The average Greek, whether sipping a frappe at a sidewalk cafe in Kolonaki or eating souvlaki at a Greek festival in some Chicago suburb seems oblivious to the fact that Greece is fighting for its life as a nation. Life goes on for most Greeks; they may grumble or worry about events careening out of their control but they are resigned to their role as innocent bystanders in the destruction of a nation that has manged to survive for thousands of years. The Greek future hangs in the balance caught in a conflict between those that would preserve the Greek nation and its traditions and those who would transform Greece into an internationalist utopia devoid of its religion, its identity and its history.
How have we arrived where we find ourselves today? Is it too late to preserve our Greek Christian identity or should we just resign ourselves to the fate that the Left has prepared for us?
The Greek Left like its counterparts in other European countries is at the forefront of a concerted effort to disengage the Greek people, along with other Europeans, from their identity. Recently, while reading a brilliant post which appeared in the popular blog, Gates of Vienna, I was struck by one sentence, in particular: "The extreme Left didn’t succeed in staging a
violent revolution in the West, so they decided to go for a permanent,
structural revolution instead."
In order to understand how this process has evolved in Greece and how the Greek Left and its fellow travelers have gotten us to where we are today, we must understand the rise of the Greek Communist Party during World War II and the subsequent rise of the socialist PASOK party in the 1980s. The Communist party was devoted to class struggle. This meant that every effort of the Greek ruling classes from the campaigns in Asia Minor to the defense of Greece from the Italian invasion, had to be opposed and sabotaged. Even the fight against the Germans was secondary to the overarching goal of seizing power. The party found many willing adherents in the refugee community that came to Greece after the Catastrophe of 1922. The population exchange mandated by treaty, dumped a million and a half refugees on a destitute country of five million. They faced wretched living conditions, physical hardship, culture shock and discrimination. Many of them spoke only Turkish and they were classified as Greeks only because they were Orthodox Christians. Many of the locals were less than welcoming, referring to the refugees as Turkospori (Turkish Seed) or Yiaourtofagades (Yogurt Eaters). Almost all saw a drastic decline in their standard of living; many had been quite well off in Turkey. Many of the disenchanted and disenfranchised were attracted by revolutionary slogans and the promise of a "workers' paradise." As a group they were generally ripe for exploitation to the needs of the Party. Many others on the periphery of Greek society such as the Greek Jews and Slavs living in Macedonia, also joined the ranks of EAM/ELAS. Many were not committed Communists but simply wanted to fight the German occupation. Thus, as long as ELAS was fighting the Germans it retained a certain amount of popularity.
This popularity eventually disappeared during the course of the Greek Civil War. The Communist leadership misjudged the reason for the support they had during the war when they launched the December 1944 coup. The Germans left Greece in a hurry in October 1944 because the advance of the Russian Army in the Balkans would have cut them off. A government of national unity was established with the prime minister being a left-of-center politician, named George Papandreou. EAM, the Communist political arm, had six cabinet posts. Of course, this was not good enough for the Communist leadership and in early December 1944 they launched a coup to take over. The December Uprising which include a bloody pogrom of thousands of "collaborators" and the taking of hundreds of hostages, led to a full blown civil war and their eventual defeat.
On February 12, 1945 the EAM leadership concluded the humiliating Varkiza Agreement with the British, agreeing to disband ELAS in return for what proved to be empty promises of amnesty, civil liberties, and democracy. The outcome was a "White Terror" with some twenty thousand EAM members arrested and another five hundred killed by right-wing death squads between February and July 1945. This repression was to provoke the Communists into armed resistance in 1946, but under considerably less favorable circumstances than had existed in the closing months of 1944. The bitter civil war that continued until 1949 saw the Greek Left decisively crushed, with the price paid in blood by ordinary Greeks.
The right wing governments and the military dictatorship that ruled Greece after the Communist defeat, left an indelible mark on the country's political culture. From World War II and the Civil War until the dictatorship's collapse, pro-Western, anti-Communist, pro-business, socially traditional values dominated public opinion. The dramatic fall of the military junta in 1974 in the wake of a botched attempt to unify Greece and Cyprus, made it a scapegoat and made what it stood for very unpopular especially among the younger generation. When that generation came of age, it contributed to the emergence of a new set of values that were Leftist, anti-Western, anti-business, anti-traditionalist and even historically revisionist. In 1974, the new conservative center-right wing government under Constantine Karamanlis legalized the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) and quickly established a constitution which guaranteed political freedoms, individual rights, and free elections. In 1981 the left wing socialist party of Andreas Papandreou known as the Pan Hellenic Socialist Party (PASOK), was elected by 48% of the vote. It allowed former Communist guerrilla fighters who had taken refuge in Communist countries to come back to Greece. Moreover, the PASOK government offered state pension to former guerrillas; Markos Vafiadis, a key wartime Communist leader was honorarily elected as member of the Greek parliament under PASOK's flag.
Leftist values and policies have been so strongly entrenched in Greece that neither PASOK's poor record in power under Andreas Papandreou and later Costas Simitis, nor the indictment of some of its leaders for serious scandals
in 1989, nor even the emergence of the lackluster George Papandreou,
have been able to completely dissipate the reigning leftist tilt of the Greek political landscape.
It has in fact, become so ingrained, that even the
New Democracy Party of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, has
difficulty at times, in differentiating itself from its left wing
counterparts. As far as the Left was concerned however,the defeat of the Communists during the civil war by no means
resolved the class conflict in the country, it only signaled the
start of the next stage of the struggle. What armed insurrection had failed to accomplish would now be achieved by other methods. First, the Left had to replace those who had let them down by establishing another more reliable revolutionary constituency consisting of immigrants, Slavs from Macedonia, Pomaks and other Muslims and above all, young people. Leftist indoctrination in Greek schools and Universities would ensure that the next generation would be politically reliable and devoid of those traditional Greek qualities that might prove troublesome in the future. Unfortunately, what started as an effort by the Communists and their like minded allies has now morphed into a Leftist conglomeration of parties that are all essentially driven by a Marxist/Maoist political orientation. As Professor Frank Ellis points out:
"As Mao Tse-Tung, The Great Helmsman ,
put it, "Not to have a correct political orientation is like not having
a soul." Mao's little red book is full of exhortations to follow the
correct path of Communist thought and by the late l980s Maoist political
correctness was well established in American universities. The final stage of
development, which we are witnessing now, is the result of cross-fertilization
with all the other "isms" -- anti-racism, feminism, structuralism, and
post-modernism, which now dominate university curricula. The result is a new and
virulent strain of totalitarianism, whose parallels to the Communist era are
obvious. Today's dogmas have led to rigid requirements of language, thought, and
behavior, and violators are treated as if they were mentally unbalanced, just as
Soviet dissidents were."
"As Mao Tse-Tung, The Great Helmsman , put it, "Not to have a correct political orientation is like not having a soul." Mao's little red book is full of exhortations to follow the correct path of Communist thought and by the late l980s Maoist political correctness was well established in American universities. The final stage of development, which we are witnessing now, is the result of cross-fertilization with all the other "isms" -- anti-racism, feminism, structuralism, and post-modernism, which now dominate university curricula. The result is a new and virulent strain of totalitarianism, whose parallels to the Communist era are obvious. Today's dogmas have led to rigid requirements of language, thought, and behavior, and violators are treated as if they were mentally unbalanced, just as Soviet dissidents were."
The Greek Left has always emphasized the role of the state in fostering Greek nationalism, and downplays the role of the Church as well as the ‘Helleno-Christian’ identity of modern Greeks. Marxists see the Greek case as a conspiracy of local and foreign capital which manipulated petty-bourgeois and proletarian classes and turned them into Christian-nationalists. Completely ignored is the reasons Orthodoxy played such an important role in the evolution of Greek national identity in the first place and why it continues to do so. Since its election to office in 1981, and the entrance of Greece in the E.U. club, the Socialists attempted to introduce secularization and modernization measures in Greece (often using a populist arguments in order to gain the support of public opinion). Constantinos Simitis who succeeded Andreas Papandreou as head of PASOK in 1996 further boosted this policy. The Church was to die slowly, death by a thousand cuts. Remove the priests and the icons, publicize a string of church scandals, change the history books, create an underclass of wronged minorities. Ingredients in a recipe designed to make Greeks into good little citizens of a brave new world. Unfortunately, the confrontation between Church and State in Greece over secularizing measures adopted by the latter, as well as the Church’s conservative radicalization since the enthronement of Archbishop Christodoulos in 1998, means that the Church of Greece will not go quietly into the night.
During the birth of modern Greece, Helleno-Christian nationalism created important boundaries between Greeks and non-Greeks, and thus provide the newborn nation with a solid collective identity. A large part of the Greek population has felt increasingly alienated from the new image imposed on Greece by those seeking to eradicate Hellenism as we know it, so as to transform the Greek nation into a mirror image of other Western countries. The Church is the only political and spiritual agent which is able to carry out the critical role of saving Greek traditions from assimilation into an emerging global culture. This is in keeping with the historical precedent of the Church during the Turkocratia, when it became the repository of Greek language and learning. Archbishop Christodoulos’ political positions may be summarized into two key pillars: first, in order to combat the ethical decay of modern Greek society, the social role of the Church should be protected and enhanced. For example, if there is any chance to overturn the genocide of Greek babies by their own mothers through abortion, it will only be through the renewed efforts of a revitalized Church. Secondly, in order to contain Muslim expansion in the Balkans, Greece should pioneer the establishment of an “Orthodox Axis” in the Balkans. Christodoulos’ enthronement signaled a radicalization of the political involvement of the Orthodox Church in public affairs and a revival of the Helleno-Christian discourse. The Church is one of the few elements of Greek society speaking out and remotely threatening the Left and its beloved ideologies of multi-culturalism and secularization.
At this critical juncture, the Church in Greece is embroiled in internal scandals and suffers in part from the same diseases infecting the body politic. Despite the difficult times we live in, Greeks must continue to put their faith in God and his Church so as to resist the efforts of those that are more than willing to give up the Greek nation's Orthodox traditions and religious orientation. To do so will relegate Greece to the same destiny befitting those who reject their cultural legacy, extinction.