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Spyros Markezinis Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Spyros Markezinis

Greek lawyer, historian, and politician. Legal advisor to King George II of the Hellenes, 1936-46; served in Greek National Resistance, 1941-44; member of Parliament for the Cyclades, 1946, for Athens, 1952-67; founded New Party, 1947 (dissolved 1951); Minister without Portfolio, 1949; Minister for Coordination and Economic Planning until 1954; formed Progressive Party, 1955; and Prime Minister, October-November, 1973.

Athens, Greece
July 22, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened September, 1986
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Oral History Interview with
Spyros Markezinis

Athens, Greece
July 22, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson

[1]

Mr. Markezinis,"interview" consists of his written answers to a few general questions and a list of 21 specific questions submitted to him by Dr. Theordore A. Wilson, University of Kansas, as part of his research for the Truman Library Institute's special project on foreign aid during the Truman Administration. Mr. Markezinis submitted his replies in Greek and a translation was then prepared for the special project.


In giving my answers I have adopted the following course: As regards the general questionnaire I started with a brief summary and gave more definite and explanatory answers to questions on matters I am familiar with or, on which I can express an opinion, and in any case cannot be considered irrelevant for a Greek.

As regards the special questionnaire, which was personally addressed to me, I considered it convenient to number the questions and answer each one separately, and often more widely. I thought that excess of information can be cut down and is better than insufficient information.

A full analysis with all the data in my possession, I have included in the second section, soon to be published, of my work A Political History of Modern Greece, but the publication of the volume referring to the subject concerned,

[2]

will, I fear, be delayed. Therefore, I am willing to supply any further information required.

During 1946 -- barely one year after the termination of World War II -- it became clear in Western Europe that if the war had been won the same could not be said of peace. Both the defeated and the victors had come out of the war so exhausted from the long and hard struggle or from the foreign occupation and had sustained such wide economic destruction that their recovery appeared inconceivable. It is a fact that switching from war to peace is very difficult. But the problems arising after World War II were unique as regards their extent and the multiple future issues they presented. Moreover, J. Stalin's intention to exploit the situation for the furtherance on a world scale of his imperialistic plans could hardly be disguised and the dangers thereof increased daily. After World War I, as we all know, there arose differences of views between the Allies, often reaching the point of discord. But there was no example of one Ally trying to take advantage of any opportunity at the expense of his Allies. In Yalta, J. Stalin ruthlessly took advantage of the weaknesses of F.D. Roosevelt, at the time President of the U.S.A., who was the victim of his physical disability, which soon occasioned his death, and his naïve

[3]

idealism to believe in the sincerity of J. Stalin's intentions. When President Harry Truman took the succession of F.D. Roosevelt, it soon became apparent that essential changes were taking place. The public, having for long taken the habit of admiring F.D. Roosevelt, started by underestimating Truman as a negligible mediocrity. J. Stalin was perhaps among the first to ascertain that the contrary was true. President Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb for the prompt termination of the war was enough to make him realize that he was now facing a resolute man with a strong will. This, as well as the fact that the U.S.A. was the only power to possess the atomic bomb, made J. Stalin alter his tactics by concealing as much as possible his ambitions and adapting them to the prevailing situation. This policy (also adopted by his successors) consisted in avoiding direct clashes and inciting unrest and undermining the countries exhausted by the war. The new tactic was to exalt and project Communist ideology in the tradition of Tsarist Russia, exploit the Orthodox Church and later enhance the idea of Panslavism. The Communist theory was offered to a wretched postwar society as the sole remedy of their ills and was brought forth by Russia as having determined the victory against Fascism. The idea was to create a state of mind similar to the impression prevailing

[4]

after World War I, that French Democracy had conquered despotism of Germany and Austro Hungary. Of course J. Stalin did not limit to this his propaganda. He made the best possible use of the well-organized Communist parties in the various countries and wearing in turn the masks of the lion or the fox, aimed at domination.

The Communists endeavored to appear as disinterested champions concerned only with the prosperous future of other countries. They were fully aware of the weariness of the peoples whose only desire was demobilization and realization of the material goods which they expected on a utopian scale. The same phenomenon was faced by the victors of World War I which was overcome by the myth that Germany could pay for everything. It is well-known that when Keynes published his famous book in which the victors were urged to adopt more realistic views, the London Times very nearly accused him of being the enemy's spokesman.

In any case, no one after World War II could dare put forth such a myth. Moreover, the colonial powers did not consider advisable immediately after the war, to admit even to a certain degree that colonialism could any longer survive. They thus opened the way for Communists to make the best of what Lenin had already marked out: that is,

[5]

for the Russians to become the champions of the peoples' right for self-determination and the pioneers of the abolishment of colonialism. And no one even dared ask: After all, what was and still is Siberia's status?

The U.S.A. was the only power to be in a privileged, from every point of view, position. They had sustained immense economic sacrifices and by far larger material losses and losses of lives than during World War I. But at the same time they undoubtedly stood forth as the country with unlimited economic possibilities. They were also immune as regards the sincerity of the democratic ideological motives for participating in the war. No one could possibly accuse the U.S. of being colonialists or having imperialistic purposes. It is a noteworthy fact, that J. Stalin with his sly genius tried to take advantage even of this. Had he succeeded, this would have meant the beginning of the end of Democracy in the world. In the U.S.A., a country with a highly developed democratic conscience, public opinion is taken into consideration. Precisely for this reason, however unlimited the rights and prerogatives granted by the American Constitution to the President, even the most powerful President has to comply with public opinion. Therefore, the substantial change which took place owing to President Truman's personality

[6]

when he assumed his duties as President, were not sufficient to alter American public opinion which, for the major part, continued to consider Russia a sincere friend and simultaneously to confuse propaganda with actual facts. That is to say, public opinion continued to believe that the Russians were really defending ideals, fighting against colonialism, for the independence of peoples and social equality and justice. Much indeed had to happen: i.e. J. Stalin, and in general Soviet leadership had to make many mistakes in order that American public opinion be awakened and assist and wholeheartedly contribute to the new struggle in support of real independence and freedom of nations and to safeguard democratic institutions.

It was most fortunate for the free world that at that time Harry Truman was invested President of the U.S.A. Had the U.S.A. been governed by the F.D. Roosevelt of the New Deal, I am convinced that his reactions would have taken the same trend. But if it was the F.D. Roosevelt of the Yalta period, I am afraid, the contrary would have happened. In my opinion, Harry Truman had one more quality of leadership: the gift to find the right man for the right place. The first evidence was the appointment of General G. Marshall, who combined -- and gave proof of -- ideological convictions with absolute realism which constitutes one of the biggest

[7]

virtues in politics. A proof is the disengagement of the U.S.A. from the Chinese mainland. Only after many years has it been made clear what the U.S.A. and with them the free world would have suffered if a different course of action had been adopted. The above cannot, in any way be compared with the situation in Vietnam. Moreover this timely withdrawal, without entailing the abandonment of Asia, gave the opportunity to the U.S.A. to turn their attention to Europe and consequently to the recovery of Europe. From my personal point of view I would wish to add two more personalities of the Truman administration: Dean Acheson and Averell Harriman. Specifically regarding Greece, and apart from answers in the questionnaire, I wish to mention the successful work of L. Henderson, at the time of the Truman Doctrine, head of the office of Near Eastern and African Affairs with the State Department.

In the case of Greece and Turkey, and mainly of the former, the new doctrine was being tested. The fact that President Truman understood the situation, and boldly dealt with it, decisively helped in subsequent developments. Furthermore, American public opinion was unaware of the threat of Russian imperialist communism and consequently President Truman's decision increases in value and importance. In addition, President Truman justly merits to be credited

[8]

with not only simply attempting, but successfully projecting the democratic basis of his policy which was adopted from the first moment as the official bipartisan policy of the U.S.A. We should be reminded that the Truman Doctrine finally obtained in the Senate, 67 votes against 23, and 35 of the 67 votes were Republican votes, while 32 were Democratic votes. Republican Senator Vandenberg and Democratic Senator Connally contributed in achieving the above. This bipartisan policy facilitated the shaping of American public opinion and contributed to its final success. Undoubtedly, the course was not easy, but subsequent results proved that the Truman Doctrine, as completed by the Marshall Plan, constituted one of the most important landmarks on a world scale in postwar history.

Mention has been made of the Marshall Plan. Indeed only three months after the implementation of the Truman Doctrine, General G. Marshall, at the time Secretary of State, on the occasion of his appointment as Honorary Doctor by Harvard University, delivered his famous address announcing the Marshall Plan. This plan, however, with its decisive issues for the survival of Europe, could not have been carried out if it had not been preceded by the Truman Doctrine. Moreover, the President himself was once heard to say: "The one and the

[9]

other are two halves of the same nut." Greece in 1821 -- with her struggle for independence -- was the starting point of reaction against the monarchist and despotic doctrine of the Holy Alliance. Its successful issue completed the triptych formed by the American Revolution of 1779 -- the French Revolution of 1789 and the Greek Revolution of 1821. The triptych was the cornerstone of 19th century liberalism. It was fated that it was in Greece, in 1947, that the U.S.A. was given the opportunity to set the foundations of the struggle against Communist expansion.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

QUESTION: What were the most serious obstacles to recovery and to further economic development in your country? In all of the countries included in the European Recovery Program?

MARKEZINIS: The countries which participated in the European Recovery Program, each were facing more or less different problems. In France, for instance, large areas had been theatres of war with great catastrophes during the period of liberation. Such catastrophes of the same sort were experienced on a smaller scale in Greece. On the other

[10]

hand, the damages resulting from the three year triple occupation were great. Even greater were the catastrophes from the outs