Friday, September 24, 2021

The legalization of the KKE in 1974

By Nikos Mottas.

It was on 23 September 1974 when the Greek government of “national unity”, under Konstantine Karamanlis, was publicly announcing the legalization of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) after 27 years. Alongside with the legislative decree, the government was repealing the infamous Law 509/1947 which was a source of persecutions, exiles, tortures and executions of thousands of communists during the post-war years. 

On 25 September 1974 the front page of “Rizospastis”, the official organ of the KKE, was dominated by the Greeting Message of the Central Committee to the working class, the peasantry, the whole people. Here is a significant excerpt of the message:

“After 27 years of continuous illegality, the KKE is achieving legitimacy. For twenty-seven years, based on Law 509 the state regarded the existence and activity of the KKE as a crime. There are thousands of the Party's members, cadres and followers who during those years were arrested, tortured, deported, imprisoned and many of them executed based on this law. We are currently focusing our thought especially to the thousand of heroes, supporters, members and cadres of the KKE who gave everything, their own lives, in the struggles for a better future of our country.

The Communist Party, despite the constant and relentless persecution, never folded its flag. Chased, slandered, injured, it was always at the center of the country's political life, finding the strength and the way to continue its fight for the interests of the working class and all working people. To stand as a consistent opponent of local and foreign monopolies […] The abolition of Law 509 is not only a victory of the KKE. It is a victory of the working class, of the workers, of the people as a whole. It is a victory of Democracy. It is the recognition of the democratic right of action of political parties, the right of political thought and action. It is a blow to the dark forces, the forces of reaction which, based on this law, justified the persecution of every thought and activity that was directed against them […]

On this occasion, the Central Committee would like to declare once again that the KKE, faithful to the theory of Marxism-Leninism and to proletarian internationalism, faithful to the cause of our country's working class will continue for her liberation from exploitation and will stand in a leading role for democracy, for socialism”.

The legalization of the KKE was welcomed by numerous communist and workers' parties from all the word. In a telegram addressed to the then First Secretary of the KKE Charilaos Florakis, the leader of the CC of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany Erich Honecker was stressing out: “For decades the Greek communists engaged in a hard and full of sacrifices struggle against fascism and repression. With the legalization of the KKE, without which democratic progress and national independence cannot be achieved for the Greek people, new possibilities are created for all antifascist, democratic and progressive forces of Greece, in the struggle for democracy and social progress”.

From its side, in a letter to the CC of the KKE, the unified Polish Workers Party was pointing out: “We consider the legalization of the KKE as a great success of the communists and all left forces. It is the outcome of heroic struggles of the best forces of the Greek nation against fascism, for the rights of the people and democracy” (Rizospastis, 28/9/1974).

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) noted: “This victory was achieved due to the persistent, long-time and selfless struggle of the Greek communists, the working class and the democratic forces of your country against the local and foreign reaction. We wish to our fraternal Communist Party of Greece to hold high the flag of Marxism-Leninism and Proletarian Internationalism in the future” (Rizospastis, 29/9/1974).

The front page of "Rizospastis", first edition after the fall of Junta, 25 Sept. 1974. 

In another statement, the Communist Party of Bulgaria was underlining that “for more than five decades, facing the most severe trials, the KKE bravely and consistently defends the interests of the working class of Greece, of all working people, fighting for the free, independent and democratic Greece” (Rizospastis, 1/10/1974). 

Speaking at the 10th Congress of the KKE in May 1978 – the first one that was organized after the legalization – Secretary Charilaos Florakis said: “The legalization of the KKE was not only a success of the working class, but also a victory of the democratic movement and the country's democratic life in general. The second lesson of life during these years is that the KKE does not dissapear because money oligarchy and imperialism want, that despite the harsh persecution of its members, the existence and activity of the KKE continued uninterruptedly. This is not due to any conjuncture or whim of history. The Party's existence is a historical necessity”.

Indeed, long before its official legalization by the government of Karamanlis, the Communist Party of Greece had achieved its legalization in practice. The continuous, persistent and heroic struggles of the Greek communists, who were always at the forefront of the popular struggles, before and during the 1967-1974 military Junta, had established in the consciousness of the people the need for the Party's active presence in the political and social life of the country.

After all, the pioneering anti-dictatorial struggle of the KKE and its youth wing, KNE, under conditions of illegality and persecution, had made the legalization of the working class Party a necessary precondition for the democratic restoration after the fall of military Junta.

The legalization of the Communist Party of Greece was a major achievement of the workers-people's struggles and not an example of the supposed “generosity” of the Karamanlis government or the bourgeois political system. 

* Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.