Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
August 29, 1949
The collapse of the DSE came not simply because of the military supremacy of the National Army but primarily because of political developments outside of Greece. In June 1948, the Soviet Union broke off relations with Tito, after four years of a strained and forced relationship. Tito had been the KKE's strongest supporter, but now, with the dissolution of Yugoslav-Soviet relations and with the majority of the KKE having been trained at the Moscow School, the leadership of the Party had to choose between their loyalty to Stalin and their relations with Tito. The Party chose Stalin, and in January Markos Vafiadis was accused of “Titoism” and removed from his political and military positions, being replaced by Zachariadis. Since then, the Greek Communist Party has remained the most loyal Stalinist party in Europe, even after the destalinization of the Soviet Union and even after (or especially since) the collapse and self-dissolution of the Soviet Union at Christmastime in 1990.
After a year of increasing acrimony, Tito closed the Yugoslavian border to the guerrillas of the DSE in July 1949 and disbanded their camps inside Yugoslavia (although Tito publicly denied doing so in a political speech delivered at Skopje in 1949). Albania remained as a possibility for material support, but the decline of the DSE was rapid. The split with Tito sent the Party, once again, into a severe closing-in of its ranks, trying to isolate the Titoists, in a repeat of similar prewar and wartime attempts with the Trotskyists.
In August 1949, Field Marshal Alexander Papagos, the new commander in chief of the National Army, launched a major counteroffensive against DSE forces in northern Greece, code-named “Operation Torch.” The plan was a major victory for the National Army and resulted in heavy losses for the DSE. Its army was no longer able to sustain resistance, and August 29, 1949, is widely accepted as the date of the collapse of the DSE, although the Party ordered the partisans to remain armed (hóplo pará pódan: with a gun by their foot, on the ready). By September, most DSE fighters had surrendered or escaped over the border into Albania, Tito having closed the border crossing to Yugoslavia. By the end of the month, the Albanian government, presumably with Soviet approval, announced to the KKE that it would no longer allow the DSE to perform military operations from within Albanian territory, thus effecting a “temporary cease-fire to prevent the complete annihilation of Greece,” to be announced by the KKE in October. That truce marked the end of the Greek Civil War, although the Greek state retained the state of emergency and did not announce the end of the war until 1963. The camp at Makrónisos remained in effect for the “preventive detention of anyone whom those in power might define as opponents,” as Sofsky has said of Dachau between 1933 and 1936 (1997: 30), despite repeated motions by the international community to effectuate its abolition.
Nikos Zachariadis, the secretary general of the Communist Party of Greece, in an undated postcard from one of the Communist countries. The caption reads: “Nikos Zachariadis, leader of the Democratic Army.” Collection of the author.
Postcard of an etching of the Democratic Army, including men and women fighters. It is signed by A. Stam and dated 1949. Author's collection.