Resistance during the German occupation (1942-1944)

From March 1942 until the end of the occupation in October 1944, Vassilis Filias took part in more than twenty mass demonstrations and assemblies held by students, pupils, workers and employees against the occupiers in Omonia, Metaxourgeio, Syntagma, Kolonaki and other Athenian districts.

He took part in student resistance group actions, which included writing on walls at night, creating and distributing leaflets and various forms of sabotage.

Due to ideological differences, he left the “Holy Brigade” (Ιερή Ταξιαρχία) founded by Panagiotis Kanellopoulos in 1945 and became a co-founder of the Panhellenic Organisation of Democratic Youth (Πανελλήνια Οργάνωση Δημοκρατικών Νεολαίων: ΠΟΔΝ). During the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), the editorial organ of his organisation, the “Machitis” (Μαχητής: fighter), helped narrow the gap between opposing forces in Greece.

Omilos Papanastasiou (Όμιλος Παπαναστασίου: Group of Papanastasios)

After the civil war, Vassilis Filias served in the Greek army from 1949 to 1953 as a lieutenant in the reserve commando unit.

After completing his studies abroad, he founded the “Papanastasiou Group” (Όμιλος Παπαναστασίου) in 1964 together with other scholars, including Sakis Karagiorgas, Nicos Poulantzas, Kostas Simitis, Gerasimos Notaras, Kostas Sofoulis und Kostas Nikolaou, of which he was chairman until 1967. The central points of the 20 founding principles included the socialist transformation of the political system, the complete elimination of all consequences of the civil war and a profound reform of the education system. It also provided for the decentralisation of the armed- and security forces and the increase of performance and quality in the civil service. The Papanastasiou group was an important factor in the socio-political changes and the consolidation of public life in Greece. The aim was to create a socialist party that would bring about structural changes and a fundamental reorientation of politics.

The group was able to establish itself on the left wing of society and gained increasing influence among scientists, academics, other professionals and workers. From 1965 onwards there was close cooperation with Andreas Papandreou and in this context Vassilis Filias became his adviser on foreign policy issues. In 1966 he took over the publication of the weekly newspaper “Evdomada” (Εβδομάδα: week).

Fight against the junta dictatorship – Dimokratiki Amyna (Δημοκρατική Άμυνα: Democratic Defence)

Immediately after the military coup of 21 April 1967, Vassilis Filias and other leading members of the Papanastasiou group founded the resistance organisation “Democratic Defence” (Δημοκρατική Άμυνα). This had the goal of overthrowing the junta by any means necessary. The core team included Sakis Karagiorgas, Georgios Mylonas, Spyros Plaskovitis, Kostas Kalligas and Vassilis Filias, who was appointed head of the organisation’s underground network.

Coordinated actions and initiatives contributed to the rapid growth of the resistance circle and the establishment of numerous cells at home and abroad. Thus, resistance groups were founded in Athens, Thessaloniki, Kozani, Crete and other regions. These networks were relatively small and structured according to professional groups, including intellectuals, military officers, academics, artists, journalists, judges and writers.

Groups were also founded in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, Geneva, New York and other large cities abroad. The main task was to support the resistance struggle at home. In addition, the networks aimed to inform foreign countries about the situation in Greece, to find influential supporters in the struggle against the junta and to undermine it as extensively as possible – economically, politically, militarily and in the media. The networks abroad kept in touch with government representatives, parties and politicians, trade unions, universities and the media. Details about the junta’s regime of terror (abolition of press freedom, elimination of the opposition, imprisonment in violation of international law and torture), information about the country’s infrastructure and economic situation were deliberately passed on to the international public.

From the beginning of the dictatorship until 1968, Vassilis Filias lived underground, where he coordinated numerous resistance activities. These included the creation and distribution of leaflets and many other actions that openly denounced the dictatorship and called on the people to resist.

The resistance forces, consisting of the “Patriotic Front” (Πατριωτικό Μέτωπο) and other leftist groups, were pooled and consolidated. Thus, abroad, delegations of the “Democratic Defense” worked with the P.A.K. (Panhellenic Liberation Movement; Πανελλήνιο Απελευθερωτικό Κίνημα: Π.Α.Κ) organization, founded by Papandreou, and jointly participated in organizing large-scale events and rallies against the junta, which had a large media echo.

The primary goal was to stir up international public opinion and draw attention to the intolerable situation in Greece. The result was that numerous respected political and cultural figures around the world joined the fight against the junta.

The resistance and illegal activities led to the members of the “Democratic Defense” being considered the main enemies by the junta. They were to be hunted down and imprisoned. Upon his arrest, Filias was told that the state had spent “millions (of drachmas)” to capture him. At his father’s funeral forty security agents would have been on the lookout for him – but in vain. Filias had been warned beforehand and did not attend his father’s funeral for security reasons. He was arrested on June 26, 1968, and was sent to the notorious Bouboulinas Street prison for three months.

Where the Ministry of Culture is located today, Filias was interrogated for several days by the torturers Vassilis Lambrou, Petros Babalis and Evangelos Mallios. He was then taken to Averoff Prison and sentenced to eighteen and a half years in prison in May 1969, along with other resistance fighters. His “defense speech” (απολογία) was an open denunciation of the junta and transformed the trial into another step of active resistance. The text was published the same day in several foreign newspapers and broadcast by radio stations throughout Europe.

During the rest of the dictatorship Filias was imprisoned throughout Greece (Athens: Averoff and Korydallos; Crete: Intzedin and Alikarnassos; Corfu). There he remained politically active. He wrote articles about the current political situation in Greece, which reached media representatives abroad through secret channels and were disseminated by them, mainly through radio and newspapers.

Together with his longtime companion Sakis Karagiorgas and other political prisoners, he went on hunger strike to improve prison conditions. He used the many years incarcerated and separated from his family to teach other prisoners (especially history, politics and foreign languages), to read, and to do preliminary work for a book which was later published under the title “Society and Power in Greece – The Illegitimate Urbanization from 1800 to 1864” (Κοινωνία και εξουσία στην Ελλάδα – Η νόθα αστικοποίηση 1800-1864).

Despite imprisonment these activities and continued contacts led to Filias receiving honorary memberships and -professorships at universities in Great Britain (Oxford) and in Germany (Darmstadt).

On August 21, 1973, Filias was released from prison under a general amnesty. He continued to fight the junta and especially one of its most important representatives, Spyros Markezinis. In the process, he succeeded in winning parts of the military in particular over to his side.

Time of political change and transition (Metapolitefsi)

After the fall of the dictatorship, the representatives of the resistance groups jointly tried to establish democracy and social justice in Greece.

In September 1974, the PA.SO.K party was founded by Andreas Papandreou (ΠΑ.ΣΟ.Κ.: Πανελλήνιο Σοσιαλιστικό Κίνημα), which led to a strong personalisation of the left movement and the upheavals caused by the latter that followed.

Filias could not and would not join Papandreou’s programme. He continued his activities and cooperation on a different level. Until the end of his life, he stood up for national concerns, social progress and the promotion of education and culture with great commitment.