Wednesday, December 23, 2015

EMEP: Modern social reformism and the KKE

The Europe[1] of today, despite its long-lost central position in the capitalist world, still is home to countries where both monopolistic capitalism and the material pre-conditions for socialism[2] are most advanced. Faced with this reality, it is no surprise that European peoples and workers’ movements suffered the most from the many faceted scars and the deepest effects of the temporary comprehensive defeat of the international working class. The specific asymmetry of note here is that in this territory – where material pre-conditions of socialism are most advanced and hence the most advanced sections of the only class that is able to establish a social revolution (working class) exist – workers’ movement is in a historically[3] least powerful, disorganised, most divided position and its trust in socialism is most shaken. This relative inverse proportional relationship between objective and specific conditions, caused by the historical defeat, is still not overcome.[4]
Yes, still despite the 2007-2009 economic crisis that shook Europe. It is clear that if the deep economic crisis – that started a period of deepening general depression in monopolistic capitalism – had not coincided with this period of the historical defeat, the development of the class struggle would have developed differently.
This crisis has also had an impact on the aforementioned asymmetry. Not only did it expose the parasitic character and the decay of monopolistic capitalism[5] but it also led to new concerns among all classes and their political representatives that suffered socio-economic deterioration in their conditions. The crisis exposed the limits of the European workers’ movement against the capitalistic offensive, the serious frailty and the weaknesses of those parties tasked with (or at least claiming to) organising and directing that movement. This article will focus on two examples highlighting typical ideological-political problems of European workers’ movement.[6] One of these is the increasingly evident modern social reformism within Syriza and the other is the emerging left doctrinarism and sectarianism within the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). Considering the general situation above, it is no coincidence that these two examples have come to heads in a country where the crisis caused major social trauma.
Die Wirtschaftswoche[7], the perfect media mouthpiece of German capital, faced its audience with a striking cover following the formation of the Syriza government: on the fluctuant red flag were three faces; ‘leader of the Podemos Movement’ in Spain, Pablo Iglesias was on the left, the new Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras was in the middle and the new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was on the right. The title was the chorus of The Internationale and the sub-title read: “The new left populists of Europe are poor, sexy and dangerous for our welfare!”
Any Marxist-Leninist that saw the cover would have laughed at first, as linking Syriza and Podemos to communism and revolutionary workers’ movement is laughable! The mouthpiece of German capital knew fully that these adolescent ‘socialists’ had nothing to do with revolutionary socialism. It seems that capital’ magazine couldn’t resist – presented with the opportunity – ridiculing communism through these “new left populists”. At the same time it felt the need to warn “anything they may spur on one way or another could threaten our welfare!”
We will return to the cause of this warning but first we must make something clear: how does modern social reformism[8] differ from classical reformism that preceded it? The commonality is clear: deny workers’ revolution and rule; reform capitalism socially through public opinion and parliamentarian means rather than working class struggles, making it more ‘human’; replace ‘savage capitalism’ with ‘social and ecological capitalism’; achieve incremental social improvements through ‘reforms’ based on preconditions of capital relations, etc. In short, from an ideological perspective there is no difference between old and modern reformism.
The most important difference between modern and classical reformism is its relationship with the working class – or the lack of it. Modern social reformism of today is social reformism within the conditions of the historic defeat of the working class, the effects of which are still felt. The previous one surfaced and found its political meaning in keeping a dynamic and revolutionary workers’ movement within the bounds of capitalism, to curb the workers’ movement and to turn it from revolutionary action. When a serious revolutionary workers’ movement develops in any country, without a doubt today’s social reformism will also expand its role in this direction.
However, there is not a serious revolutionary movement that will embrace the population of its class today and modern social reformism has risen and strengthened despite this absence! In other words, to say social reformism is social reformism – that is, to look at the issue on a purely ideological basis – will prevent us from clearly grasping the reality of the problem.
If social reformism found the opportunity to develop within conditions where workers – besides being revolutionary – cannot act in unity as a class or repel bourgeois offensives, then it should be noted the real point of today’s social reformism is not so much as its reformism but its sociality. In other words, the ideological frailties of today’s mass movements observed in many European countries and driven by socio-liberal reformist ideology should not prevent us from recognising their social reality.
As known, since the collapse of Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, international capital and especially European capital have shown a widespread and relentless offensive against the working masses. In a fairly short amount of time, workers found out that capitalism “that beat communism” did not really bring welfare and security as claimed. Indeed they lost many social, economic and democratic gains of the previous period. The big economic crisis deepened this offensive; workers were made to pay the bill. Whatever the explanation by bourgeois and social liberal ideologues, the situation is that wide masses of workers, labourers and youth are protesting against this offensive, increasingly reacting against social and economic conditions and express their discontent against the status quo in different ways.
Toiling masses increasingly oppose the attacks unleashed by capital and their governments, but what do they want? They put forward social, economic and political demands such as the end of the offensive, termination of austerity policies and the withdrawal of social rights, new areas of work created and funded properly especially for the youth, higher taxation of financial capital, better pay, end to privatisation, limiting or abolition of subcontracting, abolition of anti-worker changes in-laws, equal pay, investment in health and education, the limitations on rights to strike, demonstrate and march to be withdrawn, etc.[9]
Just as elections show the level of maturity of workers, their demands show the political level of workers. Of course not in an abstract sense; within its relationship in a specific period, conditions and situation. From this perspective, it is clear that demands are generally defensive and focus on regaining lost rights. This character of demands also indicate to an overlap between workers’ movement and social reformism.
Nevertheless, the social backbone of modern social reformist movement are workers’ aristocracy, small and (a limited number of) middle bourgeoisie and intellectuals.[10] Capitalist crisis and the increased capitalist offensive (‘neoliberalism’!) have caused disillusionment with capitalism itself and they are longing for a ‘new’ ‘social capitalism’ (‘social market economy’) that is actually old (‘social state’!). Hence, while the bourgeoisie claims that socialism is a historical deviation, modern social reformists claim that capitalism deviated from its essence!
From this perspective, today’s social reformism represents a form of romanticism (from the “return to principles” of the French Bourgeois Revolution to the re-establishment of “social state”!). Classic social reformism on the other hand was not romantic, despite being limited by the horizon of transforming capitalism through social reforms, it was forward-looking.
On the other hand, due to the historic defeat, workers trust in socialism is shaken and ideologically they are mainly influenced by social-liberal currents. It is such that the two classes/groups, in the same state of mind due to their disillusionment and distrust (one of socialism and the other of capitalism), have met in ‘social capitalism’. This overlap directly shapes the working class under conditions where struggle for socialism is seen as a dream; pushes the working class towards modern social reformism, the expression of which could be quite radical in terms of the crisis and the level of social shock it caused; enables the working class to embrace a struggle, along the line preached by social reformism, to secure real and tangible improvements in social and economic conditions.
Needless to say, unless the social and political reality of European workers’ movements summarised above is grasped, no revolutionary task can be executed correctly and effectively. The more this is realised today, the clearer the complexity and difficulty communists’ face in their duties to represent workers’ movement and the foresight, patience and flexibility expected of them.
Going back to the warning by Wirtschaftswoche as to the ‘dangerous’ strengthening of modern social reformism, which in reality aims not to do away with capitalism but reestablish the previous ‘social state’ or ‘social welfare society’; this warning is an expression of the experiences of monopolistic bourgeoisie. Their ideologues are well aware of many historical movements that started out with a certain social or political goal and ended with completely different aims or results. For this reason, they do not want to play with fire!
As Marxist-Leninists, we are aware that worthy social reforms are achieved by a revolutionary struggle of the working class and the masses. Besides, historically reforms have always been a byproduct of revolutionary struggles (meaning measures and reforms in an attempt to weaken revolutionary struggle and to stunt it). “Without Social Democrats there would be no social reforms” (Bismarck). As such, without the October Revolution and the Soviet Union there would have been no ‘social state’. The history of European workers is full of similar examples that support this thesis, hence this side of the problem is clear.
Another truth that is also clear is that the working class of today are separated from their history and historical accumulation. We are faced with a contradictory and specific situation: there is a serious mismatch between the historical accumulation of the working class as a political class and the horizons of its current practical struggle. To see the real roots of this contradictory situation you need to look at modern revisionism that seized power in the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union and the historical defeat that it delivered.
So that we don’t lose track we’ll settle with expressing this: modern revisionism has turned the working class revolutionary theory into a shallow and formal one; it has blunted “its revolutionary dialectics[11] seen by Lenin as the “determining factor in Marxism” and hence removed Marxism-Leninism as the guide to working class action. During the dominance of modern revisionism, especially in Western Europe, workers’ movements never reached the level of a serious revolutionary movement. There were numerous workers’ struggles in Europe between the end of the 60s and the early 80s. But none of these struggles were directed – either by modern revisionism in the Soviet Union (and hence its satellite revisionist parties of Western Europe) or by Euro-communism – with a view to develop and organise the working class or with a perspective and practice that enable the working class to come to power. The more the revolutionary character of the working class was weakened, the more workers became dominated by the liberal bourgeoisie through social liberalism. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Block was the icing on the cake, or rather a situation that was taking shape became politically clearer and the period of erosion of the revolutionary character of working class was achieved…
So where does the KKE stand in this picture? Despite taking a positive stance in respect of main ideological and political issues such as criticism of 20th Congress and Kruschev’ revisionism[12], it still has not overcome the dismantling of revolutionary core of Marxism-Leninism and primarily the damage to realising the role and duties of communist parties towards the working class. Hence, the political, social and economic shocks in Greece brought on by the worldwide economic crisis and the social erosion this caused has very quickly exposed the KKE’s weaknesses. The frailties and mistakes of the KKE on the aforementioned issues played a major role in failure to fulfil its complex and difficult role as a communist party within the conditions of class struggle in Greece.[13] The friendly criticism of these frailties and mistakes are essential for the benefit of Greek and European workers’ movements.
We say ‘friendly’, because it needs to be known that criticisms cited here are not related to the ‘right opportunistic’ criticism the KKE receives.[14] Indeed, the KKE has for a while been involved in discussions with international focus groups that it is also a member of. According to the KKE, there exists “a crisis within the communist movement”: “strengthening opportunism is evident in the ideological-political and organisational crisis of international communist movement”.[15] The issues that “lead to splits ” within the movement are wide-spread from the character and stages of revolution to concepts of parliamentarism, from approaches to capitalist crisis to proletarian internationalism. For example, this movement has failed to publish a joint declaration following their annual general conference for the last two years.
Currently, the KKE shared its opinion on the discussions within the movement with a statement titled “On some of the problems of the international communist movement”. This and many other statements include many truths regarding openly right-wing thesis (Transforming the EU to support public; the delusions spread about China and Russia in terms of BRICS countries; “socialist” definition of Latin American “progressive governments”; affirmation of “21. Century socialism” and the “market socialism” in China and Vietnam, etc.). (We should also mention that some of the KKE evaluations overlap with ideas argued by The Conference of International Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations – CIPOML- which was borne from the struggle against modern revisionism, redeploying itself with the Quito Declaration at a time when anti-revolution was rampant). Despite this positive point, as will be seen below; the position of the party in terms of responsibilities towards the working class, its duties and necessary tactics and alliances still retains doctrinarian and sectarian tendencies.
In the aforementioned statement, the KKE draws attention to the line of “alliances and struggles” developed in its own country. It is mentioned that the “point of focus” of this line is “re-building the workers’ movement and strengthening class unity through class orientation”. Furthermore, the party’s attempts to build an “alliance of the public; of the working classes and destitute farmers, small business owners, women and the youth of families that belong to different public strata” is highlighted. “Under current conditions this alliance is expressed in the unified struggles and coordinated actions of PAME among the working class, PASY among the farmers, PASEVE among self-employed and urban business owners, MAS among university youth and OGE among women”.[16]
It might be thought that a real people’s alliance is established in Greece. Nevertheless such a situation is not present. It is claimed that the “social people’s alliance has an anti-capitalist anti-monopolistic direction”. So? The reality is this: PAME, PASY, PASEVE, MAS and OGE are “combatant units” established by and following the line of the KKE! And as such they are naturally “anti-capitalist and anti-monopolistic” units. In the KKE’s words they are executing “vanguardist mass activities”! In short, there is not a “social people’s alliance” in reality, on the contrary there is an organisational unity between union, youth, women and farmer organisations of the KKE’s own and/or those that follow its line.
On the other hand, these “combative unions”, in unity with the KKE, along their own “anti-capitalist anti-monopolistic” line, are preparing for revolution; “people’s alliance”, “will grow with every struggle for each problem facing the public, adjust to new conditions and prepare itself, so that it can play a leading role in conditions of revolution”. “Revolutionary conditions have an objective character and every party should be prepared for this”. “KKE, class conscious movement and the public alliance play a leading role in the struggle in Greece; mobilise masses of hundreds of thousands against capital, its parties and government and the imperialist EU”.
The KKE’s concept of struggle must have been criticised in its member group, as the following is also included in the statement: “Statements that show revolutionary movement in a bad light and call it ‘sectarian’ damage communist movement. These statements are trying to render worthless the actions of vanguardist mass activities – continuing the struggle through concrete targets for each problem faced by the public – against monopolies and capitalism by KKE, PAME and other organisations”.
We cannot determine from these “statements” which basis and/or arguments the “sectarianism” criticisms were based on. But we must point out that the KKE’s understanding of class struggle has sectarian properties. “Continuing the struggle through concrete targets for each problem faced by the public” in the “vanguardist mass activities” does not remove this sectarianism (known sectarian tendencies also claim the struggle for concrete problems faced by the public). Besides, the real issue is not for which problems ‘vanguardist mass activities’ are continued; the issue is the approach itself, the creation of a separate vanguardist group (camp). It is known that the KKE has created a separate vanguardist group within the social movement; that in pretty much in all activities it marches, mobilises and organises separately with this group…
We shall continue. How can the KKE, a party that still has an important place in the Greek workers’ movement, defend the creation of a vanguardist camp in the workers’ movement in the name of Marxism-Leninism? This approach is based on two arguments:
  1. The character of the revolution is socialist” in Greece. Those parties, movements, unions, mass organisations that do not follow the KKE or its line are reformist and/or bourgeois and belong to the system (at least those that have a certain power in the workers’ movement). Because of the socialist character of the revolution the alliances set up must be “anti-capitalist and anti-monopolistic”. Hence, alliances should not be with others, on the contrary “social people’s alliance” will be built through winning workers to “vanguardist mass activities” of the “combative units” under the control of KKE.
  2. The transfer from capitalism to socialism has no “transitional stage”: “The problem is significant. The logic of stages, objectively and independent of intentions, recommends solutions that benefit the public within capitalist framework. This theory is realised by ‘transitional stage’ contributing to the maturity of subjective factors and playing the role of a bridge to socialism. … This approach has never been validated anywhere and contradicts the lessons of the Great Socialist October Revolution of 1917. Even worse is the fact that stages logic leads to solutions that sustain the system, such as ‘left progressive or nationalist governments’ that (objectively) sustain the benefits of monopolies that continue to own means of production and hold on to political power.” According to the KKE, “this option” encourages “illusions”, “does not contribute to preparing the workers’ movement to tough struggles” and on the contrary “obliges the workers’ movement to act late, exposes it to bourgeois ideology and politics and drags it to parliamentarian dreams.
It is evident that the KKE closed its eyes to the reality of the “subjective factor”! This can be seen in their statement of “we will not put the class under foreign flags!” seen not only in the lines above but in many of their statements.[17]
Lenin’s recommendation in facing such tendencies is “to put the most sound and clear evaluation of the actual forces of the class, using concrete truths![18] We need to do this because in the conditions we are in; where the effects of the historical defeat of working class are still seriously felt, where the working class trust in socialism is shaken, and furthermore when bourgeois and social liberal outlook is dominant among workers; the KKE is against this or that “option” with the excuses of “exposure to bourgeois ideology and politics” and “dragging the workers’ movement in to parliamentarian dreams”. Who does the KKE have in mind when talking about these “illusions”? It cannot be the working masses as they already are in the clutches of these “illusions”. If the KKE chose the realities of workers’ movement as the focus of its attention, it would realise that the problem is backwards; how can we redirect workers entrapped by these illusions to a path where they can develop their own independent movement?
We will return to this question asking the most fundamental dimension of the complex and difficult duties. We should make two points regarding “transitional stages” argument.
1) Does “transitional stages” mean what Kruschev’ revisionism forced on communist parties in advanced capitalist countries; “a peaceful transition to socialism” through “anti-monopolistic democracy”? It is clear that a program line that does away with socialist revolution from the beginning, that absolutises a theoretically possible and historically unique and temporary situation to replace revolution and that organises or shapes itself not for a socialist revolution cannot be defended in the name of Marxism-Leninism. Hence an “anti-monopolistic democracy” is wrong. In this approach the main issue is not a unique possibility; on the contrary it is a deviation, of the working class, from the duty to organise and awaken the class as one that will deliver the socialist revolution. So, if the KKE is against a transitional stage that is not a “transitional stage”, then they are surely correct.
2) Nevertheless, this does not change their sectarian position. There is not even a need to ignore todays reality and ‘there won’t be in the future’ to found this refusal. There is no reason to refuse all ‘transitional stages’[19] saying “neither bourgeois rule nor worker-public rule has any transitional stage”.
Lenin, leaning also on the experience of the October Revolution says; “History in general and the history of revolutions always is richer, more diverse, more alive and more ‘able’ in content than the most advanced classes’ leaders and parties assume.”[20] Transitional stages and conciliations are created “by historical developments”. And as Engels stated “German communists are just that because they can clearly see, beyond all the transitional stages and conciliations created by themselves and by historical development, a social system that does not allow the private ownership of land and means of production”.[21]
Nevertheless, leaving aside the fact that history does not take sharp statements into account; what is more important now is that this approach creates a big handicap in terms today’s duties of class struggle. It is a handicap because ‘one solution’ approach narrows the horizons of communists, reduces their work to single dimensions and renders them unable to see the rich variety of class struggles and turn them in to foundations of the workers’ movement. While problems caused by modern revisionisms rendering Marxism-Leninism a theory are not overcome, the KKE – in sectarian tendencies against the rising social-reformism and rightwing opportunism – is not only a party without a minimal programme but, due to its strategy and tactics losing their specific differences from each other, is in a position of one where its strategy does not need its tactics and its tactics do not differ from its strategy.
To solidify it Elisseu Vagena, member of the KKE Management Committee and responsible for international relations, says in an interview with Evrensel newspaper just before the 2012 elections: “the KKE today does not struggle for a ‘transitional stage’ and has no ‘no minimal programme’. This surely does not mean that it has a strategy but no tactics. The KKE’s tactics include unifying workers in line with the needs of the struggle, the defence of social and democratic rights and satisfaction of the people’s modern basic demands. We have a complete line that identifies our stance and targets in facing the struggle for every need of the people. Besides, we think that all gains of the working class under rule of capitalism without establishing worker-people’s rule are temporary.[22]
There is no need to retell the concrete situation the workers are in but what is the logic behind saying “all gains of the working class under capitalist rule are temporary” at a time where workers’ movement is at a historically weak position? Does this statement have any meaning at a time where all gains are lost? It is also not true that these gains are absolutely temporary. The gains of today’s working class could become the foundations of a revolutionary working class of the future. Isn’t this what we should struggle for? Lenin talks about the half-hearted and two-faced ‘reforms’ based on the current system and transformation of these into ‘bases’ of the workers’ movement that is advancing to complete freedom of the proletariat.[23] Different gains and successes, turning them into bases – what will worker-people’s rule rise on if not on these gains and the like – if it is to rise from the remnants of capitalism rather than the dream of socialism or its specialist human product?[24] What we should focus on today is not their temporariness but ways to achieve them, use this to help working class gain in confidence, turn them into bases for complete freedom of the workers’ movement. When this is achieved, the horizons of the movement could become free of partial successes and worker-people’s rule could become practicable as the only way to solve concrete contradictions of today as opposed to theoretical perspective.
Lets look at what has been claimed as “the KKE’s tactics”: “the need to unify workers”, “defence of rights” and “meeting basic needs”… Is there anything here that could be a concrete and identified ‘tactic’? It is clear that these include nothing specific in relation to the concrete situation before the elections of 2012; at a time where the country was active both socially and politically and where the party needed to develop an extremely flexible and even seemingly contradictory stance.
“The programme determines main relationships of the working class with other classes and the tactic determines specific or temporary relationships.” (Lenin)[25] It is true that sectarian tendencies in the KKE approach to class struggle prevent the working class – that it claims to represent – from developing “individual and temporary” political relations that will improve its capacity to fight and influence other classes. It is also true that possibilities in the country, borne out of heavy crisis conditions but not taken advantage of due to such frailties and weaknesses, are occupied by social-reformist and fascist powers.[26]
In the last couple of years and especially the last election, due also to Syriza’s rise and proposals of alliance, pressure on the KKE has built up. Not able to differentiate ideology and politics[27], the KKE has refused the proposal of alliance and having won the elections, Syriza formed the government. The KKE has stated that it will not be a party in power and that it will show no tolerance to Syriza…
It was of course going to be wrong for the KKE to be coalition partner in a government led by the social reformist Syriza. Engels’ example, drawing attention to ‘French social democrats’ taking up seats in the progressive government formed after the February of 1848, is well-known. French socialist democrats were wrong, as “in creating a minority within the government, they decimated the revolutionary action of the working class they claimed to represent and willingly took part in the deception and betrayal of the working class by republican majority.[28]
In addition to this, it was possible for the KKE to establish a platform that incorporated the urgent and pressing demands of workers and the public, join in a wide alliance with Syriza and other progressive forces through this platform, and make adhering to these demands as a precondition of its alliance with Syriza. This was essential under the current level of awareness and expectations of the workers’ movements. This tactical move would of course not expect Syriza to follow a revolutionary line; on the contrary, this would have helped workers base their demands from Syriza on solid and real foundations in that they don’t pass the accomplishment of their demands on to Syriza and develop and protect their own initiative to make these come true. Under conditions of a wide progressive alliance, the support of the working masses would not have been left to Syriza. The KKE could have proven that it is the most reliable defender of the demands of the masses and the strongest force to meet urgent needs of the people and resultantly take the opportunity to use this position in breaking prejudices among the masses of workers and public in general against itself and socialism.
In the conditions we are in, where the main contradiction of capitalism is manifested in many different ways and class struggles – due also to the proletariat not being able to create its own independent movement – are taking place in more mediated conditions, it is necessary for the party of the working class to “walk a more zig-zagged and twisty road[29] compared to yesterday. “The issue is to carry out this tactic in a way that raises the awareness, revolutionary spirit and the ability to struggle and win of the proletariat rather than in a way that reduces it”.[30]
Unfortunately, the KKE could not focus on workers, their level of awareness, expectations, perception of events and the change in their mood as much as it focused on the social reformist character of Syriza. Is it not these points that we should always, and especially in the current situation, focus on? Turning to Syriza among workers points not only to their “illusions” but also to a big section of the public’s reluctance to put up with austerity policies; to their demands that capital takes on the burden of the crisis as well as the workers; and to their search for a political alternative to mainstream political parties that would meet their burning needs and demands.
Is it not clear that “worker-people’ rule” will not be possible without a serious shift in the outlook of a majority of workers and that this shift will happen not only with propaganda but through “the political experience” of the masses? Isn’t the fact that most things that are clear and visible to communists are not so for the masses more true in these times where the effects of the historical defeat are still felt? “In terms of pure communism, meaning abstract communism that is not matured for political and practical mass movement” the differences of opinion between bourgeois politicians “could be taken lightly or dismissed”. But they cannot be overlooked “in terms of the huge importance these differences have with respect to the practical movement of the masses”.[31]
Isn’t it the duty of communists today “to watch carefully over the real condition of whole class conscience and preparation, not only the advanced forces but the whole of the working masses” and not only the most aware leaders? Is it possible to know how to ‘act as a party of the masses’ without going down to the ‘level of the masses’, without tailing and grovelling to the masses and without giving up on telling them the cruel truth? It of course is possible and obligatory because of the need to protect and develop this dialectical relationship which seems as a ‘contradiction’! As Lenin put it “communists only task is to know how to make those who aren’t aware believe, and know how to work amongst them, not to come up with otherwise childish ‘left’ slogans and separate from them.[32]
In short, the KKE approach to workers’ movement shows two weaknesses: a) ignoring the pedagogical factor, and b) party fetishism.
  1. a) Without a doubt, the political duties of a communist party could not be reduced to pedagogy. If this is done, party politics will lose its wide reach and become superficial, furthermore it will lose its predictive and guiding character. This truth does not and should not render unnecessary “an element of pedagogy” to be present in the political work of the party – especially targeting workers and the people. To ignore this would mean the denial of the need to educate the whole of the working class, to explain revolutionary theory to the most backwards elements of the movement and the need for their conviction that party politics are correct; that their awareness needs to be raised through “carefully and patiently” building their trust and acknowledging their experiences. To forget this factor will be turning scientific socialism into “a dry dogma” and purely “talking the book”.[33]
General Secretary of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoubas, in a speech celebrating the 96th anniversary of the foundation of his party, just before the election that carried Syriza to power says: “People are faced with a need to free themselves from all anti-people politics and parties and establish its own rule. The current situation (national and international) does allow us to lose any time.[34] The results of the general election has shown that people did not feel the expressed need! A necessity that is not needed can only be a theoretical necessity. So, the public is not yet faced with “a need to establish its own rule.” Hence, the General Secretary is here stating only his (the party’s) will. Was Lenin not right in saying “the most dangerous error of revolutionaries is mixing up their own will, ideology and political opinions with the objective truth”?[35]
Yes, but does the Greeks not seeing what Koutsoubas says as a necessity remove the historical-theoretical truth of what has been said? No, it doesn’t, but it does not go beyond the statement of an abstract truth that has no response in the reality of workers lives today. We ask now whether we are wrong in the analysis of the KKE as a party yet to overcome the narrow ground dictated through the turning of Marxism-Leninism into a formal theory by modern revisionism?
  1. b) Marx and Engels, while explaining the contradiction between communists and the proletariat in the Communist Manifesto, use the following statements which are highly significant today: Communists “have no interest that is divorced from those of the proletariat” and “they cannot put forward private (sectarian) principles to shape the proletarian movement”. Communists differ from “other proletarian parties” in the following characteristics; “they always represent the interests of the whole class during developing periods of struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie” and against the wider sections of proletariat “they have the advantage of theoretical understanding of the movement of the proletariat, its direction and general results”. The aim of the communists is “turning the proletariat into a class, demolition of bourgeois rule, the grasping of political rule by the proletariat” (it is clear that this order is not arbitrary!).
Considering the clear statements above, regarding the relationship between the proletariat and the communists and the aims of the latter, it is no surprise that Marx and Engels “specially formulated” the following “cry of war” into the initial text of the First International: “the liberation of the working class should be the product of the working class.[36]
What is the need for this reminding and highlighting? Because modern revisionism have also caused serious damage in terms of the concept of party. It is as if modern revisionism created a party fetishism, for obvious reasons. The essence of party fetishism is putting itself in place of the working class. Nevertheless, the party is not an aim that contains its own salvation, “as the highest form of class unity of workers” (Lenin)[37] it is their most advanced means of struggle. The party can neither take nor fill the place of the working class and hence should not and cannot act with such a motive! Lenin points to “the duty to organising the class struggle of the proletariat instead of a call to political struggle for the advanced workers” just for this reason.[38]
The more a party disregards the level of awareness of workers, their presumptions, illusions and the need to convince them; the more a party overlooks the specific political experiences of the masses, the readiness of working class and its movement to do in terms of ideology-politics-organisation, the less it learns from the practice of the masses, the more party fetishism will spread in that party.
If a party is focusing on itself and its cadres instead of organising the workers’ movement and raising its awareness and organisation, if it mixes up the unity of its cadres with a “peoples’ social alliance”, if it is not targeting the unity of the working class in practice, if it fails to make developing the struggle for unity of workers interests in daily struggle and workers’ united struggle an indispensable element of its tactical stance, if it replaces it with a separate camp of ‘vanguardist mass activists’ created within the workers’ movement; then, no matter what that party theoretically defends, it cannot act as the party of the whole of the working class, which results in it failing its duties to the workers’ movement.
If party fetishism is not overcome, after a point this will lead to a loss of meaning in the eyes of the workers or be dragged to doctrines. Finding yourself in the position that Marx called “unattainable”: “We are not coming out with principles that are doctrines, the truth, kneel before it! We bring to the world the principles that the world itself developed in its bosom. We don’t say leave your struggles there, they are worthless, we will call out the real testimonial to struggle. We show it exactly why it is fighting.[39]
In drawing attention to the October Revolution’s link to WWI Lenin comments on the revolution having “some specific properties and differences borne from the war itself” and that those who cannot grasp Marx’s ideas could not see this. As they “have seen that capitalism and bourgeois democracy followed a certain line of progress in Western Europe and couldn’t think that it could be taken as a mutatis mutandis model, with some corrections (corrections that have no significance in terms of the general development of world history).” October Revolution was going to show new properties “because the world has never witnessed such a war in such conditions.” As a second point that needs to be understood Lenin says “despite development of history in the world following universal laws”, “they have understood that differences during some developmental stages and the form of these progresses or the order they follow are not ‘forbidden” and on the contrary they should be presupposed.[40]
The attitude and statements of Lenin are extremely significant for today’s communists. This wide and deep perspective needs to be adopted.
We can express the specific nature of our situation as such: matured contradictions not yet finding their matured responses. This surely points to a big contradiction. We should not run away from the contradictions of life; on the contrary, we should embrace these contradictions; we should investigate them as clues to better understanding social issues and class struggles and we should draw from them practical results that help advance the position of the working class. The inverse ratio between our action and inaction dictated by the conditions is not insurmountable.
We need to explain to the working masses the content of their action and enable them to reach a real awareness of their action and themselves. Paying attention to specific nature of conditions we are in is a precondition for carrying duties in a way that is true and not formal. As long as this attention is not reduced to just a theoretical one it can be seen that, especially on issues that seem to be contradictory (i.e. revolution-reform, alliances-independent politics, theory-practice, women’s issue – class issue, etc.) a more developed theoretical understanding and tactical flexibility is essential. Otherwise, it will become impossible to avoid or escape lazy right or leftwing trends.[41]
Hence, given the specific historical conditions, our first aim is to enable the ‘proletariat’ to “become a class” as mentioned in the Communist Manifesto; to facilitate the working class “acting as a class.” Just as Engels stated in his warnings against the Germans that ran away to America and showed a sectarian attitude to American workers’ movement: “our theory is not a dogma, but the explanation of a period of evolution and this process includes consecutive stages. Expecting the Americans to start out with a full knowledge of the theory from more experienced countries would be expecting the impossible. What the Germans need to do is, as we did in 1845 and 1848, to act according – if they understand it – to their own theories; to walk with all movements of the general workers’ movement, fully accept its starting point and move it to theory by degrees, showing them how each mistake and defeat was a necessity of the theoretical mistakes in the original programme. As stated in the Communist Manifesto, they had to ‘represent the future of the movement from within the movement’.[42]
Who could have known that international working class was going to suffer a temporary but comprehensive historical defeat and these warnings would become relevant to both the workers themselves and the communists?
April 2015
* This article was published in Özgürlük Dünyası, the political journal of EMEP, in May 2015. Since then there have been important developments in Greece. Firstly, SYRIZA signed an agreement with the Troika despite the “No” vote in the referendum. But SYRIZA also won the elections and became the first party again. Secondly, the KKE was criticized in this article for “not moving to organise the alliance of big sections of people on the basis of their urgent demands.” But after the general elections on September 20, General Secretary of the KKE, Dimitris Kucubas, said: “The KKE will work for the struggle to reorganise, to strengthen the workers’ and peoples’ movement and to organise the broad alliance of peoples.” After this statement, we want to hope for the KKE to change its position for a revolutionary struggle platform and move towards building a real united front of workers and labourers. We will be happy if this hope becomes reality.
[1] Undoubtedly, contemporary capitalism cannot be understood by overlooking the US. That said, within the context of the subject matter of this article, the US needs to be analysed in its own right, because it has unique qualities that require a detailed assessment. Addressing this requirement in this article will, however, broaden the purview of this article.
[2] Throughout this article, socialism as a social formation will denote the elementary stage of communism.
[3] Ever since the working class has intervened in the political struggle as a class.
[4] See: “Emek Partisi – Enternasyonal Komünizmin Tarihsel Anlamı”; Enternasyonal Yolunda 20 Yıl, pg. 124, Evrensel Basım Yayın.
[5] As demonstrable – firstly and foremost – with countries like the US, Germany, the crisis has generated new differing perspectives and camps within the monopoly bourgeoisie. However, such developments are beyond the scope of this article.
[6] Europe, for reasons already mentioned, constitutes the advance example. The emergent issues and trends in this continent are inclusive of and can be discerned in the working class movements in other countries and continents.
[7] See: 16 March 2015, issue no: 12.
[8] Contemporary social reformism is constitutive of a broad range of currents. It embodies Attac, anti-globalisation currents, yellow trade unions, the representatives of Evangelical and Catholic churches opposing “evil capitalism”, Party of the European Left, Neo-Keynesians, and intellectuals and economists that advocate “radical democracy” and “democratic socialism”. Within this wide-ranging movement, “socialism” projectors (e.g. “socialism in the 21st century”) are abound.
[9] Undoubtedly, there are in other—unspecified— countries abundant and different demands, which are not mentioned above. The aim here is to paint an approximate and a centring picture.
[10] The discontent and trepidations of these layers and groups do not only find their political reflections in social reformism, but also in racist, social-nationalist and openly fascists movements in Southern and Northern Europe. In areas where the monopolies have a strong hegemony this burgeoning discontent and trepidations can be melted in the same pot.
[11] “Bizim Devrimimiz”; Ütopik ve Bilimsel Sosyalizm, pg. 251, Bilim ve Sosyalizm Yayınları. Unless specified otherwise, all of the citations are translated into English from the designated sources (Translators note).
[12] The KKE, a few years back, had put forward its analysis of capitalist restoration in the USSR. In this analysis, the following evaluations are important and positive: the 20th Congress was a turning point, and the critique of Khrushchev’ revisionism in the realm of the political and the economic (thus far, these evaluations were the dividing points of and in different political traditions). That said, the KKE’s analysis do contain pivotal drawbacks and lacunae, an in-depth analysis of which can only be the subject matter of a different article.
[13] In 2012-2015, there were 50 24-hour and 48-hour general strikes. See: Seyit Aldoğan, “Yunanistan Seçimleri ve SYRIZA hükümetini doğru ve yanlışlarıyla değerlendirmek”; Özgürlük Dünyası, No. 262, March 2015.
[14] For example, designations regarding SYRIZA being a part of the government: “a peaceful and gradual transition to socialism” thesis etc.
[16] ibid. Unless specified otherwise, the below citations are from the same source.
[18] “Yeni Zamanlar, Yeni Kılıkta Eski Hatalar”; Lenin – Seçme Eserler, Vol. 9, pg. 271, İnter Yayınları.
[20] Lenin, “Sol” Komünizm – Bir Çocukluk Hastalığı, pg. 102, Sol Yayınları.
[21] Lenin citing Engels’s ‘The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune’ (1874) in: “Sol” Komünizm; pg. 67. Sol Yayınları.
[23] Lenin Werke Bd. 15, pg. 444.
[24] Lenin, “Sol” Komünizm, pg. 45, Sol Yayınları.
[25] Lenin, “İşçi Partisinin Tarım Programının Yeniden Gözden Geçirilmesi”; Tarım Sorunları, pg. 364, Sol. Yayınları.
[26] Without doubt, from this stipulation one cannot derive the following conclusion: modern social reformist and fascist movements gaining ground in Greece is solely and essentially attributable to the drawbacks of the KKE. Such a conclusion will not only over exaggerate the actual clout of the KKE but also negates the role of all other factors germane to the crisis.
[27] A striking example of this is the KKE’s political approach to the EU. The KKE, on the one hand, rightly, conceives the EU as a union of the imperialists and, in contrast to rightist opportunists, it claims that the EU cannot be transformed into an entity functioning in the interest of the masses. And, on the other hand, it links the question of leaving the EU and the Eurozone to the condition of a workers-people’s rulership! This entails that the KKE will not demand that Greece exists the EU without the occurrence of a revolution. Concurrently, though, the KKE does not ally itself with forces that do not demand Greece exiting from the EU. Yet, if the demand to exit the EU is conditioned on such a rulership, then, this particular demand should not be the prerequisite for partaking in alliances formed around and for the demands of the masses. Result? Not to be in alliance with forces that do not uphold the rulership of the workers! Naturally, this implies that there is to be no united struggle with forces that say “No to the EU and the Eurozone”.
[28] Marx-Engels, Seçme Eserler, Vol. 3, pg. 555, Sol Yayınları.
[29] Lenin, “Sol” Komünizm, pg. 75, Sol Yayınları.
[30] ibid, pg. 102.
[31] ibid.
[32] ibid, pg. 50.
[33] See: Lenin, İşçi Sınıfı Partisi Üzerine, pg. 233, Sol Yayınları.
[34] Rizospastis (Greek Daily), 11-01-2015.
[35] Lenin, “Sol” Komünizm, pg. 56, Sol Yayınları.
[36] ‘Circular Letter to BebelLiebknechtBracke, and Others’ in: Marx-Engels, Seçme Yapıtlar Vol. 3, pg. 113. Sol Yayınları.
[37] Lenin, “Sol” Komünizm, pg. 45, Sol Yayınları.
[38] Lenin: “Rus Sosyal Demokratlarının Görevleri“, Seçme Eserler, Vol. 1, pg. 491, Inter Yayınları.
[39] “A Letter to Ruge”, Marx in: Felsefe Metinleri, pg. 24, Sol Yayınları.
[40] “Devrimimiz Üzerine”; Lenin, Ütopik ve Bilimsel Sosyalizm, pg. 252, Bilim ve Sosyalizm Yayınları. Mutatis mutandis is a Medieval Latin phrase meaning “[with the things] to be changed having been changed” (Translators note).
[41] See: “Enternasyonal Komünizmin Tarihsel Anlamı” – Emek Partisi; Enternasyonal Yolunda 20 Yıl, pg. 125, Evrensel Basım Yayın.
[42] Engels, Letter to F. KelleyWischnewetzky in New York, 28 December 1886 in: Marx-Engels Seçme Yapıtlar, Vol. 3, pg. 586.
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