When Greece Joined Yugoslavia : Some Counterfactual Fun

January 17, 1949.

President Beloyannis grasped the hand of his predecessor, President Tito, tightly, and smiled, as Tito’s searching, scalpel-like gaze fell on the plans for the new Capital of the Balkan Union. How different history could have been, he reflected. If Franklin Roosevelt had managed to live through 1944, President Wallace would never have begun the chain of confusion and complication which had led to the messy, delayed end to the war in Europe in the atomic bombing of Germany in 1946. America may have had some moral authority, some governing will to continue interference in European affairs, and the Democratic Army of Greece-in truth the Communists—would never have been able to wear down the British as they had done. Now, all the Americans wanted to do was to warn off the Soviets, and take care of the remains of the capitalist West as the British and French decolonised their markets into American arms.

A more determined American leader would simply have taken over the fight on the ground, and Beloyannis knew that they would have won. As it was, the northmen had put up a great struggle, under the leadership of Churchill, with Anthony Eden enjoying what was perhaps his finest hour—Beloyannis could say this in victory, having seen Eden vainly trying to hold the line personally in Greece and then Cyprus—but, really, it was now too late. The British were a dying Empire. They hadn’t been able to hold Greece because they were bankrupt.

Now, they were out of Cyprus, and out of the Balkans. Not only had enosis happened, but a new confederacy had arisen in the Balkans, uniting the Yugloslav and Greek peoples. Soon, thanks to Beloyannis’ openness to the Smyrnan diaspora, foremost of which was Ari Onassis, Beloyannis would be leading the dominant shipping power in the Suez canal too.

The Albanians held out, of course—but with Stalin aware that President Eisenhower, recalled and given the Democratic nomination in 1948 after Tom Dewey’s disastrous single term—was more than prepared to use the atomic weapon, they could hardly intrigue with Moscow. The Georgian in Moscow had been caged, which, frankly, was the best thing to happen to the communist cause in a long time. Yes, Beloyannis thought; in time, even the Albanians would come along into what was already being called eurocommunism. Who knew what could happen? He was prepared to leave the west alone, but with Italian and French communist parties registering at between a third and a half of the public support in those lands, a Mediterranean Soviet Union, or at least some accommodation not far from it, was possible.

Beloyannis had a cool attitude to the real (perhaps the really-existing) Soviets, more even than to the Turks whose lands now lay at the feet of his federation. They were basically boyars, wanting domination as they had done since Peter the Great. Beloyannis wanted independence. That started with money. A common Balkan currency had been established, and was up and running, something that pleased him very much. He believed the history of Greece to have been one in which the state had been forced into a position throughout its short history of owing foreigners money, leading to the subjection of the Hellenic people.

Well, in a Balkan Union with Greece and Serbia as the twin powerhouses, that could hardly happen. In fact, it was possible to imagine a bright future, in which three distinct global areas—East Asia, the Balkan Union, and the former German and Hapsburg lands—blazed a trail for the fraternal integration of markets whatever Stalin thought. A new Socialist Trading Organisation was to be a top priority, ringed with the rockets and science provided by Croats and Slovenes.

But first, what to do with Marshal Tito? Perhaps, as a special envoy, he could be retired to somewhere where he could do no harm, as the British had put away their former King in the Sargasso Sea. Cuba, perhaps? No, he chuckled. The Americans would never allow Cuba to go communist….

I like late-night musing, and have added this one to the archive at Counterfactual fun. Or at least, I will, if I can remember the password.


Edward Spalton said…
I think you have an over-cuddly view of Marshal Tito. At its inception, his regime was just as proportionately bloody as Stalin's in destroying "enemies of the people".

I met the late Sir Alfred Sherman several times. He had been a communist - a real one, a machine gunner in the International Brigade and later a wartime British intelligence officer at the time when Churchill was being gulled into supporting Tito rather than the Chetniks.

After the war he became an initially journalist in Yugoslavia (he spoke the language fluently). His time there convinced him that communism didn't work and he eventually became one of the intellects behind Thatcherism. He was always rigorous and unsparing in his analyses!
I suspect that the later, more moderate form of Yugoslav socialism was an attempted adaptation to what Sir Alfred had observed.

For current and historical information on the Balkans, I recommend the Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies
Martin Meenagh said…
Hello Edward,

I think that is a fair comment. I tend to be blind to the faults of people or ideas whom I like, or at least dismissive, and overly critical of those I am agin. Tito-facially- reminds me of the nuns and dinner ladies at the Catholic infant and junior schools I went to in Corby, Kettering and Rugby, and I really like the many Serbian people whom I know. In mitigation, I'd just suggest that the post was the product of late night musing on something that I have been thinking about for a while and I'm not wholly sad that the Truman doctrine--and reality--prevented it from happening. I am deeply sad that Greece is being screwed by its own leading families and faults at outside behest for the second time in half a century.

I din't know that Alfred Sherman had been in the ICB, but I do note how many communists and marxists became neoliberals and free marketeers in later life. I'll avoid the Guizot/Clemenceau cliche about socialism at twenty and conservatism at thirty.

You reminded me of the diplomat's story of Tito's state dinners. Even when Tito ate with a knife and fork, which was rarely, it was said that he kept a huge trusty bodyguard from partisan days nearby to eat with what we'd call a Bowie knife whilst looking murderously around the table--Tito's way of encouraging the others.

Beloyannis, by the way, was a real person, who was involved in the very fierce fighting of the Greek Civil War, and of course Wallace was the somewhat nutty US V-P whom we were spared because, in one of those wierd tricks of providence or whatever you call it, a man as good as Harry Truman was put on the ticket to replace him in 1944.
Martin Meenagh said…
By the way, I was called an anti-Chinese rightwing propagandist on facebook last night. I suppose my foibles balance out!

Very best, Martin
Anonymous said…
Well one would assume that this sort of union might of helped to counter balance the atrocities that were to occur during the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Or maybe not, I have noticed that you are more forgiving of the Serbs than I am, but I think I am prejudiced by my Bosnian and Kosovar friends. I agree wholeheartedly that the Croatians have done a masterful job of skirting their guilt. Also that china conversation was hilarious, he reminded me of some 1930s Jewish house wife going to the red rallies just to piss off her papa.

Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Chris
I was appalled by what happened in Bosnia, and wanted early NATO intervention before it got out of hand. Unfortunately, we got what we got. I remember seeing Morillon on top of that APC--'nous vous n'abanderons pas' just before we left people to be abandoned. By that time, the place was full of ex-nazis, mujahedin, half the global intelligence services and God knows what corporate agendas. It was, if you needed one, an indication of just how disgraceful 'the hour of Europe' as effeted by Hans-Dietrich Genscher could be.

I try to be objective, but I know I'm swayed by people I know, so I just state my prejudices and hope by doing so to overcome them and get correction when I don't.

Very best
I didn't mean to imply anything besides my own irrational fear of Serbs. Still I loved the Balkans and tried very hard to get transferred to a base there. They have done a somewhat masterful job of getting back on their feet.

I had a friend from Kosovo who loved to point out that the Spanish refuse to recognize Kosovo out of fear that it would encourage the Basque to declare independence. Had me thinking about how we seem not to be moving toward larger unions but ever smaller nations.
Martin Meenagh said…
I'd like to make some point about European monarchies that they are in fact congeries held together by the crown and the various distinct and anomalous iterations of royal prerogative--but then I think of Bavaria, or Alsace, or Carinthia, or the Trentino, or Western Ukraine, or my own beloved north west of Ireland and the republics are just as agglomerated. I wonder why some fall apart or threaten to, and why some lump together... religion and economic culture maybe?
As a kid I remember being tickled pink that Czechoslovakia became two different countries and took the name apart perfectly. And then I remember being confused as to why there was no country called the Republic of Yugo.

I think maybe it has to do with workable social programs and economics at this point, and the ability to be autonomous. Seems like Scottish calls for independence has lessen over the years. You hardly ever hear Viva Quebec, and there hasn't been any Siberian separatist operations since I was in college. Could Scotland stand on its own two feet with its full range of NHS without support from England (that is strictly a question not a denouncement)? I know Quebec would be lost without the rest of Canada and the Basque seem relatively contented these days.

Though its a wonder that Italy still manages to stay united.

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