Review of "The Struggle for Greece 1941-1949" by C.M. Woodhouse

This is a "must" book for anyone seriously interested in the events in Greece during and after WW-II. The author was part (and eventually the head) of the British mission with the Greek guerillas so he was an intimate observer of what was happening. I lived in Greece during these awful years and in spite of my young age (I was 15 at the end of the period described in the book) I have a lot of recollections (when people shoot at each other in the streets in your town you take an early interest in politics). I found the book quite impartial and comprehensive. (I am sure that parts of it will infuriate the right and other parts will infuriate the left.) The author correctly points out that the Greek civil war was primarily an internal affair and external influences (by the communist countries in favor of the left and the US and Britain in favor of the right) were not as big as each side claim about the other. His closing statement is that (to the Soviets) "The rank and file of the KKE, and in particular its leaders, were expendable. Without a trace of compunction, Stalin let them go to their doom." Elsewhere (p. 233) he points out (correctly in my opinion) that "The rebels failed because the mass of the Greek people was against them." The internal nature of the conflict (with outsiders providing material support but not manpower except in one brief phase) is a fact that was forgotten when the Greek civil war was used as a paradigm to justify the US participation in the war in Vietnam.

The book describes at length the inconsistent behavior of the communist leadership but it does not mention what, in my opinion, was the main reason for that behavior. During the German occupation many people joined the communist led resistance to fight the Germans. Many of them were also not happy with the Greek government that was in power before WW-II. The communist leadership mistaken thought that these people would also be in favor of a socialist state. As the communist leadership pressed harder more and more people turned against it. Therefore the large support they had during WW-II eventually evaporated. The true attitudes of the Greek people are described very well in the book "Eleni" by Nicholas Gage. Readers who are not familiar with modern Greek history may also find "Eleni" easier to read. Personally I believe the two books complement each other very well.