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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 1 April 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 1 APRIL 2017 25 GREECE Civil War redux My Big Fat Greek Week NIKOS FOTAKIS • It should come as no news that Greek MPs started shouting at each other, spewing threats and insults. • That kind of theatrics is part of politics, in general, but especially in Greece it goes with a special kind of hot-headedness that has made political discourse similar to sports hooliganism. • However, it was still not expected to see MPs fighting over the legacy of a person who is dead for 65 years. • The person is question is Nikos Beloyannis, the iconic communist and Resistance leader, who was executed, in shady circumstances and international outrage - with personalities like Pablo Picasso, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Paul Sartre, Paul Éluard, Nazim Hikmet, and even Charles De Gaulle calling for his execution to be cancelled off. • This is where lies his iconic status. It is not due to his actions or personality so much, as to the fierceness that he was treated with, by a ruling establishment infested by former Nazi collaborators. the Military Medal for his bravery that day, throwing back German grenades until one exploded in his hand. The Company's commander Captain Dean would be awarded the Military Cross for his leadership at Corinth. Lacking ammunition, the remaining diggers to the north of the bridge surrendered just after 11.00 am. Half an hour later those remaining New Zealanders to their north who could do so attempted to escape east, with many being captured. The situation to the south was much the same. Most Allied troops were soon overwhelmed, suffering many casualties. Some surrendered and others dispersed as small groups. By early morning Corinth itself had fallen. The Australians defending the ridge south of the canal fell back further south under sustained air attack, many led by Lieutenant Wilfred Sherlock, a 32-yearold farmer from Coleraine. During the withdrawal Private George Young from Parkdale was severely wounded and would die in captivity. As one Australian later wrote, in the end it was "every man for himself." The summit of Acro-Corinth commands one of the most magnificent views in all Greece. On a clear day one can see far-off Athens and the Cyclades, distant Mount Parnassus with Delphi below and across to the mountains of the Peloponnese and the sea. Looking across the plain of Corinth today, I imagine the scene of smoke and carnage that one would have beheld on 26 April in 1941. As the survivors retreated south many would pass the ancient ruins of Mycenae, Tyrins, and Argos, locations rich in allusions to wars centuries past. These were the citadels of a kingdom that had once dominated the region, the home of Homer's great Agamemnon who launched the fleet that would destroy Troy and who would be murdered in his own palace. Herodotus wrote of the men of the region fighting at Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea. One British officer, the former Oxford Classics academic Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Casson, remarked that as in antiquity "death and fire" had come again "to the peaceful plains of Argos." As the sun set on the 26 April the battle of Corinth was now over. The Germans had overwhelmed the defenders but failed to secure the canal bridge and suffered over 280 casualties. Over 900 British and Commonwealth troops were cap- tured, nearly 200 of these Australians. While the Germans repaired the ferry across at the eastern end of the canal, they were unable to exploit their advantage and halt the massive Allied evacuations that would continue over the coming days. The Anzacs from the suburbs of Melbourne and the western district of Victoria to Wonthaggi in the east, from New South Wales and New Zealand – the farmer and the shepherd, the shoe salesmen and the lawyer, the brewery worker and jeweller - had all experienced their first airborne assault. Some of those who were there quickly wrote detailed reports on the German tactics involved. But would they be learnt before the great airborne assault on Crete in a month's time? Jim Claven is a freelance writer and trained historian. He has researched the Anzac trail in Greece across both World Wars, and especially the Hellenic connection to Anzac through the role of Lemnos in the Gallipoli campaign. He has been Secretary of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee since its creation and is a member of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign Commemorative Council. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org • A museum opened in his memory, in his hometown Amaliada, and the Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras was there, saying that Beloyannis' execution was part of Greece's surrender to foreign powers, undermining any chance of reconciliation after the civil war. • The opposition did not miss this opportunity to attack the PM. Nea Dimokratia MP Kostas Tasoulas questioned the notion that Beloyannis was fighting for democracy, saying that he was envisioning a communist dictatorship, while Golden Dawn MP Panagiotis Iliopoulos pointed out that while Pavlos Melas' house in Kifisia is in shambles, the house of a 'slaughterer' becomes a museum, pledging to demolish Beloyannis' house, when his party "comes in power", causing the acting Parliament Chairman, Nikitas Kaklamanis to oust him, saying: "I'm right wing, myself, but I'm not rude; you'll demolish no house". • As puzzling as it may seem to an outsider, this kind of reheated civil war rhetoric is part of the daily public discourse in Greece, and it has been going on since the beginning of the crisis, proving that the country never managed to heal its decades-old wounds and is still in need of post-traumatic therapy. • Right-wing pundits and MPs have been dismissing SYRIZA as a relic of stalinism, since the party first started its transformation from minor party to what it is now. And many SYRIZA MPs have been happily playing along, using the left-wing iconography (from Che Guevarra to Aris Velouhiotis) as a way to trigger emotions and heat up political arguments. • It is not by accident that the Samaras government had invested in this kind of politics, having ministers such as Makis Voridis or Adonis Georgiadis wage an 'anti-communist' war, building bridges with the Golden Dawn, or even applying 'law and order' policies, evacuating buildings longoccupied by anti-establishment groups (and it is not by accident that even the Tsipras government started doing the same, recently). • This kind of 'law and order' rhetoric has long been used by right-wing politicians to instil fear in citizens and make them feel threatened by 'communists', 'anarchists', 'illegals', or any other kind of threat, in order to justify policies that put pressure to the lower classes and benefit the elites. • What it does is cover up for the lack of any other political vision. • By shouting insults that come from the civil war era, the MPs avoid discussing the real issue at hand, which is how to respond to the Greek people's current suffering, how to put an end to the crisis, how to restart the economy, how to revive the country. • Who can blame them? It is easier to just shout, than say discuss the privatisation deal for the 14 regional airports that are about to go under Fraport management for the next 40 years. • The German company paid €1.234 billion for this; however, most of the funds will come from a loan it managed to secure from a joint bank venture, with the participation of Alpha Bank, the largest private bank in Greece, which will provide most of the funding. • These are Greek and European banks that were 'saved' by the Greek bailout plan, now using the money they got from EU - i.e. from European taxpayers, and of course Greek taxpayers - to fund the purchase of public assets. • So basically, privatisation is made possible through public funding. • That's capitalism for you. • Now let's talk about the houses of Beloyannis and Pavlos Melas.
25 March 2017
8 April 2017