The Greek Resistance in World War II: Patriotism or internationalism?

21 posts / 0 new
Last post
Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Oct 23 2006 12:18
The Greek Resistance in World War II: Patriotism or internationalism?

In response to the recent addition to the libcom library of a text which rather uncritically supports the patriotic and Stalinist 'Resistance' movement in Greece during World War II ("A short history of the Andartiko - the Greek Resistance partisans who fought against Italian and German fascist occupation."
libcom.org/history/1941-1945-andartiko-the-greek-resistance), the ICC has written an article which recalls the internationalist position on the war: opposition to both imperialist camps, and to the proto-state set up by the 'Resistance'. This position was propagated with particular clarity in Greece itself by the group around Stinas. Our article can be found here:

http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2006/october/greek-resistance

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Oct 24 2006 09:33

Yes , I was rather concerned about the "rather uncritical " tone of the original article. Bear in mind that the Greek anarchosyndicalist Kostantinos Speras was beheaded by a unit led by an ELAS kapetan.
But don't bother ICC, if you're drooling over another potential recruit from the petty bourgeois anarchist swamp. I'm not particularly impressed by Stinas remaining in the Communist Party until 1931 ( it apparently hadn't gone over to the bourgeois camp yet- ha!)or by the Stinas group waiting until 1946 (!)to leave the Fourth International. I don't buy the apologies that the Stinas group weren't aware of the 4I's real position on the defence of the Soviet Union until the end of the War.

Sorry.
Offline
Joined: 13-11-03
Oct 24 2006 10:26

First off, it's not a critique, it's just a brief account of what happened. I wouldn't claim that the conclusions reached by it are especially analytical. Much of the thinking about the character of the Andartiko was deliberately left to the reader to work out for themselves. The patriotism of the movement is mentioned because that was how it happened, just as any account of the Hungarian revolution will include stories which feature symbols of nationalism.

Secondly, I'm not sure where you get the impression that it was uncritical, at various points the role of the KKE/EAM, USSR and the Britain are all mentioned as contributing factors in attacks on the working class.

Thirdly, given the land seizures, the relatively autonomous character of the establishment of administration/government in parts of "liberated" Greece, it would be surprising if one could not identify any progressive character to these bodies. What the KKE/EAM thought these were for, and what the people operating them thought they were for are not the same thing.

Please note, both the Greek ruling class, the KKE, the USSR and the British all joined in trying to suppress the elements of the movement against Nazism of which they did not approve. Why was this?

Fourthly, maybe such a position makes me too squeamish to be a Left Communist, but the occupation of Greece was astonishingly brutal, hundreds of thousands of people were killed, tortured, starved, beaten and all the rest. I would not characterise violent actions in resistance to such attacks as participation in imperialism per se.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Oct 24 2006 10:56

Sorry, Sorry, I'm not a left communist BUT ELAS-EAM was under the hegemony of the KKE. The secret police wing of ELAS, OPLA, carried out murder, torture and intimidation against any oppositionists-- anarchists, ArcaeoMarxists, Trotskyists
See the list of those murdered by the OPLA here:
www.marxists.org/subject/greek-civil-war/revolutionary-history/stinas/memoirs.htm - 29k -
Trotskyists themselves have peddled the view that there was a tense relation between the KKE and ELAS- EAM, personified by the "oppositional" personality of the Kapetan Aris (later finally murderered by the Stalinists) Castoriadis , for one, believed this to be a myth and that ELAS-EAM and Aris were just as Stalinist

Sorry.
Offline
Joined: 13-11-03
Oct 24 2006 11:34

erm, I didn't deny that the KKE controlled the EAM as a formal organisation. That's a different claim to giving them hegemony over all the resistance activities of which they took part.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Oct 24 2006 11:40

Yes, but the andartiko article seems to me to imply that ELAS-EAM was the resistance. ELAS attacked other Resistance groups during the War (especially around the National Democratic forces) as well as committing many atrocities against the rural population
And in the end the KKE recruited 100,000 members out of ELAS-EAM at the end of the War.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Oct 24 2006 12:04

Battlescarred, the link you put up to Stinas' list of Greek militants killed by the Stalinists was indeed impressive and very moving. I think your point about dates pales into insignificance in comparison. Stinas was part of a whole current of revolutionaries which broke from Trotskyism during and even after the war: the Austrian RKD, Munis, Natalia Trotsky...This was because the war was a decisive moment for recognising that Trotskyism was no longer part of the proletarian movement.

Sorry, I think that your questions tend to evade the issue: regardless of the individual intentions of the people who joined it, the Resistance was from the start fighting on the imperialist front.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Oct 24 2006 12:39

Trotskyism was never "part of the proletarian movement".
Trotsky lost the power struggle within the Bolshevik bureaucracy. He was up to then part of that bureaucracy and still had the ideology of that party after he lost the fight.
He would have been as brutal (if not more so) if he had won the fight as his track record in the Red Army ( where he ordered the shooting of Communists who had broken military discipline)as Stalin and just as anti-working class as his direction s on labour discipline, his treatment of railway workers etc) proved
The Bolshevik bureaucracy was profoundly anti-working class. Some talk about the defining moment for this happening being Kronstadt 1921. I don't really go for "defining moments" but I would date it back to 1918 at least.
It took a war for some Trotskyists to break with their ideology? Let's hope it doesn't take another one for people in the ICC to break with false notions like the above

nastyned
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Oct 24 2006 12:39
Alf wrote:
... broke from Trotskyism during and even after the war

How many years after Kronstadt? There's really no excuse for keeping with Trotskyism until the 1940s.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Oct 24 2006 13:51

Currents with the clarity of those around Stinas and Munis don't tend to come straight out of bourgeois movements. And if only all of today's anarchists, who are so quick to reject the whole historical experience of the Left Opposition, were so intransigent when it comes to working with today's Trotskyists or seeing them as misguided authoritarian comrades....But I don't think this thread should turn into another discussion about the Bolsheviks and Kronstadt. Plenty of room for that elsewhere.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Oct 24 2006 14:10

So who works with Trots?

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Oct 24 2006 14:22

a thread about the AWL not long ago was fairly revealing. Some anarchists, like the AWG, are classic examples of Trots without the party. And then there's the whole history of anti-fascist fronts....But the issue on this thread is more on Stalinism, world war two, and the Resistance, wouldn't you agree?

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 24 2006 14:24
Battlescarred wrote:
So who works with Trots?

I can think of one recently departed AF/solfed/IWW member who does, not that he's representative.

Aren't there both Trots and anarchists in the IWW as well?

afaik some local groups have worked with rank and file SWP members on specific things as well - although presumably lots of rank and file SWP are just hapless left-liberals who've never even read any Trot.

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Oct 24 2006 14:28
Mike Harman wrote:
Battlescarred wrote:
So who works with Trots?

I can think of one recently departed AF/solfed/IWW member who does, not that he's representative.

Just to make it clear, he's departed in the sense that he's been fucked out of the SolFed & the AF. Not sure if he's still in the IWW or not, tbh.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 24 2006 14:39
the button wrote:
Just to make it clear, he's departed in the sense that he's been fucked out of the SolFed & the AF. Not sure if he's still in the IWW or not, tbh.

I believe I saw him on the IWW stall, so assume he's still in. My fault for contracted sentence.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Oct 25 2006 13:01
Sorry. wrote:
Fourthly, maybe such a position makes me too squeamish to be a Left Communist, but the occupation of Greece was astonishingly brutal, hundreds of thousands of people were killed, tortured, starved, beaten and all the rest. I would not characterise violent actions in resistance to such attacks as participation in imperialism per se.

I don't think that a rejection of national defence is a position that is solely held by the left communists. I don't think that the brutality of the occupation of Greece is anything to do with the issue. Capitalism is brutal, occupation especially so. That is not a reason to fall in with the nationalist opposition to it.

I am not suggesting that Sorry. is advocating this. I think that it is an illusion though that armed groups can exist in times of war, and low levels of class conflict without being pulled into siding with different capitalist factions.

Devrim

Winstanley
Offline
Joined: 20-12-08
Dec 20 2008 22:57

Anyone know of a well-researched work, beside Kolko's, that discusses the Greek situation in parallel with what was going on in partisan movements and even anti-colonial/independence movements around the world at the time? Read Lanneret's work on Internationalists in France, some stuff on anars there too, but I'm looking for something comparative and radical.

bougatsa42
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Feb 21 2012 04:07

I realise that the original article was not referenced, but the facts seem to fit with those given (and referenced), in Baerentzen, Close, Woodhouse, Sarafis, Myers, Mazower,Fleischer, Papastratis, Scarfe, Kokolakis etc, etc.

It would be nice if those who disagree with the article could give some objective arguments against.

In particular, I would appreciate more detailed evidence for claimed atrocities against the rural population.

With regard to the popular belief that ELAS attacked other Resistance groups during the War, this is refuted by a number of sources, including Stefanos Sarafis (pp. 139, 193 etc), who makes it clear that the clashes were initiated by EDES and EKKA. One of the interviewees in Scarfe ('All That Grief', regrettably no page no.) is very emphatic on this point, asserting that ELAS has no need to attack the minor movements. Of particular interest is the comment by Woodhouse in Jane Gabriel's tv documentary 'Greece: the Hidden War', that when hostilities broke out between ELAS and EDES, 'the British authorities "decided" that ELAS was solely to blame' - Woodhouse is clearly distancing himself from this decision (my double quotes).

fnbrill's picture
fnbrill
Offline
Joined: 13-01-07
Feb 21 2012 05:49

I think it's inaccurate to lump the entirety of the "Left Opposition" as folks doing Trotsky's bidding. There were many tendencies that were developing out of the bankruptcy of the Bolsheviks that joined forces for various reasons.

Mark.
Offline
Joined: 11-02-07
Feb 21 2012 11:07
bougatsa42 wrote:
I realise that the original article was not referenced, but the facts seem to fit with those given (and referenced), in Baerentzen, Close, Woodhouse, Sarafis, Myers, Mazower,Fleischer, Papastratis, Scarfe, Kokolakis etc, etc.

It would be nice if those who disagree with the article could give some objective arguments against.

In particular, I would appreciate more detailed evidence for claimed atrocities against the rural population.

With regard to the popular belief that ELAS attacked other Resistance groups during the War, this is refuted by a number of sources, including Stefanos Sarafis (pp. 139, 193 etc), who makes it clear that the clashes were initiated by EDES and EKKA. One of the interviewees in Scarfe ('All That Grief', regrettably no page no.) is very emphatic on this point, asserting that ELAS has no need to attack the minor movements. Of particular interest is the comment by Woodhouse in Jane Gabriel's tv documentary 'Greece: the Hidden War', that when hostilities broke out between ELAS and EDES, 'the British authorities "decided" that ELAS was solely to blame' - Woodhouse is clearly distancing himself from this decision (my double quotes).

It's worth reading Stinas on this. Unfortunately there's only a partial English translation.

http://libcom.org/history/revolutionary-defeatists-greece-world-war-ii-aghis-stinas

Quote:
The military action of EAM-ELAS
Outside a very limited region in Epirus where Zervas was established and which he controlled, there was no aspect of the struggle against the occupation authorities in the whole of the rest of the country, in the towns or in the countryside, which EAM was not responsible for and which it did not decide on. All the military operations of ELAS came to be led within the framework of the plan fixed by head quarters.

Here are a few facts which illustrate the nature of its military activity.

On 27 April 1944, at Molaï, they killed a German general and three members of his escort. The Germans executed two hundred hostages in reprisals, and a military detachment received the order to kill everyone that they met on the road from Molaï to Sparta. Most of the two hundred hostages who were executed on the First of May 1944 were old militants of Akhronaflpia. Of these, Maniadakis, Ioannidis and Bartzotas had been handed over to the Germans in April 1941.

The next day, they killed two German soldiers in Kyriaki. The Germans executed a hundred and ten hostages and burned the village.

Those who ordered the killing of the general and the two soldiers knew perfectly well that executions of hostages and massacres of innocent people would follow. They knew it because it had already happened hundreds of times.

In response to the killing of men from the army of occupation or agents of the government, the occupiers executed ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty, two hundred hostages. In response to the destruction of sections of the German or Italian army by the partisans, they massacred the villagers of the region, burning and razing the villages.

In no history of the resistance, in no Memoir of its leaders, can you find an explanation or any kind of justification from a military point of view of this tactic. For sure sacrifices are inevitable in a struggle. And in some cases, they shouldn’t even be prevented, however heavy they are, but only when they are indispensable to the final success. How and in what way did the murder of a few men from the army of occupation contribute to the “liberation of the country and democracy”, when it was certain that thousands of innocents would pay for them, that thousands of villagers would be homeless?

There must surely have been a reason, but it had nothing to do either with the liberation of the country or with democracy. Thousands of innocent poor people lost their lives without anybody knowing why, neither they nor those who killed them.

They killed women because, pushed by hunger or the need to save their children, they gave themselves to the German or Italian soldiers for a tin of food or a crust of bread. One of the highest authorities of “progressive thought” suggested the type of punishment to inflict in such cases. “Mark, he wrote, on their forehead with a hot iron a ‘P’ for perjurer and prostitute”. For the “lover” their crime was a capital one. They had carried out an attack on national dignity, not to mention the danger of bastardising the race. The Glinos book, What EAM is and What it Wants, must remain for the education of future generations, while for sure they are recommended to equip themselves with a gas mask to protect themselves from the poisonous vapours rising from every word and every page.

They killed women because they had washed the clothes of German and Italian soldiers, they killed workers because they worked in German companies.

This “national liberation movement”, as it characterised itself, also liquidated the national minority question, which neither the dictatorships nor the most reactionary governments had dared to do: EAM exterminated the Slavo-Macedonians, and Zervas the Albanians of Thesprotia.

When Badoglio capitulated, an entire Italian division, the Pinerolo division, passed over to the Greek resistance. A popular movement inspired even in a rudimentary way by the most confused and outdated democratic principles would be able to influence the soldiers and make them come over to its side without difficulty. What did the EAM-ELAS, in the name perhaps of “proletarian internationalism”, do? Solon Grigoriadis teaches us in his History (Volume 2, pp. 69-70):

“On the evening of 4 October 1943, in the common head quarters of the partisans18 at Pertouli, the Italian general Infante was suddenly surrounded by a group of elasites19 who ordered him to hand over his personal revolver. From that moment that Pinerolo division changed its role: from ally to prisoner. Thus began the final act of the Italian Second Army on the slopes of Pinde.

At the same time, all the sections who had retained their equipment were disarmed by the forces of the First Division of ELAS, without any resistance (...)

The disarmed Italians then suffered a terrible fate. They were abandoned in miserable camps, in hovels or mud huts. The harsh winter of Pinde fell on them like a calamity. Chased from everywhere in a panic by the incessant cleansing offensives of the Germans, abandoned by everyone – by the British, who took their time in giving out the sum of 10 shillings per month allocated for each of them, because of the difficulties of communication, and by ELAS, because of the continual battles. They were cut down en masse. Dozens of dead were collected every day from their bivouacs which all humanity had abandoned, and thrown into mass graves.”

It is a historian who wrote this, a cadre of ELAS and a supporter of EAM. And that is sufficient to illustrate the real content of this movement and the real objective of its leadership.

The same historian informs us that ELAS had the objective of seizing the Italians’ arms, not to use them against the Germans, but so as to have superiority in armaments after the retreat of the German troops, which everyone thought was close. And they didn’t just take arms but also boots, raincoats and blankets. So as to clothe “their own”.

This ELAS operation counts amongst the most bestial and inhuman crimes of the war. It was above all the surest means of preventing the fraternisation of the partisans with the German and Italian soldiers -the prevention of the thing which, in all reactionary wars, provokes panic and terror in all those responsible for the massacre of peoples: their exploiters and rulers. What Italian or German soldier would dare to pass into the ranks of the partisans, knowing that they would be disarmed and robbed, and left to die of hunger and cold ?

bougatsa42
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Feb 21 2012 20:10

I had a glance at the Stinas memoires. Others have commented on the unreliability of Stinas, but I must say that it is some achievement, to be both dull and hysterical all at once.

Sarafis describes in some detail the capitulation of the Pinerollo Division in mid-September 1943 (pp.182-6,198). ELAS accepted those who were prepared ot fight the Germans, although they had great difficulty feeding the Italians until the British got round to funding them. The British officer Chris Woodhouse asked that the Italians, with ELAS guides, raid the Larisa airport and destroy the planes. The operation was a failure because the Italians made no attempt to carry it out, abandoning ther equipment. The Germans found the equipment and burned 200 houses in reprisal. In mid-October, as the Italians still showed no willingness to honour the agreement and take part in operations, and threatened to be a liability, ELAS disarmed them.

The question of operations and sabotage is an interesting one, as it was a bone of contention between ELAS and the British, who were impatient with ELAS's concern for the repercussions (stated very clearly in Myers, cf also Kokolakis).