[Book] Ted Grant Writings: Volume Two


Indian troops join ELAS

Military dictator placed in power

[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 10, January 1945 - not signed]

Churchill has been compelled to make fake “concessions” to the mass movement of the Greek people. This adventurer thought he could crush the Greek workers and peasants in a matter of days. But he had neither reckoned with the heroic resistance of the Greek masses in their fight to gain the right to choose their own government, nor had he reckoned with the resentment of the British soldiers and workers at having to play the role of SS in “liberated” Europe.

One of the main factors dictating Churchill’s gesture was the wave of resentment caused in this country and among the British troops in Greece. Lord Farringdon declared openly in the House of Lords that this expedition would provoke the danger of mutiny among the British troops.

The British capitalists thought they could rely on reactionary Polish forces, colonial troops, and “especially trained” paratroopers for this dirty job. When additional troops were flown to Italy, they were deceived that they were being sent to fight against Germans, and a German uprising aided by a section of the Greeks. This was made more plausible by the fact that many of the ELAS soldiery have German uniforms and equipment which have been captured from the Germans. But their indignation was great when they were captured by ELAS and the truth was revealed.

The British troops in Greece could not be deceived for an extended period of time. Already a section of the Ghurkas, reputedly the most backward of Indian troops, have deserted to ELAS.

The Observer on December 17th, openly declared:

“...the price of such a victory (over ELAS) would be high, not only in casualties but in its repercussions at home and abroad. It could probably not be achieved without serious Labour trouble in this county. It might break the coalition...”

These factors have compelled the imperialists to look to other methods of crushing the movement of Greek workers and peasants. They are forced to rely on a new regroupment of puppets who will be in a better position than Papandreou and the King to control the masses.

The London Times, most sober and serious organ of big business openly revealed that support for the so-called Papandreou government was a myth.

“The grimmest fact about the whole situation, and the one which dominates everything else, is that fighting is still going on, not for the most part between Greeks and Greeks, but between British and Greeks...”

The forces of General Zervas whom British imperialism lavishly supplied with arms, uniforms, money and equipment, have melted to nothing as soon as the trial of strength was shown. From reports carefully censored, it is apparent that almost half, if not the majority immediately went over to ELAS when an actual clash occurred rather than allow themselves to become tools of the fascists and imperialists against the Greek people. Out of his boasted army of 15,000 to 18,000, the last remnants of 1,000 have been ignominiously evacuated by the British navy. British bayonets are the sole prop on which the royalists and fascists can rely.

The Conference in Athens which was supposed to settle matters “between the Greeks themselves” was so much hypocrisy. If the British troops were withdrawn from Greece, ELAS would be the master of Athens not in days but within hours. It was a conference between the puppets of Britain and ELAS.

The nature of the so-called “representative government” which Churchill was backing with arms and food was exposed by the delegates who represented it at this conference. Rallis was one of them. This man organised the armed quisling thugs and murderers of the so-called “Security Battalions” for the Nazis in order to terrorise and carry out punitive expeditions during the Nazi occupation of Greece. He was declared a “war criminal” who, because of the hatred of the masses, even the Papandreou government was forced to place behind bars as a traitor. He barely escaped with his life when ELAS stormed the gaols, and the workers and soldiers proceeded to execute the quislings on the spot so that they would not come under the protection of the British. He was rescued during the struggle by the British troops.

As a provocation and an insult to the Greek masses, Rallis turns up as a delegate to the so-called “peace” conference.

But the Papandreou government which Churchill described as so representative and which he tried so desperately to save, has disappeared.

Regent has been set up and new negotiations have commenced. It is possible that a deal will be made with ELAS and EAM. As the Times has suggested, a government similar to that of de Gaulle should be established. The whole policy of the Stalinist leadership of ELAS is based on the idea of a compromise with British imperialism. ELAS is asking for the disarmament of all the Greek forces – which leaves the control in the hands of British imperialism. This is the road of defeat and disaster. Power is in the hands of the worker and peasants of Greece, if they were conscious enough to grasp it; if the Stalinist party was a Leninist party pursuing the policy of the seizure of power by the working class, we would have a Soviet Greece which would inflame the Balkans.

But the Stalinist bureaucracy has betrayed the Greek masses. Not only have they refused aid which they could easily have rendered since they are on the borders of Bulgaria, they have maintained a treacherous silence, thus serving the interests of the reactionaries. In return for Churchill’s support in Poland, Stalin is prepared to support British reaction in Greece.

ELAS has been temporising. Instead of openly appealing to the workers of the world, and above all to the British workers, explaining the real aims of Churchill and the ruling class, they have toadied in their public statements to the British ruling class and Churchill. While not putting forward any socialist demands, they have appealed not for a government of the EAM which represents 90 percent of the population, but only for half and less of the seats in a new government.

They demanded Damaskinos as regent, who when appointed promptly handed over the government to General Plastiras, a notorious reactionary who has sworn enmity to EAM and said he would leave Greece if their demands were granted. His claim to represent the new Greek “democracy” is that he has twice been a military dictator in Greece!

The last time for one day, after which he had to flee the country. So much for trust in Damaskinos and other “impartial” representatives of the capitalist class.

A compromise may be reached. ELAS has been trying to find a formula for capitulation all the time, But they fear the masses who might take things into their own hands. Already, before the conflict had begun, the Greek masses were in a revolutionary mood. Long before the war the Trotskyist Party had big support among the Greek workers and peasants. The Economist of August 5 1944, wrote:

“It is interesting to note that a Russian military mission has now arrived in the Greek mountains. A report from Cairo says that its ‘most probable objective is to draw into line the recalcitrant communists who now rule the EAM detachments.

“Whether this is really so cannot yet be ascertained, though it is known that M. Papandreou has had some support in the Middle East from Soviet representatives. ‘Recalcitrant Communism’ used to be pretty strong in Greece some years ago. Its spokesmen, who labelled themselves curiously as ‘Archivo-Marxists’, gave many headaches to the leaders of the Communist International in Moscow. Under the Mexatas regime the ‘Archivo-Marxists’ were wiped out by police repression; and it seems somewhat doubtful whether the same movement has now been able to re-emerge and to sway the Greek guerillas. But it is quite possible that some such unorthodox communist tendency may have established itself among the ‘men of the mountains’ firmly enough to oppose the Lebanon Agreement and to reject any conciliation with the dynasty. If so then the Russian military mission in Greece will be confronted with a task which may be as much political [as] military.

“The Mission has come to Greece with an increased ‘moral and political prestige derived from the victories of Russian armies. This will probably strengthen its hands in laying the ‘Trotskyist’ ghost in the Epirus.”

Although no news has come through the censorship, a report appeared in the provincial editions of the British press, which was suppressed in the later editions of the national press, that [out of] three prisoners interviewed by British journalists, two stated that they were social democrats, and one that he was a member of the Fourth International.

Our Greek comrades will be fighting for a revolutionary socialist policy as the only means of achieving victory for the working class.

Our tasks in Britain

News from reliable sources indicates that Churchill was compelled to undertake the manoeuvre of his Christmas flight to Greece because the Labour ministers had told him that their position was becoming untenable in face of the overwhelming protests they had received from the organised Labour movement throughout the country. They said that unless the policy was modified, in view of the risinig wave of protest, they would have no alternative but to leave the government. But Churchill has not changed. He remains, as before, the implacable enemy of the workers.

This shameful behind the scenes negotiations with Churchill and the reactionary imperialists by the Labour leaders must be ended. The pressure of the workers has already rocked the coalition. A mighty movement to end the coalition would compel the Labour ministers to leave the government and stay Churchill’s claws from seizing the Greek workers by the throat.

Workers! Demand the withdrawal of the British troops from Greece! End the coalition! For a socialist Greece and a socialist Britain!