Ted Grant

British Labour Betrayed Greek Workers

Written: February 1945
Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 12, Mid-February 1945

Churchill's speech on Greece was a clear indication of the fears and of the aims of the British ruling class: it was a declaration of war against Socialism and the Socialist Revolution in Europe.

"For three or four days, or more, it was a struggle to prevent a hideous massacre in the centre of Athens, in which all forms of government would have been swept away and naked triumphant Trotskyism installed."

"I think ‘Trotskyists' is a better definition of the Greek Communists and of certain other sects than the normal word, and it has the advantage of being equally hated in Russia. (Laughter and cheers)."

Thus Churchill openly signifies whom he regards as the enemy: the Socialist Revolution, which he correctly characterises as "Trotskyism". The despicable lies and slanders of Stalinism are brushed aside by this arch-enemy of Socialism and the working class. In giving an account of his stewardship, Churchill has attempted to justify his policy of brute force by showing the dangers to his class that existed in the situation in Greece. Of course he did not say that the general strike and uprising of the overwhelming majority of the workers and large sections of the middle class in Athens, was provoked by the police firing on unarmed men, women and children. Nor does he say that the Greek workers had many bitter memories of the fascist police who were used as a tool of repression by fascist dictator Metaxas and then sold their services to Hitler.

Against "Trotskyism", against the Socialist Revolution, against any attempt of the workers to take control of society into their hands in any country, Churchill and the ruling class will use any means, including the devil and the Nazi gang itself.

Not for nothing did Churchill, in his first speech on Greece, justify his support of Mussolini against the danger of Bolshevism. Today the ruling class pursues the same struggle [against] Bolshevism under the name of Trotskyism, i.e. genuine revolutionary Communism.

Who are these so-called workers' leaders?

Not satisfied with the murder and terror organised under their aegis against the Athens workers and trade unionists, the British Ambassador - probably under the instructions of the British authorities - has arranged the repulsive farce of a delegation of so-called "Greek Trade Unionists" to thank him for saving them from Communist tyranny! Unhappily, so clumsy and careless have the British imperialists been, that among these so-called "Trade Union leaders" is a prominent Quisling named Krokos, who was associated with the Labour Front organised by Metaxas when he illegalised the trade unions, and continued undisturbed under Hitler. The others are of the same ilk, having no connection with the Greek trade unions - the General Confederation of Labour.

And these imperialist gangsters, cynically trampling on the organisations of the workers, try to palm off these fascists on the British workers as "representatives" of the Greek working class:

Not satisfied with having crushed the general strike and the armed resistance of the workers of Attica, [thus] protecting the fascists from the just wrath of the workers, General Scobie must needs flaunt his puppets in the face of the Greek workers and peasants. The demonstration in Athens which acclaimed Scobie and Churchill, was addressed by Scobie as "Greek Workers". Queer, workers carrying portraits of King George and acclaiming General Zervas, organiser of the Royalist fascist thugs - and shouting "no amnesty"! In reality it was a demonstration of counter-revolution - not of the workers, but of the same people who supported the Quisling government in Greece, demonstrating in favour of anyone who would protect them from the workers. Whether it is Hitler or Churchill, it is all the same to them. Their one desire was to revenge themselves on the defeated workers - defeated not by them, but by British tanks, planes and guns.

Plastiras - the interventionist

Plastiras, Churchill's choice of a "democrat", is leading the capitalist pack against EAM. An apt choice for Churchill. Plastiras led a Greek army in the anti-Bolshevik crusade launched by Churchill in 1919. He learned his "democracy", and how to treat the workers as a General, in Wrangel's White Guard Army, which fought against the Red Army and hanged [and] tortured tens of thousands of Russian workers and peasants. A symbolic coincidence! Churchill and Plastiras remain true to themselves. They pursue the same aim now as they did then: the stamping out of Socialism and workers' power in any part of Europe where they may take control.

Plastiras at first stood out for the policy of exterminating ELAS. And why not? The British troops with their military superiority were bound to win in the end and the Greek capitalists could step in and crush the betrayed workers and peasants.

Churchill was undoubtedly originally supporting this scheme. His first speeches on the Greek question after the fighting broke out indicated these intentions. But when it became clear that ELAS had the support of the overwhelming majority of the workers and peasants - and that to destroy it would require a long campaign, Churchill thought it necessary to use other means to achieve his ends. A long campaign which might require 10 to 20 divisions - the Nazis had that and couldn't hold down the Greek people - threatened too many complications nationally and internationally. The disgust of the British workers and soldiers, he feared, would inevitably result in some sort of action against British policy in Greece.

Through the puppet Plastiras, Churchill has already forced EAM to conclude a truce. For the time being, he has dropped the demand for complete disarmament and has allowed ELAS to retain control of the greater part of Greece - but the non-industrial parts. The ports and big towns will be under the control of the puppet government and the armed forces of British imperialism.

The British imperialists thus have the whip hand in Greece and can now organise the forces of counter-revolution - the so-called Greek army - without hindrance, in the strategic and economically important area which they have occupied.

Betrayal of British Labour leaders

Under these circumstances, the base betrayal of the Greek workers by the leaders of the British Labour Party and Communist Party is absolutely flagrant. They have lied to the workers as to the real aims and intentions of Churchill and the ruling class in the war. They have confused the workers by talk of so-called "misinformation" and "confusion" of Churchill by the British ambassador and the military representatives in Greece. Disgraceful blathering! Churchill understood the position perhaps better than they did. And as a ruthless representative of his class, he obviously arranged for the "information" which he desired to be sent to Britain, just as he invented a non-existent insurrection in Belgium when it suited his policy of repression with the aid of British troops there.

He prepared for his campaign of force and repression by systematic dissemination of lies, slander and misrepresentation. Aneurin Bevan quotes these instructions in the debate in Parliament:

"The Prime Minister has ruled that, in principle, no credit of any kind is to be given to ELAS or EAM on the BBC. In every case where it is thought desirable to make exceptions, his personal approval should first be obtained..."

And these instructions were given to all Services connected with Greek affairs by the Political Warfare Executive on August 1 1944, i.e. months before the conflict broke out!

As members of the Cabinet, the Labour leaders must have known what was taking place yet they remained silent and did not denounce the conspiracy that was obviously being prepared against the Greek workers. Thus they participated as partners in British capitalism's counter-revolutionary plots against the European peoples. And the Stalinist, so-called "Communist" Party, traitors still continue to support the Churchill Government! Not to speak of Aneurin Bevan and other Labour Lefts who had not the courage to vote against the Government after revealing its intentions!

Thus, while Churchill and the ruling class have been preparing systematically to crush the workers in Europe with cold class calculations, the Labour and Stalinist leaders have been telling the workers fairy tales about "national unity" and the "interests of the nation". Churchill and the Tories have pursued a consistent class policy in the interests of British capitalism, while the Labour and Stalinist leaders have allowed the workers to be taken by surprise by events.

Hypocritically the "Communist" Party urge "protests" to the government that will and must remain so much hot air. They oppose and sabotage any suggestion of action to clip Churchill's claws. They appeal to Beelzebub against Satan - "Please Churchill should not carry out the policy of Churchill!" All their "protests" are intended to check the uneasiness of the sincere and honest rank and file members of the Communist Party.

When Will Lawther, under the influence of the opposition of the British workers, proposed that the Labour Ministers leave the Government and that the Labour movement organise Councils of Action if British intervention in Greece continued, instead of using this as a basis for a campaign throughout the trade unions and working class, the "Communist" Party remained silent on this question. The Daily Worker which published all the verbal protests of Labour and even Liberal spokesmen which were so much hot air, carefully censored Lawther's speech and did not even print his proposals in the Daily Worker.

In Greece itself, the role of Stalinism has been the same. While the Greek ruling class was preparing to crush the working class, they tried to fool the workers with the same myth of "national unity". Before the general strike and insurrection, provoked by the actions of the Greek puppet Government, they did their best to capitulate to the reaction. EAM representatives in the Cabinet even accepted the proposal for disarmament of their forces, while the fascist Royalist Mountain Brigade and the Security Battalions were to remain unarmed. It was only the indignation and pressure of the masses - who refused to place themselves at the mercy of their bitter enemies - which compelled them to withdraw from the agreement.

It was the class instinct of the workers, who had learned in the bitter days of struggle against the Nazis, the lesson taught by Marx and Lenin that arms represent power, which made them resolve not to surrender their arms. They had been mainly responsible for liberating Greece from Nazi domination and they were determined not to allow the capitalists, who had set up the Metaxas dictatorship and collaborated with the Quislings, to retain control and prepare the way for a new dictatorship.

Stalin remains silent because he considers Warsaw well worth Athens. In return for the frontier in Poland and a Government amenable to Stalin's foreign policy - while capitalism remains there, and a sphere of influence in the Balkans - Churchill gets a free hand in Greece. A cynical horse-deal behind the scenes has been arranged. Moreover, as Churchill well understands, Stalin is terrified of a revolutionary Balkans and complications throughout Europe. That is why he can jeer and pour well-deserved contempt on the Stalinist buffoon Willie Gallacher even when the latter makes a damaging point. Churchill sneeringly said:

"Evidently the chance remark which I made the other day to the hon. member has stung him deeply. (Laughter).

The chance remark was:

"Mr. Gallacher (Com., W. Fife).

Will the statement to be made on Greece be a better balanced and more reliable one than the one we had from him before the recess?

Mr. Churchill. - "Mr. Gallacher must not get too excited about these matters, or he will fall into danger of Trotskyite deviation to the left." (Laughter.)

"I shall continue to probe carefully the exact political shade which he adopts..."

Churchill knows the role of Gallacher and the C.P.- he knows that Gallagher is but an agent of Stalin and Churchill is kicking him jeeringly into line. Even fake opposition, which is intended as " a harmless safety valve for the Communist workers" is resented!

Greek workers were struggling for power

But for the workers of the world the tragedy in Greece and its implications still remains! Churchill brushes aside criticism of the too voluble and indiscreet Plastiras, who openly threatens bloody reprisals against the Greek masses, with the cynical comment that the very existence of his government is dependent on British arms and the British Government is not in favour of this.

The fact stands out that within a few days of the revolution - for that was what the instinctive movement of the Greek masses meant - the workers and peasants armed and organised in ELAS - EAM were in control of the whole of Greece including the major part of Athens. In Salonika and other cities the workers had established control over housing, factories, rationing, etc. Lenin never tired of emphasising that power, that the State, can be reduced to "armed bodies of men"; that what determines which class has the Power, is which class controls the armed bodies of men. Churchill and the other representatives of capitalism understand this perfectly and that is why (despite the docile leadership of the Socialist and Stalinist leadership in the Resistance Movement), because of the potentialities of an armed working class, they are so insistent on the disarming of the workers and peasants and are demanding the creation of "national" armies; i.e. armies where the officers and other cadres have been selected by the capitalists and are completely under capitalist control.

Thus the position in Greece was that the control of the situation was in the hands of the working class! It was a situation similar to that of the Paris Commune and, Spain in 1936, except that the leadership was more cowardly, ignorant and treacherous.

Power was in the grasp of the heroic Greek workers and peasants!

All that was necessary was that they should expropriate the property of the capitalists, confiscate the land of the landlords for the peasants, and organise a workers' state with a workers' Government!

That the workers wanted to finish with capitalism once and for all [was] indicated by a report of their mood published in the Daily Telegraph of 31st January 1945:

"In those tense Athenian weeks before the Greek Communist Party's rebellion broke out, the whole city was painted over with KKE slogans, among them "VENGEANCE!" "DEATH TO THE TRAITORS!" and "DEATH TO THE BOURGEOIS".

Throughout the conflict the main pre-occupation of the leadership has been to try and capitulate on terms which would not expose them completely in the eyes of the rank and file! Thus when Churchill (as the representative of British Imperialism) - who was primarily responsible for the bitter war of intervention in Greece - flew to Athens, they publicly fawned on and praised him despite the fact that the butchery of the Greek workers was planned by him well in advance.

They appealed for a compromise: Damaskinos as Regent! And Damaskinos became Regent and promptly denounced EAM in stringent terms! They asked for elections, a request which was refused - until the workers have been thoroughly tamed and broken and a majority for reaction - "republican" if the masses still refuse to "wear" the King - can be ensured.

As an inevitable result of this policy of compromise and capitulation to the capitalist class at a critical stage in the struggle, big sections of the reformists and Liberals, especially the latter, have openly gone over to the side of the reaction. Now conversations are going on for the EAM leaders once again to participate in the capitalist Government. It is most likely that some face-saving sell-out agreement will be reached. Despite the heroism of the Greek workers and peasants, they will be crushed and betrayed into the hands of the capitalists.

Yet victory was within their grasp. The British troops in Greece do not like the dirty job of repressing the Greek people. A wave of horror and revulsion has passed through the ranks of the British working class. But the shouts for "democracy" by both sides resulted in confusion as to what was taking place. A clear class call for internationalism, for workers' solidarity, would have echoed and re-echoed throughout the ranks of the British workers in overalls and uniform. Gallacher appropriately reminded Churchill this is not the first time he has organised a war of intervention against the working class. But this renegade failed to point out [that] Churchill's intervention against the Soviet Union collapsed only because of the revolutionary Internationalist policy of Lenin and Trotsky! In the war of intervention against the Soviet Union, not a single capitalist army could be persuaded to continue fighting against the Russian workers. Churchill's lies and slanders were useless against this weapon of the Bolsheviks - revolutionary internationalism. His tanks, planes and guns were of no use to him. The American army mutinied, the French, the German and others; the British Army demanded that they be sent home. This was only because the Bolsheviks, the "Trotskyists" as Churchill would call them today, carried through the Socialist revolution and made a class appeal to the workers and soldiers of the world. A class appeal ceaselessly propagated by the Greek workers and peasants would have had the same result.

The Greek workers and peasants will not forget the lessons burned in their consciousness under fire if the Trotskyists in Greece, (and our Party though small, played a role in these events) have been explaining the role of reformism and Stalinism in what has taken place. A temporary lull may ensue in the class struggle, only to break out with greater intensity in the next period. The martyred Greek workers will learn the lessons! They will not forget.

But Greece is not the end, it is only the beginning. Churchill is already preparing to deal with the revolutionary workers in the North of Italy. The ruling class is preparing to strike against the German workers as soon as Hitler falls. They are preparing to try and crush the revolution throughout Europe in the next period. And even now Churchill and the ruling class are preparing to settle accounts with the British workers too!

The advanced workers of Greece and of the world must understand the lessons of this conflict. Agreements and coalitions with the capitalists can only lead to disaster and defeat. No support to any section of the capitalist class can serve the interests of the workers. Class collaboration means capitulation to capitalism. Reformism and Stalinism can only lead to victory in the class struggle for the capitalists. Only a Party carrying through the policy of Revolutionary Communism can lead the working class to Power!

Build the Fourth International which alone unites the workers of all lands under the banner: "Workers of the world, unite!"