Wed Sep 28th, 2011 at 08:42:38 PM EST
Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the National Liberation Front (Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo - EAM) in Nazi-occupied Greece. In other circumstances it would pass barely noticed, with speeches from surviving war heroes, a brief spotlight on history, the bravery of the war generation, perhaps at the German Occupation and its aftermath in the Civil War. A festival, a memorial service by various parties on the left. Something like that.
As history is sending us into most troubled waters again however, it seems to acquire a deeper significance this year. A call to arms in a sense. A different kind of "arms" than at the time of course, and a call to return to the original sin of post-war Greece, the post-war political triumph of nazi collaborators.
Thus I take the opportunity to present to Eurotrib a two part BBC documentary on the Greek Civil War, that was aired only once in the 1980s and then vetoed by the British diplomatic service as "unfair" to post-war British efforts in Greece. This was something I meant to do for a while now since I have kept in mind DoDo's request for an extended diary on the subject something I now know I'll never have time to pen, so I think the two videos will do nicely as a useful and pretty much, accurate version of the events of the time... In a sense, the Greek Resistance and the Greek Civil War are still present in political discourse, disguised yet potent and still color the lexicon of modern debate. As the Germans left, I note, George Papandreou Sr, the current PM's grandfather, came into the national spotlight as a major political presence.
Since the economic woes of modern Greece are the order of the day, I would like to present you with a few paragraphs on the post-war Greek ruling class, taken from Gabriel Kolko's magnificent Century of War:
It was not only an increasingly concerted policy of repression that was to push Greece to civil war. The economic situation also radicalized countless numbers of people throughout the nation, and to them only a totally new regime seemed a solution to the monumental corruption and venality that persisted unabated after the war ended. The Greek ruling class was surely among the most exploitive and reckless in the world, and foreigners repeatedly wrote about the immense contrast between the life-style of the Athens elite and that of the vast majority of the nation. Supplies sent by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and others to relieve serious malnutrition and hunger largely entered the black market and enriched corrupt politicians and businessmen linked to them. No effort was made to hide the practice, and scarcely any to conceal its beneficiaries. The British government openly criticized such evils, regarding its aid as useless in this context--and quickly resolved to transfer the bill to Washington, which in turn had no illusions whatsoever about living conditions in Greece or the probity of its future clients.
A handful of speculators ruthlessly manipulated the distribution system at the war's end, producing rampant inflation, and both agricultural and industrial output in 1945 were about a third of prewar levels--reaching 85 and 70 percent, respectively, by the end of 1947. But rising output did not basically alter the economic crisis for the remainder of the decade because of tax avoidance among the rich, their collusion with the political leaders to monopolize imports for their mutual advantage, and gold speculation. More private gold flowed out of Greece by the end of 1946 than the value of all the aid it received from UNRRA. In 1947 the Greek standard of living was the lowest in Europe, well below prewar norms, and urban workers remained close to a subsistence level or below it into the 1950s, partially because of government policies and also because of the huge refugee problem -- which I detail later. Rural Greece, by contrast, was better able to adapt to economic difficulties than the urban sector. Given the spiraling inflation that speculators sustained long after actual production ceased to justify scarcity prices, labor troubles were common. All of these trends con¬firmed that the existing order was failing gravely and that the Left would reemerge in one form or another to replace it if parliamentary processes were permitted to operate.
But a clientelist and especially immoral ruling class prepared to risk its future by bleeding the masses economically is rarely prepared to observe parliamentary niceties... the KKE's (Communist Party) leadership and most of its members during the war itself emphasized the pursuit of a political route to power based principally on the urban world in which they dwelled, and given the economic realities in cities, such a strategy could be convincingly justified so long as repression did not become overwhelming -- which was precisely what began to occur after 1945. Whatever Zachariadis's other faults, which proved decisive, his urban fixation cannot be dismissed as having initially been purely capricious.