(By Nina Kosta and George Korkovelos)
73 years after the end of the decade 1940-1949, the ideological battle over it continues to occupy an important place in the general ideological struggle that is taking place in our class society. No other historical event of the 20th century attracted as much interest as the Occupation (1941-1944) and the so called Civil War (1946-1949), a period that Greeks refer to as the Revolution. Confirmation of this comes from the fact that for the period 1941-1949 millions of pages have been written by the supporters of the warring parties (communists and anti-communists – the revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries) and by the so-called ‘neutrals’. And they continue to be written, and it is certain that the interest will not fade along the way, but will grow because it was then, during the 20th century, that the greatest upheavals in the history of the popular movement took place. Thus, it is a prism from which to understand the Second World War, its fronts, its alliances, the end of illusions, the beginning of the Cold War, the Truman doctrine and the revisionist turn.
Most people on the Left know the general context of this period, namely: that the Greek people were then under the weight of a triple occupation, which encompassed pogroms, executions, arson, atrocities, torture, and famine (300,000 died of starvation); that the German, Italian and the Bulgarian fascist occupiers were committing the above, having an extra armed hand in the form of the collaborationist government and the Security Battalions along with other gangs; and that a giant popular movement arose against them – the EAM (National Liberation Front), notwithstanding the voices of ‘prudence and logic’, which called on the people to calm down for their … own good! It was the EAM, which bore the main weight of the Resistance.
Throughout the Second World War, what preoccupied the ruling class of Greece was what would happen after the liberation. They were concerned because a new revolutionary situation began to emerge in Greece, with people taking power in their hands, through self-government, the people’s courts, and also the Political Committee of National Liberation (PEEA) – also known as ‘The Government of the Mountain’ which operated from March to September 1944). There was also the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS). The majority of the Greek people were organised in EAM, the National Liberation Front.
This historical period had as a key feature the people’s liberation struggle against Hitler’s occupation and enslavement, but this feature alone does not capture the whole truth. The class struggle between the ruling class of Greece, on the one hand, and the working class on the other hand, was being waged relentlessly. This expressed itself during the German occupation as a struggle for the formation of government after liberation (a liberation which, as it turned out, the Greek people were not to enjoy for long). The British imperialists with their army intervened in Greece as conquerors, with the aim of crushing the popular movement of EAM-ELAS and the KKE (Communist Party of Greece), to establish capitalist power, effectively imposing a second occupation. This is reflected in the armed intervention of the British and their alliance with local collaborators who had been supporting the German occupation up to December 1944.
The intervention of the British imperialists in Greece came as a continuation of the economic and political connection of Greek capital with the British bourgeoisie, on which the Greek ruling class depended, because it was itself not leading the war of national liberation. We must not forget that the liberation struggle was led by the working class with its allies. The KKE and the EAM coalition were at the forefront of the struggle. The correlation of power that was formed during the liberation struggle did not allow for the Greek ruling class to be directing socio-economic and political developments in Greece after liberation, which is why it desperately needed British military intervention.
The strategic pursuit of the establishment of bourgeois power in Greece after liberation by any means necessary was implemented on the basis of a plan in place even before the end of the war. Churchill had reached an agreement with Hitler in order to facilitate this goal. They agreed that German troops should be left undisturbed during their withdrawal from Greece and that in exchange the Germans would cede the country to the British.
The British intervention resulted in the Varkiza Agreement, a compromise between the EAM and the KKE made in February 1945, on the basis of which ELAS was to disarm and hand over its weapons.
When it had duly done so, the White terror was unleashed, a ruthless persecution of the hundreds of thousands of EAM Resistance fighters. It was a full-frontal attack to bring about the annihilation of the popular movement, using tactics and methods involving unprecedented murderous orgies and brutal violence against the EAM fighters. Thus, 15 months after the signing of the Varkiza Agreement, there was a bloodbath: Murders: 1,289. Injured: 667. Tortured: 31,632. Prisoners: 8,624. while throughout the year they exceeded 30,000. Attempted murders: 509, Arrests: 84,931, Raped women: 165, Lootings: 18,767. This was the bloody chaos arising under the auspices of British imperialism.
Historical background on Greece
The KKE and the Greek left had gathered around themselves the descendants and successors of the national democratic struggles of the Greek nation. The Greek people had started their liberation struggle and their national uprising to free themselves from slavery and exploitation by the Kodjabashis (‘elders’ – a hereditary oligarchy in the Ottoman administration). The contradictions had their roots in the period of the struggle against the Turkish yoke, for the creation of an independent democratic state of the Greeks.
From the day the Greek state was proclaimed in 1830, contradictions and conflicts continued in various ways between the forces of progress and backwardness. The Greek people, after hard and bloody struggles, were able to create a small state, but could not gain genuine national independence and bring about a national rebirth, for economic and cultural progress.
The Kodjabashis and the ruling plutocrats were connected with foreign interests and were completely dependent on the alternating foreign powers that presented themselves as ‘protective powers’. The parties that alternately came to power were creations of foreign intrigue and gave voice only to the politics of the oligarchy. Such were the first three Greek parties that were openly called ‘English’, ‘Russian’ and ‘French’. These foreign powers presented themselves as protectors, but in fact behaved like masters. They were throwing the Greek people into wars for their own interests; they were blockading Greece; they were causing financial bankruptcies. They were eating each other up and they organised military interventions. Greece suffered at least two intense military interventions in the 19th century, i.e., an Anglo-French intervention, involving the arrival of the French fleet and consequent blockade, giving rise after 1897 to an enormous debt; and there was the creation of two governments after the Balkan Wars with the election of Venizelos who sided with the Anglo-French Entente and created a second government in Thessaloniki, involving a military operation to actually occupy Greece so as to force it into the First World War. These events show Greece’s dependent status that is also highlighted by the fact that Greek shipping capital, the most powerful capital in Greece, is traditionally based in the City of London.
The following statement is typical. In 1841, the English ambassador to Greece said: ‘A truly independent Greece? It is something absurd. Greece is either Russian or English. And since it should not be Russian, it is necessarily English’.
When, with the Truman doctrine, America bought Greece from the British, it considered Greece its own, a place to which it has the property title. When American Democrats remarked that the attitude of the State Department and the Pentagon was against the principles of American democracy, they got the following answer: ‘Democracy and freedom only very big states and rich societies can have. Other states are doomed to have a brutal oligarchy or to be a showcase of democracy’.
Greece’s subordination to foreign interests from the very first day of its proclamation as a free state led the ruling bourgeois-kodjabashi plutocracy tying in its interests with foreign capital. The antagonism between the Kodjabashis, on the one hand, who had been represented by the Conservative Party since 1880 and later by the monarchist parties, and, on the other hand, the bourgeoisie, represented by such parties as the Venizelos party, had intensified. The bourgeois-kodjabashi plutocracy, which with the help of foreign powers took over the government of the country, hid behind the ideological slogan of the ‘Great Idea’ (Megali Idea), with the irrational aim of reconstituting the Eastern Roman Empire with Constantinople as its capital. Later on, during the 4th of August monarcho-fascist dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas, the ideology of the Great Idea was dressed up with the slogan of the ‘Third Civilisation’ having as its model an idealised Ancient Sparta.
Behind the Great Idea, the bourgeois-kodjabashis hid their true policy and succeeded in maintaining the privileged and semi-feudal relations of the rural economy. They turned Greece into an agricultural supplier to the industrialised countries. They engaged in heavy borrowing, resulting in the complete dependence of the country politically and economically on foreigners. They imposed on the people huge tax burdens that stifled their productive vitality and potential. They condemned the people to poverty, oppression and exploitation. The industry developed very slowly because external indebtedness drained the Greek economy, prevented its internal accumulation and did not allow the economy to grow. (It remains the case today with Greece’s debt to German banks and IMF).
Despite the weak organisation of the working class and lack of a clear perspective, the Greek people began the struggle for the improvement of their living conditions with protests and strikes. In addition to the workers, the peasantry too waged a constant struggle with the bourgeois-tsiflikades (rich landowners), demanding land, culminating in the peasant uprising in Kilerer, from 6 to 19 March 1910. Objective preconditions were maturing for a radical internal change.
The October Socialist Revolution was the main influence for the creation of the Communist Party of Greece. The October Revolution helped the revolutionary proletarian forces of the country to become aware of their mission and to proceed with the creation of the party.
This article does not allow detailed expansion on the struggle of the Greek communists in the 1920s and 1930s but suffice it to say that they acquired significant experience and knowhow in operating as an underground network, leading numerous strikes, serving sentences in exile and rotting in prisons. It was the generation impoverished by the wars of 1912 to 1922 and the tragic defeat in the Greco-Turkish war (the so called Asia Minor Catastrophe) who fought hard to improve their lives and to resist their ruling class.
Ioannis Metaxas, who studied in Germany and was a graduate of the German military academy, an admirer of Mussolini and especially Hitler, became Greece’s fascist dictator in 1936, appointed by King George II of Greece. He had to side with the Allies, with regret on his part because ideologically, aesthetically etc., he was in favour of the Axis, but Greek capital demanded siding with Britain. Metaxas’ foreign policy was under the control of the palace, which was closely linked to the interests of Great Britain.
During the German occupation, the monarcho-fascist government went to Cairo whilst in Greece the regime called the ‘Greek State’ (just like the collaborationist Vichy regime in France was dubbed the ‘État Français’) was imposed after the German invasion and aimed to include Greece in the New Europe of the Axis. The fascist government had state repressive mechanisms, such as the police and gendarmerie used in the fight against communism and wielded legislative power to impose economic measures favouring capital for years to come.
The ANDARTIKO (1941-1945) The Greek Resistance
“I, a child of the Greek people, swear to fight faithfully by the ranks of ELAS, shedding the last drop of my blood, as a true patriot for the expulsion of the enemy from our land, for the freedoms of our people, and still to be a faithful and vigilant guardian of the property and life of the agricultural labourer, I accept the death penalty in advance if I dishonour my status as a warrior of the Nation and the people and I promise to glorify and honour the weapon I hold and not to hand it over unless my Homeland becomes free and the people become masters in their land” (Oath of the first guerrilla group in Roumeli written by Aris Velouchiotis and introduced in 1942 in the Greek mountain region of Grammeni Oxia).
At the outset ELAS (Greek People’s Liberation Army) was a rural army of young men from the mountains who formed the backbone of the resistance. Most of its fighters were males aged between 15 and 25, stationed in units based near their home village. Regiments in Central Macedonia offer some crucial data: 80 percent were farmers or agricultural labourers and only 5 percent were white-collar workers or professionals (teachers and doctors), though the majority were from the region in which they were fighting.
The Greco-Italian war (1940-41) in Albania was a formative experience for them. 50 percent of the veterans of the war against fascist Italy joined ELAS, and were later joined by teenagers. Their politics of armed resistance became the politics of a radical society and a people’s democracy (Laokratia).
It was a revolutionary army because for most andartes (partisans) this was a Revolution directed against any return to the pre-war world of Metaxas and his monarcho-fascist dictatorship and against any attempt to reintroduce the monarchy by force with the aid of the British.
In the andartes’ eyes, ELAS was fighting for the emancipation of their villages from the domination of the political world of the capital and for independence from their country’s elite (the lackeys of international plutocracy). Thus, they also demanded Greece’s liberation from the shackles of British capital.
It was the rural people who had for so long been forgotten by their rulers, joined by the city-dwellers who were dying in their thousands from famine during the occupation right next to the houses of the rich who were collaborating. United in their sensitivity to the calls for social change made by ELAS, the people joined a politicised resistance movement organised by the Communist Party, which is what made it so threatening to the established political order. They were fighting for a dual liberation: national liberation from an external oppressor and for internal social reform.
What they were fighting against: TERROR
During the fascist occupation, there were anti-communist sweeps of incredible brutality but these did nothing to quell the resistance. There was torture, daily cold blood en masse shootings of civilian hostages rounded up in lightning sweeps called ‘bloccos’. For city-dwellers the bloccos became the equivalent of reprisals for the rural population.
The purpose of such actions was not to punish those responsible for offences, nor to prevent further crimes. The aim of the terror system was far more far-reaching: to extinguish the will and the imagination of the subject population. Justice in the terror system operated purely demonstratively, for effect. The question of individual guilt or innocence had become all but irrelevant.
The Germans oversaw the formation of new Greek police formations, the building up of paramilitary auxiliary units that were working alongside Wehrmacht commanders in operations against the partisans.
When the Germans had become the new exclusive rulers of the country, they had immediately realised the dangerous situation facing them. They launched fierce attacks and purge operations against ‘Free Greece’ (i.e., the territories controlled by ELAS). Their tactics were based on terrorising the population and the methodical destruction of the mountain villages of the country. More than 1700 villages were destroyed in the winter of 1943.
From Kalavryta to Distomo the mass executions of civilians created a nightmarish situation. The aim of the Germans was to remove the mountain populations away from ELAS and to condemn the inhabitants to starvation. ELAS, together with the camp of Free Greece and the Resistance, did not have answers to many of the problems that the political power brought with it. They could not solve the food problem of the cities, and they could not be secure a continuous supply of ammunition for the German and Italian weapons with which they had equipped themselves.
All these factors played their part in preventing the social and military power of the resistance from surviving as a political power. The British agents and the domestic forces that relied on them were not prepared to reach any agreement with the Left that would open the prospect of communists coming to power. They therefore sought the absolute destruction of the legacy of the ELAS Resistance, which was their only concern.
What was achieved – what was destroyed – The creation of Free Greece and its legacies
In 1943, EAM (the National Liberation Front) had been established in wide areas of Greece and had managed to exercise substantial territorial control. The Germans and the collaborationist Greek government were absent. The area was formally under occupation, but in essence it was free.
“The whole central volume that forms the backbone of Greece is completely and utterly independent of the influence or contact with the occupying forces of the Quisling administration in Athens. The borders east and west are blurred and differ from time to time depending on the activity of the Axis forces. But in normal conditions they cross almost parallel the borders of the plain of Thessaly, on the one hand, and the main valleys of Epirus on the other. There are, of course, isolated sections of liberated areas throughout Greece, but this is the largest continuous section and starts unbroken from southern Serbia down to the mountains of Giona and Parnassos. In this you are in complete safety. You can travel from Florina to the outskirts of Athens without anything other than a permit from EAM”.
This description of Free Greece was given in August 1943. In his famous report by British Major David Wallace, he added: “I did not realise before I went there how big it is or how free it is.” This image is impressively captured in many reports by British liaison officers working with the Greek Armed Resistance.
Government of the Mountain
Before the war, the poor mountainous provinces of Greece had suffered from the indifference of the politicians in Athens. Villages still remained hours away from the nearest road, hospital or law courts. Rural Greece was condemned to backwardness and neglect. The Metaxas’ monarcho-fascist dictatorship put an end to any progressive local initiatives by committees able to resolve local issues in the absence of professional lawyers from the towns. He banned a proposed conference which was to have debated the social and economic difficulties facing the countryside.
Any attempt at local self-government was forcibly dissolved, as a result of which villagers faced arduous journeys and heavy costs in order to receive any official justice.
But from the occupation in 1941 onwards, and the collapse of Athens’ authority over the provinces, there was a vacuum which local initiatives started to fill. The dictatorship was deeply unpopular among the rural population, so by protesting against Metaxas’ policies, the Communists from the 1930s started building up local support from farmers, even if these had little interest in communism.
Local activists of KKE who already had the esteem of their communities were the ones to spread the word about EAM and to recruit many influential older men in their localities, who before the war would have had nothing to do with young communists.
One of the most popular reforms of EAM concerned the law courts. They established Conciliation Committees making it easy for people to have ‘people’s justice’, in courts that took place on a weekly basis in the village, where proceedings were public, free and conducted in a language everyday people understood. Plaintiffs and defendants presented their own cases and introduced witnesses before a tribunal whose members were appointed by election in the community. It was people’s democracy – equality and justice in action. Official EAM guidelines for the People’s Courts did not discriminate between the sexes and women became part of public affairs as far as possible.
People’s courts were the basis for governing councils and village general assemblies where all citizens over 17, male and female, had the right to vote by secret ballot. New people’s committees were set up and undertook actions such as securing the harvest for the needs of the people (the so-called Battle for the Harvest). They would order local olive oil producers and traders, for instance, to declare the quantities they possessed. They set the prices at which firewood could be sold. They forbade private work contracts and set wage rates. Exploitation by the crafty and the well-off stopped, as everything growing on communal land was harvested by workers under the committee’s supervision. Measures were taken to ensure that unemployed workers and children were regularly fed. Surplus crops were sold and any money remaining, after covering local needs, was handed over to EAM for the needs of the struggle.
For small mountain villages, to support of even a few guerrillas was a burdensome obligation. The peasants’ surpluses were not large and the frictions that could be created were particularly dangerous for a military force that aspired to develop into a truly People’s Army. The solution to this problem was found in the exploitation of stocks created by the adversary’s own tax system. The kind of taxation imposed by the authorities created stocks in state warehouses, in the communities. Aris Velouchiotis (nom de guerre of Thanassis Klaras, a communist veteran and the legendary leader of ELAS) decided to seize and open these warehouses, achieving many goals at the same time. In other words, it created stocks of food and materials that allowed the numerical growth of ELAS teams, and brought access to a kind of ‘currency’ that could buy services and other supplies, while at the same time, part of the confiscated goods could be returned to producers and poor farmers. In this way, ELAS exercised a kind of social policy, while at the same time undermining the institutions and laws of the collaborationist state. In this way, at the beginning of the autumn of 1942, the numerical take-off of ELAS began. The first activity of the guerrilla groups was very prudent. They usually started with the execution of an executive of the state or collaborator with the occupiers. The act was a kind of political declaration as it broke the ties of the occupying authorities with the local government and announced the creation of a new government, which as such had the right to put on trial, judge and kill.
There could be only one master in the mountains now: the andartes. The gendarmerie was disarmed or forced to take refuge in the cities. In the free areas created by the expulsion of the collaborationist state, a new system of power could now be established and operate, as a state in essence, which in turn supported and invested in ELAS.
From the end of 1942, a British military mission, the Eddie Mayers team, operated in the mountains of central Greece. The group’s military and political goals did not include strengthening left-wing guerrilla standards. Their relations with ELAS from the first moment were relations of dislike, suspicion, sabotage. However, the British officers and ELAS could not but cooperate in the conditions then subsisting. ELAS offered free territory and security in which the British could operate. Despite their opposite desire, they offered ELAS the necessary prestige, a kind of international recognition.
The early cooperation between these forced allies was impressive. In November 1942, the andartes, together with the British military, blew up the railway bridge at Gorgopotamos after first neutralising its Italian garrison. The prestige of ELAS was secured. Very many weapons, and ammunition from the disbanded Italian army passed into the hands of the guerrillas. ELAS thus supplied with artillery, automatic weapons, mortars and ammunition now looked like a regular army. It exceeded 30,000 guerrillas.
By 1943, the Communists were the driving force behind the revolutionary self-government institutions of the Resistance, which culminated in the Government of the Mountain.
On Sunday, March 10, 1944, the Political Committee for National Liberation (PEEA) was founded in the village of Viniani in Evrytania. In the village square the Founding Act was read out:
“The main and primary purpose of the Commission is: To coordinate and carry out with all means and with all forces in Greece and on the side of our Allies the struggle against the conquerors. To fight for the expulsion from the country and the defeat of the German and Bulgarian invaders, for the complete national liberation and for the guarantee of the independence and integrity of the country. To seek our national restoration based on the principle of self-determination of the peoples. To fight for the extermination of internal fascism and the armed traitorous battalions”. […]
The Commission, starting from the realisation that, in order to achieve the above national goals satisfactorily, all national forces had to be involved in this work, considered it as its primary task actively to pursue the formation of a general national coalition government.
One of the most remarkable events in the history of the formation of power in Free Greece was the election process of the National Council. If the PEEA (Political Committee for National Liberation) was the governing body of Free Greece, the National Council was the parliament that ratified its power. The election process was unprecedented in many ways. Undoubtedly the most important aspect was the unconditional participation of women in the electoral process, as well as young people aged 18 and over. But the most important thing was what followed: the political formation, that is, of Free Greece, with institutions staffed by elected members of the National Council and other executives of PEEA. Through them, the social alliances of EAM were consolidated. The announcement of elections was provided by the founding act of PEEA. The elections were scheduled for April 23, 1944, and it was definitely a mass process. We have estimates of 1,800,000 voters, despite conditions of unbelievable persecution by the occupiers. In comparison, in the parliamentary elections that had taken place in January 1936, 1,278,085 people had voted.
At the same time that the Greek people were fighting the conqueror, in the midst of famine and hardship, meeting death on a daily basis, they were also struggling to establish the reconstruction of a country that had been half-destroyed, to educate their barefoot children, to save their culture, to establish local government institutions to govern their country, to consolidate justice and democracy, to consolidate people’s power.
The goals were set right from the start: National Liberation; the restoration of popular sovereignty; the improvement, completion and smooth operation of the institutions of local self-government; the adaptation of the People’s Army to the demands of the new reality; the satisfaction of the needs of the Greek people, and the care of the victims of the occupiers; the union of all the Greek people under a single government.
180 representatives were elected for the first meeting of the National Council, held in Koryschades, from14 to 27 May of the same year. Patriots who belonged to the KKE, the Peasant Party of Greece, the Socialist Party, the Democratic Union, the Union of the Democratic Republic, the Left Liberal Party, the Reform Party, as well as independents took part.
The work of PEEA was particularly rich. It tried to live up to the expectations of all those who had fought with self-denial and heroism against foreign and local tyrants, harvesting the first fruits of the collective work and planting the seeds for the Greece that they wanted in the future. It was a glimpse of the bright future for which EAM/ELAS was fighting.
People’s Democracy in action – Building the society to come
In one of the many theatrical plays written for the revolutionary Free Greece by Georgios Kotzioulas, this social vision is expressed clearly:
“In the future we will all be one, villagers and town-dwellers, rich and poor. It is our Will. The People’s”.
With the Code of Local Self-Government, the PEEA defined the organisation, operation and responsibilities of the District Councils, the Administrative Committees, and the services of the Secretariats. In terms of legislation, it set the minimum maintenance limit for employees and their families and it recognised, for the first time in the history of the country, the equality of women with men, and the wage equality of the working man and the working woman. It allocated forests and pastures to communities. It took care of the relief of the families of the victims, the needy and the fire victims. It ensured the operation of primary schools, as well securing as pedagogical centres for teacher training. It printed books, and it also printed money. It founded the National Militia Corps, to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the people.
As mentioned, women were given the vote for the first time in Greece’s history. Women entered the resistance through involvement in welfare work and running food kitchens in towns and villages. Others joined the partisans, the andartes, in fighting formations or as nurses and washerwomen. The emancipation of women was also accompanied by EAM’s appeal to the young. Through the EPON (United Panhellenic Organisation of Youth), EAM mobilised teenagers in the villages and cities. Their younger siblings, the Aetopoula (Little eagles), carried out many useful tasks under the noses of the Axis authorities. They took part in demonstrations, helped transport supplies and carried messages, organised relief work and laid on cultural events. Many young Eponites served as reserve militia and many advanced into fighting units based far from their homes.
EPON itself emerged as a shadow national organisation to EAM. It organised regional conferences which hundreds of youthful delegates attended. They produced plays and puppet shows with themes drawn from the flames of the National Liberation Struggle.
Almost a thousand village cultural groups were sponsored across Greece, in addition to the travelling theatre troupes.
Reflecting the high value that EAM attached to education, EAM attracted many outstanding educationalists, like Rosa Imvrioti, a pioneer of female emancipation and the first woman principal of a high school in Greece. She embodied the idea of resistance as internal reform and improvement. She established a primitive teacher training college in a mountain village. “A school in every village was her motto”. After the defeat of Free Greece- Rosa was written off as a dangerous radical, and Greece was not to see such an impressive and dedicated effort to improve rural schooling for another 30 years.
The 1950s with their conservativism reflected the counter-revolution and its anti-communism. All these pioneering groups of people were sent into exile, some never to return, and their efforts became a poignant memory of a time when the conventions of Greek life had been challenged with a breath of freedom and people’s power.
Many of EAM’s leading reformers were university graduates and intellectuals and most saw the countryside through a city-dwellers’ eyes. Some of the villagers were also often suspicious of the new social innovations. The most enthusiastic supporters of the cultural events were the partisans themselves, children and young women. But the brutality of the Germans’ burning and looting made them look more tolerantly upon EAM’s vision of social co-operation. In all these various ways EAM was showing people that politics was no longer the reserve of a specific elite of Athenians and local notables. The emphasis was on organisation. The power of organisation was made visible, encouraging people to persevere with what was dangerous work that alarmed potential opponents.
The schools and nurseries set up built up the support of everyday people for the resistance. They were teaching illiterate children how to write. Whether or not many peasants were able to read the hundreds of pamphlets, posters and broadsheets generated by the underground, the fact was that the press and the educational initiatives generated vast enthusiasm and respect. People felt great pride in supporting a movement which was capable of such innovations. The speeches made by EAM activists on every occasion represented for the inhabitants of Free Greece a quite new style of political practice.
The first person plural WE became the characteristic voice of songs, speeches and posters. “We are the little Eagles. With freedom in our hearts/blessed children of Greece and offspring of the People”.
The youth of the villages had become accustomed, within the struggle, to speak before the people.
Perhaps the most important resource available to the revolutionary movement was the enthusiasm of the people. This is what the communists did. For them, popular support would not come so much from propaganda (notwithstanding the sense of passionate intensity and involvement they were putting across) but through the construction of a new revolutionary morality and the force of their own personal example. A powerful sense of patriotism inspired people to support the resistance ‘to take to the mountain’ and fight. EAM stressed the need for national unity. This was already a reality in Free Greece. There the people were boss in their own land. According to EAM’s manifesto ‘Two Years Activity’, “The whole-hearted support of the people had led to a general People’s rule in which hundreds of thousands of Greeks live and work in harmony, in security and order and fight with enthusiasm as pioneers for the freedom of the entire country”.
And all this was happening at a time when the conquerors, seeing their impending defeat, were setting fire to villages and executing patriots with a vengeful fury, while the local reaction that had taken refuge in the Middle East was preparing for the enslavement of the Greek people to the British imperialists.
TO BE CONTINUED