When a Marxist defends the liberals
“The Liberal Revolution: Short Notes on the Greek War for Independence of 1821”
Prof. Aristides Chatzis’s short notes will be posted here regarding the Revolution of 1821.
Aristides Chatzis is Professor of Philosophy of Law and Institutional Theory at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and member of the KEFiM’s Academic Board. His books Liberalism (2nd edition 2017), Arguments of Freedom (2017) and Institutions (2018) are published by Papadopoulos Publishing. His monograph on the liberal character of the Revolution of 1821 will be released in the US. in early 2021. He gives thanks to KEFiM for its support.
When a Marxist defends the liberals
A great question that many good historians have asked is the following: were the Greek Revolutionists mature enough for such democratically and radically liberal regimes? K. Paparrigopoulos, P. Pipinelis, N.N. Saripolos and others, respond negatively. The historian Costas Costis adopts and compresses this critique in his extraordinary book*:
“In reality, of course, liberalism had little meaning for the political reality that the Greeks lived in during the years of the struggle. It was mainly addressed to Western Europeans, while within the country it simply expressed the plunging of political power and the inability to establish a strong central administration.”
In fact, for many, the liberal constitutions (especially the second, by Astros, April 1823) led to the two civil wars. Note that The Third Constitution (Troizina, 1827), the most liberal and radical, was never applied. Kapodistrias demanded that it be suspended, as a precondition for accepting the post of Governor. Such a democratic and liberal constitution, he said, “is like a razor in the hands of a child.”
A leading Greek Marxist harshly criticized these opinions. Yanis** Kordatos. And not only that. Kordatos in his well-known book on the Greek Revolution*** defends what he calls “the liberal perceptions of the National Assemblies”.
Let’s see what he wrote:
“The first in Epidaurus (20 December 1821) National Assembly proclaimed the” political existence and independence “of the Greek Nation voted the first Constitution (temporarily) for the struggling Greece. This Constitution in most of its articles was inspired by the Democratic French Constitution. We see from this official event that the bourgeoisie has been able to give its own spirit to the constitution. Professor N.N. Saripolos criticizes the democratic nature of the constitution, claiming that there was a need then for a Dictator for the political and military administration on the one hand, and on the other hand for combating localism. From his pro-monarchic and conservative perception, the professor agrees with the historian Paparrigopoulos saying that “Mavrocordatos contributed to the voting of a polyarchic, if not anarchist constitution, rendering the formation of a true government impossible.” This is how history is written in Greece. Mavrokordatos is accused of creating a constitution not like the one the historian Paparigopoulos and Mr. NN Saripolos and other reactive wise men of modern Greece wanted, but as the rebellious bourgeoisie wanted it. However, in order for Mavrocordatos to have these “polyarchic and anarchist democratic ideas”, it was obvious that there are many behind him who seek them. And these were the “Filikoi” who, without being wise and professed, were inspired by the democratic ideas of their time, because these ideas supported the interests of their class.”
In this passage, Kordatos makes references (with footnotes I omitted), to Saripolos and Paparigopoulos but also to Lenin (in the State and Revolution, of course). In addition, he characterizes Kapodistria as a dictator and justifies the tough opposition that the liberals exercised, especially Anastasios Polyzoidis: “It was obvious that he would face a tough opposition and the outrage and hatred of all liberals.”
He even writes something bold and perhaps shallow in the way he establishes it for the civil wars during the Revolution: “The civil wars were the result of the conflict of opposing interests between feudalism and bourgeoisie.” This observation is not just friendly to the liberals but also very invasive. He is, I think, the first one to have insight to see this conflict, although the insight is probably the result of a rather rough Marxist analysis. Let me remind you that this idea (which I hesitantly agree with) is still to be proved.
The introduction begins with a characteristic and certainly famous excerpt from Marx (“The whole history of human society to date is a class struggle story”) **** and states that it will throw “a new light in our new history” by following ” the method of historical materialism “. It is also important when he writes all of this: in 1924. The date is important because he still remains a member of the SEKE / KKE. He will leave in fact in November 1924 when the International will “replace” him with Pouliopoulos because he came into open confrontation with the party because of the Macedonian dispute.*****
But in the historical texts he wrote after the civil war (the 1950s) he made a major shift. He no longer had any intention of defending the liberals, the bourgeoisie and, of course, the English policy. But we will come back to that.
I would simply remind you here that in many texts of the party (e.g. “Communist Review” Dec 1933 and also much later) he is accused as “the leader of the Greek bourgeoisie and “socialism”, “Trotskyist”, “distortionist of Marxism” and of course “the idealist of the bourgeoisie”.
[In the picture is Yanis Kordatos]
*Kostas Kostis, “History’s Spoiled Children” The formation of the Modern Greek State, 18th – 21st century, page 151.
** Let me remind you that Kordatos was the first original Yanis with one n.
*** Y.Kordatos, The Social Meaning of the Greek War of Independence of 1821, page 95-98.
****That famous phrase originates from the Manifest der Kommunistischen Parte, 1848, 1.1.1-2, so the phrase belongs to Friedrich Engels.
***** He mentions the conflict with KKE in an article he wrote in 1926 in the magazine La Révolution prolétarienne by Pierre Monatte and Robert Louzon: “But the absurdity was the slogan of Macedonia’s autonomy. The KKE party created this issue. This policy gave the party the final blow. It was dissolved because it was disapproved by the workers because communism in Greece was presented as an ally of Bulgarian chauvinism. The KKE had been dragged into an alliance with the Bulgarian ultranationalists, but forgot to speak of the Dodecanese islands that belong to Italy, although 90% of their population are Greeks, and for Cyprus belonging to England, although its population is 85% Greek.” Of course, after the article, he was also officially deleted as an “opportunist” and a “chauvinist”.
[Aristides Chatzis, The Liberal Revolution, Note 5]