The Truman Doctrine
Early in 1947, the British government, finding itself overstretched and in dire straits, withdrew from three theatres of foreign affairs: India, Palestine and Greece, leaving behind intractable problems in each place. In Greece it was the end of a partial hegemony which had lasted since the 1820s. The USA rushed in to take its place. The Greek representative in Washington was summoned to the State Department and peremptorily ordered to 'request US aid'. In a speech full of the of Manichean dichotomies of Cold War propaganda on 12th March US President Truman vowed to defend Greece, and all other 'freedom loving peoples' attacked by 'totalitarian communism.'
Greece became a client state of the USA. Dwight Grisw´ld boasted: '╔ have just to make up my mind what ╔ think is best for Greece.' US control was systematically institutionalized. For example, from 1948 a US citizen had to be Governor of Social Security (I╩┴). The Managing Director of the Department of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of the National Economy, who approved applications by individuals and companies to import and export goods was to be an American. The board of the Thessaloniki Radio Station had to have three Greek and three US members.
An American Sponsored Police State
At the same time, the army, heavily controlled by former collaborators and monarchists, became 'a state within a state'. In 1949 General Papagos was empowered to determine the composition of the army, to create and dissolve units, and to decide upon operations without consulting ministers, whereas the ministers were bound by his decisions.
What US domination meant for the 'free peoples' they were 'defending' soon became evident. Four months after the declaration of the Truman Doctrine more than 36,000 people were arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps. Some 37,000 were given courts martial, and 20,000 convicted. During the next three years, nearly 8,000 were sentenced to death. 'Aid' largely took the form of hundreds of military advisers, military supplies such as bombers, and reconstruction of the infrastructure to enable the military to deploy around the country. For the next two years the civil war waged outside Athens was under the firm control of the Americans and their agents in Athens, who did not stop at chemical warfare. Napalm was supplied by the Americans to be dropped on northern villages Torture, courts martial, firing squads, concentration camps if anything more brutal than those set up by the Nazis, and police supervision and harassment were the instruments of oppression, and felt no less in Athens than elsewhere. Such was Greece's fortune to be part of the 'democratic free world'. [Read about the prison camp on the island of Makronissos, and one famous inmate, Mikis Thodorakis, in Attica.]
The Civil War
In one sense, the civil war was a struggle between bourgeois Athens and Greece, the Westernised capital and the traditional provinces. Athenians feared the traditional Greece of the villages. C.M. Woodhouse points out that '… almost no native Athenian, and certainly no Athenian politician, knows any more about life in the wilds of Greece than the inhabitants of Paris or London. The Greek provinces are to them as much a foreign country as Tibet. Those who ever did know anything of them do their best to forget it. Their slogan, consciously or unconsciously, (and often explicitly) is: 'Athens is Greece.'' There is every reason to suppose that at this time, the army tried to make this slogan a reality.
The army evacuated many mountain villages of their inhabitants, destroyed their homes, and forced them into the towns, including the greater Athens area, the better to supervise and control them. For those who could, emigration was obviously an attractive proposition. Many went to Australia, Canada and the USA. About 15,000 children were forcibly evacuated from the area threatened by the rebels. When the rebels began to do the same thing, Karl Rankin called it 'a major psychological blunder' which could be employed as 'useful anti-communist propaganda.' The CIA spread the story that they were kidnapping children and having them indoctrinated in Communist countries, so that they could return and set up a Communist dictatorship.
Even though US propaganda asserted that Stalin actively supported the rebels, in fact he stood by the Percentages Agreement. Some 100,000 rebels escaped across the Albanian border.
By the end of the civil war, the countryside had been devastated. By 1948, over 60,000 had been killed, over 5,000 villages had been completely destroyed; two thirds of the country people suffered from malaria. Over a third of the country's forests had been razed. Habitable homes, seed, animals, and indeed food, was in very short supply.
ę John L. Tomkinson