The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.63/No.16           April 26, 1999 
Soldiers Refuse To Join Greek Force Against Yugoslavia
Protest Marked By Nationalism  

THESSALONIKI, Greece - "We declare decisively that we won't spill even a drop of our blood or the blood of other peoples to serve the interests of the imperialists," said a statement by a group of new conscripts in the Greek army's Center for Training in Heavy Weaponry. Their open letter, condemning the participation by Athens in the U.S.-led NATO assault on Yugoslavia, has received wide publicity in the media here.

On the same day, April 13, Nikos Gardikis, a sailor, refused to obey an order by his officers to board the frigate Themistoklis that's being dispatched by the Greek Navy to the Adriatic to join the NATO armada there. His letter to the minister of defense was also widely quoted in the press.

These actions by Greek GIs are part of a widespread sentiment against the brutal NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Protests are taking place throughout the country virtually every day, demanding the government of premier Constantinos Simitis reverse its support for the imperialist assault.

"Schroder, Simitis, and D'Alema - they divide the world with the peoples' blood!" was one of the main slogans of a rally by hundreds outside the ministry of defense in Athens April 13. It was referring German prime minister Gerhard Schroder, Greek prime minister Simitis, and Italian prime minister Massimo D'Alema - all three social democrats leading governments in imperialist countries that have joined the NATO assault. D'Alema comes from the Democratic Party of the Left, the country's former Communist Party.

In fact, the majority of governments in the European Union that are taking part in the brutal bombing campaign by NATO are run by social democratic parties.

Simitis is dispatching a contingent of 200 "volunteer" troops to Albania, as part of the NATO force of 8,000 being deployed there. These soldiers are paid handsomely for choosing to take part in the imperialist expedition in Albania.

Larger demonstrations took place April 15 here in Thessaloniki, Athens, and other cities. Up to 10,000 people have turned out for some of previous such rallies. These actions have been mostly called by the youth organizations affiliated to all the major political parties - from the Communist Party of Greece to New Democracy, the main opposition party that's conservative - and various peace groups. Even the youth group of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) is co-sponsoring the marches. The officialdom of the country's trade union federation has also backed them.

The actions are marked by a heavy dose of Greek nationalism and political support for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade. Greek flags, along with the red, hammer- and-sickle banners of the CP dot the crowd. The open letter by sailor Gardikis to the minister of defense is one such example.

"The role of NATO's naval forces in the Adriatic, where I was called to go, does not serve the interests for which I joined the Navy," Gardikis said. "I can not accept two flags. The flag of NATO doesn't suit me, as it doesn't suit any Greek youth. I do have a flag! The interests of national independence and territorial integrity of my country."

Often flags with the Byzantine double-headed eagle - an emblem associated with rightist groups and others affiliated with the Greek Orthodox church - can also be seen.

All the organizers are opposed to self-determination for the Albanian nationality in Kosova.

Among the hundreds of thousands of Albanian immigrants in Greece a small but not insignificant minority has opposed NATO intervention into Kosova, even before Washington launched the bombing March 24, while at the same time supporting independence for Kosova.

But given the predominance of the political forces among Kosovar Albanians who support the imperialist assault, the Albanians opposed to intervention have not yet succeeded in organizing demonstrations around these demands.

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