3 OCTOBER 1947, Page 9



wHATEVER may be the uncertainties in the Greek situation, two facts are now surely crystal clear. The first is that the struggle which is raging there is not a recrudescence of Balkan banditry on a large scale or a civil war between Greek political parties, but an undeclared war by Russia and her satellites not only on Greek independence but upon the Western Powers as well. The second is that without foreign help, both military and economic, Greece will eventually fall on the Russian side of the Iron Curtain, and if that happens Turkey and the whole of the Middle East and Italy, stage by stage, will go with her. The situation has deteriorated since Greece was visited by a British Parliamentary Delegation a year ago. Large areas of Macedonia are controlled by " General " Markos, the Communist leader ; tens of thousands of Greek peasants have been forced to leave their fields uncultivated and flee into the towns for protection. Even the main road from Athens to Salonika is not safe. The commission set up by the United Nations to investigate this situation made it perfectly clear that these activities were promoted and directed from outside Greece itself.

There are still people both in Great Britain and the United States who, wittingly or unwittingly, are playing the Russian game by sug- gesting that some magic change of Government in Greece will automatically cause the Communist armies to disband' and behave like respectable citizens. Certainly not all "General" Markos's men are sworn Communists. Some are working off Balkan blood feuds ; some have been encouraged, and even compelled, to commit a murder so as to bind them effectively to the rebel armies ; some are just the criminal element. But people who regard them as Greek patriots or as respectable citizens driven into banditry by the tyranny of the present Greek regime are not only ignoring every shred of evidence from impartial observers, but are perpetuating the follies of those who in the winter of 1944-45 criticised the policy of Mr. Churchill and the Coalition which was so strikingly vindicated by the delegates of the Trades Union Congress and by subsequent events.

The present regime in Greece may not be free of grounds for criticism, and the Greek temperament has always prevented modera- tion in political expression or compromise in political action. But whatever may be its faults, the present Greek Parliament represents the will of the electors. The elections of March, 1946, which were supervised by teams of British, American and French observers, were probably the fairest and freest ever held in the country, as was the plebiscite on the Monarchy in September, 1946, which showed a majority of 68 per cent. in favour of the return of the King. The Greeks were always being advised by the British and the Americans to form a " broad-based " Government to meet their troubles. The danger of a " broad-based " coalition is that action is always limited by the lowest common denominator of agreement, which may be small, and the fact that, if the Government represents all 'political parties except the Communists, disgruntled people have no one to whom to turn except the Communists. A new and extremely broad- based Government under the premiership of the veteran Liberal leader Mr. Sophoulis has just been formed. It has offered an unconditional armistice to the rebel bands, and it will be interesting to see if the results of this offer are any more favourable than the three previous amnesties.

Only a visit to Greece can give any idea of the extent of the losses the country has suffered in men and material. It is as if we in England had lost nearly 5,000,000 men. Greece was never a rich country, but as a result of occupation by the Italians and the Germans and the civil war of 1945, harbours, roads and railways are in a state of almost complete devastation. Peasants have lost more than half their animals, and inflation has made a mock of all savings. Greece needs what most of Europe needs—a blood transfusion and thirty years of convalescence. The U.S.A. is giving the blood transfusion, but will Russia allow the convalescence? The Greeks, grateful as they are for American help, feel somewhat anxious about its extent and its continuance. Money has been voted by Congress only for twelve months, and almost anything can happen in the U.S.A. in the Presidential Election year of 1948. The total sum is $3oo,000,000, with an additional $5o,000,000 for post - U.N.R.R.A. relief. $r5o,000,000 is being spent on the further equipment of the Greek armed forces. Only $48,000,000 is going on public works. (The total damage has been variously estimated as between $1,4o0,o00,000 and $4,000,000,000.) Only $2o,000,000 is being spent on agriculture, $3,000,000 on health services and $75,000,000 on consumer goods to combat inflation. As a first instalment this help is substantial,- but if it is also the final instalment Greece is doomed. Britain's contribu- tion has been over $5oo,000,000, quite apart from the expenditure of lives of British and Imperial troops.

What is Greece asking of the Western Powers? That they should recognise, firstly, that they are not just helping a gallant people, but fighting the battle for the whole of the Middle East and for the continuance of Western civilisation in the Mediterranean. Secondly, that the first priority is to establish law and order as a condition pre- cedent to economic rehabilitation. Thirdly, that the small token

force of 5,000 British troops should remain in Greece both as a symbol and an encouragement. Finally, the Greeks hope that, quite

apart from the United Nations, Great Britain and the U.S.A. will guarantee the political integrity of Greece. Otherwise there is a danger that, as the Greeks put down the Communist bands, pressure from the Russians and their satellites will increase, either by the device of an International Brigade, the establishment of a " Free " Communist Government in Macedonia or by some similar stratagem.

If the U.S.A. and Great Britain abandon Greece now by a Balkan Munich, then history will repeat itself. The Middle East, and probably Italy as well, will be forced on to the Russian side of the Iron Curtain, and eventually the Western Powers will have to face the storm weakened both in moral prestige and by the loss of their Mediterranean allies.