Yuri Ivanovich Sum,
INTERVIEW WITH JAMES WARREN, 17/2/96
INTERVIEWER: ... The first question I'd like to ask you is how the American mission for aid to Greece really continued or became the Marshall Plan?
JAMES WARREN: The American mission to Greece really preceded the Marshall Plan by a year; and then when the larger European-wide Marshall Plan project was undertaken, the Greek project was folded into it. It was, however, a very, very different programme in its scope. The Marshall Plan aid in Europe was important, but it was a marginal resource for Europe. In Greece, it was fundamental. Seventy-five per cent of the foreign exchange requirement of that nation was supported through the Truman Doctrine, and then subsequently the Marshall Plan aid. That was not marginal, that was fundamental to the survival of the country.
INT: So just describe for me, summarise for me some of the effects on Greece of the civil war - well, both the Second World War and the years that followed the civil war.
JW: Greece, of course, emerged from the war in a terrible state. Probably 2,000 of the nation's villages had been razed in... and burnt to the ground by the reprisal raids of the Nazis. There was not a harbour in Greece that was usable. There was hardly any road that could distribute supplies to starving people, using, ... the railroad was a total wreck; the Corinth Canal, of course, was filled with railroad cars dumped there by the Nazis. The industrial structure of the country was in fair shape, but the basic sinews of the economy were desperately wrecked. A million goats killed, a million sheep killed, most of the livestock destroyed. Hardly a bridge left standing anywhere in the country. That was the result, if you will, of World War II. The consequence of the civil war was to add to that terribly shredded kind of social fabric. And to add the misery of some 10% of the population, 700,000 villagers who were displaced by the civil war, the... villages deserted, and forced to move its people into refugee camps; and all of those people had to be resettled. So the tasks of reconstruction were complicated by the civil war, delayed by the civil war, and added to by the civil war.
INT: And did you, and others like you at the time, think there was a real possibility that Greece could have gone Communist?
JW: I think there was not a doubt in our minds that without the American aid, Greece would have gone down the tube. It was a situation which was right on the edge. The government in Athens appealed for aid to America, but the truth is that at that time the government was hardly even able to conduct its own affairs. It was a tragic situation, in which... one would have to say that the government was paralysed by its own web of fears, and almost like a chicken hypnotised in front of a snake. It was also a government which was... incompetent and corrupt, and so brutalising of its own citizens that it drove its people into the arms of the Communist guerrillas in the hills. So when America went in there, it went in with a rescue plan which was military, which was economic and which was social. And it was a tripartite programme then, encompassing all of those elements.
INT: Right. Can you then give me a rough thumbnail sketch of the range of projects that the Marshall Plan included in Greece?
JW: The range of projects which we engaged in then were all over the map and all over every single sector of the economy. The first task was, of course, to recreate the sinews of a communication and transportation system, and this meant railways, it meant roads, it meant bridges, it meant harbours, and all of these were created. In addition, the small network of up-country provincial airports and telecommunications. The second major investment was surely in agriculture, where there was not only land reclamation, and the restoring of animal husbandry through the importation of livestock, and the provisioning of the villagers with the tools they needed to undertake their livelihood in agriculture; it was... in addition to that, there was the creation of a... and training, of an agricultural extension service, to bring new techniques to the farming community, to create, in addition to that, a new sense that there was a... progress to be had, to enlarge an economic pie, rather than simply re-divide it in a static sense. Beyond agriculture and communications, there was of course the creation of a unique project in terms of Greek history, and that was a national electric power grid, with hydroelectric dams in the Pindus Mountains, in the mountains of the Peloponnesus, new thermal stations based on locally available lignite, and the connecting of all of these together. It was a very visible and very confidence-building project, in the sense that one could see these pylons marching across the landscape and sensed that the country was indeed on the road to recovery as the electric power project itself was put together. In addition, there were surely major investments in the mines and manufacturing sectors of the country; this would be the rehabilitation of the cement industry, the expansion and modernisation of the textile industry, fertilizer industry, the bauxite mines, the pyrite mines, the chromite and manganese mines - all of these developed through Marshall Plan (Clears throat) technical assistance and grant assistance.
INT: I think there's a slight tendency for you to look across to the camera. Could you just... sorry, sorry... keep focusing on me in your answer, if you don't mind, Mr Warren. So would it be fair to say then, in summary, that the Marshall Plan really encompassed the whole of... there was hardly no element of the Greek economy left out?
JW: there was hardly any element of the Greek economy that wasn't touched directly by the Marshall Plan. And within the Marshall Plan mission, there was replicated a division, or office, concerned with each of these elements of Greek society. There was a transportation division, an agriculture division, a mining division, a power... electric power division. And in addition, there were... to those, there were elements of the mission that were concerned with what you would call structural reform, social reform: tax advisers attempting to move the Greek tax system into an era in which the tax base would be more progressive, less unfair; and a civil government division devoted to trying to improve the efficiency of the Greek ministries themselves. Beyond that, there was a public health division, vitally concerned with wiping out malaria - and we were successful in that: it was wiped out, indeed, 100% - and with creating a new administration of public health facilities for the nation. The labour union division, which was manned by two stalwarts from the CIO/AF of L, were engaged in a running battle, first of all, with the Communist element that was trying to take control of the labour unions; and secondly, with the attempt to create a labour union movement which was in itself concerned with basic labour issues: wages, hours, working conditions, not politics. And Alan Strawn and Clint Golden were two of the most vigorous men in the mission in that labour division, attempting to lend their support and encouragement, and to a certain extent direction, to that Greek labour union movement.