Lost causes

Lost causes

There is an American phenomenon, which I thought was unique to this country, called “The Lost Cause.” As everyone knows, there was a civil war in the United States between 1861 and 1865, when the Southern states declared their independence so they could continue upholding the institution of slavery.

This is not just my opinion, if one reads the pronouncements of important Southern leaders and state assemblies, ownership of African slaves was the main cause of secession. The rest of the story is well known: The North won, and slavery was abolished. But a few years after the end of the war, the South started building the myth of “The Lost Cause”; according to that myth the war was not about slavery but states’ rights and the Southern cause was a noble one. It is of course nonsense, as any historian worth their salt can tell you, but the myth took hold, colored future politics and led to some of the political and social problems that the US is facing today, and I am afraid will face in the future as well.

As it turns out, the above is not strictly an American phenomenon, Greece has its own “Lost Cause” as well. As everyone knows there was a civil war in Greece between 1944 and 1949. On the one side we had the flawed but legitimate Greek government. On the other side we had the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and its various organizations (EAM, ELAS, OPLA etc). If we are to believe what the communist side claims today, they were fighting the foreign powers (British and then Americans) and their domestic lackeys in order to liberate Greece.

But a closer look reveals that this communist view is in reality the Greek version of “The Lost Cause.” In 1944 KKE was fighting to install a Stalinist regime in our country. As we know from the history of the Soviet Stalinist regime, that meant severe limits on political and other freedoms, numerous arrests and the jailing of anyone who opposed the regime, as well as a large number of executions. This is not just my opinion; the Communist Party of Greece was a Stalinist party in 1944 and historians have revealed since then the full scope of Stalinist repression in the USSR and Eastern Europe.

Today, the resistance by the communists to the German occupation is rightly celebrated, but their true aims after the war have been obscured. The Greek “Lost Cause” has transformed a naked attempt to take over the state and execute thousands of political opponents into a heroic event.

Recently, on the occasion of the October 28 entrance of Greece in WWII, I saw in social media a plethora of postings conflating the war in Albania with the post-war communist attempt to “liberate” Greece. Just like the American “Lost Cause” has distorted history, with troubling consequences for the country’s future, its Greek counterpart is attempting to accomplish the same goal.

My above observations are not meant as a condemnation of today’s communists; I have many communist friends from my high school years and I believe that they, like myself, want what is best for Greece and its people. Our fellow Greek communists (just like the children of those who fought on the other side) don’t need to defend the sins of their fathers nor are they responsible for them; but they need to come clean, face reality, and denounce the Greek version of the “Lost Cause.”

* John Mazis is professor of history at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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