Lymberiou, Theodoros M. 2005. To Kommounistiko Kinema sten Hellada. Tomos A (The Communist Movement in Greece. Vol. A).. Athens: Papazeses.
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.
Second, a number of measures were introduced to put the Idiônymon into effect as it was originally conceived. Lymberiou scornfully notes: “they [previous governments] thought they were going to manage the communists the way they had managed the brigands,” underlining the effectiveness of the new measures that the Metaxas government undertook Lymberiou 2005: 165). The persecutions of Metaxas were so brutal that they have become a synecdoche for political oppression and persecution. Retsinolado (castor oil) and the expression “they put ice on him [tou'valan pago]” have become metonymies for punishment and reprimand, respectively. Since the Idiônymon prosecuted ideas, Metaxas (through Maniadákis) sought to debunk ideas by introducing two measures: the “declarations of repentance [dēlôseis metanoias]” and the “certificates of social convictions [pistopoiētiká koinōnikôn phronēmátōn],” or certificats de civisme .
Obligatory Law 1075/1938, introduced by Maniadákis, set the legal framework and the specific procedure to be followed for the institution and extraction of the dēlôseis, although dēlôseis were being extracted long before there was a specific law about them. Over and above creating a legal platform that would have to be challenged in court, something absolutely impossible during the dictatorship, the law delineated the process through which the dēlôsis, having been extracted from the accused by any means whatsoever, would then be announced publicly through the press in the daily newspapers of Athens, through the press in the signer's place of origin and residence, and by the priest at the signer's parish. In this manner, the act of repentance would not remain an empty gesture of complicity between the state and the party member but would place the state in the position of intermediary agent between the repentant and his newly produced social context. The secrecy that had hitherto organized the daily life and social contacts of the Communist would be publicly repudiated, and the signatory would be publicly recognized as law-abiding, both “being safe and certain reasons for his dismissal from the Party, while he becomes useless and suspect of counterintelligence against them,” as Maniadákis noted in the explanatory memorandum that he circulated Lymberiou 2005: appendix).
The legalization of the dēlôseis was met with apprehension. It produced a number of reactions within government circles, where people asked the logical question: What would prevent the Party from directing its members to sign the dēlôseis so that they could be released and return to Party work? On February 8, 1938, the undersecretary for security (that is, Maniadákis himself) immediately drafted, issued, and circulated the aforementioned internal explanatory memorandum 18/106/2, “On the exact meaning of the dēlôseis metanoias submitted by the Communists,” which was sent to all general directors and prefects, the chiefs of the gendarmerie and the city police, the high commands of the gendarmerie, and the directors of the city police and the gendarmerie, and which sought to explain exactly what those documents were by presenting the position of the Communist Party toward them and the corresponding governmental position. Maniadákis explained that the Party had already formulated the position that under no circumstances should Party members sign the declarations, since it would be impossible afterward for the Party to be able to discern among those who signed as a strategic move, those who signed because they found themselves in a momentarily weak position, and those who signed because they had genuinely reconsidered their position. This reasoning by Maniadákis does not take into account the fact that the Party had indeed instructed a number of its members to sign the declarations so that they would be able to return to the Party, although he does concede that of the two thousand released repentant Communists the state had recaptured only four for having returned to Party activity.
Maniadákis's logic was perfectly redemptive: he was convinced that the Communist Party was a transient location for all save its professional members, especially for the young and those who lived in a state of social disappointment and disillusion. On that basis, he argued that if the state made it possible for members of the Party to emerge from underground without repercussions and reenter the social sphere, such a gesture would further undermine the authority of the Party, would encourage the “natural” seepage of Party membership, and would produce for the state an invaluable fund of information about the organization, membership, activities, and structure of the Party, while contributing to the Party's fear of infiltration by snitches (the infamous hafiedes).
Recognizing that the dēlôseis might become an empty gesture, with its form maintained while its content of repentance was evacuated, Maniadákis instituted a further measure to prevent signers from retracting their act. This was clause 11 of Obligatory Law 1075/1938, which declared that: “(1) No one will be eligible for a position in the public sector or receive a state scholarship without being able to produce a certificate relating to his social beliefs issued by the undersecretary of security and (2) that the aforementioned certificate is required for hiring at corporations whose funds are in the excess of 20,000,000 drachmas and in companies that have underwritten contracts with the state whose object is directly or indirectly connected to the security of the finances of the country” Lymberiou 2005: Appendix). With internal explanatory memorandum 15/6/20, Maniadákis delineated the process to be followed in issuing the certificates.
The burden of collecting the information required to issue a certificate fell to the local police, except in areas where there was a branch of Special Security, under whose jurisdiction the investigation would then fall. Once all the information had been collected in “a meticulous and careful manner… based on specific and proven information so as to avoid the possibility of unfairness… since often false information is provided for reasons that are self-centered, irresponsible, or even vindictive,” as Maniadákis noted, the National Security Office should issue the certificate and send it to the requesting authority, keeping in mind that “the disclosure of the contents of the certificate should not be communicated to its subject or to anyone else even if there is nothing objectionable stated therein” (my emphasis).
As Maniadákis noted, the reason for these measures was to prevent the infiltration of the public sector and of the corporations mentioned in Law 1075 by individuals who “on account of their social beliefs not only should not occupy positions at specific points of the state mechanism but are not even worthy of any special protection by the state.” Further on, Maniadákis delineated the categories of citizens who should not be permitted to come into contact with the management of any branch of the public sector. These categories were: (1) everyone who has been proven to adhere to Communist or other revolutionary principles, even if he does not express them on account of the punitive measures already established; (2) whoever does not believe in the national ideology and is so indifferent toward it that even inadvertently he might be lured into supporting revolutionary ideas, in other words, everyone who has a positive view of Communism; (3) everyone who, despite the fact that he might believe in the national ideology, is opposed to the legal form of government of the country and engages in expressions that suggest that he intends to spread rancor and disrupt social cohesion.
What this taxonomization of citizens in accordance with their “social beliefs” did, of course, was to profile everyone who was opposed to the regime of August 4. Not only were active members of the Communist Party denied the possibility of a certificate, but certificates were also to be denied to anyone who might be a sympathizer, anyone who might be considered a potential sympathizer, or anyone who might have no objections to nationalism and nationalist ideology but might object to the August 4 regime specifically. Because the certificate was required for any position in the public sector and in large organizations (meaning the educational system, banks, utilities, corporations, telecommunications, the transport system, the merchant marine, etc.), anyone who could fall into any of the above-mentioned categories was in effect barred from the sectors of education, security, the military, offices in municipalities and prefectures, social services, and medicine. The system of certification fell into the hands of public servants who were devoted to the regime, had rudimentary education, and suddenly found themselves with immense power over their fellow citizens.
One of the most commonly misused portions of the directive regarding the process of collecting information was the segment about beliefs that one might hold, even when not expressing them openly. This became the linchpin on which the certificate would or would not be issued. As an old director of Special Security mentioned during one of our conversations, “This was the point that we could use in order to establish the family's devotion to nationalist ideas, asking and finding out about their parents, if they were Venizelists or royalists.” On this point hinged the dangerousness of dissidence, and it extended both to the past and to the future, including not only past and current generations of political resistance but also bequeathing the idea of danger as inherent and innate to generations to come. This produced a political DNA of sorts, a discourse on the inevitability of one's constitutive politics. A dissident was simultaneously the offspring and the parent of a suspect until both had been reformed, in a helix that stretched to the past and to the future until the whole citizen body was to have been refashioned by Metaxas's political engineers. In the hands of crafty government employees and civil servants, left to the loyalty of each one of them to the state (rather than to the citizen whom they had been called to serve), these certificates came to index citizenry itself. Given that each of these public servants could add his (and occasionally her) own desire to produce a completely loyal citizen body, demands piled up and up. Over time, slowly but surely, these certificates, by the time of the junta in 1967, came to be required for every dealing of the citizen with any aspect of the state: for the issuance of a driver's license, for the issuance of a passport, certainly for the issuance of identification cards, for admission to the university system, for remaining in the university system, for supplying electric power to a new building, for getting a bank loan. Even though such directives were never committed to paper, it was always left to the discretion of each public servant whether to require the certificate. In actuality and in real time the certificates proved handy to all governments, parliamentary or not, until their use was repealed in 1974 when Obligatory Law 509/1947, which had outlawed the Communist Party, was repealed.
Such rifts do not appear in a vacuum. They reflect deep divisions that persist over time, not in the facile way in which the popular press has come to talk about “ancient hatreds” or “ancient feuds” but as lived experience. If we tease out an end in the skein that is twentieth-century Greek history, we find ourselves at the beginning of the Greek state, when a king was imposed on Greece in 1832, largely by the Great Powers and their collaborators from within the newly formed Greek state. Why the Great Powers wanted Greece to be a kingdom, and a weak one at that, having as king the nineteen-year-old son of a Bavarian king, are difficult neither to imagine nor to understand. Why Greek politicians themselves accepted such a form of government is far more interesting and complicated, and beyond the scope of this inquiry. But it was a decision that was to organize Greek history for the two following centuries, producing a rift between royalists and republicans (called demokratikoi, democrats, in Greek) that reached its apex in the time of Ethnikos Dichasmos, the National Split, when the democratic Eleutherios Velizelos, the architect of the unification of Crete with Greece, clashed violently with King Constantine I over Greece's involvement in the First World War. Venizelos wanted the country to remain neutral, while Constantine, whose wife Sofia was Kaiser Wilhelm II's sister, wanted to enter the war on the side of Germany.
In 1916 a coup against the royalist government by Ethnikê Amyna (National Defense), a secret Venizelist military organization based in Thessaloniki, succeeded in establishing a second, provisional government in Thessaloniki, which was eventually recognized by Great Britain and France. In response to Amyna, the royalists organized a paramilitary organization led by Metaxas, which brutalized Venizelists, liberals, and democrats in general, primarily in Athens and a few other large cities. The political climate of fear, danger, and persecution thus formed in Greece not only made the rise of Metaxas to power possible but also allowed a glimpse, for the first time in Greece, of the experiences such excesses of power could produce.
See Lymberiou 2005: 176. Lymberiou, a nephew of Maniadákis, does not quote him directly, but many of the opinions that he expresses about Maniadákis's motives, thoughts, and convictions come from his intimate acquaintance with him.
Lymberiou, Theodoros M. 2005. To Kommounistiko Kinema sten Hellada. Tomos A (The Communist Movement in Greece. Vol. A).. Athens: Papazeses.
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).
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.”
Retsinolado is a concoction produced from the oil of the poisonous seeds of the bush Ricinus communis, commonly known in the United States as castor oil. Ricinus communis seeds contain the toxin ricin, which enters the intestinal wall and causes severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. If the victim survives the first three days, then death has been averted. Restinolado was administered via a funnel (not unlike what we see nowadays happening at fraternity parties during spring break, or the force-feeding of geese and ducks to produce fois gras). The person to whom it was administered was usually placed on a block of ice and left there for several days. See [Additional text N/A yet].
Certificats de civisme is the felicitous translation given by Stavros Papadopoulos (1967) for these certificates. The Greek term is koinonika phronemata, literally meaning “social thoughts,” what really constitutes the characteristic qualities of the citizen, of the person who is obliged to serve the civic sphere and be indebted to it for her existence as a social subject. Phronēsis is a term that has been deeply excavated by philosophy and, more recently, social science. In various works by Plato, phronēsis is presented as one of the four cardinal virtues, being a poetic (as in creating, constructing) force of human well-being, one that is cognizant of what is good and what is bad, one that allows the human to evaluate what can be done and what ought not to be done. In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, phronēsis correlates to age, but in either case, Plato's or Aristotle's, it transcends the meaning “knowledge.” Phronema (phronemata in the plural), then, becomes the nous, the mind, the disposition that combines desire, will, and intention and develops with the acquisition of knowledge and the accumulation of experience. Phronēsis then produces phronema, which in turn animates and organizes action, as it provides the context of knowledge, prudence, and will, which are the principles behind action. The certificates of political phronemata, then, sought to address this particularity in the constellation of political action in Greece, underlining questions of intent and desire. The certificates are not unlike, in their conception, the Certificates of Loyalty introduced in the United States with the 1940 Smith Act.
Voglis 2002 and Herzfeld 1998 argue that the dēlôseis metanoias are conceptualized along the lines of the Christian notion and practice of repentance. I do not disagree entirely with this analysis, but I think that something beyond Christian affect organized the logic of repentance for Maniadákis. He repeatedly brought up the strength of rational thought in the effort to rehabilitate the Leftists, claiming that if Communism could take Communists away from the nation, then nationalism could bring them back, so long as the conditions that made them turn to Communism in the first place were met (such as poverty and social inequality). See Lymberiou 2005; Anonymous 1937.
On phronēsis in the social sciences, see Flyvbjerg 2001, in which Flyvbjerg calls for the abandonment of a social science based on the epistemologies of the “objectivist” hard sciences, a turn away from the desire to be predictive, and a focus, instead, on “context, practice, experience, intuition, and practical wisdom,” all of which he reads as constitutive of Aristetelian phronēsis. See also Geertz 2001 for a review of Flyvbjerg.
The plant (castor oil plant), from which the concoction was produced. The plant grows wild everywhere in southern Greece, on road sides and in open fields. It is a sight as common as that of hemlock, although rarely recognized for what it is. Photograph by the author.
The poet Titos Patrikios, who had been sent to Makrónisos as a drafted soldier, mentioned that one thing that contributed to his not signing a declaration was the story of one of his uncles, who during the Metaxas period had been instructed by the Party to sign a declaration so that he could then be released and return to Party activity. This uncle was later accused by the Party for having signed the declaration, dismissed, and shunned. There are, obviously, no Party records on this practice, although some cases of high-ranking members who were directed to sign a declaration are well known (personal communication).
I cannot expose the social and professional identity of my interlocutor beyond saying that he is my uncle (my mother's cousin). He was placed in the Special Security Office immediately after its establishment in 1936, when he was a relatively fresh graduate of the Police Academy. He remained at his post until the junta of 1967, when, because of his royalist disposition, he was moved to the branch of the police responsible for the protection of antiquities. After the junta fell, he claimed Resistance status and was promoted to being the director of special security until he retired with the rank of general.
A homologous gesture is the attempt to find miasmatic kinship ties via surnames. The surname of the director of the camp on Yáros, Bouzakis, also happens to be the surname of the publisher of the Memorandum of the Detainees to the Minister of Justice of the Plasteras Government. In a note at the beginning of the book, Manolis Bouzakis, signed simply with his initials, wrote: “A Note from the Publisher. The Publisher, having conducted an exhaustive research into the family tree from 1740 to today, wishes to state that the Bouzakis mentioned by the detainees of the infernal Yioúra as the director of the camp has no relationship to the publisher's family or his ancestors.” Likewise, on the electronic list eui-civilwar, dedicated to discussing studies of the civil war in Greece, the surname of one of the participants, Stathis Kalyvas, a political scientist and the author of a line of revisionist histories, became a point of discussion. Kalyvas happens to be the name of one of the torturers on Yioúra and one of the torturers of the junta. (Whether or not this was the same person has not been determined.) A question was posted on the list: Is Stathis Kalyvas related to “that” Kalyvas? Stathis Kalyvas responded by asking, “Is the name a miasma?” (He has no kinship ties to the torturer.) A sustained discussion and analysis of family names in Greece does not exist in anthropological literature, but the crux of this story is not why and how Stathis Kalyvas came to share the same family name as the torturer but whether that sharing taints the innocent. The deeper question lies in the historicity that has made necessary this need for distancing oneself not from a name but from the history that the name animates.
The Great Powers were instituted after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, when the Concert of Europe was formed as a means to bring peace and stability after the Napoleonic wars. The Concert of Europe comprised five main political and military powers: Great Britain, Prussia, the Austrian Empire, France, and Russia. Of these, only France, Great Britain, and Russia intervened in the Greek War of Independence, so much so that the first modern Greek political parties post-Independence were actually called the Russian, the French, and the British. Prussia remained on the sidelines, providing assistance in forming the new national army, and Germany (or rather, Bavaria) supplied the first king of Greece, King Otto, and an army of architects who reconfigured the face of modern Greece. The Greek royal line (nominally Greek, and marginally royal) was, until the end, primarily British and German.