|From the triumph of Liberation to the tragedy of the Civil War. The December fighting
In the period immediately following Liberation (18 October 1944), the government of national unity was overwhelmed by serious opposition associated with the wide social and political turbulence all over the country. This was aggravated by the open and systematic intervention of the British, who were determined to resolve the matter according to their own political aspirations.
The government had to face the pressing economic problems that were threatening the population with famine and had turned Greek citizens into the victims of blackmarketeers. At the same time the matter of exemplary punishment of collaborators was raised, and as was the issue of disarming guerilla groups. Already harsh fighting was taking place between ELAS guerillas and Security Batallions in the countryside as were reprisals for the actions of collaborators during the Occupation which, due to the charged atmosphere and the raised passions, became extreme.
The point of contention that finally divided the government and precipitated the civil war was the issue of disarming the guerillas.
The proposition for general disarmament - from which the Third Greek Mountain
Brigade and "Ieros Lohos", units formed after the suppression
of the riot of the Middle East, were exempt - caused reactions. The
final rejection of the alternative proposition for unification of
the forces of ELAS, comprising the forces of the Mountain Brigade,
EDES and the "Ieros Lohos", led to the resignation of EAM
ministers on 2 December 1944.
On 3 December, EAM proceeded to protest at Syntagma Square. The unprecedentedly huge demonstration ended in clashes between civilians and the police with many dead and injured. The next day a general strike was organized. Athens was turned into a battlefield between units of ELAS and government forces including a number of men from the Security Batallions as well as elements of the gendarmerie, backed at the same time by British motorized forces. The December fighting lasted a month and spread to other regions of Greece such as Epirus and Macedonia. The centre of the fighting though was Athens which in a short period suffered many disasters and was laid waste by bombardments and street-fighting. The outcome was finally decided by the huge supremacy in men and war equipment of the British,
who were reinforced with two whole divisions, one brigade and several batallions.
Great Britain did not hesitate to use war planes, ships and tanks,
following in Greece - an ally in the struggle against the Axis - the
same tactics used to establish its authority in the colonies. Early
on, with the co-operation of the Greek police, the English picked
a number of captives estimated at 7,540 and transferred them to the
Middle East. In its turn, on withdrawing from Athens ELAS kept a number
of prisoners estimated at 15,000. Putting up a tough but doomed resistance,
the forces of ELAS were forced to evacuate Piraeus and Athens on 6
January . On 11 January 1945, following an agreement between EAM and
the English general Scobie, the fighting ceased.
Nevertheless, the ensuing period was marked by unpleasant squabbling that gradually led to more dramatic developments. Two political worlds would clash for power and leadership of the country in the post-war period.