KKE: Interview with the Greek Communist Party

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wikinews reporter Iain Macdonald has performed an interview with Dr Isabella Margara, a London-based member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). In the interview Margara sets out the communist response to current events in Greece as well as discussing the viability of a communist economy for the nation. She also hit back at Petros Tzomakas, a member of another Greek far-left party which criticised KKE in a previous interview.

The interview comes amid tensions in cash-strapped Greece, where the government is introducing controversial austerity measures to try to ease the nation's debt-problem. An international rescue package has been prepared by European Union member states and the International Monetary Fund – should Greece require a bailout; protests have been held against government attempts to manage the economic situation.


KKE protestors atop the famous Athens Acropolis

 ((Iain Macdonald )) Has slavish pursuit of free-market capitalism been the cause of Europe, and particularly Greece's, economic woes?

 ((Dr Isabella Margara )) What we are experiencing today – not only in Greece, but in all capitalist countries – is a crisis of overproduction. The exploitation of the working class and the other popular strata is intensified due to the fact that the bourgeoisie has been keeping for itself larger and larger parts of the produced wealth. Behind overproduction lies the over-accumulation of capital. The average profit rate is decreased in the main sectors of the economy. This leads to destruction of part of productive forces, closing factories, inflation, mass redundancies of superfluous workers as waste – in order to permit a new process of accumulation to begin, when new sectors of the economy will secure the increase of the average profit rate. This has nothing to do with the ‘management’ of the system by social democrats or liberals; it is an inevitable outcome of capitalism.

The national deficits do exist. In fact, behind the debt are the huge tax reliefs for large monopolies, the massive bank bailouts, the inconceivable NATO military expenses, the subsidies in the name of capitalist development. In Greece at the moment, there is a clear expression of the imperialist rivalries between the US and EU, between EU countries and especially between Germany and France. However, it is now becoming clearer every day that the ruling class is using the existing deficits, in Greece and in Europe, in order to promote new anti-labour policies which will secure the profits of the capital. These measures have been pre-decided a long time ago in the Maastricht Treaty and are here to stay. Their aim is not just to exit the crisis, but to ensure stability and high profits for the capital in the next phases of the economic cycle.

 ((Iain )) How, given the Soviet collapse, and China being communist in name only, would your vision of a communist system have been better for the majority of citizens?

 ((Isabella )) Despite the various problems of socialist countries, the socialist system of the 20th century proved the superiority of socialism over capitalism and the huge advantages that it provides for peoples’ lives and working conditions. The Soviet Union and the world socialist system constituted the only real counterweight to imperialist aggression – we recently celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Anti-fascist victory. The achievements of workers in the socialist states were a point of reference for many decades and contributed to the gains won by the working class in capitalist societies as well. In this way, everyone had guaranteed work, public free health care and education, housing, and access to intellectual and cultural creativity. The complete eradication of the terrible legacy of illiteracy, in combination with the increase in the general level of education and specialization and the abolition of unemployment, constitute unique achievements of socialism. In the Soviet Union in 1975 it was guaranteed by law that the hours of work could not surpass 41 per week, among the lowest in the world. All workers were guaranteed days for rest and relaxation and annual paid holidays. Non-working time was extended and its content was changed. It was transformed into time for the development of the cultural and educational level of the workers, for the enhancement of their participation in workers’ power and in the control of the administration of productive units. Social Security for working people was of utmost priority for the socialist state. A comprehensive system of retirement benefits, with the important achievement of low age limits for retirement (55 years for women, 60 for men), was created. Socialist power laid the foundation for the abolition of inequality of women, overcoming the great difficulties that objectively existed. Socialism ensured in practice the social character of motherhood and socialized childcare. It instituted equal rights for women and men in the economic, political and cultural realm, although not all forms of unequal relations between the two genders, which had become entrenched over a long period of time, had been successfully eradicated.

Our critical approach regarding various issues of building socialism in the USSR, namely decisions in the economy in critical times, or the extend of workers’ control and participation, do not change the fact that the first historical attempt to abolish the exploitation of man by man had many achievements for the majority of people and many of the rights that Soviet people had in 1975 seem like a dream for us today. Also, it does not change the fact that the contradictions of the capitalist way of production become deeper. The counter-revolution may have won one fight, but it has not won the war. As long as there is socialised production combined with capitalist property of the means of production, there will be crisis, unemployment and poverty – and socialism will remain the only way out.

Our Party in 2009 held its 18th Congress, during which we discussed and studied socialism and the causes of counter-revolution in the USSR. The conclusions we drew have been published and we have enriched our programme based on them. See here for more information.

 ((Iain )) For right or for wrong, we have now reached a situation where Greece is on the brink of an international bailout. If you were given power tomorrow, what steps would you take immediately to get Greece back on track?

 ((Isabella )) At the moment we are trying to build a front of workers, small farmers, the self-employed and working young people. This front needs to become a huge social and political anti-imperialist anti-monopoly coalition with only one duty - to bring the working class into power and socialise the basic means of production, namely energy, telecommunications, mines, manufacturing, and transportation. We would implement public and free education, health and national insurance systems. Next to the socialised sectors, there can be the co-operatives of small farmers and small tradesmen in sectors of the economy where concentration is still low. The production and distribution in both the socialised and the co-operative sectors will be under workers’ control as part of a centrally planned economy. This is a vital need in order to fulfil our contemporary needs, in order to ensure that all productive forces are mobilised, that science and technology will develop in favour of the people, and that all international economic co-operation will be used, on the basis of mutual benefit. The government, which will be the organ of the popular power, will have to ensure the participation of the people in building this new society. The debt is due to the power of monopolies. There will be no solution if the capitalist profits remain untouchable, if we don’t disengage from EU and NATO, if the capitalists continue to rule at the expense of the working class.

 ((Iain )) Why do you oppose the current austerity measures? What has the government, in your view, got so wrong?

 ((Isabella )) Massive and drastic cuts to public and private sector salaries and pensions, further cuts of benefits, reduced overtime payments, increase of the VAT up to 23%, increase of the indirect taxes, abolishment of collective labour agreements, massive redundancies to public services and merges, right of unrestricted redundancies to private companies, and increases to the retirement age: Huge masses will be condemned to unemployment and extreme poverty. Health and Education will become a privilege only for a small minority. The recovery phase will lead to new concentration of wealth to the capital, to an increase in the degree of exploitation. The recovery, when it happens, will not have a positive impact on the people on one hand, and will lead relatively soon to a new crisis on the other. That is why we oppose the measures.

That is also why the working class should not be trapped in a discussion about bonds or interest rates, the simple reason being that it has nothing to gain from this discussion. The international loans will end up in the capital’s pockets, not the working class. The Greeks have suffered when the rates were down, they suffer now that the rates are up. We do not intend to share the capital's 'anxiety' about the bourse, because it is becoming clearer every day that if plutocracy does not go bankrupt, then the people will.

The government is not doing anything wrong – in fact, it is doing a great job representing the interests of its bosses, the Greek capitalists, the imperialists of E.U., the I.M.F. But they want the working class partners to their crime. They are telling us that our sacrifice to live in poverty and work until we die is our patriotic duty. What they are not telling us is that the workers, the farmers, the owners of small shops; we do not have the same country as these E.U. fans of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, the City-educated bankers, the corporate media owners. Their country and their god is exploitation and profit. Our people have proven their patriotism in every single crucial point in history for thousands of years now. But this case is different, the working Greek man and women should not make any sacrifices for plutocracy! The only ‘sacrifice’ that should be made is to fight the dangerous fear and hesitation and organise the struggle. That’s what will help our own country and our class.

 ((Iain )) I have heard that people in Greece are upset that the euro has weakened Greece’s economic position, as the {{w|Drachma]]'s low value actually encouraged spending by foreigners. What steps would a socialist government take to encourage new spending in Greece by both foreign tourists and investors?

 ((Isabella )) As mentioned earlier, since the agreements signed within the EU do not allow for manoeuvres in favour of the people, our disengagement would be inevitable and would be an essential term in order to plan the economy based on how we will fulfil our contemporary needs. The currency itself is not the main issue.

Tourism is another sector of the economy whose fate depends again on who owns the means of production. Only with a different economy the country will develop the infrastructures and provide quality services that will first of all guarantee decent working conditions, will be accessible to all the population and will be cheap.

So far, the development of Greek tourism has been based on profit. Therefore, the fees for ships and other means of transport are outrageous; many islands are left with no regular connection with the mainland because these lines are not considered to be profitable. Both PASOK [Panhellenic Socialist Movement] and ND [New Democracy] governments, under the EU guidance, have implemented policies that led to rough working conditions and wages in tourism. Besides, more than 60% of Greeks at the moment cannot go on any holiday and after the latest measures these numbers will increase; another significant portion reduces the time off work, and a third one relies on the hospitality of friends and family for their holidays, due to their low income.

For us, tourism and holidays are not a trade, they are a social right – for both the Greek workers and the tourists that will choose to visit our country.

 ((Iain )) How do you respond to the assertion that 'democracy is the least-worst of all the political systems tried'? Would the Greek communists accept a multi-party system where some parties would be stridently advocating free-market economics?

 ((Isabella )) Democracy is not synonymous with the number of parties that exist in a country. For example, today in Greece we have dozens of political parties but despite the fact that the vast majority of the population opposes the austerity measures, the Parties that have the majority support them. How is that democratic? Nearly all strikes in Greece over the last decade have been declared illegal by the bourgeois court. In the workplace, there is no other law but the law of the employer.

In the process of building an anti-imperialist anti-monopoly Front, there will be a social coalition of the small farmers, the self employed, or other poor popular strata that will follow the working class since that will be their objective interest. Besides, people’s power is the real democracy, since capitalists and monopolies do not exist: it’s the democracy which is guaranteed by the direct political action of millions of people – in their workplaces, in their industrial units, in their neighbourhoods, in their popular organisations.

 ((Iain )) How would you respond to allegations that the recent protest from the Acropolis was not appropriate for a historic monument?

 ((Isabella )) The Acropolis is more than a touristic attraction. For the Greek people, it is a symbol of hope and dignity. KKE made this symbolic demonstration in order to emphasize that the attack against the Greek working class is a preview of the attack that follows to the other European people. And that the struggle of the Greek working class is indeed at the moment a struggle that gives hope to all the peoples abroad, who suffer the same. From that point of view, our demonstration not only was not inappropriate, but actually highlighted the true meaning of the monument. And judging by the impact this symbolic occupation had, I would think it has been very successful as well!

Those who accuse us of ‘blasphemy’ are those who have been shamelessly privatising most historic and archaeological monuments in Greece during the last decades. In 1992, Coca Cola used the Acropolis for a commercial, where the monument was built on bottles instead of columns! Samsung recently filmed its own commercial, let alone the various fashion shows that take place there. They have been selling out our beaches and forests to touristic monopolies and have been offering the monuments in order to promote commercial products – and that is not considered to be inappropriate. They accuse us of undermining tourism – in fact all visitors had free entry to Acropolis on that day!

A few days ago, being annoyed by the fact that the seamen prevented the strike breaking in a cruise ship, the bourgeoisie and its journalists accused the seamen of anti-patriotism for attacking tourism which is ‘the only thing we have left’. They even encouraged the government to ban the organisation of strikes. Despite the media efforts to turn even the tourists against the seamen, the majority of travellers expressed their solidarity to the strike. Their problem is not the historical meaning of Acropolis or tourism, their problem is organised struggle.

We have said it before and we'll say it again: the images broadcast by the media of our struggle are an honour for the working people of our country.

 ((Iain )) How would you respond to the criticisms levelled by Petros Tzomakas of Xekinima, who denounced the KKE's lack of co-operation with SYRIZA [Coalition of the Radical Left] in a recent interview?

 ((Isabella )) SYRIZA are the tail of social democracy in Greece. Their analysis on the crisis is similar to PASOK. According to them, the way out is a more ‘human capitalism’, where ‘people will come first’ and profits will follow. What they are hiding from the people is that capitalist profits cannot co-exist with pro-popular policies, the basic contradiction between capital and labour cannot be overcome.

SYRIZA, being consistently pro-E.U. (it has voted for the Maastricht treaty after all), prefers the implementation of the same measures by the E.U. rather than the IMF and fights for different versions of the 'Stability Pact'. As if the E.U. is the good cop and the IMF the bad one. We say: this is a fake dilemma; there is no good or bad imperialism. All of them are good for serving their own monopolies, their own fat cats. The bottom line is that there is increasing antagonism between the different imperialist centres and the Greek government is trying to play the game with all of them. KKE has warned that this leads to our even deeper involvement in the inter-imperialist rivalries, and this can be a very dangerous path. They all agree 100% on the measures taken by the government and they ask for more blood now. Contrary to the party of Syriza, we do not plan to choose our assassin or negotiate the terms of the assassination with any of them.

It is also important to notice that for years now, in the trade union movement and during the latest strikes and rallies, SYRIZA has been following the compromised leaderships of GSEE [General Confederation of Greek Workers] and ADEDY (the Greek TUC in the private and public sector respectively, controlled by PASOK) who originally boycotted the strikes, went on strike breaking and then dragged them in unwillingly under public pressure, in order to minimise the damage to the government.

 ((Iain )) I notice that the KKE is seeking to distance itself from the recent deaths in Athens. Are the people responsible completely wrong in their actions, or can you sympathise with their anger? Do you believe they should be prosecuted?

 ((Isabella )) The burning of the bank at Stadiou Avenue by ‘anarchist’ provocation groups, which led to the death of three people, is clearly a crime and a provocation aiming at the intimidation of the people and the defamation of the struggle. It proves that the mechanisms of this system are ruthless when it comes to attacking the popular movement. Both the Greek as well as the international movement have had similar experiences in the past. Do you remember the bomb at Chicago’s Heymarket after the demo for the 8-hour workday in 1886, for which the pioneers of that movement were sentenced to death? Or the arson of the German parliament by the fascists, which allowed them to unleash the chase against the communists? Even the large scale provocations of today that are used in order to justify the ‘preventive wars’...

The question we urge people to ask themselves in order to understand why this happened is: who benefited from these actions? Clearly, it was the supporters of the anti-popular measures, all those who are scared by the huge numbers of working people who participated in the protests: the capitalists. Since they are the ones who are really responsible for the deaths, we have no illusions that they are going to be prosecuted. The main thing is that the Greek workers have got enough experience now and can differentiate between massive, organised and protected political struggle and isolated, criminal provocations that cause innocent victims, intimidate the people and at the end of the day, only facilitate the monopolies’ goals.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.