Churchill and the crushing of the Greek Left at the end of WWII

Both Churchill & Greece are in the news, but who remembers that Churchill was behind the brutal suppression of the Greek left towards the end of world war two, a suppression in which former Nazis were rearmed and with British troops killed thousands of Greeks?

The man Churchill put in charge of the operation, Sir Charles Wickham, for qualified for this brutal counter insurgency role because he had been the first Inspector General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, from 1922 to 1945.

The historian Tim Pat Coogan told the Guardian that the RUC was “conceived not as a regular police body, but as a counter-insurgency one… The new force contained many recruits who joined up wishing to be ordinary policemen, but it also contained murder gangs headed by men like a head constable who used bayonets on his victims because it prolonged their agonies.

“It’s the narrative of empire and, of course, they applied it to Greece. That same combination of concentration camps, putting the murder gangs in uniform, and calling it the police. That’s colonialism, that’s how it works. You use whatever means are necessary, one of which is terror and collusion with terrorists. It works."

Likewise the burial of this history in the celebration of Churchills life is all about the rehabilitation of the colonial project. Just as the British military destroyed the evidence of the torture & Kenya camps it ran in Kenya Churchill is only to be remembered for his role in opposing Nazi Germany.

Also to be forgotten is Churchill's advocacy of the use of poison gas against other colonial rebellions. "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes" ... "the objections of the India Office to the use of gas against natives are unreasonable. Gas is a more merciful weapon than [the] high explosive shell, and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war. Why is it not fair for a British artilleryman to fire a shell which makes the said native sneeze? It is really too silly." This was in 1919 when he also advocated the use of the same gas against the Russian revolution, it was indeed used near Archangel where Red Army soldiers were seen "fleeing in panic as the green chemical gas drifted towards them. Those caught in the cloud vomited blood, then collapsed unconscious."

Back to Greece
After landing in Greece the British forces re-activated the various forms of local authority set up by the Nazis with local fascist support. All arms in the hands of the Greek left resistance to the Nazis were ordered to be surrendered by December 10th.

Within days Athens saw a mass demonstration against the governments re-imposition of the old order and on 3rd November it was reported that 2000 textile workers had taken over their factory and appointed a management committee.

Churchill cabled the general in charge to act as if "he were in a conquered city, confronted by local rebellion"

More troops were flown in from the Italian front and on 3rd December British troops fired on an EAM demonstration killing 28 and wounding 150. The picture shows the aftermath of this massacre. Martial law was declared and British troops disarmed 3 ELAS units.

EAM called a general strike and ELAS seized 21 of the 28 Athens police stations. On the 5th hundreds of thousands turned out for the funerals with banners reading 'British soldiers; let us choose our own government". But the party leadership just asked the Allied government to deplore what happened and warned they might need to fight at some future date.

Scobie had no such problems, he ordered RAF rocket attacks on ELAS positions. The fourth division were moved from Italy to Greece. War broke out in and around Athens with the ELAS attacking British tanks with tramcars of explosives and on the 18th capturing an RAF base with 250 prisoners. Scobie went on the offensive and drove the ELAS back and on the 24th Churchill arrived in Athens.

He pointed out that the British troops were there with the agreement of Roosevelt and Stalin by which Britain would have control of Greece, Yugoslavia would be split and Stalin would have majority control of Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. On 11th Jan. a cease fire was agreed, the ELAS agreed to withdraw 100 miles from Athens, evacuate Salonkia and other islands, and a general exchange of prisoners was arranged.

In later years the head of the KKE was to claim that the whole revolt had been the work of agent provocateurs. As the peace talks continued British forces occupied more and more of Greece. The ELAS started to fragment in particular over the execution of 114 trade union officials. Many surrendered and others were arrested and charged with common law crimes like the murder of German soldiers.

By July of 1945 20,000 had been arrested and 500 executed. This compares to 2313 anti-fascists executed by the Nazi's and 20 executed by the government for collaboration with the Nazi's.

Read more at
http://struggle.ws/talks/greece.html
https://libcom.org/files/Greek-tragedy-solidarity.pdf
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/30/athens-1944-britains-dirty-...
http://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2013/sep/01/winston-churchill...

 


WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )

  


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