Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
A New Americanism
Why a Nation Needs a National Story
SHOTS are being fired and men killed in Greece in the same war which elsewhere is waged with words -- a war between eastern totalitarianism and western democracy. In Greece this conflict began in the darkness of Axis occupation during World War II, and has never stopped. Each day there is some violence to report. A guerrilla group -- a lawless element acting nonetheless under the strictest discipline and directed by a Kapitanios, or political commissar -- attacks and destroys some Greek village -- a unit of society organized according to a pattern familiar and human. Each day men and women are enticed to take a part in a new type of society coldly disciplined and fiercely aggressive; or if they decline are abducted and forced to do so.
Every outbreak of fury, be it the skirmish over a village, a railroad, a powerhouse or a gendarmerie post, or a more ambitious attack on a town, illustrates the method this totalitarian system uses -- the spread of terror. Its specific purpose is to dismember Greece, the last free country between the Baltic and the Aegean, and bring it piecemeal into the Russian-controlled Balkan group. Each day the Greek armed forces give battle. Each day Greece loses some of her lifeblood in the process. Each day her ability to resist is impaired. Nearly half a million of Greece's total population of about 7,000,000 have become victims of guerrilla excesses. Most of them are women and children, now homeless and hopeless, trekking from town to town and village to village. During January, according to the Ministry of Social Welfare, the impoverished Greek Government has had to spend the sum of $3,800,000 on alms to this army of afflicted souls.
As each day brings evidence of increasing determination on the part of these predatory forces, it is more apparent that this is a grave and even desperate situation which menaces the entire world. No entreaties have served to bring these attacks to a halt. A U.N. subcommittee has again found what a similar body found nearly a year ago, namely, that this subversive movement is being helped from abroad. Yet the nations accused of complicity have answered by defying the authority of the United Nations. Russia knows well the strategic importance of the Greek peninsula, jutting into the eastern Mediterranean. She bides her time. Meanwhile, from Rumania, Hungary and even as far afield as Czechoslovakia and Poland come reports of sentiment being stirred up for "Free Greece" (self-announced to the world on Christmas Eve, 1947) and of recruiting for "General" Markos Vafiades' army.
Greece knows her predicament, and her army knows that a formal invasion following the present destructive but small-scale incursions is possible, and may be impending. Outnumbered more than ten to one by the combined forces of the countries to the north, the Greek Army would fight. But Thrace would probably be wrested from her in an afternoon and Macedonia overnight, and the rest of the country would succumb, sooner or later, even if not invaded, for want of these productive provinces. Were America and Great Britain to intervene at a time when Greece and her northern neighbors were engaged in a "localized" war, would not Russia be bound to take a similar course? In short, if such an invasion is not forestalled, we shall have to choose between looking the other way while Greece is crushed or risking open war.
Our present program in Greece offers us our only chance to escape such a dilemma. The Greek Army is patriotic and has shown the world that it can fight. Despite losses, despite long periods of enlistment, its morale remains high. It has arms sufficient for its present establishment of about 132,000, though that is not enough for the defense of a thousand-mile border. Until the first part of January of this year American military advice was limited to matters of supply and logistics. Since then its scope has been enlarged to cover actual military operations. We have officers attached to the Greek fighting units who take the risks of war.
Our safety and the safety of Great Britain and her Commonwealth are inextricably involved in the question of the freedom and security of Greece. If Greece were abandoned by the United States and Britain today, she would be in the hands of the Cominform tomorrow. Turkey would then be encircled and the Dardanelles turned. Mideastern lands wherein the United States has oil interests of paramount importance to our armed services (not to mention our peacetime needs) would no longer be approachable from the west. The Russian navy would dominate the whole of the eastern Mediterranean in a short time, and it is reasonable to suppose that the Russian air force would achieve ascendancy above it. The Red Army would hold Suez, control the Arab states, and in due course the whole Moslem world. Africa would be open to Soviet expansion almost as rapid as armored cars can cross the sandy stretches. The Dakar bulge, of such importance to us in the last war, would be in our enemy's hands in the next. Our hemisphere would be in a state of siege.
A brief might well be held for making over to the Greek armed forces the entire $300,000,000 pledged to Greece from the United States, instead of the approximately third of that sum so allocated; but the fact is that large expenditures must be made for civil rehabilitation or the Greek economy will collapse. If it does, Greece will fall prey to aggression without the need of invasion or even of much more shooting by Markos' guerrillas.
Since it is fashionable in some quarters in America to disparage Greece, let us review certain facts which underlie the present situation.
On October 28, 1940, Italy attacked Greece and was defeated in the mountains of Albania. The following April, Germany invaded, with Bulgaria as an accomplice. Greece resisted, and paid for valor. The price list follows, in part, as officially given: war losses, 30,000 killed; dead through famine, 360,000; executed by Germans and Italians, 43,000; executed by Bulgarians, 25,000; hostages, 45,000; homeless, 1,200,000; towns, villages ruined, 3,700. By the end of the war the Greek population was reduced by 7 percent. All that was left of the Greek Army that had beaten Italy were a few battalions mustered in the Middle East. The navy was destroyed, but sailors fought on in ships provided by the British. The air force was also destroyed, but airmen likewise fought in British planes.
On the economic side, inflation scientifically planned by the Germans ruined the monetary system. In 1939 the national wealth and national income were reckoned to be $3.4 billion and $510,400,000 respectively. In 1944 they were estimated at $1,456,000,000 and $217,600,000. The damage to the industrial plant is estimated at $40,000,000. The Greek merchant marine, which ranked ninth in the world with a total of 1,697,986 tons and was the main source of the nation's foreign exchange, was almost completely wiped out; over a million tons were sent to the bottom. Rolling stock, too, was almost totally destroyed; and 60 percent of the railroad tracks, 60 percent of the telephones, 75 percent of the telegraph wires and installations were wrecked. All big bridges and tunnels, which can be replaced only at tremendous cost, were utterly demolished, and 60 percent of the roads were rendered impassable by demolition. Harbor installations were destroyed in toto.
The above figures are set down here, not because the writer thinks they have not been published before, but precisely because he knows that they have been. For the astonishing fact is that though it is fairly well known that Greece suffered especially grievous damage in the war, and fought gallantly, she has received generally unsympathetic treatment in press and radio reports ever since the liberation in October 1944. There has been a campaign against Greece marked by a peculiar spite, the two complementary aspects of which are armed violence and a relentless campaign of psychological warfare. Let us list and briefly comment upon the main items in the indictment of Greece by the enemies of the Greek nation, which has so astonishingly been parroted abroad.
The first is that Greece is Fascist. But the charge is self-refuted by the fact that those who bring it also complain of the obstreperousness of the press and of disunity in parliament, the very symbols of free government.
The second charge is that Communists were always excluded from post-liberation governments. But in fact the representation of EAM (Ethinikon Apelephtherotikon Metopon), or National Liberation Front, was six out of 25 in George Papandreou's first government. Two of them were avowed Communists, Ioannis Zevgos, Minister of Agriculture, and Miltiades Porphyrogenis, Minister of Labor. The latter, it is interesting to record, is at present Minister of Justice in the "Free Government."
The third charge is that the "civil war" which broke out on December 3, 1944, resulted from the unprovoked firing on an unarmed crowd by the Athens police. The truth is that grenades had been thrown against the Prime Minister's house by the "unarmed crowd" and there had been an attempt to disarm the police. Two days before, on the evening of December 1, Zevgos had actually announced the insurrection, which was already planned. Writing in the Communist daily, Rizospastis, he said: "The day has come for our powder-blackened guns to speak."
The fourth charge is that the elections held on March 31, 1946, were a fraud. But these elections had been supervised by an Allied mission, including highly competent and disinterested Americans, which subsequently pronounced them fair. For weeks the Communist Party and its affiliates had insisted that their followers abstain from voting. On election day, according to the Commission's analysis, from 9.3 percent to a maximum of 15 percent of the voters stayed away from the polls. This represented the strength of the anti-national Left Wing.
There are two further charges, relating to alleged corruption in Greece and to the question of the monarchy, which require examination at somewhat greater length. A familiar count in the indictment under the head of corruption is the oft-heard charge that UNRRA goods are being hoarded, and luxury products are being brought in, while the importation of essential items is ignored; such misfeasance, it is said, is due to the venality of the government, which desires to bestow special blessings upon greedy industrialists and merchants. The truth is that on December 15, 1947, the Bank of Greece figures showed that 2.4 percent of UNRRA goods received remained undistributed. Investigation shows that some of this consisted of farm machinery which arrived without spare parts, some spare parts which arrived without the machinery, and some machinery which is unsuitable for the farming conditions in Greece. Some of the undistributed material was footwear totally unsuitable for peasant folk. A certain quantity of medicines were brought in for which the local medical profession, schooled in a different tradition from the American, had no use at all. Some of the material was fishing equipment priced beyond the means of the average fisherman and held against credit furnished by the Agricultural Bank.
At the London Conference in January 1946, it was agreed to place on the market in Greece a certain amount of luxury importations. These imports were made not with state foreign exchange, but with exchange privately owned abroad. It was part of an effort to get trade going again. In general, the Greek Government tried to take the "free enterprise" approach to postwar economic problems, as did Belgium, for example (where it seems to have been very successful), or the United States. This is not necessarily a sign of moral turpitude; nor, considering the terribly difficult circumstances in Greece, does it properly provide an excuse for lofty sermonizing. In connection with tales of "luxury goods" for sale amid hungry people it should be noted also that Greek-Americans, instead of sending cash to kith and kin in the old country, often preferred to provide them with small objects of negotiable value, such as combs, lipsticks, mirrors and the like, for street-corner sale. It is true that the Greek Government purchased at greatly reduced prices one whole boatload of luxury items that originally were destined for UNRRA personnel, then either leaving or preparing to leave the country. The Greek Government considered the transaction profitable business and so did UNRRA; but that fact never found its way into the headlines.
Now about the King. Is the United States in fact supporting a hated institution foisted upon the Greeks by British soldiers and sustained by "Royalist groups" and "Right-Wing bands"? Modern Greece is a limited monarchy, but the throne is not built-in furniture. George II incurred much animosity because of his stubborn reluctance to dissolve the so-called "Fourth of August" (1936) dictatorship until some 10 months had passed after John Metaxas' death. By then the Greek people were almost unanimous in insisting that they wanted no such thing as Fascism at home. The social welfare ventures of Metaxas had been successful and his wartime leadership remarkable, but the great majority of the people hated the tyranny inherent in his rule. The King, who had unwisely linked the monarchy to the dictatorship, shared in its unpopularity. But then Greece experienced an Axis dictatorship, and along with it, and after it ended, had a taste of EAM "discipline" which was so cruel and violent, and, above all, so totally un-Greek in character (for it was intended to fit Greece into a Slav-Communist combine), that the tides of popularity were reversed. Many who had disliked the monarchy began to look to it as the symbol of individual freedom and Greek nationality. When the plebiscite was held on September 1, 1946, nearly 70 percent voted in the monarchy's favor.
That the British sent their troops into Greece when liberation came with the express purpose of placing King George II back on his throne is an utter myth. True, up till mid-1943 the British Foreign Office would have been better pleased had the Greeks simply accepted the monarchy as an established institution. Later, however, seeing that the Greeks were divided on the constitutional issue, Britain insisted that the King must not return until he had positively been bidden to do so by the free voice of the people. A curious fact, recorded but never remarked upon, is that at the time of the Teheran Conference, November 1943, Mr. Churchill (then passing through Cairo) called upon King George II of the Hellenes to tell him that His Britannic Majesty's Government would not support his return to Athens after liberation until there had been a plebiscite. But President Roosevelt visited the Greek King after Mr. Churchill, and advised him "to get on your white horse and ride into Athens." Whether the suggestion was made whimsically or not no one knows, but it appears to have been President Roosevelt's counsel which caused the King to remain noncommittal on the British recommendation for many months.
Later, of course, the British Labor Government took a line hostile to the monarchy and urged that the plebiscite be postponed for some years so that with the passage of time the Greek people would accommodatingly choose to adhere to some "center" ideology. This suggestion corresponded at no point to the realities. There was not, nor could there be, any such thing as a "center" in respect to the violence and oppression exhibited by EAM. The EAM, be it remembered, killed more than 63,000 Greeks, and carried off thousands more as hostages. It is pure theory to suppose that there is a "golden mean" between favoring such things and combatting them. The political classification in terms of Right, Center and Left has become all but meaningless in Greece. There is a single dividing line, on the one side of which is the great mass of the people, who wish to retain personal freedom and Greek national sovereignty, and, on the other, the few who wish to merge both in the Soviet-Communist whole. The so-called "Center" and the loyal "Left" (that is, the Left which intends Greece to remain an independent country) contain conservative elements, while the so-called "Right" has in it progressives and Socialists.
The general attitude toward the monarchy has changed still more since the referendum of September 1, 1946. The intense struggle for national survival has relegated to the background the Republican-Royalist feud, which originated in 1916 in the quarrel between Venizelos and King Constantine. Besides, when King George II died on April 1, 1947, the crown passed to his brother, the present King Paul I, who is much younger and never played an anti-Venizelos rôle. His reign opened a new era for the monarchy, and, since the present King and Queen and their children form a happy family, it also introduced an attractive human element, long lacking in the royal household. Queen Frederika, German born, had no Nazi affiliations, and has striven to become a Greek woman. She is now thought of as such, and admired for personal bravery and tireless efforts to help the afflicted. All this has won far greater popularity for the monarchy than it enjoyed a generation ago.
Much has been written about "Right-Wing bands," with the implication that being also "Royalist" they operate with royal sanction. They are, in fact, with few exceptions, groups of peasants, motivated by a determination to protect their lives and small holdings in the absence of normal security forces, or frequently motivated by a desire for revenge for murder of members of their families. The figures on murder, differentiated from deaths in battle (as produced by a foreign source which, I believe, is impartial), are, indeed, appalling. During 1946, 654 nationalists and 618 anti-nationalists were thus killed. During 1947, 1,258 nationalists and 265 anti-nationalists were slain. All this is a reflection of the breakdown of law, and it can be corrected only by reëstablishing civil government in the guerrilla areas, where terror feeds on terror. Documents seized recently from guerrilla strongholds on Parnassus and Helikon mountains revealed a technique, ordered by Markos and long practiced, by which terror would be spread by killing persons close to those prescribed for abduction.
A good many transient reporters arrive at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens in need of someone to tell them at once, in English, what goes on. My own impression is that three-fourths of the news cabled out of Athens for a rather long period was subject to the influence of one enterprising English-speaking interpreter, whose record is not savory. I mention this to illustrate the way ignorance about past events in Greece has been fostered abroad, and to preface an attempt to summarize the story of the Communist plot against Greece, which even now is not well known.
The first phase began when the ELAS (Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos), or People's National Liberation Army, which was EAM'S fighting arm, gained ascendancy by propaganda and terror while the Greek people were under the enemy yoke. Nicholas Zachariades, Russian-trained Secretary General of the Greek Communist Party, the KKE (Kommounistikon Komma Ellados), urged his following to boycott a "British imperialist war" in January 1940, at a time when the Greek Army was chasing the Italian invaders back into Albania, and Russia was linked in a pact with the Axis Powers. A few months later, in June 1941, after Russia, attacked by the Germans, found herself on the British side in a common struggle, official Communist policy naturally changed. It now wanted the Germans defeated, but above all it wanted a Communist victory. It was during this summer that a British intelligence unit, known as M.O. 4 (Military Operations Four), became persuaded that EAM, the newly created front of the KKE, offered the most useful instrument of discomfiture to the Axis armies of occupation in Greece. Aid was accordingly given them. As time went by, however, Greeks coming to the Middle East began imploring the British military authorities to cease favoring EAM, on the ground that its objectives were not those of Greek patriotism. After Communist influence spread to the Middle East, and there were mutinies in the Greek Brigades there and in the Greek fleet, the British began to perceive better how the land lay. Late in 1943 they began to shift their main effort at coöperation to a so-called Rightist resistance group, EDES (Ellinikos Dimokratikos Syndesmos), or Greek National Democratic Union, fighting under the command of General Napoleon Zervas. He was a declared republican, and was enemy number one for the Communists, who attacked from the rear the EDES forces fighting the Germans in the Epirus mountains.
Significantly, KKE -- EAM -- ELAS had not included Bulgaria in the category of enemy countries. The reason was later revealed. The Greek and the Bulgarian Communist parties had begun bending their joint efforts toward the establishment of an alliance of Soviet Socialist Republics in Bulgaria, Jugoslavia and Greece. An agreement designed to put the plan into effect was signed at Petrec (Petritsi) on July 12, 1943, by Dushan Daskaloff for Bulgaria and for Greece by Ioannis Ioannides, who is now Deputy Premier of the "Government of Free Greece." Within this union were to be two other states -- Macedonia, with Salonika its capital, and the Dardanelles as an autonomous republic under the Soviet Union, with Constantinople its capital. The above document was found in Communist Party archives in Moplya. We know now that there is a whole complex of organizations whose purpose is to establish both Bulgarian and Jugoslav Communist rule in northern Greece -- for example, the Bulgarian BMPO, one of whose branches is the OHRANA, a terroristic organization with the purpose of "Bulgarizing" the Slav-speaking minority of Macedonia. Another group of the kind -- NOF, or People's Liberation Front -- is closely connected with EAM, but has its headquarters in Skoplje, in Jugoslavia, and aims at incorporating Greek Macedonia into the Jugoslav Federation. At one time there might have been a falling out between Jugoslavia and Bulgaria on the Macedonian issue, but Tito and Dimitroff, though powerful dictators, are loyal Communists and have shown that they will execute Moscow's wishes.
Other efforts to sign away the Greek nation may be mentioned. On October 9, 1943, ELAS leaders Stefanos Sarafis, Ares Velouhiotis and Vasilios Samariotis issued a general directive to the ELAS Andartes (Guerrillas) Corps of Greece, General Headquarters, General Staff, Staff Office 111, Nr. 88 (Nr. 1417 of 20/7/43), in which they ordered "coördination of action" with Albanian and Jugoslav guerrillas and instructed ELAS corps "to pursue a complete collaboration between the Albanian and Serbian armies and EAM, in regions neighboring with them and especially the Viglitsa, Grammos, Konitsa, Grambala, Kalamos, Kaimaktchalan, Florina, Monastir and Gevgheli districts." This is the same General Sarafis who later led ELAS against Greek National and British forces in the December 1944 struggle, and the terrain is that of the present fighting. This document was found in the archives of ELAS 13th Division.
Within the last year several secret agreements have come to light between KKE -- EAM -- ELAS and German Army units, which show that, in return for arms and assistance in fighting nationalist Greeks, a specific German force would remain unmolested in its retreat. The most important of these is the pact dated September 1, 1944, at Livadi near Salonika, signed for the ELAS group of Macedonian Divisions by Kapitanios Kitsos, and for the German Supreme Command of "Macedonia of the Aegean" by Major Erich Fenske. This document, the original of which was seen by the author in March 1944, was submitted to the United Nations Inquiry Commission by the National Organization of Former Elasites. There is also evidence that in some instances Bulgarian Communists actually assumed the command of ELAS contingents -- Regiments 27, 28 and 30, for example.
The Communist plot against Greece entered the second phase when ELAS and its Reserve Forces, organized during the occupation for the particular purpose of seizing power by violence after the liberation, attempted to do so in December 1944. It had its own terrorist organization, OPLA (Organosis Prostasias Laikou Agonos), or Organization for the Defense of the People's Struggle, an understudy of the German SS, to forward its aims by the use of murder. Britain prevented the consummation of these plans, and, by the Varkiza agreement, signed on February 12, 1945, ELAS acknowledged defeat by the British and Greek forces. However, it did not dissolve. About 3,500 soldiers went into Jugoslavia with their arms, where they were trained and indoctrinated at the Bulkes camp to become the nucleus of a new army. Others handed in some of their old weapons in order to comply with the terms of their surrender, hiding those of a modern type for later use. Meanwhile, interconnected camps for training and indoctrination, and equipment centers, were set up at Kumanovo, Tetovo, Štip and Strumiča in Jugoslavia, Rubig in Albania, and Ortakeui, just over the Greek border in Bulgaria. Then, after a system of logistics had been built up, so as to insure a steady flow of arms to the guerrillas, the bands were released by stages into Greece. The active warfare which ensued, and is continuing, is the third and present phase.
This third phase of the war will give way to a fourth if the "Government of Free Greece" is recognized and accorded belligerent status. At present this government is a hoax. Its seat is not on Greek soil, but probably in Jugoslavia, and it has no citizens to govern. Yet it is to be reckoned with as a projection of the Communist mind, on the way to becoming a trysting place for fellow travelers. Already press references to the "Athens Government" or the "Athens régime" imply two equal governments in Greece -- the "Free" and, by inference, the "Unfree." Impartiality toward the two is thus invited, and many a well-meaning reader will conscientiously adhere to what he thinks to be a middle course in his judgments about the whole situation. The confusion has been deliberately created for the express purpose of masking a clear case of aggression.