In response to:
Greece: Cultural Freedom in the Gangster State from the May 21, 1970 issue
To the Editors:
The article by Y on gangsterism in Greece [NYR, May 21] gives a good picture of the present political and cultural climate under the American-made aegis of the fascist minions, but does not give us the right historical background for a better understanding of the genesis of the Putsch.
The Greek people in their resistance movement during the Nazi occupation hoped to attain two goals: fight the Nazi violence and prepare the ground for political and social reform. The Nazis left Greece, but one of the best resistance movements of Europe was annihilated by freedom-loving Western liberalism and the tactics of Russian Bolshevism. The sons and daughters of the Greek people were thrown into jail or exiled as common criminals because they dared to demand political and social reform in the sphere of the British (now American) influence, as the sons and daughters of Czechoslovakia were crushed because they dared to demand political and social reform in the Soviet sphere of influence. The ice of the cold war freezes any hope that the people might have in the East or West. The superpowers want their strategic positions intact and ready for action.
The supposed threat to the Greek establishment in the middle Sixties was coming not from the radical left but from a mildly progressive liberal party. In this tepid political party the Greek people had put all their hopes for at least a gradual social change and social liberalization. But even this bourgeois political party was too much for the “Greek” monarchy, the Army, and the status quo, and had to be smashed before any elections took place.
At the time of the Truman doctrine in 1948, the enemy were the guerrillas of the second Resistance; in 1967 the enemy was a lukewarm liberal party. In both cases the hardware of the war machine had to intervene to save “Democracy,” and leave intact the greased path of military tactics and maneuvers. Twenty-five years of Americanization produced a Balkan satrapy in Greece, while twenty-five years of Sovietization produced a stultifying red bureaucracy in Czechoslovakia.
Y describes very vividly the agonies, the anxieties, and the desperation of artists and poets of Greece under the whip of the colonels. But he forgets that what the right is suffering now was the bread-and-butter treatment of the left since 1944, the year Churchill ordered the rising Greek people to be shot down. (In the preface to the special issue on Greece of Les Temps modernes, Summer 1969, Jean-Paul Sartre regrets that he could not find anyone to “raconter l’assassinat de la Résistance grecque, après Yalta.”) The right now pays the same price that the left has been paying for twenty years and continues to pay today.
The popular left and the unpopular right are now tied up together in a bundle to burn in the flames of a hellish nightmare. At present the polarization is so extreme that only two alternatives remain: the continuation of the junta or a real democratic socialism. Any attempt of the State Department—or rather the Pentagon through the CIA—to patch up the political differences and create a pseudo-democratic, palliative solution with a royal crown on top of it—the banana republic that has been in existence for twenty-five years—is doomed to fail.
Let us hope this excoriating experience will teach all Greeks that their salvation and destiny lies in their own hands. The Greeks have to realize that freedom and democracy are not handed to them on a platter either from the West or from the East. They have to create institutions that will protect their liberties and their lives from petty satraps and alien monarchs. They have to work for social justice and social equality for all. They have to work for a humanistic and libertarian socialism. Until that time, they have to be steeled by the beatings of the fascistic junta, which it seems will stay in power for a long time, as long as the Greek ports are considered of strategic importance to the Sixth Fleet and as long as the Soviet ships are threatening the American Mare Nostrum.
To those readers who want a clear and objective background exposition of the postwar and recent events in Greece I recommend the study of Todd Gitlin, “Counter-Insurgency: Myth and Reality in Greece,” in Containment and Revolution, edited by D. Horowitz (1967) and the study by Marios Ploritis, “La Monarchie en Grèce,” in Aujourd’hui la Grèce, a special issue of Les Temps modernes (Summer 1969).
September 24, 1970