If history is any guide, it is reasonable to assume that Greece’s recently-elected left-wing SYRIZA government will be subjected to a foreign-backed destabilisation campaign and possible attempts to install a new right-wing authoritarian regime.
There is a long history in Greece of the left being suppressed by the oligarchy collaborating with outside forces.
During World War II, the occupying German murdered 500,000 civilians out of a population of 7 million. Communist-led partisan resistance forces — the National Liberation Front (EAM) and its armed wing the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS) — contributed greatly to the Allied war effort in the Balkans.
But after the “liberating” British forces arrived in late 1944, they maintained the right-wing, anti-communist puppet administration that the Germans had installed. Heavy fighting broke out between occupying British troops and Greek communists who had fought the Nazis.
With the US lending considerable assistance to the British and Stalin turning a blind eye, the tide turned against the ELAS. An trust was reached in January 1945, giving Britain total control over the peninsula.
A series of British-backed governments rose and fell in quick succession in the next months. Inept and corrupt, they failed to attend to the basic needs of a war-ravaged people. With popular discontent swelling, a wave of repression against leftists ensued.
Thousands of communists, socialists and even moderate trade unionists and liberals were arrested, tortured and killed. In 1946, the EAM, numbering at least 1 million people, once again began fighting the British and their collaborators.
Recognising they had bitten off more than they could chew, the British handed the occupation over to the US.
Two facts about the situation were well-known to Washington planners: First, the Greek left was a grassroots movement not controlled by the USSR and second, the military government in power was irredeemably corrupt.
Despite this, then-US president Harry Truman depicted the struggle in Greece as one of “democracy” versus totalitarianism. He gave hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid to the Greek right in the name of fighting communist aggression.
US intervention in Greece inspired the so-called Truman Doctrine. This was a blueprint for meddling on behalf of US strategic and commercial interests anywhere in the world.
What the struggle to “support free peoples” translated into in Greece was the complete militarisation of the country and a brutal counter-insurgency campaign that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
At the behest of the CIA, Greek death squads consisting of many ex-Nazi collaborators carried out a counter-insurgency terror campaign against communities considered sympathetic to EAM.
In 1949, the civil war ended with a victory for the US-backed neo-fascist forces. The left was temporarily smashed.
Throughout the 1950s, US control over Greek internal affairs was so absolute that the country functioned as a Washington colony. In 1953, CIA agents established the Greece’s Central Intelligence Service (KYP) to monitor and purge would-be dissidents.
For the next 11 years, the salaries of the KYP torturers were paid directly from CIA coffers. Liberal reformer Georges Papandreou put a stop to this in 1964 when he came to power on a wave of popular revulsion against autocratic rule.
His reforming government lasted three years until the CIA orchestrated a coup to restore the fascists to power.
Under the so-called Reign of the Colonels, the pretence of democracy was dropped altogether as the Greek people were given the shock treatment of a military dictatorship. Martial law was combined with censorship, arrests, torture, and killings. About 8000 people were killed in the regime’s first month.
Washington backed the brutal junta headed by Colonel George Papadopoulos. Then-president Richard Nixon’s administration officially recognised it in 1970. Greece remained a NATO member — and hosted the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet and spent billions purchasing US military hardware.
Democracy officially returned to Greece in 1974 after a popular uprising led by students at the Athens Polytechnic, but the legacy of authoritarian rule proved hard to overcome.
Under the CIA’s close supervision, a client elite of oligarchs had grown immensely wealthy at the expense of the rest of the Greek people. This elite would do everything it could to maintain and extend its privileges in the years that followed.
The scandal-ridden Greek democracy in the 1980s and ’90s bore the hallmarks of the inefficiency and corruption bred by decades of foreign overlordship.
Greece’s surrender to the imperatives of neoliberalism when it joined the eurozone in 2001 proved as harmful to the Greek people as earlier suspensions of independent development.
The nominally socialist party PASOK proved as complicit in this monumental act of fraud as any of the conservative parties.
In the face of an economic crisis whose consequences bring to mind the popular suffering in the Great Depression, the political consensus between traditionally social democratic PASOK and the right-wing New Democracy has collapsed.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the inspiring rise of SYRIZA will lead to progressive change or share the fate of so many other outbreaks of popular democratic struggles in Greek history.
Berlin is openly hostile, with German government ministers engaging in an invective against the Greek people that carries with it a distinctly unpleasant reminder of the past.
The US, while adopting a cagier rhetorical stance toward the new government, is sending clear market signals that it is displeased with Greek developments. At every step, SYRIZA is being harried by the markets and the international corporate media.
As far as the rulers of the world are concerned, a country like Greece must not be allowed to break away from the neoliberal system, lest it encourage others to do so.
Having stifled independent development in Greece since the end of World War II, it is unlikely the Washington-led capitalist world will wait long before trying new forms of intervention.
One thing is clear, if the alternative offered by SYRIZA is to be viable, other European countries must follow suit. In isolation, the Greek left will struggle to hold out against the collective onslaught of US and European reaction.