What did mean western Democracy for the Greeks in postwar era ?
Among the principal subject dealt with at Yalta Conference was “democracy” and “Free elections”. It had been agreed that the liberated peoples in Europe should” create democratic institutions of their own choice” by “free and unfettered elections” in which “all democratic and anti-Nazi parties” should have a part. In order to well understand what the capitalist West do mean by the word of democracy, it will be obvious to take as illustration, the case of Greece during and after the Second World War.
After Nazi invasion of Greece and the fall of Athens on April 27 , 1941 and Crete a few days later, the resistance of the Greeks was organized but this heroic resistance very probably prevented the conquest of the old world by the Nazis. Indeed, Greek resistance and before it the Yugoslavs resistance had upset Hitler’s time table and delayed his “Barbarossa” postponed for five weeks, setting back his Russian time-table from May 15 to June 22 and this delay allowed the Soviet Government to win five weeks of truce and to achieve in time ifs military preparedness.
On December 3, 1944, British intervention in Greece had Swiftly overthrow the mighty communist-led EAM-ELAS. Churchill’s effort to regain control of Greece was the climax of a long struggle for the control of Greece after the war. After the dethronement of King George II in march 1924 Greece became a republic until the royalist Popular party captured the governement and brought the King back in November 1935. Then new elections in June 1936 established such an equilibrium of royalist and Republican forces that fifteen Communist deputies held the balance of power. A coup d’état led by general John Metaxas dissolved the parliament and formed vigours and dictatorial government in order to crush the growing communist forces in the country. during the Italina invasion of the country in 1940 an peic resisatnce was formed driving back the Italians into Albania. in face of theis resiatnce Metaxas called on the British to honor Chamberlain’s guarantee of Greece and Chruchill quickly responded The victorious british army in Egypt which had just defeated the Italians was broken up and 60 000 men sent to Greece. By the late April 1941, the British had been defeated by german aircraft; Metaxas died in jnauary his sucecsor and the king fled abroad with a few offcials and formed the greek Governement in exile while a Quisling general headed a puppet governemetn in Athens in the cities the wealthy and cosnervtive classes collaborated with the germans and Italians.
By the middle of 1942 dozens of guerrilla bands had formed spontaneously in the hills. two of the original leaders emerged Zervas a republican who commanded an army called EDES in Western Greece was backed by a group of politicians and business men in Athens. The communist party led by George Santos founded a political movement called EAM which enlisted a great mass composed especially of the youth and women. After cells had been formed in the whole of central Greece a guerrilla force was gradually built up called ELAS which numbered twenty thousand by the summer of 1943. A royalist guerrilla group under Colonel George Grivase secured arms from German and Italian sources and conducted street fights with ELAS in Athens EAM’s program called for active resistance to the Germans a resistance government, restoration of all popular liberties and free elections for a constituent assembly a real state cantering in the Pindus Mountains was set up which ruled nearly all of Greece except the Epirus district controlled by EDES. In March 1944 an EAM provisional government was formally set up. On April 1, 1944 a mutiny was declared asking for the establishment of provisional government led by EAM in Greece. Churchill took personal change of its suppression sending frequent orders until it was over. Nearly ten thousand mutineers were imprisoned by the British until after the British occupation of Greece. Immediately after the mutiny, general Vendiras who was bitterly anti-Communist, organized a new third Brigade with British backing. In Greece EAM had swept nearly the whole country . Its members meant to make the country over without benefit of royalty. George Papandreou convinced the British that he could the country by summoning on May 17, 1944 a conference at Beirut in the Lebanon attend by twenty-five delegates EAM was represented by six men only one was communist early in September five EAM ministers entered the Greek Cabinet in Cairo. At the end of September British troops landed in Greece after a bloody Sunday on December 3, Churchill charged General Scobie to neutralize and to destroy all EAM-ELAS bands; the British conquered Athens and by January 11, 1945 ELAS was forced to sue for terms and an Agreement Varkiza Agreement was concluded on February 12. ALAS agreed to surrender and Rightists elements filled all the armed forces who hunted and killed leftists throughout the British occupation and deep into the American period.
In conclusion, Churchill created the Fascist dictatorship of General Metaxas and he was determined to restore a King hated by a large majority of hi people. Churchill had crushed a patriotic resistance movement which was fishing against the Italian and German occupation forces. EAM-ELAS, as a patriotic resistance movement and a valid popular movement was supported by a great numbers of people. Soon after EAM had been crushed by American tanks and planes in British hands, Churchill declared to the House of Commons on January 18, 1945 that he had but one principle for the liberated countries” Government of the people by the people for the people set up on a basis of election by free and universal suffrage, with secrecy of the ballot and no intimidation” that was “our only aim, our only interest and our only care” That was good democratic rhetoric but the last thing Churchill would have permitted in Greece was a free lection for he knew that EAM would win it. there could therefore no election in Greece until the Government was securely in Rightists hands including all the machinery of intimidation.
Stalin and the Soviet government learned very well the Greek lesson and very well understood what did really mean the western democracy. The Greek “democracy” gave Stalin a useful lesson to be learned when later the western leaders spoke about democracy and free election in East Europe.