Modern Social Reformism and the KKE


The Europe1 of today, despite its long-lost central position in the capitalist world, is still home to countries where both monopoly capitalism and the material pre-conditions for socialism2 are most advanced. Faced with this reality, it is no surprise that the 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 to note here is that in this region – where the material pre-conditions of socialism are most advanced and hence the most advanced sections of the only class that is able to carry out a social revolution (the working class) exist – the workers’ movement is in an historically3 least powerful, disorganized, most divided position and its trust in socialism is most shaken. This relative inverse proportional relationship between the objective and subjective conditions, caused by the historical defeat, has still not been overcome.4

Yes, this is despite the 2007-2009 economic crisis that shook Europe. It is clear that if the deep economic crisis – which began a period of deepening general depression under monopoly capitalism – had not coincided with this period of historical defeat, the development of the class struggle would have been different.

This crisis has also had an impact on the above-mentioned asymmetry. Not only did it expose the parasitic character and decay of monopoly capitalism5 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 capitalist offensive, the serious frailty and weaknesses of those parties tasked with (or at least claiming to) organizing and leading that movement. This article will focus on two examples that highlight the typical ideological-political problems of the European workers’ movement6. 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 a head in a country in which the crisis caused major social trauma.

Modern Social Reformism and the Workers’ Movement

‘Die Wirtschaftswoche’7 [The Economic Weekly], the major media mouthpiece of German capital, presented its audience with a striking cover after the formation of the Syriza government: on the flowing red flag were three faces; ‘the leader of the PodemosMovement’ 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 of Greece, 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 who saw this cover would have laughed at first, since linking Syriza and Podemos to communism and the revolutionary workers’ movement is laughable! This mouthpiece of German capital knew full-well that these juvenile ‘socialists’ have nothing to do with revolutionary socialism. It seems that this magazine of capital could not resist – given the opportunity – ridiculing communism through these “new left populists”. At the same time, it felt the need to warn that “anything they may spur people on to, 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 reformism8 differ from the classical reformism that preceded it? What they have in common is clear: they deny the workers’ revolution and workers’ rule; they want to reform capitalism socially through public opinion and parliamentary means rather than through working class struggles; to make it more ‘human’; to replace ‘savage capitalism’ with ‘social and ecological capitalism’; to achieve incremental social improvements through ‘reforms’ based on capitalist relations, etc. In short, from an ideological perspective there is no difference between classical 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 today is social reformism in the conditions of the historic defeat of the working class, the effects of which are still being felt. The classical one surfaced and found its political meaning in keeping a dynamic and revolutionary workers’ movement within the bounds of capitalism, in order to curb the workers’ movement and to turn it away from revolutionary action. When a serious revolutionary workers’ movement develops in any country, without a doubt modern social reformism will also expand its role in this direction.

However, there is no serious revolutionary movement that embraces the bulk of its class today and modern social reformism has arisen and become strengthened despite this absence! In other words, to just say that 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 in conditions where the workers – besides being revolutionary – could not act in unity as a class or repel the bourgeois offensives, then it should be noted that the real point of today’s social reformism is not so much its reformism but its sociality. In other words, the ideological weaknesses of today’s mass movements that are observed in many European countries and driven by socio-liberal reformist ideology should not prevent us from recognizing their social reality.

As is known, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, international capital and especially European capital have carried out a widespread and relentless offensive against the working masses. In a fairly short period of time, the workers found out that the capitalism “that beat communism” did not bring the welfare and security that it claimed. Indeed, they lost many social, economic and democratic gains of the previous period. The big economic crisis deepened this offensive; the workers were made to pay the bill. Whatever the explanation by bourgeois and social liberal ideologues, the situation is that broad masses of workers, laborers and youth are protesting against this offensive, they are increasingly reacting against social and economic conditions and expressing their discontent against the status quo in different ways.

The toiling masses are increasingly opposing the attacks unleashed by capital and its governments, but what do they want? They put forward social, economic and political demands, such as the end of the offensive, of austerity policies and elimination of social rights; for new areas of work created and properly funded, especially for the youth, higher taxes on finance capital, better pay, an end to privatization, the limiting or abolition of subcontracting, the abolition of anti-worker changes in laws, equal pay, investment in health and education, the end of limitations on the right to strike, demonstrate and march, etc.9

Just as elections show the level of maturity of the workers, their demands show their political level. Of course not abstractly but in a specific period, conditions and situation. From this perspective, it is clear that these demands are generally defensive and focus on regaining lost rights. The character of these demands also shows a association between the workers’ movement and social reformism.

Nevertheless, the social backbone of the modern social reformist movement is the labour aristocracy, the petty and (a limited number of) middle bourgeoisie and intellectuals.10 The capitalist crisis and the increasing capitalist offensive (‘neoliberalism’!) have caused disillusionment with capitalism itself and these strata are longing for a ‘new’ ‘social capitalism’ (‘social market economy’), which is actually old (the ‘social state’!). Thus, while the bourgeoisie claims that socialism is a historical deviation, the 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 a “social state”!). Classic social reformism, on the other hand, was not romantic; despite being limited by the perspective of transforming capitalism through social reforms, it was forward-looking.

On the other hand, due to the historic defeat, the workers trust in socialism has been shaken and ideologically they are mainly influenced by social-liberal currents. Therefore, the two classes and strata, in the same state of mind due to their disillusionment and distrust (one with socialism and the other with capitalism) come together in ‘social capitalism’. This association directly affects the working class in conditions where the struggle for socialism is seen as a dream; it pushes the working class towards modern social reformism, the form of which could be quite radical in relation to the crisis and the level of social shock it caused; it enables the working class to embrace a struggle along the line preached by social reformism in order to secure real and tangible improvements in its social and economic conditions.

Needless to say, unless the social and political reality of the European workers’ movements summarized above is grasped, no revolutionary task can be carried out correctly and effectively. The more this is realized today, the clearer is the complexity and difficulty facing the communists in their duties to represent the workers’ movement and the foresight, patience and flexibility demanded of them.

Let us return to the warning by Wirtschaftswoche about the ‘dangerous’ strengthening of modern social reformism, which in reality aims not to do away with capitalism but to re-establish the previous ‘socialstate’ or ‘social welfare society’. This warning is an expression of the experiences of the monopoly bourgeoisie. Its ideologues are well aware of the many movements in history 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!

The Damage Caused by Modern Revisionism

As Marxist-Leninists, we are aware that worthwhile social reforms are achieved by a revolutionary struggle of the working class and the masses. Besides, historically, reforms have always been a by-product of revolutionary struggles (while these measures and reforms are used to weaken and stunt the revolutionary struggle). “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 the European workers’ movement is full of similar examples that support this thesis; thus this side of the problem is clear.

Another truth that is also clear is that the working class of today is separated from its history and historical experience. We are faced with a contradictory and specific situation: there is a serious discrepancy between the historical experience of the working class as a political class and the limited outlook of its current practical struggle. To see the real roots of this contradictory situation one needs to look at modern revisionism, which seized power at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union, and the historical defeat that it brought about.

So that we do not lose track we will limit ourselves to stating this: modern revisionism turned working class revolutionary theory into a shallow and formal one; it blunted “its revolutionary dialectics”11, seen by Lenin as “decisive in Marxism”, and hence eliminated Marxism-Leninism as the guide to working class action. Under the dominance of modern revisionism, the workers’ movement has never become a serious revolutionary movement, especially in Western Europe. There were numerous workers’ struggles in Europe between the end of the 1960s and the early 1980s. But none of these struggles were directed – either by modern revisionism in the Soviet Union (and thus its fellow revisionist parties in Western Europe) or by Euro-communism – toward developing and organizing the working class or with a perspective and practice that would enable the working class to come to power. The more the revolutionary character of the working class was weakened, the more the workers became dominated by the liberal bourgeoisie through social liberalism. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc 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 the working class was achieved...

So where does the KKE stand in this picture? Despite taking a positive stance in respect to the main ideological and political issues, such as its criticism of the 20th Congress and Khrushchev’ revisionism12, it still has not overcome the dismantling of the revolutionary core of Marxism- Leninism and primarily the damage revisionism has done to carrying out the role and duties of the communist parties towards the working class. Thus, the political, social and economic shocks in Greece, brought on by the worldwide economic crisis and the social erosion this caused, very quickly exposed the KKE’s weaknesses. The shortcomings and mistakes of the KKE on the above-mentioned issues played a major role in its failure to fulfil its complex and difficult duty as a communist party in the conditions of the class struggle in Greece13. The friendly criticism of these weaknesses and mistakes are essential for the benefit of the Greek and European workers’ movements.

We say ‘friendly’, because the criticisms made here are not related to the ‘right opportunist’ criticism of the KKE14. Indeed, the KKE has for some time been involved in discussions with international groups that it is a member of. According to the KKE, there is a “crisis in the international communist movement”: “the strengthening of opportunism is reflected in the ideological-political and organizational crisis of the international communist movement.”15 The issues that lead to splits within the movement are widespread, from the character and stages of the revolution to concepts of parliamentarism, from approaches to capitalist crises to proletarian internationalism. For example, for the last two years this movement has failed to publish a joint declaration after their annual general conference.

Currently, the KKE made public its opinion on the discussions within the movement with a statement titled “On some questions on the unity of the international communist movement”. This and many other statements include many truths regarding openly right-wing theses (transforming the EU into a people’s union; the illusions spread about China and Russia in relation to the BRICS countries; the “socialist’ definition of Latin American “progressive governments’’; support for “21st century socialism” and “market socialism” in China and Vietnam, etc.). (We should also mention that some of the KKE’s evaluations coincide with ideas put forward by the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations – ICMLPO – which was borne from the struggle against modern revisionism, reorganizing itself with the Quito Declaration at a time when counter-

revolution was rampant.) Despite these positive points, as will be seen below, the position of the KKE in terms of its responsibilities towards the working class, its duties and necessary tactics and alliances still retain doctrinaire and sectarian tendencies.

The KKE Line of Alliances and Struggle

In the above-mentioned statement, the KKE draws attention to the line for the alliances and struggles it is carrying out in its own country. It states that it is “placing emphasis” on the “regroupment of the labour movement and the reinforcement of the class orientation, on the strengthening of the class unity”. Furthermore, the party’s attempts to build a “people’s alliance, i.e. the alliance between the working class, the poor farmers, the small self-employed, women and young people from the working class families” is emphasized. “In the current conditions this alliance is expressed through the coordination of the struggle of the militant rallies [organizations – translator’s note]: PAME in the working class, PASY in the farmers, PASEVE in the self-employed in urban centres, MAS in students, OGE in women”.16

It might be thought that a real people’s alliance has been established in Greece. Nevertheless, this is not the situation. The KKE claims that the

“people’s alliance is a social alliance and has an anti-capitalist, antimonopoly orientation.” But the reality is this: PAME, PASY, PASEVE, MAS and OGE are combative units established by and following the line of the KKE! As such they are naturally “anti-capitalist and anti-monopoly” units. In the KKE’s words they are carrying out “vanguard, mass activities”! In short, this is not a “social people’s alliance” in reality; rather it is an organizational unity between the union, farmer youth and women’s organizations of the KKE and/or those that follow its line.

On the other hand, these combative units, in unity with the KKE, along their own “anti-capitalist anti-monopoly” line, are preparing for the revolution; the “people’s alliance” “will be reinforced in the daily struggle concerning all the problems of the people, it will adapt and prepare itself so as to play the leading role in the conditions of the revolutionary situation (which has an objective character and all parties must prepare themselves for it)”. “The KKE, the class oriented movement and the people’s alliance are in the forefront of the struggle in Greece. They mobilize hundreds of thousands of working people, forces that come in conflict with the forces of capital, the parties and its governments, the imperialist European Union.”

The KKE’s concept of struggle must have been criticized in its international group, as the following is also included in the statement: “The positions that try to incriminate the revolutionary struggle with the slander about sectarianism, downplaying the vanguard, mass activity of the KKE and PAME and the other militant rallies that struggle for specific goals concerning all the problems of the people against the monopolies and capitalism are causing damage to the communist movement.”

We cannot determine from this “statement” which bases and/or arguments the criticisms of “sectarianism” were based on. But we must point out that the KKE’s understanding of the class struggle has sectarian tendencies. Carrying on the “struggle for specific goals concerning all the problems of the people” in the “vanguard mass activity” does not eliminate this sectarianism (recognized sectarian tendencies also claim that they are carrying out the struggle for specific goals concerning all the problems of the people). Besides, the real issue is not around which problems ‘vanguard mass activities’ are carried out; the issue is the approach itself, the creation of separate vanguard groups. It is known that the KKE has created separate vanguard groups within the social movement; that in almost all activities it marches, mobilizes and organizes separately with these groups.

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 vanguard group in the workers’ movement in the name of Marxism-Leninism? This approach is based on two arguments:

  1. “The revolution in Greece will have a socialist character.” Those parties, movements, unions and mass organizations that do not follow the KKE or its line are considered reformist and/or bourgeois and belonging to the system (at least those that have a certain influence in the workers’ movement). Because of the socialist character of the revolution, the alliances established must be “anti-capitalist and anti-monopoly”. Hence, alliances should not be made with other groups; on the contrary, a “social people’s alliance” will be built through winning workers to the “vanguard, mass activities” of the combative units under the control of the KKE.
  2. The transition from capitalism to socialism has no “intermediate stage”: “This is a big problem. The rationale of stages objectively (despite any intentions) entails the search of pro-people solutions on the terrain of capitalism on the grounds that the ‘intermediate stage’ will contribute to the maturation of the subjective factor and will operate as a bridge to

socialism... This approach has not been confirmed anywhere and in any period. It is in contradiction with the lessons of the Great Socialist October Revolution in 1917. The worst thing is that the rationale of stages leads to the search of solutions for the management of the system e.g. of ‘left- progressive or patriotic governments’ that will (objectively) manage the interests of the monopolies which will continue to have the ownership over the means of production and the political power. “ According to the KKE: “This choice fosters illusions; it does not contribute to the preparation of the labour movement for fierce class confrontations” and on the contrary “it condemns it to backwardness and makes it vulnerable to bourgeois ideology and politics, it entangles it in the web of parliamentary illusions.”

It is evident that the KKE has closed its eyes to the reality of the “subjective factor”! This can be seen in their statement that “we will not put the class under a false flag!” seen not only in the statement quoted above but in many of their other statements.17

Lenin’s recommendation in facing such tendencies is to “weigh the alignment of actual class forces and the incontrovertible facts as soberly and as accurately as possible”18 We need to do this because in the conditions we are in, where the effects of the historical defeat of the working class are still being seriously felt, where the working class’ trust in socialism has been shaken, and furthermore when the bourgeois and social liberal outlook is dominant among the workers, the KKE is against this or that “choice” with the excuse that it will make the workers’ movement “vulnerable to bourgeois ideology and politics” and “entangle it in the web of parliamentary illusions”. Whom 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 looked at the reality of the workers’ movement, it would realize that it has put the problem backwards; how can we redirect the workers entangled in these illusions onto a path where they can develop their own independent movement?

We will return to this question, which shows the most fundamental dimension of the complex and difficult tasks. We will also make two points regarding the argument about “intermediate stages”.

  1. Do “intermediate stages” mean what Khrushchev revisionism imposed on communist parties in the advanced capitalist countries: “a peaceful transition to socialism” through “anti-monopoly democracy”? It is clear that a programme that does away with socialist revolution from the beginning, that absolutizes a theoretically possible but historically unique and temporary situation to replace revolution and that does not organize or prepare itself for a socialist revolution cannot be defended in the name of Marxism-Leninism. Hence an “anti-monopoly democracy” is wrong. In this approach the main issue is not a one-time possibility; on the contrary it is a diversion of the working class from the duty to organize and awaken the class as the one that will carry out the socialist revolution. So, if the KKE is against an intermediate stage that is not an “intermediate stage”, then they are surely correct.
  2. Nevertheless, this does not change their sectarian position. There is no need to ignore today’s reality and to say that ‘there won’t be in the future’ to reject this. There is no reason to reject all ‘intermediate stages’19 saying: “Power will be either a bourgeois power or workers’-people’s power; there cannot be any power which has an intermediate character”.
Lenin, also basing himself on the experience of the October Revolution, says; “History generally, and the history of revolutions in particular, is always richer in content, more varied, more many sided, more lively and ‘subtle’ than even the best parties and the most class-conscious vanguards of the most advanced classes imagine.”20 Intermediate stations and compromises are created “by “historical developments”. And as Engels stated “The German Communists are Communists because through all the intermediate stations and all compromises, created, not by them, but by the course of historical development, they clearly perceive and constantly pursue the final aim, viz., the abolition of classes and the creation of a society in which there will no longer be private ownership of land or of the means ofproduction”.21

Nevertheless, leaving aside the fact that history does not make absolute statements; what is more important now is that this approach creates a big obstacle in terms duties of communists in the class struggle today. It is a obstacle because the ‘one solution’ approach narrows the horizons of the communists, reduces their work to a single dimension and renders them unable to see the rich varieties of the class struggle and make them a basis for the workers’ movement. As long as the problems caused by modern revisionism in undermining Marxism-Leninism as a theory have not been overcome, the KKE – with its sectarian tendencies regarding the rising social-reformism and right-wing opportunism – is not only a party without a minimum program but, due to the lack of specific differences between strategy and tactics, is in a position in which its strategy does not need itstactics and its tactics do not differ from its strategy.

To clarify this, let us see what Elisseos Vagenas, a member of the KKE Central Committee and responsible for international relations, said in an interview with Evrensel newspaper just before the 2012 elections: “the KKE does not fight today for any intermediate stage and therefore it has no minimum programme. Of course this does not mean that it has only a strategy and no tactics. The tactics of the KKE promote the need to rally the working people around goals of struggle, both for the defence of the workers’, people’s and democratic rights as well as for the satisfaction of the contemporary needs of the people. We have well-elaborated positions and goals of struggle for all the problems of the people, however, we openly declare that under the conditions of capitalism any achievements that the working people may gain will be temporary without the acquisition of the workers’-people’s power.”22

There is no need to restate the concrete situation that the workers are in, but what is the logic behind saying that “any achievements that the working people may gain will be temporary” at a time when the workers’ movement is in a historically weak position? Does this statement have any meaning at a time when all achievements have been lost? It is also not true that these gains are absolutely temporary. The achievements of today’s working class could become the foundations of a revolutionary working class in the future. Isn’t this what we should struggle for? Lenin talks about half-hearted and two-faced ‘reforms’ based on the current system and the 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 workers’-people’s power rise on if not on such achievements – if it is to rise from the remnants of capitalism rather than from the dream of socialism or its specific human material?24 What we should focus on today is not the temporariness of the reforms but the ways to achieve them, to use these to help the working class gain confidence, to turn them into bases for the complete freedom of the workers. When this has been achieved, the horizons of the movement would no longer be limited to partial successes and the workers’-people’s power could become practicable as the only way to solve the concrete contradictions of today as opposed to just being a theoretical perspective.

Let us look at what has been claimed to be “the tactics of the KKE”: “the need to rally the working people”, the “defence of its rights” and “the satisfaction of the contemporary needs”. Is there anything here that could be a concrete and identified ‘tactic’? It is clear that there is nothing specific in relation to the concrete situation before the elections of 2012, at a time when the country was active both socially and politically and when the party needed to develop an extremely flexible and even seemingly contradictory stance.

“The programme defines the general and basic relations between the working class and other classes. Tactics define particular and temporary relations” (Lenin).25 It is a fact that the sectarian tendencies in the KKE’s approach to the class struggle prevent the working class – which it claims to represent – from developing “particular and temporary” political relations that will improve its capacity to fight and to influence other classes. It is also a fact that the possibilities in that country, borne out of the severe conditions of crisis, have not been taken advantage of due to such shortcomings and weaknesses, and have been taken up by social-reformist and fascist forces.26

Approach to the Workers’ Movement

In the last couple of years and especially in the last election, pressure on the KKE has built up due also to Syriza’s rise and proposals of alliance, Unable to differentiate between ideology and politics27, the KKE refused the proposal of alliance and Syriza, having won the elections, formed the government. The KKE stated that it will not be a party in power and that it will show no tolerance to Syriza.

It would of course have been wrong for the KKE to be a coalition partner in a government led by the social reformist Syriza. Engels’ example, drawing attention to ‘French social democrats’ taking seats in the progressive government formed after February of 1848, is well-known. The French social-democrats were wrong: “As a minority in the government they voluntarily shared the blame for all the foul deeds and betrayals perpetrated by the majority of pure republicans against the workers; whilst the presence of these gentlemen in the government completely paralysed the revolutionary action of the working class which they claimed to represent”.28

Besides this, it was possible for the KKE to establish a platform that incorporated the urgent and pressing demands of the workers and people, join in a broad alliance with Syriza and other progressive forces around this platform, and make adherence to these demands a precondition for an alliance with Syriza. This was essential under the current level of consciousness and expectations of the workers’ movements. This tactical move would of course not expect Syriza to follow a revolutionary line; on the contrary, it would have helped the workers to base their demands on Syriza on solid and real foundations. That way, if their demands were met it would be due to their own initiative and not seem like it was due to Syriza. Under the conditions of a broad progressive alliance, the support of the working masses would not have been left to Syriza. The KKE could have proven that it itself is the most reliable defender of the demands of the masses and the strongest force able to meet the urgent needs of the people. As a result, it could have used this position to break the prejudices among the masses of workers and people in general regarding the KKE and socialism.

Under the present conditions, in which the main contradiction of capitalism is manifested in many different ways, and class struggle – also due to the proletariat not being able to create its own independent movement – is taking place in amore mediated conditions, it is necessary for the party of the working class to “move in zigzags, to retrace our steps”29 compared to previously. “The whole point lies in knowing how to apply these tactics in order to raise, and not lower, the general level of proletarian class consciousness, revolutionary spirit, and ability to fight and win”.30

Unfortunately, the KKE did not focus on the workers, their level of consciousness and expectations, their perception of events and the change in their mood as much as it focused on the social reformist character of Syriza. Should we not always focus on these points, and especially in the current situation? The shift towards Syriza among the workers points not only to their “illusions” but also to the fact that a large section of the people are reluctant to put up with austerity policies, to their demands that capital take on the burden of the crisis and not only on the workers; and to their search for a political alternative to the mainstream political parties that would meet their burning needs and demands.

Is it not clear that “workers’-people’s power” will not be possible without a serious shift in the outlook of a majority of the workers and that this shift will happen not only through propaganda but through the “political experience” of the masses? Isn’t it a fact that most things that are clear and visible to the communists are still not clear to the masses, especially in these times when the effects of the historical defeat are still being felt? The differences of opinion between bourgeois politicians “are quite minor and unimportant from the standpoint ofpure, i.e., abstract Communism, i.e., Communism that has not yet matured to the stage of practical, mass, political action.” But “from the standpoint of this practical action by the masses, these differences are very, very important”31.

Isn’t it the duty of communists today “soberly follow the actual state of class consciousness and preparedness of the whole class (not only of its Communist vanguard), of all the toiling masses (not only of their advanced elements)”? Is it possible to know how to “act as the party of the class, as the party of the masses. You must not sink to the level of the masses, to the level of the backward strata of the class. That is incontestable. You must tell them the bitter truth”. Of course it is possible and obligatory because of the need to defend and develop this dialectical relationship, which seems a ‘contradiction’! As Lenin put it “the whole task of the Communists is to be able to convince the backward elements, to work among them, and not to fence themselves off from them by artificial and childishly ‘Left’ slogans”32.

In short, the KKE’s approach to the workers’ movement shows two weaknesses: 1) ignoring the pedagogical factor, and 2) party fetishism.

1. Without a doubt, the political duties of a communist party cannot be reduced to pedagogy. If this is done, party politics would lose its broad reach and become superficial; furthermore, it would lose its far-seeing and guiding character. But this truth does not and should not render unnecessary “an element of pedagogics” in the political work of the party – especially targeting the workers and 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 to convince them that party politics are correct; that their conscious needs to be raised through “steadily and patiently” building their trust and acknowledging their experiences. To forget this factor would be to turn scientific socialism into “a dry dogma”, something learned “only from books”33.

The General Secretary of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumpas, in a speech just before the election that brought Syriza to power, celebrating the 96th anniversary of the foundation of his party, said: “The people must be freed from all the anti-people governments and their political line, they themselves must take power. The situation today – both in Greece and internationally – does not allow for any time to be wasted.”34 The results of the general election showed that the people did not understand this need! A necessity that is not fully understood can only be a theoretical necessity. So, the people do not yet understand that “they themselves must take power.” Hence, the General Secretary is here stating only his (party’s) will. Was Lenin not right in saying “the most dangerous mistake for revolutionaries” is to “have mistaken their desire, their political- ideological attitude, for objective reality”?35

Yes, but do the Greek people not understanding what Koutsoumpas says they must do remove the historical-theoretical truth of what has been said? No, it does not, but it does not go beyond the statement of an abstract truth that finds no response in the reality of workers’ lives today. We ask now whether we are wrong in our analysis of the KKE as a party that still has to overcome the narrowness created by the turning of Marxism-Leninism into a formalistic theory by modern revisionism?

2. Marx and Engels, while explaining the difference between communists and the proletariat in the Communist Manifesto, used the following statements which are highly relevant today: The Communists “have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole”, and “They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.”. The Communists “are distinguished from the other working class parties” by the following characteristics: “In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole”, and “theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.” The aim of the communists is “formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest ofpolitical power 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 expressly formulated as the battle cry by the latter, it is no surprise that Marx and Engels “expressly formulated the battle cry” into the initial text of the First International: “The emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself”.36

What is the need for reminding one and emphasizing? Because modern revisionism has also caused serious damage regarding the concept of the party. It is as if modern revisionism created a party fetishism, for obvious reasons. The essence of party fetishism is putting the party in place of the working class. Nevertheless, the party is not an objective in and of itself, “the highest form of proletarian class organization” (Lenin)37; it is their most advanced means of struggle. The party can neither take nor fill the place of the working class and thus it should not and cannot act with such a motive! Lenin points out that “instead of frankly and directly calling upon the advanced workers to join the political struggle, the Social- Democrat points to the task of developing the working-class movement, of organising the class struggle of the proletariat’ just for this reason.38

The more a party disregards the level of consciousness of the 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 the working class and its movement to act around its 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 focuses on itself and its cadres instead of organising the workers’ movement and raising its consciousness and organisation, if it confuses the unity of its cadres with a “people’s social alliance”, if it does not aim for the unity of the working class in practice, if it fails to make developing the unity of the workers’ interests in daily struggle and the workers’ united struggle an indispensable element of its tactical stance, if it replaces it with a separate group of ‘vanguard, mass activists’ within the workers’movement; then, no matter what that party says in theory, it cannot act as the party of the whole of the working class, which results in its failing in its duties to the workers’ movement.

If party fetishism is not overcome, after a point this will lead to the party’s loss of meaning to the workers or be stuck in a doctrinaire swamp. One will find oneself in the position that Marx called “unintelligible”: “ We do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for”.39

In drawing attention to the relation of the October Revolution to WWI, Lenin commented on the revolution having “new features, or variations, resulting from the war itself” and that those who cannot grasp Marx’s ideas could not see this. “They have seen capitalism and bourgeois democracy in Western Europe follow a definite path of development, and cannot conceive that this path can be taken as a model only mutatis mutandis, only with certain amendments (quite insignificant from the standpoint of the general development of world history).” The October Revolution was bound to show new features, “for the world has never seen such a war in such a situation.” As a second point that needs to be understood, Lenin said: “while the development of world history as a whole follows general laws it is by no means precluded, but, on the contrary, presumed, that certain periods of development may display peculiarities in either the form or the sequence of this development”.40

This attitude and these statements of Lenin are extremely significant for today’s communists. This broad and deep perspective needs to be adopted.

We can express the specific nature of our situation as such: the matured contradictions have not yet found 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 in order to better understand 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 understanding of their action and themselves. Paying attention to the specific nature of the conditions we are in is a precondition to carrying out our duties in a way that is correct and not merely formal. As long as we do not reduce our attention 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 shallow right- or left-wing trends.41

Thus, given the specific historical conditions, our first aim is the “formation of the proletariat into 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 who ran off to America and showed a sectarian attitude to the American workers’ movement: “Our theory is not a dogma but the exposition of a process of evolution, and that process involves successive phases. To expect that the Americans will start with the full consciousness of the theory worked out in older industrial countries is to expect the impossible. What the Germans ought to do is to act up to their own theory — if they understand it, as we did in 1845 and 1848,— to go in for any real general working-class movement, accept its actual starting point as such, and work it gradually up to the theoretical level by pointing out how every mistake made, every reverse suffered, was a necessary consequence of mistaken theoretical views in the original programme: they ought, in the words of the Communist Manifesto: ‘in the movement of the present to represent the future of the movement’.”42

Who could have known that the international working class would suffer a temporary but comprehensive historical defeat and that these warnings would become relevant to both the workers themselves and to the communists?

April 2015


* This article was published in Ozgurluk Dunyasy [World of Freedom], the political journal of EMEP, in May 2015. Since then there have been important developments in Greece. First, SYRIZA signed an agreement with the Troika despite the “No” vote in the referendum. But SYRIZA also won the elections and became the major party again. Second, the KKE was criticized in this article for not moving to organize the alliance of large sections of the people on the basis of their urgent demands. But after the general elections on September 20, the General Secretary of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumpas, said: “The KKE will work for the struggle to reorganize, to strengthen the workers’ and peoples’ movement and to organize a broad people’s alliance.” After this statement, we hope that the KKE will change its position for a platform of revolutionary struggle and will move towards building a real united front of the workers and labourers. We will be happy if this hope becomes reality.

1. Undoubtedly, contemporary capitalism cannot be understood while overlooking the US. That said, within the context of the subject matter of this article, the US needs to be analyzed in its own right, because it has unique qualities that require a detailed assessment. Addressing this requirement in this article would, however, broaden its purview.

2. Throughout this article, socialism as a social formation will denote the elementary stage of communism.

3.  Ever since the working class intervened in the political struggle as a class.

4. See: “Emek Partisi – Enternasyonal Komunizmin Tarihsel Anlamy”; Enternasyonal Yolunda 20 Yyl, p. 124, Evrensel Basym Yayyn. [Party of Labour – The Historical Significance of International Communism; 20 Years on the Path of the International, p. 124, Evrensel Publishing House]

5. As shown – first and foremost – with countries like the US and Germany, the crisis has created new and differing perspectives and groups within the monopoly bourgeoisie. However, such developments are beyond the scope of this article.

6. Europe, for reasons already mentioned, constitutes the advanced example. The emergent issues and trends on this continent and can also be seen in the working class movements in other countries and continents.

7. See: 16 March 2015, issue no. 12.

8. Modern social reformism constitutes a broad range of currents. It embodies ATTAC [Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens], anti-globalisation currents, yellow trade unions, the representatives of the Evangelical and Catholic churches that oppose “evil capitalism”, the Party of the European Left, Neo-Keynesians, and intellectuals and economists who advocate “radical democracy” and “democratic socialism”. Within this wide-ranging movement, projectors of “socialism” (such as “21st century socialism”) abound. 

9. Undoubtedly, in other countries there are many and different demands, which are not mentioned above. The aim here is to paint an approximate and a general picture.

10. The discontent and fear of these strata and groups find their political reflection not only in social reformism, but also in racist, social- nationalist and openly fascist movements in both Southern and Northern Europe. In areas where the monopolies have a strong hegemony this burgeoning discontent and fear can be found side-by- side.

11. “Our Revolution (Apropos of N. Sukhanov’s Notes)”, in Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. 33, p. 476, Progress Publishers, Moscow. Unless otherwise specified, all the quotations are from published English translations (translator’s note).
12. A few years ago, the KKE put forward its analysis of capitalist restoration in the USSR. In this analysis, the following evaluations are important and positive: the 20th Congress as a turning point, and the critique of Khrushchev’s revisionism in the realm of politics and economics (thus far, these evaluations have been the dividing points between different political traditions). That said, the KKE’s analyses do contain pivotal drawbacks and shortcomings, an in-depth analysis of which can only be the subject matter of a separate article.

13. From 2012 to 2015, there were 50 24-hour and 48-hour general strikes. See: Seyit Aldodan, “Yunanistan Segimleri ve SYRIZA hukumetini dodru ve yanly^laryyla dederlendirmek”; Ozgurluk Dunyasy, [“Greek Elections and the SYRIZA Government, Evaluating What Is Correct and Incorrect”; World of Freedom] No. 262, March 2015.

14. For example, statements regarding SYRIZA being part of the government: the thesis of “a peaceful and gradual transition to socialism”, etc. 


16. ibid. Unless specified otherwise, the below citations are from the above source. 

17. [KKE General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumpas We will not leave the class under a foreign flag]

18. “New Times and Old Mistakes in a New Guise”; Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 33. 

19., in English at:

20. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder, p. 100, English edition, FLP Peking, 1970.

21. Lenin citing Engels’s “Program of the Blanquist Communards” (1874) in: “Left-Wing” Communism, p. 62. 

22., in English at:

23. “Conference of the Extended Editorial Board of ‘Proletary’”, In Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 15, p. 440.

24. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism, pp. 40-41.

25. Lenin, “Revision of the Agrarian Programme of the Workers’ Party”; Collected Works, vol. 10, p. 178.

26. Without a doubt, from this statement one cannot derive the conclusion that the modern social reformist and fascist movements have gained ground in Greece solely and essentially due to the shortcomings of the KKE. Such a conclusion would not only exaggerate the actual influence of the KKE but would also negate the role of all other factors arising from the crisis.

27. A striking example of this is the KKE’s political approach to the EU. The KKE, on the one hand, correctly conceives of the EU as a union of imperialists and, in contrast to right-wing opportunists, it claims that the EU cannot be transformed into an entity functioning in the interest of the masses. On the other hand, it links the question of leaving the EU and the Eurozone to the need for a workers’-people’s power! This means that the KKE will not demand that Greece leave the EU without a revolution taking place. At the same time, the KKE does not ally itself with forces that do not demand Greece leaving the EU. Yet, if the demand to leave the EU is conditioned on such power, then this particular demand should not be the prerequisite for taking part in alliances formed around and for the demands of the masses. The result? The KKE will not be in alliance with forces that do not uphold the power of the workers! Naturally, this implies that there will be no united struggle with forces that say “No to the EU and the Eurozone”.

28. “The Future Italian Revolution and the Socialist Party,” in Marx-Engels Collected Works, vol. 27, p. 437.

29. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism, p. 67.

30. ibid, pp. 52 & 72.

31. ibid, p. 99.

32. ibid, p. 46.

33. Lenin, “On Confounding Politics with Pedagogics,” Collected Works, Vol. 8, p. 464.

34. Rizospastis (Greek Daily), January 11, 2015. In English at:

35. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism, p. 51.

36. Marx & Engels to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Wilhelm Bracke, and Others (Circular Letter) in: Marx-Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 45, p. 408.

37. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism, p. 41.

38. Lenin: “The Tasks of Russian Social-Democrats”, Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 338.

39. Marx, Letter to Ruge, September, 1843, in Collected Works, Vol. 3, p. 144.

40. “Our Revolution,” in Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. 33, p. 477. Mutatis mutandis is a Medieval Latin phrase meaning “with things being changed” (translator’s note).

41. See: “Enternasyonal Komunizmin Tarihsel Anlamy” – Emek Partisi; Enternasyonal Yolunda 20 Yyl, p. 125, Evrensel Basym Yayyn. [Party of Labour – The Historical Significance of International Communism; 20 Years on the Path of the International, p. 125, Evrensel Publishing House]

42. Engels, Letter to F. Kelley-Wischnewetzky in New York, December 28, 1886 in: Marx Engels Collected Works, Vol. 47, p. 541.

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