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Reviews Heinz Richter, British Intervention in Greece. From Varkiza to Civil War. February 1945 to August 1946. London: Merlin Press. 1986. Pp. 556. £22.50. For contemporary Greece, the period from January 1945, when the leftist uprising in Athens was defeated, to the summer of 1946, when sporadic guerrilla activity became an all-out rebellion, was a time of weak governments, politically inspired violence, economic collapse and general demoralization. In retrospect, and depending on one's point of view, it may also have been a time of missed opportunities for national reconciliation and sweeping reform. The prewar order, which had set the stage for the hated Metaxas dictatorship , lay broken and discredited and its successor remained to be molded by the contending forces in the post-liberation arena. One of the consequences of the civil war (1946-49) was the derailing of any genuinely reformist movement and the establishment of a repressive system which, behind a democratic facade, was devoted to the preservation of the traditional social regime and the suppression not only of those who had taken up arms against the state but of their sympathizers as well, real or imagined. The resulting national schism became the dominant factor in Greek politics for decades to come. Therefore, for the. student of the period it is important to determine why, after the December 1944 revolt and the Varkiza agreement, the nation moved not toward reconciliation and reform but toward ideological rigidity and civil war. In his latest book Heinz Richter offers a categorical answer: responsibility for blocking the road to genuine political compromise and for pushing the country to civil war rests squarely with the British who dominated Greek affairs during the period in question. In this, he argues, they were assisted by a right-wing "oligarchy" anxious to regain its pre-war monopoly of power and by the communist party (KKE) which, under Zahariades, drifted toward an unplanned and unwanted armed rebellion. Richter's work needs to be evaluated at two distinct levels: the descriptive and the interpretive. At the first level, he has examined 111 112 Reviews thoroughly the British diplomatic records and sheds important light on London's efforts to deal with the political and economic crisis in Athens and to tutor, largely in vain, a succession of cabinets in confronting the country's problems. His familiarity with Greek communist literature is also impressive and he provides a competent analysis of the more important party meetings and decisions. In short, at the descriptive level the book is a goldmine of factual information and a very useful chronology of events and issues. On the other hand, its interpretations are laboriously twisted to conform to the author's main thesis which serves as an endlessly repeated refrain: directly or indirectly British imperialism was the source of all evil in war-time and post-liberation Greece. The book begins with a brief post-mortem of the December 1944 revolt, a crisis which Richter blames on British efforts to "crush the whole Greek Resistance in order to restore the semi-colonial dependence of the past" (p. vii). It then examines the armistice and the principal controversies which bedevilled the ensuing negotiations and analyzes in detail the terms of the Varkiza agreement. The Plastiras , Voulgaris and Sofoulis governments are shown to have been subservient to the British and inept, as well as indifferent to those provisions of the Varkiza agreement which were intended to protect the Left from persecution: punishment of the war-time collaborators, purging of the security forces and civil service, and allowing the trade unions freedom to choose their leaders. Richter is particularly effective in detailing the failure of all post-liberation governments, which were virtually appointed by the British, to establish impartial law and order and to prevent the rightist "parastate" from harassing the entire leftist-socialist camp. Concerning the controversy surrounding the national elections of March 1946, Richter maintains that their postponement even for a few months (which the British, with American backing, successfully opposed) would have permitted conditions to improve sufficiently so as to make it possible for the left to participate, thus producing a much more representative parliament and government. Such a government, he hints...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 111-114
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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