Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 1. Friday, March, 2, 1945
Press Distorts Truth on Mishandling of Affairs in Greece
Press Distorts Truth on Mishandling of Affairs in Greece
During the past two months the peoples of the Allied countries have witnessed with alarm the grim sequence of events in Greece since its liberation from the Germans. The announcement of an agreement between the Elas and the Government for the cessation of hostilities, freedom of trade union organisation, press and assembly, has come as a welcome relief in a tense situation which tended to undermine British prestige in the Allied Nations.
While it must be remembered that the main defeat of Fascism is taking place on the Eastern and Western European fields and in the Pacific and China, the mishandling of affairs in Greece has been perturbing in the extreme and calculated to shake Greek faith in democratic British intentions.
Throughout the whole fracas the people of New Zealand have had little opportunity of learning the true facts but have had to digest the garbled and unconvincing reports of our daily press. Even the conservative British press has found it impossible to reproduce without comment these biassed reports.
"Public opinion outside Greece," says the "Sunday Observer," "has these last few days and weeks been served with evidence from one side only. It has heard the story of Mr. Churchill, Papandreou and General Scobie." (And, we might well add, Sir Walter Citrine.) "The leaders of Elas have not been allowed to tell the world their version of the events. The prosecutors have spoken at their will while the defendants have had no say at all."
Cut-throats and Ruffians?
The first remarkable thing that strikes the student coming to this tragic subject is that the Greek Guerillas, so recently our airmen's targets, have fought as gallantly as any against our common enemy. No people has suffered so cruelly by famine and massacre. Exhausted by their hard campaign against the Italians they might well have lapsed into passivity when the Germans and Bulgarians invaded their country and our little force was obliged to withdraw. Left to themselves they rallied and faced the overwhelming odds. The parties of the Centre and Left, ranging from liberals to communists came together in the National Liberation Front (EAM) and built up a powerful guerilla force (ELAS) armed partly by us but mainly with weapons captured from Italians. It fought so well that, outside the larger towns, it liberated the major part of rural Greece. Its forces, estimated at 80,000 men, are organised on a model similar to that of Marshal Tito. In control, with several able soldiers, are Professor Svolos and some of the leading figures in the intellectual life of the country, with two bishops among them. These are the men at whom Churchill and our NZ papers sneered as "a gang of bandits from the mountains." These "out-throats and ruffians" faced the hard life of the mountains while others sat passive under the German yoke in Athens.
The Greek people have bitter memories of a native Fascist regime under General Metaxis. If they were reluctant to lay down arms it was because they dreaded a return to that nightmare of oppression and obscurantism. In support of their fears was the transfer to Greece, now clear of the enemy, of two picked Corps, the Mountain Brigade and the Sacred Battalion, recently fighting in Italy. These two Corps were formed in Egypt during the days when the greater part of the Greek Army and Fleet threw off its allegiance to the King and declared for the Republic. The republican troops were disarmed and interned by us, the royalist minority was embodied in these two corps under officers in the King's confidence.
The Eam, who had agreed to disband their forces by December 10th, were Startled by the arrival of these corps and difficulties arose. After negotiation with the Cabinet, these difficulties were overcome, the Elas was to maintain forces equal in strength to the two favoured corps. This compromise was shattered by the intervention and veto of General Scobie. Next followed two major blunders. The first was the firing of the armed Athenian police on an unarmed crowd. It was they, and not the guerillas, who started the shooting. The second was Churchill's decision to maintain Papandreou in office despite his willingness to resign. Scobie's broadcast that he would support, Papandreou with armed force recklessly provoked the pride of the Greeks. They were having a premier imposed on them by British bayonets. As reason for these actions, Mr. Churchill stated that he was "determined to uphold the constitutional government." The King destroyed the Greek constitution eight years ago. Since that day, without a vestige of representative government, this brave but ill-starred country has lived under a rule of force. There was no right, save that of might, to uphold.
Return of the Conquered
The next step was the setting up of a Regency Council under Archbishop Damaskinos and General Plastiras. Memories of the latter are not pleasant. Some twelve years ago Plastiras was set up as the strong man of the Greek ruling class and enjoyed a brief period as premier. His verbal cannonades against the left-wing and democratic forces in general led to his swift retreat to an Aegean island. Our daily press makes a virtue of Plastira's return to his country after twelve years of exile. But why in exile? Only because the atmosphere in Greece was not healthy for a would-be dictator who had tried and failed.
And now, unsatisfied with distorted lies about the Greek Liberation Movement, Sir Walter Citrine, ever willing to do the dirty work of the most reactionary elements in Britain, has returned from Greece with frightful atrocities stories concerning this handful of bandits—the Greek People. These stories savour of the exposed German stories concerning the alleged Russian murder of Polish officers. Sir Walter saw the corpses exhumed, but not burled. It is interesting to note, as far back as December, the serious charges of atrocities made by the radio of the Liberation Movement against General Scobie's forces. These are reported to have handed prisoners to the Greek Mountain Brigade (commanded by Quisling Col. Tsakalatos) in whose hands they suffered torture and death. The parallel is rather interesting. After these blots on our history it is heartening to see signs of solution of the deadlock. A satisfactory settling is only to be achieved through the free election of statesmen holding the confidence of the whole people, particularly of those who have proved their patriotism in the mountains.
Let us be prophetic. The free elections which are promised for the near future will demonstrate beyond doubt that far from being a "gang of ruffians and terrorists" the National Liberation Movement of Greece (Eam) is The Gkeek People
(Attention is drawn to an article, on Greece in our issue of August 9, 1944.)
Exec. Deplores Lateness of Calendar
A motion that a letter be written to Mr. Robinson, Registrar of the college, asking that the college calendar be produced earlier in the year, was passed with acclamation at a recent Exec. meeting. It was pointed out that the calendar this year was not available until half way through February, which left only two weeks for intending fresher to study lecture times and make final decisions on courses. Had time-tables been finalized and the material handed to the printer in December, it is felt that copies would have been available in late January.