Wednesday, 19 October 2011
History of the Greek Civil War (part iii)
A JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL MARXISM
VOLUME 9 NUMBER 2 AUTUMN 1974
History of the Greek Civil War (part iii) 2
(Greek Section of the ICFI)
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE FOURTH
INTERNATIONAL 186A CLAPHAM HIGH STREET, LONDON, SW4 7UG.
The Greek Civil War
ELAS could have crushed the British intervention
While Churchill declares 'No peace without victory', the CPG acts guided by precisely the opposite maxim. It searches agonisingly for a formula of capitulation. And this was all the more criminal, the more the British found themselves, in reality, completely unable to dominate militarily if the CPG mobilized ELAS, even in part.
Everything that has been maintained to date by capitalist and Stalinist propaganda has created the impression that in Greece in 1944 and up to 1949 an uprising was suppressed on the field of battle by the superior military forces of imperialism and the Greek bourgeois class. In reality however these 'forces' were nothing but rubbish that the CPG, had it wished to, could have swept up with ease.
But the Stalinists, in the leadership of a dynamic and fully armed mass movement, had no intention of claiming the power. Their own indecisiveness and on the other hand the decisiveness of the working class and the other oppressed formed the two poles of a terrible contradiction which constituted the key to the whole tragedy - from the battles with EDES and the 5-42 in 1943, to the holocaust of Grammos and Vitsi in 1949.
“…If EAM-ELAS were determined, after the liberation of Greece, to seize the power by force, the capital waited empty and without power for EAM-ELAS to attempt it the day the Germans abandoned it. If they had decided on this it would have been possible for them (EAM-ELAS) to be pushed out only after an intervention which would have brought heavy losses, but which would have been rendered impossible by Allied pressure and Popular Opinion. No imaginary calculation could have expected a better opportunity (for EAM-ELAS) than this to present itself. The fact that it did not occupy Athens in October, before the forces of General Scobie had yet arrived, is a final proof of the sincerity of EAM. …” (C. M. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord).
For the CPG the question of seizing the power when the Germans retreated did not arise at all. The CPG was already in power, and during that time was carrying out all state functions normally. It would only have been obliged to defend this power against a possible British intervention. And it had all the strength and all the opportunities in the world to do that with the greatest facility.
In that period, British imperialism found itself involved in a multitude of military obligations and was not in a position to carry out large scale operations in Greece. In Europe the British were tensed for a powerful German counterattack to be landed while in Palestine large military units were temporarily immobilized by the Jews who were fighting for the founding of Israel.
Here is how the position of British imperialism appears through a telegram from Churchill to General Ismay on December 28, 1944:
“…On the other hand, the military situation in Western Apennines is such that any serious weakening of the reserves of Fifteenth Army Group might be attended with danger.
2. In these circumstances I wish you to consider and be ready to discuss with me on my return allowing the leading brigade of 5th Division to proceed from Palestine to Italy on schedule arranged before 4th Division was diverted to Greece. It would be a great convenience if we could have a reply to this tomorrow, Thursday. I do not leave Caserta until after midnight. This of course would mean that no violent action could be taken in Palestine, irritating the Jews, such as the search for arms on a large scale, until the situation is easier all round.
The British planned initially to purge the whole of Attica of the ELAS forces and also to carry out operations in Salonika. But on December 21 Field-Marshal Alexander sends a telegram to Churchill from. Italy saying that this plan exceeded British military capabilities and that the operations had necessarily to be limited to Athens and Piraeus.
In answer to your signal of December 19, I am most concerned that you should know exactly what true situation is and what we can do and cannot do. This is my duty. You would know the strength of British forces in Greece, and what additions I can send from Italian front if forced by circumstances to do so.
Assuming that ELAS continue to fight, I estimate that it will be possible to clear the Athens-Piraeus area and thereafter to hold it securely, but this will not defeat ELAS and force them to surrender. We are not strong enough to go beyond this and undertake operations on the Greek mainland. During the German occupation they maintained between six and seven divisions on the mainland, in addition to the equivalent of four in the Greek islands. Even so they were unable to keep their communications open all the time and I doubt if we will meet less strength and determination than they encountered.
The German intentions on the Italian front require careful watching. Recent events in the West and the disappearance and silence of 16th SS Division opposite Fifth US Army indicates some surprise move which we must guard against. I mention these factors to make the military situation clear to you, and to emphasize that it is my opinion that the Greek problem cannot be solved by military measures. The answer must be found in the political field.
Finally, I think you know that you can always rely on me to do everything in my power to carry out your wishes, hut I earnestly hope that you will be able to find a political solution to the Greek problem, as I am convinced that further military action after we have cleared the Athens-Piraeus area is beyond our present strength. (Quoted by K. Pyromaglou in his book G. Kartalis).
But even these pessimistic predictions of Field-Marshal Alexander were shortly to be proved optimistic. The Central Committee of ELAS, after the provocations of the British and Greek reaction, was forced on December 7 to turn 'towards the people of Athens and Piraeus and to declare "The general battle for freedom and the total liberation of our Greece has begun. We did not want it, it was imposed on us...' In reality however, for the Stalinists 'the general battle for freedom' had never begun. One day before they made their declaration, on December 6, they approached Scobie and asked for a meeting to discuss the conditions of the capitulation! On the other hand, while the battle had 'begun' in Athens, they sent ELAS to fight Zervas in Epiris, they prevented the ELAS detachments in Attica from entering the capital, they disarmed them wherever possible and turned their men over to the English, and they sowed confusion, disappointment and doubt in the fighting detachments of the Militia. In spite of all this, the fighting capacity of the working class and the youth was revealed to be awesome. The British troops were confronted with certain capture and were saved only after the intervention of the Stalinist leadership which suddenly accepted all of Scobie's conditions and called on all its armed forces to abandon Athens at once.
A short time before the battles started Churchill asked Scobie to prevent every approach of ELAS bands to the city and expressed the hope that Scobie, with his armoured cars, would be in a position to teach some of these bands 'a lesson' in order to make an example of them so that the other detachments would not try the same thing. But on December 17, he who arrogantly believed he would give 'lessons', panic-stricken sent a telegram to Field-Marshal Alexander:
“The ELAS advance towards the centre of Athens seems to me a very serious feature, and I should like your appreciation of whether, with the reinforcements now arriving, we are likely to hold our own in the centre of the city and defeat the enemy. Have you any other reinforcements in view besides the 4th Division, the Tank Regiment, and the two remaining brigades of the 46th Division? Is there now any danger of a mass surrender of British TROOPS COOPED UP IN THE CITY OF Athens, followed by a massacre of Greeks who sided with us? The War Cabinet desire your report on the military situation in this respect.
2. We have no intention of subduing or occupying Greece. Our object is to afford a foundation upon which a broad-based Greek Government can function and raise a national force to preserve itself in Attica. After this we go, as we have no interests in Greece except those of sentiment and honour…”
Churchill again on the 28th of the month sent a telegram to General Ismay:
“It is clear to me that great evils will follow here in Athens, affecting our position all over the world, if we cannot clear up situation quickly - i.e., in two or three weeks. This would entail, according to Alexander, the moving in of the two brigades of the 46th Division, which are already under orders and standing by...”
Also the British Ambassador Leeper notes:
“During the battle of the first days the British troops, which were numerically in a very disadvantageous position, were cooped up in the city centre. If ELAS had shown greater decisiveness and had attacked in the central part of the city, it could possibly have succeeded, but it would have paid very dearly. By a fortunate coincidence it did not undertake it...” (When Greek Meets Greek)
And Colonel Woodhouse:
“During the five intervening months until ELAS accepted (!!) its defeat, the forces of General Scobie had almost submitted…”(Apple of Discord)
This was the position of the British troops in Athens, when the leaders of the CPG were making moves behind the scenes in order to achieve a truce and an application of the Caserta agreements. Leeper, in When Greek Meets Greek, notes that after the commencement of the conflict everything indicated that the CPG wanted to conclude a treaty:
“…But a more important sign was the demand from Porphyroyenis, one of the most prominent Communist leaders, to be accepted under Scobie. The demand was granted. Since he came to be informed by General Scobie of his conditions, the latter made it clear that ELAS must execute his orders....”
Scobie reminded Porphyroyenis that ELAS had come under his orders after the Caserta agreement. And these orders were and remained the evacuation of Attica by ELAS. In Athens and Piraeus the ELAS supporters must be ordered to stop the resistance and surrender their arms. When these orders had been executed, Scobie promised that 'the peaceful enjoyment of the democratic freedoms' would be granted to the Greeks, regardless of their political beliefs.
Porphyroyenis promised that he would convey the conditions to the leaders of the CPG, and passed through the British lines in order to return to the ELAS Headquarters outside Athens. Four days later, on December 16, the Central Committee of ELAS replied that it agreed to withdraw its formations from Athens and Piraeus if the 'Mountain Brigade' were withdrawn simultaneously; if the whole National Guard were disarmed and its men sent to their homes; if the British troops were used only in operations determined by the Caserta agreement and not in interventions in the internal affairs of the country and finally, if a new government 'of real national unity' were formed as soon as possible.
"These conditions,' Leeper writes, 'were not accepted by General Scobie.
On December 22, General Scobie received a new communication from the CC of ELAS, according to which the withdrawal from Athens and Piraeus and the disarming
of ELAS supporters were accepted, but this acceptance was accompanied by certain political conditions, for example the formation of the new Government was to take place before the conditions of the truce came in operation.
During the negotiations, the British reinforcements were constantly arriving from Italy. The main road from Athens to Piraeus had been completely cleared and the ELAS forces for the most part had been driven out.
At this point it was announced that Churchill was on his way to Athens....
Churchill arrived in Athens on December 25 to take part in a conference which was organised the same day at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during which the leaders of the CPG finally accepted the conditions set by the representatives of British imperialism. Beside Churchill, the conference was attended by Eden, Macmillan, Archbishop Damaskinos, as well as the Russian and French Ambassadors.
One episode on that day was to prove that ELAS’ followers continued to be the real masters of Athens. It was revealed that the 'Grande Bretagne' Hotel, where the members of Papandreou's 'government' and the British Staff were housed and where Churchill himself was staying, had been wired by ELAS with a ton dynamite. If the dynamite was exploded, the whole hotel would have been blown up and all the British strength in Athens, which was already in a difficult position, would have been completely paralysed. But the dynamite was not detonated. It was only a display of strength on the part of the CPG, a threat and means of 'pressure'.
Churchill wrote in a telegram to his wife:
2. You will have read about the plot to blow up H.Q. the Hotel Grand Bretagne. I do not think it was for my benefit. Still, a ton of dynamite was put in sewers by extremely skilled hands and with German mechanism between the time my arrival was known and daylight...
The main force of ELAS is sent to Epirus
What was happening to the 70,000 men of ELAS and the many more of Reserve ELAS while the battles were raging in Athens?
Even before the CPG ministers resigned from the Papandreou government and while everything foreboded the appearance of a violent crisis, confusion and dissolution were spreading in the ranks of ELAS. It was in a state of demobilisation and at the same time the leadership of the CPG, having supplanted the General Headquarters of ELAS, moved the military units arbitrarily, disbanding all their battle formations.
At the end of November, General S. Saraphis was in Athens in order to be brought up to date on the situation by the CPG leaders. On November 29, he returned to the General Headquarters and announced to Captain Aris Veloukhiotis and the officers of the Staff the opinions of the political leadership. The night of November 30 a telegram from Siantos arrived at ELAS General Headquarters warning that the situation was critical and that all forces must be on general alert. Siantos asked for the 42nd Regiment to be moved to Leivadia. While all the units were notified to concentrate their men and transport and be on their guard, the ELAS Staff informed the EAM Central Committee that with its activities the formation of the detachments was being disbanded and that what was required were operations according to a general plan.
General Saraphis writes in his book 'ELAS':
“We replied the same night that the detachments were on their guard and that we would move the 42nd infantry regiment in time and when necessary, not by itself but in conjunction with other units and according to a general plan. On December 1 English airplanes dropped a leaflet from General Scobie containing an order from him, which called on the guerrillas to surrender their arms, according to the plan which I have set out in the preceding chapter. The commencement of demobilization was set for December 10. From a report by the 2nd Division we learn that in Order No 24 the 1st Body of the Army ordered the 7th Infantry Battalion to proceed to Aulona and the 2nd Battalion to proceed to Liatani for manoeuvres. In a telegram to the EAM Central Committee we let them know that moving detachments, without the knowledge of General Headquarters, tends to disband the formation of the detachments and we ask that it be determined, in case of conflict, who will direct operations. The movement must take place with a general pre-arranged plan for activity and not according to the local conditions in each area. The person who will direct the operations will be formally and essentially responsible, otherwise a real and essential direction of operations, which will direct the operations will be executed with premature moves and not calmly and decisively, will be impossible. Moreover we ask that a meeting be arranged with a responsible person. From a telegram from our brother-in-arms Sian¬tos we learn that the PEEA ministers have resigned and that the situation is most critical. He requests us to move towards Thebes, as soon as possible, the command posts of the Band of Land Divisions of the 13th Division, the 52nd Infantry Regiment and the Cavalry Brigade. The same day we received Order No 1 of the ELAS Central Committee from Generals M. Mandakas, M. Hadjimichalis and brother-in-arms G. Siantos and also that General Headquarters is placed under the ELAS Central Committee ...
Subsequently, General Saraphis notes that until December 2, despite the critical situation, not a single military measure had been taken by the Central Committee of ELAS:
“…The same day (December 2, 1944) the General Headquarters sent Report No 211-2.12.44 EPE to the ELAS Central Committee, informing them that the detachments of the 8th Division and Cavalry Brigade cannot reach Thebes before 6-8 days have passed, and asked the Central Committee to make its intentions known to General Headquarters. Also it sent Report No 2103-3.12.44 EPE to the Central Committee of ELAS (over the wireless of the 2nd Division) and informs it of what it was doing on December 1-3 and asked once again for a general plan of action to be drawn up, structured and all-embracing, for a correct distribution of forces and formation of necessary commands to take place. From the above activities of General Headquarters it is clearly shown that until December 2 no unit of ELAS had been moved and no measures had been taken that showed a preparation for attack…”
Day after day, the confusion and disorder is aggravated. The General Headquarters of ELAS is completely unaware of the plans of the Central Committee of EAM and the Central Committee of ELAS. The situation is such that on December 4 Saraphis and Aris Veloukhiotis set out for Attica to meet with the ELAS Central Committee and to elucidate the situation. Saraphis writes:
“At noon we are in Leivadia. There we find Major Stelios Papadakis of the Central Committee of ELAS, who cannot further enlighten us. We take him with us and set out for the seat of the Central Committee of ELAS. As soon as we pass Kakosalesi, we see a column of English cars with unarmed ELASites, who are coming from Athens. We have about 10 escorts with us. Aris becomes angry and wants us to strike the English and liberate the guerrillas. Outside Kakosalesi and towards the north part, we find the English returning with empty cars, their guns cocked and the machine guns and cannons of their armoured cars ready. We approach the men, about 800 of them, and learn that almost all the 2nd Infantry Regiment were disarmed at Tatoi while they were asleep and that the officers were held by the English. Later we learn that the disarmament took place at Psychiko, that the Regiment was surrounded while proceeding at night towards Goudi. There is something suspect about this question. It is a question of treacherous activity by certain officers or Captains…”
On December 7, exactly the same day that the Central Committee of ELAS issues its proclamation to the people of Athens and Piraeus, and declares that 'the general battle for freedom has begun', it gives the first clear, but also surprising order, to the General Headquarters of ELAS. But let us leave the Commander-in-Chief of ELAS, S. Saraphis, to speak to us about this:
“…The same day (December 7) General Hadjimichalis arrived at the General Headquarters to bring us up to date on the situation. He brought with him Order No 44-5.12.44 AP of the Central Committee of ELAS to the Units, which were under its direct orders. Also, Order No 76-6.12.44 AP, which determined the dividing line of the zones of the General Headquarters and the Central Committee which was to be the line Halkiua-Thebes-Domvraina. The mission of General Headquarters was determined as the dissolution of the Guerrilla forces of Zervas (Epirus) and Tsaous Anton (Macedonia), the security of the borders (northern borders of the country with Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria), the surveillance of the English guards in its zone and the security against landings in its area. Especially, quick action against Zervas was deemed necessary-in order to prevent his forces being transferred to Athens…”
As we have mentioned in a preceding chapter, Zervas' EDES was almost dissolved and cooped up in the mountains of Epirus. Nothing could justify transferring a whole army, ELAS, towards the north against this small band. In any case, the whole operation against EDES lasted 2 ½ days, that is, what was needed to surround the area. Zervas managed, with the men he had left, to escape and cross over, with British ships which hastened to take him, to Corfu. But in the meantime, precious time had been lost and Siantos, together with the other leaders of the CPG, was able to have his poor argument in order to capitulate to the English, supposedly from a position of military weakness.
On December 25, after the meeting with Churchill, when the CPG leaders had capitulated conclusively, they send, perhaps as an irony, a new order to ELAS headquarters to move its forces towards Attica because the situation was critical and reinforcements were needed. Saraphis writes:
‘…At Yiannina, we received a telegram from the Central Committee of ELAS, which told us that the situation was critical and asked for reinforcements. We had already moved the 36th Infantry Regiment towards Arta-Agrini and ordered the 9th Division as well as Regiment 1-38 of Euzonoi of the 1st Division with a platoon of artillery, which was in the Preveza area, to move towards Arta, Agrini and Amphisa under orders of the ELAS Central Committee, and the 1st Division to move towards Metsovo, Karditsa, Farsala, Lamia. We judged that at least 15 days, even under the best conditions, would be needed for the detachments to reach the Leivadia area and that they could not be used in the battle of Athens before the end of January…”
But they did not need to hurry. In Athens the battles had ceased and the ELAS forces which were moving towards the south were not going to fight but be disarmed.
Some detachments had already been disarmed, and in certain cases the Stalinists had to use the most deceitful and cynical methods of disarming them: Nikiforos' (D. Dimitrios') battalion, camped in Philothei, was disarmed by the British during the night while its men were asleep, with the collaboration of Nikiforos himself. Later, when Aris Veloukhiotis was informed of this dirty deal, it is said that he swore to strangle Nikiforos with his own hands if he met him.
The Varkiza Agreement
At the conference with Churchill on December 25, a preliminary agreement had been reached that the British demands were to be discussed in detail after the cease-fire. Thus, on February 2' a delegation from EAM-ELAS led by Siantos which also included Partsalidis, Tsirimokos and Saraphis, met with the representatives of the British government and army in the villa of the right-wing politician, P. Kanellopoulos, in Varkiza.
Three days later the conference of the 'Three Great Powers' began at Yalta. As Churchill relates, at this conference Stalin asked to be 'informed' about the situation in Greece, explaining that 'a criticism of British policies' was outside his intentions. It was proposed to him to send an 'observer' to Greece, but Stalin refused. It would appear that he considered sending an observer would have exposed Moscow as being accessory to the crime which was being perpetuated. For this reason he closed the matter with the following words: 'I have complete confidence in British policies in Greece.'
The negotiations at Varkiza were carried out under the shadow of the Yalta conference. And the agreements signed there (at Varkiza) on the 12th of the month were regarded as the Greek adaptation of the settlements made by the 'Great Powers'.
In Lebanon the CPG leaders had accepted that the men of the Greek army in the Middle East had to be prosecuted like common criminals. At Varkiza they committed an even more incredible betrayal unparalleled in the whole of world history. Siantos admitted that a crime had been committed by ELAS. That its natural, and not its moral authors must be prosecuted. Thus, the simple ELASite who pulled the trigger was turned over to the reaction's mania for revenge and the CPG leaders saved their hides.
On February 11 Siantos gave a Press conference for representatives of the international Press:
'To the degree to which the Great Allies have decided that the presence of the British army is necessary in Greece, it is right that it should be here. We consider that the conflict between the British and Elas is the result of a sad misunderstanding which we hope will be forgotten.' (Quoted from Les Kapetanios by Dominique Eudes).
At the same time in Yalta, Stalin agreed with Churchill that the raging conflict in Greece had been provoked by the Trotskyists!
By the night of February 11-12, the negotiations had ended and Siantos had to sign the document of the agreement. But the man who long ago had learned to coolly stick the knife in the backs of the working class, was hesitant. He refused to sign.
Siantos, in battle dress and rubber boots, entered the room declaring that he did not aim to sign the same night, because he was very tired and his mind was not clear enough. We made several attempts to press him to sign, but he persisted for the time being in his refusal.
Macmillan and I were sitting, drinking water and eating sandwiches, waiting like two policemen for our man to sign his paper. Finally at four in the morning Siantos gave us to understand that although it was impossible for him to sign the agreement in its entirety, he was prepared to sign a short provisional agreement.
Parallel to the political negotiations, Saraphis was taking part in a military conference which was occupied with the questions concerning the disarma¬ment of ELAS. At this conference it was agreed that ELAS had to surrender 41,000 rifles, 2,000 machine-guns, 160 mortars and 30cannons.
But in the end ELAS surrendered many more than they had promised or than they were expected to have. Instead of 30 cannons, they surrendered 100, and almost double the number of rifles. Among the rifles surrendered, modern small guns were rare. It would seem that these were kept by the ELAS fighters and hidden in the mountains. Many of them were discovered later by the government forces.
The whole Greek people, and above all the fighters of ELAS, followed anxiously the political developments which seemed to indicate the darkest forebodings. Everyone's eyes were turned towards Varkiza, where the CPG leadership was negotiating their destiny.
The French journalist Dominique Eudes, in his book Les Kapetanios, which describes events based on the accounts by old fighters, (Eudes travelled to several Eastern European countries to talk with many Greek emigres who had taken part in the civil war) renders vividly the electrified atmosphere in the city of Trikkala, where the arrival of the EAM-ELAS delegation from Varkiza was being awaited.
In the middle of the large square, an empty platform awaits the arrival of the ELAS delegation. Dawn has broken and a strong light floods the streets. The streets are deserted. The whole city is gathered at the end of the road from Athens, it blackens the hilltops and waits for Siantos' car to arrive. A forced optimism livens the first conversations but a heavy foreboding makes silence fall each time. As time passes, anxiety freezes the crowd even more. All eyes are turned towards the point where the road is lost among the hills. The delegation is already six hours late. The silhouettes, stretched with impatience, look like a universe of stones.
Cars appear out of the fork in the road. A new tense movement increases the pressure of the restlessness even more. Not a welcome, not a sound. The last anxious moments of waiting.
The first car passes between two rows of insatiable gazes. Partsalidis is leaning on the door of the car. The silent question-mark painted on the faces is unbearable. He says in a broken voice:' All right .all right.' These syllables discharge the air like a shot. A weak outburst of joy replies as if the good news had been announced. The crowd escorts the car to the square where the platform stands. Their chests are lightened after their six-hour agony in a fragile mood of joy accompanied by voices.
'Partsalidis steps onto the platform. He is cool and without fear. Some final applause tries to exorcise the spirits, to drive out reality. 'We have been forced
It is like a flash of lightning. The crowd has received the blow. In a heavy silence the conditions of the Varkiza agreement are enumerated. When he has finished, someone begins quietly to sing the ELAS hymn. And h undreds of voices follow, which are in danger of choking. 'Forward ELAS for Hellas, for justice and freedom.'
Several thousand guerrillas and many captains have gathered in Trikkala. The next day the captains begin to collect the guns. The work takes place without explanations, with dry orders. They do not dare to look straight in the eyes of the men who are surrendering their guns, crying. Some small episodes startle the CPG leadership which fears the birth of an organized rebellion against it. But it manages to control the situation.
It is not only the stolen victory that weighs on the hearts of the ELAS fighters, but also the certain foreboding of the harsh destiny that awaits them.
Many are hesitant, do not surrender their arms, prefer to destroy them or bury them somewhere.
On February 16, the leadership of the CPG is forced to circulate a proclamation signed with two names of authority—Aris Veloukhiotis and Saraphis.
Officers, captains, guerrillas of ELAS and EAM. The struggle of our army has ended and ELAS has been dissolved. For almost three years now you have waged a hard fight against the occupier, in a confrontation full of sacrifices and heroism. Our mountains and plains are covered with the enemies' graves and spoils which the occupier left behind him as he fled. You should be proud of your work. You have done your duty towards the Fatherland. On returning to your homes, you should become good citizens, reaping the fruits of your effort according to the democratic ideals.
We kneel respectfully before our heroic dead. Their memory will perpetually be surrounded with respect and glory. Having led and watched your battles, we express our respect and gratitude and we salute you all. With your struggles you have written the brightest pages of the glorious history of our beloved Greece.
Long live our indomitable nation.
Long live its highest issue, ELAS!
Had Veloukhiotis and Saraphis really signed this proclamation? This has been disputed. But as far as the historical position held by both of them, the episode does not have decisive significance. Saraphis was never a Communist, and had already taken part in the Varkiza conference. Veloukhiotis was sincerely dedicated to the movement of the oppressed and in this sense was a revolutionary, but as we have already said not a Marxist. Throughout his revolutionary career and up to his death he was characterized by empiricism and consequently by vacillation between the opportunist leadership of the CPG and the militant ranks of ELAS. The possibility that both of them signed this proclamation cannot be ruled out.
In any case its contents were not composed by them but by the CPG leadership: ELAS has been dissolved—you have fought hard—you are heroes—we kneel respectfully before you . . . but—go to your homes and become good citizens . . .
This proclamation showed the unbridgeable gap which existed between the working class and all the oppressed on the one hand, and the Stalinist leadership on the other. It is not in military manuals where one must seek the cause of the December defeat, but in the work of Trotsky on the nature of the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinist leadership.
The assassination of Aris Veloukhiotis
The simple ELAS fighters in their totality, and many of the captains could net accept defeat in a battle which they had never waged. They wanted to continue the fight.
But the CPG leadership kept the situation firmly under its control and methodically carried out everything that it had agreed with the English at Varkiza.
But Aris Veloukhiotis, together with Tzavelas, preserved a band of 100 men. Yiannouris, another ELAS captain, did the same. Various other small but unrelated bands remained in the mountains. But their example was not immediately followed. And this was to be expected.
The CPG leadership was tied to the working class movement by a long tradition. It had the blessing of Moscow which in the consciousness of the workers was the continuity of the October revolution. Above all, it was firmly based on theoretical confusion, which it sowed for two decades with its Stalinist policies. It was not possible for a new leadership to shoot up suddenly, magically, and immediately win over the consciousness of the masses.
This leadership was a matter of a long struggle to train cadres in the principles of Marxism and build the new revolutionary party through a day-long struggle to uncover the Stalinist betrayals. The Trotskyists who would have been able to carry out this fight were deprived of their tried and tested leadership, confused and isolated. The Archeiomarxists of the 'Workers' Struggle' and the defeatists of Stinas always maintained their stand of 'irreconcilable hostility' towards ELAS, which they regarded as 'an extension of the imperialist front of the "allies".'.
Veloukhiotis had tried, in his own simple way, to provide a solution and make the other captains face their responsibilities. After the Caserta agreement, intuitively sensing the threat which had appeared, he called a meeting on November 11 at Lamia, in which many captains from all over Greece took part. At this meeting, hesitantly and only by allusion, did he try to Set out his fears and prepare his brothers-iri-arms for the eventuality of the continuation of the struggle, despite the wishes of the party leadership. However he experienced the cold reception of all the adherents of the party leadership. The meeting was dissolved when it was condemned as anti-party.
After Varkiza, Veloukhiotis, having refused to surrender his arms, installed himself with his 100 dedicated guerrillas near Spercheios, at the same place he had first begun the armed struggle.
He began to call on the old ELASites and captains to join him. But instead of any reply, he was soon visited by a delegation from the CC of the CPG, led by Grigoriadis. The delegation conveyed to him that the CC called upon him to stop armed action and tried to persuade him that he must return to Athens, or, if he preferred, go abroad. He was persuaded. But he knew that in Athens he would be isolated from the party and that his life would be in immediate danger. For this reason he stated that he would go abroad.
He set out with his men for the Albanian border. Grigoriadis had assured him that everything was arranged and had been made known to the Albanian authorities. However, this journey was to hold many surprises for him. One night, Aris' band found itself suddenly surrounded by a British battalion of the 4th Indian Division. Thanks to his knowledge of the terrain, he evaded the encirclement and continued his march towards Hoxha's Albania. There a new surprise awaited him. The Albanian guards opened fire on him. Aris understood that these incidents were no accident and that the whole history of his flight abroad was boded no good for him. He left three wounded in the hands of the Albanian guards and started a return journey to his old hideouts.
When he got as far as Trikkala, he was informed that Nikos Zachariadis, the old General Secretary of the party, had returned to Athens from Dachau and was welcomed at a large and enthusiastic rally at the Stadium. Like many others, Aris yielded to the naive self-deception that everything would change now. The old leader, whose name was cheered by the members of the party as they died before the firing squads during the harsh years of the Occupation, would put an end to the suspect 'mistakes' and would finally lead to victory.
The 'saviour' had arrived at Tatoi in a British military aircraft. He must have suffered greatly at Dachau. But fighters with a personal knowledge of his case confirmed later that he enjoyed special treatment. Besides, it was for this reason that he, the General Secretary of the Greek Communist Party, survived at Dachau where thousands of simple and peace-loving people were exterminated.
Supposedly his fate was not known during this whole period. But he had not been lost, this former student of the Stalinist KUTV school. A few years later it was officially revealed that he maintained continuous contact with the party, through his mother. But he was kept in reserve. When the Siantos leadership, under the weight of its crimes, fell into general contempt, the British brought Zachariadis out in order to strengthen the confidence of the masses in the CPG, in the party which had been so useful to them.
Veloukhiotis immediately sent a letter to the party commissioner at Trikkala:
I am at the disposal of Zachariadis and I will return to Athens if he considers it expedient. In case he cannot reply tome, he should send Barziotas with instructions.
Afterwards he installed himself in the Tzoumerka area, where Zervas had been formerly, and waited for the reply.
Aris had not been informed that in the meantime the man in whom he had placed his hopes, Zachariadis, had published in Rizospastis a resolution of the CC, where 'Aris Veloukhiotis, Thanasis Klaras or Mizerias', 'the declarer', 'the renegade', 'the adventurist', 'who took advantage of the leniency of the party' was exposed 'to popular contempt'!
At Tzoumerka, instead of a reply or Barziotas, he received on June 18 1945, a sudden attack by strong forces of the Gendarmerie. Surprised, his men were forced to scatter in order to escape the encirclement. Aris remained behind with Tzavelas. As various witnesses later confirmed, a hand grenade was heard exploding from where they stood, followed by firing from the gendarmes. It is said that the two captains committed suicide embracing, with a hand grenade between them. However no one witnessed this to be able to confirm it.
The Gendarmerie then cut off their heads and carried them round Trikkala and Lamia for everyone to see that the ELAS captain was no more and that their every hope was futile.
Decapitation and carrying round of the heads was in that period a common phenomenon. The Minister of Justice, Rentis, in the government recognized by Moscow, paid rewards to reactionary gangs only if they brought him heads.
After Veloukhiotis' death rumours were circulating that his retreat had been betrayed by the CPG leaders themselves. Of course no one had indisputable evidence to prove anything like this.
It is however a fact that at that time turning dissenters over to the police was a very common weapon in the struggle within the party. In many cases, the CPG leadership itself exterminated those who opposed it, through the feared OPLA. In Barziotas' report to the CC of the CPG (1946) reference is made to the murder of 600 'Trotskyists'. In reality this figure is very conservative. The victims of OPLA were much more numerous and not all of them were Trotskyists.
Besides, why should anyone doubt that Veloukhiotis was betrayed to the Gendarmerie by the CPG leaders when these leaders had already quite consciously betrayed a whole movement to the imperialists and local reaction?
ELAS is reborn in the Democratic Army
The mass movement had been betrayed but had not been smashed. It preserved all its strength and it would not subside so easily. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie was in a shambles and could hardly stand on its feet, despite its British crutches. So, while ELAS was disarmed and dissolved, 'law and order' were not restored.
After Varkiza, instead of there being a course of gradual restoration of 'normality', the country was heading inevitably towards a sharpening of the civil war.
It was not a new war that succeeded the old, but the continuation of the struggle that had already begun during the Occupation.
ELAS, the armed advance guard of the working class and all the oppressed, betrayed, disarmed and dissolved by the Stalinists, was not long in being reborn in the' Democratic Army'.
In this new phase, the mask of national liberation which had been imposed on the movement by the Stalinists during the Occupation was inevitably shed and the proletarian class character of the movement came clearly to the surface.
This period, named the period of the 'second guerilla movement', precisely because it could not take on any 'national' colouration was denounced by the 6th Plenum of the CC of the CPG in 1956 as 'a leftist mistake of the Zachariadis leadership of the Party'.
But the ' Democratic Army' and the second guerilla movement were not, nor could have been a simple product of the political initiatives of the CPG—the result of some 'leftist mistake'.
The 'Democratic Army'—like ELAS—sprang necessarily from the concrete conditions prevailing in the country, which of course this time had not been formed independently of the role played by the CPG, that is independently of the betrayals of the KKE.
Through the December events and Varkiza, the British imperialists managed to install a purely bourgeois governmental power. They could not however satisfy themselves with this. They had, above all, decisively to overthrow the correlation of class forces, so as to stabilize the gains they made thanks to the Stalinists. The working class had to be smashed by force, until it could not raise its head again. They had to adopt Churchill's dogma 'no peace without victory'.
The reaction launched a fierce manhunt. Mass arrests were made of ELAS fighters, the members and followers of EAM-CPG. Some fighters were thrown into prison, others were executed, others murdered in broad daylight in the streets. The reactionary gangs made attacks on houses, killed, raped, looted.
According to the Figures published by the 'Democratic Government' (Stalinist government of the mountain) between the signing of the Varkiza agreement and March 1946, Grivas' 'X' and the other right-wing gangs, committed: '1,289 murders, 6,671 woundings, 31,632 tortures, 18,767 robberies and arrests, 84,931 arrests, 509 attempted murders, 165 rapes and other ill-treatment of women' in the cities and the countryside. (The Truth about Greece.)
These figures give only a shadowy picture of the terrible pogroms launced by the reaction. Besides, such situations cannot be described in dry statistical data.
The case of the editor of Rizospastis, Vidalis, gives a taste of the nightmare the country was living through after Varkiza. In August 1946 Vidalis left Athens to travel in the provinces to collect data for a reportage on the activities of right-wing gangs there. Because he was constantly being followed, he telephoned Karageorgis in Athens. He received orders to return immediately from the Party. On the 16th his train, on Its way to Athens, was stopped by Sourlas' gang. Sourlas' armed men forced Vidalis to get off the train and began to torture him in the presence of the passengers and a British officer who watched the scene with indifference. When they had put out his eyes and cut off his tongue, they executed him.
The result of this fierce persecution, like the oppression of the Occupation Authorities in the preceding years, was precisely the opposite from the one that was sought. The working class did not passively accept the harsh fate imposed on it thanks to the deceitful policies of the Stalinists. Its fighters, instead of fatalistically awaiting the executioner's knife, went to the mountains to save themselves. The same thing was done by the poor peasants and especially the youth all over the country. As the terrorism intensified, so the current of the exodus to the mountains became greater.
Naturally, this situation would not have existed if the CPG had seized, or rather defended the power which passed into its hands after the German retreat, if it had not betrayed in the December events, if, if... It was only in this sense that the CPG was responsible for the forming of the second guerilla movement.
Those that fled to the mountains did not of course fold their arms. They united in bands and began guerilla activities. From these bands the Democratic Army was born.
The Stalinists who had dissolved ELAS never thought about creating a new guerilla army. While the battles were raging in the mountains, they were legally publishing Rizospastis in Athens and 'washed their hands'. They officially sponsored the guerilla movement only in the summer of 1947, and the CPG leadership immediately undertook its direction, in order to lead it finally to destruction.
However, the Stalinists tried from the inception to exploit the activities of the guerilla bands in order to use them—as usual—as a means of 'pressure'. While playing with fire, they were carried away against their wishes into the whirlpool of the civil war.
At the beginning of 1946, the Regent Archbishop Damaskinos made known his decision to lead the country to general elections. With the elections the reaction did not aim of course to give the masses an opportunity to express their verdict, but to strengthen its position through them and to continue its counter-revolutionary work. The date of the elections was set for March 31. At the beginning of February the 2 Plenum of the CC of the CPG met. The Plenum dealt only lightly with the subject ot the elections.
The 2nd Plenum of our party, writes Markos Vafiadis, met before the elections. At it the question of the elec¬tions was scarcely discussed. It remained open as to whether we would take part or not. (Letter to the Polit¬buro. November 1948. From the journal Struggle, No 2. February 1971.)
'On the contrary, at the military conference which took place at the end of the Plenum, the impression was created that the top leaders of the CPG were oriented towards ar¬med rebellion.'
Despite the fact that the question of the elections had remained open, on February 17 Rizospastis an¬nounced a decision of the CC that the CPG would ab¬stain from the elections because the conditions of ter¬ror which prevailed did not permit them to be conduc¬ted smoothly, the right-wing gangs had not been dis¬solved, the Nazi collaborators had not been arrested, guarantees for general amnesty had not been given, the election registers had not been cleared of non-existent electors, and, mainly, because the demand of EAM for the formation of a new 'National Unity' government with their participation had not been accepted.
Even the 'liberal' and right-wing politicians admit¬ted that the conditions prevailing did not permit the smooth conduct of the elections. Despite all this, Damaskinos rejected any idea of postponement and stated that the elections would be held come-what-may on the prescribed date.
Then the General Secretary of the CPG, N. Zachariadis, addressed himself to Markos Vafiadis and Kikitsas who were EAM cadres in Macedonia, and asked them to 'strike', on the eve of the election, a target which they themselves would choose.
Indeed, on March 30, a band of armed E A Mites, led by Ypsilantis, entered Litochori in Macedonia, where three old ELAS guerrillas had been murdered in recent weeks. The inhabitants of the village were EAM sym¬pathisers and many of them former ELASites. There was a Gendarmerie station in the village and a com¬pany of government soldiers who had just arrived in order to supervise the elections the following day. The soldiers did not resist, and certain of them left with the guerrillas. The gendarmes however refused to surren¬der their arms. The EAM men surrounded the station and set it on fire. When they raised the white flag, they had lost 12 men.
Markos, connecting the military conference at the 2nd Plenum with the abstention and the order to attack at Litochori, believed that the Party had decided to take up the armed struggle. He addressed himself to the CC, notifying it that he could arm 25,000 men im¬mediately. But Zachariadis reprimanded him and gave him to understand that the Party, with its operations, simply wanted to exert pressure for a compromise.
However, the episode at Litochori was to be the spark that set alight the dry field. The bands of 'prescripts', dispersed in the mountains, saw the signal for rebellion in this. The guns began to be unearthed.
In the meantime, the coalition of the monarchy and right wing gained the majority in the elections. The total votes cast were 1,121,696. The vote was sup¬posedly supervised by a committee of foreign obser¬vers. As the international Press has written, its mem¬bers knew neither the Greek language, nor Greek reality. But its validity was disputed even by the single fact that it had been approved by the imperialists.
This committee reckoned the percentage of absten¬tion at 15 per cent. In reality it was much greater. In 1946, the number entered on the electoral lists con¬stituted a riddle. If the estimates of the percentages are made on the basis of the 1951 lists, which contained 2,244,446 electors (the population had not altered sig¬nificantly), the percentage of abstentions amounted to about 48 per cent. And these estimates are possible if we forget for the moment the violence and ballot-rig¬ging exercised by the authorities.
The conditions that prevailed in 1946 were indeed, as the CPG leadership said, unsuitable for holding elections. They were conditions of civil war. A revolutionary leadership, in the CPG's position, would have been obliged to denounce the attempt of the reac¬tion to drape the counter-revolution in the mantle of electoral legality. A revolutionary leadership would have been obliged to boycott the elections and to un¬dertake, with the support of the masses, the immediate seizure of power. But the CPG, just 16 months earlier, had offered to give the power back to the puppets of British imperialism. With this precedent, what meaning could the boycott of the elections have had?
The abstention, since it did not have as an opposite pole the immediate revolutionary claim to power, con¬stituted an invaluable gift to the reaction. It armed the reaction with arguments for its persecution, helped it to form with ease a parliamentary government, and af¬forded the police with a complete list of the CPG sup¬porters. The electoral lists were later used for throwing 80,000 people into prison and uninhabited islands and for condemning 2,000 to death. The 'stigma' of absten¬tion accompanied thousands of fighters to their graves and today still accompanies their children, who un¬dergo every kind of discrimination and persecution, are forbidden to work in the public service, in bran¬ches related to 'national security', etc.
While a policy of abstention was adopted in the March elections, six months later when the Greek bourgeoisie had relatively stabilised its position and had seriously strengthened its armed bodies, the CPG decided to take part in the plebiscite on the question of the monarchy. In this way it legalised the improbable result of the plebiscite, which showed 68 per cent of Greeks in favour of the monarchy.
As was to be expected, after the March elections the murderous orgy of the reaction surpassed all limits. The Tsaldaris government, ignoring every proposal for compromise by the Stalinists, applied itself unrestrainedly to its attempt to bring the masses to their knees with iron and fire. The current of the flight to the mountains grew even stronger. Many fighters crossed the northern border of the country to take refuge in Yugoslavia and the other workers' states.
Under this terrible pressure, the Politburo of the CPG was forced to address itself this time to Markos Vafiadis and to ask about the possibility of organising armed bands.
But the leaders of the CPG were seized by a double fear. They were more afraid of the mass movement than of the reaction. Thus Zachariadis gave Markos the instruction for the bands to limit themselves to defence activities and not to concentrate in large num¬bers.
The Party did not set out with faith and decision to dominate the armed popular movement. It wanted to use it as a means of blackmail for facing the situation which arose from Varkiza and after the elections. (Letter to the Politburo. November 1948. op. cit.)
But it was not easy for the CPG to control the course of the guerrilla movement. The 'prescripts' condensed its ranks quickly. In October 1946 the guerrillas carried out 100 operations and occupied temporarily the city of Naousa. On the 28th of that month Markos announ¬ced the founding of the Democratic Army.
The CPG and the Democratic Army
As we have said, .the reaction was in shambles. It could not have endured a general attack of the forces which the CPG was in a position to mobilize. On the other hand, its British protectors were not in a position to aid it decisively. If the Stalinists had sought victory they would have been able to win it very quickly. But they were thinking only about 'compromise'.
They considered a few armed bands sufficient for their policy of 'pressure'. The Democratic Army matured in spite of their wishes, and imposed itself on them. When its founding had been announced, EAM declared in Athens that it had no relation to it. The Stalinists had once again remembered their familiar refrain of the 'proletarian' methods of struggle. Vladas, speaking in Piraeus, accused those who fled to the mountains of being idlers who abandon the real fight in the cities and within the factories'!
Instead of (the party) mobilizing all its forces and instead of proceeding decisively towards the armed struggle (the possibilities were many that a broad movement within the cities would arise with decisive blows), after the elections it established a middle-of-the-road policy. It over-estimated the legal possibilites that remained, it created illusions within the Party and the people about a peaceful solution to the Greek problem. Not one of the organizations of the Party had a clear position on where we were heading. I refer to some characteristic events: Throughout 1946 and the beginning of 1947 we had very strong bases within the monarcho-fascist army. Many units were in their majority composed of EPONites. workers who were Party members, peasants from AKE. etc. The reaction had not yet had time to create the necessary machinery to purge the army which it had created hastily. The Party put the thesis for us to pose the question not of organized but of isolated military detachments passing over to the guerillas, and only under orders. Up to October and subsequently, very few party cadres were sent to the guerillas and 150-200 fighters were sent from the cities, at the moment when the cadres and part) members were being arrested for the firing squad, the prisons and exile. When I went out to the mountains at the end of September, I put this question to the organizations of Macedonia and Thessaly, as well as to the leaderships but the reply which Macedonia gave to the comrade I sent in November 1946 was that we must not forget that we are fighting for reconciliation and that our demands were limited, that the development of the mass movement comes first, etc. It was right that the party must not stop organizing the mass movement in the cities for one moment. But here the question arose first of all about small cities, close to the mountains and with a peasant composition, but with a conscious revolutionary move¬ment. Cities which were guerilla mothers to ELAS and which had thousands of ELAS fighters. The leaderships of the organizations in these cities did not receive any instructions to take fighters out and it was to be expected, due to their peculiar position, that they would be struck by the reaction. But even from the large cities there was scarcely a single attempt up to June 1947. for Cadres and fighters to go up to the mountains. When I put these, questions to loannidis in November 1946 in a letter, the reply was: for cadres etc. to go out to the mountains was the concern of Athens and that it was not right for other cadres to be exposed to winter’s hardships. It was apparent that the party did not have a clear position on where we were heading. The period from the elections of 1946 to March 1947 was the period when the greatest possibilities existed of our dominating decisively in certain basic areas. Could not most of the thousands of cadres and members of the Party at least have passed to the people's republics, which was so easy from Macedonia and Thessaly? This did not take place in time even for the members of the Central Committee who were of necessity in the mountains. The fact is that we lost practically the only opportunity which existed in this period because monarcho-fascism was unprepared and with a decisive push forward of the armed struggle it would have been possible to create serious pre-conditions for a decisive blow and overthrow of monarcho-fascism in certain areas, (op.cit.)
Despite the boycott of the leadership, the guerilla movement developed with great speed. Three months after its official appearance, the Democratic Army numbered 13,000 men and women and had under its control large areas in the north part of the country which contained about 100 villages.
Each of the guerilla bands which was formed was independent and responsible for finding its quarters and securing its provisions. Markos adopted classic guerilla tactics. He made sudden attacks on small military detachments of the government and retreated immediately before reinforcements could arrive.
In January 1947 Markos founded a permanent headquarters of the Democratic Army in the corner of the borders of Greece-Albania-Yugoslavia, at the place where the Vitsi and Grammos mountain ranges unite. A rocky and wild territory, considered easy to defend and difficult to capture.
During the whole winter and up to April 1947, the guerillas struck heavy blows against the army of the government. In April, the first large purge operation by the government was a complete disaster.
The appearance of the Democratic Army and its successful operations put the Tsaldaris government in a difficult position. It was accused of failure in managing the situation, In January 1947 it resigned, to be succeeded by the Maximos coalition in which Kanellopoulos, Venizelos, Kartalis, Papandreou and Zervas took part. The coalition was formed with an ultimatum from the 'socialist' Bevin in its hand, to be finished with the guerilla movement in three months. Bevin was Foreign Minister in Britain, where the Labour Party had succeeded the Tories in the government.
In that period the situation of economic chaos which prevailed in Greece brought a joint Anglo-American committee to examine the fate of its millions in foreign aid which were granted to the various Greek governments.
The committee ascertained that a large part of the aid had been squandered on importing luxury goods, on perfumes, jewellery, ties and fancy scarves.
British imperialism was facing serious economic problems and found it increasingly difficult to continue its aid to the Greek bourgeoisie. The British government began to advise the Athens government to address itself to the Americans. In February, S. Venizelos, a 'liberal' friend of the Stalinists, visited the USA to ask for aid. On the third of the following month the government officially called on the US to intervene in Greece.
During 1947, the Greek bourgeoisie, which for several decades had been tied to British influence, changed its guardian. As the American 'technicians' and 'experts' increased in Greece, the missions of the British withdrew or their importance became only symbolic.
In the last six months of that year, the dance of the millions of the Marshall Plan was at its height in Greece. The Greek bourgeoisie and its crooked politicians threw themselves greedily on the moneybags of their new master.
The aid in war material was huge. New tanks, motor vehicles, ships, modern jet-propelled aeroplanes and heavy bombers.
On the initiative of the Americans the Mountain Commando Companies (LOK) were set up, to carry out counter-guerilla war against the Democratic Army.
Because the inhabitants of the cities and villages helped the guerillas in every way in their operations, the government saw 'Fifth Column" Trotskyists everywhere and, urged on by the Americans, began to uproot whole populations by force in order to install them in camps close to the military encampments.
In these conditions, thousands of people and above all thousands of orphaned children were in danger of dying of starvation and illnesses.
The government had concentrated 14,000 of these children in special camps.
... The Greek Government took children from certain fringe areas and put them into colonies for care and education, both on the mainland and in the islands. These in 1948, amounted to about 14.700. (Edgar O'Ballance The Greek Civil War).
During the same period the Democratic Army was helping children who had lost their parents or children whose parents wanted to send them to a safe place to cross the border into Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria. The reactionary propaganda had a field day. The same act, carried out by the government of head-hunters, was 'care and education', carried out by the Democratic Army, it was compared to the 'child-collecting' as in Turkish occupied Greece in times gone by.
Until the Americans became involved in the Greek civil war, the reaction avoided mobilizing the youth into its army which it believed had left inclinations. After that, however, it changed its tactics, mobilized them and put them in special concentration camps called 'reform schools'. Fifteen thousand army recruits were locked up in such camps.
The government justified the intervention of the Americans and its own crimes by claiming that it was fighting an uprising incited by the 'Slavo-Communists'. The truth was that the Democratic Army did not get any serious aid from the neighbouring countries, while Moscow ignored it completely.
Markos often took refuge in Yugoslavia, and less often in Albania and Bulgaria, in order to reconstitute his forces or care for the wounded. But this did not mean that the governments of these countries were actively on the side of the guerillas. They simply took account of their own and the international working class and did not dare to come out openly against the Greek guerillas.
Only once, in the battle of Vitsi and Grammos, did Albanian soldiers take part on the side of the Democratic Army, but they did so completely spontaneously.
The British Major Edgar O'Ballance writes about this episode:
Some Albanian soldiers took part in the Vitsi fighting and over 20 were found dead on Greek territory and another seven were captured. These were individual Albanian soldiers whose enthusiasm had caused them spontaneously and unofficially to join in and fight with the Democratic Army. (op. cit.)
As a proof that the Democratic Army was instigated by 'Slavo-Communists', the reaction made the claim that the real headquarters of the Democratic Army was in Bulkes, a small town 100 kilometres northwest of Belgrade. There, in a special camp, were 3,000 ELAS men who had escaped to Yugoslavia so as not to fall into the hands of the right-wing gangs. Bulkes was not a headquarters but a Stalinist 'reform school'. The ELAS men ended up there because Tito transported them from city to city, further and further north. These men had begun to criticize the policies of the leadership in past years, the agreements of Lebanon, Caserta and Varkiza, and for this reason found themselves under the strict supervision of the authorities and of Pechtasidis. the investigator of OPLA. 'Worms,' 'middle class leftists', 'Trotskyists'—these were the epithets levelled against them by the leadership. They were obliged to live in groups of five, denied the right of contact with one-another.
Dominique Eudes, in his book Les Kapetanios, says that many of the insubordinate EL A Sites were escorted back to Greece, a gift to the gangs of the head-hunters.
An old ELAS Captain, Mavros, with a few other men, was forced to take the train to Greece. On the platform he passed between two rows of men who cursed him as a 'traitor' and spat on him. Later, Mavros the 'traitor' was to be killed fighting in the ranks of the Democratic Army.
The Stalinists of Western Europe had promised aid to the Democratic Army. In 1947 a campaign was begun to form international brigades to be sent to Greece. Recruiting offices opened in Toulouse, France and other European cities. The government army, with American help, had surpassed 300,000 while the guerillas waited hopefully for the arrival of the international brigades! But they never arrived.
A few months after the American intervention, the Democratic Army no longer had the possibility of immediate victory over the reaction. However, limiting itself to guerilla tactics, it did win some victories. The long-term but more certain prospect of wearing out the regime which had been set up with the help of the British and American imperialists was still present. The three-month deadline which had been given to Maximos' government to clear up the situation ended with the Democratic Army increasing in number to 35,000. The Americans soon got the message that it would not be at all that easy to win the guerilla war.
At precisely this point Zachariadis and the other top men of the CC of the CPG, in collaboration with the Balkan governments, intervened in order to force Markos to abandon guerilla tactics and send the men and women of the Democratic Army to certain death, fighting in regular formations against the fully armed and numerically superior government troops.
In the slaughterhouse of regular warfare
Regular warfare was a criminal means employed by the CPG leaders to destroy the Democratic Army. From May 1947 the Democratic Army, with inadequate provisioning, without any heavy armaments whatsoever or fire power greater than mortars, began systematically to attack the cities.
All the orders were issued under Markos' signature. But the real leadership was the triumvirate of the Politburo - Zachariadis, loannidis, Rousos. Markos merely furnished them with a mask.
On May 28, an attack took place in Florina. On June 1, once again the same city was attacked; on July 13, Konitsa; a few days later an attack on Kastoria; on the 25th on Grevena and on the 31st of the same month on Alexandroupoli.
The artillery and air force of the government simply mowed down the guerillas. Napalm burned them up. Often the attacks of the Democratic Army were broken up before the detachments arrived at the Gates of a city.
In instances where, despite all this, a city was taken, the Democratic Army never managed to hold its positions in it for longer than a few days. The heroism and determination of the guerillas was admirable. But these attacks were nothing less than suicide. However great the heroism of the unarmed men, it could not compensate for the overwhelming numerical superiority of the government army, the fierce bombings, tanks, and aeroplanes.
At the joint Greek-American Army Staff, set up in December, the American experts supported the strengthening of LOK forces. They could not imagine - and correctly so -that the Democratic Army would risk a face-to-face confrontation. The Greek government army commanders insisted that weight should be given to broad mobilization of massive military detachments, heavy armaments and an air force.
They were right! They grasped correctly the meaning of the attacks on the cities.
In June 1947, the General Headquarters of the Democratic Army was invested with governmental jurisdictions. It began to issue government orders. Of course it was not able to apply them, but they betrayed the intention of the leadership to fight from firm positions.
At the beginning of the autumn, the 3rd Plenum of the CC of the CPG officially ratified the new strategy of the war. "The Democratic Army is ready to strike the final blow at monarcho-fascism', declares Zachariadis. He did not believe it. He coldly calculated a mass crime. But he also had faith in compromise. From 1946 to March 1948, Athens rejected 31 demands for restoration of peace signed by Markos.
Here is a letter from Markos to the Politburo which provides invaluable documentation and throws light on the whole tragedy:
When the 3rd Plenum (six members of the Central Committee and four cadres of the Army) met in September, decisions were taken which were completely unfounded. These expressed our wishes, but not reality. Life proved that we, as leaders of the guerilla movement, did .not succeed in assessing the country's situation as correctly as was necessary despite the fact that in my telegram of August 1 informed the Party leadership that within the People there is a certain numbness, with a kind of lack of confidence in victory and I said that we could operate seriously in the spring if the Party was in a position to break this situation, to mobilize all its forces and to secure provision of war material for the GDA in all the regions. The part of the Politburo (Zachariadis, loannidis. Rousos, second committee) did not have a clear conception of what was happening in the cities and in the areas of the countryside with which it had direct contact. The decisions of the 3rd Plenum were taken in a festive atmosphere. We completely agreed with the theses set by the Politburo. Immediately after the 3rd Plenum, in the months of October, November and December, life proved that: 1) We did not have a basis for sufficient recruitment to be in a position to arrive at the number of 50-60 thousand men determined by the Plenum. 2) We are not in a position to take towns before spring according to [the instructions of] the Plenum. Consequently the two basic problems, that is the formation of strategic reserves and attack operations against towns, seizing and holding them, could not be carried out. In October, our attack against Metsovo failed. When after a month the question was raised in the Politburo of attacking Konitsa, the opinion was expressed that we could not seize the city by a direct attack, that we were being too hasty because neither our material means nor our forces were capable of such an operation, that the enemy had the ability to move much larger forces and incomparably greater means. But the comrades continually insisted on striking at the cities. After the above, the Macedonian headquarters was asked, and assured us in turn that we could take Konitsa. At Konitsa, our detachments fought heroically for seven days and we lost 650 dead and uounded. The city was not captured. At the party deliberations of 15 January, in which political and military cadres (higher and lower) took part, I said in my second contribution (despite the fact that I had written it in different spirit) that one of the reasons—together with our mistakes—that we did not take Konitsa was that we were still, from the point of view of organization, means and possibilities, more guerillas than a regular army and that we were not yet in a position to effect serious attacks on centres. Comrade Zachariadis stood up angrily and after continued sharp interruptions I was forced to stop altogether. The same evening he called the members of the Central Committee of the Party to a session, without a decision having been taken by the Politburo (at least I did not know about it. I am a member of the Secretariat of the Politburo) and put the question of whether the decisions of the 3rd Plenum were correct. As soon as three to four comrades had spoken, he asked me: 'What does Markos say? Are the decisions correct?' I said yes and the session broke up immediately.
Zachariadis used all his strength to impose regular warfare. But this was not enough. He tried further to undermine the Democratic Army by removing forces away from their units, in order to create ... reserves.
In November as soon as Zachariadis had come to the mountains, the Politburo discussed this question. I maintained that it was disadvantageous to weaken the headquarters at this moment by taking a part of the forces at their disposal for reserves. Because this weakening would have as a consequence the weakening of their actions, and consequently smaller recruitment as well. It must be noted that by the middle of 1947 recruitment to the GDA had already taken on an almost completely violent character. The voluntary recruitment was not even 10 per cent. In order to recruit you need not a concentration but a spreading of the forces of penetration to places where there is recruitment material. Consequently our course in forming the reserves should have been analogous. Men should be taken for reserves not from the existing detachments but according to the increase of forces which would take place in each headquarters. But the other position prevailed for immediate forming of detachments and it was decided that before March this reserve force should reach 14,000 men. This decision was never realized. By June the total strength of the reserve units was 5,500.1 must say that on this question I was obliged to say more because Zachariadis, for lack of another argument, said: Markos knows how to fight and from the point of view of tactics confronts matters well. But he does not understand, he is unable to conceive of the strategic matters such as the question of the reserves.
In the summer of 1947, Zervas, Minister of Public Order, launched a new wave of arrests in the cities. On October 18, Rizospastis was declared illegal. And in December the right to strike was abolished.
On the 24th of the same month, the radio station of the Democratic Army announced the founding of the Provisional Democratic Government. Prime Minister was Markos. The next day the attack on Konitsa began. A city had to be captured and declared the Capital of 'Free Greece'. It was Stalin's 'condition' for recognition of the government and offers of aid.
The government, however, was never recognized by anyone. On the contrary, six months later and while the battles in the mountain ranges of Grammos were raging, Sofiare-established relations with Athens!
Stalin was involved in the abandonment of guerilla tactics by the Democratic Army. A short while before the Democratic Army began to be transformed into a regular army and to fight battles in formation, the decision of Stalin to put 'an end to this rebellion' had been clearly expressed in a decision with Tito's second-in-command, Kardelj. Their dialogue, which took place on February 10, 1948, is published in the book by Milovan Djilas Conversations with Stalin
Subsequently we dealt with another subject. The uprising in Greece.
Stalin: This uprising, he said, must be "covered up'. (He used the Russian word zverdum which means in the strict sense to wrap up.) Do you believe, he said turning to Kardelj, in the success of the Greek rebellion?
Kardelj: Yes, if the foreign intervention is not developed and if no military and political mistakes are made.
Stalin: (without paying the slightest attention to Kardelj's opinion) If, always these 'ifs'! No. it has no possibility of succeeding. You think that Great Britain and the United States—the United States, the strongest state in the world—will permit you to cut their lines of communication with the Mediterranean? Nonsense! And we have no navy. This uprising must stop as soon as possible.
Someone then referred to the recent successes of the Chinese Communists.
Stalin: Yes, the Chinese comrades had successes. But the situation is completely different in Greece, where the United States - the strongest state in the world—are deeply engaged.
In China the problem is different, the relations with the Far East, are not the same. It is true that even we can make mistakes. Here, when the war with Japan ended, we invited the Chinese comrades to reach an agreement so that a modus vivendi with Chiang Kai Shek could be found. They agreed with our opinion, in words, but when they returned to their country they did the first thing that came into their heads: they collected their forces and struck. It appeared that they were right and that we had been misled. But Greece is another matter. We must not hesitate, let us put an end to this rebellion.
Fourteen battalions of the Democratic Army, which numbered about 2,000 men and women, set out from Grammos on the way to Konitsa. They installed themselves on the hills around the city. One detachment captured the bridge on the river Aoos, closing the road to the reinforcements. The attack was covered by mortar fire and two mountain batteries. But heavy artillery and thick squadrons of aircraft with machine guns and rockets protected the city.
The strategy of the Americans was based on generous use of fire power and cost the guerillas much blood. On the 30th of the month strong reinforcements of government troops arrived from Yiannina and Grevena, and clashed with the Democratic Army detachments outside the city. By January 2 the battle had been decided. But the government army needed another week to purge the city of the firmly entrenched guerilla bands which continued to fight.
Yet another attempt to capture a capital had failed.
On July 19, 1948, the government troops began their first big attack on the centres of the Democratic Army in the mountain ranges of Grammos and Vitsi. The operation bore the name 'Kronis'. The American General Van Fleet followed the operations at first hand.
The government transferred 70,000 regular troops to the northwest part of the country. This was only the first wave. 'They are going to the Grammos mountains to destroy Slavo-Communism. The Grammos mountains will become the grave of Slavo-Communism.' Twelve thousand guerillas defended the highlands. The government troops arrayed themselves first on one side of the borders with Albania and Yugoslavia. Two other detachments closed the area from east to west in an iron grip. Tanks, heavy artillery and 50 modern Curtiss Helldivers were thrown into the battle.
The guerillas were under orders to hold their positions irrespective of sacrifice. Their own arms were nothing more than packets of Teller mines which were tied several together and rolled down the steep mountain sides.
All the wild mountain tops of stones and rocks, around the Aliakmonas plain are smashed to bits by the never-ending bombardment. There, for the first time American 2501b bombs were used. But the guerillas continued to come out of their holes on'the scorched mountain-sides and to fight. All the foreign observers expressed their admiration for the decisiveness of the fighting men and women of the Democratic Army. They defended their positions to the last bullet, to the very last man; they never abandoned them, except on orders.
On the Fourka mountain the guerillas go into the craters opened by the bombs. In their last refuge the wounded continue to nurse the phosphorus bums which do not cease to advance tormentingly beneath the skin, burning the flesh. Not a foot of ground remains for one to take refuge.
The bombardments of the preceding days have destroyed the rocks and have bared the mountain tops. An aeroplane turns in the sky like a vulture before diving with a siren scream.
The silhouettes fall on.the hard ground. Only one remains standing. A young woman with an automatic rifle in her hands, she is aiming it. She discharges a first round in the direction of the aeroplane. Her name is Anna Dossa. She is 25 years old. Thirty-three guerillas fight under her orders. The aeroplane strikes once again. Anna remains standing and empties a fresh round. It is a duel between a woman, the rocks and the pilot. He dives down once more. Anna weighs her ammunition. Black smoke pours out of the engine. The aeroplane crashes on the mountain. (Dominique Eudes, LesKapetanios.)
When the mountains have been completely surrounded, the guerillas are obliged to break the rules of regular warfare, which they have been forced to follow, and to return to guerilla warfare. The government calculated that it would put an end to 'Slavo-Communism' in two weeks, but eight pass before the whole operation is a failure. Markos, returning to guerilla tactics, slides skilfully out of the iron grip, out of the northern edge of Grammos. The guerillas leave without leaving behind them a single wounded person, a single gun. They set out to re-assemble and regroup at Vitsi.
At the end of July 1948, the 4th Plenum meets. Markos insisted that the resolutions of the 3rd Plenum be re-examined. He was to make the opening report, make a draft and take it to Zachariadis. But the reply he received was that if the resolutions were not carried out, this was because 'the Communists did not do their duty'. '
In his letter to the Politburo Markos says:
Thus we were led yet again to resolutions which corresponded no more to reality than those of the 3rd Plenum. Instead of coming out clearly and honourably to state the real reasons for the decisions of the 3rd Plenum not being carried out, we tried to justify our mistakes by patching them up. The whole resolution was written by Zachariadis. None of the comrades present seriously objected to the report or to the resolutions. It is a fact that monarcho-fascism was in a shambles. But to sa> that it had wooden legs and that its overthrow was more imminent than at any other time is something which loses its seriousness and exposes the Party and the movement to dangers.
The first battle of Grammos had cost both sides thousands of dead and wounded. Markos, cut off with a small band, received a murderous attack at the end of August by the band of a certain Polydoros, who was accused of misuse of funds of Rizospastis. Polydoros' band undertook murder missions for the party. Markos, who was close to the border when the episode took place, escaped to Albania. There the Soviet Mission promised him care and protection. Despite the fact that he was not deposed as Commander-in-Chief and Prime Minister of the Democratic Government before January 31, 1949 (5th Plenum), he had already been deprived of all power. His letter to the Politburo would soon be characterized as the 'anti-Party platform of Markos'.
In the party the rumour began to spread that his disappearance was due to his ill-health. The Democratic Army, concentrated at Vitsi, passes directly under the command of Zachariadis.
On August 29, the government army began a new attack on Vitsi. For ten days it fells in waves on the guerillas' defence. On September 9, the Democratic Army commenced the counter-attack. Ten thousand people are fighting a regular and more numerous Army. On September 20, the government forces are completely pushed back to Kastoria. The presence of Queen Frederica, King Paul and General Papagos did nothing to strengthen the morale of the government troops. Van Fleet admits in one of his statements that ' the sacrifices of the army were without precedent'.
Winter was drawing near and it was already clear that a new year of civil war was coming. 'Slavo-Communism' had not been destroyed yet. In Athens rumours that the Americans were going to abandon the Greek affair had reached a climax. Marshall visited Athens on October 22, and on November 13 a new government contrivance of Tsaldaris-Sofoulis was set up.
On December 1, the Democratic Army abandoned the attempt to seize Serres, after suffering a rain of napalm which cost it 183 dead.
On December 11 it attacked Larisa. It seized and held the city for two days but was forced to abandon it, taking 500 soldiers with it as hostages.
On December 22, three brigades attacked Edessa and Naousa. Naousa was seized for three days. Sixty new recruits adhered to the Democratic Army. The city was abandoned and the men of the Democratic Army left taking with them large amounts of food and medicine.
On January 11 and 12, 1949, the city was recaptured and after three days 600 new recruits followed the guerillas on the way to the mountains. While the attacks on the cities continued, the government forces began operation 'Peristeri' in Erymanthi and Chelmos in the Peloponnese. There the Democratic Army , cut off from the north, without arms and provisions, was hunted down everywhere and before April it was almost liquidated.
In the north, the council of war of Zachariadis celebrated the successes of Naousa, which were attributed to the military genius of Vlantas!
On January 30 and 31, 1949, the 5th Plenum met in the mountains of Vitsi. During the discussions the withdrawal of Markos 'for health reasons' and of Chrysa Hadjivasiliou who supported him was ratified. Prior to that, a series of cadres had withdrawn and officers of military detachments had been executed as traitors by those responsible for the catastrophe at Grammos. The Plenum approved unanimously the enterprising plans of Zachariadis for the immediate liberation of the whole of Northern Greece.
On February 8, Markos announced his resignation on the radio station of the Democratic Government:
My failing health, after the battle in the Grammos mountains, forces me to give up my offices as president of the government of Free Greece and Commander-in-Chief of the Democratic Army. Our enemies try to exploit my resignation, but our future victories will oblige them to shut up. (Journal Strninilf. No. 2.)
loannidis took Markos' place as Prime Minister of the Government, and Zachariadis took his place as Commander-in-Chief.
In the meantime Yugoslavia had been expelled from the Cominform (July 1948). Tito had already refused the representation of the CPG at the Conference of Yugoslav Communists in Skopje. Now, after Markos' removal, he had even more reason to make difficulties for the guerrillas when they crossed the border. Markos had not taken a stand in the dispute with Moscow and he probably leaned favourably towards Tito. Markos' withdrawal by Zachariadis meant, besides other things, that the CPG would openly turn against the Yugoslavs. After the 5th Plenum, Zachariadis found the
opportunity to travel to Bulkes. The time had come for Pechtasidis, the executioner of Trotskyists and 'middle class leftists'. Pechtasidis was publicly accused of being an agent of Tito. It is calculated that together with him more than 500 people were executed at Bulkes, during the terrible purge campaign of Zachariadis.
The beginning of the end
On February 8 the Democratic Army had its last military success at Karpenisi. One of its brigades captured the city for 18 days.
ON February 25 General Papagos, who had followed closely the first big operations at Grammos and Vitsi, was placed by the American Mission in the position of Commander-in-Chief. Papagos purged the National Defence Council of the elements who blocked its effective functioning by their intrigues. He changed the military commanders of the divisions on a large scale and elaborated plans for systematic purge operations in the Peloponnese, which were to be progressively extended towards northern Greece.
On its part, the Council of War of the Democratic Army, led by Zachariadis, was preparing the last attempt to capture a capital!
On the night of February 11-12, about 4,000 men and women, some of the best Democratic Army fighters, attacked Fiorina.
Almost all the fire power of the Democratic Army was used for the preparation of the initial attack. The city was strongly garrisoned and overflown by thick squadrons of aeroplanes dropping tons of napalm,, bombs and rockets on the positions of the attackers. The guerrillas now in regular army formations, well-dressed for the first time, wearing new, freshly-ironed khaki uniforms and new boots, advanced proudly towards the city. The sky rained fire, but the guerrillas had the express order of the leadership which criminally abused their confidence and sent them to certain annihilation.
The first wave of the attack struck the south side of the city. Two days passed without any progress. On the third day, the situation worsened. The guerrillas halted their attack and limited themselves to defending their positions. The government had mobilized huge forces for the defence of the city. And Queen Frederica had come secretly to Fiorina to encourage the detachments of the government army. At the end of the third day the command of the guerrilla operations had lost control of its detachments. On the fourth day, the whole attack collapsed. The Democratic Army began to retreat. A few bands of resolute fighters remained to cover the retreat of the main body and were annihilated to the last man.
The guerrillas escaped back to Vitsi. They left 143 dead on the field of battle. After the defeat came the punishment. Fresh purges of 'traitors'. Katsaros, Georgiadis, Skotidas and others were executed.
In the meantime the government army had almost purged the Peloponnese. The 1st Brigade of Roumeli had been dissolved and the 2nd Thessaly Brigade moved towards the corner of the borders.
By March 1949, the Democratic Army established itself on the Grammos mountain tops abandoned by the government forces. All the guerrilla bands, hunted everywhere, gathered at Grammos and Vitsi.
On April 3, the Democratic Government was reshuffled. Partsalidis became Prime Minister, loannidis Vice-President, Rousos Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vlantas Minister of War, Barziotas Minister of the Interior, Stringos Minister of National Economy, Karageorgis Minister of Supply, Papadimitris Minister of Agriculture, Savvidis Minister of Fanners' Co-operatives, Porphyrogenis Minister of Justice, Kokkalis Minister of Health and Education, the president of the Slavo-Macedonian organization NOF, Misroviski, Secretary of Supply, Vournas Minister of Transport and Botchev (NOF) Under-Secretary of Ethnic Minorities.
The position of NOF in the government expressed the support for the separate Macedonian state to which the CPG had recently returned, after pressure from Dimitrov.
On May 3, the Democratic Government made another offer of peace. But in Athens they were in no mood for reconciliation. They replied with mass arrests, with the death sentence for Manolis Glezos, while the trade union leader Paparrigas was found hanged in his cell.
All of Papagos' forces moved towards the Grammos area. There the last act of the tragedy was to be played out.
In the meantime in Prague the CPs of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland decided to cut off all diplomatic and trade relations with Yugoslavia. They compelled Tito to a greater measure of collaboration with the imperialists. On July 10th, Tito, in one of his speeches in Pola, stated his decision gradually toclose the Yugoslav border to the guerrillas.
In a short time the Government Army was to begin operation 'Dada'. Zachariadis announced that Vitsi was impregnable and that monarcho-fascism was 'coming to be destroyed'.
—'Everyone to arms! Everyone for victory!'
The last act
In midsummer 1949 the Democratic Army prepared itself for the final battle. The number of its men had significantly decreased, despite the fact that in the 'liberated' areas forcible recruitment was adopted. The policy of conciliation with the bourgeoisie led inevitably to the clash with the masses, who were no longer disposed to fight under a leadership that drowned their hopes in mud and blood.
Into operation 'Dada', the government forces threw 160,000 men and all the modern means supplied them by the Americans. Against them, arrayed like a regular army, were 5,000 men on the bare mountain tops of Grammos, 8,000 at Vitsi and 1,200 at Beles. The guerrillas prepared for battle without belief in victory. But they have no choice. In village and in city the government executioner was waiting for them. They must stay in the mountains and drink the bitter cup to the end.
On July 21, Papagos sent his army against the position Kaimaktsalan on the Yugoslavian border. After a week of hard battles, the 1,500 guerrillas defending it were forced to abondon it, leaving 400 dead behind them. With the capture of Kaimaktsalan, Papagos had driven a heavy wedge into the eastern part of the Grammos-Vitsi complex and had cut off the 1,200 guerrillas of Beles from the main body of the Democratic Army. Now he could surround the area, thought not completely, because facing him was a front about 70 kilometers long.
The plan was to draw the attention of the Democratic Army to Grammos with a feint and then suddenly throw all his weight onto Vitsi. When he had captured it, he intended to strike back at Grammos. again. He had at his disposal all the mechanical means which assured him of swift movement. The weather was good, the month was July, and his lorries were not going to stick in the mud or snow, while his air force was able to hammer the positions of the guerrillas in clear weather.
The Democratic Army detachments did not have any means of transport. They couldn't take the initiative. They stuck to their positions and awaited Papagos' attack.
When the battles began, the guerillas heroically defended every inch of ground they occupied but it was clearly suicide. Their leadership had surrendered them as cannon-fodder to the overwhelming fire of the government forces.
On August 5, Papagos captured the villages around the foot of the Grammos mountains. On the 10th, three more divisions of the First Corps of the Army attack¬ed Vitsi and captured it, after fierce artillery and aerial bombardment. Four thousand of the men defending it managed to go to Grammos and join the other detachments of the Democratic Army. They left 997 dead behind them.
On the 19th of the month, before the final phase of the operation began, Papagos sent the Third Army against Beles. The positions of the guerillas were very weak. After a four-day defence they were forced to abandon them. A thousand of the defenders of Beles crossed the border into Bulgaria. The Exodus had begun.
After Beles, Papagos turned with all his forces for the final conflict at Grammos. His problem was to cut off the routes of escape of the guerillas to Yugoslavia. At this point he had the aid of the Yugoslav Stalinists who silently permitted the government army to penetrate Yugoslav territory in order to begin his attack from the north. On August 25 the government forces began to capture the highlands one after the other from- that side of the border. The guerillas' resistance collapsed quickly. Within two days the mountain was occupied.
Then the government forces blocked the main passes into Albania.
For the whole duration of the battles, Enver Hoxha's Army lay in readiness, arrayed on the other side of the border. It was said that Hoxha was disturbed by a possible attempt of the Greek bourgeoisie to accomplish, now that it had the strength, its dreams of annexation in North Epirus (South Albania). But no attack took place. On the contrary, the Albanian army executed what Hoxha had announced on August 26:
All armed Greeks found on Albanian territory would be disarmed and detained. (Edgar O'Ballance. The Greek Civil War.)
For some time he did not carry this into effect as his small army was incapable of doing so, but he restricted Democratic Army movements wherever he could and curtailed supplies. The Democratic Army was disintegrating anyway, and in September Hoxha was in fact able to disarm several small elements of it in his territory, and to concentrate the larger bodies into camps and to keep them passive by threatening to cut off their rations, lop. cit.)
Despite Papagos' iron grip many guerillas managed to cross over to all three countries on the northern border. Others, less fortunate, were scattered in Epirus and Macedonia. Now, in Athens, they were afraid that the Democratic Army would regroup and continue to fight. The government army was ordered to remain in readiness and to continue the pursuit of isolated guerilla bands. At this point Stalin himself intervened in order to demand that the CPG officially declare a cease-fire.
It is believed that Zachariadis, his Democratic Army generals and the Central Committee of the KKE were readjusting themselves to a prolonged insurgent struggle waged from Bulgarian territory against the Greek Government, when Stalin stepped in and forced the Democratic Army to declare a cease-fire, (op. cit.)
Indeed, on October 16,1949, the radio station of the CPG 'Free Greece', broadcast this announcement:
The Greek Provisional Government ceased hostilities to prevent the complete annihilation of the country. The Democratic Army does not lay down its arms but halts operations for the moment. This of course does not mean that it abandons the struggle for the rights of the Greek people. The Anglo-American imperialists and their monarcho-fascist agents are being deceived if they think that the struggle is over or that the Democratic Army has been dissolved.
From the official announcement of the cease-fire, threats were not lacking. The 6th Plenum of the CC of the CPG repeated them, proclaiming the slogan 'At ease!'. In reality everything had ended. The threats represented only an attempt by the Stalinists to create favourable impressions with the masses, who now despised them.
After a six-year civil war which cost 160,000 dead, 1,300 executions and the forced expatriation of 100,000 Greeks to the Eastern countries, the result was that reaction triumphed, not thanks to its strength or its ability, nor thanks to the assistance it received from its Anglo-American friends, but because it found invaluable undertakers on the other side of the barricade.
Even though the reaction continued minor military operations for some time until it had annihilated the last remnants of the guerillas who were hiding from their hunters in the mountains, 'law' and 'order' had been firmly re-established. Greece remained part of the 'free world'. Thus, another 13,000 people, prisoners of war or people arrested in the cities by the police, were thrown on the wind-beaten rocks of Makronisos.
Some of the prisoners had spent a whole life in prisons. They were prisoners of the Metaxas dictatorship, the Venizelos 'democracy' and even the Pangalos dictatorship of 1926-1927.
But they had never lived in such a hell. They were tortured with unprecedented brutality. Sexual tortures were among the most common. Various other 'original' methods of torture were devised by the 'bold' imaginations of the jailers. One of these was to place the prisoner, naked and tied up, in a sack with a cat and to throw him into the water. Many did not endure and died. Others committed suicide. Still others were left crippled. Others went mad.
Opposite the island is Laurio. The distance from the small industrial town is great, about 10 kilometres, but when the wind blew from the east the groans of the prisoners reached the ears of its inhabitants.
A whole series of oppressive measures were imposed, which policed even the smallest expressions of life. Prosecution and heavy fines because you did not hang the Greek flag from your house during the least important 'national' holiday, because you did not whitewash your front steps, because you did not have a leash and identification on your dog, because you were singing too loudly, had the radio on loud, etc. etc.
The working class, all-powerful and dominant in 1944, was now prey to the mania of a trivial ruling class thirsting for revenge. When the Stalinists had to account for this result, they claimed that mistakes had been made. In party resolutions, a single word was employed to explain the untold, to justify the unjustifiable.
But Greece was not an exceptional case. Precisely the same 'mistakes' occurred in all the countries which Stalin had ceded to imperialist influence. They were not 'mistakes' but national adaptations of an international sellout which took place consciously.
It was not only the Greek Stalinists who took part in a bourgeois government and worked to tame the masses. Whatever Siantas did in Greece was repeated by Thorez in France. In Italy, Togliatti entered the government of General Badoglio. He restrained, disciplined and disarmed thousands of revolutionary workers in the industrial areas of N. Italy, who threatened to march on Rome.
On Italy, the official history of British Foreign Policy in World War II writes the following, characteristically:
On the other hand the Soviet Government manifested its willingness to collaborate with the Badoglio Government and to leave aside the question of the resignation of the King until the day when Rome would be occupied. The Soviet representatives outlined the content of their policy saying that Field Marshal Badoglio would have to do everything possible to unite the democratic and anti-fascist forces in Italy and must reorganize his Government for this purpose. Much more, however, the Soviet stand became more decisive from the moment that the leader of the CPI, Mr Togliatti, arrived in Italy, especially sent from Moscow, and it was possible for him to influence the political parties of the left wing. The fact of the participation of the Communist Party of Italy in the Badoglio Government obliged the other parties to take part. . . .
When the Greek people were informed by the CPG radio station of the cease-fire, on the other side of the earth Mao Tse-tung was triumphantly' entering Peking. China was the second country after Yugoslavia where the agreements on the 'spheres of influence' were violated. This happened in opposition to Stalin, who pressured Mao for a new "reconciliation" with the butcher Chiang Kai-shek, as he had also pressured Tito to form a government of 'national unity' with the darling of the English, Mihailovich.
Nevertheless in Greece, as elsewhere, the result of the struggle was dependent not only on the policy of Moscow. The Kremlin gangsters could not have done anything without the co-operation of a CPG rotten to the marrow.
The civil war was only one period in the history of the CPG. The one immediately preceding was the pre-war struggle — for a time within the party — between Stalinism and Trotskyism. The two periods can only be judged in relation with each other. The domination of Stalinism over Trotskyism brought about the bureaucratic degeneration of the CPG and then led the working class to destruction. Stalinism had transformed the proletarian party into a servant of the bourgeoisie. As a result the independent struggle for socialism had been rejected. The party fought for a popular front and for bourgeois democracy. This policy pervaded all its activities in the civil war. While its leaders have spoken abstractly about mistakes, they have never revised this policy. On the contrary, they continued in the same manner. The result was that at another critical turning point in the class struggle, they paved the way for the Papadopoulos dictatorship.
The CPG consciously buried this revolution. The working class, however, always remained 'at ease'. More than two decades have passed since the rifles stopped firing on the Grammos mountain tops and the heroism of those who sacrificed themselves always remains indelible in the memory of the generation which has taken the baton from them. The saga of 1943-1949 is always a source of inspiration and fighting passion. But history has shown that heroism and militancy, although they are a necessary factor, are not sufficient.
While the present crisis shakes capitalism to its foundations, the Greek working class is faced with a new historical challenge, incomparably stronger than anything of the past. It faces the greatest opportunities. But at the same time it faces the greatest dangers from the prolonged crisis of leadership.
The defeat in the civil war was not only a catastrophe, but also an accumulation of lessons which have been paid for dearly. The working class can win nothing with the CPG. A new revolutionary party must be built in the irreconcilable struggle against the Stalinist betrayals. Only if this lesson is well learned can the working class arm itself politically and bid for power successfully in the coming great revolutionary struggles.