Loraux, Nicole. 1997a. “La guerre dans la famille.” CLIO, Vol. 5: 21-62.
- 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.
The term emphýlios as a term to denote a war between Greeks appears in Plato's Republic, in reference to the Peloponnesian War, in Theognis, in Oedipus Tyrannus, in Aeschylus's Eumenides (as Arēs emphýlios), in Theocritus as “men's emphýlios battle [machen emphýlion andron],” and in Polybius as war (pólemos emphýlios). In Plutarch, it means mutiny (stasis, also “partisanship, faction, or sedition”) although Nicole Loraux distinguishes between stasis emphyl(i)os, the term used for a war that happened within the city when the city understood itself as belonging to the same phýlon, and oikeios pólemos, a civil war in the city when the city understood itself as part of a maison, in the sense that James Boon has used the term in his reading of Claude Lévi-Strauss, to denote all the segmentary categorizations that are produced when a common ancestry of a large kin group including both affines and agnatics is deployed. (See Loraux 1997a; Boon 1990: 96–114; Lévi-Strauss 1983: 187.)
In Latin we find the term for “civil war” transformed. Rather than centering on the notion of the phylē, it acquires a political dimension that centers on the idea of the polis: civita. Hence Comentarii de Belli Civili, the famous account of the war that Julius Caesar waged against Pompey and the Roman Senate. European languages, with the exception of Greek, have adopted this political formulation (Bürgerkrieg in German, guerre civile in French, guerra civile in Italian). Loraux sees in the term emphýlios the Greek notion of stasis (“sedition, faction, partisanship,” but also “stopping, cessation of movement and motion”) and, in a short-hand motion, translates it into “civil war”: “what the city experiences as stasis, to use the Greek term for what is simultaneously partisanship, faction, sedition, and—as we say in an expression with very Roman connotations—civil war” (2006: 10). But I would like to press a bit further this small aside by Loraux, this gesture of rendering emphýlios, within dashes, as if parenthetically, as “civil war.” As a term emphýlios announces two points: (1) the phyletic self-sameness of those involved and (2) the impossibility of evacuating it. Hence, while the term civil war introduces the importance of the city, it evacuates the notion of kinship, with which emphýlios (linguistically and as an act) is impregnated and which legitimates the characterization of emphýlios as fratricide.
In the context of post-Ottoman Greek history, we find the term used to refer to the two civil wars that erupted during and after the War of Independence from the Ottomans, which broke out in 1821, and then for the emphýlios after the German occupation. The two civil wars of the Greek Revolution occurred from November 1823 to June 1824 and in November 1824. Ioannis Makryiannis, in his memoirs, uses the Latin-derived term fatria (“counter-party, clandestine resistance,” but originally “clan”) in reference to the First Emphýlios when he writes that:
in the Peloponnese, Koliopoulos and others had opened a fatria on the side of the government, whereas Deligiannes, Zaimes, Londos, and others went to the other side. …We asked what sort of thing this fatria was (where we came from we didn't know this word, although we knew other things that the kapetanioi [“captains of the revolution”] were doing). They ordered me to go and try this good thing, to eat fatria with my people. I told them, “I did not take an oath to pick up my arms and fight other Greeks; I took an oath to fight the Turks.” And we did not go. (Makryiannis 1972: 71)
He uses the term emphýlios in reference to the Second Emphýlios when he recounts the offer made to him by Andreas Zaimes (one of the leaders of the revolution) of one thousand grosses a month as a salary in exchange for his allegiance to the party that Londos, Notaras, Zaimes, and Mavrokordatos had formed, fighting Kolokotronis, Deleyiannis, and Sisines. Makriyannis mentions that he rebuked Zaimes by saying: “Even if you give me fifty thousand I will still not sell meat for a civil war [kreas dia emphylion polemon den poulo]” (ibid.: 70). The term also appears in the Greek translation and edition (by Yiannis Kordatos and Tassos Vournas) of George Finlay's History of the Greek Revolution.
The First Emphýlios, also called the War of Kolokotrones, because the famous hero Theodoros Kolokotrones was a central figure in it, broke out on the pretext of the future disbursement of the loan that the British government had approved as financial support of the revolution. Of the 800,000 British gold pounds that the government had approved, only 336,000 finally arrived in the hands of the Greek government, the rest having been appropriated by various warlords (also known as kapetanioi, “captains”) who were leading the revolution. The war ended when the son of Kolokotrones, Panos, who had besieged and taken the city of Nafplion, turned it over to the Executive Power when he found out that the first installment of the loan had arrived in Greece and he was given the portion that he had requested. At the beginning of 1824 Great Britain, suspecting that Theodoros Kolokotrones, Odysseus Androutsos, and Demetrios Ypsilantes, who had formed an alliance, were agents of Russia, ordered the extermination of Kolokotrones. While this internal strife, supported by the intervention of the British, was taking place, Sultan Mahmood provided the necessary incentives to Mohamed Ali Pasha, governor of Egypt, to attack Greece. The Greek revolutionaries, embroiled in their own struggle for power and financial gain, paid no attention to these preparations by Mohamed Ali and the sultan, so that the sultan and Ali were able to take advantage of this oversight and attack with disastrous results. Or so goes the interpretation given by historian George Finlay, who sought to exonerate the British from any responsibility for interfering in the management of internal Greek affairs.
The Second Emphýlios is known as the War of the Elders (Pólemos tōn Proestôn). It was fought briefly and with the single objective of taking over power from the proestoi. These were the leaders of the communities, initially appointed by the Ottomans as agents and mediators of political power between the Ottoman administration and the members of the community. Unsurprisingly, they did not, from the beginning or at all times, support the revolution against the Ottomans.
The Left used the term Emphýlios (along with Deutero Andártiko, “the Second Partisan War”) for the war fought between 1946 and 1949, whereas the Center and the Right used the term Symmoritopólemos (“Brigand War”). Rizospastis, the official newspaper of the Greek Communist Party, used the term emphýlios as early as 1947 in its leading articles. The emphýlios has been periodized by the Right, by the British, and by U.S. historiography from the beginning: the First Round (1943), the Second Round (the Battle of Athens in 1944), the Third Round (1946–49), a gesture that left no doubt as to the specificity of its timing: when it started, when it ended, and how time was spent in between. Such a specific allocation of time, however, bespeaks the desire to set specific beginnings and specific ends to the event of the emphýlios: it started in 1943, when the competing Resistance armies of ELAS (of democratic, antiroyalist, and Left forces) and EDES (of Right and, eventually, monarchist elements) fought for the right to claim exclusive power over the movement of Resistance to the Germans, and it ended on August 29, 1949, when the National Army (EES) triumphed over the Democratic Army (DS) at the decisive battles in Grammos and Vitsi.
Such a periodization, however, does not take into account the schism that had divided the country with Dichasmós (when monarchists and republicans, trying to settle the question of the form of government, engendered a deep and enduring rift), the trauma of the Metaxas dictatorship, the handing of political prisoners over to the Germans by the successor to the Metaxas government in 1941, and the creation of the Security Battalions by the Germans and the collaborationist government of Rallis. Nor does it take into account that the war could not have ended on August 29, 1949, given that the concentration camps at Makrónisos, Yáros, and Trikeri were in full operation, receiving the returning and captured soldiers of the Democratic Army, their families, friends, relatives, and fellow villagers, all of them symmorites (“bandits”) to the government, its forces, and its mechanisms, and andártes (“partisans”) for everyone else. Nor does it account for the fact that the term post–civil war does not denote a temporality that sets apart the civil war from the rest of time, is not a terms of closure but an existential adjective, a term that has participated in the production of a political reality, the reality that did not end with the defeat on Vitsi but continued to exist until almost the junta.
The term metemphyliakos (“post–civil-war”), always an adjective in Greek, delineates the specificity of the experience of living-while-Leftist after the end of the military struggle. It conjures up images of state-of-exception military tribunals and state-of-exception death sentences, laws against political engagement and against the peace movement, exile, imprisonment on false or no counts or on false police reports, political murder, political rape, political torture. Nothing is past in the post–civil-war site, because it produces a space that keeps time in a state of purgatory.
In 1989 the term emphýlios became the official locution, replacing the term Symmoritopólemos (“Bandit War”), and the term Democratic Army replaced the term symmorites (“bandits”) through Law 1863 “Concerning Lifting the Repercussions of the Civil War 1944–49” after the restoration of parliamentarism in 1974, when the Communist Party was made legal again, and especially after the act of reconciliation by the socialist government formed when Andreas Papandreou's Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) won the elections in 1981. The files on dissidents kept by the Central Information Service were then burned in the furnace of the Athens Steel Mills, and the Left was finally forgotten (despite the fact that it entered Parliament). Nevertheless, during an interview that I conducted in the summer of 2006, a man whose father had been executed by OPLA on December 3, 1944, started by setting out the ground for me, when I mentioned to him that I was researching the emphýlios. “So that we don't misunderstand each other,” he said, “I am Right-wing [dexiós]; for me there is no Emphýlios but only Symmoritopólemos.”
The periodization of the emphýlios into three rounds is particularly seductive, as it presents a coherent narrative seeking to justify the perception that Communism posed a perpetual threat, taking for granted the presumed revolutionary character of the Greek Communist Party and its perpetual struggle for power, a presumption that would be correct if the KKE were truly revolutionary. But everything points toward the opposite, toward the fact that, despite what the personal illusions of some of its leadership at times might have been, the Party itself (in its true, Marxist meaning of the people who comprise it) never really engaged in an attempt to engender a radical political reformation, not during the Metaxas dictatorship, not in 1943, not in December 1944, not in 1947. Therefore the tripartite periodization can only be a gesture that belies the common understanding that in Greece history has been written by the loser, to underline the fact that, in the final analysis, one way or another, history is always written by the winner.
Boon, James A. 1990. Affinities and Extremes: Crisscrossing the Bittersweet Ethnology of East Indies History, Hindu-Balinese Culture, and Indo-European Allure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1983. The Way of the Masks. 2d ed.. Trans. S. Modelski. London: Jonathan Cape.
Makryiannis, Ioannes. 1972. Apomnemoneumata (Memoirs)., ed. Tassos Vournas Athens: Tolides.
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.
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.
At least one researcher, Nikos Koulouris, who has compiled a bibliography of the emphýlios that includes both Right- and Left-wing publications, has set its temporal dimensions between 1945 (post-Varkiza agreement) and 1949 (with the collapse of the front at Vitsi). See Koulouris 2000.