'In a rather emotional state?' The Labour party and British intervention in Greece, 1944-5
University of Exeter
The English Historical Review
Oxford University Press
In December 1944 events in Greece intruded briefly but violently onto the Labour party's political agenda. When police shot Communist-sympathising civilians in British-occupied Athens, and the Coalition government under Churchill appeared to support the act, constituency Labour parties and trade unions all over Britain passed angry resolutions of condemnation. The impact of the crisis was all the greater because the delayed annual conference of the Labour party was about to convene. The crisis was, in the event, soon overcome by adroit party management, a softening of Churchill's own position, the conclusion of a ceasefire in Greece, and the difficulty of sustaining grassroots anger over a complex and unfamiliar issue, while clear indications that Greece was not, for the time being, a Soviet priority inhibited British Communists from agitating more strongly on the issue. But the crisis did briefly threaten the carefully-crafted unity that had enabled Labour to profit from the circumstances of the war and which was to stand it in good stead at the July 1945 general election. It is also argued, however, that the extent and depth of Labour anger cannot be understood without a wider appreciation of Labour's rather febrile mood in the final winter of the war, in which events in Greece could be seen as yet another manifestation of an increasingly anti-Labour line being taken by the Coalition. The extent of Labour's crisis over Greece in that last wartime winter was at least as much about the future of Labour as it was about the present and future of Greece.
British Academy, Arts and Humanities Research Council
This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in The English Historical Review following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version (Vol.121 (493), Sept. 2006 pp. 1075-1105) is available online at: http://ehr.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/CXXI/493/1075 . 24 month embargo by the publisher. Article will be released September 2008.
121 (493), pp.1075-1105