Becoming a Subject: Political Prisoners in the Greek Civil War

By Polymeris Voglis | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
The Civil War
A Case of “Nation-State Rebuilding”

The return of the government-in-exile on 18 October 1944 did not appease the country. The government did not reestablish its legitimacy or its power. The real power over all Greece outside Athens lay in the hands of the EAM organizations. Giannis Kordatos, a prominent Marxist historian of the time, soundly described the situation as a “cosmogony” in which “the established political and social values are pushed aside and the new ones are arising.”1 The most important feature of the cosmogony in 1944 was that a return to prewar institutions and practices was impossible; people could no longer be ruled as they had been in the 1920s and 1930s.2 The political and social landscape in Greece, had changed radically between 1940 and 1944, due not only to the absence of the old political establishment during the occupation that deprived it of any legitimacy, but mainly to the fact that the political vacuum was filled by an unprecedented societal mobilization. Wartime radicalism (rather than communism) propelled the en masse entry for the first time in Greece of a wide cross-section of social strata into the political arena with the purpose of social and political reform.3

The real issue for the political establishment was the transfer of power from the EAM-controlled regions to the government of Athens. In the negotiations between the EAM and the government, that transfer of power took the shape of the demobilization of the guerilla forces and the formation of a national army. In an atmosphere of precariousness, tension, and distrust of one another’s future intentions, the negotiations led to a deadlock. The six EAM ministers resigned from the government, further aggravating the crisis, and the EAM called for a demonstration on 3 December 1944.4 When large crowds started to assemble that day in Constitution Square in the very center of Athens, suddenly and without any provocation policemen fired on the unarmed demonstrators. Several people (probably sixteen) were killed and hun-

Notes for this section begin on page 68.

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