Article published in Revolutionary Democracy Vol. XIII, No. 2, September 2007.
In the end of spring of 1945, coming back to Greece from the German concentration camp in which he was imprisoned, Nikos Zachariades, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece, came across and faced a specific reality.
a) A large political, progressive popular movement, predominating in every part of the Greek territory, inspired by the political and ideological principles and the epic of the fighting resistance of the Communist Party of Greece and the National Liberation Front. At the same time, he faced a movement ‘tired’ and ‘disappointed’ by the contradictory and compromising policies of its leadership, blocked by the political accords with local reaction – the instruments of English imperialism – political accords of defeat and laying down the victorious arms of the Popular Army and the popular democratic movement in general (Lebanon, Plaka, Gazerta, Varkiza etc.). Moreover, the leader of the CPG faced the negative situation created by the military defeat of the Left in the battle against the English in Athens in December 1944. This was a battle fought under unacceptable political and military conditions, with strange and spur-of-the-moment methods – as proven by the evidence – and fought also under the leadership of Georges Siantos, the party’s Secretary General at the time of the German occupation, who was later accused by the party of being an agent of the Intelligence Service.
b) A CPG highly regarded by the Greek people, which however during the occupation had been transformed by its leadership from a politically innovative party (around 450,000 members) into an enormous, loose political body lacking a role, objectives, spirit and orientation; not a leading party but a party that allowed in any supporter. The party also included leading members who became known and were recognised by the people through the fight of the NLF, and at the same time leading members who were unable to complete their revolutionary mission, dominated and bound by the spirit of political compromise that they themselves had cultivated within the movement through their choices; dominated also by petit bourgeois self-satisfaction and pride deriving from the greatness of the movement, of which they were leading. After all, these cadres distorted the line of N. Zachariades as it was expressed in his historic letter of October 1940 when Greece was attacked by Italian fascism, a guiding letter of the leader of the CPG and at the same time the last public statement only shortly before he was handed over by the Italians and their Greek collaborators to the Germans and was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp until the liberation of Germany by the Red Army. In the last paragraph of this historic letter, N. Zachariades related in a categorical way the anti-fascist fight to the fight for social liberation, stressing:
‘The prize for the working people and for the current fight must be and will be a new Greece, a Greece of labour, of liberty, purged of any dependence on imperialism, with a truly popular culture’.
The leadership of the CPG during the occupation, with its political choices, disconnected the anti-fascist war from the general political perspective of the working people who should be fighting for national independence and social liberation.
c) Because of this political and leadership team of the CPG, strong conditions began to emerge which were favourable for the rapid reconstruction of the reactionary right-wing pro-English state. Bands of fascists committed murders in the villages and towns, thousands of fighters were arrested, terrorism dominated all over the country, the Treaty of Varkiza led to the disarmament and destruction of the glorious People’s Army of the National Liberation Front and the fighters of the countryside went up to the mountains once again to escape from the killing spree of the fascist bands.
This in brief was the situation that Nikos Zachariades, the leader of the CPG, had to deal with from the summer of 1945 onward, and on the basis of these very conditions he was called to take political and organisational initiatives, while the cycle of World War 2 had not yet been completed and the game of diplomacy concerning the global post-war situation was in a critical phase.
In the debates that have taken place – and still are going on – in Greece, in the scientific papers of historians and researchers, in the personal testimonies of leading Left members of that period, as well as on the other side too, in the long-term political and ideological controversy within the context of the Greek Left, many and often contrasting or consciously distorted evidence about the conditions under which the Civil War began and about the CPG’s leadership’s actions when Nikos Zachariades was at the head, have always been discussed. The slanderous and distorting efforts were developed and are still maintained with the same intensity, reinforced by the participation and behaviour of a large circle, of a front of ‘dark’ forces consisting of people united around the above objective. For half a century now, with the same mania, the ‘dark’ front keeps on with the same false arguments and consciously distorting tactics. In this front the most varied sectors of Greek society participated. Monarchist-fascists (of old and new types), revisionists of all kinds, social-democrats and Trotskyists play, directly and indirectly, the main role in slandering Nikos Zachariades’ personality and leading figure, with an obvious political-ideological goal: to deprive the Greek left and democratic movement of its own revolutionary and fighting traditions, as well as of its scientific and theoretical leading role that Nikos Zachariades played within the Greek movement and the CPG. The destructive force of the ‘dark’ propaganda was strongly reinforced after the absolute predominance of the forces of N. Khrushchev and L. Brezhnev in the international movement and particularly, after Nikos Zachariades’ assassination in Siberia in August 1973 after he had completed 17 years of exile there. This act had been pre-programmed by the KGB in collaboration with the leading team of the CPG (H. Florakis, K. Loules, K. Tsolakis etc.) to which the Soviet revisionists had assigned the leadership of the Greek party. The reason for the assassination of the head of the Greek Left was obviously to prevent his return to Greece after the forthcoming fall of the dictatorship, a fact that would disclose to the Greek people the political treason and would change – in favour of revolutionary opinion – the interrelations within the Greek movement. At the same time, however, Zachariades’ return to Greece as a political refugee would constitute a world-wide base for denouncing the revisionist Soviet party as well as the international state of affairs. At this point, we should refer to and emphasise the fact that under these bad conditions, the absolute predominance of the alliance of the ‘dark’ front, for decades and still until today, in the Greek left and popular movement there have been and still are forces resisting the reactionary anti-revolutionary front. The historic initiative of the anti-revisionist fight had been the tens of thousands of partisans, all refugees in the Eastern countries, the vast majority of whom (from 85% to 95%) stood by Nikos Zachariades’ side until the end, fighting against the violent anti-revolutionary intervention in the Greek Communist Party, facing unbelievable persecution, suffering, even imprisonment and exile.
The arguments against Nikos Zachariades that relate to his actions at the beginning of the Civil War, to the policy and strategy followed by the party during the second partisan fight, present not only an absolute lack of essential documentation, but also a range of varied and contradictory elements. Paradoxically the arguments are more or less the same in the reactionary and progressive circles. The overlapping opinions, which have different points of departure, reveal their real objectives; they aim to withhold the truth and to degrade Nikos Zachariades’ fighting stance and leadership abilities. In this document, we will not deal with the propaganda of the reactionary circles but rather with the reactionary and anti-historic arguments of those who talk in a ‘left’-wing manner and in the name of the Left:
1) The argument that Nikos Zachariades delayed the preparation and beginning of the armed rebellion.
This is a conscious distortion of the truth. The leader of the CPG, returning to Greece from Dachau, was faced with both a specific international and a domestic reality. He was informed, as soon as possible, of the international and domestic situation and he undertook very specific initiatives which were oriented towards:
a) The reconstruction of the CPG through the re-organisation of the party forces, the reinforcement of the political-educational work and its rapid transformation from a loose to a fighting, revolutionary workers’ party. He moved in this direction through the meetings of both the Plenary Sessions of the Central Committee and the 7th Conference, in which the issue of the international policy in these conditions and the complete scientifically documented programme for People’s Democracy were discussed. Furthermore, the strategy of connecting the party to the large workers’ and agricultural unions through many massive democratic processes put them quickly under the control of the party’s forces. He implemented the policy of reinforcing collaboration with the Agricultural Party and other co-operating parties of the democratic alliance. He implemented constant contact with the cadres of middle and lower rank and boosted their fighting conviction, which had fallen due to the compromising policies of the party’s leadership during the German occupation. During this period, Nikos Zachariades accrued information about the forces and possibilities of the movement, but also about the probable influence that enemy forces exerted within the CPG and the democratic front. It was also evident, that any decision in that period could not be made without taking into account the particular conditions in the greater Balkans area, since there were three new people’s democracies (Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria) which bordered Greece and were facing specific problems: their existence was intertwined with the unstable post-war transitional regime and was reflected both in Greece and in the Greek left movement. In addition, the CPG’s leadership, under those circumstances, could not ignore either the opinions of the regional left-wing parties or the opinions of Communist Party of Soviet Union, since the preparation of the armed rebellion – in order not to be considered an adventurous act – demanded in that very phase, many necessary political, technical and military preconditions.
b) The revolutionary, popular rebellion and conflict with British imperialism that was dominant in Greece during that period. The leadership of the CPG and Nikos Zachariades moved in this direction with a clear plan. Within a few months after his return to Greece, the line of mass popular self-defence against the reactionary groups was put into action and the formal battle cry of the Left, ‘English out of Greece’, which raised the fighting spirit of the Greek people, was heard for the first time. In this way, the perspective of struggle was cultivated in the people’s mind, since the Greek people knew by their experience during all those months, that the English and the Greek reaction had decided to exterminate the Greek popular left movement, preventing any perspective of reconciliation and resolution of the political problem through fair elections. At the same time, N. Zachariades and the leadership of the CPG and the international relationships ensured the political and military conditions for the popular rebellion that was coming. The political and organisational reconstruction of the movement that N. Zachariades undertook, took 8 months, beginning with his return to the country and the CPG’s leadership and ending with the milestone decision of the Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the CPG on November 12, 1946, the anniversary of the Treaty of Varkiza. This decision made clear that the armed fight was unavoidable and led to the first military plans.
We can rebut the false arguments that Nikos Zachariades did not have a clear line for the armed fight and that he delayed going into the mountains – arguments absolutely irrelevant to the particular conditions of this specific period – with much evidence. We will refer however only to two characteristics:
1) Nikos Zachariades’ refusal to leave Athens and the leadership of the party’s apparatus before the departure abroad of G. Siantos (Secretary General of the party during the period of the German occupation who was responsible for the compromising political defeat of the Left), something that Siantos avoided doing despite the orders he was given. The opening of the CPG’s files from that period, which has been almost completed today and published in historic papers, although they are available to any researcher, highlights that situation and reveals to any honest fighter, researcher and historian the real facts. It was clear that Nikos Zachariades thought that within the political team of the movement there was a problem of vigilance and unity, a problem that he could not ignore. A series of telegrams from N. Zachariades to other cadres of the party who were on missions abroad proves this fact.
2) The testimony of Kostas Koligiannis (a leading cadre of the CPG), which he gave at the 3rd Conference of the CPG in October 1950, is testimony among tens of others with the same content. Kostas Koligiannis’ testimony is very interesting because he became the Soviet revisionists’ favourite; they named him Secretary General in N. Zachariades’ place, after the anti-democratic overthrow of the legal leader of the CPG. Kostas Koligiannis said:
‘In order for Markos Vaphiades to free himself from responsibilities, he claimed that the party did not start the fight in order to win with strength and determination, that the fight was waged under illusions and inconstancies and for this reason we did not win. Apart from the fact that everybody knew how the party’s decision was initially made, I want to say something that refutes M. Vaphiades’ claim. In July 1946, N. Zachariades himself told me, when I was departing to Epirus, that we should create a massive armed movement. He also said specifically that we should start from the region of Konitsa and Zagori with North Epirus and Tzoumerka as bases of operation and Western Macedonia and Thessaly behind us and to proceed further maintaining these two bases of operation. If we formed small groups in order to use them as a means of restraint in the handling of the situation, as M. Vaphiades says, then what would the mass partisan group – that the party asked us to form since June 1946 – serve for? I went there with the decision-making responsibility of the political office, because I went as the secretary of the party’s organisation. And why would the party give this order to us and another order to other organisations? I think that what M. Vaphiades says constitutes an attempt to free himself from some extremely serious responsibilities, the principal ones, because we lost the chance to resolve, in the end of 1946 and in 1947, the problem of reserves that decisively and determinatively affected the evolution of the armed fight.’ (1)
The above testimony concerning the responsibilities and inefficiencies of the General of the Democratic Army of Greece, Markos Vaphiades, a man who has been in the circle of protagonists in the slander against N. Zachariades and who later co-operated with K. Koligiannis, solves the puzzle and leads to objective conclusions.
2) The abstention from the general elections in March 1946.
The second mistake, a ‘determinative’ one as the cadres of the anti-Zachariades chorus characterised it, was the abstention of the CPG and the other parties of the democratic alliance from the general elections that the English and their vassal reactionary government of Athens organised on March 20, 1946. The ‘chorus’ claims that the Left should have taken part in the elections, although they knew that these elections had been held under the awful conditions of unbelievable terrorism, of thousands of arrests of left citizens, of hundreds of murders just within that month, and with no guarantees for a normal, legal and transparent holding of the elections. The supporters of this ‘view, even in this case, artificially separated the elections not only from these specific conditions but also from the movement’s perspective. They criticised the question of elections from a static view. They pretended that they do not know or they hid the fact that:
(a) all the non-CPG parties and organizations of the democratic alliance were intensively and insistently in favour of abstention;
(b) one month before, in February 1946, the Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the CPG had realised that the march toward an armed fight was unavoidable, since Greek reaction and the English had decided to proceed towards it.
Participation in the rigged elections would have legalised the reactionary front and would have reinforced the electoral illusions of the Greek people, whereas the election result under no circumstances would have expressed honestly and clearly the people’s political conviction and the real political influence of the Left.
Participation in the election would have led the people, the popular movement and the CPG, into a vicious circle of contradictions and inequality, similar to that of 1944-1945 which was the cause of the political ‘capture’ and defeat of the movement. Nikos Zachariades in his last authorised text titled ‘Problems of the CPG’s crisis – contribution to the political discussion’, written in 1962 in exile in Siberia, referred to a great extent to the question of abstention and among other things he stressed:
‘In the decision taken during the 8th Conference [after Nikos Zachariades’ overthrow], it was said that abstention is a terrible mistake with serious consequences for the party and the democratic movement. The decision does not explain the content of this ‘terrible mistake’, but the meaning is clear. If we participated in the elections we would secure a peaceful evolution for Greece! Where to? It was similar to the essentially opportunist plan of Partsalides [revisionist leader] that was part of the policy of appeasing reaction and submitting to it. So Partsalides was trying, after what happened, to justify also the treason of Varkiza [the treaty of disarmament of the People’s Army that he signed]. In 1946, elections could under no circumstances play an important role other than to reinforce reaction. Only an opportunist to the bone could declare that if we had participated in the elections the whole evolution of Greece would have been different. This was not the truth. The English, with the support of the Committee of the United Nations which supervised the elections [the Soviet Union refused to participate in this committee, perhaps because she knew what was in the air], wanted to mislead us as to the rigged elections which they were preparing, in order to legalise through the parliament, with the people’s vote, the intervention of December 1944 and the issue of Varkiza and thus to impose the monarchist-fascist regime. This is the truth. The following is noteworthy too: The Committee of the UN allocated us 9.3% abstention votes. If we had participated in the elections it would have given us generously three times more. Thus, it would have secured the people’s stamp of approval in favour of monarchist-fascism and the occupation forces. Partsalides was pushing the movement in this direction, towards the ratification of the Treaty of Varkiza. Our weakness [Zachariades goes on] during that period was a different and decisive one. The masses hesitated because we laid down our arms; no other European movement did something so shameful. We betrayed them in December in Athens and in Varkiza; we betrayed Greece and the National Resistance. For this reason, today the Xians [fascist band named X] beat us up on the streets and keep us hidden in our holes. The whole attempt to recreate the party from the 12th Plenary Session [on 25th-27th of June 1945] (2) was leading exactly to this: to arouse the movement and the CPG again in order for them to fall in line with the historical demands of that critical period and the party did it until the 2nd Plenary Session in February . (3) Let us not forget that the party’s leadership at that time, even after December, still did not have any policy for the English which was worthy of the people and the CPG and as a result, regarding the English, the policy of submission of Plaka, Gazerta, Varkiza was continued. The battle cry ‘English Out Of Greece’ was heard only when the party was reconstructed in order to extricate itself from the shame that the Treaty of Varkiza attributed to us’.
N. Zachariades expressed, clearly and revealing the truth, his opinion on the issue of abstention from the elections of 1946. This position helps anyone who wants to draw more general conclusions on the situation, on the role and orientation of each individual. We think that through these two cases to which we referred – the most important ones of that period and the most important ones regarding the political controversy within the movement – clear and useful conclusions can be drawn; conclusions concerning the lines within the CPG, the revolutionary and the opportunist line. This conflict between lines has determined the facts for the next two decades and until now, in the contemporary epoch, and is related to the need and duty of reconstructing the movement on the basis of the principles of scientific socialism of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin.
1. 3rd conference of the CPG from October 10-14, 1950, Introductions, Speeches, Decisions.
2. The Plenary Sessions were meetings of the Central Committee of the CPG between the Congresses. The numbering of the Plenary Sessions restarts in the event of a congress. The 12th Plenary Session of June 1945 took place between the 6th and the 7th Congress of the CPG. The 7th Congress took place in the autumn of 1945.
3. The 2nd Plenary Session took place exactly a year after the treacherous Treaty of Varkiza.
The Political Committee of the Movement of the Reorganisation of the Communist Party of Greece 1918-1955