No 1459 8th January 2015
Oil price meltdown shows the unstoppable reality of capitalist catastrophe since 2008, only deferred by fantasy money printing QE. Further sickening lurches of even greater bank and world trade-war hostility, heading for open world war, will underline the giant reformist fraud of the fake-“left” and its misleading “No to Austerity” and “No to War” demands. Both are impossible while capitalism lasts, and a reflection of opportunist retreat and hostility to revolutionary politics in practice, despite posturing pretences to be Marxists. Anarchist calls for revolution are better but naïve, a long way from the disciplined building of Leninist theory and leadership vital to unify the working class struggle. Greek Syriza “triumph” encapsulates all these issues, dangerously disarming workers
The total bankruptcy of all the so-called Marxists and “revolutionary” groups is daily more starkly revealed by the onrush of the greatest capitalist crisis in all history.Six years after the 2008 global financial crash it is dawning on even the most trusting or apolitical of workers that there is no end in sight to the unravelling disaster of the monopoly capitalist world system.
Just the opposite. It grows clearer by the day that the burdens forced down onto the working class everywhere in desperate workhouse deprivation and unemployment, food bank hunger and collapsing services like the NHS, education and local provision, have only just begun.
As the oil price collapse makes clear, far worse is to come once the world economy lurches back down into the full-blown Slump which has only been temporarily deferred by ludicrous Quantitative Easing money printing.
World war destruction, fomented by Washington in piecemeal form for the last twenty years, lies beyond.
It will see not just the devastation which has wrecked tens of millions of lives already in country after country, from Iraq to Libya, Afghanistan to Syria, but total world war, the only path out of its “overproduction” crisis that the private profit system has ever found.
But the “Labour movement” and its “left” buttress of Trotskyists and old-school Stalinist revisionists, still says little or nothing about the only possible way out of this world catastrophe now unravelling, the revolutionary overthrow of the entire capitalist world order.
Those that mention it at all, do so only as a long-distance academically “theoretical” aim, while in practice offering the same pointless and ineffectual “No to War” and “No to austerity” protests and “demands” as the rest, laced with all the illusions in “democracy” and “parliament”, and step-by-step progress that have fooled and held back workers for 200 years.
Even now as the world rushes headlong towards unprecedented chaos and turmoil, they cling to the old “left pressure” tactics, all gearing up for the next General Election as if it is business as usual, and all that has to be done is find “real socialist” “representatives” who will “stand up against austerity”, either bringing the working class back behind “left” Labourites, or at least behind “left” outsiders.
Even the anarchists can do better than that, at least denouncing capitalist parliamentary democracy for the corrupt and hoodwinking fraud it is, and demanding revolutionary disobedience.
But the mystical confusions and naïvety of the likes of Russell Brand, or the Bez-led anti-frackers in Manchester, earnest enough and winning mass attention in the youth, are still a long way from any serious scientific grasp of the crisis.
In the last resort they pander equally to the single-issue diversions (feminism, “Gay” rights, black nationalism etc) and the anti-proletarian-discipline of the fake-“left” – as Brand does in turning to them as “those who know” for theoretical guidance.
But the masses urgently need to be armed with revolutionary theory and grasp of just what they are up against, not disarmed by illusions in “democracy” and reform, or even anarchist rejection of discipline and theory, which has led a dozen times before, to being slaughtered by coups and massacre from Indonesia and Chile, to Egypt recently, or betrayed by the “free market” illusions which underlay revisionist liquidation even of the great achievements of the Soviet Union and its workers state defences.
What is urgently needed is a clear world perspective, fought for by a purpose built party of theoretical struggle using open polemical methods to constantly develop and refine an agreed understanding of the objective world, which alone can provide the leadership for the disciplined and coherent struggle to overturn capitalism.
It is the only way out of the appalling horrors to come.
The ruling class is whipping up nationalist hatreds and local fascism like the Kiev Nazi takeover and its murderous attacks on the working class in Ukraine, (slaughtering and terrorising thousands including many civilians).
Everywhere throughout the “developed world” it is encouraging the foulness of backward racism and narrow-minded scapegoating, from the UKIP nastiness, to Le Pen reaction in France and the emerging German Pegida anti-Islamism, all fed and fermented by world level demonisation of the spontaneous anti-imperialist revolt, and deliberate confusion.
The greatest class war in history is underway requiring the tightest and firmest unity and class coherence of the working class to defeat and keep defeated the barbaric ruling class and its willingness to use the most depraved violence, torture, terror and intimidation, if needed, to either keep, or to restore, its rule (see eg Palestine, Vietnam, Korea, numerous Latin American genocidal horrors, and 400 other invasions, coups, fascist installations, wars and blitzings in the twentieth century alone, and the kind of bloodbath slaughter imposed dozens of times on defeated workers or peasants movements throughout history).
In other words a Leninist leadership is crucial for developing and guiding a unified working class to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.
For all their posturing claims to be “revolutionaries” none of the 57 varieties of “left” groups, Trotskyist petty bourgeois anti-communists and brain-dead “step-by-step” revisionists, have any grasp of, or intention of explaining to workers the epochal scale and historical significance of the unfolding crisis and the titanic demands imposed worldwide to end the system that produced it.
Deep down the all have a petty bourgeois fear and revulsion of the realities of the breakdowns now erupting everywhere and of the workers state disciplines that will be needed to change things.
They barely even challenge the bare-faced lying Tory pretences that the crisis is over bar some temporary “sacrifice” (by the masses of course), except by reformist notions of “rejecting austerity” which leave capitalism intact (in some supposedly more regulated or less draconian form).
Alleged “growth and a return to economic progress” are nonsense except for transient swirls in the overall world capitalist collapse (around City finance for example) favouring only the very rich anyway and gained at the expense of economic pain forced onto others (like southern Europe or much of the Third World).
There is no “light at the end of the tunnel” or general upturn and “recovery” possible, if only “everyone is patient” and “holds steadily on course to get the deficit down”.
The 2008 credit failure was no routine “downturn” to be overcome by a “period of restraint” – as if it was all due to some “bad behaviour by some bankers” and general “overdoing it and bingeing” – like having too much turkey on Christmas day, to be dealt with by a temporary burst of “belt tightening” and restored “regulation” (for the masses only of course, or forced onto diversionary blame-victim “immigrants”).
This is all Tory hokum, a hoodwinking lie to confuse workers and lull them away from a clear understanding of the Depression and war devastation facing them and the revolutionary ideas that they might turn to.
Total catastrophe is unfolding and cannot be stopped (by capitalism) this side of another gigantic hurricane of World War destruction, exactly as in 1914-18 and 1937-45 but a hundred times worse.
It has already begun, with nearly 20 years of deliberately fostered war around completely trumped up lies and Goebbels excuses, from the non-existent Racek “massacre” in Yugoslavia and the ludicrous WMD in Iraq to the latest absurd Sony hacking charges against the North Korean workers state to “justify” new strangling economic sanctions.
Endless international war and repression continues, instigated deliberately by primarily American top-dog imperialism (directly or via CIA proxy) and supported for the moment by its major rivals as the ruling class tries to head attention away from responsibility for its catastrophic failure engulfing the world.
A trail of devastation, chaos and mass human death and misery has been left in country after country and even powerful US imperialism has been shattered by failure and defeat, and massive costs in both human lives and economic resources.
But imperialism is trapped by its own disastrous failure and war continues to be escalated, with endless, civilian-blitzing drone attacks and vicious economic warfare (on Russia and Pyongyang currently) and renewed troop and air attack interventions in the Middle East, coup subversion in Latin America and death squad and troop killing in Ukraine, Africa.
World War Three is on the way, not just to “deal with Russia or China” or “fight terrorism” (Goebbels-lie hysteria anyway) but deliberately fostered because this is the only method capitalism has ever found to deal with the disaster of market collapse from the “overproduction” which its system must always produce and on an ever more deadly scale every time, as Karl Marx analysed long ago (see the Communist Manifesto eg for a still valid succinct summary of the basic underlying causes).
The craven class collaboration of the Labourites and the TUC “official” trade union bureaucracy pours out this “upturn” garbage too, quibbling only over the pace of the Slump impositions and leaving the working class exposed and vulnerable to counter-revolution, as one bourgeois commentator aptly put it in a moment of honesty, like the lobster being heated up in water, ignorant of the boiling alive to come until it is too late.
But the “lefts” are no better with their “anti-austerity” slogans, which are just a more posturing form of the same things, still failing to make clear that there is no stopping the relentless development of the contradictions which build up within capitalism.
Blaming the crisis on greed per se and an “ideological wish” of the ruling class to have more, is shallow philistinism, just another variant of long discredited reformism and class collaboration, suggesting that greed could be kept under control, or the cutbacks be slowed up.
It is not the greed as such of the ruling class in its wasteful, profligate, depraved extravagance and pointless, idiotic, indolent luxury lifestyle – on a scale so grand in its grotesque excesses that it is incomprehensibly beyond the experience of most working class families – which is the problem at root.
Of course the ruling class is utterly greed ridden and paralysed with historical incompetence, but its system would still collapse if they were all still as parsimonious as (largely mythically) the driven Puritan entrepreneurs were at the beginning of the capitalist era.
Nor is the crisis anything to do with “using up too many resources” (with “immigrants taking things that should be for ‘British workers’ (or Italians in Italy, or Americans in the US, or Germans in Germany etc etc etc)).
There are plenty of resources in the world if used sensibly and in a planned way on a world scale for the development of rational society in balance with nature and for real human needs and pleasures, as opposed to the insanely wasteful, polluting, shallow and ever less satisfying stupidities of consumerism, throwaway and transient “fashion” and dumbed-down celebrity culture, (where they can still be afforded).
Human technology long ago passed the point of needing to tie a majority to endless drudging labour, potentially freeing all mankind for a life not of indulgent laziness but of consciously pursued and enjoyed productive activity and pursuit of knowledge, both physically and intellectually.
It is the very nature of capitalist production for private profit which will always hit a brick wall of “overproduction” and disastrous slump collapse because of the fundamental contradictions of guiding and controlling human activity for the gain of a few chance individuals who happen to have inherited and controlled the capital resources of the world.
It eventually reaches a point historically where there is no possible way forwards – within the old framework.
But as decades of sneering at “old school cranky Marxism” by the “lefts” has shown, they none of them really understand capitalist crisis at all, even after the great “credit crunch” demonstrated that Marxist-Leninist scientific understanding alone had predicted the way the world is developing.
It is about to be proven even more deeply by further giant lurches in the crisis.
As the EPSR, against fake-“left” hostility and constant suppression and censorship, has been constantly warning, the 2008 implosion would already have been far worse but for the complete smoke-and-mirrors conjuring trick of “Quantitative Easing”, the vast amounts of valueless Mickey Mouse money printing poured out which are all that have kept the economic plates spinning in the air on the ends of their sticks.
Even that has rapidly turned into its opposite, feeding the vicious international trade and currency wars which are driving the warmongering crisis antagonisms, with the dominant USA and its corporations using the cheapened dollar to avoid paying past debts (undermining Chinese, Japanese and other capitalist trading surpluses eg) and to squeeze their international market rivals, particularly German-dominated Europe, suffering desperate “recession” from cutthroat market pressures.
Now comes the oil price crash, panicking the bourgeois press commentators:
Oil is priced in dollars, which means buyers need dollars to buy oil. Many buyers borrow the money to secure ever-larger contracts, which they then trade at a profit for other assets.
For the last six years, low interest rates in the US have encouraged this behaviour, with many speculators buying oil for no other reason than as a vehicle to park trillions of dollars of savings.
There are estimated to be $9tn (£6tn) of borrowed dollars holding oil contracts. The prospect of higher interest rates in the US makes that debt more costly to service. To prevent themselves going bust, these speculators must dump their contracts, driving down the price.
The US Federal Reserve has yet to raise interest rates, but is getting close. Cooling the US economy by ending six years of historically low rates may seem a logical move to the Fed. But with huge borrowings in dollars around the world, not just to buy oil, the impact will be widespread.
Will that usher in a new decade of $20-a-barrel oil, as we saw in the 1990s? Or will volatile markets re-adjust once the trajectory of US interest rates is known, driving the price back up again?
The amount of money tied up in oil leads to the second reason to be wary: the potential shockwaves on global financial markets from sharp price moves. We know from the financial crisis that something relatively mundane like problems with US mortgage contracts can have lasting and global repercussions.
And from one of the website comments:
Billions of dollars have been lent to oil producers in the US shale industry (remember that?). These producers need high oil prices to be profitable and as such pay back that debt. In the last 4 weeks 100 oil rigs have already closed if this carries on the debt won’t be repaid.
The last time something like this happened was when billions of dollars were loaned to subprime American borrowers and the results nearly collapsed the world economy.
Whether or not this is the trigger at this moment, technically speaking, everything must come crashing down at some point on a scale far worse than even the supposed “one-off” disaster of the 2008 credit and bank collapses, when the world was 24 hours away from the shutdown of all the cash machines and the unimaginable anarchic and gangster chaos that implies.
With it will come crashing down the complacent assumptions of bourgeois society, its ideology and philosophy, and the class-collaborating opportunist traditions of “democratic” reformism and its multiple layers of fake-”left” support.
Not only will it expose the fake-“left” smugness but also the shallowness of their numerous conspiracy theories, such as “greed for oil” – as recently repeated by the revisionist Lalkar/Proletarian for example quoting the portentous humbug of its museum-Stalinist guru-figure Harpal Brar that:
he who would understand world history must first learn to spell and pronounce one word -oil.
or words to that effect.
But the world is swimming in unwanted oil and while it is a central capitalist commodity and a key factor in the crisis, it is only a part of the story and even then in exactly the opposite way to what the “lefts” all “knowingly” declared.
Far from “predatory seizing of more oil supplies” driving war, it is the much deeper and far reaching collapse of all production; not the invasion of the Balkans, Afghanistan or Iraq to build pipelines and seize oilfields but the destruction of those resources along with much other capital.
The oil crisis is a reflection (not a cause) of a whirlpool deflation which is now crashing Stock Markets and rapidly escalating international trade conflict, with even the feudal stooge Saudis being wiped out by US oil fracking rapacity and swamping of world markets.
Like all these fake-“left” theories (especially numerous contradictory conspiracy theories allowing them to “condemn terrorism” while lining up with imperialist warmongering in fact) this disastrous mistake arises from the failure to see and deal with capitalist crisis, to identify capitalism as sole enemy in the world and to draw the revolutionary implications.
And like all the Stalinist theories it will be brushed under the carpet, just like the Lalkar/Proletarian has brushed well out of sight its gushing support for the General Sisi coup in Egypt – declared “the next phase of the revolution” in 2013 – to name but one of its many errors.
Now that the US-supported, armed and funded Sisi regime has become obviously untenable with its vicious street slaughter of thousands of unarmed civilians, repressive mass imprisonment of not just the Muslim Brotherhood but petty bourgeois democracy demonstrators too, along with Western journalists, and even, incredibly, has released the former dictator Hosni Mubarak, the cause of the original uprising, overthrown and imprisoned in 2011, the Brarites have gone very quiet indeed on Egypt.
There is more to be said about the total revisionist confusion that this reflects, and the crude and unMarxist denunciations made by the Brarites of the MB, its militant supporters in Sinai and other insultingly described “headbanging jihadists” generally (while completely contradictorily supporting Islamists of the Iranian Ayatollahocracy, presumably equally “headbanging” ).
But for the moment let the contrast between such cover-ups be compared with Leninist politics, quite willing to look at its own mistakes as needed but also making it clear when it gets things right as in this comment from 13 years ago – five years before the Crash – for example (EPSR 1146 30-07-02):
It will open a far more revolutionarily educative perspective for working-class anti-imperialist understanding if the likely future ‘over-production’ of oil were looked at instead of speculative militarization scenarios about imperialism conducting foreign policy with an eye to securing (as it has always done for more than a century) guaranteed future oil supplies (or whatever), etc.
It is a complete misunderstanding of Marxism to imply that the imperialist system is in crisis, focused on the Middle East in particular (“all the burning questions of war and peace in this area”) because of territorial oil-pipeline frustrations, or whatever.
US warmongering is on the march (in the Middle East and everywhere) because its global economic system (and therefore political control) is falling apart due to an insane “overproduction” crisis of collapsing profits.
The point needs to be made not for smart-arse point scoring (far more smartness needs to be developed) but to show that the science of Marxism, built on a total wide ranging and long historical analysis, begun by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (in 50 volumes of still vital and mostly relevant writings) and developed by Lenin in another vital 50 volumes, as well as other Bolsheviks, (and some partially flawed works by many others from early Karl Kautsky to Mao Zhe Tung) is the mechanism for getting the complexities of the world and its class struggle correct and thereby offering the only leadership that can guide the working class.
Denying mistakes (and eulogising the disastrous errors of Stalin-led Moscow revisionism) is not only opportunistic dishonesty but exactly the wrong mechanism and all the more so when the Brarites declare themselves the “party of theory”.
Only working through all questions to an agreed conclusion and constantly reconsidering them if new evidence emerges, can produce the leadership needed.
Such questions are urgently posed right now in Greece for example where the cobbled together Syriza coalition of Trotskyists and ex-revisionists looks set to win a suddenly called election, made urgent by the paralysis and inability of the Greek ruling class to continue imposing the crisis Slump conditions demanded by the German-dominated European Union, which have pushed the Greek working class down further than almost any in Europe in to homelessness, massive unemployment, slashed wages and penury.
But while the mass support of the working class will represents a gigantic break with the corrupt and opportunist reformist politics of the Pasok past (similar to the British New Labour), and the old capitalist establishment, it is only jumping from the frying pan into the fire by placing any trust in this bogus “left”ism.
Syriza, led by arch careerist and devious opportunist poseur Alexis Tsipras is nothing but a dire collation of middle class Trotskyism, as poisonously anti-communist as any other of the Trots internationally, and renegade Euro-communists who long ago abandoned any support for the Soviet Union because of their petty bourgeois renunciation of revolutionary politics and understanding in favour of “the democratic path” and their fearfulness at being associated with any kind of workers’s state firmness.
These rag tag elements long ago betrayed all basic communist principles of unconditional solidarity with the workers states, particularly at the time of the necessary firm suppression of the 1956 Hungarian counter-revolution (an out and out capitalist coordinated fascist putsch attempt built out of German underground Nazis and still extant vicious Hungarian fascism, just ten years after it had run one of the nastiest of all the Axis regimes) and the later halting of the equally counter-revolutionary “democratic” “Prague Spring” attempt to overthrow the Czech workers state in 1968.
Small wonder that not one word of the vitally needed revolutionary perspective that alone can take the working class forwards has been heard throughout the rapid growth of this fraudulent “left” poseurs’s movement (tellingly given non-stop favourable coverage by the capitalist press which always boosts the pretend “left” when a political vacuum needs to be filled, part of its (tacit) censorship and blocking of real revolutionary politics, which never get mentioned in normal times and which get demonised if attracting any attention ).
Syriza usefully feeds out the same dire bullshit as the rest of the fake-“left” in Europe, declaring idiotically that austerity can be “halted” within the framework of collapsing capitalism, not only in Greece but it preposterously declares, as the beginning of a Europe-wide “rejection of austerity” movement.
This is not just an opportunist stunt, riding the real pain of the Greek workers for career purposes (and tellingly the strutting and posing about “refusing to pay” all the capitalist Greek debt burden has long been toned down as Tsipras has played “realpolitik” as an MEP in the European Union) but is an idiotic nonsense anyway as described above.
Beyond being a complete fraud it is a deadly disarming of the working class, keeping it tied into the bourgeois “democracy” lie, and failing to warn it of the deadly dangers of the onrushing crisis which can only be solved by the working class taking power in all out class struggle, establishing a working class dictatorship.
Without such a grasp it will always be prey to the ever more likely fascist suppression that capitalism is being pushed towards in its desperation.
But as with Chile, in the past, and Venezuela, the “left” fails completely to warn workers of any such fundamental necessities.
Small wonder that the petty bourgeois Trotskyist “left” in Britain has been cheering on this posturing, the UK’s similar “Left Unity” opportunist racket of self-aggrandising self-identified “left” Trot and Eurocommunist parties declaring the potential electoral victory of Syriza to be a “government for the defence of the people” “transparent and democratic”.
instead of austerity the new government will feed and clothe and house and create jobs. It will reject the debt.
If they take this step, the Greek people will have started to turn the tide against austerity not just in Greece but throughout Europe as a whole. Such a historic vote would advance the common interests of all the working peoples of Europe.
The new government will also make pigs fly they could as well add, in this deluding eulogy.
The rival fake-“left” electoral game lash-up, the Trade Union Socialist Alliance TUSC, between the RMT, other “left” TUC members and the Trotskyist SWP, Socialist Party and ISN is just as gushingly misleading, declaring -
If the Greeks can vote to reject austerity, so can we – we need to break the pro-austerity consensus of the main parties.
What utter anti-theory cobblers.
Whatever temporary concessions capitalism might make to hold back genuine struggle, there is no overall stopping the crisis which is built into the capitalist way of doing things.
Demanding an “end to austerity” while this system exists is like demanding the rain stop falling.
The working class will remain tied to reformist delusions that can change nothing, and offer no effective resistance to the inexorable imposition of Slump and the escalating onslaught of war, which has already torn the eastern Mediterranean to agonised shreds.
This is all the more irresponsible, if not sinister, in a country that has a long history post-war of open fascist oppression, from the horrors of the 1945-9 Greek civil war (suppression of communist revolution) to the military junta that (re-)imposed brutal torturing and murderous fascist rule in the 1960s, and where the police to this day remain heavily infiltrated with out-and-out fascist elements, as witnessed in recent years in the sympathetic treatment given to the Golden Dawn thuggish Nazi violence and racist killings, still not dealt with in any serious way.
Syriza’s anti-communist hostility to the workers states, biliously poisonous on the 73 year long and heroic history of the Soviet Union and remaining revisionist workers states, like all Trotskyism and petty bourgeois “leftism”, also alienates large sections of the Greek working class, and a powerful trade union movement still influenced by the existing Greek Communist Party .
For all its faults, such contempt and hostility does nothing to educate and illuminate one of the strongest working class CP memberships remaining with a record of past militancy and bitter struggle against the open fascism of the 1940s, 50s and the 1960s junta.
Tragically however the KKE is Stalinist, suffering the same crippling opportunist philosophical limitations and illusions as the rest of the Third International, long ago abandoning Leninist revolutionary perspectives in favour of the dull-brained “peace struggle” idiocies that emerged from Stalin’s mistaken analysis of capitalism post-war as “no longer able to grow on an expansionary path” and with its in-built war drive “containable” by the world working class, long enough for socialism to supposedly outgrow and out produce it, until it was finally overcome economically and by a popular will for communism.
This deluded nonsense, which above all fails to insist on the central importance of the revolutionary fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat has seen most CPs driven into irrelevance, their lingering influence part of the collapse of international working class faith in what was seen as “communism” (a revolutionary vacuum temporarily filled by ‘jihadism’) and the liquidation of the USSR. To quote an extended EPSR analysis of revisionism (EPSR 1190-96, 24-06-03 onwards):
The whole history of the Stalinist destruction of the Third International flowed from corrupting workers’ understanding by a belief that “good imperialism” (that which fought Nazi Germany) would eventually be persuaded to “peacefully coexist” with the workers states, thus making “peaceful roads to socialism” possible.
This philosophical rottenness lives on today in continuing vast swathes of world politics (UN; social democracy; “voting for REAL socialism”; anti-fascist movements; nationalism of all kinds; environmentalism; stop-the-war movements; etc, etc, etc) which STILL expect “justice” from imperialism, continuing Moscow’s Soviet-era influence - typified by Arafat and the PLO.
The crisis bankrupting Greece and devastating its working class, has tipped more insistently towards the need for a revolutionary solution than anywhere in Europe, a need left unfilled by the KKE which has spent the last six years pointlessly using its powerful trade union influence to bring workers out in general strike after strike, - but without in anyway using the disciplined movements to build up revolutionary perspectives.
Just the opposite it has cravenly “condemned” the anarchist demonstrations, for example, as revisionism “condemned” the Black Bloc in Genoa fifteen years ago as all being “police provocateurs and dupes”, or now writes of Brand and the Occupy movement.
The revisionist cover-up is most of all apparent in its refusal to examine the crucially important revolutionary war of 1944-49 and above all the denial of Stalin’s mistaken policies which helped imperialism suppress one of the most heroic and determined partisan/communist movements in Europe.
An entire book would be needed to analyse this in detail (rasing the question as to why so little has been said in 60 years by the Third International on this) but one element is the way in which “good imperialism” illusions crucially affected the decisions of the KKE-led revolutionary army, and its failure to occupy Athens as the German Nazis retreated, allowing British imperialism to seize the advantage.
An extraordinary account of the British occupation and its ruthless violence on a par with German Nazism was recently in the bourgeois press – (which after long suppression, with barely a single book in print to explain one of the most important 20th century conflicts, raises questions itself). It is worth quoting at length:
“I have not forgotten,” says Títos Patríkios. “The Athens police firing on the crowd from the roof of the parliament in Syntagma Square. The young men and women lying in pools of blood, everyone rushing down the stairs in total shock, total panic.”
And then came the defining moment: the recklessness of youth, the passion of belief in a justice burning bright: “I jumped up on the fountain in the middle of the square, the one that is still there, and I began to shout: “Comrades, don’t disperse! Victory will be ours! Don’t leave. The time has come. We will win!”
“I was,” he says now, “profoundly sure, that we would win.” But there was no winning that day; just as there was no pretending that what had happened would not change the history of a country that, liberated from Adolf Hitler’s Reich barely six weeks earlier, was now surging headlong towards bloody civil war.
Even now, at 86, when Patríkios “laughs at and with myself that I have reached such an age”, the poet can remember, scene-for-scene, shot for shot, what happened in the central square of Greek political life on the morning of 3 December 1944.
This was the day, those 70 years ago this week, when the British army, still at war with Germany, opened fire upon – and gave locals who had collaborated with the Nazis the guns to fire upon – a civilian crowd demonstrating in support of the partisans with whom Britain had been allied for three years.
The crowd carried Greek, American, British and Soviet flags, and chanted: “Viva Churchill, Viva Roosevelt, Viva Stalin’” in endorsement of the wartime alliance.
Twenty-eight civilians, mostly young boys and girls, were killed and hundreds injured. “We had all thought it would be a demonstration like any other,” Patríkios recalls. “Business as usual. Nobody expected a bloodbath.”
Britain’s logic was brutal and perfidious: Prime minister Winston Churchill considered the influence of the Communist Party within the resistance movement he had backed throughout the war – the National Liberation Front, EAM – to have grown stronger than he had calculated, sufficient to jeopardise his plan to return the Greek king to power and keep Communism at bay. So he switched allegiances to back the supporters of Hitler against his own erstwhile allies.
There were others in the square that day who, like the 16-year-old Patríkios, would go on to become prominent members of the left. Míkis Theodorakis, renowned composer and iconic figure in modern Greek history, daubed a Greek flag in the blood of those who fell. Like Patríkios, he was a member of the resistance youth movement. And, like Patríkios, he knew his country had changed. Within days, RAF Spitfires and Beaufighters were strafing leftist strongholds as the Battle of Athens – known in Greece as the Dekemvriana – began, fought not between the British and the Nazis, but the British alongside supporters of the Nazis against the partisans. “I can still smell the destruction,” Patríkios laments. “The mortars were raining down and planes were targeting everything. Even now, after all these years, I flinch at the sound of planes in war movies.”
And thereafter Greece’s descent into catastrophic civil war: a cruel and bloody episode in British as well as Greek history which every Greek knows to their core – differently, depending on which side they were on – but which remains curiously untold in Britain, perhaps out of shame, maybe the arrogance of a lack of interest. ...The legacy of this betrayal has haunted Greece ever since, its shadow hanging over the turbulence and violence that erupted in 2008 after the killing of a schoolboy by police – also called the Dekemvriana – and created an abyss between the left and right thereafter.
“The 1944 December uprising and 1946-49 civil war period infuses the present,” says the leading historian of these events, André Gerolymatos, “because there has never been a reconciliation. In France or Italy, if you fought the Nazis, you were respected in society after the war, regardless of ideology. In Greece, you found yourself fighting – or imprisoned and tortured by – the people who had collaborated with the Nazis, on British orders. There has never been a reckoning with that crime, and much of what is happening in Greece now is the result of not coming to terms with the past.”
Before the war, Greece was ruled by a royalist dictatorship whose emblem of a fascist axe and crown well expressed its dichotomy once war began: the dictator, General Ioannis Metaxas, had been trained as an army officer in Imperial Germany, while Greek King George II – an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh – was attached to Britain. The Greek left, meanwhile, had been reinforced by a huge influx of politicised refugees and liberal intellectuals from Asia Minor, who crammed into the slums of Pireaus and working-class Athens.
Both dictator and king were fervently anti-communist, and Metaxas banned the Communist Party, KKE, interning and torturing its members, supporters and anyone who did not accept “the national ideology” in camps and prisons, or sending them into internal exile. Once war started, Metaxas refused to accept Mussolini’s ultimatum to surrender and pledged his loyalty to the Anglo-Greek alliance. The Greeks fought valiantly and defeated the Italians, but could not resist the Wehrmacht. By the end of April 1941, the Axis forces imposed a harsh occupation of the country. The Greeks – at first spontaneously, later in organised groups – resisted.
But, noted the British Special Operations Executive (SOE): “The right wing and monarchists were slower than their opponents in deciding to resist the occupation, and were therefore of little use.”
Britain’s natural allies were therefore EAM – an alliance of left wing and agrarian parties of which the KKE was dominant, but by no means the entirety – and its partisan military arm, ELAS.
There is no overstating the horror of occupation. Professor Mark Mazower’s book Inside Hitler’s Greece describes hideous bloccos or “round-ups” – whereby crowds would be corralled into the streets so that masked informers could point out ELAS supporters to the Gestapo and Security Battalions – which had been established by the collaborationist government to assist the Nazis – for execution. Stripping and violation of women was a common means to secure “confessions”. Mass executions took place “on the German model”: in public, for purposes of intimidation; bodies would be left hanging from trees, guarded by Security Battalion collaborators to prevent their removal. In response, ELAS mounted daily counterattacks on the Germans and their quislings. The partisan movement was born in Athens but based in the villages, so that Greece was progressively liberated from the countryside. The SOE played its part, famous in military annals for the role of Brigadier Eddie Myers and “Monty” Woodhouse in blowing up the Gorgopotomas viaduct in 1942 and other operations with the partisans – andartes in Greek.
By autumn 1944, Greece had been devastated by occupation and famine. Half a million people had died – 7% of the population. ELAS had, however, liberated dozens of villages and become a proto-government, administering parts of the country while the official state withered away. But after German withdrawal, ELAS kept its 50,000 armed partisans outside the capital, and in May 1944 agreed to the arrival of British troops, and to place its men under the officer commanding, Lt Gen Ronald Scobie.
On 12 October the Germans evacuated Athens. Some ELAS fighters, however, had been in the capital all along, and welcomed the fresh air of freedom during a six-day window between liberation and the arrival of the British. One partisan in particular is still alive, aged 92, and is a legend of modern Greece.
In and around the European parliament in Brussels, the man in a Greek fisherman’s cap, with his mane of white hair and moustache, stands out. He is Manolis Glezos, senior MEP for the leftist Syriza party of Greece.
Glezos is a man of humbling greatness. On 30 May 1941, he climbed the Acropolis with another partisan and tore down the swastika flag that had been hung there a month before. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942, was tortured and as a result suffered from tuberculosis. He escaped and was re-arrested twice – the second time by collaborators. He recalls being sentenced to death in May 1944, before the Germans left Athens – “They told me my grave had already been dug”. Somehow he avoided execution and was then saved from a Greek courtmartial’s firing squad during the civil war period by international outcry led by General de Gaulle, Jean-Paul Sartre and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev Geoffrey Fisher.”
Seventy years later, he is an icon of the Greek left who is also hailed as the greatest living authority on the resistance. “The English, to this day, argue that they liberated Greece and saved it from communism,” he says. “But that is the basic problem. They never liberated Greece. Greece had been liberated by the resistance, groups across the spectrum, not just EAM, on 12 October. I was there, on the streets – people were everywhere shouting: ‘Freedom!’ we cried, Laokratia! – ‘Power to the People!’”
The British duly arrived on 18 October, installed a provisional government under Georgios Papandreou and prepared to restore the king. “From the moment they came,” recalls Glezos, “the people and the resistance greeted them as allies. There was nothing but respect and friendship towards the British. We had no idea that we were already giving up our country and our rights.” It was only a matter of time before EAM walked out of the provisional government in frustration over demands that the partisans demobilise. The negotiations broke down on 2 December.
Official British thinking is reflected in War Cabinet papers and other documents kept in the Public Record Office at Kew. As far back as 17 August 1944, Churchill had written a “Personal and Top Secret” memo to US president Franklin Roosevelt to say that: “The War Cabinet and Foreign Secretary are much concerned about what will happen in Athens, and indeed Greece, when the Germans crack or when their divisions try to evacuate the country. If there is a long hiatus after German authorities have gone from the city before organised government can be set up, it seems very likely that EAM and the Communist extremists will attempt to seize the city.”
But what the freedom fighters wanted, insists Glezos “was what we had achieved during the war: a state ruled by the people for the people. There was no plot to take over Athens as Churchill always maintained. If we had wanted to do that, we could have done so before the British arrived.” During November, the British set about building the new National Guard, tasked to police Greece and disarm the wartime militias. In reality, disarmament applied to ELAS only, explains Gerolymatos, not to those who had collaborated with the Nazis. Gerolymatos writes in his forthcoming book, The International Civil War, about how “in the middle of November, the British started releasing Security Battalion officers… and soon some of them were freely walking the streets of Athens wearing new uniforms... The British army continued to provide protection to assist the gradual rehabilitation of the former quisling units in the Greek army and police forces.” An SOE memo urged that “HMG must not appear to be connected with this scheme.”
In conversation, Gerolymatos says: “So far as ELAS could see, the British had arrived, and now some senior officers of the Security Battalions and Special Security Branch [collaborationist units which had been integrated into the SS] were seen walking freely in the streets. Athens in 1944 was a small place, and you could not miss these people. Senior British officers knew exactly what they were doing, despite the fact that the ordinary soldiers of the former Security Battalions were the scum of Greece”. Gerolymatos estimates that 12,000 Security Battalionists were released from Goudi prison during the uprising to join the National Guard, and 228 had been reinstated in the army.
Any British notion that the Communists were poised for revolution fell within the context of the so-called Percentages Agreement, forged between Churchill and Soviet Commissar Josef Stalin at the code-named “Tolstoy Conference” in Moscow on 9 October 1944. Under the terms agreed in what Churchill called “a naughty document”, southeast Europe was carved up into “spheres of influence”, whereby – broadly – Stalin took Romania and Bulgaria, while Britain, in order to keep Russia out of the Mediterranean, took Greece. The obvious thing to have done, argues Gerolymatos, “would have been to incorporate ELAS into the Greek army. The officers in ELAS, many holding commissions in the pre-war Greek army, presumed this would happen – like De Gaulle did with French communists fighting in the resistance: ‘France is liberated, now let’s go and fight Germany!’
“But the British and the Greek government in exile decided from the outset that ELAS officers and men would not be admitted into the new army. Churchill wanted a showdown with the KKE so as to be able to restore the king. Churchill believed that a restoration would result in the return of legitimacy and bring back the old order. EAM-ELAS, regardless of its relationship to the KKE, represented a revolutionary force, and change.”
Meanwhile, continues Gerolymatos: “The Greek communists had decided not to try to take over the country, as least not until late November/early December 1944. The KKE wanted to push for a left-of-centre government and be part of it, that’s all.” Echoing Glezos, he says: “If they had wanted a revolution, they would not have left 50,000 armed men outside the capital after liberation – they’d have brought them in.”
“By recruiting the collaborators, the British changed the paradigm, signalling that the old order was back. Churchill wanted the conflict,” says Gerolymatos. “We must remember: there was no Battle for Greece. A large number of the British troops that arrived were administrative, not line units. When the fighting broke out in December, the British and the provisional government let the Security Battalions out of Goudi; they knew how to fight street-to-street because they’d done it with the Nazis. They’d been fighting ELAS already during the occupation and resumed the battle with gusto.”
The morning of Sunday 3 December was a sunny one, as several processions of Greek republicans, anti-monarchists, socialists and communists wound their way towards Syntagma Square. Police cordons blocked their way, but several thousand broke through; as they approached the square, a man in military uniform shouted: “Shoot the bastards!” The lethal fusillade – from Greek police positions atop the parliament building and British headquarters in the Grande Bretagne hotel – lasted half an hour. By noon, a second crowd of demonstrators entered the square, until it was jammed with 60,000 people. After several hours, a column of British paratroops cleared the square; but the Battle of Athens had begun, and Churchill had his war.
Manolis Glezos was sick that morning, suffering from tuberculosis. “But when I heard what had happened, I got off my sick bed,” he recalls. The following day, Glezos was roaming the streets, angry and determined, disarming police stations. By the time the British sent in an armoured division he and his comrades were waiting.
“I note the fact,” he says, “that they would rather use those troops to fight our population than German Nazis!” By the time British tanks rolled in from the port of Pireaus, he was lying in wait: “I remember them coming up the Sacred Way. We were dug in a trench. I took out three tanks,” he says. “There was much bloodshed, a lot of fighting, I lost many very good friends. It was difficult to strike at an Englishman, difficult to kill a British soldier – they had been our allies. But now they were trying to destroy the popular will, and had declared war on our people”.
At battle’s peak, Glezos says, the British even set up sniper nests on the Acropolis. “Not even the Germans did that. They were firing down on EAM targets, but we didn’t fire back, so as not [to harm] the monument.”
On 5 December, Lt Gen Scobie imposed martial law and the following day ordered the aerial bombing of the working-class Metz quarter. “British and government forces,” writes anthropologist Neni Panourgia in her study of families in that time, “having at their disposal heavy armament, tanks, aircraft and a disciplined army, were able to make forays into the city, burning and bombing houses and streets and carving out segments of the city… The German tanks had been replaced by British ones, the SS and Gestapo officers by British soldiers.” The house belonging to actor Mimis Fotopoulos, she writes, was burned out with a portrait of Churchill above the fireplace.
“I recall shouting slogans in English, during one battle in Koumoundourou Square because I had a strong voice and it was felt I could be heard,” says poet Títos Patríkios as we talk in his apartment. “‘We are brothers, there’s nothing to divide us, come with us!’ That’s what I was shouting in the hope that they [British troops] would withdraw. And right at that moment, with my head poked above the wall, a bullet brushed over my helmet. Had I not been yanked down by Evangelos Goufas[another poet], who was there next to me, I would have been dead.”
He can now smile at the thought that only months after the killing in the square he was back at school, studying English on a British Council summer course. “We were enemies, but at the same time friends. In one battle I came across an injured English soldier and I took him to a field hospital. I gave him my copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped which I remember he kept.”
It is illuminating to read the dispatches by British soldiers themselves, as extracted by the head censor, Capt JB Gibson, now stored at the Public Record Office. They give no indication that the enemy they fight was once a partisan ally, indeed many troops think they are fighting a German-backed force. A warrant officer writes: “Mr Churchill and his speech bucked us no end, we know now what we are fighting for and against, it is obviously a Hun element behind all this trouble.” From “An Officer”: “You may ask: why should our boys give their lives to settle Greek political differences, but they are only Greek political differences? I say: no, it is all part of the war against the Hun, and we must go on and exterminate this rebellious element.”
Cabinet papers at Kew trace the reactions in London: a minute of 12 December records Harold Macmillan, political advisor to Field Marshal Alexander, returning from Athens to recommend “a proclamation of all civilians against us as rebels, and a declaration those found in civilian clothes opposing us with weapons were liable to be shot, and that 24 hours notice should be given that certain areas were to be wholly evacuated by the civilian population” – ergo, the British Army was to depopulate and occupy Athens. Soon, reinforced British troops had the upper hand and on Christmas Eve Churchill arrived in the Greek capital in a failed bid to make peace on Christmas Day.
“I will now tell you something I have never told anyone,” says Manolis Glezos mischievously. On the evening of 25 December Glezos would take part in his most daring escapade, laying more than a ton of dynamite under the hotel Grande Bretagne, where Lt Gen Scobie had headquartered himself. “There were about 30 of us involved. We worked through the tunnels of the sewerage system; we had people to cover the grid-lines in the streets, so scared we were that we’d be heard. We crawled through all the shit and water and laid the dynamite right under the hotel, enough to blow it sky high.
“I carried the fuse wire myself, wire wound all around me, and I had to unravel it. We were absolutely filthy, covered [in excrement] and when we got out of the sewerage system I remember the boys washing us down. I went over to the boy with the detonator; and we waited, waited for the signal, but it never came. Nothing. There was no explosion. Then I found out: at the last minute EAM found out that Churchill was in the building, and put out an order to call off the attack. They’d wanted to blow up the British command, but didn’t want to be responsible for assassinating one of the big three.”
At the end of the Dekemvriana, thousands had been killed; 12,000 leftists rounded up and sent to camps in the Middle East. A truce was signed on 12 February, the only clause of which that was even partially honoured was the demobilisation of ELAS. And so began a chapter known in Greek history as the “White Terror”, as anyone suspected of helping ELAS during the Dekemvriana or even Nazi occupation was rounded up and sent to a gulag of camps established for their internment, torture, often murder – or else repentance, as under the Metaxas dictatorship.
Títos Patríkios is not the kind of man who wants the past to impinge on the present. But he does not deny the degree to which this history has done just that – affecting his poetry, his movement, his quest to find “le mot juste”. This most measured and mild-mannered of men would spend years in concentration camps, set up with the help of the British as civil war beckoned. With imprisonment came hard labour, and with hard labour came torture, and with exile came censorship. “The first night on Makronissos [the most infamous camp] we were all beaten very badly.
“I spent six months there, mostly breaking stones, picking brambles and carrying sand. Once, I was made to stand for 24 hours after it had been discovered that a newspaper had published a letter describing the appalling conditions in the camp. But though I had written it, and had managed to pass it on to my mother, I never admitted to doing so and throughout my time there I never signed a statement of repentance.”
Patríkios was among the relatively fortunate; thousands of others were executed, usually in public, their severed heads or hanging bodies routinely displayed in public squares. His Majesty’s embassy in Athens commented by saying the exhibition of severed heads “is a regular custom in this country which cannot be judged by western European standards”.
The name of the man in command of the “British Police Mission” to Greece is little known. Sir Charles Wickham had been assigned by Churchill to oversee the new Greek security forces – in effect, to recruit the collaborators. Anthropologist Neni Panourgia describes Wickham as “one of the persons who traversed the empire establishing the infrastructure needed for its survival,” and credits him with the establishment of one of the most vicious camps in which prisoners were tortured and murdered, at Giaros.
From Yorkshire, Wickham was a military man who served in the Boer War, during which concentration camps in the modern sense were invented by the British. He then fought in Russia, as part of the allied Expeditionary Force sent in 1918 to aid White Russian Czarist forces in opposition to the Bolshevik revolution. After Greece, he moved on in 1948 to Palestine. But his qualification for Greece was this: Sir Charles was the first Inspector General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, from 1922 to 1945.
The RUC was founded in 1922, following what became known as the Belfast pogroms of 1920-22, when Catholic streets were attacked and burned. It was, writes the historian Tim Pat Coogan, “conceived not as a regular police body, but as a counter-insurgency one… The new force contained many recruits who joined up wishing to be ordinary policemen, but it also contained murder gangs headed by men like a head constable who used bayonets on his victims because it prolonged their agonies.”
As the writer Michael Farrell found out when researching his book Arming the Protestants, much material pertaining to Sir Charles’s incorporation of these UVF and Special Constabulary militiamen into the RUC has been destroyed, but enough remains to give a clear indication of what was happening. In a memo written by Wickham in November 1921, before the formation of the RUC, and while the partition treaty of December that year was being negotiated, he had addressed “All County Commanders” as follows: “Owing to the number of reports which has been received as to the growth of unauthorised loyalist defence forces, the government have under consideration the desirability of obtaining the services of the best elements of these organisations.”
Coogan, Ireland’s greatest and veteran historian, stakes no claim to neutrality over matters concerning the Republic and Union, but historical facts are objective and he has a command of those that none can match. ...“It’s the narrative of empire,” says Coogan, “and, of course, they applied it to Greece. That same combination of concentration camps, putting the murder gangs in uniform, and calling it the police. That’s colonialism, that’s how it works. You use whatever means are necessary, one of which is terror and collusion with terrorists. It works.
“Wickham organised the RUC as the armed wing of Unionism, which is something it remained thereafter,” he says. “How long was it in the history of this country before the Chris Patten report of 1999, and Wickham’s hands were finally prised off the police? That’s a hell of a long piece of history – and how much suffering, meanwhile?”
The head of MI5 reported in 1940 that “in the personality and experience of Sir Charles Wickham, the fighting services have at their elbow a most valuable friend and counsellor”. When the intelligence services needed to integrate the Greek Security Battalions – the Third Reich’s “Special Constabulary” – into a new police force, they had found their man.
Greek academics vary in their views on how directly responsible Wickham was in establishing the camps and staffing them with the torturers. Panourgia finds the camp on Giaros – an island which even the Roman Emperor Tiberius decreed unfit for prisoners – to have been Wickham’s own direct initiative. Gerolymatos, meanwhile, says: “The Greeks didn’t need the British to help them set up camps. It had been done before, under Metaxas.” Papers at Kew show British police serving under Wickham to be regularly present in the camps.
Gerolymatos adds: “The British – and that means Wickham – knew who these people were. And that’s what makes it so frightening. They were the people who had been in the torture chambers during occupation, pulling out the fingernails and applying thumbscrews.” By September 1947, the year the Communist Party was outlawed, 19,620 leftists were held in Greek camps and prisons, 12,000 of them in Makronissos, with a further 39,948 exiled internally or in British camps across the Middle East. There exist many terrifying accounts of torture, murder and sadism in the Greek concentration camps – one of the outrageous atrocities in postwar Europe. Polymeris Volgis of New York University describes how a system of repentance was introduced as though by a “latter-day secular Inquisition”, with confessions extracted through “endless and violent degradation”.
Women detainees would have their children taken away until they confessed to being “Bulgarians” and “whores”. The repentance system led Makronissos to be seen as a “school” and “National University” for those now convinced that “Our life belongs to Mother Greece,’ in which converts were visited by the king and queen, ministers and foreign officials. “The idea”, says Patríkios, who never repented, “was to reform and create patriots who would serve the homeland.”
Minors in the Kifissa prison were beaten with wires and socks filled with concrete. “On the boys’ chests, they sewed name tags”, writes Voglis, “with Slavic endings added to the names; many boys were raped”. A female prisoner was forced, after a severe beating, to stand in the square of Kastoria holding the severed heads of her uncle and brother-in-law. One detainee at Patras prison in May 1945 writes simply this: “They beat me furiously on the soles of my feet until I lost my sight. I lost the world.”
Manolis Glezos has a story of his own. He produces a book about the occupation, and shows a reproduction of the last message left by his brother Nikos, scrawled on the inside of a beret. Nikos was executed by collaborators barely a month before the Germans evacuated Greece. As he was being driven to the firing squad, the 19-year-old managed to throw the cap he was wearing from the window of the car. Subsequently found by a friend and restored to the family, the cap is among Glezos’s most treasured possessions.
Scribbled inside, Nikos had written: “Beloved mother. I kiss you. Greetings. Today I am going to be executed, falling for the Greek People. 10-5-44.”
Nowhere else in newly liberated Europe were Nazi sympathisers enabled to penetrate the state structure – the army, security forces, judiciary – so effectively. The resurgence of neo-fascism in the form of present-day far-right party Golden Dawn has direct links to the failure to purge the state of right-wing extremists; many of Golden Dawn’s supporters are descendants of Battalionists, as were the “The Colonels” who seized power in 1967.
Glezos says: “I know exactly who executed my brother and I guarantee they all got off scot-free. I know that the people who did it are in government, and no one was ever punished.” Glezos has dedicated years to creating a library in his brother’s honour. In Brussels, he unabashedly asks interlocutors to contribute to the fund by popping a “frango” (a euro) into a silk purse. It is, along with the issue of war reparations, his other great campaign, his last wish: to erect a building worthy of the library that will honour Nikos. “The story of my brother is the story of Greece,” he says.
There is no claim that ELAS, or the Democratic Army of Greece which replaced it, were hapless victims. There was indeed a “Red Terror” in response to the onslaught, and on the retreat from Athens, ELAS took some 15,000 prisoners with them. “We did some killing,” concedes Glezos, “and some people acted out of revenge. But the line was not to kill civilians.”
In December 1946, Greek prime minister Konstantinos Tsaldaris, faced with the probability of British withdrawal, visited Washington to seek American assistance. In response, the US State Department formulated a plan for military intervention which, in March 1947, formed the basis for an announcement by President Truman of what became known as the Truman Doctrine, to intervene with force wherever communism was considered a threat. All that had passed in Greece on Britain’s initiative was the first salvo of the Cold War....
It’s the afternoon of 25 January 2009. The tear gas that has drenched Athens – a new variety, imported from Israel – clears. A march in support of a Bulgarian cleaner, whose face has been disfigured in an acid attack by neo-fascists, has been broken up by riot police after hours of street-fighting.
Back in the rebel-held quarter of Exarcheia, a young woman called Marina pulls off her balaclava and draws air. Over coffee, she answers the question: why Greece? Why is it so different from the rest of Europe in this regard – the especially bitter war between left and right? “Because,” she replies, “of what was done to us in 1944. The persecution of the partisans who fought the Nazis, for which they were honoured in France, Italy, Belgium or the Netherlands – but for which, here, they were tortured and killed on orders from your government.”
She continues: “I come from a family that has been detained and tortured for two generations before me: my grandfather after the Second World War, my father under the Junta of the colonels – and now it could be me, any day now. We are the grandchildren of the andartes, and our enemies are Churchill’s Greek grandchildren.”
“The whole thing”, spits Dr Gerolymatos, “was for nothing. None of this need have happened, and the British crime was to legitimise people whose record under occupation by the Third Reich put them beyond legitimacy. It happened because Churchill believed he had to bring back the Greek king. And the last thing the Greek people wanted or needed was the return of a de-frocked monarchy backed by Nazi collaborators. But that is what the British imposed, and it has scarred Greece ever since.”
“All those collaborators went into the system,” says Manilos Glezos. “Into the government mechanism – during and after the civil war, and their sons went into the military junta. The deposits remain, like malignant cells in the system. Although we liberated Greece, the Nazi collaborators won the war, thanks to the British. And the deposits remain, like bacilli in the system.”
The purpose of this suddenly confessed bourgeois account, after such a long silence is not, finally, to clarify the working class about the true nature of all imperialism but to bolster Syriza of course and boost its class-collaborating anti-communism precisely to head off revolutionary grasp. No wonder one of its joint authors is long time anti-communist journalist Ed Vulliamy and the piece makes sure to include Trot style swipes at the USSR and its workers state discipline (which is what the crude Trot designation of “Stalinism” is aimed at, rather than the philosophical errors which are the real problem of revisionism. This crude throwing the baby out with the bathwater, denouncing the whole of the USSR’s leadership, (actually 95% correct and heroic in the 2WW) is nothing but petty bourgeois treachery). Note how it slyly uses the tragically opportunist retreats of some of the partisan heroes to give it credence:
Glezos still calls himself a communist. But like Patríkios, who rejected Stalinism, he believes that communism, as applied to Greece’s neighbours to the north, would have been a catastrophe. He recalls how he even gave Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader who would de-Stalinise the Soviet Union “an earful about it all”. The occasion arose when Khrushchev invited Glezos – who at the height of the Cold War was a hero in the Soviet Union, honoured with a postage stamp bearing his image – to the Kremlin. It was 1963 and Khrushchev was in talkative mood. Glezos wanted to know why the Red Army, having marched through Bulgaria and Romania, stopped at the Greek border. Perhaps the Russian leader could explain.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Why?’
“I said: ‘Because Stalin didn’t behave like a communist. He divided up the world with others and gave Greece to the English.’ Then I told him what I really thought, that Stalin had been the cause of our downfall, the root of all evil. All we had wanted was a state where the people ruled, just like our [then] government in the mountains, where you can still see the words ‘all powers spring from the people and are executed by the people’ inscribed into the hills. What they wanted, and created, was rule by the party.”
Khrushchev, says Glezos, did not openly concur. “He sat and listened. But then after our meeting he invited me to dinner, which was also attended by Leonid Brezhnev [who succeeded Khrushchev in 1964] and he listened for another four and a half hours. I have always taken that for tacit agreement.
For Patríkios, it was not until the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, that the penny dropped: a line had been drawn across the map, agreed by Churchill and Stalin. “When I saw the west was not going to intervene [during the Budapest uprising] I realised what had happened – the agreed ‘spheres of influence’. And later, I understood that the Dekemvriana was not a local conflict, but the beginning of the Cold War that had started as a warm war here in Greece.”
What the piece does not draw out, deliberately, is that the “left” reformist tradition which is being supported now as the supposed alternative, was the government in charge in Britain throughout the Greek civil war, the Left Unity venerated Attlee Labour government.
Churchill may have started the atrocities but it was Labour which ran British imperialism from 1945-49 – exactly this vicious civil war period.
Such anti-communist confusion is deadly. Leninism is urgently needed.
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Yet more “condemning” of terror will do nothing to stop tragedies like Paris but plays into the hands of Western war demonising and scapegoating
Another round of sanctimonious moralising condemnation of “terrorism” and “jihadist militancy” will do nothing to stop now routine attacks like the Paris magazine killing and Sydney hostage tragedy.
Western leaders’ crocodile tears and general petty bourgeois hypocritical posturing about “freedom of speech” and “an attack on our values” are sickening humbug that will only intensify the scapegoating and demonisation atmosphere feeding now non-stop warmongering which generates Third World hatred and militancy.
What “peaceful democratic” society has been disrupted? What “free speech” is there for communists, working class or even “greens”???
To escape its crisis the West has already been blitzing and death-squad slaughtering the Middle East non-stop for 13 years, bombing and besieging Iraq for a decade before that, and continually massacring tens of thousands of Palestinians in the most barbaric and genocidal way for over 60 years.
An entire generation of the 250 million strong Arab nation has largely been raised in war blasted wreckage and turmoil, exposed to daily slaughter and terror for all of their lives, provoked by or directly carried through by the West.
France itself has been at the forefront in violent repression of anti-Western movements in Mali, the NATO destruction of Gaddafi’s prosperous Libya into a warlord anarchic racist hellhole, the vicious Christian death squad suppression of the Central Africa Republic, and coups in West Africa.
As predicted long ago when the Iraq war was started by Bush and Blair LIES (for exposure of which the “free speech” system sacked journalists and the director-general of the state owned and controlled BBC), the effect would be to recruit tens of thousands more into anti-Western movements.
The deaths are sad but “brave” publication of not-very-funny Islam demonising cartoons only fed the hate atmosphere. So too does the inevitable joining of the fake-“left” into the “condemnation” chorus. It will not stop terror tragedies – only ending capitalism can do that. ST
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