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Anti-Americanism, Anti-Imperialism, Balkan issue in Greece

19. April 2001

by Panos Tsonpoulos


After the liberal bourgeois revolution broke in 1821, the Greeks managed to succeed from Ottoman empire. Contrary to the beliefs of the Greek intellectual Rigas Feraios who favoured the creation of a Balkan federation composed of all the Christian nations. He was struggled in Austrian prisons in 1798. However, the social forces that managed to take the upper hand at the revolution (landlords who prevented a distribution of land (among the biggest landlords was and still is the Greek Orthodox Church)). The new weak state was under the control of the then big powers (the loans given by United Kingdom in 1824-5 was a guarantee for the continuation of the dependence) who imposed the acceptance of the Bavarian king Othona, despite the fact that according to the first Greek constitution that was inspired from the ideals of the French revolution, Greece was parliamentary democracy without king and the slavery was forbidden. At the same time, the biggest part of the emerging Greek bourgeois class was out of the borders of the Greek state. Greece was under the influence/ control of United Kingdom which aimed at an alliance of Greece, Turkey against the Slav danger. After the Balkan wars and the First World War, Greece managed to expand its territories (part of Macedonia, Ipiros, Thrace, Aegean islands became Greek territories). After the civil war erupted in 1946, United Kingdom was replaced from U.S.A. With the U.S.A. financial and military assistance the Greek bourgeois class managed to crack down the revolutionary movement. In the revolutionary movement a theoretical debate whether Greece is a dependent from the imperialism country (implication: parts of the bourgeois class can participate in an anti-imperialist front) or not. However, it is sure that the Greek ruling class has always fulfilled its obligations to imperialism. It sent troops in Ukraine (1919) against the Soviet revolution, in Korea (1950-3) because “at the river Yaloo were the borders of the “free world””, in the Gulf war (1991 – due to the objections of the public opinion only a ship was symbolically sent), in Somalia (under the coverage of United Nations), and as peacekeeping forces in Albania (1997), Bosnia-Herzegovina (1996), Kosovo (1999).

After the dictatorship (1967-74) and the Turkish invasion/intervention in Cyprus , a strong anti-American sentiment has been developed in Greece. Every year there is an anti-imperialist demonstration to the American Embassy on November 17th, in the memory of the student revolt in November 1973 against the military junta (1967-74). In November 1973 there was an effort by the military regime to organize elections and to give some power to politicians. Some parties were discussing the possibility. The revolt started with students` demands (exams, food, accommodation, elected and not imposed by the government student union councils, the return of students who were obliged to stop their studies and join the army due their political activities etc.) but soon the majority of the occupied faculties were joined by dozens of thousands of workers and other people. The demonstrations took antigovernment and anti-American character with slogans like (“down the U.S.A.”, “Bread, education, freedom”). At the beginning the government tried to ignore the students, but later on it used force. Tanks invaded to the university, tear gas were thrown and snipers shot down. About 20 died and many more were injured and arrested. The liberalization policy failed and hardliners took power. Every year there is a demonstration. Till 1980, the governments of New Democracy prohibited the march to reach the American embassy. In 1980 the attempt by left organizations like KKE(m-l) to break the prohibition caused violent confrontation with the police, 2 dead and dozens of injured. If I remember well, both the KKE and KKE internal (euro communists, the majority renamed themselves in 1988 into Greek Left and they joined the Coalition) accused the more militant organizations as provocateurs. At the demonstrations participated all the left parties: Socialists (the last years only the youth), the communists, the euro communists, DEMOCRATIC SOCIAL MOVEMENT, the Coalition of the Left, anarchists, Maoists, Trotskyists, political refugees from Turkey (like KPT M-L), Kurdistan(like PKK, Rizgari), Palestine etc. At the last years the number of demonstrators is around 5000 and the majority of them under the banners of KKE.

The general sentiment combined with the feeling of the Greek bourgeois class that it was betrayed by its allies in the Cyprus issue, contributed to the decision of the government of New Democracy in summer 1974 to withdraw from the military part of NATO (it returned back in 1980). Karamanlis also tried to apply a more multi dimension foreign policy, without coming into conflict with the slogan of New Democracy “We belong to the West”. Greece tried to improve relations with the Arab states and in 1980 it refused to follow the boycott of the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow, organized by U.S.A. When PASOKcame in power in October 1981, it had a pro-Western orientation, but also some sympathy for national liberation movements like that of North Ireland, the Palestinians, the Kurds in Turkey, Arab leaders like Kadaffi. PASOKhad used the slogans “Greece for the Greeks”, “National sovereignty” and kept attacking verbally the Western countries and differentiating. It tried to balance between USA and USSR and distanced itself from hard line positions of Western countries in cases like the condemnation of Yaruzelski in Poland, the shot down of a Korean airplane in 1983 by the Soviets, it condemned the massacres committed by the Israeli troops in Lebanon in 1982, it tried to improve the relations with the other Balkan states (Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Yugoslavia). For example in 1987 it denounced officially the “condition of war” with Albania which existed since 1940. New Democracy accused Papandreou of betraying the Greek minority in North Ipiros. Andreas Papandreou acted as mediator between Kadaffi and Mitterand in 1984. In 1991 Andreas Papandreou was one of the few Western leaders who criticized the Western leaders for rushing to attack Iraq. In 1991, when the coup against Gorby occurred, Andreas Papandreou made a philosophical comment “the developments had become inevitable due to the deterioration of the situation and they were expected”, while the Coalition supported strongly Gorby and championed in favour of protecting the democracy and attacked KKE for supporting the coup. The new leadership (Simitis was elected by the parliamentary group as prime minister in January 1996 and by the congress as party leader in June 1996, replacing Andrea Papandreou who died in June 1996) of PASOK is completely obedient to Western demands. Greece has been transformed to a faithful member of NATO, E.U. As far as the relations with Turkey are concerned, the previous policy of PASOK “we have nothing to talk about, only Turkey has claims on us” was replaced by the policy “of gradual approach, support of pro European policy of Turkey, development of economic links between the two countries”.
In February 1999 the Greek government hang over Öcalan (directly or indirectly) to the secret services of Turkey. Simitis condemned PKK implicitly stating that “Greece does not support secessionist movements and alteration of borders”, while Mitsotakis described it as “a terrorist organization”.

When the Yugoslav crisis erupted all the major Greek parties supported the idea of inviolability of the borders. New Democracy was in power and in December 1991 the minister of foreign affairs Samaras was forced to accept the German ultimatum and recognize the break away republics of Croatia and Slovenia. He objected to the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia on the grounds that its name is Greek, it implies territorial ambitions and it distorts history, the Macedonian nation did not exist but was formed by the Communists. The demand of our neighbours to alter their name became official position of Greece and from December 1991 a nationalistic campaign took place. In 1992 demonstrations asking the European Union, U.S.A. not to recognize this state were organized all over Greece. Mitsotakis attempted to intervene in Balkan crisis as a mediator between the Serbs and the Western governments. In May 1993 he organized a conference in Athens. The invited then leader of Bosnian Serbs accepted the Wans- Owen plan reluctantly. Mitsotakis travelled to Pale (capital of Bosnian Serbs) failing to persuade the parliament of Bosnian Serbs to endorse the plan. At the period 1990-3 the government of New Democracy attempted to build influence in Balkans by donating money to the sister parties of Albania (the Democratic party of Berisha) and Bulgaria (the party of Zelev). But due to the conflicting nationalist ideologies, the relations between the right wing parties of Balkan countries became tense.
At the meeting of the leaders of all the parliamentary parties (New Democracy, PASOK, Coalition, KKE) only KKE dared to challenge the position and refused to participate at the government sponsored demonstrations. Its leader Papariga was described as traitor by the majority of press. At this climate fascist organizations attacked offices of KKE and other left organizations, members of Socialist Workers Party were arrested and put on trial. Mitsotakis feared isolation of Greece and wanted a compromise, but the militant attitude of Samaras, combined with the slim parliamentary majority did not let him room for manoeuvres. In June 1994, before the euro elections, during the re-election campaign in Salonika, there was an assassination attempt by an ultra nationalist against candidate of KKE. The Coalition started to alter its position only at the end of 1992, when it became clear that the Greek position was doomed to fail.

The Greek society in general was split in three. A substantial portion supported Serbia on the grounds that “we are Orthodox brothers”, “we should form an Orthodox arrow”, hoping that Serbia would be an ally at the dispute over the name. According to newspapers Milosevic has proposed to Mitsotakis the division of F.Y.R. of Macedonia. A representative of this trend is Papathemelis (MP of PASOK) who in 1997 when the revolt in Albania took place said that in order to protect the Greek minority, we should do what Israel had done previously in Lebanon: to create a buffer zone. The nationalists regard the war with Turkey as inevitable because of the structure of the Turkish regime, and they see as the only solution to avoid the war, to follow the example of Israel and become militarily strong. A pro-European trend (mainly commentators and few politicians who are center-left (supporters of the Coalition or modernizers of PASOK) or the liberals of N.D.) accused the Serbian nationalism as the source of the trouble, expressed the view that the Western countries bear no responsibility for the bloodshed apart from interfering too late to stop it and partly (or totally) justified the NATO air strikes against Serbian Republic in 1995 and Yugoslavia in 1999. According to their view, Greece should not be preoccupied with such minor issues as the dispute over the name, but to exploit its advantages (member of NATO, E.U., the most developed financially country of the region) and to penetrate economically to the other Balkan countries. A minority tried to reject both nationalism and imperialism, by condemning the domestic nationalisms and the foreign interventions. At the left, many like Ο.Κ.D.Ε., the part of Ε.Ε.Κ. that joined the Coalition (and other pro-Trotskyist groups), Ο.Α.Κ.Κ.Ε., the Network for the defense of social and political rights, the bigger part of the Coalition and the Renewal Move of of Ecological Left supported the secessionist movements, referring to the self- determination. They also identified as the principal cause of trouble the Serbian nationalism. Others like K.K.E., New Left Current, Κ.D.Ε. considered that the break up was due to external (German) intervention. New Left Current shifted position in the case of Kosovo and supported the Albanian guerillas against Serbia and later on Serbia against NATO. Indicative is the extract of the weekly newspaper Prin (7/2/1999): “The withdrawal of Kosovo from Serbia is a necessary precondition for the salvation of the inhabitants from Serbian nationalism, which has taken an openly criminal form against the Albanians. Contrary to the disintegration of Yugoslavia, where Germany and U.S.A. played the primary role, exploiting the contradictions of the federation, the Serbian nationalists bear the sole responsibility. The sooner Kosovo is liberated, the lesser will be the victims of the bloody Serb tyrant.”

Part of the Greek capitalist class wanted to be the privileged mediator in the area between Serbia and West and to make deals with the Serbian government. Apart from the smuggling during the sanctions, after the Dayton agreement many Greek firms like the Delta milk industry, the Hellenic Bottleneck company invested in Yugoslavia. The businessman Mytilineos signed in 1996 an agreement with the Serbian government worth around 500 million $ to buy a certain amount of raw materials (I do not remember the quantities) from the mines of Treptcka. OTE (the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization) bought in 1997 (together with Italian Telecommunications Organization) a percentage of the Serbian Telecommunications Organization. That partly explains why part of the Greek press was critical to the policy of the West against Serbia.

The Greek government did not dare to express any preservations at the NATO documents about the forthcoming military operations against Yugoslavia. However, because according to polls over 95% of the population objected to the NATO aggression, the Greek government adopted a double language: out of the borders totally in line and domestically criticizing the war, the only superpower etc. The anti-NATO sentiment was so strong, that even the union of policemen marched in front of the American embassy to protest. There were over 10 demonstrations against the NATO air strikes, with about 5-10000 each in front of the American embassy. Demonstrations took part in other parts of Greece as well. Solidarity groups organized by trade unions went to Belgrade during the strikes and even a football club (A.E.K.) went to Belgrade and played with Partizan Belgrade in Belgrade. A counter-demonstration in favour of NATO was organized by Albanians who burnt a Greek flag and waved American flags. At the discussions organized at the mass media, the Albanians invited tried to justify NATO using some times racial arguments like Albanians, Greeks are among the most ancient people in Balkans, Slavs came to Kosovo after us, there is a Slav danger. Only some politicians like the new liberal ex-minister and expelled from New Democracy Andrianopoulos, some commentators cadres of New Democracy, PASOK, Coalition, the leader of Liberals and some commentators in certain daily newspapers [Exousia (Power) pro-government which published with big headlines “BRUTALITY. MILOSEVIC BUTCERED 5 PROMINENT ALBANIAN INTELLECTUALS INCLUDING THE MODERATE LEADER AFGHANI” based on NATO sources (when the truth was found, it did not write it in the first page), Avgi (coalition), Eleftherotipia (Freepress) (centerleft), Vima (Step) (published articles of Blair, Solana, Albright and other NATO officials), Kathimerini (Daily) (both support the modernizers of the two main parties)] reproduced the NATO arguments that a genocide was going on against Kosovo Albanians, Milosevic is a dictator, the international law is above the sovereignty of nation states etc. Even the pro-American ex-prime minister Mitsotakis described the war as irrational and asked Greece not to participate directly or indirectly. The majority of New Democracy (N.D.), PASOK politicians argued that because Greece is a member of NATO it has no other choice but to offer facilities to NATO. The former leader of N.D. Evert (1993-6) argued that Greece should permit the use of its territory by NATO troops, but should also receive something in exchange. Indeed, not only NATO troops and equipment passed through Salonika port, but the American airbases in Actio were used to spy Yugoslavia and a Greek ship was sent to supervise the naval territories of Montenegro. The government officials claimed that Greece did not participate at the war. When, in May the General secretary of NATO praised publicly the Greek government for its cooperation, and said that 14000 NATO troops have passed through Greece, the minister of national defence (and MP elected in Salonika) Tsohatzopoulos stated that their aim was to protect F.Y.R. of Macedonia and to contribute at its stability. Of course, every reasonable person understands that their goal was to contribute to potential ground operations. Tsohatzopoulos was a man of the party apparatus at the shadow of the former leader of PASOKAndreas Papandreou. In January 1996 he was defeated by Simitis (the parliamentary group elected Simitis as prime minister). At the party congress in June 1996, he was also defeated by Simitis, despite controlling the party apparatus. He delivered a speech claiming that “our vision is not the modernization, but socialism”, proposed the model of the German SPD (Schröder prime minister, Lafontaine president of the party) for PASOK. He was supposed to express the “socialist consciousness of PASOK”. During the NATO aggression (1999), he condemned strongly Milosevic for carrying out ethnic cleansing, but only whispered when U.C.K. applied ethnic cleansing against Serbs, when K.F.O.R. took control in Kosovo. When he speaks to the Greek audience, he states that he was “opposed to the war”.
After the war ended, the government officials claimed that Greece played role in the peace process, expressed the hope that Salonika will be the center of the reconstruction of Balkans and described the “Stability pact” as promoting democracy and stability.
In spring 2000 a summit of the Serbian opposition took place in Athens (at this meeting a consultant of the minister of foreign affairs George Papandreou(son of Andreas Papandreou, his predecessor Pagalos was fired in February 1999, due to the handling of Öcalan affair), the Greek-American Randos appeared, asked the attendants to unite, called the ex-king of Serbia “Your majesty”. This indicated to show that Greece was totally on the side of the good gays against Milosevic. In September 2000 Simitis left doubts that the result would not be democratic and therefore would not be recognized if Milosevic won the elections, the Greek minister of foreign affairs simply carried the messages of the Western government to both the Serbian government and opposition (he was chosen because he was more acceptable than U.S.A. and other E.U. officials to the Serbian audience). Randos also went to Belgrade, after the 24/9/2000 elections and encouraged the opposition leaders to abstain from the scheduled second round of the elections and to seize power. According to the journalist Konstantakopoulos (Ependytis, 13/1/2001, p.8), he angered the current president Kostunica, by supporting the pro-Western politician Zoran Djindjic. Among his privileged talkers are people from Soros´ foundation. Randos was rejected by the Yugoslav government as a representative of Organization for the Security, Cooperation in Europe in Belgrade. His other ambition, to become head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo also failed.
N.D. criticizes the government policy as being inadequate. The leader of ND Karamanlis asked the resignation of the government and early elections when the fiasco with Öcalan (February 1999) was exposed, said during the NATO air strikes that “The government has failed to raise its voice and present the Greek positions against the war in a satisfactory way” “that is not the Europe we have dreamed of”, he criticised the government for accepting the E.U.-Turkey special agreement in Helsinki in December 1999 “because he agreed without gaining nothing in return”, he said that in the E.U. summit in Nis in December 2000 Simitis “failed to protect the national interests”. However, in all these cases the MP of New Democracy (especially Mitsotakis) disagreed and gave critical support to PASOKPoliticians like Manos, Andrianopoulos supported more or less the NATO aggression or others claimed that it was inevitable due to the behaviour of Milosevic´ s regime, the atrocities etc.
A statement at the Greek parliament by the explosive Pagalos resembles attention. Pagalos stated (10/1/2001) that while he was still a minister of foreign affairs, he spoke to Miss Albright about a peace proposal of Milosevic and her reply was “Do not continue. You disturb. The attack on Serbia has been decided”. Later on she commended that “George Papandreou is someone with whom you can make deals and trust”. He also implied that U.S.A. was involved in his replacement as a minister of foreign affairs. The government did not dare to refute his statements. The government representative stated that “history will judge the events”.

In November 1999 Bill Clinton visited Athens. The government prohibited to the demonstrators to march till the American embassy. The socialist youth and the Coalition obeyed to the orders of the police. KKE and extra parliamentary left (around 3-4000) tried to march till the embassy, they were stopped, pushed aside and the centre of Athens became full of tear gas. In summer 1991 when president Bush visited Athens KKE did not organize demonstrations (probably due to internal weaknesses, or will from the then leadership to preserve the relatively good relations that had been developed with New Democracy).
In November 2000, the leadership of KKE was the only one to visit Palestine and express solidarity to the Palestinian leader Arafat. It also organized a meeting of left Balkan parties in Salonika in November 2000 (from Greece only DEMOCRATIC SOCIAL MOVEMENT and Communist Renewal were invited) and proposed the creation of an Anti-NATO centre in Athens which will coordinate the action against NATO.

Last year many scientists assured the population that there was no danger from the war in Yugoslavia. In fact NATO sent a document to European governments stating that bombs with depleted uranium have been thrown to Yugoslavia. The Greek government (and the others as well) hid it from the populations. So, (probably due to high salaries) many soldiers and officers went voluntarily to Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Recently, it was discovered that some of them had been affected from leukaemia (of course many claim that there is no relation with the depleted uranium). It was hidden, but when it became known all over Europe that many members of KFOR had been affected, it became difficult to keep hiding. (Some unsatisfactory reports of scientists that found out that there was danger not only for the people who live in Yugoslavia, but also for the population in North Greece were kept secret). Then, the ministers of the government stated that they were not aware and they will examine the situation responsibly. The state TV (and some private TV stations) appeared some pro NATO scientists, that claimed the weapons were not toxic and the health of the population is not endangered. But the public did not believe these obvious lies and then the government announced that scientists will measure at the North of Greece and in Kosovo. The government claimed that they measured last year and they did not find anything worrying. It must also be pointed out that the Greek government – unlike the ones of France, Italy, Germany – did not dare even to ask explanations from NATO. Under the pressure of the public opinion and in an attempt to show that it distances from NATO, it criticised NATO for providing adequate information and proposed along with Italy, Germany a moratorium at the use of depleted uranium bombs. The minister of Macedonia – Thrace in an interview at the state TV (7/1/2001) stated that “the government examines the situation with responsibility and there are no healthy bombs and the war is in general unhealthy” and “that we must face the situation without panic, calmly”. It is needless to say that the journalists and intellectuals who supported the intervention for humanitarian reasons and criticised the Greek media that they were one sided and praised the western media for their objectivity are silent (obviously now the goal has been achieved and the discovery of the truth has no importance). Andrianopoulos said at an interview that there is not sufficient data to judge about how dangerous are these non conventional weapons.
At the discussions at the parliament in January 2001 (11/1/2001) Simitis stated that “the government acts responsibly, protects the Greek national rights and we must not withdraw our forces unilaterally from Kosovo. He also accused NATO for covering up evidence and claimed that Greece has not been informed. [It is odd because Greece is a NATO member and the decisions about the air strikes were voted unanimously]. The sub minister of health is a doctor. She stated at the parliament that “there is scientific evidence that smoking tobacco can cause cancer, while there is no evidence for depleted uranium”. Tsohatzopoulos went to Kosovo (12/1/2000) and stated that “there is not enough scientific evidence about the effects of depleted uranium and we must act based on scientific knowledge.” In an interview at the daily newspaper “Nea”, he stated that “he was against the 1999 war” and “accused NATO for failing to provide sufficient data”. However, since the war ended in June 1999, very little effort was done by the government to send scientists and collect data. In fact only when in other European countries the press and the public opinion started to become sensitive on the issue, the Greek government gave up trying to cover up the symptoms and assuring that nothing has happened and in the NATO summit asked along with Italy, Germany a moratorium at the use of this kind of weapons. Besides, since the Gulf War there was overwhelming evidence on the effects of depleted uranium on the human health. The only exception at the “do not worry spirit” of the government was the sub minister of environment, who stated that many illnesses will occur and many will die due to depleted uranium. Many pro government journalists expressed the view that “the primary role in Balkans bears responsibilities and Greece must in no way withdraw unilaterally the troops and return to the isolationist policy of Papandreou”. In fact it was not isolationist, but Andreas Papandreou dared to differentiate from the official Western view. It must be noted that the mission of troops in Kosovo, Bosnia – Herzegovina is a reversal of previous decisions of all political leaders of the parliamentary parties, at repeated meetings in 1991-4, who had agreed that no troops of any Balkan country should be sent to peace keeping missions.
It is also needless to mention that the ecological organizations like Green peace, remained up to a large extent inactive when the ecologic destruction of the Balkans took place (and they are still inactive) and the human rights organizations remained silent or just expressed concern and worries. The ecologist sub minister of environment disagreed with most of his colleagues and expressed concern that many will die due to depleted uranium.

The opposition parties (including New Democracy) have asked for the withdrawal of the Greek soldiers, but the minister of defence was crystal clear that they will stay there.
The MP of the Coalition at the European parliament Alavanos asked on January 8th, 2001 the replacement of Xavier Solana from his position as responsible for the common foreign policy and external security of European Union, because he has no credibility and bears political responsibility for the “Balkan syndrome”. The other MP at the European parliament (Avgi 18/1/2001) stated that “ the past we were accused that any critique against Milosevic served NATO. Now, Solana accuses us that our critique about depleted uranium forgets the violation of human rights of the Milosevic regime. In both cases , the lack of arguments on the specific issue, leads us to forget the principles of rationalism and to be driven to irrationalism, which leads to all kinds of totalitarianism or Stalinism”. Although, officially the Coalition has asked for the withdrawal of the Greek forces, some of its members disagree. An example is the following extract (Avgi 18/1/2001, p.6) “..If the NATO forces withdrew, there will be no more publicity on depleted uranium. If the NATO soldiers were not affected, we would have never learnt about it, no matter how many Albanians and Serbs would have died. If the NATO forces withdrew, a bloodshed would occur in Kosovo. Either the Serbs would try to take the revenge, or UCK would exterminate the remaining Serbs, Romi..”.
On January 11th, trade unions (mainly pro-KKE), political youths marched in Athens and other cities, shouting against the hypocrisy of NATO and the Greek government asking the withdrawal of the Greek forces from Kosovo. On January 14th, the communist youth organized a demonstration in Salonika. On 16th January 2001, a new demonstration took place in Athens.
The extreme right was also critical to U.S.A., as it can be seen from the titles of the daily newspaper “Free Time” and the articles of its editor and leader of the National Alliance. The Golden Rise (12/1/2000) had the headline “War criminals”. After criticizing NATO for the ecological destruction of the Balkans, the newspaper reminded that the Second world war was won by the good guys “the supporters of parliamentary democracy and real existing socialism” against the bad guys and asked rhetorically what was the benefit for the humanity the subsequent fifty years.