Gitlin, Todd. 1967. “Counter-Insurgency: Myth and Reality in Greece.” In Containment and Revolution: Western Policy Towards Social Revolution, 1917 to Vietnam, ed. David Horowitz, 140-82. preface by Bertrand Russell. London: Anthony Blond.
- Chapter 3. 1944–1945: The Battle of Athens
- » Amputated Bodies… Broken Statues, etc. etc.
The British supplied “X” with artillery and aircraft to supplement the armament of the government forces, which had only a few policemen and a brigade without heavy weapons. The Battle of Athens had started. The ELAS was fighting with its own forces, and the Greek police were aided by the British. Heavy fighting continued throughout the day, with many dead and many more wounded. The next day the fighting intensified. That day, December 4, 1944, Papandreou wanted to resign and approached Themistocles Sofoulis (a moderate politician who had signed a pact with the KKE in 1936) to ask him to form a government with the agreement of EAM. But on December 5 Leeper informed Sofoulis that Churchill opposed a change of government, and Sofoulis turned the government over to Papandreou Gitlin 1967: 156, extensively quoting McNeill 1947). The thirty-six hours at Constitution Square resulted in twenty-eight dead and over a hundred wounded on December 3; one hundred dead on December 4; and a broken body politic that has never recovered.
The fighting went on—between the British forces, the Greek nationalist forces, and the paramilitaries, on the one hand, and ELAS, on the other—throughout December. The British and government forces, having at their disposal heavy armament, tanks, aircraft, and a disciplined army, were able to make forays into the city, burning and bombing houses and streets and carving out segments of the city under their control.
“Nothing,” Fotopoulos replied, “quite the opposite, we even had a picture of Winston Churchill hanging on the best wall of our house.”
The Fotopoulos house was on Hippocratous Street, almost on the line that separated “X,” the Bourandádhes, and the British from the ELAS, which was in control of the rest of the city. Fotopoulos witnessed how British tanks had stood at the crossroads across from his house and were shelling it. He and his family huddled in the laundry room, waiting for the shelling to stop. When it was over, they got one blanket and, “through innumerable check points of soldiers, policemen, militias, and hafiedes ('snitches')” they were able to get to Kolonaki, an affluent neighborhood a few blocks up from Hippocratous Street, where a distant relative of his mother, who was a concierge in one of the apartment buildings there, let them stay for a few days in one of the rooms of his basement apartment.
Fotopoulos's grandmother got into the discussion, asking why, exactly, had the British come all the way from England to burn their houses. “Don't they have houses closer to them to burn?”
“They are idiosyncratic, and they prefer burning down houses that do not belong to them and that are very far away,” Fotopoulos replied.
The general strike was answered with martial law, imposed by General Scobie on December 5. There was a strict curfew, and movement from neighborhood to neighborhood was almost impossible. “The hunger was unimaginable,” Yiorgos, a man who was an adolescent then, said. “Because there was no way for any of us to have kept any provisions, because what provisions could one have when food was procured day by day, and we couldn't even go up to the mountains to gather dandelions or mushrooms, or anything. No bread, no milk, I couldn't remember the last time that we had had meat to eat, no cheese, nothing.” The Athenian landscape was once more a war zone, only now with the incongruity of occupation by a friendly force. The German tanks had been replaced by British ones, the SS and Gestapo officers by British soldiers, Nepali Ghurkhas (“with their white turbans,” Yiorgos Angelakopoulos writes), and various other armed groups not readily identifiable. Open markets would spring up at various places, but no one could know exactly where, or how long they would stay. Navigating the streets proved dangerous because of government and British snipers, who would fire at will. “You would be walking in the street and suddenly someone would fall next to you, all bloodied, and you didn't know if he was dead or just wounded. All you could do was run for cover,” Angelakopoulos said to me. At night you would hear weapons crackling and neighborhoods being bombed.
McNeill, William. 1947. The Greek Dilemma: War and Aftermath. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.
Fotopoulos 1984; originally published in English in 1964 by Alvin Redman (Hellas) under the title El Daba`a: A Chronicle. All excerpts from Fotopoulos are taken from the third edition, which is out of print, even after its third printing. I had been looking for this memoir for at least four years and was unable to find it anywhere. I thank Apostolos Papageorgiou, who tracked it down, photocopied it, and mailed it to me in time for me to be able to use it, and Yiannis Patilis, who tracked down the first edition.
In 2006, intense opposition from the university community in Greece to the educational reform proposed by the Right-wing government of Nea Democratia (New Democracy) revived the intensity of the student movement. Throughout its tenure, this government has attempted to overhaul the tertiary educational system, calling for it to be more competitive, to conform and respond to the needs of the market, and to be subjected to evaluation by outside entities. In addition, the government has been trying to pass an amendment to the Constitution that would change Article 16 (which safeguards tertiary education as a public institution, to the exclusion of private universities) and allow private colleges, universities, and the equivalent of community colleges to operate legally and grant degrees equivalent to those granted by the state-owned universities. In February 2007 a student demonstration at Constitution Square ended in brutal intervention by SWAT and antiriot police, leaving students wounded and leading to many arrests. One blogger took the mini-video that the student organization Youth of the New Democracy has put together and interspersed it with footage of police attacks on students. The last shot of the blogger's video is that of an armed English soldier peeking from behind the wall of the parliament building on December 4, 1944.
The common term for the British in Greece, even today, is “the English,” reflecting the dominance of England in Britain itself.