Saturday, July 02, 2005

In Defence of Macedonian Self-Determination 1992-95

In Defence of Macedonian Self-Determination 1992-95

Macedonia: focus for a new Balkan war?

In 1912, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia attacked the Turkish Ottoman Empire to carve up its last possession in Europe, Macedonia. The victors immediately fell out, and Greece, Serbia, Romania and Turkey went to war against Bulgaria. In 1922, the Balkan wars came close to being repeated, as Greece put its military forces on the Macedonian and Albanian borders on alert, the Turkish military requested detailed military maps of neighbouring Greek islands, 100,000 Serbian troops were massed on the Bulgarian and Macedonian borders, and Bulgaria called a general mobilisation. Seventy years later, there are again threats of war centred on Macedonia. MIKE KARADJIS examines the issues.

The Macedonians are a Slavic people with a language distinct from both Bulgarian and Serbian. Yet the Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian ruling cliques maintain the Orwellian myth that the Macedonian people and language “don't exist”.
Some progress was made in 1945, when the Macedonian republic became one of the constituents of the new Yugoslav federation. The great majority live in this republic; Macedonians are a minority in the Macedonian geographical region of Greece, and are largely assimilated in Bulgarian Macedonia.
However, the drive by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to create a Greater Serbia has again stirred the pot. Milosevic views the Macedonians as “south Serbs” and the region as “southern Serbia”.
The overwhelming vote for an independent Macedonia in a referendum late last year also aroused the furious opposition of Greece and, initially, Bulgaria -- both afraid of the effects on their own Macedonian minorities.
Macedonia sought allies against this Greek-Serbian-Bulgarian axis, and an opposing Macedonian-Albanian-Turkish axis came into being.
Both Greece and Bulgaria have Turko-Muslim minorities, whose rights are championed by the Turkish regime (not renowned as a champion of national rights of the Kurds, Armenians and Greeks in its own state). Likewise, Greece champions the rights of the Greek minority in southern Albania, and Albania the rights of the Albanian majority in Kosovo province, occupied by the Serbian regime.
However, these alliances have come unstuck due to a Bulgarian-Macedonian rapprochement and an Albanian-Macedonian split.
The Bulgarian regime has made an about-face and moved in as Macedonia's protector; Bulgaria and Turkey were the first governments to recognise Macedonia as independent. However, Bulgarian “protection” is a double-edged sword, for Bulgaria views Macedonians as nothing other than Bulgarians! “Protection” therefore is part of a Greater Bulgaria strategy.
On the other hand, Macedonia has come under attack from its Albanian the population. Representatives of the minority appealed to the European Community not to recognise Macedonia, claiming national oppression and exclusion from the Macedonian constitution. The regime declared illegal a referendum on Albanian autonomy.
Macedonian leader Vasili Toukourkofski claimed that the “legal arrangements for the protection of the Albanian, Sindi and Rom minorities meet all recent European credentials ... the Macedonian minorities in Greece and Bulgaria can't say the same.” Further, he stated that Macedonia, “unlike Slovenia and Croatia, will avoid talk of `the state of the Macedonians' and will instead talk of `the republic of the citizens of Macedonia'”.
Unfortunately, the ambitions of the Albanian regime seem to go beyond protection of the minority. Albanian sources recently released a survey which alleged that the 2 million people in the Macedonian republic consisted of Albanians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Muslims, Gipsies, Vlachs, Pomaks ... anyone but Macedonians! Such nonsense suggests that Albania wouldn't mind taking part in a Greek-Serbian dismemberment of Macedonia.
Serbian chief Milosevic has stated quite clearly that if Macedonia declares independence, “the Serbian and Greek borders will meet”. Leaders of Macedonia's Serbian minority warned the EC that recognition of Macedonia would lead to civil war.
The Albanian “discovery” of 250,000 Greeks in the Macedonian republic seems a gift to Greece, to keep it out of southern Albania. No-one in Greece, not even among the most chauvinist circles, had ever noticed them before; while chauvinist Greek circles have advocated the seizure of southern Albania, because of its Greek minority, their claims to a chunk of the Macedonian republic relied exclusively on alleged “historical” rights. The Greek alliance with Serbia was largely designed to get Milosevic to do the dirty work on this.
Now, however, a variety of Greek political, military and media bodies have “independently” confirmed the Albanian claim about these imaginary Greeks. A good example of the scientific method used was the discovery of 239,000 Greeks by the Army General Staff on the basis of the answer “Greece” to the question “With which outside country would you like to see stronger ties?” in a survey in Macedonia!
Lest one think only the loony far right has military adventures in mind, the respectable liberal daily Kathimerini has run a number of articles by its regular journalists claiming, among other things, that Greece and Serbia should “dismember” the Macedonian republic. An official, unsigned, article stated that Greece should use state intervention to politically organise the imaginary Greek minority in Macedonia, and that this should be a primary aim of foreign policy.
All this from a country that denies the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece. The real issue is the oppression of this minority by the Greek state.
Macedonians in Greece do not advocate separation. The issue is elementary human rights. The 50,000 Macedonians are denied all rights to use their language in print, on radio or TV, to have their other cultural events, even to speak the language loud enough to be heard. No legal documents are recognised in the Yugoslav language, such as degrees by Greek citizens from the minority who have studied in the Macedonian republic. 30,000 Macedonian leftists, expelled at the end of the civil war in 1949, have never been allowed to return, or even to visit their relatives, though all other Greek leftists have.
On December 16, the EC agreed to a Greek demand that Macedonia not be recognised unless it changed its name, denied the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece and renounced any territorial claims to Greece. Macedonia promptly inserted into its constitution that it had no territorial claims on any other state and that it would not interfere in the internal affairs of other states. On January 15, this was accepted by the EC, but rejected by Greece as not good enough.
Why all the fuss? Macedonia is a country of only 2 million people without an army, relying on Greece for access to the sea. Why deny elementary democratic rights to a minority of 50,000 among a Greek Macedonian population of around 1.5 million? Could it be that the maintenance of absurd chauvinist myths is necessary to justify some military adventure to divert people from their disastrous economic plight?
Greece is the strongest industrial power in the Balkans and the only EC member. The collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the region has opened the way for further penetration. Its chief capitalist rival is Turkey.
But both Greek and Turkish ambitions have come up against the radical nationalism which has become a key ideological prop of all the Balkan regimes trying to restore capitalism following the collapse of Stalinism.
National minorities exist in every state in the region, and nowhere are their rights respected. At the same time, every regime not only supports the rights of related minorities in other states, but all are also quite ambiguous about the status of the borders, all coveting chunks of territory from each other. However, this has no basis; nowhere do the minorities form a solid geographical bloc or a majority of the population.
Hence the two principles that must hold are respect for the rights of the minorities in every country, and no military adventures to change borders. This includes the borders of the beleaguered Macedonian republic.

Macedonians’ long history of struggle
By Mike Karadjis

Several weeks ago, the Greek community held 50,000-strong rallies in Sydney and Melbourne to oppose the independence of the Macedonian republic -- that is, the formerly Yugoslav part of Macedonia. The success of these rallies was largely due to the campaign which said, falsely, that Macedonia has territorial claims on the Greek province of Macedonia.
But while this was just a lie, the Greek government's campaign has a more
subtle side. It has tried to convince the world that the modern Macedonians are simply a creation of the Yugoslav Communist regime in 1945 in order to make claims on Greek territory; that the Slavic population of Yugoslav and Bulgarian Macedonia are not a separate nation from Bulgarians or Serbs; that even if they are, they never called themselves “Macedonian” before 1945; and that they “don't exist” in the Greek part of Macedonia.
Certainly, the ancient Macedonians were Greek in language and culture. But from the seventh century AD, Slavic people entered the region, blending in with the local Greek, Latin and Illyrian peoples. Gradually, they became differentiated into a number of distinct cultures. Those in the Macedonian and Bulgarian regions were close in language, with different cultural influences. Their languages were clearly distinct by the 11th century. The first written Slavic language, Old Church Slavonic, was based on a Macedonian dialect.
Greeks also continued to live in Macedonia. They did not call themselves Macedonian, but, like all Greeks in medieval times, “Romaioi” and, after 1821, Hellenes.
In the 1880s, the Macedonian people rose four times against the Ottoman empire. In 1893, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO) was set up. Greek historians paint this as a Bulgarian front, but in reality it was divided between a pro-Bulgarian wing and the leading wing, which advocated an independent Macedonia as part of a Balkan federation. The IMRO had a socialist orientation.
A mass uprising in 1903 led to a brief Macedonian republic, bloodily suppressed by the Ottomans. Following this, Greek and Bulgarian nationalist forces got the upper hand in Macedonia. This led to the joint Greek-Bulgarian-Serbian attack on the Ottoman empire in 1912, dividing Macedonia between them.
This attack was opposed by socialists from Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey at a Balkan conference in 1910, who called for an independent Macedonia in a Balkan federation.
Who lived in this region? An Ottoman census in 1906 for all Macedonia showed 1,150,000 Muslims, 627,000 Bulgarian Orthodox and 623,000 Greek Orthodox. Even if all Greek Orthodox were Greek, which is unlikely, clearly they were a minority. Even in the part taken by Greece, Greek Orthodox were only 43% of the population according to a 1912 census. On the other hand, Muslims were not just Turks; a large percentage were Muslim Slavs.
In the 1920s, Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria carried out a population exchange of some 3 million people. Muslims were sent to Turkey, Greek Christians to Greece, Slavic Christians to Bulgaria. Hence Greeks became a majority in Greek Macedonia.
However, 200,000 Slav Macedonians refused to leave Greece, largely because they did not consider themselves Bulgarian. The official Greek census of 1928 found 82,000 “Slavophones” in Greek Macedonia.
Ironically, documentation of the differences between these people and other Slavs and the fact that they called themselves Macedonian comes largely from Greek sources; “Slav-Macedonians” was a term invented by the Greek Foreign Affairs Department to describe people who called themselves Macedonians (Evangelos Kofos, Nationalism and Communism in Macedonia).
In 1936, the fascist dictatorship of Metaxas took power in Greece. The Macedonians' language was banned with heavy penalties, while mass exile of sections of the population took place. The Yugoslav and Bulgarian regimes followed the same policy, with thousands jailed and exiled, and attempts at Serbian colonisation of the region.
In Yugoslavia this resulted in daily demonstrations by Macedonians throughout 1939 and 1940. In Bulgaria, a guerilla struggle through the 1920s and 1930s was brutally put down.
In the 1940s in Greece, the mass of Macedonians joined the left-led resistance to Nazi occupation. The resistance organisations in Florina and Edessa were largely Macedonian. In 1944, the Slav-Macedonian People's Liberation Front (SNOF) was set up as their arm of EAM, the broader resistance front. There was a Macedonian leader, Keramitzev, in the underground government. When the Stalinist leadership of EAM surrendered Greece to the right in 1945, the new government's “white terror” organised massacres of Macedonians, 7000 of whom fled to Yugoslavia.
In Yugoslavia, Macedonians fought on the side of the Communist-led resistance under the Macedonian General Tembo. They formed their own section of the resistance before the Yugoslav CP officially recognised them.
In April 1942 Macedonian partisans organised an uprising against the Bulgarian occupation army in Yugoslav Macedonia, which was bloodily suppressed. The unarmed Macedonian population then poured into the streets to confront the Bulgarian forces, and were likewise drowned in blood.
Following the end of the Nazi occupation in Greece, the successor of SNOF, the National Liberation Front (NOF), was set up with the aim of “defending the national rights of the Macedonian people within a democratic Greece”. From 1946 to 1949 it fought on the side of the Communist Party against both the white terror regime of the Greek right and Bulgarian nationalist groups in the region. By 1949, Macedonians made up 14,000 of the 40,000 troops of this CP-led struggle.
This led to mass exile: 35,000 Macedonians fled Greece in 1949. But unlike Greek leftist refugees who have since returned, the Macedonians are barred from returning or even visiting relatives.
Greeks should recognise that the Macedonians have paid a heavy price fighting for freedom from Turkish, Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian oppression. The chauvinist policy towards Macedonia has been the historical property of the Greek right.
While the left has had an inconsistent policy, it has generally been associated with the Macedonian struggle. Hence this is not an “issue concerning all Greeks”, as the Greek right would have us believe. Leftists shamefacedly taking part in the current chauvinist hysteria are reinforcing the equally reactionary “national consensus”.

Greek parties stir up chauvinism
By Mike Karadjis

Four women have been arrested in Athens for handing out leaflets supporting self-determination for the Macedonian people and opposing the chauvinist hysteria which has gripped Greece in recent months.
The four were handing out a leaflet which stated, “We are not endangered by `Skopia' [the Greek government's term for the Macedonian republic], but by the hypernationalism which is likely to drag the country to war”.
It concluded: “The neighbouring peoples are not our enemies. Down with nationalism and war.” It claimed that the government and political parties are using the cover of the name “Macedonia” to intensify aggressive and racist policies against the neighbouring people.
The authorities were further annoyed that in the leaflet the name yugoslav (without a capital) Macedonia was used instead of the compulsory Greek newspeak, “Skopia”.
Earlier this year, four people were sentenced to six months in prison for putting up posters calling for the recognition of “Slavic Macedonia”.
Likewise, when Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga mentioned a “Slavophone” minority in parliament, without even using the word Macedonian, she created a virtual uprising from chauvinist MPs across the political spectrum and a vicious media assault.
For months now, editorials and articles in daily newspapers from the right, “left” and centre have openly advocated the dismemberment of Macedonia.
For example, a recent article in the left-liberal paper Avghi claimed that Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria should divide Macedonia and then Greece should give its share to Albania in exchange for southern Albania, where there is a big Greek minority.
The extent to which this chauvinism cements “consensus” was recently shown when a leader of the Left Coalition was interviewed on the Macedonian issue in the openly fascist newspaper Eleftheri Ora.
This has been reflected in the Greek-Australian press. An editorial in the April 6 issue of the right-wing Greek Herald asks whether, in the event of EEC recognition of Macedonia with any name that includes the word “Macedonia”, Greeks “will take up arms and march on Skopia”.
There is strong pressure from the EEC for Macedonia to be recognised as “Slavic Macedonia”, which pleases neither Greece nor Macedonia. In the event of Macedonian compromise on this, the Greek government of the right-wing New Democracy appears deeply divided.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis appears likely to accept a compromise to prevent Greek isolation from western allies. But the ambitious foreign is Samaras, is opposed to any compromise which includes the name Macedonia. The main opposition Social Democratic Pasok party is also playing the chauvinist card against Mitsotakis.

Jailed for handing out a leaflet
By Michael Karadjis

On May 6, a court in Greece, which regards itself as “the birthplace of democracy”, sentenced four people to 19 months in prison for handing out a leaflet. Another six people are already spending six months in jail for putting up posters.
The leaflet was distributed by the Antiwar-Antinationalistic Campaign, which is composed of a broad spectrum of the revolutionary left, anti-authoritarians, anarchists, student caucuses, sections of the ecologists and others. This group aims to counter the nationalistic and war hysteria that has built up over the last six months in relation to former Yugoslav Macedonia, which has now declared independence.
The campaign has carried out a number of activities, including a demonstration of about 1000 people on April 16.
“... a dirty game is being played behind our backs, which will have painful consequences on our lives, even if it does not end in a war”, the leaflet said.
It accused the powers that be of fostering nationalist hysteria “in order to make us forget the economic misery, unemployment, shrinking of income, the downgrading of the quality of our lives, the oppression of soldiers ...
“They want us to passively accept the murders of Albanian fugitives on the borders by the special army-police bodies they have formed. They want us to be indignant when somebody makes nationalistic statements in Skopje [the Macedonian capital], but to applaud when the same or even worse statements are heard in Athens or Salonica ...
“It is shameful for us to accept without protest the continued economic blockade of the neighbouring country, as well as the various proposals for military invasion of it ...
“We want to live in peace with all the Balkan peoples. And we are threatened by imperialist interventions, nationalistic governments and nazi-style preachings about race purity and extermination of minorities!
“... There are Turks, Pomaks, Slavomacedonians and Gypsies living also in Greece. We feel for these minorities living in our country exactly the same as for the rest of the Greek citizens. We do not want to cause them to disappear or to integrate them. On the contrary, we fight for them to enjoy as many freedoms and opportunities as we all enjoy, and we defend their particular language, religious and cultural rights. Doesn't the Greek government demand the same rights for Greek minorities living in other countries?”
The leaflet concludes: “Is there anyone who can dispute that in any unjust war our rulers may lead us into, the certain losers will be the working people, the youth and the peoples who will be dragged into them?”

Balkan war may spread to south
By Michael Karadjis

The Republic of Macedonia could be the next target in Serbian warlord Slobodan Milosevic's campaign against his neighbours.
On June 26, the European Community caved in to Greek demands and decided to refuse recognition of the republic unless it adopts a new name that does not include “Macedonia” in it.
The US immediately stated its agreement with this resolution, which has opened up Macedonia to mortal danger.
Having conquered one-third of Croatia and two-thirds of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which were recognised by the EC and the US, Milosevic is not likely to feel restrained about turning his guns southwards against unrecognised Kosovo and Macedonia.
Moreover, the July 5 declaration of a Croatian state in the third of Bosnia-Hercegovina not already occupied by Serbia could indicate plans to divide the Balkans among the stronger states. In order to find a balance between the competing nationalist ruling groups which have taken over since the collapse of Stalinism, and also between them and the Greek and Turkish ruling classes, the weaker peoples will be sacrificed.
These weaker peoples include the Bosnian Muslims, the Macedonians and the Albanians of Kosovo, who face a particularly brutal and racist occupation by the Milosevic regime.
In this context, the EC's refusal to recognise Macedonia is an open encouragement to the appetites of this small state of 2 million people.
Serbia's aggression has been stepped up with the siege of the town of Gorazde, which is 70% Muslim. Its 40,000 residents and 30,000 refugees have been without drinking water and electricity for months.
The Serbian militia -- made up of monarcho-fascist Chetniks and the remains of the Yugoslav army -- aim to drive the Muslim majority from the town. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Croats have already been driven out of the Serbian-controlled parts of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina in a gigantic “ethnic cleansing” operation.
The declaration of a Croatian state in Bosnia by the Croatian militia leader, Mate Baban, was supported by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. Strong evidence suggests this was a result of a secret deal between Tudjman and Milosevic for the dismemberment of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
This leaves the Bosnian Muslims, half the population and the absolute majority in 52 out of the 96 cantons in the republic, completely under foreign domination. “Does this mean the end of us as a people?”, asked
Bosnian leaders called the Croatian declaration a stab in the back to a planned joint offensive against the Serbian besiegers of Sarajevo.
However, despite some reports of fraternisation between Serbian and Croatian militias, in much of the republic Croats have continued to fight alongside their Muslim allies. Further, the Tudjman regime is still under pressure from the enormous refugee population to take back Croatian territories conquered by Serbia.
There are also indications that the Chetnik militia are having trouble keeping control over the hostage Serbian population. Some recent gains against Serbian-occupied territories showed the local Serbs had little interest in siding with the murderous rabble in control.
Even more dramatic have been several demonstrations of Serbs in the occupied regions of Croatia demanding the return of the expelled Croatian population! This is not so surprising given that millions of Yugoslavs are in mixed families. The “Greater Serbia” drive has forced the break-up of enormous numbers of families.
The actions of the Serbian forces, particularly the siege of 300,000 people in Sarajevo, who have been trapped without food and medical supplies for months, have opened the region to western military intervention.
The UN has declared sanctions against Serbia, and 16 NATO warships have moved into the Adriatic to police them. The US warned that it was prepared to use air power to cover operations aimed at bringing relief aid to Sarajevo.
While any relief to the starving population is to be welcomed, in the longer term the Serbian regime and its actions in no way threaten western interests. On the contrary, apart from the initial relief effort, the most likely role of any UN force will be to enforce the new borders carved out by the stronger states.
At the very most, the west may have decided that Milosevic and his “Socialist” party are now something of an embarrassment, and sanctions may aim at helping the right-wing opposition to topple his government.
This opposition, consisting of the Orthodox Church and the Serb-medievalist Draskovic, have recently hijacked the leadership of the peace movement. However, they are extreme partisans of “Greater Serbia” and until late last year enthusiastic supporters of the war. Draskovic has openly declared Croats to be “inferior” since the Serbs “brought them language”, and the Macedonians to be nothing but a communist plot.
Even the moderate Democratic Party has declared that “if the Albanians raise the political demand for independence, all necessary means must be employed against them”. All deputies in the Serbian parliament sures against the Albanians.
Clearly, these forces see the peace movement as a road to power. The peace movement has declined markedly since they took it over. These forces would bring “peace” once Milosevic has finished the dirty work. They do not even hint at withdrawing from the occupied territories.
Meanwhile, in Greece, state repression against the antiwar movement continues. Five Greek socialists, members of the Socialist Revolution Organisation, have been charged for producing a booklet which opposes the Greek's government's line on Macedonia and supports the Macedonians' right to self-determination. The three charges carry a five-year prison sentence.
Already 200 trade unionists have signed a declaration demanding that the charges be dropped, as have the Greek Communist Party and all the far left forces.
This latest repressive move follows the six months prison sentence given to six people in January for putting up posters calling for recognition of “Slav Macedonia”, and the 19 months sentence given to four others in April for handing out an antiwar leaflet which had been signed by 169 people, including several MPs and many prominent unionists, artists, writers and academics.

Repression against Macedonians in Greece
By Mike Karadjis

While the Greek government insists that there are no (Slav) Macedonians in Greece and therefore they cannot be oppressed, when actual people put holes in this convenient theory by claiming to exist, the government's response is oppression.
Amnesty International has written to the Greek government expressing its concern about the alleged violent treatment of Archimandrite Nikodimos Tsarknias upon his return to Greece after holding an Easter mass at a Macedonian church in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia.
Archimandrite Tsarknias, a Greek citizen of the Macedonian ethnic minority, was reportedly beaten by Greek border guards on May 4 when returning to Greece. His sister, who had come to meet him, was also reportedly attacked. Following further interrogation in Florina, he collapsed and was hospitalised.
He was later released without charges being laid. Amnesty International is therefore concerned that the only reason for his mistreatment was his outspoken defence of Macedonian national rights in Greece. Last year he faced a church court for using the Macedonian language in his church and was defrocked.
Amnesty reports that another ethnic Macedonian, Christos Sideropoulos, is facing trial on May 25 charged with “spreading false information which may cause disruption of the international relations of Greece”. This charge relates to a statement he made at an international human rights conference in Copenhagen in 1990, where he claimed to belong to the “Slav-Macedonian” minority in Greece whose rights were violated.
Following this conference, Sideropoulos faced considerable harassment, including having his job transferred to the other end of Greece in order to encourage him to quit.
Amnesty states that, if imprisoned, “he will be a prisoner of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released”. The International Helsinki Human Rights Federation has demanded that Greece withdraw the accusations against Sideropoulos.
Sideropoulos and another Macedonian, Anastasios Boulis, were sentenced last year to five months in prison on another charge, that of claiming to “feel Macedonian” and stating that their people were oppressed. Following an appeal, their sentences have been stayed.
Sissy Vovon, from the Left Feminists Forum in Greece, was recently in Skopje as a guest of the Civilian Forum for Dialogue between Greece and Macedonia. Over Macedonian radio, Vovou said that the Anti-Nationalist Anti-War Campaign in Greece, of which she is a leading member, has made attempts to organise demonstrations in Salonika, demanding an embargo on nationalism rather than on Macedonia.

Greek CP, leftists oppose chauvinist campaign
By Michael Karadjis

The impression that Greeks are unanimously behind the Greek government in its campaign against Macedonia has been widely fostered in Australia, by both the Greek media and the establishment media. The reality is vastly different.
For a start, the Greek Communist Party (KKE), which has traditionally been the third party in parliament, voted against the embargo that the Greek government recently imposed on Macedonia. This embargo, essentially an act of war, stops virtually everything from reaching landlocked Macedonia through the Greek port of Salonika.
Greece imposed the blockade following recognition of the new republic by the US and European countries under the name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) earlier this year. The ruling parties in Greece organised a new round of nationalistic mass rallies against the republic being recognised, culminating in up to a million people demonstrating in Salonika. However, the size of these rallies was partly due to all schools and many workplaces being closed and students and workers, along with everyone else, getting free transport from all over northern Greece to attend.
The KKE opposed these rallies, as it has other such rallies, because of their chauvinist character. It also protested against the forced closing of schools. The other major left current, the Coalition of the Left and Progress (CLP), which two years ago was in the thick of the chauvinist hysteria, has since changed its position and opposed the latest rallies.
Slogans at the rallies included “Macedonia, 4000 years Greek” (there was no such thing as a Greek 4000 years ago) and even “To arms! To arms! Let's take Skopje!”
Similar rallies have been held in Australia by sections of the Greek community. The odd thing about all these rallies is that they protest against recognition of the new state under the ridiculous name “FYROM”, even though Greece supported the entry of the republic into the UN last year with that name.
KKE leader Aleka Papariga has even broken the ultimate taboo by referring to the minority population in Greek Macedonia. While not using the term “Macedonian” but simply referring to the rights of the “Slavophones”, she nevertheless created a chauvinist uproar in parliament, followed by a vicious media assault and attempted attacks by right-wing thugs, and she was declared “persona non grata” in various cities.
The clearest opposition to the government's line on Macedonia has come from the far left and many prominent individuals. They have organised rallies of 10-15,000 people.
Last year, 358 academics, artists, unionists and others put their names to a petition which stated, “Only Greek Macedonia is Greek” -- counterposed to the official slogan “There is only one Macedonia and it has always been Greek.” Another 169 prominent people put their names to a statement headed “The neighbouring peoples are not our enemies”, which called for the recognition of Macedonia and democratic rights for the minority in northern Greece.
For handing out this leaflet, four people were sentenced to 19 months in prison. There are now around 20 people facing prison sentences for expressing oppositional views on this issue in this “land of democracy”.
Last year, 17-year-old Michael Papadakis was sentenced to a year in prison for handing out a leaflet calling Alexander the Great a war criminal and stating that there are no races, since everyone is of mixed ancestry. Three Macedonians face prison sentences for crimes such as saying that they “feel Macedonian” and suggesting that their people are oppressed.
Even sections of the right have expressed discomfort with where the chauvinist tidal wave is taking Greece. Former Prime Minister Mitsotakis, who is on record when PM as saying that Greeks will “get used to” the name Macedonia, has recently raised the possibility of breaking with his right-wing New Democracy party, over its support for the blockade imposed by the current PASOK government.
This position may reflect a more sober “European” view than the isolationism of the ex-socialist PASOK and its ultraright allies in the Political Spring party. Greece's blockade has been condemned by the European Union, and the European Commission has referred Greece to the European Court of Justice.
Greece's allies have shown little interest in Macedonian self-determination, taking two years to recognise the republic, and then under the name FYROM with various conditions attached. However, Greece's more extreme measures, such as the blockade, threaten economic collapse in Macedonia, possibly followed by a flare-up between the regime and the large Albanian minority.
This could invite intervention by the surrounding states and a wider Balkan war, bringing in NATO allies Greece and Turkey on opposing sides and dramatically increasing the flow of refugees to western Europe. It is this scenario that Greece's Western allies want to avoid.

Greek state's `non-existent' minority
NIKOS SAKELARIOS is a member of the "Rainbow" organisation and the Macedonian Movement for Balkan Prosperity in northern Greece, representing the officially "non-existent" ethnic Macedonian minority. He was interviewed by MICHAEL KARADJIS.

Question: How many of you "don't exist" in Greek Macedonia?
That's very hard to say. On the basis of the 7000 votes that Rainbow received in the last elections, we could say at least 10,000 conscious Macedonians, but we received these votes despite total media blackout and attempts to obstruct our campaign.
Broadly speaking, we can say that apart from this conscious minority, there is a sector that has long ago been completely Hellenised, and a large group in the middle who still speak Macedonian, have a part-Macedonian and part-Greek identity, and try to conform in order to keep their jobs, avoid harassment by police and other civilians, and to not jeopardise the chances of their overseas relatives returning. We believe that in conditions of freedom, many in this middle group would embrace Macedonian ethnicity.
Question: What are Rainbow's principal aims?
We struggle for the democratic rights of the Macedonian minority. Above all this means the right of our children to learn their language at school, which is essential to our survival. Also, in practice, we cannot use our language in print, as no printer will print it, due to fear, and we are banned from radio, even our songs.
One of the main issues is that of Macedonian refugees who fled after World War II. While Greek leftists have returned and reclaimed properties, or received compensation, our people are banned by legislation from doing the same, or even visiting.
This means that thousands of Macedonians in other countries have to keep their heads down and declare themselves Greek just in order to be allowed to visit relatives, let alone return and reclaim property. Those who are openly Macedonian are banned even from visiting to bury dead relatives. These racist laws need to be abolished.
Question: The Greek state charges that you also want to unite Greek Macedonia with the Macedonian republic.
They know very well this is nonsense, aimed at fooling and scaring the local Greek population. Besides, such ideas have no meaning. We struggle for the rights of the minority within Greece, but we also want the right to have cultural and other contacts with Macedonia.
Question: You said you were obstructed during the elections. In what way?
About two weeks before the elections, Rainbow and two other small parties were banned from standing. Soon after, this was reversed for the other two parties, but Rainbow was outlawed. Again this was overturned a few days later, but we had little time left.
Besides this, we were completely "non-existent" in the media. Just before the elections, every party had a special 10 minutes on TV -- except us. So we were happy with 7000 votes.
Question: But if the minority is so small, what does the Greek government fear? What would it lose by granting democratic rights?
One thing is what I said before: a free atmosphere may mean many more of us than we are now. The Greek state has always been very intolerant of difference, and a free coexistence between Greek and Macedonian communities would undermine this state ideology with which Greek workers are whipped into line.
But even if it overcame this, the big problem would be how to explain history. They would have to admit their decades of oppression and ethnic cleansing of our people, and that much of what is taught as Greek "history" at school is myths.
Question: Greek sources claim you have no right to call yourselves Macedonians because in the past you always called yourselves "Bulgarians" until Tito came to power in Yugoslavia in 1945, baptising you "Macedonians" in order to push territorial claims on Greece.
That is all complete nonsense. In any case, it is rather unlikely that a state could force a whole people, with no apparent resistance, to be a nationality that they didn't want to be. And if we look at Macedonian communities abroad, many came from Greek Macedonia before Tito established his power in Yugoslav Macedonia, yet they are fiercely Macedonian. Tito must have been a miracle worker.
Official Greek records from the 1920s and 1930s referred to us as Macedonians, and in 1926 we were even briefly recognised and textbooks in our language were produced. If we called ourselves "Bulgarians", how do you explain that Admond Bouche, travelling in Macedonia in 1928, wrote that "nine out of ten times a villager will reply `Macedonian'" to the question of what nationality he/she is. Or Greece's very own Stratis Myrivilis, a famous novelist clearly beyond suspicion of being a "Skopjean agent", wrote, "... they don't want to be Bulgarian, Serb or Greek. Simply `Macedonian Orthodox'".
Question: And they always called themselves "Macedonians" not "Slav-Macedonians"?
Almost never "Slav-Macedonians". The Slavic family of languages, to which Macedonian belongs, has never been part of our national consciousness, any more than English, who speak a language in the Germanic family, regard themselves as German. We recognise that some in Greece who support our cause use the term "Slav-Macedonian" with good intentions; however, this has no tradition among the Macedonians themselves.
Question: Nevertheless, many who support your cause think the word "Macedonian" by itself is not enough to distinguish you, in practice, from the Greek population of Greek Macedonia, who also call themselves Macedonians.
We have no objection to the Greeks in Macedonia calling themselves Macedonian, but ethnically they consider themselves Greek. Ethnically, the only name we have ever had for ourselves is Macedonian. This needn't cause as much trouble as some might imagine. For example, people in the USA call themselves "American" without causing any apparent problem for the other 20 or so nations that make up the two continents of America.
However, it may satisfy such anxieties that we often use the term "local Macedonians". This has a real historical basis, because after the Greek army occupied the southern half of Macedonia in 1913, it referred to our people, usually in a derogatory way, as "locals".
This distinguishes us from the bulk of Greeks in Macedonia, who were not local, but refugees from Asia Minor in the 1920s. Then, we were the "locals", they were the "refugees".
Of course, there were also local Greeks, particularly in the far south of Macedonia, and Vlachs and Jews, but they considered themselves Greeks, Vlachs and Jews. "Local Macedonian" was the name reserved for our people, and in time we took it up to maintain our specificity during years of forced assimilation. In practice, we have used the terms "local" and "Macedonian" for ourselves and our language interchangeably throughout the century.
This interview was recorded before the signing of the Greek-Macedonian accord of September 13. While Rainbow and the Macedonian Movement for Balkan Prosperity came out in support of the agreement, the actions of the Greek state do no look very promising.
On the very day of the signing of the accord, the offices of the above organisations in Florina were raided by Greek police, who seized documents and literature and stole the sign on the front of the office on which the names of the two organisations were written in both Greek and Macedonian.
Soon after, the offices were destroyed by a deliberately lit fire. It is suspected that the criminals belonged to one of the ultraright Greek nationalist groups opposed to the accord.
The reaction of the Greek state to this outrage was to charge the two Macedonian organisations with "spreading propaganda which may create confusion and discord among the population", using laws from the 1930s fascist dictatorship of Metaxas.
The pretext was that their names on the sign were in the "non-existent" Macedonian language and the Cyrillic script. Clearly, whatever the spirit of the accord, it will take some struggle to stop the "birthplace of democracy" from using fascist laws for racist repression. -- Michael Karadjis

Greece ends attempt to crush Macedonia
By Michael Karadjis

The US-sponsored negotiations between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, resulting in the September 12 interim accord, began before Greece lifted its embargo on the neighbouring state. This was a setback for Macedonia's understandable insistence that the embargo be lifted before talks begin.
The US never had any intention of letting down its NATO ally on behalf of tiny, weak Macedonia, and refused full recognition until Greece's concerns were met. This is despite the conspiracy theories of right-wing and "left-wing" Greek nationalists, who were forever seeing the US using "Skopje" (Greece's name for the Macedonian republic) to undermine Greece. Just why the US would want to undermine Greece's loyal capitalist rulers was always a mystery.
Yet the whole agreement is a defeat for the Greek government's attempt to destroy the new state. The embargo will be lifted and in any case had been only on paper for several months. Greece recognises the sovereignty of the new republic.
Macedonia will drop its current flag, which displays a symbol from ancient Macedonia. Greece particularly objected to the flag, because the question of who "owns" the ancient people of world conqueror and slaughterer Alexander the Great has been important to nationalists on both sides. However, this flag was not an original issue in the dispute.
One of Greece's other demands was that Macedonia change its constitution, yet in the accord it reaffirms its constitution, merely making an explanatory declaration about certain clauses.
Until now, the Greek government's dishonest assertions that Macedonia's constitution contained articles which suggest a "Greater Macedonia" and hence territorial claims have been the main piece of propaganda with which the government has whipped up nationalistic hysteria.
Supposedly the major difference has been Greece's demand that Macedonia change its name and adopt one that does not include the word Macedonia. Discussion of this is to begin later, yet no conditions have been set. While Greece has made no official statement, in practice the population is being groomed to accept the sort of combined name that Greece fought until now -- "New" or "North" Macedonia, for example. For his part, Macedonian foreign minister Chervenkovski stated that "no promises" are being made.
Bipartisan support
In Greece, the agreement has the support of both the ruling PASOK and, with some polite reservations, the opposition New Democracy. The main opposition has come from a small populist-nationalist section of the gutter press. Their furious headlines about "betrayal" have been met by complete indifference from the mass of the population. Gone are the gigantic rallies, organised as they were by the entire state apparatus.
The Coalition of the Left and Progress over the last couple of years has swung away from its original participation in the chauvinist tidal wave of 1991-92, and so was in favour of the spirit of the agreement. However, like New Democracy, it managed a little polite criticism of the government from the right, calling for all of Greece's 1992 demands to be met.
To its credit, however, the Coalition opposed the US role, as did the Communist Party (KKE). The KKE had always opposed the chauvinist campaign over Macedonia and the embargo, and called for direct negotiations without US mediation. It declared that "the ease with which the `obstacles' were overcome ... shows the differences were largely artificial, and the aim had been to maintain US-controlled instability throughout the region".
The Rainbow party, representing the ethnic Macedonian minority in northern Greece, welcomed the agreement.
Within Macedonia, the nationalist opposition -- VMRO-DPMNE, MAAK (Conservative) and the Democratic Party -- have opposed the agreement, particularly stressing that it leaves out all mention of the rights of the minority in northern Greece. However, in the agreement the two countries confirm their support for a long series of human rights conventions and declarations, some of which refer to Greece's treatment of the minority.
Nationalist contradiction
If Greece has been forced to accept the sovereignty of Macedonia, it is because the basic contradiction of the Greek nationalist position has come to the fore.
For Greek capital, and particularly for small business in Greek Macedonia, the embargo against the neighbouring republic has meant a dramatic loss of opportunities to invest and trade, from a position of obvious economic power. Greek capital is capable of "conquering" Macedonia economically if it establishes normal relations. While it has been wasting this opportunity, rivals such as Turkey and Bulgaria have been making inroads.
According to Sissy Vovou, from the Anti-Nationalist Anti-War Campaign, at the onset of the chauvinist campaign in late 1991, a group of Greek capitalists came out in open opposition for precisely these reasons, but soon swung into line.
Vovou pointed out that the most extreme chauvinism came not from the capitalists but from sections of the middle class, generals, Orthodox bishops, populist media and the then opposition PASOK.
Vovou emphasises the role of PASOK and the use of nationalism in party rivalry. "Socialist" PASOK, in reality a middle class populist party, campaigned furiously against the then ruling New Democracy, claiming that ND was about to "sell out" Greece.
Leaders of ND, being more direct representatives of big capital, now admit that they did not want to follow the confrontational approach, but were forced into it by PASOK, and from then on the two parties tried to outdo each other. Now that PASOK is in power, however, it has come to the same "pragmatic" conclusions.
However, if the nationalist ruling cliques in Serbia, Bulgaria or Albania had attempted to divide up Macedonia, Greece would have been ready to share in the spoils. The nationalism helped prepare the population for such an eventuality, but now it has become an impediment to the real economic game.
Furthermore, the break-up of Yugoslavia occurred at a very opportune time for the Greek ruling class, trying to force through horrific economic adjustments, at the expense of Greek workers, to improve its competitive position within the European Union.
Several years later, the massive cuts, privatisation, mass unemployment and the trebling of many prices while wages have remained low, indicate that the ruling class has been rather successful. The nationalistic atmosphere, directing the energy of the masses against an imaginary "foreign threat" rather than against the government, made it easier to get away with such policies.
According to Vovou, more important was the role of nationalism among the traditional middle classes. While big Greek capital can compete in the European Union, much of the middle class will be crushed. This is the basis for large-scale populist nationalism.
The final reason for trying to crush Macedonia was the feared effect an independent Macedonia might have in encouraging the related minority in northern Greece in its struggle for democratic rights. What remains to be seen is whether the legitimacy now conferred on the neighbouring state does indeed encourage this struggle, or alternatively, the dominant position of Greek capital further erodes national self-determination in practice.

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