (!) For this reason, actions such as yesterday’s constitute a miserable discord. When all is said and done, this discord, able to create misunderstandings, is also not in the national interest and only the enemies of the fatherland and the people can incite it. . . .’
In another of its commentaries, the Kathimerini under the title ‘Wisely Composed’ wrote on June 1, 1941:
‘In a law published in the “Newspaper of the Government” it is determined that the death penalty be imposed on those Greek nationals participating in military actions . . . Since Greece has ceased to be at war with Germany, since as Greeks it is in our interests and we have a moral obligation not to be at war with Germany-Germany who has treated us so chivalrously - it is all the more evident that the law was wisely composed and will be wisely applied.
This stand of the political groups of the Greek bourgeoisie was absolutely reactionary. The working masses of course had no interest in continuing the imperialist war and longed for peace. They had no quarrel with the mobilized German and Italian workers and preferred fraternity to mutual slaughter. But the peace and fraternity called for by the bourgeoisie was a reactionary deception. It meant the subordination of the workers to fascist oppression and to the local reactionaries. The peace and fraternity sought after by the masses would of necessity come out of the barrels of the guns of the revolutionary class movement against the German-Italian imperialists, the imperialist ‘allies’ and above all against the Greek bourgeoisie.
By seeking ‘Spiritual Demobilization’ and cooperation with the Occupation Authorities, the Greek reactionaries chiefly had in mind securing in this way the continuation of the capitalist regime after the war.
This was the main concern of the Rallis government, the third in a series of occupation governments following those of Tsolakoglou and Professor Logothetopoulos.
The British Major C. M. Woodhouse, liaison officer of the Middle East Headquarters with the Greek guerrillas, in his book Apple of Discord, wrote in relation to this:
‘The third prime minister, loannis Rallis, was another matter. He was the only professional politician among the three. He took up the Prime Ministership when it was already clear that the allies were going to win the war. Consequently, the causes which impelled him must have been different from those of his predecessors. It appears he figured that the Allies would be grateful to him, I. Rallis, if he kept the State Machine in motion for the duration of the final stages of the Occupation so that on their return they would find Greece in a state of passive order instead of falling into chaos from which only the Communists would gain. His chief action was the formation, during the summer of 1943, of the Security Battalions, inspired by the former dictator Th. Pangalos. And possibly the silent approval of the old revolutionary General S. Gonatas. In the formation he was aided mainly by three men from his government: Tavoularis, Bourandas and Voulpiotis. The military commanders of the Security Battalions, the Colonels Plydzano-poulos and Papadogonas, were insignificant. Rallis looked forward to this force, as to a bridge over which Greece would proceed from German Occupation to Allied liberation without intervening chaos. He had the intention of enjoying the best of both worlds, of reaping the fruit of co-operation from both sides (the Germans and the Allies). His calculation was surprisingly keen-witted. . . .’
Rallis and all the collaborators with the Germans in Greece did not represent the ‘reactionary’ section of the bourgeoisie, while some other sections, ‘national’ and ‘patriotic’, which the Stalinists could discern, took a different stand. Rallis’ policies were the policies of the whole of the bourgeois class and its imperialist allies. The government of Tsouderos in Cairo and those around it, had their own way of collaborating with the Occupation Authorities against the masses.
Woodhouse again, in the same book, tells that in the beginning of the autumn of 1943 the British Captain Scott of the Allied Military Mission, arrived in Athens on a sabotage mission. But instead of sabotage he made contact with Captain Papagos, the Mayor of Athens, Grivas and other reactionaries and with the German Occupation Authorities. The purpose of Scott’s mission was to achieve joint operation of all the armed bands of reaction and the Germans, against ELAS. And as events showed, he achieved this.
The Stalinists knew of the Scott affair, as well as of a series of other episodes which although they were not foreseen by their ‘theories’, proved vividly the reactionary nature of the Greek bourgeoisie in its totality. The Stalinists could not help but accuse it of ‘national betrayal’ and ‘being docile to the Germans’ but in the next breath called for ‘national unity’ against the ‘occupier’ and promised to realize, together with the bourgeoisie, their radical democracy.
We must take the opportunity to note that only the Stalinists could accuse the bourgeois class of national betrayal. Without doubt, its stand was below the level and the objectives of a really Communist critique. A traitor is one who abandons, for selfish aims, his natural position in the arrangement of the opposing class forces of society. And the position of the bourgeois class was never the defence of the whole nation, but only of its own rule, its property and generally its position which permitted it to exploit the great majority of the nation. Not only in the epoch of imperialist decay, but even in. the epoch of the rise of capitalism, the bourgeois class in every country did not hesitate, in order to defend its interests, to collaborate with ruling classes of other nations against the workers of its own nation. And we have had since 1871 the example of the government of Thiers in France, which with the help of the Prussian invaders, suppressed the uprising of the heroic Communards in Paris.
The correlation of forces
For many years after the civil war, the CPG maintained that the defeat suffered by the working class was due to the military superiority of the opponent. This excuse was put forward by all the treacherous leaderships, which with their policies destroyed the working class in various countries. Only very recently, especially with the imposition of the Papadopoulos dictatorship in 1967, has talk about ‘errors’ begun in CPG circles, not, however, about drawing any lessons, but in order for the errors to be loaded onto persons or groups of persons and to the degree to which this serves their internal factional struggle.
It would be expedient to show at this point certain statistics on the correlation of military forces which the CPG and the reaction had at their disposal.
In 1943, ELAS numbered about 40,000 armed men and in 1944, when the British intervention started, it numbered about 70,000. If the leadership had wished, it could have had at its disposal at least twice the military power. It maintained sections of unarmed fighters, men and women, who numbered about another 70,000 and were scattered throughout various villages. These sections constituted the ‘ELAS Reserve’.
ELAS was divided into eight divisions and one brigade in Attica. All its detachments had troops of cavalry and there was a whole division of cavalry (the Thessaly) with 1,600 horses.
It also had a small fleet, the ELAN, with 2,000 men, but of great strategic importance. In the towns there were other armed bodies - the Militia.
Initially ELAS confronted serious problems in weapons and other war supplies. But after the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, great quantities of weapons passed into the hands of ELAS, when a series of sections of the Italian army instead of being dissolved adhered to the Greek guerrillas.
On October 13, a whole Italian division, the ‘Pinerlo’ made a deal with ELAS and took up action in the Greek mountains against the Occupation Authorities.
Finally, all the weaponry of Pinerlo, which included 20 mountain cannon, passed directly to ELAS when Pinerlo was dissolved, because the presence of its armed and disciplined force in the Greek mountains was judged to be dangerous.
But the greatest power of ELAS was to be found in the active support of the broad masses and the many thousands of members of the organizations of the CPG, The members of EAM, the Workers’ EAM, the EPON-the mass youth organization of EAM, the great organization of seamen OENO, the Pan-Hellenic women’s organization PDEG, and others.
ELAS was under the immediate direction of the CPG but had General Stephanos Saraphs as commander-in-chief. Saraphs was an officer in the bourgeois army, an old ‘radical’ who had taken part in the military movement of 1922 and in various adventurist activities within the army. Initially, he appeared in the mountains with his own independent band, the ‘Headquarters of the Liberation Struggle’ (AAA), which had G. Papandreou as political leader. The AAA was dissolved in 1942 by ELAS and Saraphs, together with all those who were arrested, adhered to ELAS. As commander-in-chief, Saraphs found himself under the supervision of Aris Veloukhiotis who was the first Captain of ELAS.
The armed ‘resistance’ bands of the reaction, which had nothing to do with the resistance, were the EDES and Regiment 5/42 of EKA. According to figures from bourgeois sources, EDES numbered 5,000 men and the 5/42, 500. But other reliable evidence claims that these numbers are quite inflated. Most important is that the men who were concentrated in the reactionary armed bands did not have the decisiveness that distinguished the ELAS and which made ELAS a force in good fighting shape.
The 5/42 was installed on the Mainland, on the side of the gulf of Corinth in a strategic position that threatened Athens. The EDES, whose military commander was N. Zervas, operated in a small area of Epirus about the harbour of Prevezas where the landing of the ‘allies’ in the Balkans was planned to take place. Neither one of the organizations was on the supply routes of the Germans. These lines passed only through the regions controlled by ELAS. But this was not a reason which could hinder the English imperialists from arming the men of EDES and 5/42, supposedly for the benefit of the resistance but in reality for the purpose of creating a counter weight to the strength of ELAS.
The British were supposed, based on the agreements which had taken place, to arm ELAS as well. But this, due to tragic ‘misunderstandings’, seldom happened. The British aeroplanes sometimes dropped into ELAS territory only left army boots, at other times only right ones, at other times guns without moveable breeches, etc.
But before the British intervention began, ELAS dissolved the 5/42 while it half-dissolved the EDES and essentially neutralized it. When the German Occupation troops withdrew, ELAS, supported by millions of workers, was the only armed force within Greece and, as we will see, British imperialism, because of certain military commitments, was not in a position to draw up against it the necessary force in order to win a military victory.
The ‘First Round’
In December 1942, the Allied Middle East Headquarters decided to form a British military mission in Greece, for collaboration with the guerrilla organizations. The leadership of the Mission was in the hands of Brigadier Myers. Myers had been in Greece since September 1942. The British, who were at that time preparing their attack on Rommel, had charged Myers with making contact with the guerrilla organizations and achieving through their joint action the blowing up of the big Gorgopotamos Viaduct so that the supply route of the German troops would be cut off. After the successful accomplishment of this mission, which was the greatest act of sabotage in occupied Europe, but also the only case of military co-operation between ELAS, EDES and 5/42, the British decided upon the establishment of a permanent mission. Later, in July 1943, a Joint Guerrilla Headquarters was formed, with ELAS, EDES and 5/42 taking part.
The British proceeded to the founding of the Joint HQ hoping that ELAS would place itself under the control of the Tsouderos government in Cairo. Their ultimate aim was the dissolution of ELAS but for the time being they did not have the power to achieve it. From their side, the Stalinists, while they had the forces called for at their disposal, did not proceed to demolish the puny props of reaction but limited themselves to blackmail through which they wanted to achieve an ‘honourable compromise’.
We must note that the Stalinists were not able to adopt their compromise policy without encountering reaction from the base of ELAS and from certain local leaders. One of those who reacted to the policy of the leadership was Aris Veloukhiotis, whom the rank-and-file fighters of ELAS worshipped for his courage and upright character. Veloukhiotis was not a Marxist and was submerged in patriotic confusion. His whole career, however, up to his tragic death, shows that he believed in the seizure of power by tire CPG. In the mountains he was very harsh towards reaction, he did not want any collaboration with EDES and the 5/42, he also disagreed with the co-operation in blowing up the Gorgopotamos Viaduct and believed that these bands had to be dissolved. Veloukhiotis found himself under the strict supervision of the highest bureaucratic clique of the CPG, which had no confidence in him.
‘From the middle of January (1943)’, Pyromaglou writes, ‘until the end of February, March 9 to be exact, Aris is in Athens. For a whole month he accepts the bombshells of criticism, the attacks and every kind of pressure from the political leaders of the CPG for all his extremist actions in the mountains. The position of the CPG is, because of his past and present powerful-ness and domination in the mountains, subtle and difficult. Aris remains a Communist and means to discipline himself. On returning to his base, he is accompanied by the ‘Supervisor of the Guerrilla Movement’, representative of the CC of EAMrELAS and member of the Politburo of the CPG, L. Tzimas. For the whole of the duration of their journey and their stay on the mainland, L. Tzimas does not cease to explain, to analyse and to impose the line of EAM, the ‘national-liberation line’, to dissolve ‘illusions’ and to render obligatory the co-operation of EAM-ELAS with all the other resistance organizations’.
But suddenly, in May 1943, Aris received an order from Siantos to dissolve the 5/42 regiment.
Aris, completely in his element with this order, acted with the ingenuity that distinguished him. During the night he surrounded the quarters of the men of the 5/42 in the village of Stromni and disarmed all of them without a shot being fired. He dissolved the unit and sent the men and the officers to their homes. He seized Colonel Psarros and held him for 24 hours before freeing him after the intervention of the commander of the British Military Mission, Brigadier-General Eddy, who arrived on the spot, sweating profusely, after his hasty march from Gardiki where he had been informed of the disarming.
But after a little while L. Tzimas also arrived in the same condition in order to attack all the Captains and Aris: It had all been a ‘misunderstanding’. The order to dissolve the 5/42 did not originate from Siantos, but was given on the initiative of the Captain of Attica and Boeotia Orestes . . .
Tzimas immediately sent a document to Psarros who had withdrawn to Taratsa of Giona, wherein he declared his sorrow and indignation at all that had happened, promising to rectify everything in facilitating the regrouping of the 5/42.
But only one month had passed, when Aris received by telephone a new order to seek once again, the dissolution of 5/42. And in fact, his detachments disarmed and redissolved the Psarros regiment. However a new intervention of the CC of EAM followed: A ‘misunderstanding’ again ... It was not the General Mainland Headquarters which gave the order, but it was given on the initiative of Major Zoulas. A new demand for pardon followed and a new promise was given that the 5/42 could never be bothered in future. These repeated ‘misunderstandings’ were not due to initiatives taken by irreconcilable elements in ELAS. They were a means by which the CPG brought pressure to bear on the reactionary organizations of the bourgeoisie and their British patrons. The fruit of this ‘pressure’ was the formation of the Joint Headquarters, the month after the episodes with the 5/42 which, although the Stalinists accepted it with hesitation, was a turning-point for the Cairo conference where for the first time the question of a government of ‘national unity’ was to be discussed!
The objective meaning of the episodes with the 5/42 surpassed the boundaries of a simple political manoeuvre of the CPG. ELAS was obliged, one way or the other, to confront the 5/42 and EDES as organizations of the counter-revolution, in a mortal encounter. At this point a telegram from Brigadier Myers to the Middle East Headquarters which was composed two days before the departure of the Greek mission in Cairo is quite enlightening:
‘X 12 August 1943. Strictly confidential 85-4AS.
‘General Papagos does not have any influence on the Greek army. And he is considered a ridiculous person. His organization is not worth speaking about. The political and military organization EDES made important progress, especially in Epirus. It needs however to be supplied with war material and moral support. In my opinion, this band will be useful to us as a counter-balance against ELAS and it may be that we will use it against ELAS when it is strengthened. One day it will be necessary to dissolve ELAS in order to be certain that Tito will not have armed and dynamic allies in Greece.
I mention to you that I executed your orders and I support as much as possible the small political and military band of EKKA without however making my dispositions apparent. The commander of EKKA Colonel Psarros is honest and constant in his promises to us. His political advisers Kapsalopoulos and Kartalis continually ask for economic aid, and I do not know to what extent they make good use tif the sums we give them. As I have learned, a great amount is spent by them on their personal affairs. At any rate, both until now have worked towards the dissolution of ELAS.
I consider that it would be useful for our agents to be in contact with representatives of the government [the Rallis government Ed) that is with higher officers, police etc. for the purpose of driving home the idea that they have the duty and the right to inform on the commanders of EAM and ELAS to the Occupation Authorities and to aid in the arrest of the agents of EAM and ELAS so that when the time comes these organizations will not be able to damage English interests. From this point of view, the organization of EDES did many things. It informed to Colonel Dertilis and the Minister Tavoularis on several active members of EAM and ELAS who are now in the hands of the Germans and generally of the Occupation Authorities.
General Spiliotopoulos works exclusively for the King and considers that ELASmust be dealt with even to the detriment of the allied affair in Greece. . . Sofoulis is an old man, Gonatas does not have a party but collaborates sincerely with EDES and closely with Spiliotopoulos and the ‘X’ group . . .”
The bourgeois class considered the incidents of ELAS with the 5/42 as the beginning of the ‘first round’ of the civil war and as it appears from all the foregoing this was absolutely right. What brought the two camps face to face, ELAS-CPG on the one hand and the organizations of the reaction with their British protectors on the other, was the question of power, even though the Stalinists were fighting for a ‘compromise solution’, which meant treachery and opening the way for the victory of the counter-revolution.