Monday, September 17, 2018

Parliamentary politics and the communist party: the electoral arena, experience and lessons from Greece and the KKE

By Giorgos Marinos*.
We would like to thank the South African Communist Party for giving us the opportunity to attempt to share some basic elements from the experience of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with our comrades. In our opinion, the exchange of views on the issues of class struggle and the communist movement enhances our knowledge and experience.
The KKE was founded as a party of the working class one century ago, in November 1918, as a result of the merging of the labour movement with scientific communism, under the decisive impact of the Socialist October Revolution.
In the 1920’s and 30’s the party was making its first steps while at the same time it was at the forefront of the people’s struggle. It faced the repression of the bourgeois state, dictatorship in 1925 and 1936, severe conditions of illegality, imprisonment and exile.

During the Second World War within the framework of the struggle for liberation, it played a leading role in the foundation of the National Liberation Front (EAM) and the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS) which liberated a large section of the country from the Nazi occupation forces where cells of people’s power, people’s militia, people’s justice, local government etc were formed.
Following the ousting of the German war machine and the liberation of the country the party, due to its mistaken strategy, did not move forward to assert state power. On the contrary, it became entrapped in an effort to ensure democratic smooth developments; it signed unacceptable agreements with bourgeois forces; it participated in the bourgeois government in September 1944 with 6 ministers and in February 1945, it surrendered its weapons.
In other words, our Party was not able to utilize the revolutionary situation that was created at the end of 1944 and ended in 1946 after a period of decline.
Under conditions of harsh repression, in 1946, our party took up guerilla warfare. It founded the Democratic Army of Greece which fought heroically for three years, a struggle that constitutes the crowning moment of the class struggle in Greece. The civil war was won by the bourgeois class which was supported by British and US imperialism and in 1949, the militants of the DSE sought refuge in the socialist countries.
Thousands of communists fell in the battlefields, were executed by the firing squads of the bourgeoisie; thousands were imprisoned and sent into exile. The KKE was outlawed from 1947 until 1974. This period was the longest period of illegality for our party.
After the civil war and under the harsh conditions of illegality, the party maintained illegal party organizations. At the same time, after 1951, the party operated within the ranks of the coalition “Unified Democratic Left” (EDA), an alliance with a social democratic programme which comprised communist and social democratic forces. Despite its struggles for the interests of the working people, the EDA proved to be a breeding ground for opportunist positions and illusions. 
In 1958 the leadership of the party decided on the dissolution of the party organizations and the accession of the communists to EDA, which participated in the elections and in 1958 it held the 2nd position with 24%.
The dissolution of the party organizations was a grave mistake of the party which negatively affected the organizational, ideological and political independence of the party.
Parliamentary illusions were further fostered; the party cooperated with bourgeois “centre” social-democratic forces, whereas its forces were unprepared when military dictatorship was established in Greece in April 1967. Nevertheless, the communists with their illegal activity played the leading role in the struggle against the dictatorship, and many were sent to prison and exile. 
In the 1960’s opportunism was reinforced inside the party leading to an intense ideological political confrontation. In 1968, after a hard battle at the 12th plenary session of the CC, in conditions of illegality, the right-wing opportunist group was defeated and the party split.
The party got on its feet and continued its struggle. After the fall of the dictatorship in July 1974, it imposed its de facto legalisation.
The 1980’s was marked by the development of the party organizations, which were reconstructed during the period of dictatorship, as well as by the development of the KNE which was founded in 1968. The communists won many positions in the trade union movement and played a leading role in the class struggle.
In a period when the signs of counterrevolution and the overthrow of socialism were evident, the KKE cooperated with opportunist forces which had been expelled from the party in 1968 as well as social democratic forces. In 1989 it formed the so-called “Coalition of the Left and Progress”, the predecessor of SYRIZA which is currently the ruling party in our country.
This development gave rise to a new wave of opportunism.  The existence of the KKE was at stake given the counterrevolution and the overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union and the other countries of socialist construction. The communists resolved the problem at the 13th Congress of the party in 1991. At the Congress the party decided to withdraw its forces from the “Coalition”, it cleared its ranks and moved forward based on Marxism-Leninism, committed to revolutionary change.          
The study of the history of the KKE in this period helped us to draw significant conclusions:
First, on the necessity of revolutionary strategy, which must be in line with the character of our era, an era of transition from capitalism to socialism. 
Second, on the multifaceted ideological-political and organizational preparation of the party in order to deal with the complex conditions created by the class struggle, on the necessity to reject parliamentary illusions and utilize the revolutionary situation for the socialist revolution and the struggle for working class power.
Thirdly, on the safeguarding of the organizational, ideological and political independence of the party under all conditions, including illegality, imperialist war, dictatorship, fascism, as well as on the rejection of the participation in bourgeois alliances, “left coalitions” (or whatever name they take) which in practice negates the independence of the party and leads to compromises at the expense of the struggle for power.
Fourthly, on the rejection of the participation or the support of bourgeois governments and the safeguarding of the party so as not to come under the flag of sections of the bourgeois class.
Fifth, the resolute,uncompromising struggle against opportunism which is a vehicle for the penetration of bourgeois ideology in the labour and communist movement, which can lead to liquidation.
Recent period
After the crisis in 1990-1991 the party moved decisively to reconstruct the party organizations; it reinforced its orientation towards the working class, winning over forces and trade unions and at the 15th Congress in 1996 it began the elaboration of new programmatic guidelines. In this context, it replaced the strategy of transitional stages arriving at the conclusion that in Greece, a country with an intermediate position in the imperialist system, the material preconditions for the new society have matured and, thus, the struggle must aim at the solution of the basic contradiction between capital and labour. 
This was a significant achievement which was further developed with the study of the causes and the factors that led to the overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union and the other countries of socialist construction, an issue which was dealt with by the 18th Congress in 2009, and the relevant discussion that contributed to the enrichment of the strategy of the party.
Based on the further elaboration of this material and new studies on the development of capitalism in Greece, as well as on the experience of the international communist movement, our party approved a new Programme at its 19th Congress in 2013.          
The programme further clarified that the counterrevolutionary overthrows do not change the character of our era, the character of revolution as a key element of the strategy of the Communist Party which acts under the conditions of monopoly capitalism, i.e. imperialism, is not determined according to the current correlation of forces but by the maturation of the material conditions for socialism and the contradiction that is to be resolved according to historical evolution (i.e. the contradiction between capital and labour). 
The party programme states that the Greek people will be liberated from the bonds of capitalist exploitation and the imperialist unions when the working class, together with its allies, carries out the socialist revolution and moves forward to construct socialism-communism with working class power, socialization of the concentrated means of production, development of the economy with central-scientific planning, disengagement of the country from the imperialist organizations of the NATO and the EU.
The motor forces of the socialist revolution will be the working class as the leading force, the semi-proletarians, the oppressed popular strata of the urban self-employed, the poor farmers, who are negatively affected by the monopolies, and for this reason have an objective interest in their abolition, the abolition of capitalist ownership, in the overthrow of its power, in the new relations of production. Today in conditions of a non-revolutionary situation, the KKE works to prepare the subjective factor for the prospect of socialist revolution, despite the fact that the time period of its outbreak is determined by objective pre-conditions i.e. the revolutionary situation ("those above” are no longer able to rule and “those below" no longer wish to live as they used to).
The necessity of the preparation of the party and the workers’ people’s movement involves the following tasks: the strengthening of the KKE, the regroupment of the labour movement, the social alliance which expresses the interests of the working class, the semi-proletarians, the self-employed in the urban centres and the poor farmers, the youth and the women of the working class and the popular strata in the struggle against monopolies and capitalist ownership.
The work of the party in all fields of class struggle is guided by the strategy of the party and the corresponding line for the rallying of forces. Likewise, the intervention of communists in the trade union movement, in parliamentary work, in local administration, in all fronts that concern the problems of the working class, the popular strata, and the youth.
Visit of D. Koutsoumβas, General Secretary of the CC of the KKE and President of the Parliamentary Group of the KKE, to workers in the Elefsina Shipyards.

Our party participates in the elections as KKE. Its lists also include militant people who are not communists but cooperate with the party and the mass organizations supported by the party i.e. trade-unionists, workers, farmers, self-employed, craftsmen, tradesmen, students, scientists, veterans.
Today the KKE has 15 Members of the Parliament (MPs), 2 members of the European Parliament, 5 mayors (amongst them in the 3rd biggest city, Patras), 31 regional councilors, and hundreds of municipal councilors.
The KKE intervenes in the national parliament, trying to prevent the adoption of anti-people measures and voting against anti-people draft laws or directives and other legislative acts of the EU. It tables questions, draft-laws and amendments on serious issues that concern the working class, e.g. the relief of the people’s families from loans and taxation, healthcare, education, in tandem with the struggle of the trade unions, the labour and people’s movement.
Recently it utilized an initiative of PAME and 513 Trade unions, Federations and Labour Centers concerning collective bargaining agreements and tabled a draft law initiating a debate in the parliament. This initiative has been very useful despite its rejection by the SYRIZA-ANEL government and the other bourgeois parties.
The positions of the KKE are normally rejected by the bourgeois and opportunist parties. Nevertheless, these interventions help us to reveal the exploitative character of capitalism and bourgeois democracy as the “dictatorship of the monopolies”.
They contribute to the enlightenment of the working class, the popular strata, and the youth. Based on this information the working people can improve the organization of their struggle.
Every time that anti-people measures are adopted, our party strives and struggles persistently so that they are not legitimized in people’s consciousness.
These interventions e.g. the intervention with a question denouncing measures that commercialize healthcare or impose taxes on the people can be utilized in the broad mass struggle in connection with the activity of the party organizations and the Communist Youth or they can be adopted by the trade unions and other mass organization of the people’s movement. This is the very content of the struggle of our party and our MPs.
The communist MPs maintain strong bonds with the workers in the factories, in the enterprises, with the poor and medium-sized farmers, the self-employed, with the youth in schools and universities, with the employees in healthcare services and generally with the working people in the workplaces and the popular neighborhoods.
In cooperation with the party organizations they collect material in order for the interventions in the parliament to be more effective and revealing.
They are at the forefront of the workers’ and people’s struggles, contributing to the organization of the struggle.
The communist MPs are not detached from the working class and the popular strata not even in terms of income. They give their entire parliamentary salary to the party which, to the extent that’s possible given the needs of the class struggle, provides them with an income that cannot exceed a workers’ salary.
Our party has also a significant experience from the struggle against the Nazi criminal organization “Golden Dawn”. Our party confronts them both in the parliament as well as in the workers’ and people’s movement and tries to reveal the dangerous role of the fascists who are currently in the courts for crimes, murders of militants and immigrants, attacks against communists and forces of PAME. The KKE and KNE, along with militant workers, contribute decisively to the protection of the struggles so that the working class isolates the fascist monstrosity.
The members of the Party who are elected or appointed by the party to legislative bodies, in representative or other elected bodies and generally in the institutions of the bourgeois state implement the policy and the decisions of the party, are committed to the cause of the working class and the defense of its interests and consistently defend the people’s interests.
When party members are proposed to undertake duties in these positions, the opinion of their Party Base Organisations and the respective organs must be taken into account. 
This position is at the disposal of the party. The leading organs may appoint them to another field of responsibility according to the needs of the party.
The salaries, the allowances and the pensions or any other economic benefits that flow from this position belong to the party and are granted to it.
The MPs who are members of the party comprise the parliamentary group.
The lists of the party are formed by the CC, according to the proposals of the leading organs of the party organizations. The CC decides on the composition of the parliamentary group and its secretariat that coordinates its work.
The activity of the Party in the parliament serves the goals and the needs of the class struggle.
Visit of the GS of the CC of the KKE to one of the dozens farmers roadblocks, which spread all over Greece.

The KKE tells the people that parliamentary work is merely an aspect of the struggle. The main issue is the acceleration of the labour movement’s regroupment, the strengthening of the trade unions, the consolidation of class orientation, the change of the correlation of forces, the defeat of the forces that support the EU, the bourgeois policy, of the reformist, opportunist forces that promote class collaboration and seek to disarm the labour movement.
It explains the need to construct the social alliance so as to strengthen the anti-capitalist, antimonopoly struggle and rally forces for the overthrow of capitalist barbarity.
The KKE underlines that the struggle against the bourgeois and opportunist forces in the Parliament and the European parliament for all the people’s problems in confrontation with the bourgeois class, the bourgeois state, the EU and the capitalist system has nothing to do with the fostering of illusions and confusion that parliamentary struggle can lead to a pro-people reformation of the capitalist system or the EU, the imperialist Union which is supported by strong monopoly groups, a position promoted by the ELP or SYRIZA or other forces in Greece.
The experience of our party demonstrates that this position has created serious damage to people’s consciousness. It is based on the dangerous illusion that capitalism can be humanized, in a period that the capitalist system in its current imperialist stage is becoming increasingly reactionary and dangerous.
Our fundamental position is that we cannot talk about “democracy in general” but only about bourgeois democracy. Likewise, there is no “dictatorship in general” but dictatorship of the oppressed class, namely the proletariat, over its oppressors and exploiters, namely over the bourgeois class aiming at the defeat of their resistance in their struggle for domination.
«….The most democratic bourgeois republic is nothing more than a machine for the suppression of the working class by the bourgeoisie, for the suppression of the  mass of the toilers by a handful of capitalists …»[1]  and that this suppression escalates when the power of capital is at stake.
In our opinion, these issues are fundamental for the elaboration of the policy of the CP as well as useful for the struggle for winning over workers’ people’s consciousness, for the maturation of the subjective factor.
The bourgeois parties utilize the political, ideological mechanisms of the system, the repressive mechanisms, the intervention of the employers. They deceive; they use false dilemmas, the logic of the “lesser evil” in order to trap popular forces.
The participation of communists in the elections is based on other criteria. The communists defend the truth, they do not ‘sweet-talk’ the masses, they struggle against the logic of the “saviour” from above. On the contrary, they show the real revolutionary path and as far as possible, the pre-election battle is organized around the mobilization of the working people.
Based on the above, our party dealt with the complicated developments in the period 2012-2015, a period which was marked by the rise of SYRIZA. SYRIZA was a small opportunist party that emerged from the split of the KKE in 1991. In the elections it got 3-4% while having no bonds with the working class. It was transformed into a party with a social democratic strategy and prepared for bourgeois governance with the support of powerful sections of the bourgeois class.
SYRIZA took advantage of the damage done to the old social democratic party PASOK during the capitalist crisis. It gathered leaders of PASOK and utilized forces from its support base.
Dealing with SYRIZA was not an easy task. SYRIZA utilized “left slogans”, it exploited the struggles of the communists and tried to ‘sweet-talk’ the working people. In January 2015 it won the majority and formed a government with the bourgeois nationalist party “independent Greeks” (ANEL).
Our party predicted the social-democratic transformation of SYRIZA way ahead of time, its promotion as a new social democratic pillar of the bourgeois political system and capitalist development and revealed its role from the very first moment.
The KKE resisted the pressure exerted on it with the discussion about a left government. Despite the fact that this principled position caused a loss in votes and seats in the parliament in the elections of June 2012, the KKE followed a policy that laid a strong foundation for the development of the class struggle in conditions of a deep capitalist crisis. At the same time, at the international level it dealt decisively with the opportunist forces and particularly the Party of the European Left which played a leading role in the support of SYRIZA at the expense of our party and sought to deceive the working people.
The position of the KKE was soon confirmed and vindicated in practice.
When SYRIZA took power in January 2015 it continued the anti-people policies of the previous bourgeois governments and parties. Together, (with ND and PASOK) they adopted and implemented the 3rd memorandum which was jointly elaborated by the government, the EU and the IMF promoting a package of measures that abolished Collective Labour Agreements, imposed cuts in salaries and pensions, the abolition of basic social rights, cuts in salaries. 
This period is marked by privatizations in strategic sectors of economy (e.g. airports, ports etc); heavy taxation is being imposed on the working people, healthcare and education are being further commercialized.
SYRIZA supports big capital with funding, tax exemptions etc. High unemployment rates remain and exceed 20 % and flexible forms of employment, which intensify capitalist exploitation, are being expanded. These policies are being continued today in the conditions of the weak recovery of the capitalist economy. The anti-people measures are being maintained and reinforced. In many cases the struggle of the peoples are met with repression. Recently the government passed a law that undermines the right to strike while 90% of the strikes are declared illegal.
However, the most prominent contribution of SYRIZA-ANEl government is the support of NATO, the USA and the EU and the involvement of the country in the imperialist plans, the use and the creation of new US-NATO military bases which are used in the war against the people of Syria, Libya, and in all imperialist interventions.
The KKE and PAME are at the forefront of the struggles of the working class, the farmers and generally the popular strata with strikes, demonstrations, occupations, struggle against imperialist wars, for the development of internationalist solidarity.
More and more people have understood today the decisive position of the party towards the so-called left, social democratic government and the fact that no bourgeois party, no bourgeois government that serve the interests of capital can implement pro-people policies.
On the basis of this line, the communists are organizing the struggle in factories workplaces, in schools and universities, in neighborhoods and are strengthening their influence in the labour and people’s movement.
The forces of PAME are winning positions in the trade unions. The class-oriented movement occupies the second position in the trade unions with 25%. The lists supported by KNE in the universities are also second, exceeding 20%.
There is a crucial question: what would have happened if the KKE had retreated and had cooperated with the so-called left government, with social democracy and opportunism?
KKE Politburo member, Giorgos Marinos.
The damage would have been dramatic. The prestige and the character of the party would have suffered a great blow. Our people would have lost its confidence towards the communists and would have been deprived of a strong force that struggles both inside and outside the parliament for the interests of the people, concentrating and educating forces for the overthrow of capitalist exploitation.
The KKE utilizes its 100-year history, its achievements and mistakes; it examines its history objectively. Communists are not distracted by successes. Complacency is a big enemy.  It is necessary to deal decisively with our weaknesses. Class struggle is hard, but the way is paved and we struggle for a strong party in the struggle for the strengthening the labour movement, the consolidation of the anti-capitalist antimonopoly social alliance. We struggle for a party that has deeply assimilated the scientific theory of Marxism-Leninism, that will be prepared to lead the struggle against imperialist war, for working class power, i.e. socialism communism.
[1]    V.I. Lenin «On “Democracy” and Dictatorship», Collected Works, V. 27, pgs., 388-393.
Article Published in "African Communist",  Theoretical journal of the South African Communist Party (SACP), August 2018.
* Giorgos Marinos is a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece.