Monday, February 2, 2015

Greece: Perhaps a "Fourth Round"?

What we learned in my school days about civil wars was the following: there are bad guys (typically the Communists) and good guys (typically all the others), and - thank God - the good guys always win. Except for Cuba where the Castro's were still in power but they, of course, wouldn't last very much longer (so was the prediction in the mid/late 1960s...).

I have always been fascinated with historical and other writings about the Greek Civil War. The fascination was due to the fact that it really didn't fit the simple model of good guys and bad guys. In fact, my impression was that the ELAS during the Italian invasion and the early German occupation were really the good guys. The true patriots. Those who told the Greek youth that "it is for you that we all embark on this struggle! To put shoes on your feet, food in your children's mouths! We are fighting to change your life, to raise you up from poverty and humiliation, to make you men!"

There was the First Round, the Second Round and after the Third Round the then Communists were routed. But do the wounds of a civil war ever go away? Particularly when they are never treated? As far as I can tell, the Greeks closed the book on their civil war so that it be forgotten. But the wounds, particularly those of the humiliated side, last for a long time, for generations.

When one talks to Southerners in the USA, one often gets the impression that, in their minds, they still haven't capitulated to the Yankees. In Greece, I have never been able to have any meaningful dialogue about the Civil War. The subject was always blocked out of the conversation. I have met a number of people whose mindset was such that I got the clear impression as though they were grand-children or great-grand-children of ELAS fighters but they seemed very secretive about it. As though one would have to fear, even today, to show that one had sympathies for the alleged bad guys.

I recently corresponded about this with a Greek who is a well-known intellectual with a SYRIZA orientation. His response was: "The civil war is in us, deeply embedded in our cultural and spiritual DNA".

Are we perhaps seeing now the Fourth Round, the political and economic alternative to the military version? If the intellectual turf of today's SYRIZA has any relation to the ELAS of the early 1940s, then SYRIZA should learn from the past. The reason why ELAS eventually failed, so I read, was they they could't keep their act together. From what I have read, ELAS could have had Greece in 1944 but they were more focused on their internal divisions.

Allende had wonderful ideas and visions for a better Chile. Over time, he got carried away by his ideas and visions and lost touch with reality (supported in that process by Fidel Castro, just like SYRIZA is now being supported by Podemos). He also lost control over the movement which he had started and he became more and more autocratic. At the end, he even violated the constitution, thereby giving the military an alibi for intervention. But - Allende is still the darling of intellectuals and others throughout the world.

So here is a perspective for Alexis Tsipras. He really can't lose. If he fails, he will go down into history as the Greek who would have changed Europe if only the evil powers of the world had not sabotaged him. And if he succeeds, he deserves a Nobel Prize, anyway.


  1. I agree completely with this Klaus -- other than the bit about DNA. It is cultural legacy that has shaped Greeks, and it can also rub off on foreigners such as myself. But your analysis of the situation, and the greatest danger for Syriza, is spot-on.

  2. Mr. Kastner,

    You are really digging to open a huge can of worms. :-) To many thoughts, to many questions, too many analyses.

    But to make a blunt answer..... Yes the civil war is within us, just like the Atrocities/Hardships of WW2, Smyrni, and Under the Ottoman rule. These atrocities of history are all within us and I personally may only be alittle over 40, but they are deeply felt within us. I believe we have been programed as a civilization to bury painful history, even though they bubble up in our everyday lives sometimes. These strange characteristics we have, for sure, annoy our friends. Many times i feel we are very vindictive. But at the same time compationaite because when we hurt others we know well within us to know what it means to be hurt. I see what is going on in the Ukraine and can honestly say I cry. Civil war, brother versus brother, is a scar that only instinction of humanity can wear away.

    It is all these feelings of the past which makes us so vibrant, wild and even deadly silent.

    To many aspects to discuss in a one blog comment.

    How i feel about Tsipras. I/We hope he is a symbolic new Leonidas. Even if he achieves half of what he says and he is sacrificed he will be a new martyr for Greeks. (By the way i forgot to mention Greeks like to over dramatize things :-) ). ; It doesn;t matter if Tsipras is coming from left or right or his people. What matters is that they say the truth and try. It is really quite simple.


    1. Strange. I have heard this warning about opening a can or worms before. I have travelled all over Epirus expecting to see some reminders of the Civil War. I saw plenty of reminders of the Nazis but nothing of the Civil War. In Konitsa, I was particularly interested because I had read that that was the only city which ELAS almost conquered to serve as the seat of their shadow government. I never understood why ELAS did not conquer the city because they seemed so overpowering and they came from the top. I asked an elderly man sitting next to me in the café. All he said was that brother was fighting against brother. Period!

    2. Hi Mr. Kastner,

      It is not strange. Just think about the differences. It is easier to express and release from within the pain that Nazi Germany instilled on the people of Greece. It was Greek versus German. Oppresed versus Fascism. Everyone was affected regardless of politcal background. And in the end Greeks help in the victory over the oppressor. So whatever atrocities or pain taken can be expressed to some degree. (I have a Cretan friend in Kanados Chania. I have talked to the elders of the village and i can tell you they will express the resistance and how they fought, coming up to the last day of fighting it is difficult for them to continue, because the loss was so great there after from a atrocity pov, they refrain from talking. The village was burn down 3 times.)

      In a civil war what are you victorious about and over whom? How can it be expressed? Even during the rage to kill your own brother for stupid ideological ideas and there after the aftermath of the rage. You can not flaunt when the calm comes, Yeah I killed my brother! You bury it. Because you are ashamed of it. In the end you may even stay with the idea you fought for just to justify the horrible things you supported, as to cover some of the shame. Some civil wars are different like the American civil war. It was north versus south not brother versus brother. Only in some states like Virginia it was brother versus brother but this was a small scale. In greece we were split within our own villages.

      What else can you say. You feel ashamed. Even more so in greece where family ties are the ultimate center of every person.

      Literature is out there but there is much more on ww2 rather than civil war which hard to be expressed.


    3. Next time you visit Konitsa and find somebody old enough to remember ask the following:
      a) Was OPLA present in the town before the attack? OPLA was the enforcer of the Communist leadership and basically a bunch of sadists. Their presence indicates atrocities against the population, which obviously then defended their patch fiercely.
      b) Was the town defended by the gendarmerie or the regular army? Gendarmes were routinely executed by the communists, so they fought fiercely.
      c) Were any bandit groups around? If yes, both sides would have used them. The result would be like using mercenaries, making military predictions difficult.
      You ask the above and then you really open the can of worms. My suspicion is that you will be ignored as a lunatic foreigner, but a verbal assault is not out of the question. If this ever happens please keep us informed about the answers.
      And yes Xenos, cultural legacy accounts for a lot. Especially the particularly skillful lying Greeks deploy about historical events they want to use to their advantage.

  3. Well another victim of the masterful Greek PR machine. Well with 6000 years of experience.
    The Greek civil war was only marginally related to ideologies. Most of the crimes against civilians were related to personal disputes about real estate: I had a dispute with my neighbour/cousin etc. about this or that speck of land, so I accuse him in the local political power (communist or nationalist depending on time and locale) of being a supporter of the other side. He gets butchered and I get the land.
    If you want to have a meaningfull discussion about the Greek civli war ask the following questions:
    a) Why is the Communist party has not released its archival material about OPLA (ΟΠΛΑ) its undercover enforcement arm at the time?
    b) How come most atrocities against communists in the Greek countryside happened after OPLA visits in the area?
    c) How come 1945 was peaceful but the Communists were able to reconstuct a relatively huge army within weeks of the 1946 elections and start the civil war proper? (the civil war was from 1946 to 1949)
    d) Look out for the US audits of the assistance handed out to Greece during that time. Then ask what happened to the money.
    e) Ask what the other Communist leaders of the west (mostly Italy) were saying to the then Communist leader Zahariadis about starting a war.
    f) What was the relation between both sides and the bandit gangs that were roaming the Greek countryside at the time?
    g) Ask opinions about the ship Mataroa, in my view the most shameful episode of that sorry era.
    Keep in mind that Greeks can become very mean when their PR shield is pierced.
    Concerning the relationship between that era and the present time I can say this: all things have changed to the point where all comparisons are hypocritical, except of the inability of Greek leftists to understand the international political landscape (see e above)

  4. Herr Kastner, you write:
    "So here is a perspective for Alexis Tsipras. He really can't lose. If he fails, he will go down into history as the Greek who would have changed Europe if only the evil powers of the world had not sabotaged him."
    That is a sentence that only evil itself (unawareness) could create: It seems to be right, we know it is a lie, but it is the intelligence of evil itself that makes it look "good" for the naive ones, and nobody can prove it that it is a lie.
    Then: "And if he succeeds, he deserves a Nobel Prize, anyway."
    We all know that even the Nobel Prize is not always won by the most "Nobel" (noble) people.

    First we need to know where he, Tsipras, really wants to succeed in. If that is to find money for Greece in the wallets of crooks, thieves, cheaters, burglars, etc. then he first needs to clean up the systems of all who work in the name of law and justice and cheat the law every new day with their way of practicing that law and justice and swim away through the wholes in that system: lawyers, judges, banks, the entire corrupt, rotten in-between area of the common people, and the top.

    How naive one can be (Tsipras). As if cheaters will become honest because of a Tsipras. All systems in Greece are rotten, and have affected the minds of all Greeks and their thinking, as a psychological cancer. Who can change that?
    That needs a brainwashing, washing of brains. Starting on schools, in houses of families, kafenios, but who can be trusted and who is not affected? What or who can heal rottenness?

    "The civil war is in us, deeply embedded in our cultural and spiritual DNA".
    It is not about a civil war, it is simply about war in Greece's history. If there was not a solution anymore there was a war. It seems to be the only answer of the Greeks to their own emotions and not being able to master them.

    As a kind of a heroic act there was even a Zalongo dance, hailed and praised, still, even recited by children on schools (!!!), as if there was really something brave about it. This is so deeply carved in the thinking system of the Greeks that it is hardly possible to even talk about it as something evil: I consider it as an evil act what these women did.
    I consider it as the power of evil itself that it still exists as something "good", without any criticism. And IF there was criticism, there was a Theodorakis to send the woman who wrote about it to the far Nigeria.

    So sick the minds of people who are considered as "wise" or "intelligent", "brave" can become when nobody talks about sense and common sense, when myths and the acts of mythological figures stay dogmas and sacred cows, and common people become gods.

    Concerning the Zalongo dance: that dance fits within the Game Theory, invented by Varoufakis. The Game theory is based on all what fits within committing suicide, or to play Russian Roulette.
    This is criminal. Simply criminal. Criminals do not belong in the government.
    Those who voted for Syriza started their Zalongo dance on the moment their vote was activated, and with that red mark the start of the Zalongo dance of 2015 was realized. In silence, without the sounds of the bouzouki, without any song, or helidoni.

    1. Bear in mind that I have lived in Chile and have met a lot of admirers of Allende. They all thought that Allende would have turned Chile into Gods country if he hadn't been sabotaged by evil foreign powers.

    2. "I consider it as an evil act what these women did."

      Sure, choosing suicide over gang rape and slaughter is an unspeakable act of evil. I hope the women of Zalongo are burning in hell, like all the women worldwide who made the same choice in times of war.

      Mrs. Janssen, let me express my gratitude for not considering yourself "fond of Greek" anymore. Please, feel free to delete your YouTube channel and cut all ties with our rotten nation.

    3. Hi Niko. Yes, I support your comment. I cannot understand what is going on with this woman and her ridiculous comments here.

  5. The new generation of Greeks doesn't know, nor does it care about the civil war. It only cares about their iphones and ipads. However there *is* a division in the Greek society. That division came about after 20 years of Pasok governance: Pasok created the monster that is the current Greek public-sector, and along the way it distorted incentives and behaviors. That's why all Greeks want to be public-servants, cause they know it pays off. Those who don't have ties to the public-sector are second-class citizens.

    Pasok created another monster that distorted incentives and behaviors: temporary prosperity with borrowed money, combined with lax application of the law. It is these two monsters which feed the easy leftism that comes so plentiful in the Greek society and which you probably mistake for ghosts of the past. Greeks learned that you don't need production to be prosperous, and that if you break the law there are no consequences. They need to unlearn that.

    Thus in order for Greek society to mature and to become more productive, one has to crush these traits. The public-sector has to be mangled to such a degree that working there becomes undesirable. Credit expansion needs to be regulated heavily so that it flows to productive investment instead of consumption. Finally and more importantly, the rule of the law must be applied forcibly and in all levels of the Greek society, from the upper to the lower ones.

    Since Greece will never implement such reforms by itself, it is very important that access to foreign lending is disabled. Sadly, membership in the euro has complicated things further.

    1. nice generalizations....


    2. "borrowed money" and EU subsidies

  6. I quite agree with Jim Slip (and Daniel Gros), starve the beast,