Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 1. Friday, March, 2, 1945
Cut-throats and Ruffians?
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.