At the beginning of the pamphlet Ho Kommounismos sten Hellada (Communism in Greece), published in 1937 by an Ethnike Hetaireia (National Society), Metaxas articulates his nightmare: “Above the whole of Greece a big red flag was being raised and many more smaller red flags were being prepared to be raised at the appropriate moment in the most vital points in Greece, in the military barracks, in the ships, in the schools, in the universities, in the factories, in the house of the farmer. And some day this land would drown in the red color of blood.” This Ethnike Hetaireia is different from the organization of the same name that was implicated in the nationalist movement of the latter part of the nineteenth century and financially and morally supported both the Cretan Revolution of 1896 and the failed Greek expedition of 1897 against the Ottoman Empire. As Papadimitriou states, according to its bylaws, the new Ethnike Hetaireia was formed by Metaxas to “strengthen the status quo as it had been formed by the developments of August 4, 1936, and to disseminate its political, economic, and moral principles” (Papadimitriou 2006: 168; bylaws of the Ethnike Hetaireia found at ELIA). Papadimitriou further writes that the Metaxian period was a time when the terms ethnikóphrones polites (“nationally minded citizens”) and ethnikophrosýne (“the state of thinking nationally”) were coined in order to denote “the bourgeois consciousness and anti-Communist mental disposition of the Greeks regardless of their partisan identity” (ibid.: 15, my emphasis).
Chapter 2. 1936–1944: The Metaxas Dictatorship, the Italian Attack, the German Invasion, German Occupation, Resistance
Perfectly Nice People
“Did you ever get a chance to meet Maniadákis?” my interlocutor, a lovely woman in her sixties, asked as I was interviewing her husband. I said no, I never had, failing to note the number of times I had heard my parents and everyone else I knew say that one would never really wish to meet him.
“He was such a gentle, nice man,” she continued, “very civil and such a gentleman…” while at the same time herself recognizing and acknowledging the complete terror that Maniadákis had brought to the country as undersecretary of public security.
I recounted the story to my friend Zina, whose father had been a judge of the Special Military Court. She started to laugh. “One day, during one of the summers that Stephen [her husband] and I were in Greece,” she said, “Stephen went out to buy the newspaper. It took him longer than I had expected. When he got back, he said that it took him so long because he had chanced upon my father at one of the coffee shops on the square, sitting with a charming old man. He had a strange name, Stephen said, Manitakis? Manatakis? I understood immediately,” Zina continued laughingly, “and I said to him, look, from now on you'll take the upper road to go buy the paper; I don't want you gallivanting with Maniadákis.”
Perfectly nice people can produce perfectly total terror. Metaxas claimed that the events in Thessaloniki indexed the bankruptcy of parliamentarianism and, using the spread of Communism as a point of fear, he prepared the political environment for the dissolution of Parliament. When on August 4 King George II agreed to the suspension of the Constitution and turned over the country to Metaxas, no politician in Greece was either surprised or felt the urge to resist. Metaxas moved quickly to destroy any democratic presence in Greece. He deemed the Idiônymon of 1929 (the law that established the persecution of ideas and convictions) inadequate and reasoned that only through the complete and total destruction of the Communist Party and the parallel indoctrination of the population from the youngest age on could the political landscape he envisioned be produced. Exile was used systematically for members of the Communist Party and for the Left in general, although many of the politicians of the Center did not fare much better.
With Maniadákis at his side as undersecretary of public security, Metaxas embarked on the project of destroying not only the Greek Communist Party but the Leftist movement in general. In Metaxas we see the danger of the Left fleshed out through two main actions by the state. The first was the destruction of the Communist Party through infiltration and persecution of the Left in general, utilizing forms of imprisonment, enclosure, and administrative banishment that were already in existence during the Centrist governments that preceded Metaxas's dictatorship, going back as early as 1924. Four modalities of enclosure were available to the Metaxas regime: krátēsis (“jail”), fylakê (“prison”), kat'oikon periorismós (“home confinement”), and exoria (“exile”) or ektopismós. The destruction of the Left, however, was not achieved (and could not have been achieved) through persecution alone. As we know all too well, persecution causes ideological positions to intensify, not collapse. The most effective measure against the Left launched by Metaxas and Maniadákis was the process of indoctrination, upon which the state embarked on a number of different levels. First, once the Left had been conceptualized and solidified through the Idiônymon as a political entity that was opposed ideologically and politically to statism, to the transformation of labor into human capital, and to the structures of exploitation, the enemy of the state had been invented. Whereas previous regimes had sought to eliminate this enemy, Metaxas demanded her transformation. He realized that only by thoroughly knowing the enemy could the state force her to acquiesce in its designs.
George Papandreou was exiled to Andros. George Kafandaris, Andreas Michalakopoulos, Panayiotes Kanellopoulos, Ioannis Theotokis, and Panayiotis Mylonas were exiled to other islands. Some movement of resistance developed in Crete, led by Emmanouel Tsouderos (who later became prime minister), but it ended before the navy arrived to suppress it—namely, within six hours.
The infiltration of the Communist Party by snitches (hafiedes) has since the time of Metaxas been an issue for the Left. The particular moves undertaken by the Metaxas regime, which managed to bring the Party into such disarray that the Left considered it completely broken by the time Greece entered the Second World War in October 1940, were not made systematically available from the viewpoint of the Right until the publication of Theodoros Lymberiou's The Communist Movement in Greece (2005), in which all the measures taken by Maniadákis and Metaxas are gleefully detailed. (On the Metaxian issue of propaganda, see Petrakis 2005 and Varon 2003.)
As the editors of the anonymous pamphlet O Kommounismos sten Hellada (Communism in Greece) note in their introductory remarks: “Someone needs to arrive at a state of great panic and intellectual confusion in order to believe that simply through the use of persecution, imprisonment, exile [exories], in other words, with the state's forceful imposition, can an enemy who appears in the state, social, and educational structure, that is, in the middle of public and private life, in myriads of manners, threatening and organized, be effectively battled.”