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By Adamantios Th. Polyzoides
REECE neutral--why? Is not
Turkey fighting, and Bulgaria, too, and is not the warfare of
these two traditional enemies a sufficient inducement for the Hellenic people to join forces with those who battle to reduce German and Austrian power, Turkish barbarism, and Bulgarian greed, to a state in which they will no more be dangerous to mankind ? What does Greece expect at the close of the war, when, in case of Entente victory, she will find herself without friends, while, should Germany win, Turkey and Bulgaria will crush every hope of a greater Hellas?
These questions and many others are persistently asked by the friends of Greece, who cannot explain an attitude condemned from every side as treacherous, faithless, cowardly, ungrateful, and generally out of keeping with the best traditions of the Greek people.
Greece has vainly tried to defend her course to the world. She has been prevented from so doing hy a number of causes, chief of which is the denial of free speech and free intercourse with the outside world. In addition to that, Greece, besides giving explanations to the world at large, is forced to defend her actions even against a turbulent minority at home, which, notwithstand ing the general Greek desire for peace, has persistently labored for war while the inducements offered therefor are continually lessening.
This minority is known both in and out of Greece as the Venizelist Party; and this party is first, last, and always a one-man party, existing only by the activity and the strength of its leader, Eleutherios K. Venizelos. This leader, however, has been clever enough to tie up his followers to the fortunes of the Entente, thus monopolizing for himself and his party the sympathies and good will with which all Greece follows the struggle of Great Britain and France.
Between the average Greek, however, and the regular Venizelist this difference exists: the former does not push his affection for the Entente to the extent of going to war for it; and this attitude is due to fear that Greece, by entering the European war, would be destroyed, as Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro, and Rumania were destroyed. In other words, we of Greece love the Entente, but not to the extent of committing suicide, especially when it is apparent that our sacrifice would not in the least affect the fortunes of the European war.
The Venizelist Greek, on the other hand, is loud in his sympathies for the Entente, and, besides that, he wants rather to commit suicide at the side of Great Britain and France than emerge living and disgraced from the great struggle.
Error of the Venizelists Since the beginning of the war Venizelos has aligned himself with the Entente Powers and assumed the leadership of the so-called war party. He thought at that time and in his opinion he had a large majority of people agreeing with him—that the European war would end shortly in an overwhelming victory of the Entente, and insisted that Greece ought to enter the struggle and secure those advantages which would be denied her if she stood out of the fray; contrary to this view, all the Greek military factors, including King Constantine and the Hellenic General Staff, were convinced that the war would last longer than any politician imagined; that the bloody game was being played on too large a scale to allow small participants any chance of success. Events subsequently justified this latter view against the Venizelos idealism. One after the other, all the little nationalities entering the war were knocked out in a few rounds; Greece succeeded in preserving her life despite tremendous pressure
brought to bear by Venizelos and the tente could not give, as it was trying to Entente Governments, and it is on that secure Bulgarian intervention also at the account that she has had to suffer, in expense of Greece. addition to other indignities, an internal
Following the dissolution of the Greek revolution in Saloniki and a rigorous Chamber, an election was held on May blockade, which has continued since Dec.
31, (June 13,) 1915, in which Venizelos 1 of last year.
won 180 seats out of a total of 316. The And yet the sufferings of Greece are
Entente hailed that result as a victory the result of circumstances rather than
of the Greek war party; but Venizelos of her mistakes. Could a little country had avoided the issue in his campaign, like Greece do anything to affect the and the people, although expressing their final result of the European war? The
confidence in him, did not vote for war. question is one to be answered with a
The Treaty with Serbia smile by those who have an intimate knowledge of what the European con In the first days of October, 1915, the flict means. Yet the belligerent coali great Teuton drive against Serbia began, tions actually seem to have assumed that and almost simultaneously Bulgaria atthe side which had the assistance of tacked the Serbs from the rear; VeniGreece would be the victor in the gigan- zelos, working on the assumption that the tic conflict. Only under this assumption treaty with Serbia obliged Greece to atcan we justify the intensity of the activ- tack Bulgaria, ordered a general mobiliity of both the Entente and the Teuton zation of the Greek forces, a measure apallies in Athens, which activity is re- proved by the King, who wanted to foresponsible for all the troubles of Greece stall a possible attack from Bulgaria. in the last months.
King Constantine and the majority of the To go back over the history of the Greek people knew that the Serbian elapsed twelvemonth would be to repeat treaty was Balkan in its character, and those things which are known to almost was contracted at a time when the possievery reader of the daily press. The bility of a European conflict did not period may be recapitulated by saying enter the minds of at least the Greek that Greece was united in a policy of neu- delegates who signed it. trality up to March, 1915, when Venizelos Greece was willing to stand by Serbia came out as the champion of immediate had she been attacked by a Balkan State; participation in the Dardanelles cam-' but Serbia was attacked by Germany, paign. King Constantine and the Greek Austria, and Turkey, as well as Bulgaria; General Staff rejected his advice on and meantime she was assisted in her grounds of military inexpediency, and struggle by such powerful allies as Russubsequent events justified them. Veni- sia, Great Britain, France, and Italy. zelos resigned, but at the same time de Nevertheless, the Greek military comclared that should Greece enter the war mand had good reason to expect an irreat that time she was to secure important sistible Teuton avalanche in the Balkans; territorial concessions in Asia Minor; it knew beforehand that the Serbian camprovided, however, she offered Greek paign was doomed, and also knew that if Eastern Macedonia to Bulgaria.
Greece attacked the Central Empires a The Gounaris Ministry, assuming pow. small addition to the Teuton and Bulgar er after Venizelos resigned, offered to co- forces would crush her as surely and as operate with the Entente forces, but he effectively as they did Belgium and asked, as a sine qua non condition, a Serbia. written guarantee from the Entente to That King Constantine and the Greek the effect that Greek territorial integ- military chiefs were right in their calcurity on the Balkan Peninsula would be lations is shown from this simple fact: safeguarded against any covetous attack In October, 1915, Germany had not suffrom Bulgaria at the time when the fered the losses of the Verdun campaign, Greek troops would be fighting overseas which started in February, 1916; she had in Asia Minor. This guarantee the En- not suffered the losses of the Galician
campaign under General Brusiloff, which When one takes into account that in Destarted later in May of the same year, cember, 1915, the German and Bulgar and she had not suffered the losses inci- armies had cleared Serbia of the Serbian dental to the Anglo-French offensive on troops, one can easily infer the actual the Somme, which took place late in the extent of the alleged Greek belligerency Summer of last year. Now, the German on which the Venizelist program was losses in the Verdun, Galicia, and Somme based. campaigns must have been above one From October, 1915, to June, 1916, million men, if we take the lowest esti- Greece, although neutral and benevolent mate of both sides. Yet, notwithstanding to the Entente, suffered all the trials of these losses, Germany was able to crush a belligerent country. Rumania in three months. Does any one Venizelos just before his first resigimagine that had Greece entered the war nation in March, 1915. had offered the before Germany lost that million men, Entente the islands of Lemnos and Teneshe could have saved herself from de dos to be used as naval bases against the struction ?
Dardanelles; following the landing of the But when we speak of Greek destruc Anglo-French troops in Saloniki, which tion we also have to face this naïve was effected through an invitation by objection: Greece is an island kingdom, Venizelos, and in violation of Article 99 and Great Britain rules the seas. Un- of the Hellenic Constitution, General Sardoubtedly this is true to a certain extent; rail took over the Greek forts of Karabut Greece has two million Greek popu- bournou in Saloniki, and about the same lation in Asia Minor, and has another time a French fleet secured possession of three million Greeks in the lands which Corfu, where the broken and sick Serbian would have been invaded, not by the Ger- Army gathered to reorganize. Railway mans and Austrians, but by the Bulgars communication between Saloniki and and the Turks, who would have made a Eastern Macedonia was severed following short job of the extermination of Hellen- the blowing up of the great Demir Hissar ism in the peninsula and in Asia Minor. Bridge by the Allies, and the Dova Tepé The fate of the Armenians points clearly fort on the Bulgarian border passed unenough to what the Greeks in Asia Minor der allied control shortly afterward; then could expect at the hands of the Turk; naval bases were established by the Enand as for Bulgarian sympathy toward tente in the islands of Milo and Castelthe Greek, the less said the better.
lorizo, and the Teuton Consuls in SalonAll this goes to show that Greece was
iki, instead of being ordered away, were right when she followed the advice of her arrested by the French forces. SubseKing to stay out of the war, and to adopt
quently the allied control was extended to a program of “safety first."
the islands of Chios, Mitylene, Zante, Venizelos Evaded Issue
Cefallonia, Crete, and Thassos.
Under suspicion that Greece was sendVenizelos resigned a second time in the
ing food to Bulgaria, the whole country same year, when his advice for interven
was put under a rigid control as far as tion was rejected. And as no Govern
imports of foodstuffs were concerned, ment in Greece is constitutional without
and the people experienced the first taste a Parliamentary majority behind it, the
of a blockade when the wheat and coal King ordered a new election to be held on
ships from America to Piraeus began to Dec. 6-19, 1916, in order to have the peo
be detained for days and weeks in the ple decide for war or peace. Venizelos
allied ports of Gibraltar, Algiers, and in this instance not only dodged the issue Molto put squarely before him, but in addition stayed away from the polls with his
Surrender of Fort Rupel whole party, and gave proof of an un- In the first days of June, 1916, a timely weakness when he clamored that mixed German-Bulgarian force appeared the entire population was with him in a before the Greek fort of Rupel in Eastprogram of immediate entrance into war, ern Macedonia and demanded immediate
possession. Had Greece decided to at tack the invaders she would have proved, first, that her neutrality was one-sided, and in the second place she would have had to enter the war, not only against Bulgaria, but against the entire combination of the Teuton Powers. In the face of such a contingency Greece, wishing above all to remain neutral, turned over the fort and withdrew her troops.
The Allies, once more disappointed in their hopes to see Greece enter the war, immediately declared martial law all over Macedonia, placed an embargo on Greek shipping. and presented the ultimatum of June 21 with the following demands:
1. Immediate resignation of the Skouloudis Government, which, after Zaimis, took Venizelos's place following the latter's resignation in October, 1915.
2. Appointment of a new Government of a nonpolitical and nonpartisan character.
3. Immediate demobilization of the army.
4. Dissolution of the Chamber, and the holding of a general election, immediately following general demobilization.
5. Substitution of certain police officials suspected of anti-Entente leanings.
King Constantine forthwith complied with the demands of the Entente. Thus the Skouloudis Ministry resigned, Zaïmis again came to power, the army was demobilized in record time, and the police officials were succeeded by others who were acceptable to the Entente.
Greece was getting ready to hold the general election, in accordance with the last demand of the ultimatum, when Venizelos, apprehending disaster at the polls, induced the Entente to hold back its ultimate demand.
This happened because the Greek Army, when demobilized, became the strongest anti-Venizelist factor, and through the organization known as the Reservist League threatened to make any Venizelos victory in the election impossible.
In their eagerness to shift Greek attention to other matters, and with the assurance that Rumania and Italy were to declare war on Germany, the Allies started on their great Balkan offensive in the last days of August, 1916; in order to try once more to get Greece on their side the troops of General Sarrail left the en
tire East Macedonian frontier unprotected, and when the few Greek troops stationed there attacked the Bulgarian invader, and a number of sanguinary clashes ensued, it was affirmed positively in every Entente capital that Greece was getting in. In order to make Greek participation sure, the Entente dispatched a fleet to Piraeus, had the Teuton Ministers arrested, and took over the Greek fleet in order “ to protect it.”
The Venizelos Revolt Greece once more refused to enter the war of destruction. And it was thus that Venizelos, despairing of coming into power as a war leader, or as chief of the Parliamentary majority, left Athens, and after a short cruise in the Aegean, touching Crete and Mitylene, settled down at Saloniki and established his so-called “ Provisional Government.” His was assumed to be a patriotic movement directed against the Bulgar invader, and for that reason succeeded in having immediately the support of a large number of patriotic Greeks, eager to fight the Bulgar; when, however, these people assembled in Saloniki, they received the impression that the Provisional Government was nothing else than an organized plot of Venizelos to drive King Constantine out of Greece and become himself the dictator of the country. This accomplished, Venizelos thought, there would be no difficulty in having the entire Greek people thrown into the war on the side of the Entente.
Venizelos claimed that he had the Greek people with him, and that the moment he became master in Athens Greece would take the field against the Teutons. The Entente believed the Cretan politician, and gave him every assistance in order that he might succeed in his effort. The Ionian Bank was ordered to place at the disposal of the “ Provisional Government" an amount of funds approximating $5,000,000; a number of officers were assigned to train the Venizelist volunteers, and numerous emissaries to the Entente capitals and other cities were sent to preach the gospel of Venizelism against Constantine, the neutralist King. Venizelos counted on fifty thousand
Greeks leaving the United States to place forces to the Peloponnesus; in addition themselves in his army, and on substan- the demand for the handing over of the tial financial support from those who weapons was again repeated. Greece would not volunteer to serve with the complied with all the other desires of the troops.
Entente, but refused to hand over the In order to arm his troops Venizelos guns. Thereupon the Entente established suggested that the Entente force the a new blockade, which is continuing still. Athens Government to turn over its artil During well-nigh four months not a lery and ammunition to the revolu- single ship was allowed to take any food tionists; of course the arms would be to Greece; immense misery, starvation, used apparently against the Bulgar foe, sickness, and a diversity of epidemics and as Greece was not willing to fight, have ensued; in vain the Royal Governthe Entente ought to secure those guns ment protested against this inhuman and hand them to the Venizelos men.
treatment, which is costing scores of lives The Clash in Athens
daily. Every Greek steamer has sus
pended sailings, and Greece is completely The Entente with the usual eagerness acceded to the Venizelos demand, and
cut off from communication with the through Admiral Fournet, commanding
outside world. the allied fleet in Greek waters, demand Venizelos Movement a Failure ed peremptorily that the Hellenic Gov Venizelos at the same time is unable ernment hand over its arms to the allied to go ahead with his movement. After forces. The Royal Government, having having spent the $5,000,000 given him by information that the arms thus demanded the Entente he has scarcely succeeded in were to be used against the established
assembling in Saloniki more than 5,000 Hellenic régime, refused to comply with volunteers; he is today despised by the the Admiral's ultimatum, and when on majority of the Greek people; he is conDec. 1 an allied force landed in Athens sidered as the man who has split his to take possession of the arms by force, country in two at a time when Hellas the Greek troops in the capital offered a ought to present a united front. The most stubborn resistance, succeeded in Venizelos movement is a failure, and is isolating Admiral Fournet, and almost maintained simply because it has behind made him a prisoner. They finally drove it the prestige and the support of the the invader out, after inflicting and suf- Entente. Tomorrow, should the Entente fering serious losses in the encounter. abandon Saloniki, Venizelos would have
It then became apparent that the Veni. to flee for his life. zelist element in Athens had everything What profit, therefore, do the Allies ready for a revolution to overthrow the expect from a man and a party which Government and the King, and to estab- cannot count on the sympathy of the malish the rule of the “ Provisional Govern- jority of the Greek people ? ment” in the capital of Greece. The This blockade, this misery, this sufferVenizelists were well armed for this pur- ing, of the Greek nation were expected to pose, and counted chiefly on the support strengthen the Venizelist movement; but that the allied troops would afford them Greece starving and dying will not folin engaging the Greek troops. When Ad- low him. The Venizelos movement has miral du Fournet became aware that the
ceased to thrill the nation. The Venientire population of Athens was for the zelist emissaries in Europe and America King and against Venizelos, he immedi- may continue their efforts, but neither ately withdrew, and subsequently was a volunteer nor a dollar will be lured to punished by his Government.
Saloniki. It was following this “ treacherous Greece has ceased to be a factor in the assault” on the Entente troops by the European war. Venizelos has ceased to Greek Army that a new ultimatum was be the powerful leader who could wrest presented to Greece, asking reparation his country from the King of the Heland the transfer of the Greek military lenes. The Entente were deceived, and