By Nikos Mottas
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 the KKE Central Committee member Nikos Beloyannis and three of his comrades- Dimitris Batsis, Elias Argyriadis and Nikos Kaloumenos. The execution- murder- of Beloyannis was a crime of the then bourgeois Greek government of Nikolaos Plastiras and the U.S. imperialists.
Beloyannis, who is known as “the man with the carnation”, was a cadre of the — then illegal- Communist Party of Greece (KKE). He and his comrades had waged an unwavering struggle against foreign imperialism and its local allies. For his political activity and ideological beliefs he was arrested, tried and executed.
“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.”
- Nikos Belogiannis, abstract of his defense speech at the military tribunal.
In his highly publicized and controversial trials, Beloyannis fought with unparalleled 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.
“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”.
- Nikos Beloyannis, defense speech at the military tribunal.
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 Pablo Picasso, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Paul Sartre, Paul 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.
The execution of Beloyannis and his three comrades on the dawn of the 30th of April 1952 took place under the lights of the military trucks and jeeps, as it was still dark and everything had to be carried out quickly, before the news spread to Athens. However, the news of Beloyannis murder were spread across the world and the crime was denounced, not only by the working people in every country, but also by famous personalities: Pablo Picasso, Ilya Erhenburg, Paul Eluard, Nazim Hikmet, Howard Fast and others condemned the execution of Beloyannis and mentioned the heroism of the Greek communist who remained completely loyal to his beliefs until the end.
“Belogiannis lives, because the movement that raised and educated him lives and develops. (…) Belogiannnis did his duty. He honoured the dead of the labour struggles from the interwar period, of EAM-ELAS, DSE, of the struggles for social rights. He was their worthy successor and served social progress and the people as a whole. This is why we do not consider him to be a hero just for the KKE. His heroism, his example, in a period of the labour-people’s movement’s defeat, demonstrates that the path is kept open and the flame alive in even the darkest periods (…)The KKE learns from the history of N.Belogiannis and thousands of other heroes. It understands its own responsibilities in a more demanding way in the conditions today of the retreat of the labour-people’s movement at a global level. As regards the task of politically awakening the working class-popular forces so that they take matters into their own hands.”
- Dimitris Koutsoumbas, General Secretary of the KKE, Speech at the opening of “Nikos Beloyannis” Museum in Amaliada, Greece, 27 March 2017).
Who was Nikos Beloyannis — A short biography
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.
* * *
I have on my table the photograph of the man
with the white carnation–
whom they shot
in the half darkness
before the dawn,
beneath the light of the searchlights.
In his right hand he holds a carnation
which is like a handful of light
from the Greek sea.
His eyes which are brave,childlike,
look out, guilelessly,
beneath their heavy black eyebrows. Thus guilelessly–
like the song which rises
when they make their vow
His teeth are bright white–
And the carnation in his hand
is like the speech he spoke to the people
on the day of bravery–
the day of shame.
- NAZIM HIKMET,
“The Man With The Carnation”.
Poem for Nikos Beloyannis.
(From the magazine “Soviet Woman,” April 1952)