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Spartacist English edition No. 59

Spring 2006

The Founding of the Trotskyist Group of Greece

For A Leninist Party in Greece! For a Socialist Federation of the Balkans!

The following was published in Greek in November 2004 and first printed in English in Workers Vanguard No. 838, 10 December 2004.

The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) is pleased to announce the founding of the Trotskyist Group of Greece as a sympathizing section. The Greek comrades were won to the program of the ICL over a period of time through debate over programmatic differences and testing our agreement in common work.

The first contact with the ICL was made in 1995 by Spiros, a leader of the Socialist Workingmen’s Organization (SOE), which split in 1994 from the Stalinophobic fake-Trotskyist Morenoite tendency. In 1996 the majority of the SOE founded the Revolutionary Workers Communist Organization (KOEE). In January 1999, Spiros resigned from the KOEE and began to correspond with the ICL, which had been sending literature to the KOEE since 1998. In May-June 1999, the KOEE leadership purged elements perceived as sympathetic to the ICL when our principled opposition to imperialist war against Serbia found a hearing among some members. Some of those thus expelled undertook to study the ICL program and in March 2000 formed an informal discussion group. In January 2001 the members of this study circle wrote to a group of ex-members of the Communist League-Workers Power (KSEE), a 1995 split-off from the SOE, and in March 2001 constituted a discussion group with these ex-KSEE members.

The Trotskyist Group of Greece was founded by comrades who fought on the question of women’s oppression in Greece and split from Spiros primarily over the need to champion the rights of Greece’s oppressed minorities, a crucial question for a Leninist-Trotskyist organization in a Balkan country.

The ICL’s record of fighting against counterrevolution in the DDR [East Germany] was central to the recruitment of the TGG comrades. In the “Agreement for Common Work” printed below, we make clear that we stand counterposed to organizations like the Socialist Workers Party (SEK—affiliated to the British SWP), International Workers Left (DEA—ISO) and the Taaffeite Xekinima, which backed Yeltsin’s counterrevolution in the Soviet Union in 1991-1992 and, in the latter case, even had supporters present on Yeltsin’s barricades. While preparing for a class on capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and East Europe, one of the Greek comrades wrote in June 2000:

“I studied anew Trotsky’s books The Class Nature of the Soviet Union, The Revolution Betrayed and the ‘Declaration of Principles’ of the ICL. Thereafter, together with our own discussions I consider that the positions of the ICL on the question of Afghanistan are consistent with our ideology and I agree with them on the basis of the defense of a bureaucratically degenerated workers state against the threat of the bourgeois counterrevolution.

“In regard to the question of China, what I consider applies is what Trotsky maintained in 1933, when he fought against the conception that the bureaucracy had already destroyed the Soviet workers state: Trotskyists judge that situation as dangerous but not desperate and they consider it an act of cowardice to announce that the revolutionary fight has been lost before the fight and without a fight.”

In November 2000, another comrade left the KSEE after fighting in that organization for the position of defending China as a deformed workers state.

On the National Question

The Balkan peninsula is a region with myriad interpenetrated peoples and oppressed minorities. An equitable resolution of the national question in the Balkans requires a socialist federation. The ICL recognizes that the question of Macedonia is a test of the authenticity of any group claiming to be internationalist in Greece. The TGG defends the national rights of the Macedonian minority in Greece, including their right to set up their own state or unite with the existing state of Macedonia. For full democratic rights for national minorities in Greece! For a Balkan socialist federation!

On this basis we were won to the ICL’s program, strongly opposing Greek national chauvinism, following in Trotsky’s footsteps in his discussion with the Archio-Marxists on the Macedonian question:

“It’s not our task to organize nationalist uprisings. We merely say that if the Macedonians want it, we will then side with them, that they should be allowed to decide, and we will also support their decision. What disturbs me is not so much the question of the Macedonian peasants, but rather whether there isn’t a touch of chauvinist poison in Greek workers. That is very dangerous. For us, who are for a Balkan federation of soviet states, it is all the same if Macedonia belongs to this federation as an autonomous whole or part of another state. However, if the Macedonians are oppressed by the bourgeois government, or feel that they are oppressed, we must give them support.”

— Leon Trotsky, “A Discussion on Greece,”
Spring 1932, in Writings of Leon Trotsky Supplement (1929-33) (Pathfinder, 1979)

The split inside the group in Greece came to a head over Spiros’ refusal to recognize and fight against the national oppression of the Arvanites—an Orthodox Christian minority of Albanian descent who migrated to what is now Greece during the Middle Ages. The Arvanites have been forcibly Hellenized and face hideous discrimination and punishments even for speaking their own language in public.

To simply mention that national minorities exist in Greece is not merely taboo, it carries the risk of prosecution. In 2001, Vlach activist Sotiris Bletsas was dragged through the courts for distributing a leaflet that stated there are five linguistic minorities in Greece. Bletsas’ acquittal after an appeal is regarded as a landmark legal decision because it tacitly accepts that Arvanitika, Vlach, Macedonian, Turkish and Pomak are spoken on Greek soil. We defended Bletsas against the Greek bourgeois state in our intervention during the Polytechnic demonstrations in 2001.

Under capitalist rule, anti-Roma [Gypsy] racism has been rife throughout the Balkans. In Greece, 137 Roma were forced to move from their houses which were located in the vicinity of the Olympic Stadium construction site. Roma, along with Albanian immigrants, have increasingly been the victims of brutal police violence. One Albanian was murdered and around 100 injured after a football match between Greece and Albania in early September, and racist mobs attacked Albanians in several cities, including Athens and Thessaloniki. Albanian immigrants in Greece number around one million people. Immigrants are not merely victims of racist terror but an integral part of the proletariat, which confirms the importance of our call for the workers movement to defend immigrants and to fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. The defense of the rights of oppressed nationalities and immigrants is the only means by which the proletariat, consisting of workers of different ethnicities, can be united in the struggle for socialist revolution.

Another key question for revolutionaries in Greece is combatting anti-Turkish Greek chauvinism in regard to Cyprus, as we state in the “Agreement for Common Work.” Any proletarian, internationalist perspective for Cyprus needs to begin with the call for the immediate withdrawal of all the Greek troops from Cyprus, as well as the Turkish army, the British troops and bases and the UN contingent!

The Greek Orthodox church is a central pillar of the Greek capitalist order and fuels national chauvinism, directed particularly against Turkish people and against all Muslims, enforcing the ties between the Greek working class and its exploiters. An example of the sinister, chauvinist role of the Church was seen in 2000, when proposals by the then-PASOK government that would have removed the documenting of a person’s religion on national identity cards were met with reactionary mobilizations led by the Orthodox clergy. We are for the separation of church and state!

For Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

The main institution for the oppression of women is the family. For the ruling class, the family serves as the vehicle for transmitting private property from one generation to the next while serving in general as a mechanism for regimenting the population through the inculcation of conservative social values. Thus, the liberation of women cannot be achieved without the abolition of the system of private property. The expropriation of the bourgeoisie through proletarian revolution and the extension of that revolution to the more advanced industrial countries, establishing the material foundations for a socialist society of material abundance, will lay the basis for the replacement of the family.

In Greece, women did not have the right to vote until 1956, while the dowry was only formally abolished in 1986 and in reality still exists. Although abortion was legalized (with severe restrictions) in 1986, it is difficult to obtain, particularly for teenagers and poor women. We are for free abortion on demand!

Following the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and East Europe, women workers in Greece, as elsewhere, have been those most affected by the capitalists’ attacks on the working masses. Working mothers have faced the closure of public nurseries and kindergartens. We fight for free, quality health care and for free, 24-hour childcare.

Greek society is extremely homophobic, as was demonstrated recently by the case of the Mega Channel TV broadcaster, which was fined €100,000 for showing a gay kiss in its Close Your Eyes series. In counterposition to the homophobic Greek left, we seek to act as a Leninist tribune of the oppressed and defend the democratic rights of homosexuals, including their right to marriage and to have children. All consensual forms of sexuality should be private, and the state or church must not intervene. We call for “state and church out of the bedroom.”

For a Revolutionary Workers Party!

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) is a mass reformist party with major influence and roots in the working class. Unlike the Stalinophobic Greek fake Trotskyists, we do not ignore the KKE, but seek to win its working-class base to the genuine communism of Lenin and Trotsky. As we wrote in Workers Vanguard No. 565 (11 December 1992):

“The KKE is the historic mass party of the Greek working class. Its partisan struggle against the Nazi wartime occupation and in the civil war that broke out in 1944 gave it great authority. That authority was duly abused to block the seizure of power by the working class at the end of the war, when the Communist Party, as in France and Italy, made peace with the bourgeoisie, disarmed the working class and entered into a popular-front capitalist government to rebuild the Greek capitalist state machine. This 1945 betrayal did not prevent the bourgeoisie, aided and abetted by British and U.S. imperialism, from turning on the Communists, renewing the civil war and slaughtering thousands in a campaign designed to break the potential for working-class revolution.

“The defeat of the KKE-led forces in 1949, conforming to Stalin’s postwar settlement with Churchill that gave Greece to imperialism, paved the way for a series of rightist regimes culminating in the infamous colonels’ dictatorship of 1967-74. Despite this history, the goal of the KKE has remained to find its way back into the corridors of capitalist power.”

While the KKE is a mass reformist workers party, the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) is a bourgeois-populist formation and has been so from its foundation. In contrast to elements on the Greek left, such as the Cliffites, we reject on principle any political support to this party of the class enemy.

The Greek comrades worked together with comrades from the ICL long before the section was founded. In this collaboration we produced a number of leaflets, translating key articles—e.g., “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program,” “The Bankruptcy of ‘New Class’ Theories,” “Women’s Liberation and the Struggle Against Imperialist Subjugation” and others. We wrote a statement in defense of the arrested anarchists and other protesters in Thessaloniki in 2003 against state repression. We defend and call for the immediate release of all those jailed in the roundup of the ELA and “17 November” groups [two groups that grew out of opposition to the rule of the military junta in Greece from 1967-74; they generally targeted representatives of the bourgeois state and imperialism]. When the oppressed act against the bourgeoisie and its state, we defend them against capitalist repression; however, we oppose the desperate petty-bourgeois strategy of individual terrorism, which is antithetical to the task of rendering the proletariat conscious that it is the only class with the historic interest and social force to smash capitalist exploitation.

The comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece, section of the ICL, are committed to building a party that represents the interests of the multiethnic working class and champions the rights of all the oppressed—women, homosexuals, youth, immigrants and ethnic minorities. It is necessary to fight for the political independence of the proletariat in order to overthrow the capitalist order by successful proletarian revolution.

Agreement for Common Work Between Greek Comrades and the ICL (FI)

1. The current group in Greece originated from a split within a group that had been having discussions with the ICL since 1999. The reason for the split was a months-long fight over the national question—the defense of the rights of national minorities in Greece and opposition to Greek national chauvinism. There were previously fights with others in the original group about the Russian question, the centrality of the woman question in Greece, the general strike question and the party question. As an excuse for breaking with the ICL over these questions, a minority of the group cynically accused the ICL of “centrism” and “chauvinism” when the bombing against Afghanistan began in October 2001 (International Internal Bulletin No. 54).

2. Comrades of the Greek group came to the politics of the ICL through fights and subsequent splits centered on the Russian question. Two members had split from the [ex-Morenoite] Communist League/Workers Power group over the defense of the Chinese deformed workers state, while another comrade of the original group wrote a document supporting the intervention of the ICL into the DDR in 1989-90. Another comrade of the current group came from the Greek Communist Party. Given the influence that the CP has in the Greek working class, it is the main obstacle, so it is very important for the future of the group that an ex-member of the CP is one of the Greek comrades. The group stands for the unconditional military defense of the deformed workers states—China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba—and for proletarian political revolution against the bureaucracy. We came to agree with the ICL’s analysis of the collapse of Stalinism in East Europe through studying the “Documents and Discussion on the Collapse of Stalinism” by Seymour and St. John in Spartacist No. 45-46 (Winter 1990-91), on which a comrade of the ICL gave a presentation. The Greek group agrees with the position of the ICL on Afghanistan, “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan.” There is initial agreement with the ICL’s position on Poland, although it has not been discussed in the current group. We reject the Stalinophobia of the anti-communist Greek pseudo-Trotskyists who refuse to intervene into the Greek Communist Party—a mass pro-Soviet Stalinist party that has the support of the most advanced sections of the Greek working class and youth.

3. Greece is a Balkan country, and it is the only Balkan country to which the October Revolution did not extend. And the Greek capitalist state is the only one in the Balkans that does not recognize any national minority. A Trotskyist group in Greece must fight against Greek chauvinism and defend the rights of national minorities—which are forcibly Hellenized—the Macedonians, Vlachs, Pomaks, Turks, Cham (Muslim) Albanians and the Arvanites, etc., including the right of self-determination, especially for the Macedonian and Albanian minorities. It is also important to defend the rights of the persecuted Roma people. The comrades fight against Greek chauvinist poison inside the working class. The resolution of the myriad national questions in the Balkans requires a socialist federation of the Balkans.

4. A Trotskyist group must be a Leninist “tribune of the people.” And for Greece, where the ultra-reactionary Orthodox church has enormous influence, the oppression of women is extreme. The Greek “holy trinity” of “homeland-religion-family” which the capitalist state promotes is strongly connected with the national and the woman questions. A central issue for Trotskyists must be the fight for the liberation of women through socialist revolution and opposition to women’s oppression. We fight for full democratic rights for homosexuals, in opposition to the male-chauvinist, homophobic Greek society and the Greek left. We are for the separation of church and state.

5. The Greek comrades stand for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. They have already carried out many interventions, both in common work with comrades of the ICL and by themselves, into immigrant demonstrations. Immigrants—Albanian, Kurd, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Russian, Iraqi, Palestinian, etc.—have become a key component of the proletariat in Greece and the Greek group has to fight for the unity of the proletariat against any kind of racism.

6. The group agrees with the position of the ICL on the recent war on Iraq and the Afghanistan war in 2001. The Greek group fought under the slogans: Defend Iraq against the imperialist attack of the U.S. and its allies! Down with the colonial occupation of Iraq! All American and allied troops out of the Near East now! We called for class struggle against the capitalist rulers at home in counterposition to the Greek left, which had a very parochial position: “No Greek participation in the Iraq war” and also against the pacifism of the antiwar movement “Stop the War.” We supported the blockade of the American Souda base and we intervened in the workers strikes against the war. We called for Greek troops out of Cyprus.

7. A key question confronting Trotskyists in Greece is the question of Cyprus and our internationalist, class-struggle opposition to the anti-Turkish chauvinism of the Greek bourgeoisie. We call for the immediate withdrawal of all Greek troops from the island. We also demand the withdrawal of the Turkish army, the UN contingent and the British troops and bases. Our fight is for a proletarian solution to the national question, which of necessity requires the revolutionary overthrow of the nationalist bourgeoisies in Nicosia/Lefkosa, Athens and Ankara.

8. The group agrees on the ICL’s analysis and thesis on Pabloism. We want to fight to forge a Greek section of the ICL. We have been contributing our monthly payment since May 2002. We accept the discipline of a democratic-centralist international. The International, according to Lenin and Trotsky, is the necessary tool for the fight against capitalism, for new October Revolutions and for the protection of national sections from alien class pressures. We fight against the pretenders to Trotskyism—the SWP, Taaffeites, etc.—who are an obstacle to the reforging of a Trotskyist party. We seek to build the party through splits and fusions, including from among the CP youth and the anarchist milieu.

9. Unlike the Stalinist Communist Party, which is a reformist party based on the industrial proletariat, PASOK is a bourgeois-populist political formation. While it has influence in the main trade-union federations in Greece (which are generally craft unions), PASOK’s existence is not dependent on the labor movement. PASOK’s origins are in the bourgeois Centre Party of George Papandreou—the father of PASOK founder Andreas—whose social base the party inherited. PASOK’s ideological underpinnings are illustrated by the party’s seminal 3 September [1974] founding Declaration, which combined hawkish Greek nationalism over the Cyprus issue with characteristic populist claims to represent all “dispossessed” Greek people, defined to include peasants, small businessmen, managers, etc. The 3 September Declaration is moreover one of the more leftist expressions of PASOK’s politics, as it is liberally spiced with some quasi-Marxist verbiage. This “left” face was, however, jettisoned within a few years of the party’s founding and any would-be “leftists” were soon expelled from the party. In contrast to elements of the Greek left, such as the Cliffites, we reject on principle any political support—including electoral support—to this party of the class enemy.

10. An important task is the reading of Workers Vanguard and other ICL propaganda and continuing the reading of Marxist classics for cadre development. We should study and learn from the long and complex history of the Greek Trotskyist movement (e.g., the Greek Archio-Marxists and the Communist League of America’s Greek newspaper) and make it available to the rest of the ICL. As Trotskyists in Greece, we have to study about the Greek Civil War/national question/Cyprus, as well as the Trotskyist movement and its split during World War II on the Nazi occupation. The comrades need to study the ICL’s statement on the imperialist bombing of Serbia and the Balkan slaughter and, with the help of the ICL, the national minorities in Greece as a part of the Balkans.

11. In order to accommodate this common work it is necessary to study the English language. It’s also necessary for comrades of the ICL to study Greek.

12. As a task we have to project some modest public work in interventions through regular sales to the student milieu. In opponent meetings and in demonstrations we have already participated in common work with the ICL in Greece and in London.

13. Until it is realistic for a comrade to be able to transfer to Greece, it would be helpful for the Greek group to get more frequent visits, of longer duration. As soon as possible we need a comrade to transfer to help in the building of the section and the organizing of our political work.

14. We look forward to producing propaganda related to the class struggle in Greek society in order to intervene to give flesh to the ICL program.

— approved at a joint meeting of the TGG and representatives of the International Executive Committee of the ICL, 23 September 2004

English Spartacist No. 59

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Spring 2006


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