Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The stance of the KKE in the face of the 1990-91 overthrows in the USSR

Interview with Aleka Papariga, member of the CC of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), former General Secretary of the Party from 1991 to 2013, in "Rizospastis" concerning the stance of the KKE during the 1990-91 counterrevolutionary overthrows in the Soviet Union

The interview (here in Greek) was originally published in "Rizospastis" weekend edition (18-19 December 2021). English translation by Nikos Mottas.

The bourgeois parties celebrated when the red flag was lowered from the Kremlin. What were their main declarations at that time?

They confirmed their class hatred and fear towards the working class, towards the majority of the working people. Apparently a variety of views was projected, from a ranging anti-communist celebration to the development of a supposedly serious reflection about the dissolution of the USSR. It was argued that capitalism is the last and eternal (exploitative) system and therefore the people have no reason to seek a new society without exploitation of man by man.

One group of views argued that the people overthrew a cruel dictatorial-bureaucratic system. Another category argued that socialism “collapsed” because it was a utopia that was contradictory to “human nature”. At the same time, all of them were assuring that humanity was now embarking on a new path, where war was abolished, because militarization and war were supposedly provoked by socialism, that peace would supposedly win and the new technologies would flood all sectors of human well-being and rights.

Immediately a fter the victory of the counterrevolution and the consequent capitalist setback, a new cycle of imperialist wars and interventions began, while the cycle of capitalist economic crisis erupted in greater synchronization, embracing a significant number of capitalist states and even the most powerful ones. A new round of inter-imperialist contradictions and competitions was developed, even more crude and hard, over who would penetrate the new capitalist markets. There were border changes, divisions of states, annexations, armed ethnic conflicts, all that we live today.

It goes without saying that the social achievements enjoed by the people of the socialist countries began to disintegrate until their complete overthrow. We remind the wave of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the USSR and the former socialist European states. Dramatic, direct and indirect were the consequences in the lives of the people in capitalist Europe. None of the predictions made were confirmed, instead capitalism descended new ladders of barbarism.

The Front Page's slogan of “Rizospastis” was our counterattack

Rizospastis 1991: "HOPE likes in the struggle of the people".

“Rizospastis” came out with the Front Page reading “Hope lies in the struggle of the people” and the slogan “Comrades, HOLD THE FLAG HIGH”. What factors determined the stance of the KKE at that critical moment?

It was not an emotional, defensive reaction to what hurt us deeply. It was the belief that this heavy defeat would not lead to the abolition of social evolution and to eternal stagnation. Begind the slogan, even as a seed of consciousness, was the belief that the regroupment of the KKE would be consolidated in the process of restoring its revolutionary character, which required also the restoration of the proper relationship with theory, the scientific, continuous study of developments, so that the conclusions enrich theory.

Among our first obligatory steps was the study of the course of socialist construction and the strategy of the Party. At that time it was not easy to be fully aware of the content of this study, much less we did not have to predetermine the conclusions.

A few days ago, the works of the extraordinary 14th Congress of the KKE (18-21 December 1991) were completed, closing the door to the deep crisis that the Party experienced for three years, with the issue being whether or not the KKE would continue its independent course a consious, organized vanguard of the working class that fights for socialism or would mutate into a social democratic party, first as a trend of the “Coalition of the Left and Progress” and later if a new social democratic pole would be formed, alongside sections of PASOK, as some had hoped. The front page slogan of “Rizospastis” was our counterattack.

The wrong strategy of the Party was in the basis of the internal crisis in the KKE

A hard fight preceded in the lines of the KKE, culminating in the 13th Party Congress. Where was the controversy over the Perestroika policy focused?

It had to do with the character of the Party, its ideological-political and organizational independence. An integral part of it was the stance towards the perestroika, our perception of socialism. Of course, the seed of the internal party crisis was not born because of the perestroika, but it pre-existed in a latent form several years ago, especially after the rise of PASOK to power. The perestroika led to the deepening and intensification of the internal party struggle, which could not be resolved through the holding of Congress and especially in the conditions under which the 13th Congress was prepared.

The problem was not only the formation of two basically opposing ideological-political views, but also the principles of the Party. The wrong strategy of the Party was in the basis of the internal crisis in the KKE, which of course was not a Greek peculiarity, but did not cease to be our responsibility.

The opportunist group utilized the perestroika and the bourgeois anti-KKE attack, sypporting a “PASOK-type socialism”, completely nullifying or downplaying the great contribution of socialism in the 20th century not only to the people of these countries but also worldwide.

Initially, the Central Committee came up with a text on perestroika which was discussed within the party, starting at the end of 1989. The CC considered that perestroika was a “revolution within the revolution” and that “it contributes to the development of more democracy and socialism”. That it “could influence states and social organizations, movements, people to move to a new beginning, with the main characteristics of mutual and collective security, the distancing from the logic of military power, the gradual overcoming of the division in two military coalitions, the disengagement from the pursuit of armaments”... That “there are forces of reaction and backwardness moving in all over the world to impede this course, to reap unilateral benefits and to strengthen their imperialist aims”.

The irreconcilable opposition between capitalism and socialism, the character of imperialist war and the stance of communists towards it, were wrongly set aside and degraded. Their place was taken by the non-existent division between states that could adopt a new idea and reactionary, backward state forces. The text of the CC also considered that in the “agenda” of the socialist countries was “the promotion of radical reforms of the administrative-bureaucratic system” and the “transition of socialism to a new stage”.

On the way, from the Party Base Organizations (PBOs) to the CC, a significant number of members and cadres became aware of the dangers posed by the perestroika. However, in the documents of the 13th Congress a very convenient – especially for the opportunists – position was expressed that the general conception of the perestroika in '85 was correct, that her “ideas could be a significant contribution to the socialist and communist movement”. That the perestroika “did not go the way it began”.

So, you understand that no matter how conscious and militant the struggle with opportunism was, it was not founded on solid ground. Of course, if this fight had not taken place, the outcome of the 13th Congress would have been completely negative. After the 14th Congress, the process of studying the course of socialist construction began, starting with the dialectical relationship between economics and politics, from the period of the victory of the workers' power until the counterrevolution.

From what viewpoint was the situation in the Soviet Union criticized by the current of euro-communism and the “KKE Interior” in Greece in the previous decades?

Euro-communism and the “KKE Interior”, in the final analysis, expressed both in theory and strategy the interests of the capital within the labor movement, supporting one or the other form of its supposedly fair management. Therefore, they could not objectively evaluate the contribution of the 20th century socialism and highlight the actual failures, mistakes, deviations.

Their overall perception was dangerous for the workers-people's movement, not only in the struggle for socialism in general, but also in the struggle for the repulsion of anti-worker, anti-people measures, in the struggle against the imperialist war. Even when they supported the popular struggles they sought to integrate them into reformist and trade unionist demands, promoting in every way the line of “system's reform” and the consensus in bourgeois strategy.

The culmination was the participation of Communist Parties in bourgeois governments and the deceptive theory for peaceful and humane capitalism, which SYRIZA took off with the slogan “the man above profits”. They therefore went hand by hand with the bourgeois attack against the working class power, defending the coexistence of multiple forms of property under socialism, that is, the capitalists. In fact, they identified the multiple forms of property with freedom and democracy, while during the period of imperialist interventions some Communist Parties supported the interests of their countries' bourgeois class.

The study of socialist construction played a serious role in the process of restoring the revolutionary character of the KKE

The 14th Congress of the KKE, 18-21 December 1991.
After the overthrows the KKE began a painful effort of self-examination of the international and domestic experience, which still continues. What are its main milestones?

The “painful” think was not that we had to study our theory again and again, to gather all the works-studies that had been done, to study thousands of materials from the archives (e.g. from the former USSR) and to translate them, apart from our own voluminous Archive while at the same time the Party was entering a, more or less, long course of regroupment. The “painful” think was, especially in the beginning and to some extend in the process, as we studied serious issues while contradictions and perceptions from the Party's wrong stratety still survived in our mind.

The course of the study played a serious role in the course of restoring the revolutionary character of the Party. The issue was judged not only on the level of formulating the general principles, but mainly on how their content is understood and how the fundamental principles are promoted in a course of socio-economic and political developments, where old phenomena appear in new forms, or even some new ones.

The major milestones were the first conclusions issued in 1995, also in 2009 with the 18th Congress which came up with the text “Assessments and Conclusions on socialist construction during the 20th century, focusing on the USSR”. A landmark was also 2011, with the publication of the Essay on the History of the KKE and the labor movement during the period 1940-1967. The study of the superstructure in the USSR began and continues, while we have started the study of the transition to socialism in the GDR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and in the course this will be expanded.

For several years now, translated studies of Soviet, German and other communist scientists have been frequently published in KOMEP (Communist Review), thus illuminating aspects of socialist construction, while archival materials and elaborations of the Departments of the Central Committee or Party cadres are published. Publications are also made by KNE.

We still have a lot of work to do, based on the important Decisions of the 20th and the recent 21st Congress. The research work on the issues of socialist construction is one of the preconditions for us to respond to our daily struggle for the workers-people's issues, on the road to overthrow, for socialism.

Isn't it dangerous that the critical examination of the problems of socialist construction by the KKE would be exploited by the bourgeois ideological attack of anti-Sovietism and anti-communism?

There is already evidence that we were not in danger, nor will there be in the future. The opposite happened. The class opponent not only did not dare to use our criticism, but on the contrary he hid its essence and purpose. From the first step we had an insurance valve, that our own study could not be done out and, much more, in contrast with our theory, nor was there any reason to question the offer of socialism and its achievements in the life of the working people.

In the study of socialist construction we had as a criterion that socialism is an imperfect stage of communist society, therefore the continuous improvement of the people's life, the strengthening of workers-social control and management, the central scientific planning, are based on the generalization and deepening of social ownership of the means of production, as a process to approach communist society.