Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"The man with the carnation": 64 years since the execution of communist hero Nikos Beloyannis

Written by Nikos Mottas / In Defense of Communism.

Nikos Beloyannis, the man with the carnation, the Communist, the hero. It was in the dawn of Sunday 30th March 1952 when his heart stopped beating. The bullets of the firing squad gave an end to the lifes of Beloyannis and three of his comrades- Dimitris Batsis, Elias Argyriadis and Nikos Kaloumenos. 

The post-civil war bourgeois, centrist government of Plastiras, under the orders of his imperialist patrons, had done it's job. Beloyannis, a member of the Central Committee of the- then illegal- Greek Communist Party, was dead. However, his legacy and ideals were already immortal. 

"Beloyannis instructs us one more time,how to live and how to die. 
With just one carnation he unlocked all of immortality.With just one smile he brightened the world so darkness can never fall. Good morning comrades 
Good morning sun 
Good morning Beloyannis".  
- Yannis Ritsos, Poem "Man with the Carnation".

Belogiannis and his comrades had waged an unwavering struggle against German, British and US imperialism. This was the reason why they arrested, tried and executed them. In his highly publicized and controversial extraordinary trials Beloyannis fought with courage against his prosecutors. The first trial began in Athens on October 19th, 1951, with a lawsuit against Beloyannis and 92 more members of the Communist Party (KKE). The accusation was that they had violated the law 509 of 1947 about "communist propaganda", taking into account that KKE had been declared as "illegal" by the state. The verdict of the first trial sentenced Beloyannis and 11 comrades to death. Nonetheless, after an international outcry - and as it was clear that the trial process was nothing but a political conspiracy- the sentence was not executed. 

The bourgeois state, however, alongside it's local and international allies, unfolded an alternative plot: Beloyannis and and some of his comrades had to be tried again, this time accused for "espionage" based on the law 375 of 1936. The second trial of Nikos Beloyannis- a parody trial- began on February 15th 1952. The extraordinary military tribune of Athens accused Beloyannis and his comrades for secretely transmitting important information of national interest to the Soviet Union. However, Beloyannis utilized both trials against him in order to ridicule his prosecutors and denounce their motives. Here are some memorable excerpts from his defense speeches in the military tribunal:

“We believe in the most correct theory which has been conceived by the most progressive minds of humanity. And our effort, our struggle, is that this theory becomes a reality in Greece and the entire world (…) We love Greece and its people more than our accusers (…) Precisely because we struggle so that our country will see better days, without hunger and war (…) and when it is necessary, we sacrifice our lives.”

★ ★ 

"If I had renounced the KKE most likely I would have been declared innocent with great honours... But my life is connected with the history of the KKE and its activity... Dozens of times I faced the following dilemma: “to live and betray my beliefs, my ideology or to die and remain faithful to them. I have always chosen the second and today I am doing this again”

★ ★ 

"The responsibility for the fact that the land of Greece is seeded with graves and ruins belongs only to the foreign imperialists and their greek servants".

Nikos Beloyannis delivering a defense speech in the court.
It is also very interesting to cite a characteristic dialogue between Beloyannis and one of his major accusers, policeman Angelopoulos: 
BELOYANNIS: Do you claim that I came here to implement the decisions of the plenary sessions of the CC of KKE?
Angelopoulos: Yes I do.
BELOYANNIS: These decisions state that the basis of the activity of the KKE is the struggle for bread, democratic freedoms, peace. Is this not the case?
Angelopoulos: It is indeed.
BELOYANNIS: Consequently, the struggle for bread, democratic freedoms and peace is a conspiracy against Greece, isn’t it?
Angelopoulos: No.
BELOYANNIS: Thank you. This was all I wanted to clarify.
On March 1, 1952 Nikos Beloyannis and 7 comrades were sentenced to death. Within a week the Greek government received from all over the world hundreds of thousands telegrams against the death sentense, while an international campaign - with the participation of personalities like Picasso, Chaplin, Sartre, Éluard, Nazim Hikmet and others- asked for the cancellation of the military tribune's verdict. On the contrary, the US demanded that the Plastiras' government and the King carry out the execution of the sentense. In the late evening of Saturday, March 29, 1952, King Pavlos rejected a request for clemency for Beloyannis and his comrades. 


Portrait of Beloyannis by Pablo Picasso.
Nikos Beloyannis was born in Amaliada, Peloponnese in 1915. He was the son of of a poor craftsman. He was involved in the youth progressive movement from an early age, as a high school student and, later, as a University of Athens' student. He joined the Organization of the Communist Youth of Greece (OKNE) and in 1934 he became a member of the Communist Party (KKE). For his revolutionary activities, Beloyannis was expelled from the Law School of the University of Athens. In mid-1930s he became an organizer and leader of various party organizations in Peloponnese and in 1936 was arrested for his activities. Later he escaped from prison and re-arrested in 1938 when he was sentenced to five years in prison and two years in exile.

In the first years of 1940s Beloyannis remained in prison as the fascist government of Metaxas handed over thousands of communist prisoners to the italian and german occupation forces. He escaped in 1943 and joined the resistance struggle against the Nazis. In 1943-44 Beloyannis was involved in party and partisan work in the area of ​​Patras being political commissar of the 3rd Division of the People's Liberation Army of Greece (ELAS). After Greece's liberation, he became head of the ideological work department of KKE organization in Peloponnese. He edited the magazine "Free Morias" and on the same time wrote two books: "Foreign capital in Greece" and "History of Modern Greek literature".

During the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) Beloyannis conducted political work in the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE). In 1947 he became head of the Propaganda Department of the DSE and in 1948-49 he served as political commissar of the 10th Division of the DSE. He was wounded in battle in 1948.

After the defeat of DSE on September 1949, Beloyannis and thousands of armed comrades went to the socialist countries of central and eastern Europe. After the end of the Civil War, an anti-democratic, anti-communist and completely depended on US and Britain regime was installed in Greece.

In 1950, Nikos Beloyannis was elected as a member of the Central Committee of the- then exiled- Communist Party of Greece (KKE). In June 1950, after the decision of the Central Committee of KKE, Beloyannis arrived in Greece secretely, using false documents and passport. His duty was to inform the party forces in Greece about the new party line as well as to reorganize the underground network of party organizations in the country. With the aid of the newly founded US intelligence service (CIA), the Greek authorities arrested Beloyannis on December 1950.

In Defense of Communism ©.