This is the first line of the song “Apones Exousies” (“Heartless Powers”), with lyrics written by Michalis Cacoyiannis and music by Mikis Theodorakis. The song is part of the record Sten Anatole (To the East), which circulated in November 1974 and was dedicated to the memory of the students who participated in the Polytechnic uprising in November 1973. This dedication summons up the specter of the civil war and the persecution of the Left as background for the Polytechnic.
- Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
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Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
In a letter written in 1972, Foucault mentions in passing that his real interest was not “to analyze the phenomena of power, nor to elaborate the foundings of such an analysis” (2003: 284). In a sense, Foucault was not interested in producing laundry lists of where power can be found and what that power did. He was far more interested, he says, in producing a “history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects” (ibid.). As a way of arriving at this genealogy of subjectification, Foucault mentions that he wanted to analyze power relations, relations that produce subjects out of human beings, through the act of “the most disparaged of all wars: neither Hobbes, nor Clausewitz, nor the class struggle: civil war” (ibid.: 282). In setting civil war (emphýlios pólemos, in Greek) apart from the contours of both the “absolute war” of Clausewitz (where the enemy has to be obliterated militarily and politically) and the Hobbesian notion of war as the means for entering civilization, Foucault recognizes that only civil war engages with the project of biopolitics in that it engages in the production of a new type of citizen.
What is an emphýlios, then? Is it civil war? And what is so civil about it? Emphýlios Pólemos has been translated into English as “civil war.” In Greek the term is unambiguous, but translation into Latin-based languages is not without its dangers. Attempts have been made, both Right and Left, to name as “civil war” all forms of armed battle that happen within a singular ethnic group. Under this understanding, the French Revolution, the October Revolution, and the Battle of Athens in 1944 are as much civil wars as are the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, and the Greek Civil War. But time is, among other things, a political “thing” (perhaps even a “site” in Alain Badiou's terms) that determines the naming of events.
The Bush administration was as adamantly opposed to calling the war in Iraq a “civil war” as was the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans to name the Greek war a “civil war” in 1947, for exactly the same reasons: so that the involvement of neighboring countries and outside sources would not be disputed. The U.S. delegate to the Committee, Mark Ethridge, charged Greek Prime Minister Tsaldaris with “monumental stupidity” because he had managed to succeed in doing exactly what the commission had been trying to undo: “Namely, focusing attention upon Greek domestic affairs only.” But what is a civil war, really, and how has it developed, conceptually, over time?
Emphýlios Pólemos literally means “interracial war,” a war between races, although this is not an unproblematic translation. First, one should resist at all costs the temptation to think about race as a biological category here, as the term has been developed and received in Romance and Anglophone languages. The problems of translating the Greek term phylē into English are immensely complicated. As Liddell and Scott, the lexicographers of antiquity, note, the term phylē primarily meant “a congregation of people by nature distinguished from each other,” but, as they also note, this very general and broad meaning was almost never used. The term was most often used to denote the equivalent of the Latin tribus and means “a body or sum of people united by an assumed kinship and common ancestry, such as the phylai of the Dorians.” In ancient Athens, the phylai comprised the different groupings delineated by Kleisthenes according to their place of residence, not unlike (later) European boroughs. As phylon (the neutral of the noun), it means simply any segmentary delineation other than the one to which the speaker belongs, as, for instance, when Sophocles, in Oedipus Tyrannus talks about the phylon of the birds, or Hesiod about the phyla of singers or the phylon of women. In a much more restrictive meaning, phylon means “nation,” such as the phylon Pelasgōn (the nation of Pelasgeians), and, even more restrictively, a segment that is related by blood ties, what in anthropological jargon one would call “cognates,” as it appears in Homer in reference to the blood relatives of Helen (phýlon Helénēs). In Greek antiquity emphýlios had the meaning of belonging to the same phylē, to the same genos; therefore, emfýlioi were blood relatives, cognates. Gē emphýlios, in Oedipus at Colonnus, denotes the place of origin, the homeland. Both in Antigone and in Plato's Laws, emphýlion haima means the murder of a cognate, of a blood relative.
Kleisthenes, being given the mandate to form a government after the excesses of the Peisistratids, introduced the first substantive reforms to the old Solonic laws, so that the form of government became democratic: being based on the demos. In 508–507 b.c. Kleisthenes broke up Attika into 136 municipalities (demoi), which then reorganized from the existing four tribes (phylai) into ten, without regard to ancestry, so as to produce a more equitable distribution of power.