John Newsinger


British intervention
and the Greek Revolution


Published by the Socialist History Society, London 2002.
Text supplied by the Socialist History Society.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for REDS – Die Roten.


In 1994 Louis de Bernières published his international bestseller, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, a wartime love story set on the Greek island of Cephalonia. The novel celebrated the Italian soldiers occupying the island, who behaved honourably towards the civilian population and who fought against the Nazis after Italy’s surrender to the Allies in September 1943. While the Nazis were certainly portrayed unsympathetically, the real villains of the novel were the Communist-led resistance movement, the National Liberation Front (EAM) and the National Liberation Army (ELAS). According to de Bernières, the resistance was either “totally useless, perfidious and parasitic” or “unspeakably barbaric” and he endorsed the British military intervention against them in December 1944. [1] This is an absolute travesty.

What is particularly telling is the experience of Amos Pampaloni, “the real Captain Correlli”. Like the fictional character, who was almost certainly based on his experiences, Pampaloni was a captain in the Italian artillery stationed on Cephalonia. He had an affair with a local woman and took a leading part in the fighting with the Nazis. Like Correlli, he survived the subsequent mass execution of Italian prisoners by the Germans. There the similarity ends. Whereas the novel has the denigration of the resistance as a powerful and intrusive subtext, the “real Captain Correlli” was rescued by the resistance and owed them his life. He spent the rest of the war fighting in their ranks against the Nazis, taking part in the final liberation of Cephalonia at the end of 1944. Pampaloni later remembered his safe arrival at the ELAS base on Mount Aenos after the massacre: “I cannot describe the warmth of the welcome I was given, or I will cry. I was at the end of my tether and all of them, men and women, embraced me, washed my face and feet, and gave me ouzo and fruit”. As for de Bernières portrait of the resistance: “the picture de Bernières paints of the Greek partisans is unacceptable and completely wrong ... it is pandering to racism. I lived among them for 14 months and those months were an unforgettable experience, because of the partisans’ sense of solidarity, kindness, altruism and fraternity”. [2]

Although published fifty years after the event, de Bernières’ novel can best be seen in part of the propaganda offensive that the British mounted to justify their intervention against the resistance Postwar Greece was the only country in Europe where collaboration with the Nazis went unpunished while participation in the wartime resistance brought imprisonment and even execution. The only way to justify this wholly perverse state of affairs was the systematic denigration of the resistance. Captain Correlli’s Mandolin is testimony to the success of that exercise. Once again, though, the real story was somewhat different.


Even before the final surrender of Nazi Germany, British troops were engaged in a bloody attempt at suppressing the resistance movement in Greece, the Communist-led National Liberation Front. This conflict followed immediately after the German evacuation of the country and was the direct result of British determination to eradicate the influence of the left and, as far as possible, restore the pre-war status quo of an authoritarian monarchy with constitutional trappings that protected foreign investment and acknowledged British supremacy. There was not, it has to be insisted, any attempted Communist takeover. This allegation was the product of a potent mixture of genuine fear of the left and calculated Cold War propaganda. Far from trying to seize power, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) was instead concerned with securing the political influence commensurate with the tremendous popular support it had built up during the wartime occupation. It did not try to take advantage of the revolutionary situation that, it could be argued, existed in Greece in the closing months of 1944 and lead the resistance movement in a revolutionary seizure of power. Instead, the KKE hoped to go down the same road as the French and Italian Communists and reach an accommodation with bourgeois democracy. Their actions were motivated by the need to combat the Greek right, both royalist and collaborationist, rather than by any strategy of revolution. What the KKE leadership did not realise was that while it sought a compromise that would accord it a place within the political system, that would recognise its reformist aspirations as legitimate, the British completely rejected any such outcome and were determined to crush the left. They were prepared to use whatever degree of force was required to achieve this. Moreover, Winston Churchill had already concluded a cynical deal with Stalin in Moscow in October 1944 that enabled him to carry out this policy without any Russian criticism or interference. The result was the bloody days of fighting that overwhelmed Athens and Piraeus in December 1944.

This policy was continued under the Labour Government that came to power in Britain in July 1945. Attlee, Bevin and co continued to support the Greek right in its campaign against the left, eventually provoking the outbreak of a civil war that was to end in the complete destruction of the Greek resistance. The Labour Government’s support, financially, politically and militarily, was crucial to that outcome. It was Ernest Bevin, the Labour Foreign Secretary, who ensured that Churchill’s partial victory of December 1944 was turned into complete victory.

Greece under Metaxas

On 9 April 1920 the small Greek Socialist Labour Party (SEKE), that had only been established eighteen months earlier, voted at its second congress to affiliate to the Third International. The new Communist Party (KKE) that emerged was subjected to police persecution and crippled by factionalism so that by 1931 it was only barely surviving with some 1,500 members. [3] The Comintern responded to this situation by installing Moscow-trained Nikos Zachariadis as party leader. He imposed a Stalinist discipline on the party and when in 1935 the “Third Period” was abandoned for the Popular Front turn it began to increase dramatically in strength and influence. In the 1935 general election, the KKE polled nearly 100,000 votes (9.59%) and by the end of that year its membership had risen to 15,000. In the general election of January 1936, the KKE elected fifteen MPs, holding the balance of power in Parliament and hoping to secure the installation in power of a Popular Front government. This was not to be. Instead in April, the King, George II with British support, appointed General Ioannis Metaxas as Prime Minister.

The increase in support for the KKE was the product of a rising level of class conflict. While Zachariadis hoped to use this to further a Popular Front strategy, inevitably the situation escalated out of his control. In May 1936 a tobacco workers strike developed into a general strike throughout Thessalonica. There were bloody clashes between police and strikers in which thirty workers were killed and hundreds more injured. Conflict continued with the unions calling a national general strike for 5 August. The day before, Metaxas declared martial law, filled the streets with troops and began a round-up of the left. With the full support of the King, he established a military dictatorship, with all the trappings of fascism.

Metaxas’ regime was a fully-fledged police state, banning strikes, imposing rigid censorship and imprisoning large numbers of socialists, communists and trade unionists in concentration camps. He re-modelled the state along corporatist lines borrowed from Mussolini’s Italy whereby industry, agriculture and the professions were organised into fascist corporations supposedly ending class conflict. The Nazi “labour expert”, Robert Ley was brought in to advise on the establishment of a system of state-controlled unions. Strict censorship was imposed accompanied by the public burning of banned books. Sophocles’ play Antigone was banned, Pericles’ funeral oration was removed from Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War and, most incredibly, the national anthem was banned from schools because of the way students gave emphasis to the word “Liberty” when singing it. Nevertheless these were only the trappings of fascism for what was in reality a military dictatorship. The regime failed to establish a mass fascist party and rested instead on the army. Indeed, Metaxas saw himself more as another Salazar than another Mussolini or Hitler. [4]

Employers, as historian Constantine Tsoucalas points out, “did well out of Metaxas ... private profit soared ... taxation was reorganised in favour of the richer classes ... It has been estimated that annual profits during this period reached a record 25 per cent return on capital”. By 1940, “inequality of income distribution was ... unbearable”. [5] All this was, of course, particularly satisfying for the substantial British interests in Greece. Something like half the Greek national debt was held by British investors to the value of over £40 million. Other British investments in public utilities, transport, finance, industry and agriculture were worth over £15 million: Whitehall Securities, for example, had investments worth £10 million in electricity and transport in Athens and the Hambros merchant bank owned the Greek Ionian Bank and had over £1 million invested in industry and agriculture. [6] Nevertheless, British interest in Greece was not primarily financial, but strategic with a friendly Greece in a client relationship seen as vital to the British position in the Mediterranean. While Metaxas certainly safeguarded investments and guaranteed profits, his regime’s pro-fascist stance caused the British increasing alarm as international tension mounted in the late 1930s. Sympathy for the Axis was not to save Greece from their imperialist attentions, however, and at the end of October 1940, Mussolini invaded.

The Metaxas regime was particularly successful in its suppression of the left. Credit for this must go to the Minister of the Interior, Constantine Maniadakes, a fervent Nazi admirer who kept a portrait of Hitler on the wall behind his desk. He set out to defeat the KKE not just by repression but by systematically disorganising and demoralising the party. Two methods were used: first of all detainees were offered their freedom if they agreed to recant their politics, to become repentants. To refuse invited beatings, starvation and solitary confinement. This was to split the left. Some complied with every intention of continuing political activity (the later guerrilla leader, Aris Velouchiotis was one of these), while others steadfastly refused. They were successfully set against each other. By 1940 some 57,000 people had made public declarations of repentance, many more than there were actual party members! Alongside this policy, Maniadakes “turned” enough Communist prisoners to be able to establish an underground Central Committee under police control, that published its own version of the party newspaper, Rizospastis, and denounced the real underground Central Committee as police agents. This police sponsored factionalism in the end saw three rival Central Committees claiming the leadership of the KKE and effectively paralysed the party’s members and supporters. [7]

Only with the regime’s overthrow at the hands of Nazi Germany in April 1941 and the occupation of the country by German, Italian and Bulgarian troops was the KKE to begin a remarkable recovery that was to place it at the head of one of the most powerful resistance movements in Europe. While George II fled to London, the KKE set about putting itself at the head of the growing opposition to the occupation forces and their Greek collaborators.

The Strange Case of the Special Operations Executive

In July 1940, the Labour Minister for Economic Warfare in Churchill’s Coalition Government, Hugh Dalton, set up the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a clandestine organisation intended to sponsor subversion, guerrilla warfare and revolution throughout occupied Europe. Churchill gave his full support to this endeavour, urging Dalton to “set Europe ablaze”. [8] This, of course, reflected the extent to which the British Empire was on the defensive in the summer of 1940, and was an indication of how desperate the situation seemed. Nevertheless it remains a remarkable testimony to the ruthless flexibility of the British ruling class that they were prepared to make use of any methods. As Dalton told the Cabinet on 17 August: “we must learn, for the duration of this war at least, to shed many inhibitions and to act on the assumption that the end justifies the means ... We must beat the Nazis at their own game”. [9] Ironically, at that time when Stalin was still allied with Hitler, it was a government headed by Winston Churchill that was calling for revolt.

Dalton outlined his plans in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, an arch-Tory, on 2 July:

We have got to organise movements in enemy-occupied territory comparable to the Sinn Fein movement in Ireland, to the Chinese Guerrillas now operating against Japan, to the Spanish Irregulars who played such a notable part in Wellington’s campaign or - one might as well admit it - to the organisation which the Nazis themselves have developed so remarkably in almost every country in the world. This “democratic international” must use many different methods, including industrial and military sabotage, labour agitation and strikes, continuous propaganda, terrorist acts against traitors and German leaders, boycotts and riots.

On another occasion, he asked Attlee, the Labour Leader and Deputy Prime Minister to urge upon Churchill the fact that subversion in occupied Europe could only “be done from the Left”. [10]

In fact, SOE was to be staffed not by trade unionists and socialists but by members of the British ruling class. The organisation’s first executive director (known as CD) was Sir Frank Nelson, a former Tory MP and he made sure it remained in safe hands. According to Bickham Sweet-Escott, a senior SOE officer, it was not long before

we were employing one or more representatives of most of the merchant banking houses in the City and earning the reputation of being a bankers’ ramp. In the same way Tommy Davies and George Courtauld put forward the names of men and women who had been employed by Courtaulds. Thus Marriott, who had been the director of Courtaulds’ French company, became the first head of the French desk. And the lawyers just as naturally recommended other lawyers. At one time we were I think employing nearly every partner under fifty of Slaughter and May. [11]

When Dalton was promoted in February 1942, the Ministry of Economic Warfare was taken over by a staunch Tory right-winger, Lord Selborne, former chairman of the British Cement Manufacturers Association. He replaced Nelson as head of SOE with his deputy, the merchant banker Sir Charles Hambro. This man’s ruling class credentials were outstanding. He was a managing director of Hambros Bank (which had extensive Greek interests), a director of the Bank of England, chairman of the Great Western Railway and apparently most important of all had captained the Eton cricket team against Winchester taking seven wickets for six runs! [12]

Hambro was himself replaced as CD in September 1943 by SOE’s director of operations, General Colin Gubbins. His military career included service in Russia against the Bolsheviks in 1919, where, according to his biographers, he learned his “deep hatred of Communism” and in Ireland against the IRA in 1920-22, service which involved him taking part in the Free State attack on the Four Courts in June 1922. [13] Gubbins certainly advocated that the clandestine war should be waged with great ruthlessness. According to one admirer, he was the author of a number of handbooks that if distributed today “would probably be described as terrorists’ handbooks”. These

offended against many of the principles of chivalry in warfare ... Guerrillas were instructed not to undertake an operation unless certain of success, to ensure that a good line of retreat was always available, and never to engage in a pitched battle unless in overwhelming strength. They were advised to use women and children as couriers because they were less likely to be stopped and searched. Among targets recommended were cinemas in which occupation troops were being entertained as they would be highly inflammable ... Informers in the service of the enemy must, it was pointed out firmly, be killed promptly, and if possible, a note was to be pinned to the body explaining the reasons for death. [14]

New recruits to the organisation were routinely asked if they were prepared to commit murder. But while Gubbins was certainly prepared to wage a ruthless underground war of sabotage, assassination and ambush, he remained a staunch conservative and upholder of the status quo, totally opposed not only to social revolution but to the left in general.

How can we explain this subversive organisation staffed by pillars of the British Establishment? According to Basil Davidson, himself an SOE officer and left-wing critic of the organisation’s policies, the answer was simple: “If you had to dabble in protest and upheaval - and how else were you going to promote resistance to the established order? - then you had better get it done by persons who would limit the damage and, prefer, wherever possible, to help people like themselves”. [15] While the British state did set out to systematically encourage armed resistance throughout occupied Europe, Dalton’s notion of a “democratic international” was a non-starter and quickly forgotten. Instead resistance movements were expected to act in support of and under the command of the Allies’ regular armies and to accept that the Great Powers would decide among themselves the nature of “the new world order” that would follow the defeat of the Nazis. There was certainly to be no social revolution and SOE was to play its part in preventing such an outcome. [16]

This was certainly to be the role SOE played in Greece, doing its best to counter the Communist-led EAM and trying to build-up rival organisations loyal to the royal government-in-exile. According to SOE’s senior officer in Greece, Chris Woodhouse, a future Tory MP and junior minister, without their efforts EAM would have been in undisputed control of the country by the time the Germans evacuated and nothing could have stopped them taking power. [17]


The initial resistance to the German and Italian occupation forces in Greece developed spontaneously, drawing on the heroic traditions of the earlier resistance to the Ottoman Empire. After the terrible winter of 1941-42 these individual acts of defiance became more broadly based, a popular movement. The Nazis had pillaged the country once they were in control, wrecking its economy and then, as was their way, leaving the population to starve. That winter some 40,000 people starved to death in the Athens-Piraeus area alone. According to various estimates in the course of the occupation between 350,000 and 500,000 people were to die of starvation and related illnesses, throughout the country as a whole. [18] This was out of a population of some seven million. The victims were overwhelmingly from among the working class in the towns and the poor peasants in the countryside. This terrible suffering generated a fierce hated for the Nazis and their collaborators that was to help sustain the resistance through the most terrible repression.

The KKE leadership determined to organise the developing resistance into a political movement and on 27 September 1941 established the National Liberation Front (EAM), a broad based organisation with Popular Front politics. EAM was committed to social reform, women’s liberation, democratisation and national freedom. Many of the poor owed their very survival to the organising efforts of EAM activists. They encouraged local food production, established soup kitchens, prevented hoarding and profiteering, and controlled the movement of foodstuffs. [19] As for political strategy, EAM embraced the stages theory that Stalin had imposed on the Communist International in the 1920s. Instead of socialist revolution being the objective, first a democratic stage had to be completed with the establishment of a bourgeois state complete with parliament and respect for private property. Only then would the struggle for socialism be on the agenda. According to the historian John Loulis, EAM’s objective was national liberation which was accompanied by “its moderate post-war programme calling for free elections and a plebiscite on the monarchy”. He analysed the organisation’s popular pamphlet, The EAM: what it is and what it wants and found that it mentioned national unity twenty-six times and national liberation twenty-seven times but socialism, communism and revolution not once. [20]

In the course of 1942-43 EAM became a mass movement without any precedent in Greek history. By the time of the German evacuation, it claimed a membership of two million, nearly a third of the population, with activists and supporters organised in popular committees in every town and village. While its Popular Front politics certainly appealed to an section of the middle class (it recruited sixteen generals, thirty-four colonels and 1500 junior army officers, six Orthodox bishops and numerous priests, and many members of the professions, lawyers, doctors, teachers and University professors), in fact it was most successful in mobilising the working class and the peasantry who provided the core of its support. It was this that made EAM such a potent threat to the Nazis, the Greek ruling class and the British. [21]

EAM’s organising activities had two distinct aspects: the organisation of a guerrilla army (ELAS) in the mountains that established liberated zones with their own local government apparatus, conducted a war of harassment against the German and Italian armies and eventually took control of most of the country, and the organisation of a trade union front (EEAM) in the towns and more particularly Athens that opposed the occupation by strikes, demonstrations and sabotage and by the summer of 1944 had effective control of working class districts. Let us look first at ELAS.

ELAS was established in April 1942. By the time of the German evacuation it had grown to a force of some 50,000 men and women and controlled most of the country. Woodhouse provides an unwilling tribute to its achievements:

Having acquired control of almost the whole country, except the principal communications used by the Germans, they had given it things that it had never known before. Communications in the mountains by wireless courier and telephone, have never been so good before or since; even motor roads were mended ... The benefits of civilisation and culture trickled into the mountains for the first time. Schools, local government, law courts and public utilities which the war had ended, worked again. Theatres, factories, parliamentary assemblies, began for the first time. Communal life was organised ... EAM/ELAS set the base in the creation of something that the governments of Greece had neglected: an organised State in the Greek mountains. [22]

But was ELAS really a genuine resistance movement? Did it actually fight the Nazis or, as its opponents claim, concentrate instead on preparations for a Communist takeover once the Germans were gone? Once again Woodhouse is a reluctantly friendly witness. Although he acknowledges that his figures are unreliable, he records attacks on the railway network cutting the track at hundreds of places, derailing 117 trains, destroying 209 engines and 1,544 wagons and blowing up five tunnels and 67 bridges. Attacks on the roads destroyed 854 vehicles and another 136 bridges. German casualties were well over 5,000 killed and Italian losses were certainly higher. ELAS itself admitted to 4,500 dead but German sources claim to have killed 30,000 guerrillas. Alongside ELAS losses, there were of course the victims of German reprisals, of the mass executions that cost the lives of some 70,000 men, women and children and saw the complete destruction of nearly 900 villages. According to Woodhouse, ELAS tied down “about three hundred thousand enemy troops” and in this way constituted a “running sore ... not a negligible function under enemy occupation.” As for ELAS attacks on the retreating Germans in the autumn of 1944, he considers them to have been “unexpectedly effective”. [23]

One last aspect of ELAS activity deserves comment: its part in saving Greek Jews from the Nazis. While the large Greek community in Salonika was to be murdered (46,000 men, women and children killed), elsewhere ELAS offered sanctuary in the hills, even to the extent of kidnapping the Chief Rabbi and his family in September 1943 to prevent the registration of the Jewish population in Athens. ELAS, according to one historian, “saved the lives of hundreds if not thousands of Jews”. [24]

Much less well-known than ELAS and the exploits of the andartes, the guerrilla fighters in the mountains, is the Workers’ National Liberation Front (EEAM) that the Communists established in the towns. Once again Woodhouse is a useful witness:

This organisation contained all that was best of organised labour in Greece. Its importance was greatest in Athens, Piraeus, Salonika, Volos and Patras; but wherever there was a working population, EEAM inspired it against the occupying authorities. Strikes and demonstrations were regularly organised to embarrass the enemy on every important occasion, whether it was the celebration of Independence Day or the attempt to conscript labour for Germany ... Although EEAM has been the least publicised component of the Greek resistance movement, it was perhaps the most successful. Its frustration of the Germans’ plan to conscript Greek labour for Germany was one of the two or three greatest achievements of Greek resistance. The credit for organising this effort belongs largely to the Communists. [25]

The first successful industrial action broke out on 12 April 1942 when a clerk at the central post office in Athens fainted from hunger at work. The workers demanded improved food rations and walked out on strike. The following day other civil servants walked out in support despite the government’s threat to execute the leaders. The government backed down, releasing strikers who had been arrested and increasing food rations. Success was total. Over the next six months there were only a few more strikes but all the while EEAM built up its strength. February 1943 saw a rash of strikes and demonstrations in Athens that culminated in defiant opposition to the Germans’ plans to conscript labour for work in Germany. On 5 March thousands of demonstrators marched to the Ministry of Labour in Athens, condemning the conscription of labour and calling for the death of ministers in the collaborationist government. They were fired on by the police and five people were killed and another fifty wounded. In the Exarchia district the town hall was stormed by a crowd hoping to burn the electoral register to sabotage the conscription plans. While the police eventually gained control of the streets, Athens was gripped by a general strike. The collaborationist Prime Minister, Constantine Logothetopoulis backed down and promised there would be no conscription. This was a tremendous success, one of the most remarkable in the history of the European labour movement during these grim years. Strikes and demonstrations continued and in early April the Germans installed a “strong man” as Prime Minister, the royalist politician Ioannis Rallis. He faced a wave of strikes in June that culminated on the 25th with a general strike and demonstration in protest against the Nazis’ mass execution of hostages. Even the police went on strike. According to the Italian authorities 100,000 people took part in the demonstration, many carrying black flags and chanting “Down with the Fascists”, “Down with the traitors” and “Down with the Nazis”.

Rallis responded with a 50 per cent pay rise and the establishment of a collaborationist paramilitary force, the Security Battalions, which was to assist the Nazis in the war against EAM and ELAS. These units together with a number of government sponsored death squads, most notably George Grivas’s X organisation, waged a bloody war against the left in the working class districts of Athens and elsewhere. On 7 March, for example, following the shooting of a policeman in a barber shop, over a thousand police and Security Battalion thugs went on the rampage in Kokkinia. In a week of raids and roundups they shot twenty-two people out of hand and arrested and beat 400 others who were either sent as slave labour to Germany or were executed over the following months as hostages. Such attacks or bloscos were routine and commonplace. Often suspects were seized by plainclothes police or paramilitaries, tortured, shot and their mutilated bodies dumped in the streets at night. Despite this terror, by the summer of 1944 EEAM had a complete domination of working class districts and the right only dared venture in heavily armed at night or by day in overwhelming numbers. As Mark Mazower insists, the fighting between the Greek right and EAM had begun long before the German evacuation and the events of December 1944 were really only its continuation and culmination. This point cannot be emphasised enough. [26]

The King, The British and The Resistance

How did the British respond to these developments? On the one hand they were in favour of anything which embarrassed the Axis powers and tied down German troops, while on the other they were completely opposed to any developments that might hinder the return of George II to Greece or even worse actually bring the left to power. Similar difficulties confronted them in Yugoslavia and later in Italy. As Richard Casey, Minister of State in Cairo pointed out to Churchill in early October 1943: “our military policy (to exert maximum possible pressure on the enemy) and our political policy (to do nothing to jeopardise the return of the monarchies) are fundamentally opposed”. [27] Whereas in Yugoslavia, Churchill took the decision to back Tito and the Communist-led Partisans, in Greece a very different decision was taken. Churchill was very taken with the “romance” of guerrilla warfare in Yugoslavia, even sending his son, Randolph, a most dubious reinforcement, to Tito’s headquarters. As far as EAM was concerned, however, he developed what one recent account has described as “a visceral loathing ...” They should, he told Eden “be starved and struck at by every means in our power”. Most tellingly, he dismissed ELAS as an organisation of “Tom Wintringham’s”. [28] As far as Churchill was concerned, the Greek Left was a serious threat to vital British strategic interests. Accordingly SOE was charged with keeping assistance to ELAS to a minimum, while making every effort to sustain and encourage the rival right-wing guerrilla organisation, EDES, led by Napoleon Zervas. [29] Without British intervention, there can be no doubt that this organisation would have been forcibly disbanded by ELAS. Instead, the British tried to build it up as an alternative to the left, even to the extent of turning a blind eye to its collaboration with the Nazis. Between December 1943 and July 1944 Zervas maintained a truce with the Germans and his guerrillas cooperated with them against ELAS apparently without his SOE liaison officers noticing! In Athens EDES threw in its lot with the Security Battalions, indeed Vasilious Dertilis, the Security Battalions commander, was a close personal friend of Zervas’. All this was tolerated because of the need to checkmate the left. On 21 July 1943, Rex Leeper, the British Ambassador to George II sent a revealing memorandum drawn up by an adviser to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden: “Greece is a brand which can be plucked from the burning and our post-war influence in the Eastern Mediterranean may depend very much on our success in doing so. But to do this we must pursue a somewhat reactionary policy”. [30]

One serious problem the British faced was the great unpopularity of George II in Greece, intimately associated as he was with the Metaxas dictatorship. Many Greeks who were opposed to EAM were just as hostile to the monarchy. Argument about how to deal with this situation continued inside SOE, the Foreign Office and the Cabinet with Churchill wholly committed to the royalist cause, after all, he and the King were both members of the same masonic lodge. [31]

With its support and organised strength continuing to grow EAM pressed the British for political recognition. They wanted representation in the government-in-exile and a guarantee that the King would not return to Greece until after a plebiscite had been held on the monarchy. At the Cairo Conference in August 1943, the British rejected both demands. The direct result was an ELAS offensive against the British-sponsored resistance movement, EDES, in October, the so-called “First Round”. Far from being the first step in a Communist takeover of Greece, however, this was an attempt to force the British into coming to terms with EAM. If ELAS could establish itself as the only resistance force then the British would have to acknowledge EAM as a legitimate political movement and reach agreement with it. In the event, the ELAS offensive failed. The EDES commander, Zervas, saved himself by entering into an alliance with the German occupation forces who came to his assistance. The Germans launched a series of savage punitive attacks against ELAS, attacks that were accompanied by the wholesale massacre of civilians and the widespread burning of villages. This prevented ELAS from overrunning EDES’ territory and eventually in early February 1944 the British succeeded in securing a truce that at least temporarily ended the fighting. [32]

EAM continued the pressure on the British in March 1944 when it established the Political Committee of National Liberation (PEEA) in the mountains. The resistance actually held a general election in liberated Greece, the first in which women had the vote, electing a National Assembly. This was potentially an alternative government to the government-in-exile in Cairo and made clear that continued British obduracy might well precipitate what it was intended to avoid: a Communist - led takeover in Greece. The PEEA appealed for the formation of a government of national unity, an appeal that had tremendous support among the Greek armed forces serving with the Allies in the Middle East. The continued refusal to come to terms with EAM provoked a mutiny in Greek army and navy units. This was far from being a Communist-inspired outbreak, and instead reflected the widespread rejection of the King and was a genuine demonstration of support for EAM. The British suppressed the mutiny and used it as the occasion for a purge of the Greek armed forces, removing some 20,000 men, many of whom were placed in internment. This left one brigade, the Mountain Brigade, completely loyal to the crown. While the King survived this crisis (only because of Churchill’s continued support), his government-in-exile did not. A new Prime Minister, Georgios Papandreou, a ferociously anti-Communist republican was installed. This was the first faltering recognition by the British that the King might be a liability in their contest with the left.

Papandreou presided at a meeting with resistance representatives at the Lebanon Conference, held in May 1944 where the PEEA delegates found themselves treated like bandits rather than resistance fighters. They had intended to press for half the seats in a government of national unity, in the circumstances a very modest demand, but instead were browbeaten and bullied into accepting five. The spectacle of the representatives of a powerful resistance movement being insulted and intimidated by exiled politicians whose only support was British Imperialism still seems quite incredible. The explanation is simple: EAM’s overwhelming strength inside Greece was undermined by political weakness. Far from seeking to take over the country (in which case the best move would have been for the PEEA to declare itself the legitimate government and risk a complete break with the British), they were after a compromise and in the end this meant they had to accept whatever terms were on offer, even the most humiliating terms from men who were in reality determined to destroy them. On their return to Greece, the delegates found their agreement repudiated and the demand for half the government seats reinstated, but this was only temporary. In August 1944 six PEEA members joined the government, hostages in effect, only there on sufferance. This was, as Constantine Tsoucalas notes, an “extraordinary and baffling capitulation of the Left who by September 1944 had almost total control in Greece”. [33]

A crucial factor in EAM’s climbdown was the advice given by Soviet representatives. Unknown to the Greek Communists, Churchill had reached a secret understanding with Stalin, “the Churchill-Stalin Pact”, allocating Greece to the British sphere of influence. This understanding was formalised on 9 October on the celebrated occasion when the two men met in Moscow and Stalin conceded Britain a 90 per cent interest in Greece in return for a 90 per cent interest in Roumania and a 75 per cent interest in Bulgaria; influence in Yugoslavia and Hungary was to be shared equally. Only in Greece, however, were the British to be in a position to implement this agreement. [34] In effect, Stalin had washed his hands of the Greek Communists, had given Churchill the go ahead to crush them.

Meanwhile, the Germans were making ready to withdraw from Greece, leaving the country in the hands of EAM. The British were determined to prevent the left from consolidating itself in a dominant position, first by bringing ELAS under Allied command, which was accomplished by means of the Caserta Agreement, as a preliminary to disbanding the force, and second by occupying Athens with British troops who would sustain Papandreou’s otherwise helpless government. There is even clear evidence that the British were prepared to do a deal with the Germans, the so-called “Stott affair” in order to forestall a feared ELAS takeover of Athens. [35] Once again though EAM showed that its objective was not to seize power but that it remained faithful to the stages theory. Instead of taking over from the Germans in Athens, ELAS cooperated with the British in harassing the retreating Germans and allowed the British to occupy the capital. If they had seized the city, something well within their capabilities, then there was little that the British could have done about it. They did not have the troops available for an opposed landing and subsequent reduction of a hostile city and countryside. [36] Instead ELAS cooperated, wilfully ignorant of the fact that the British had no intention of compromise but instead intended their destruction. On 12 July 1944, Pierson Dixon, Anthony Eden’s private secretary, had noted in his diary: “An exhilarating day during which the plunge was taken which we ought to have taken long ago ... to extirpate EAM in Greece”. [37]

One important point worth considering here is why the Greek experience was to be so different from that of Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia, the Communist-led Partisans took control of the country and Tito’s Communist government was installed in power. Why was their trajectory so different from that of the Greek Communists? There are two ways to approach this question: from a British and from a Greek perspective. First, the British. As far as Churchill and his advisers were concerned, Greece was of vital strategic importance, essential for the maintenance of the British position in the Mediterranean. There could be no compromises and no half-measures as far as Greece was concerned. The troops necessary for the subjugation of Greece would be made available even at the expense of the overall war effort. Yugoslavia was far less important and indeed the British hand effectively written off their influence in the country in May 1944 when they finally abandoned Mihailovich and the Chetniks. Their steadfast support for Zervas is a striking contrast.

What of the Greek Communists? Why did they not act with the same determination as Tito? Why did they seek compromise agreements with the British and their clients, compromise agreements that only served to weaken their position and assist the British in preparing their destruction. The decisive factor in this regard was the influence of Moscow. As Fernando Claudin argues, the Greek Communists accepted a strategy that derived from Russian great power concerns rather than from the exigencies of their own situation. To fit in with Russian objectives they failed to exploit their strength and instead delivered themselves up to their enemies. Greece had been assigned to the British sphere of influence. The Greek Communists had to secure the best deal they could within this context, and if no deal was available then, as far as Moscow was concerned, they were expendable. [38] The Yugoslav Communists never accepted Russian dictation in this way. They followed what they perceived to be their own best interests, although it has to be acknowledged that they had more room to manoeuvre because of the British attitude. Tito’s resistance to Russian domination was, of course, to culminate in the Yugoslav split with the Russians in the spring of 1948. [39]

Meanwhile the first British troops began arriving in Athens on 17 October 1944.

The Dekemvriana

The Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou arrived at Piraeus with the British on 17 October and the following day established his government in Athens. He was accompanied by his minder Rex Leeper, the British Ambassador, who according to one of his advisers had the powers of “a colonial governor” and behaved as if Greece was “a form of British protectorate” rather than an independent country. [40] The enormity of the task they faced confronted them even as they approached Greek soil. One British army officer, W. Byford-Jones, has described how as his vessel came into Piraeus it became clear that the electric signs they could see “defined the initials ‘EAM’ ... ‘ELAS’ ... ‘KKE’ ... all of which we were to see a million times in the next few weeks, on flags and banners, on posters, in the newspapers and, finally, attached to defiant revolutionary messages written in red on walls, pavements and roads”. [41] Leeper himself described his journey from Piraeus to Athens:

Our drive into Athens that morning was by an unfamiliar route through the outer suburbs of Piraeus, some of the poorest quarters, and so on to the junction with the road from Eleusis. We entered Athens in consequence by the Sacred Way ... All along the route nearly every house was covered with slogans painted in red by EAM. Many of them were in English, of which the following was most common: “Well Come Brave Allies”. One would have thought from these outward and visible signs that the whole population consisted of EAM sympathisers ... The poor suburbs through which we passed that morning were one of EAM’s strongholds, and no other slogans save those of EAM would have been permitted. [42]

They had arrived in a country where EAM was effectively in control everywhere outside of Athens itself and a few other places occupied by British troops. Greece in the winter of 1944 was, according to Pierson Dixon to all intents and purposes, “a Communist country”. [43]

From the very start, the British intention was to secure the disarming and disbanding of ELAS as soon as possible. This was the overriding priority. It was also intended to ensure that the EAM ministers in Papandreou’s Government remained impotent and without influence, there on sufferance and to be dismissed once ELAS had been removed from the board. EAM and the KKE on the other hand were prepared to disband their guerilla army but only if they were assured of a genuine partnership in government and that the new armed forces that were to be formed incorporated a large enough ELAS contingent to ensure that they could not be used to re-impose the monarchy or suppress the left. Throughout October and November every effort was made to mobilise popular opinion behind these demands so as to maintain pressure on Papandreou. The arrival of the royalist Mountain Brigade on 9 November greatly increased tension in the city. EAM insisted that if ELAS was to disband then so should the Mountain Brigade and a new army should be raised. This was not acceptable to the British who regarded the Brigade as the core around which a reliable army uncontaminated by the left could be formed. It was this dispute that was to eventually precipitate armed conflict.

The demobilisation crisis came to a head on 2 December when the EAM ministers resigned from the Government and determined to take the issue onto the streets. They called a demonstration on the 3rd and a general strike the following day. Papandreou banned the demonstration but it went ahead anyway with thousands of people converging on Constitution Square. Byford-Jones was an eye-witness to what happened:

The procession approached: men, women and children marching eight to ten abreast, every third or fourth person carrying an Allied flag, a Greek flag, or a banner ... It was a typical KKE-EAM demonstration. The ages of those who were taking part ranged from ten and twelve years of age to sixty and more. A few of the children were without shoes, most of the people without overcoats, but there were many who were well dressed ... there was a preponderate number of girls between eighteen and thirty years of age. There was nothing sullen or menacing about the procession. Some of the men shouted fanatically towards the police station and the hotel, but there was a good deal of humorous banter and many jokes ...

Then the police opened fire. According to Byford-Jones it was all “so fantastically unreal I might have been watching a film” and to begin with he assumed they were firing blanks.

But the worst had happened. Men, women and children, who a few moments before had been shouting, marching, laughing, full of spirit and defiance, waving their flags and our flags fell to the ground, blood trickling out of their heads and bodies ... I shall never forget that scene. A young girl in a white blouse which was becoming red with blood near her breasts; a young man, with a mark that might have been made by a fish-hook, writhing for a moment, and then dying; a child screaming and clutching her head ... For over half an hour the shooting continued, all of it from the police.

Twenty-eight people were killed in this massacre. Byford-Jones completely rejected the suggestion that any of the demonstrators were armed: feelings were such that if they had been the police would have been overwhelmed and killed. Eventually British troops arrived to occupy the Square and the demonstrators dispersed. [44]

A Conquered City”

Within hours of the massacre in Constitution Square, ELAS units were attacking police stations throughout Athens. Those involved were not experienced guerrilla fighters from the mountains, but the local ELAS, untried troops, little more than a militia, with an average age of seventeen years. They carefully avoided any clashes with the British who were expected to remain neutral and certainly not side with the police against the resistance. Clearly this was not an attempt to seize power, as British propaganda was to suggest. The massacre had taken the ELAS command completely by surprise. Their response was to settle accounts with the police and hopefully still either force Papandreou into accepting their demands or secure the appointment of a new Prime Minister who would. Some ELAS reinforcements were despatched to the city, but they only numbered some 2,000 fighters. As Marion Sarafis has pointed out, far from ELAS invading Athens, that “in fact was exactly what it failed to do.” [45]

The day after the massacre, on 4 December, the general strike took place. It was, once again according to Byford-Jones,

an amazing success ... EAM’s supporters were far more numerous than their opponents would have us believe. Athens became a paralysed city. There was no water, gas, or electricity. All shops closed. There were no cinemas or theatres, and no public transport. The trams remained in the streets at the points they had reached when the strike began. The officials in the Town Hall, the Ministries and the Banks left their posts and only a few telephones were operable ... The staffs of the hotels, all of which were being used by the services as messes, walked out as one. Gratitude to liberators took second place to loyalty to EAM. [46]

This show of strength was accompanied by continued street fighting that saw twenty-two of the city’s twenty-five police stations in ELAS hands by the following day. Altogether some 600 police were to be killed in the fighting in Athens. At this point, Churchill intervened, ordering that British troops were to decisively crush ELAS once and for all.

On 5 December General Scobie received Churchill’s notorious telegram instructing him that he should not “hesitate to act as if ... in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress ... We have to hold and dominate Athens”. The standing of the Greek Government in all this was indicated by Churchill’s remark that “It would be well of course if your command were reinforced by the authority of some Greek Government and Papandreou is being told by Leeper to stop and help”. Indeed, Churchill’s instructions to Leeper were that if necessary Papandreou should be “locked up till he comes to his senses”. [47] Papandreou was indeed on the verge of resignation, but the British still needed him to legitimise their assault on ELAS. Leeper warned him that he was already being talked of as “a second Kerensky” and bullied him into staying for the time being. [48] Meanwhile, spurred on by Churchill, Scobie ordered his troops to begin clearing ELAS forces out of both Athens and Piraeus. It was this fateful order that initiated the December fighting between the British and ELAS. As Churchill later boasted in his memoirs: “I ordered General Scobie ... to intervene and fire upon the treacherous aggressors.” He had in mind “Arthur Balfour’s celebrated telegram in the eighties to the British authorities in Ireland: ‘Don’t hesitate to shoot’.” The Irish inspiration was perhaps more revealing than Churchill intended. [49]

British intervention in the fighting took ELAS completely by surprise. Troops captured the EAM Headquarters that occupied a warehouse in Stadium Street, smashing the doors down with a tank. ELAS surprise and outrage was shown when one “furious ELAS guerilla ripped off his shirt and stood bare-chested in front of the tank challenging the crew to run him over, they backed off”. [50] ELAS soon recovered from their surprise, however, and Scobie’s troops found themselves involved in heavy fighting.

Far from clearing ELAS from the city, the British found themselves reduced to holding the city centre, surrounded by strong guerrilla forces. In this first phase of the fighting, ELAS remained on the defensive, grimly resisting British attacks, but not as yet taking offensive action against the British themselves. There was fierce fighting in areas where the British attempted to capture ELAS positions, making free use of artillery bombardment and aircraft strafing attacks. They always met determined resistance. Even when the British succeeded in clearing an area, they never had enough troops to hold it securely and the guerrillas would inevitably infiltrate back overnight, sniping and making surprise counter-attacks that prevented them from consolidating any advance. As the first few days of fighting passed, it became clear that far from the guerrillas melting away and the British establishing their control over the city, in fact their position was extremely precarious. A determined ELAS offensive could have cut British supply lines without any difficulty and almost certainly have overrun their positions in Athens.

On 11 December, Field Marshal Alexander together with the Minister Resident in the Mediterranean, Harold Macmillan, arrived in the city to view the situation at first hand. Alexander was horrified and seriously considered sacking Scobie for having placed his forces in such danger. The position, according to Macmillan “could hardly have been worse” and, he admitted, “we had underestimated the military skill, determination and power of the insurgents”. They found the British forces “besieged and beleaguered in the small central area of Athens”, with communications and supply lines insecure and liable to be cut at any moment, the port of Piraeus in ELAS hands and so unusable, and all supplies and reinforcements having to be landed on the beaches in Phaleron Bay. Macmillan believed that the British had control of between five and ten square miles of the city, but this was in fact an exaggeration. As he remarks himself the only way to get from the British Embassy to Scobie’s Headquarters, both supposedly in the secure area, was by “armoured car or tank, or else drive as fast as possible in a thin-skinned car through some back streets”. [51] A more accurate assessment of the situation was provided by a BBC correspondent who observed that “it was as though in London the legal government were confined to an area bounded by Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the residential part of Chelsea”. [52] Churchill himself was to later admit that he too had never realised “EAM would be so powerful”. He had been confident that “a volley from British troops” would have been enough to restore the situation, but this “calculation had been disproved”. [53]

What requires consideration at this stage is why it was that ELAS did not press home its initial military advantage to inflict a humiliating and almost certainly decisive defeat on the British. According to Richard Capell, the Daily Telegraph correspondent in Greece, “if there had been a spark of generalship in ELAS, Athens would have been in the revolutionaries’ hands before we had time to pull ourselves together”. [54] The British were, as we have seen, besieged in the centre of Athens, a position untenable if only ELAS had mounted a determined assault; their communications and supply lines could easily have been severed and a determined assault on Kalamaki airfield would have deprived them of air support. Moreover, there were British troops in exposed, isolated contingents in the ports of Patras and Salonica, surrounded by strong ELAS forces. Although relations between the two sides were extremely tense, ELAS never attacked. Troops being evacuated from the port of Missolonghi, back to Patras, suffered heavy casualties when two landing craft hit mines (83 killed and 40 wounded). Otherwise, ELAS let slip the opportunity of attacking these two outposts, attacks which would have either forced the diversion of reinforcements intended for Athens, forced evacuation or, if the British were overwhelmed, have seriously damaged morale and credibility. The failure to launch attacks on these ports all through the Athens fighting was according to one British officer, “one of the great mysteries ... an inexplicable feature of the revolution”. [55] Another ELAS misjudgment was that while their forces were fighting in Athens, the bulk of ELAS’s troops, the experienced mountain divisions, some 25,000 men and women under Generals Sarafis and Aris, instead of marching on the capital, were ordered by ELAS Command to launch an offensive against EDES forces in the Epirus area. They succeeded in overwhelming EDES (Zervas and over 6000 of his men were evacuated by sea by the British), but would have been better used to reinforce General Mandakis in Athens. Scobie considered this Epirus offensive “an unforgettable service” without which “Athens might have fallen”. [56] It finally sealed the fate of the ELAS forces in Athens.

How are we to explain these failures? Was it military incompetence or was there another cause? According to Macmillan the explanation was racial: the Greeks apparently possessed “many of the qualities and defects of the Irish”. [57] The answer is in fact quite simple: the EAM objective was not to destroy the British forces in Greece and take power. Once this is recognised their actions become immediately comprehensible. Rather they intended to crush the Greek right (EDES, the police and the Mountain Brigade) and at the same time force the British into a compromise settlement that would guarantee their position in postwar Greece. As early as 9 December they had approached the British with the offer of negotiations, but as Churchill informed Scobie, the British objective was “the defeat of EAM” and “the ending of the fighting was subsidiary to this”. [58] He could not have put it more clearly.

Once they were aware of the seriousness of Scobie’s situation, Alexander and Macmillan decided that urgent steps were necessary to avoid disaster. Large scale reinforcement was an absolute priority and while Alexander decided not to dismiss Scobie, he nevertheless gave operational command to a more experienced officer, General Hawkesworth, whom he considered his best field commander. More troops and firepower would not be enough however. Both men agreed that a political initiative was necessary to weaken EAM, undermine its support, isolate the KKE and hopefully detach the more moderate elements. The problem, as far as Macmillan was concerned, was the monarchy and in particular Churchill’s fanatical commitment to King George II. What they proposed was the establishment of a Regency under Archbishop Damaskinos. This would hopefully be acceptable to both royalists and republicans and form a basis upon which they could unite against EAM. The problem was to persuade Churchill. Meanwhile, as Macmillan subsequently recalled, “we anxiously awaited our fate. Whether we should suffer that of Gordon at Khartoum or whether reinforcements could be landed in time across the beaches of Phaleron Bay”. [59]

Macmillan’s fears were far from groundless. ELAS responded to the rejection of their proposals for a compromise settlement with their first serious offensive against British positions in Athens. On the night of 12-13 December the British enclave came under sustained fire while a determined attack was made on the Infantry Barracks complex, only 300 yards from the British Embassy. Guerrillas in British uniform blew a hole in the perimeter wall and a strong ELAS force broke in. They overran the telephone exchange, stormed a number of buildings and fired the petrol dump before being driven out at dawn. Some twenty British soldiers were killed, another forty wounded and over a hundred taken prisoner. Fierce fighting continued throughout the rest of the day. According to one British officer whose men were holding Omonia Square against ELAS attack, the place looked like “a corner of Stalingrad”. [60]

This assault was followed by a comparative lull, characterised by sniping and occasional mortar attacks. Then, on 18 December ELAS renewed its offensive. In Athens itself strong guerrilla forces stormed the Averoff prison, while outside the city they began an attack on the RAF Headquarters at Kifassia. Here despite continual air attack, the guerrillas finally overwhelmed the defences early on the 20th, only hours before a relief column broke through. This was a serious blow for the British who lost over fifty men killed and another two hundred taken prisoner.

Such successes were rendered futile, however, by the build-up of British troops. Between 13 and 16 December Alexander transferred two Divisions, a tank regiment and supporting units from Italy to Greece, bringing Scobie’s strength to over 50,000 men. They immediately went into action against the ELAS troops in and around Piraeus. ELAS positions were strafed and rocketed from the air and shelled from the sea before being attacked by tanks and infantry. One seaman subsequently recalled that he and others were uneasy about the shelling because of the danger to Greek civilians but were assured that “if the Greek civilians chose to side with ELAS it was their own funeral”. After the bombardment had ended, it “was nerve-wracking going on deck for all you could hear was the sound of women and children wailing and crying”. [61] The British met with tough determined resistance. While this fighting was still continuing, on 17 December a tank column opened up the Piraeus to Athens road, bringing relief to Scobie’s embattled troops. On 20 December the British went over to the offensive in Athens. Tanks, artillery and air attack to which ELAS had no effective answer were all used to overcome strong resistance as the British began to expand the area under their control. The tide had turned.

Churchill in Athens

The fighting in Greece proved a grave embarrassment to Churchill: the British press was overwhelmingly hostile, Government policy was attacked by the left in the House of Commons and the United States was decidedly unsympathetic. Only the Russians made no criticism of Churchill’s war on the EAM. [62] In answer to his critics, Churchill decided to visit Athens himself, arriving on the afternoon of 25 December. He was very keen to see some actual fighting but also wanted to reassure himself with regard to Macmillan’s Regency proposal. A conference was set up to which all the Greek factions, including EAM, were invited, although as the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden made clear, this was with the object “of splitting the good from the bad in ELAS”. [63] Despite earlier reservations, Churchill became positively enthusiastic about Archbishop Damaskinos once he was convinced of his hostility to EAM. On the morning of the 26th he watched the Piraeus battle from the bridge of the cruiser, HMS Ajax, enjoying the spectacle of Beaufighter aircraft strafing ELAS positions and the excitement of ELAS shells falling near the ship. Later that evening the conference took place in Athens with three EAM representatives present, Georgios Siantos, Dimitros Partsalides and the ELAS commander in Athens, General Emmanuel Mandakis. Predictably no agreement was reached, but Churchill could now tell his critics that he had tried. Over dinner afterwards, Alexander explained why the conquest of Athens was taking so long: it would be much quicker if they simply “Rotterdamed” whole areas of the city, bombed them flat, but this was not possible, not least because the loss of civilian life would cause unrest among the troops. Instead, the city was having to be taken street by street which was a slow, painstaking affair. [64] The next day Alexander took Churchill to an observation post so he could get an idea of the Athens fighting. As Macmillan noted “this affair is a sort of “super Sidney Street”. [65] On his return to London, Churchill quickly bullied the Greek King into appointing Archbishop Damaskinos as his Regent.

The British were also taking other steps to silence the critics of their Greek policy. A remarkably successful propaganda campaign was launched, portraying ELAS as murderers, gangsters and terrorists, and accusing them of large-scale atrocities. They had it was alleged taken civilian hostages, tortured people, carried out mass executions (10,000 according to Damaskinos) and mutilated the corpses. There was undoubtedly some truth in some of these accusations, but they were deliberately exaggerated and completely one-sided. There had been hostage taking and executions but this reflected the character of the conflict. The British had intervened in what was a civil war between the left and the right and in this civil war both sides took large numbers of civilian prisoners and carried out summary executions. In the course of the fighting, the British arrested some 15,000 people suspected of Communist sympathies, of whom 8,000 were deported to camps in the Middle East. There was, of course, nothing wrong with this hostage taking, but when ELAS, in response, began arresting their political opponents, this was successfully portrayed as a war crime. The British complained of ELAS’s guerrilla tactics and yet had no hesitation in calling down artillery fire and air strikes on urban areas in rebel hands. Moreover there were occasions when British troops summarily executed prisoners: one paratroop officer subsequently recalled how he had maintained order in Thebes, ordering the public hanging of one “very bossy bastard”. [66]

ELAS undoubtedly carried out summary executions, but these were mostly of former collaborators. This was a feature of every European resistance movement during the Second World War: collaborators received popular justice. What was distinctive about Greece was not the shooting of collaborators, but the British decision to protect them and enlist them in the fight against the resistance. To police the areas that were being cleared of ELAS, the British established a 15,000 strong Greek National Guard, which consisted overwhelmingly of former members of the Security Battalions (eight of the fourteen National Guard battalion commanders had been officers in the Security Battalions). The British handed the Greek people over to men who had fought for the Germans, indeed Churchill himself made absolutely clear that they were the real patriots as far as he was concerned. [67] There were excesses, however, including the elimination of opponents on the left, among them the Greek Trotskyists who were routinely killed, a vendetta that the Communists pursued regardless of any other considerations. [68] Nevertheless these shootings were not on the scale alleged by the British, who were certainly not concerned about dead Trotskyists anyway. Indeed, much of the evidence of mass executions was manufactured, with the bodies of people who had died of natural causes or been killed in the fighting, being mutilated after death and produced as evidence. Despite this, the result was a propaganda triumph for the British, a triumph that was finally crowned by the obliging report of a British TUC delegation, headed by Lord Citrine, a report that predictably endorsed the official British position. [69]

After Churchill’s visit, the fighting continued, with the ELAS forces in Athens and Piraeus being relentlessly ground down by superior British forces that had them both outnumbered and outgunned. ELAS morale in the city began to collapse as they were left to fight alone without reinforcement, while British strength finally reached 75,000 men. At last on 5 January 1945 the guerrillas began to withdraw from the city and two days later from Piraeus. As British armoured units began to fan out through Attica, General Sarafis arrived to take command of ELAS forces, but the battle was already lost. By 15 January with Attica in British hands, the fighting was finally brought to an end by a truce. By this time British casualties were officially 267 dead (including the pilots of two aircraft shot down by ELAS), 987 wounded and 1,170 taken prisoner; ELAS casualties are unknown but were certainly much higher.

This still left EAM in control of the rest of Greece and British attempts to penetrate further inland had already brought home the problems they would have faced in trying to reduce the whole country. On 13 January a company of the Black Watch was ambushed by guerrillas in the hills south of Aliartos and forced to surrender and a strong British column including tanks and armoured cars making for Delphi was ambushed and forced to withdraw. [70] But the KKE’s policy remained the securing of a compromise agreement rather than the waging of war, especially a war where the Soviet Union was clearly supporting the British. Throughout the fighting in Athens the Soviet representative, Colonel Grigori Popov, had remained in the British Embassy and on one occasion had actually walked through the streets with Field Marshal Alexander “in friendly and animated conversation for the benefit of the Greeks who I hope will be duly impressed”. [71] Popov was present in the British party when Churchill met the EAM leaders on 26 December and according to Pierson Dixon they were unable to look him in the face. [72] When the KKE tried to send an emissary, Politburo member Petros Rousos, to explain the situation to the Russians, he was arrested in Sofia and expelled across the border without a hearing. The final blow came on 30 December when Stalin appointed an ambassador to the Greek Government, making his position absolutely clear at a time when the resistance was still fighting for its life. [73]

The result was the disastrous Varkiza Agreement of 12 February 1945. This demobilised ELAS and handed the rest of the country over to the British and their Greek clients in return for empty promises of amnesty, political toleration and democratisation. What followed was a “White Terror”. Between February and July 1945 there were mass arrests of EAM sympathisers and members, some 20,000 people, and a succession of show trials that sentenced nearly 3,000 people to death. This official repression was accompanied by the activities of right-wing death squads that in the same period killed at least 500 people and injured many more. Many EAM supporters, both Communist and non-Communist, refused to accept the Varkiza Agreement and were expelled from the movement, among them, the most prominent guerrilla leader Aris Velouchiotis. He was hunted down and killed by the army with his head put on public display in Trikkala. [74]

The Labour Government and the Greek Right

The election of a Labour Government in Britain in July 1945 raised hopes in Greece that now at last the Varkiza Agreement would be enforced and that the repression of the left would be stopped. This was not to be. The new Government and its Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin were to continue Churchill’s policy with only a change of rhetoric. Sir Orme Sergeant, Permanent Undersecretary at the Foreign Office, who had viewed the election of Labour with some alarm, could by 9 November 1945 write reassuringly to Rex Leeper, Ambassador in Athens that he had to recognise that Labour “must inevitably be at pains, while maintaining their Greek commitments to give it all the trappings of anti-Imperialist, non-interventionist respectability”. [75] In practice, of course, Bevin was an arch-Imperialist and anti-Communist, “more Churchillian than Churchill”. [76] The Labour Government’s reactionary policies saw it quickly embroiled in wars in Vietnam and Indonesia. The Vietnam intervention to restore French rule is comparatively well-known, but the far more bloody Indonesian intervention to restore Dutch rule, involving 60,000 troops and costing the lives of some 20,000 Indonesians is still virtually unknown. [77] Soon after in 1948 the Labour Government’s crackdown on the left in Malaya was to provoke a guerrilla insurgency that was to last for twelve years. Clearly Bevin’s Greek policy was no aberration: civil war soon broke out as the left was provoked beyond endurance.

The crucial decision was Bevin’s refusal to postpone the general election planned for 31 March 1946. The left was effectively prevented from taking part by the severity of the repression that was still being conducted against it and called for a postponement. When Bevin refused they called for a boycott. This is quite often seen as a political mistake on the part of the KKE that made civil war inevitable, but in all likelihood civil war was inevitable regardless of the general election. The Greek right was out to destroy the left with the support of the Labour Government and no election result would have changed that.

According to EAM in the period from the Varkiza Agreement up to the general election they had 1,289 of their people killed, 6,671 seriously injured, 31,632 beaten and tortured and 84,931 arrested. [78] These figures are generally accepted as giving an accurate impression of the scale of the assault that was underway. While collaborators went unpunished and were even rewarded with government jobs and promotion, the resistance was relentlessly persecuted. Policemen who had defected to ELAS were charged with desertion and imprisoned. Resistance fighters were charged with murder for having killed collaborators and even German soldiers and were sentenced to death. They were held as hostages and many were to be eventually executed in the course of the civil war. The Government conducted a purge of the civil service and teaching profession, sacking thousands of EAM supporters while leaving collaborators untouched. Even in the Orthodox Church, priests and bishops sympathetic to EAM were purged. Members of the Security Battalions were given state pensions which were denied to the resistance. Greece was the only country occupied by the Axis where after the war collaboration went unpunished and resistance was criminalised. It was this that provoked the civil war. As David Close insists: “The white terror was made possible only by British backing”. [79]

Malcolm MacEwen, the Daily Worker’s foreign correspondent at the time, recalls, in his memoirs, visiting a jail in Kozani where

I found 19 men packed into a cell measuring 5 by 2.5 metres, and 21 in another the same size, where it was impossible to lie down. One of them showed me the putrid, undressed wounds on the soles of his feet where the gendarmes had beaten him 18 days earlier. His plea for a doctor had been ignored. Wherever I went in Macedonia EAM or the CP could produce at short notice people with recent bullet wounds, fractures, bruises, burns and other signs of beatings and torture. In Florina, Edensa, Kozani, Kalamata and other jails prisoners crowded round me to show me their injuries and to tell me their grievances, of which the greatest was not their own plight but the intolerable conditions of their families, living in burned villages, denied UNRRA relief, persecuted by the X gangs and afraid to register for the elections.

He goes on to describe how effectively the resistance was criminalised. The death penalty applied not just for murder but for “moral responsibility” for murder so that mere membership of EAM or ELAS could result in arrest for murder. He met one woman charged with 39 murders because she had been in an ELAS unit that had ambushed a Security Battalion patrol. Another prisoner was charged with 2,600 murders while a group of 74 EAM members were all charged with the same single murder on the evidence of the collaborator who had ordered the destruction of their village. The most bitter prisoners were those who had helped the British during the war. Most of the people who had successfully hidden nine British soldiers in the working class district of Tumba in Salonika were now under arrest for EAM membership and were rotting in prison. [80]

This right-wing offensive produced direct benefits for the Greek ruling class. While millions of Greeks went hungry, cold and homeless during the occupation, they had continued to live in luxury. Nothing changed now the war was over. According to UNRRA half the rural population and a third of the urban population were living in misery without even the bare essentials, while the rich were receiving three quarters of the country’s money income. Between 1945 and 1950 the profits accruing to a handful of capitalists from manufacturing amounted to $400 million compared to the wages for 150,000 workers which amounted to $300 million. In 1947 the wealthiest 2,894 families had a collective income of 194,134,400 drachmas while the poorest 1,351,490 families had a collective income of just 6,789,025 drachmas. The rich paid virtually no taxes with the burden falling overwhelmingly on the poor. British banks and companies who still had substantial interests in Greece also benefited from the repression and the misery it entailed. [81]

This is not to suggest that the primary motive for Britain’s continued intervention was economic. On the contrary, Greece was regarded as strategically vital to the British position in the Mediterranean and keeping the succession of right-wing governments in power in Athens was a substantial drain on the Exchequer. Altogether Britain provided £200 million in military aid and £144 million in economic aid in the post-war period (at today’s prices this would be over £5 billion). [82] The burden proved too great and in February 1947 a reluctant Bevin was forced to hand over Britain’s “most difficult satellite” to the United States. [83] The last British troops were not withdrawn until 1950.


The Greek Civil War that lasted from 1946 until 1949 completed the destruction of the left. By the time it was over 100,000 people had been killed in the fighting, 40,000 were being held in concentration camps, 5,000 had been executed and another 100,000 had fled the country, seeking safety in the Communist bloc. How had this disaster come about?

Considerable responsibility rests with the leadership of the KKE. They had successfully built up one of the most powerful resistance movements in Europe and had the country effectively in their hands, but instead of carrying out a revolution, they attempted to reach a compromise with the British Government, with people who were determined to destroy them. Confronted with a revolutionary situation at the end of 1944, the Stalinist politics of the KKE leadership, and more generally their subordination to Moscow, led to the resistance throwing away victory. The heroism of the rank and file, of the men and women of EAM, EEAM and ELAS was wasted in pursuit of a chimerical agreement with the British. This was compounded by the Churchill-Stalin Pact of October 1944 which gave the British a free hand to crush the Greek resistance. The policy of repression was continued by the Labour Government. It was Attlee, Bevin and co. who kept in power corrupt right-wing governments, riddled with collaborators, holding down an impoverished working class and peasantry and waging a bloody war on the Greek left. A great opportunity had been missed and the Greek working class paid the price.


1. Louis de Bernières, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin (London 1994), p.436.

2. Seamus Milne, A Greek Myth, The Guardian Weekend, 29 July 2000.

3. For the early history of Greek Communism see H. Vlavianos, Greece 1941-1949: From Resistance to Civil War (London 1992), pp.7-22 and O.L. Smith, Marxism in Greece: The Case of the KKE, Journal of Modern Greek Studies 31, 1 (1985).

4. J.L. Hondros, Occupation and Resistance: The Greek Agony 1941-1944 (New York 1983), pp.24-26.

5. C. Tsoucalas, The Greek Tragedy (London 1969) p.54.

6. J.V. Kofas, Intervention and Underdevelopment: Greece during the Cold War (Pennsylvania 1989), p.7.

7. Vlavianos, op. cit., pp.5-17.

8. D. Jablonsky, Churchill, The Great Game and Total War (London 1991), p.146.

9. D. Stafford, Britain and European Resistance (London 1980), p.29.

10. B. Pimlott, Hugh Dalton (London 1985), p.296. Although in today’s Labour Party he would seem a dangerous radical, Dalton was one of the mainstays of the Labour right-wing. His private secretary at the Ministry of Economic Warfare was another right-winger, Hugh Gaitskell.

11. B. Sweet-Escott, Baker Street Irregular (London 1965), p.44.

12. M.R.D. Foot, SOE 1940-46 (London 1984), p.31.

13. P. Wilkinson and J.B. Astley, Gubbins and SOE (London 1993), p.27. After the war Gubbins was to become managing director of a large carpet and textile firm. W. Gray and Co. He was one of the founders of the Bilderberg Group in 1954.

14. P. Howarth, Undercover (London 1980), p.7.

15. B. Davidson, Special Operations Europe (London 1980), p.72. There has in recent years been an attempt by a variety of right-wing commentators to suggest that SOE was subverted by the left, in particular by James Klugman and Basil Davidson. They were apparently responsible for Tito taking power in Yugoslavia. This is so much nonsense. While the few socialists and communists in SOE undoubtedly did their best to counter the overwhelming influence of the right, the British decision to aid Tito was based on strategic considerations. According to J.G. Beevor, himself a senior staff officer in SOE, while “there were a few staff members of SOE and other organisations in Cairo with left-wing or even Marxist tendencies they were a minor and secondary factor”: SOE Recollections and Reflections 1940-45 (London 1981), p.95.

16. SOE’s most remarkable performance was without any doubt in China where according to one authority it was effectively integrated “with extensive British banking and commercial interests in Hong Kong, through the appointment of John Keswick of Jardine Matheson and Company to superintend its work”: Richard J. Aldrich, Intelligence and the War against Japan (Cambridge 2000), p.279. Its most important activity was the profitable exploitation of the thriving black market in nationalist China, including the opium trade. According to one recent account in China, SOE made “commerce a profitable tool of war”: Robert Bickers, The Business of a Secret War: Operation “Remorse” and SOE Salesmanship in Wartime China, Intelligence and National Security 16, 4 (Winter 2001), p.29.

17. C.M. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord (London 1948), p.203.

18. M. Mazower, Inside Hitler’s Greece (New Haven 1993), pp.23-52, and Vlavianos, op. cit., 23.

19. John Sakkas, The Civil War in Eurytania from Mark Mazower, ed., After The War Was Over: Reconstructing Family, Nation and State in Greece 1943-1960 (Princeton 2000), p.192.

20. John C. Loulis, The Greek Communist Party 1940-1944 (London 1982), p.42. The best account of the politics of the Communist International remains Fernando Claudin, The Communist Movement: From Comintern to Cominform (London 1975)

21. See in particular Hondros op. cit., pp.95-122. On women and the resistance see J. Hart, New Voices In The Nation: Women and the Greek Resistance 1941-1964 (Ithaca 1996) and Margaret Poulos Anagnostopoulou, From Heroines to Hyenas: Women Partisans during the Greek Civil War, Contemporary European History (10, 3 2001).

22. Woodhouse, op. cit., pp.146-147.

23. C.M. Woodhouse, The Struggle For Greece (London 1976), pp.96, 103-106. For an essential firsthand account of ELAS by its commander see S. Sarafis, ELAS: Greek Resistance Army (London 1980). For a horrifying and moving account of German reprisals see Mazower, op. cit., pp.155-234.

24. Mazower, op. cit., p.250.

25. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord, op. cit., pp.32-33.

26. Mazower, op. cit., pp.112-121, 340-342. For the Security Battalions see A. Gerolymatos, The Security Battalions and the Civil War, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora 12, 1 (Spring 1983).

27. E. Barker, British Policy in South-East Europe in the Second World War (London 1976), p.165.

28. D. Stafford, Churchill and Secret Service (London 1997), p.266.

29. Zervas actually had to be coerced by the British into taking up arms against the Germans.

30. V. Rothwell, Britain and the Cold War 1941-1947 (London 1982), p.200.

31. For an excellent discussion of Churchill and the Greek King see T.D. Sfikas, “The People At The Top Can Do Those Things Which Others Can’t Do”: Winston Churchill and the Greeks, Journal of Contemporary History 26, 2 (April 1991).

32. On the so-called “First Round” see O.L. Smith, “The First Round” – Civil War During the Occupation” from D.H. Close, ed., The Greek Civil War (London 1993).

33. Tsoucalas, op. cit., p.76. See also P. Papastratis, The Papandreou Government and the Lebanon Conference from J.C. Iatrides, Greece in the 1940s: A Nation in Crisis (Hanover, New England 1981).

34. W. Churchill, The Second World War: Triumph and Tragedy (London 1951), p.198. See also A. Resis, The Churchill-Stalin Secret Percentages Agreement on the Balkans, Moscow October 1944, American Historical Review 83 (April 1978). On Stalin’s policy with regard to Greece see P.J. Stavrakis, Moscow and Greek Communism 1944-1949 (Ithaca 1989).

35. See H. Fleischer, The Don Stott Affair: Overtures for an Anglo-German local peace in Greece from M. Safaris, ed., Greece: From Resistance to Civil War (Nottingham 1980); L. Baerentzen, Anglo-German Negotiations during the German Retreat from Greece in 1944, Scandanavian Studies in Modern Greek 4 (1980); and H. Richter, Lanz, Zervas and the British Liaison Officers, South Slav Journal 12 (1989). See also C.M. Woodhouse’s latest memoir, Something Ventured (London 1982), p.74-75 on the Stott affair. He goes on to write about how he discovered “long afterwards that during August 1944 there were secret negotiations with the Germans about the transition from the occupation to the liberation of Greece. An important role in them was played by Tom Barnes, our senior liaison officer with Zervas. It has also been suggested that Churchill connived at allowing the German troops to withdraw unmolested from the Aegean islands in order to have them available to form a front against the Red Army further north. Looking back on the last months of the occupation it amazed me to think how many people I must have met ... who knew about these intrigues and their consequences but never breathed a word to me, though they seem to have breathed plenty to each other” pp.86-87.

36. Woodhouse, The Struggle, op. cit., p.98.

37. Rothwell, op. cit., p.219.

38. Claudin, op. cit., p.440.

39. The Yugoslav Communists developed their own analysis of the reasons for the failure of Greek Communism. In his How And Why The People’s Liberation Struggle of Greece Met with Defeat (London 1985), Svetozar Vukmanovic argued that the decisive factor was the KKE’s urban strategy, their belief that the towns were the strategic fulcrum, rather than the revolutionary guerrilla struggle in the countryside. While not accepting Vukmanovic’s political arguments, a good case can be made that a peasant-based guerrilla army provided the necessary sociological basis for defying Stalin. Both Tito and Mao Zedong were to demonstrate this. The KKE’s more orthodox politics arguably made them more susceptible to Russian pressure.

40. N. Clive, A Greek Experience 1943-1948 (London 1985), pp.165-166.

41. W. Byford-Jones, The Greek Trilogy (London 1950), pp.77-78.

42. R. Leeper, When Greek Meets Greek (London 1950), pp.77-78.

43. P. Dixon, Double Diploma (London 1968), p.116.

44. Byford-Jones, op. cit., pp.138, 139. For the massacre and events leading up to it see also J.O. Iatrides, Revolt in Athens (New Jersey 1972). Churchill’s response to the massacre was to condemn the Communists as cowards, provoking his wife Clementine into writing him an amazing letter on 4 December: “Please do not – before ascertaining full facts repeat to anyone you meet today what you said to me this morning i.e., that the Communists in Athens had shewn their usual cowardice in putting the women and children in front to be shot at – Because altho’ Communists are dangerous, indeed perhaps sinister people, they seem in this War, on the Continent, to have shewn personal courage!” from Mary Soames, ed., Speaking For Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill (London 1998), p.507.

45. M. Sarafis, Biographical Memoir from S. Sarafis, op. cit., p.ix-xi.

46. Byford-Jones, op. cit., p.152.

47. M. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Road to Victory 1941-1945 (London 1986), pp.1085-1086; H. Richter, The Battle of Athens and the Role of the British from M. Sarafis, op. cit., p.83.

48. A. Horne, Macmillan 1894-1956 (London 1988), p.229.

49. Churchill, op. cit., pp.251, 252.

50. H. Maule, Scobie, Hero of Greece (London 1975), p.126.

51. H. Macmillan, War Diaries: The Mediterranean 1943-1945 (London 1984), pp.602-603. According to Macmillan, Scobie was “a fundamentally stupid man” and “not gifted with brains” pp.612, 654.

52. K. Matthews, Memories of a Mountain War (London 1972), p.87.

53. Gilbert, op. cit., p.1117. As Churchill’s private secretary, John Colville admitted: “The Greeks can certainly fight” from J. Colville, The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955 (London 1983), p.534.

54. R. Capell, Simiomata (London 1946), p.116.

55. Byford-Jones, op. cit., p.167.

56. Woodhouse, Something Ventured, op. cit., p.97. For a critique of the KKE and its strategy from a Guevarist perspective see D. Eudes, The Kapetanios (London 1970). According to Sarafis the British “believed all the lies they had told about ELAS not having fought” and so were taken completely by surprise: Sarafis, op. cit. p.495.

57. Colville, op. cit., p.540.

58. Gilbert, op. cit., p.1096.

59. H. Macmillan, The Blast of War (London 1967), p.614. For British accounts of the Battle for Athens see E. O’Ballance, The Greek Civil War (London 1966); E.D. Smith, Victory of a Sort (London 1988) and W.K. Jackson, The Mediterranean and Middle East November 1944 to May 1945 (London 1988). See also L. Baerentzen and D. Close, The British Defeat of EAM, Close, op. cit.

60. Maule, op. cit., p.155.

61. Ibid., pp.173-174.

62. See A.J. Foster, The Politicians, Public Opinion and the Press: The Storm over British military intervention in Greece in December 1944, Journal of Contemporary History 19, 4 (Winter 1984).

63. Gilbert, op. cit., p.1118.

64. Dixon, op. cit., p.125.

65. Macmillan, The Blast of War, op. cit., p.830.

66. N. Riley, One Jump Ahead (London 1984), pp.109-110.

67. Much later on 24 April 1945 Churchill wrote to an astonished Sir Orme Sargent that “It seems to me that the collaborators in Greece in many cases did the best they could to shelter the Greek population from German oppression. Anyhow they did nothing to stop the entry of liberating forces, nor did they give any support to EAM designs. The Communists are the main foe ...” At best only lip service was paid to the notion of punishing collaborators: Sfikas, op. cit., p.335.

68. For the purge of Greek Trotskyists carried out by the KKE’s secret police see R. Alexander, International Trotskyism (Durham 1992), op. cit., pp.505-506.

69. For the atrocity allegations and the TUC delegation see H. Richter, British Intervention in Greece: From Varkiza to Civil War (London 1985), pp.27-29. According to Marion Sarafis, “I myself met two people with relatives who died during the clashes of December 1944 – one of illness and one by a shrapnel fragment – whose bodies appeared mutilated amongst the Citrine ‘atrocities’ ... I am not saying here that there was no settling of scores ... what I am saying is that publicised horrors were more often than not stage managed.” Sarafis, op. cit., p.lxxvii.

70. H. Williamson, The Fourth Division 1941 to 1945 (Aldershot 1951), pp.315-316.

71. Gilbert, op. cit., p.1101.

72. Ibid., pp.1125.

73. Stavrakis, op. cit., pp.38-39. He goes on: “It is tempting to conclude that Stalin intended the destruction of ELAS, but there is insufficient supporting evidence”, p.42. See also Loulis, op. cit., p.141-142.

74. For a discussion of debates within the KKE see P. Grambas, The Greek Communist Party 1943-1945: The Internal Debate on Seizing Power from M. Sarafis, Background To Contemporary Greece (London 1990).

75. T.D. Sfikas, The British Labour Government and the Greek Civil War 1945-1949 (Keele 1994), p.62. For a more general critique of the roots of the Labour Government’s foreign policy see J. Saville, The Politics of Continuity (London 1993).

76. J. Kent, British Imperial Strategy and the Origins of the Cold War 1944-1949 (Leicester 1993), p.77.

77. On Vietnam see my The British Intervention in Vietnam 1945-1946, Monthly Review 43, 2 (June 1991) and on Indonesia see my A Forgotten War: British Intervention in Indonesia 1945-46, Race and Class 30, 4 (April 1989). For Malaya see my British Counter Insurgency: From Palestine to Northern Ireland (Basingstoke 2002).

78. Tsoucalas, op. cit., p.94. See also D. Close, The Reconstruction of a Right-Wing State from Close, op. cit.

79. D. Close, The Origins of the Greek Civil War (London 1995), p.163.

80. M. MacEwen, The Greening of a Red (London 1991), pp.145-146.

81. Kofas, op. cit., pp.24-26;

82. B. Sweet-Escott, Greece: A Political and Economic Survey (London 1954), p.193.

83. Dixon, op. cit., p.245. The phrase is Dixon’s. Having served as Eden’s private secretary, this arch-reactionary went on to serve Bevin for whom he developed a great admiration. Although he had himself left school aged eleven, Bevin had by now become a great admirer of the public school system. Dixon persuaded him, as a favour to Dixon junior, to speak to the Political Society at Eton. This was merely the least of the favours Bevin did for the ruling class (p.246). On American intervention and the Truman Doctrine see H. Jones, A New Kind of War (Oxford 1989) and L.S. Wittner, American Intervention in Greece 1943-1949 (New York 1982).

Last updated on 23.06.2010