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Greek National Liberation Front - 70th anniversary

by talos 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.

in the current economic crisis comes, in large part no doubt, from the radically different attitudes to history between Greeks and the EU elites.

The "franco-german axis" (an unfortunate term in the context, but for want of a better word) have digested both fascism and communism and take for granted that a concensus view exists on the events of the 1940s. This is generally true in French and German society, but obviously a wide range of situations exist in the rest of Europe. And Greece is no doubt on the bleeding edge of undigested history.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Sep 29th, 2011 at 06:06:47 AM EST
It's most stable years were the 6 or 7 in the eurozone prior to 2009.

I also believe that you can't underestimate the problem of Greece's eastern borders. The need for constant purchase of arms has only reinforced the kleptocracies that grew on rubble in the 1950s. Marshall Plan aid came in the form of subsidies for arms purchases. Then you got Cyprus and the falling out with the USA, followed by Greece's deliberate move toward non-aligned countries in the 1980s, the institution of a market economy for the first time 25 years ago, to the 1990s when the economy began to grow.

by Upstate NY on Thu Sep 29th, 2011 at 09:17:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And Greece is no doubt on the bleeding edge of undigested history.

For a large number of Greeks the "consensus view" held by French, German, British and US government elites must be just so much self serving shit.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 30th, 2011 at 12:03:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So what is the core argument? That the corrupt ruling class in Greece are the primary culprits in the current debacle? If so can anything short of a revolution resolve the crisis? And what would precipitate one, a disorderly default? And in this case, is the EU/IMF acting on behalf of the Greek kleptocracy?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 29th, 2011 at 07:53:39 PM EST
Well, at this point the crisis is unlikely to be resolved in Greece alone, anyway, so the question is moot.
It is useful however to point out that economies have histories, winners and losers. Because the narrative I'm hearing revolves around lazy workers and bad decisions that an entity called "Greece" made. At this point it is of some importance to remind people that this mess was not some sort of mass moral failing, but a historical result of the social hegemony of a rather particular ruling class. Once this is done, it gets harder to rationalize mass pauperization as a morally sound way to deal with the Greek end of the eurozone crisis. Anyway, historical background is always useful - especially when it runs contrary to general stereotypes and public wisdom, even regardless of current relevance.

And the ECB/IMF's first batch of measures were as if copy-pasted from the Union of Greek Industrialists permanent wishlist. I wouldn't say "on behalf of" but "in concert with" or "not hurting", certainly.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu Sep 29th, 2011 at 08:20:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A nationalist narrative will talk in terms of Greece as a national actor as if it were a unitary entity. A conservative ideology will talk in terms of the moral failings of workers - of course not of capitalists or the ruling class. A Marxist/socialist narrative will talk in terms of the interests of the ruling class in Greece and global capital beyond being against the interests of the vast majority of the Greek people and thus the need for a revolution if the interests of the people are to prevail.

So my question isn't moot: which analysis are you advocating?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 29th, 2011 at 09:24:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Generally speaking, obviously something like the third, with the obvious caveats regarding what "revolution" might mean, there is no Winter Palace to be taken anymore. Although the situation is complicated in the sense that what's happening in Greece is a stress test of policies that seem to be on the agenda, in various forms, all over Europe - and beyond. At this point though I agree with Varoufakis that the struggle is not so much about socialism or "benign social transformation" let's say, than about "arresting the freefall into a black hole at the bottom of which only xenophobia and aggregate misery lies"...
Anyway the particular history of the social formation in Greece might be generally useful in understanding the history of the forces at work and following what is happening and what is shaping reactions over here... that was (apart from the historical occasion and DoDo's request) what led me to post this diary.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Sep 30th, 2011 at 07:29:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason I am interested in this debate is that the EU/IMF has insisted on the reform and opening to competition of the Irish Medical and Legal oligopolies which tend to be dominated by small, self-regulating professions charging outrageous fees.  In this limited sense the IMF/EU intervention may actually be partially progressive in challenging the local bourgeoisie's stranglehold on key economic sectors. If (for example) much of the Greek public sector is not actually very economically productive - or is actually preventing the emergence of a more productive economy - then the EU/IMF intervention might not be entirely retrogressive however painful it may obviously be for often lowly paid public sector workers. Hence my questions....

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 30th, 2011 at 09:14:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah now I understand! There were similar measures imposed by the troika in Greece. These might have the effect of opening up things like notary services or transport to more competition although the way things are set up I suspect that it will actually decrease competition as hundreds of independent truckers say, give way to two or three national or multinational corporations. But most of these were on a slow way to opening up and the sort of dislocation they are causing during a deep depression has societal repercussions.

What they have eliminated for example, are minimum fees for lawyers and engineers, a measure that seems to have been put originally in place as some sort of obstacle to total tax-evasion. The "opening-up" of certain professions especially in this climate will only have the effect of turning them into oligopolies. They are legislating an opening up of taxi licenses for example, a reasonable measure in regular times which is fought tooth and nail right now by the owners, who fear that they will be burdened with even more costs at a time when already most can't make ends meet. Of course investors have tried already to create taxi companies that would monopolize access to airports for example, in a business agreement with the El.Venizelos managers. So so much for competition.

Much of the Greek public sector is unproductive, but I would argue that so is much of the private sector. The size of the Greek public sector is (was) pretty much average for an OECD country, and there are areas where it is understaffed and others where it is overstaffed. So a rehaul of the public system is in order. But certainly not its reduction in size. Mass and indiscriminate sackings at a time of depression (and ~20% unemployment) are unlikely to help workers in either the private or the public sector.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Sep 30th, 2011 at 10:08:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But we see the artificial divisions in America now just as they were in Greece. It's not only race that keeps the lower middle and working class separated. It's indoctrination and ideology. The Tea Party is weird and can't be explained easily.

In Greece, however, you have to overcome not only the divisions between the public and private spheres, but the remnants of the Civil War. This too is steeped in ideology. I think the documentary was well done and highly informative (the napalm video horrific!), but at the same time, while it acknowledged abuses by EAM (in terms of punishing traitors, perceived and real), it focused much more on the abuses of the royalists. The people in the video were Committed (with a capital C in the old Communist sense of the word) whereas most of the Greeks I know from the mountains were deeply ambivalent. And the ideological splits in Greek society seem to this day based on the specter of that ambivalence.

In many ways, it's similar to the USA.

by Upstate NY on Fri Sep 30th, 2011 at 09:06:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Tea Party is weird and can't be explained easily.

For what it is worth I see the Tea Party as a top down structure created by elements of the very wealthy and designed to attract angry and dissatisfied elements from any part of the US political spectrum. But given the top down structure, those who have organized it have control of what elements and what issues are allowed access to the media and to have their actions funded. Opportunists who can figure this out and who are unencumbered by conscience or scruples then take off in the intended direction, benefiting both from the money and from the base of angry, dissatisfied Tea Party member support. It has become AstroTurfing on steroids.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 30th, 2011 at 02:42:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you just wrote Andrew Breitbart's Wiki.
by Upstate NY on Fri Sep 30th, 2011 at 10:42:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL! Andrew Breitbart's Wiki:

Breitbart often appears as a speaker at Tea Party movement events across the U.S. For example, Breitbart was a keynote speaker at the first National Tea Party Convention at Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville on February 6, 2010.[17] Breitbart later involved himself in a controversy over homophobic and alleged racial slurs being used at a March 20, 2010 rally at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. by asserting that slurs were never used, and that "It was a set-up" by Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party. Breitbart offered to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund "for any audio/video footage of the N-word being hurled", claiming that they made it up. Breitbart insisted Congressman John Lewis and the several other witnesses were forced to lie, concluding that "Nancy Pelosi did a great disservice to a great civil rights icon by thrusting him out there to perform this mischievous task. His reputation is now on the line as a result of her desperation to take down the Tea Party movement."[18][19]

"Thanks" for the introduction. I hadn't heard of this t#*d. Perhaps I should try editing that wiki entry?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 1st, 2011 at 01:07:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It describes him perfectly.
by Upstate NY on Sat Oct 1st, 2011 at 09:38:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a pity Paddy Leigh Fermor didn't quite make it to the 70th anniversary...
by TYR (a.harrowellNOSPAM@gmail.com) on Tue Oct 4th, 2011 at 08:16:40 AM EST

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