Becoming a Subject: Political Prisoners in the Greek Civil War

By Polymeris Voglis | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Forms of Resistance

In September 1949, Captain W. E. Newton visited the Itzedin (or Kalami) prison on Crete to investigate alleged maltreatment of the prisoners. The political prisoners in this prison had gone on hunger strike three times between February and March 1949 to protest against executions. After having recovered from his initial shock at the lax discipline and absence of surveillance in the prison (for instance, there was but one unarmed guard for more than three hundred prisoners who were circulating freely in the exercise yard), he visited the dormitories, where 250 unrepentant political prisoners were accommodated. “I asked the prisoners,” Captain Newton wrote, “if any of them would like to see me on any matter regarding the administration of the prison or any private matter. Their reply was a definite no”(original emphasis). A second attempt at discussion with the political prisoners proved equally unsuccessful. The officer, however, was not discouraged. At the Chania prison, he called a certain Kalaitzakis, who had been transferred from Itzedin prison, to the director’s office. “I put,” Captain Newton continued, “several questions to him regarding Kalamiou prison but he was quite insolent and openly laughed at me, and said that it was of no use asking questions as he did not intend replying. In the circumstances there was nothing I could do but send him back to his section.”1

There are various forms of resistance between the extremes of refusal to cooperate with the authorities and open confrontation with them; just as there are different ways of acting them out, from laughter to hunger strikes. The various ways in which political prisoners transformed prison through the organization of their everyday life provided them with what James C. Scott called the infrapolitics, that is, the necessary conditions, for overt, public confrontation with the authorities.2 It is unlikely that the occurrence of open resistance was solely dependent on these infrapolitics—if it were, it would be very difficult to explain why a hunger strike occurs in one prison and not in another. It was rather a question of correlation of power between prisoners

Notes for this section begin on page 196.

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