The Arrival of the Soviet Military Mission in July 1944 and KKE Policy: A Study of Chronology

Lars  Baerentzen, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora 13(3-4), 77-111. (1986)

*I would like to thank Professor J. M. Cook for information about the arrival of the Soviet military mission, which he witnessed, and for his helpful comments on many other points; I am also grateful to Mr. Kostas Despotopoulos, whose conversation on many occasions has been a source of enlightenment and delight.The opinions and conclusions reached in this paper remain, of course, the soleresponsibility of the author.

During the occupation of Greece from 1941 to 1944, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) created and controlled the major resistance organization, the National Liberation Front (EAM) , and also ELAS, the major guerilla army. This gave the communists a dominant position when the Germans withdrew from Greece in October 1944, but as liberation approached, the Party was faced with a dilemma: should it seek to retain its dominant position in postwar Greece, by force if necessary, or should it acquiesce in the return of the traditional political leaders, most of whom were anticommunist?
The Greek communist leaders appear to have followed a zigzag course in the face of this dilemma. With surprising rapidity, they moved between positions of open hostility and friendly cooperation with their political opponents. At the meeting in Lebanon on May 20, 1944, representatives of KKE, EAM, and PEEA committed the left to enter a Government of National Unity led by George Papandreou, and strongly supported by the British. But this concession was completely overruled by KKE leaders who had stayed behind in the mountains. For several weeks they refused to honor the agreement and to nominate ministers for Papandreou's government. Then, suddenly, at the end of July 1944, they reversed this decision and telegraphed their acceptance of the Lebanon agreement to Cairo. Even the sole reservation—that Papandreou should be replaced as prime minister—was dropped on August 15.
On September 26, 1944, KKE representatives at the British headquarters at Caserta, in Italy, signed an agreement which put the guerilla army of ELAS under the command of the British Commander-in-Chief, General Scobie; and when Papandreou's government entered Athens on October 18, 1944, supported by Scobie's British forces, the official KKE line was to welcome the
British as friends and liberators and to cooperate loyally in the government. Two months later, in early December, cooperation had broken down, and the KKE now chose to confront their political enemies with armed force. This force was applied in a curiously indecisive way, however, and the KKE was defeated by the British in Athens—but it was not defeated in the rest of Greece.
Yet its leaders signed a peace agreement at Varkiza, in February 1945, which effectively surrendered all power to their opponents.
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