Links to the old web pages of KKE
THE SITUATION IN THE LABOUR AND TRADE UNION MOVEMENT
21. Over the previous decade, the labour and trade union movement suffered an even greater blow, its retreat deepened both in terms of the content of actions and integration of the majority of the unions into the capital’s strategic goals and in terms of its organizational status and substructure.
The percentage of unionized workers in the private sector does not exceed 15%. According to GSEE (General Confederation of Greek Workers) data —which subsumes 62 Federations and 79 Labour Centres, which in turn affiliate more than 2,300 first-level unions— 360,000 workers participated in the elections over the last three years. That is a historically low point. The retreat in the unionization of the workers is even greater if we take into account that the participation rates of workers in the trade unions are much lower than the ones in their elections, in combination with the extensive alteration of data and the trade unions that act as a rubber stamp and are formed by the employer and government-led trade unionism only to elect more of their own representatives to the union bodies.
In ADEDY (Greek Civil Servants' Confederation) —subsuming 44 Federations that affiliate more than 1,200 first-level trade unions— 265,000 workers participated in the elections. In the public sector, even though the participation rate is at 62%, that only concerns the employees who enjoy a permanent status or employees on open-ended contracts, who join their unions from the first day at work, even unbeknown to them. At the same time, it is supported by a mesh of personal favours, recruitments, postings, transfers, promotions, etc., promoted by the trade union groupings of the bourgeois parties. The contract staff and generally the workers on flexible labour relations in the public sector, whose numbers are increasing, cannot join the trade unions of ADEDY. Moreover, it is worth noted that, in certain sectors (Healthcare, Local authorities), they constitute the majority of the manual workers and clerical staff, whom the trade union leaderships are keeping out of the unions. An exception is the Federations of Education, where the participation of interim-teaching staff etc. is ensured in the first-level trade unions and congresses of the public sector Federations when the class-oriented forces have the majority.
Although 85% of all (private and public) salaried employees are in the private sector on full-time and part-time employment, the majority of the unionized employees is in the public sector and the wider public sector that is covered by GSEE at a percentage of 56% of the total number of unionized employees.
In the last decade and the phase of the capitalist crisis, the working class has grown in number and percentage terms, but its degree of unionization has decreased, in the working class as a whole, by sector and at a regional level.
Objective factors and changes that affected the unionization level
22. The counterrevolution, the overthrow of socialism, acts as an objective factor in the retreat of the labour and trade union movement. Socialist construction in the 20th century, despite the existing problems and deviations, had a positive impact on the labour and trade union movement in the capitalist states, on the workers’ level of unionization and demands.
The outbreak of the previous capitalist crisis, with the shrinkage or closure of productive activity in sectors with a history of unionization and struggles, the growth of other sectors, and also new economic sectors over the last decade have a contradictory effect on the course of the retreat.
The retreat is linked to the major negative changes in the working and living conditions of the working class, in the forms and ways of the intensification of exploitation. These are changes shaped by the so-called capitalist restructuring policies and anti-labour reforms that were imposed by the notorious memoranda and other laws as well. The high unemployment and part-time employment rates, the generalization of the forms of temporary flexible work, the mass exploitation of immigrants, the large stratification, and the mobility of young workers from one sector to another and within the same sector have a significant impact on the level of organization and the unity of the working class. They have further hampered the revitalization of trade unions, together with the deeply reformist trade union content of action that is prevailing in the labour and trade union movement, the development of the line of social partnership and integration of trade unions by the state and the EU mechanisms, while the executives in many first-level company-based unions are hand in glove with the employers.
The bourgeoisie generalized individual contracts by utilizing the legal arsenal provided successively by all governments and the threat of dismissal under conditions of burgeoning unemployment. Employers were allowed to abolish in practice the Collective Agreements, to replace them with contracts signed by associations of persons —which are basically their own bodies— thus having direct negative consequences on the conditions of sale of the labour power and dealing a blow to unionization. Within this framework, the flexible labour relations, the performance appraisals, which in combination with other methods enhanced competition amongst employees, have been established and generalized.
On grounds of objective material factors, the workers’ consciousness is also influenced by the various government management options, which are trying to control the consequences of the vicious cycle of concentration and centralization of capital and its depreciation.
The period during which many people had pinned their faith on SYRIZA, the period of illusions about overcoming the consequences of the capitalist crisis with a government of “left” management within the framework of capitalist power, the compromise that was cultivated, and the defeatism following the false hopes, brought a new and general weakening of the trade unions. Previously, reactionary slogans, such as “oust the parties and the trade unions” were spread in the squares of the indignant, while later the logic behind the “ineffectiveness” of the struggles and that “nothing can change” were strengthened since their criterion was linking these slogans to a change of government for the so-called pro-people intervention in the capitalist economy and the EU.
Over that period, class collaboration was promoted by the governments of liberal bourgeois, social-democratic, and opportunist parties. The defamation of class struggle and the contempt for unionization were strengthened. Under the responsibility of the employers and their bourgeois political and trade union forces, the phenomena of disorganization, rigging and buyoff spread; a more aggressive line and practice were shaped towards the class-oriented forces to shield the employers' interests, the system itself. Opposite to these goals lies the action of the KKE and the class-oriented trade unions.
The higher trade union Confederations are dominated by the state, government and employer-led trade unionism.
23. The activity of the Party, which has brought concrete results and valuable experience, has not changed the fact that, in the basic sectors of the capitalist economy, the trade unions and a number of second-level organizations are still in close relation with the employer and government-led section that prevails in GSEE and ADEDY, which are basically a mechanism of co-administration and management of employers’ and state claims and interests, a purely bureaucratic apparatus. Over the years, its role as a tool of the employers and the state against the working class and its rights has been reinforced.
The trade union groupings of the bourgeois parties, PASKE (grouping of the social democratic PASOK party) and DAKE (grouping of the right-wing party of ND), despite their loss of prestige, maintain the majority in the higher union bodies of GSEE and ADEDY, in which they are in constant cooperation. The SYRIZA forces are also aligned with these groupings. SYRIZA failed to create a significant trade union mainstay both during its government term and in the previous phase in which it effectively absorbed significant PASOK forces in the parliamentary elections.
Currently, the expression of social democracy in the trade union movement adjusts its stance and tactics aiming at strengthening, expanding and consolidating its integration into serving the competitiveness of capitalist economy. In previous years, the great retreat of PASOK —now KINAL—, which was a result of its support to all the restructurings under conditions of deep economic crisis, led its forces to move to SYRIZA, thus making it the main proponent of social democracy. However, that succession, although it aroused controversy within the until-then-prevailing PASKE, did not cause a corresponding decline.
PASKE still maintains an integration mechanism especially in the public and wider public sector, in the banks and certain industrial sectors. Since 2010 and for two consecutive congresses until 2016, PASKE recorded a downward trend both in GSEE and ADEDY, which stopped in 2020 and it now remains first in terms of percentage and seats. That shows certain autonomy in the operation of PASKE —compared to its party— that is based on its close liaison with mechanisms, mostly former public utilities (DEKO), on the connections that trade unions have with these mechanisms, on strong ties of the executive of major trade unions with businesses administrations and the bourgeois state, irrespective of the government lineup. With the support of the Labour Institute of GSEE (INE/GSEE), they continued to form false majorities and to control executives of trade unions through training programmes, labour and contractor agencies that are basically slave agencies and have become apparatuses of close liaison between the Labour Centres and enterprises. PASOK had been in power for many years, but it also established the development of its trade union forces in another historical period. On the contrary, SYRIZA could not have formed a similar union staffing, thus operating in a complementary way to PASKE mainly to form anti-PAME executives and presidencies.
This whole situation reflects the volatility prevailing still in social democracy. Under these circumstances, social democratic union cadres are awaiting the developments; whether KINAL will grind to a halt or whether SYRIZA will remain the prevailing social democratic force despite its current organizational problems. In the meantime, a section of PASKE unionists is looking forward to a possible future cohabitation with ND. Further to that, and with a firm confrontation front, there is potential to liberate unionists that reflect on this decay and are trying to disassociate themselves from all that.
DAKE and others lists expressing the ND at all levels of the trade union movement remain a strong force. In addition, they present a significant increase in ADEDY, especially in the Federations of Education. They utilize, just like PASKE, the same potential provided by employers’ associations, the bourgeois state and the European employers’ organizations. By utilizing the European programmes and particularly the funds of the INE/GSEE, they have set up, mainly in the Labour Centres of Northern Greece, a significant apparatus for integrating workers, creating trade unions that act as a rubber stamp and producing illegitimate representatives, together with the PASKE forces in private employees.
The SYRIZA forces show a weakening course from 2016 onwards. They presented a temporary increase in ADEDY, during SYRIZA governance and shortly before, while in GSEE that increase was expressed mainly in the cooperation with a small section that split from PASKE (i.e. the list EMEIS). In ADEDY, they maintain forces, despite a decrease shown. At the same time, they continue to elect representatives through single lists with PASKE and DAKE that are supported by the employers. Typical examples can be found at supermarkets and shipping companies. The cadres of SYRIZA participate more actively in the administrations of INE/GSEE and the funds of professional associations in sectors such as the Pharmaceutical industry, Commerce, Shipping. They are an integral part of the apparatus of workers’ bribery and integration.
The ANTARSYA forces, mainly, and other opportunist forces, such as META/LAE, have reported a decline in recent years following their support to governmental SYRIZA. In GSEE and generally in the private sector, they remain a marginal force with a few forces in trade unions of salaried scientists and in a few unions of legal person governed by private law that belong to the wider public sector. In the public sector, where they have a more organized presence, they followed the course of SYRIZA union forces; namely, they recorded a slight increase during the parliamentary and governmental rise of SYRIZA and then a decline in the last two congresses of ADEDY. They maintain forces mainly in the teaching staff and hospitals.
They still have joint lists with SYRIZA forces, especially amongst the teaching staff and other areas as well, while in some cases they present joint frameworks of struggle and joint tactics.
In any case, the bar is set high when it comes to the power struggle in ADEDY. The correlation of forces amongst bourgeois liberal and reformist–opportunist forces is not the same in ADEDY as the one in GSEE and the confrontation should not be understood as a replication of the private sector. In ADEDY, the link between the workers and the state is organic, but also the social democratic and opportunist influence expressed several times in its decisions requires a well-elaborated plan regarding the content, the struggle and the initiatives to confront the illusions that are being created. All the more so that due to the sharpening of the popular problems and the intensification of all the contradictions and conflicts of the capitalist mode of production, the reform agenda in one form or another, addressed to the public sector employees proposes the strengthening of the state in the economy, based on the logic of an “anti-liberal”, “anti-right wing”, “anti-repressive” front, and specializes within the movement in integrating any form of an expressed radicalism.
The stifling state control of the unions is strengthened
24. The framework of state control over the trade unions is deepened through several laws, e.g. under the SYRIZA government on the right to strike and then under the ND laws on the operating framework of trade unions and the control of their legality. The legislative framework continuously reinforces the bourgeois state interference. Trade unions are not de facto organizations in terms of organization and operation (statute) that are freely determined by their members. They are governed by legal provisions on trade unions, which are continuously becoming stricter. The bourgeois Justice interferes in addressing the lack of trade union management by appointing an interim executive. This practice has been widely used in the recent past of the trade union movement and the last congress of GSEE, up until the moment that the government intervened by using repressive forces to impose its will on who and how will vote.
The stifling legal provisions limit the activity of the trade unions and the workers’ representation. For example, there are no provisions for union committees of a sectoral union, and thus they are not legally established under Law 1264/82. The same applies to electing representatives of sectoral unions from workplaces. Considering that a requirement for the establishment of a union is 21 members and the vast majority of enterprises employs up to 50 members, the great majority of the workers in the workplaces are not allowed to have legal representatives. Even the health and safety committee at work (Law 1588/85) has a threshold of 50 workers for its formation. That limit is convenient for the bourgeois power based on the reality of the Greek capitalist economy in order to exclude, in that way as well, the formal representation of the vast majority of the salaried employees.
Under conditions of capitalist economic growth, they will feel more ready to integrate the trade unions more deeply, not only into a line of consensus and class collaboration but also into the state apparatus. To transform them into a mechanism of a “just and democratic” co-management of the business demands, into bureaucratic mechanisms without a lively and active workers’ participation and a decisive role in their mobilization. That has already been happening in the European capitalist countries. Major sectors and industrial regions are Special Economic Zones without a union presence.
That planning has been enhanced, as can be shown through a number of laws. The trade union is being transformed into an apparatus of the Ministry and the employers. The law states that the trade union, even if it manages to sign a sectoral collective agreement, should submit at the same time an economic–technical actuarial study and be bound not to affect the sustainable development of the enterprises of the sector based on its proposals. Therefore, the trade union will become by law a proponent of competitiveness. The attack against the right to strike and the new repressive laws are coming to complement this attack.
In short, this line is reflected in the direction to transform the unions into “labour councils” without mass procedures, without the power to call on a strike, with restrictions on the formulation of goals of struggle within the limits of the financial aims of the enterprise; namely, the “Europeanization” that are trying to accomplish since the ‘90s. The employers’ presence with direct infiltration into the trade union movement is based on the above planning. The much stronger participation and even physical presence of employers in trade unions of large sectors, such as commerce or shipping companies, is an element that stood out in previous years.
At the same time, by enacting rules and through OAED (Manpower Employment Organization), the state controls the financial situation of trade unions, which are financially dependent on it. The lack of financial independence and support to the trade unions through membership dues has a considerable impact on the necessary material infrastructure that would support and enhance their intervention.
Of course, if the workers' indignation grows, it is possible for unions with social democratic opportunist majorities to start a limited struggle “within the resilience limits” of the economy. The experienced bourgeoisie does not want its representatives in the unions to be completely cut off from the workers. The key lies in their orientation. Thus our forces should be prepared for such a possibility.
The role of the INE/GSEE
25. The INE/GSEE intervention is corrosive. This is an Institute that is interconnected with the corresponding research and study institutes of the employers’ organization (Federation of Greek Industries–SEV ), the Chambers, and the state services of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. It has a budget of millions of Euros and manages a high volume of European programmes, especially training programmes and courses, and even programmes from the Partnership Agreement for the Development Framework (PA). In addition, it cooperates with the respective union institutes at an EU level, with institutes of the European and international social democracy. Its declared goal is the consolidation of “social partnership”, i.e. the “class cooperation”, for that reason, there is also an Academy of Executives (school of union leaders at the service of the employers). It presents the choices of the majority of GSEE as scientifically documented by promoting relevant studies and research. It participates and plans the anti-labour policy and the promotion of restructuring together with the employer-led organizations and the governments, thus making the Confederation a joint policy-maker.
In the previous phase of the crisis and before the rise of SYRIZA to governance, the Levy Institute of Economics in collaboration with INE/GSEE contributed —as it advertised— “fundamentally to the planning and implementation of a social employment programme in Greece”. Basically, they were running the well-known fixed-term employment programmes that were financed by the EU structural funds. At the same time, the INE/GSEE propagated the change of policy mix by promoting neo-Keynesian recipes. In 2015, it openly supported the acceptance of the EU package and the “YES” in the referendum, together with the employers’ organizations. In 2019, it proceeded to a joint proposal with SEV for “productive reconstruction”, “healthy competition”, and “social alliance” of SEV–GSEE–Chambers.
With the programmes —supposedly— to tackle unemployment, it compiled a very large list of unemployed. Just one aspect of how that method was utilized was the formation of a specific correlation of forces within the unions. Throughout each programme, it created a Private Employees trade union that was affiliated only to the Labour centre and not the Federation and all employees were forced to vote. Therefore, some Private Employees trade unions act as a rubber stamp and include thousands of voters, e.g. The Private Employees trade union in Farsala city (in southern Thessaly), which at the previous congress presented 488 voters.
The INE/GSEE programmes are funded by PA. Their content includes training and retraining workers and training union executives so that they can be capable of managing employee issues for the benefit of business groups, e.g. training programmes on “business conflict management” by union executives. Their goal is for the trade unions to become capable mechanisms for managing employees' problems for the benefit of employers and the state, thus hampering the struggle for even the slightest demands.
26. Under the responsibility of the forces dominating in GSEE, the organizational fragmentation of the labour–trade union movement and its fragmentation into second-level and first-level trade unions has continued. Especially under the circumstances of the last decade, a serious problem was revealed that there are many Federations in the same sector (Transport, Energy), and even many Labour Centres in the same region.
The union groupings of the bourgeois parties invoke organizational unity only when it ensures the integration of the workers and the class movement; when it secures and promotes the acceptance of the theory of the common interests of the exploiting capitalists and the exploited workers. When conditions are being formed to achieve elementary unity of the workers on the basis of their class interests, they also seek organizational measures by setting up new organizations at a primary and secondary level. The phenomenon of fragmentation is a continuation of the old guild fragmentation and also a choice, to create organizations for the formation of favourable correlation of forces for the employers and the disunity of the workers, to put additional obstacles to the development of an anti-capitalist line of struggle within the trade unions.
THE STRUGGLE FOR THE REGROUPMENT OF THE LABOUR–TRADE UNION MOVEMENT
27. The KKE played an instrumental role in helping a significant part of the working class to resist and show resilience; it kept alive the importance of militant trade unions; it assembled forces; it regrouped trade unions; it educated the new generation of militants to pursue the line of struggle against capitalists, the state and its mechanisms, their imperialist alliances.
Particularly during the previous capitalist crisis, the activity of the KKE contributed to hindering the extensive retreat of the labour–trade union movement. The even worse condition of the labour–trade union movement in Europe and other capitalist countries would have prevailed in Greece as well, if the activity of the KKE, of its members together with other militants in trade unions and PAME had not fought back, had not hampered, and had not formed a bulwark against the all-out attack of capital and the disorganization of the movement.
The list supported by the KKE in GSEE remains at approximately 20% (it won 19.5% of the votes and 9 seats in the previous congress from which we were barred). Our list in the Public Sector records a distinguishable rise for the 4th consecutive congress of ADEDY and gathers 19%.
The forces supported by the Party gather the majority of the votes in 14 Federations and 20 Labour Centres. We also have elected representatives at 46 Federations and 69 Labour Centres. We intervene in hundreds of trade unions and we can set new goals and plans for each sector in order to include new forces in the ranks of PAME.
We have accumulated considerable negative and positive experience regarding the elaboration of our tactics. We have formed a crucial ideological, political, and organizational substructure as a Party and as a force within the movement to change the current situation by strengthening the unity of the working class and its class orientation for the workers’–people’s counterattack in order to lead the social alliance in an anti-capitalist and anti-monopoly direction.
Nevertheless, we must not undermine the objective factors that have resulted in the alienation of sections of the working class from class-oriented unionization and action, together with the pursuits of capital to further blow a strike to the trade unions as the lower form of organization of the working class. The effort to raise the standards of our activity by continuously facing the pressure exerted by the negative correlation of forces towards integration and the subjectivity that the intervention of the Party is the only factor for the overthrow of this negative correlation, constitute a factor of the Party’s enhancement. In view of the new, more difficult conditions for the class struggle that we will have to address, we examine the objective factors and the subjective weaknesses; we examine if and how we exhaust the limits in the Party activity itself.
We have defined the basic content of the regroupment of the labour movement as the preparation and development of its ability to decisively and efficiently confront the unified elaborated strategy of capital and capitalist power, in alliance with the popular sections of the urban and rural self-employed. At the 21st Congress we need to turn our attention to the matching of our activity with the task of regroupment, which is a matter of strategic importance.
Despite the steps taken towards understanding the necessity to work within the working class and its trade union movement, we face the lack of a comprehensive plan of organization and mobilization of working and popular masses, of operation and activity of trade unions, of foundation of new unions, of change in the correlation of forces in the unions. This weakness can be found both at sectors and at neighbourhoods, municipalities, cities, and villages and needs to be addressed in order to take steps forward, to achieve results, and to make adjustments wherever needed.
At the same time, we have not yet secured a unified view concerning the following issue: “The Communist Party acts both individually and within the movement”. This element of our activity, which stems from the fact that the Communist Party is the higher and conscious form of expression of the labour movement, sometimes appears as two tasks that cannot be combined in practice; sometimes trade union and Party–political activity are either completely separated or identified. We still face problems regarding the way the relation of the Party with trade unions is in practice comprehended. These issues become more complex in conditions of retreat of the movement; they deprive us of a powerful impetus in our activity and at the same time do not form favourable conditions for Party construction, which is a basic factor for the upsurge of the labour movement.
Conclusions from the struggles and efforts to create vanguard seedbeds of resistance and demands in the workplaces
28. Since the 20th Congress, we have waged important struggles under conditions of rapid developments in the capitalist economy and more generally. The capitalist crisis was succeeded by a weak recovery, followed by the new capitalist crisis in conditions of pandemic, which objectively set down new requirements for our struggle and intervention in the labour–trade union movement. During that time, we sought to clarify the character of the developments in a timely and effective manner; to enhance the ideological – political struggle in each phase; to elaborate our tactics, slogans, and framework of struggle. This allowed us to take initiatives and vanguard action. However, we have estimated that the content of the confrontation and the right orientation was not timely adopted by all Party forces. Nevertheless, we gained rich experience on how the struggle against the strategy of the capital was strengthened and how the Organs and Party Groups coped with their leading tasks.
There were numerous cases where business groups stirred up or even openly instigated “workers’ mobilizations” and used their employees as a shield in order to demand greater government support compared to their competitors, exploiting the existing fear of the workers that unless the enterprise is supported, they will be made redundant. Under such circumstances, manipulation and pressure against the workers are intensified. The direct issues that concern them, such as what is going to happen, what about their unpaid work, and the uncertain future in conditions of severe unemployment put them under tremendous pressure. Intense ideological–political intervention and experience drawn for struggles need to be preceded in order for the workers to withstand this pressure, to promote their own demands, and not to succumb to employer’s aspirations.
Huge investment projects, for which monopolies clash, systematically utilize people’s mobilizations for existing problems seeking to promote their own interests and to hinder their competitors’ projects, for example in the Piraeus port and other ports. The conflicts between monopolies often lead to profitable compromises, which however are painful for workers’ rights and the residents’ quality of life. The forces of reformism–opportunism continuously serve such aspirations, disorienting the class struggle and integrating the labour–trade union movement into the bourgeois plans. They utilize their own framework concerning the movement, aiming to drag it under the flag of business interests. The struggle against the workers being trapped into one or another version of the capital required a more suitable elaboration of an advanced framework of struggle, as in the case of the combination of demands for all the workers’ sections in the Piraeus port against the escalating attack, which supported the slogan “The port is public property” and the direction of struggle to make it become true.
Bourgeois and opportunist parties, together with the forces of government and employer-led unionism, promote the slogan of “productive reconstruction” in the framework of varied programmes. “Productive reconstruction” is in fact identified with the goal of capitalist recovery and the change of the “productive model”, despite the fact that from time to time it is camouflaged with seemingly radical slogans. Today, for example, they promote “Green Growth”, setting goals such as lignite phase-out in the name of “climate change”. These goals of struggle of the movement are utilized to trap people into various versions of bourgeois policy.
GSEE and the large Federations of the government and employer-led unionism promote a comprehensive framework that specializes the strategic directions of capital, supplementary to and in some cases even more specialized than the “Pissarides report”, fostering illusions that the capitalist growth can be profitable both for employers and employees.
In the next period, the two development paths, that is, development either for capital or for the people, will be the main line of confrontation within the labour–trade union movement. This confrontation will be expressed in all sectors. Focusing on the sectors of strategic importance, a more stable, persistent, and planned activity will be needed in each sector, with a specialized line per workplace and trade union, aiming at rallying forces, changing the correlation of forces, and building robust Party Organizations.
In any case, it is confirmed that a higher ideological, political, and organizational work is needed in the Party, together with a continuous elaboration of the ideological–political struggle within the ranks of the movement against bourgeois forces, the employers, the state, the strategy of the capital overall, and opportunism. The enhancement of the ideological–political work and the development of the communists’ ability to specialize their action in each movement per sector, workplace, etc. can promote the organization, rallying, and enlightenment of workers. It can also promote the increase of the KKE’s political influence among the working class, i.e. a decisive factor for the radicalization of consciousness and the stimulation of the class-oriented political activity of the workers, which will raise the issue of radical changes at the level of power.
29. Due to the retreat in the movement and the intensifying attack by the bourgeoisie, the effort to organize the struggle and to form demands needs continuous study, lively contact with workplaces, and necessary adjustments that will reveal the plans of capital and its governments, as well as the impasses of the capitalist system; that will seize any opportunity to rally workers, to help them come together and struggle collectively. We aim at turning fist-level trade unions into a militant body of workers’ struggle, into an asset to strengthen the organization of the working class and its militant stance to claim its rights as one of the preconditions to direct the struggle against capital and its power, together with the influence of communist ideas and the general developments that will define the outcome of the class struggle.
In the current phase, it is necessary that the orientation of our political guidance is permeated by the fact that the formation of frameworks of demands requires deep roots in the working class, its current condition, its needs, and its problems, without being assimilated and integrated into the current difficult conditions, always taking into account the level and the experience learned from each sector and workplace. We are at the forefront of the organization of the struggle of the working class, as a precondition to communicate and form demands with the workers themselves —which constitutes an element of militant education—, to endow the working class with the need to demand the meeting of all its needs and rights. Especially in the current circumstances, workers in every workplace and sector face grave and acute problems. There are workplaces and sectors where workers are on low pay or are not paid at all, are faced with flexible working hours, etc., and other workplaces and sectors that the problems are presented in another, less extreme form. At the same time, workers’ problems are not exclusively defined by the wage level but from the general policy as regards social insurance, health, education, etc. We are well aware that the framework of struggle to satisfy the contemporary needs is not adopted by all trade unions and workers from the very beginning, since each section of the working class is objectively influenced first and foremost by the situation prevailing in its workplace and sector. We need to decisively overcome addressing the workers with general slogans and restraining our intervention to the limits set by the negative correlation of forces within the movement or a mobilization.
The increase of the degree of organization of the working class results from a combination of various factors, together with the crucial intervention of the Party. The absence from struggle provides fertile ground for defeatism, while participation in the struggle forms preconditions to gain militant experience and self-confidence.
In particular, the struggle against flexible working relations, covering their entire reactionary spectrum, is objectively turning into a conflict with a strategic choice of the capital, which is gradually being promoted in all sectors as a general trend that will prevail until the revolutionary overthrows. This is a field of confrontation which, under the intervention of the communists, could lead to more general conclusions about the system of exploitation and about the real target that the movement must turn its attention to.
The demands regarding the rise in daily wages and salaries, the collective agreements, the stable working hours, the abolition of overtime work, and the reduction of working time are crucial demands that come into conflict with the heart of bourgeois reforms, while at the same time, the overall needs of the working class and popular families constitute a line that rallies forces, strengthens the struggle and opposes the strategy of the capital. These are class-oriented demands that may lead to the rise of struggle and the improvement of organization, providing that we elaborate them in a correct and not perfunctory manner, taking into account all the factors to form frameworks of struggle within the trade union movement. Our work is based on the firm conviction that the rise of class struggle and regroupment could provide some immediate gains to one extent or another. We utilize the struggle and gains to help the working class realize the need of radical overthrows.
30. Our Party elaborated and enriched the framework of struggle of the movement regarding the contemporary needs of the working class and popular families, which was an issue raised at the 20th Congress of the Party. Contemporary needs concern all aspects of life (wages, working conditions, health, education, housing, leisure time, entertainment, vacations, utilization of new technologies for people’s benefit, etc.). We take into account that social consciousness is also formed by issues raised by the bourgeois political system, such as human rights-ism, irrational theories about “social gender”, etc. All these are issues that also concern the labour–people’s movement and are particularly popular among younger ages. The highlighting of all contemporary needs provides the ability to step up the demands, to direct the struggle against the real causes, showing the limits of the capitalist system and shedding a light on the possibilities and conditions for these needs to be satisfied. We aim to make this a matter of concern for the working class and the allied social forces. Certainly, this process will not take place immediately. At first some spearheads will be adopted and escalated; there will also be setbacks depending on the course of the class struggle. A more comprehensive framework will be embraced in the course of the class struggle, in a phase of more obvious improvement of the correlation of forces as regards the political struggle, in conditions of a shock of bourgeois power and, of course, of revolutionary upsurge. The ultimate satisfaction of the ever-expanding contemporary social needs is a matter of the revolutionary power and the socialist–communist construction.
31. We elaborated and updated our goals concerning important fronts of struggle, such as the issue of wages and collective agreements, the social security system, health and safety issues at workplaces, the flexible labour relations, the fixed-term contracts and the programmes that essentially recycle unemployment in the public sector, the minimum wage, and the struggle against the privatization of large productive units (DEI, LARCO, etc). We made an effort to include the struggle to tackle acute problems at specific workplaces and sectors (privatizations, dismissals, unpaid work, etc.) into the general struggle for the rights of the workers and the popular middle strata.
In a number of sectors presenting greater opportunities in terms of our own forces, of organization, of experience, and of a more stable intervention, we achieved some results (e.g. ship-repair zone, construction workers, enterprises in the Financial sector, such as “Mellon” and “First Data”). Those results also concerned the halting of the continuous lowering of demands, the raising of militant struggle, the revitalization and regroupment of the movement, the entrenchment of first-level trade unions. The elaboration of sectoral collective agreements in some sectors where there are Party forces and trade unions, such as the Telecommunications and the Finance sector, has had a partial effect on improving the participation of young workers, especially women, confirming that we can attract to the struggle younger generations of workers without experience of social struggles.
Our interventions and initiatives orienting the trade unions to develop such struggles were not embraced, with the exception of the large trade unions that operate mainly in Attica. Such an intervention and development is not an easy front of struggle and does not secure an escalation of the struggle. A new situation has being formed. A growing number of young workers, who consist the majority of working people, have not enjoyed the collective agreements and other rights of the previous generations. As a rule, the amount and the ways of remuneration are based on a multitude of flexible working relationships, where individual contracts prevail.
In this objective situation, we were faced with a schematic approach and temporary confinement to previous demands. The necessary adjustment encountered difficulties in terms of comprehension. The general negative situation and our own weaknesses did not allow us to organize the struggle at a sectoral level in a stable manner and to take advantage of the initiative to rally 530 unions demanding a National Collective Agreement and increases in wages.
The leading organs and the Party groups need to insist on issues of orientation and specialization of the framework of struggle, particularly as regards certain sections of the working class such as women, immigrants, the new shift of workers and vocational trainees, in order for these sections to increase their level of organization and participation in the trade unions, but also to assist the emergence of union executives, especially women and immigrants, i.e. in critical areas where this work lags behind.
Respectively, we also faced political guidance issues as regards our intervention against problems concerning the workers and the people as a whole, such as social security and health. Before the pandemic, but also during its outbreak, we raised the issue of the state of the public health system and expressed our demands for hospitals and Primary Health Care services. An attempt was made to organize mobilizations, which contributed to the change of the correlation of forces in trade unions of large public Health Units and the Federation of Hospital Doctors, but also to coordinate labour unions and associations of the self-employed, women, and farmers. However, in some cases, mainly in neighbourhoods where Health Centers or other Primary Health Care structures that did not have doctors, nurses, infrastructure, etc. can be found, we did not avoid the unelaborate use of the Party positions on Primary Health Care, setting as a precondition for the Executive Boards of trade unions to adopt the need for radical social and political upheavals at the level of power, which guarantee the right of people to health. Thus, the attempt for the maximum mobilization of the mass movement in these regions in practice failed.
32. In some cases, there is a perception that identifies the promotion of the Party positions by communists with the formation of frameworks of struggle, without any elaboration and escalation, as it is considered that such a thing protects us during mobilizations for acute problems that were initiated by other political forces, mainly social democratic and opportunist ones. Undoubtedly, the combination of forming frameworks of struggle and struggling within the movement sets demanding requirements. It requires a good monitoring of developments, knowledge of the problems, and elaboration of the arguments that highlight their causes and contribute to the rallying of workers and people in the struggle to clash with the strategy of the capital and the policies of the bourgeois governments.
It is crucial for our intervention to assimilate and express in practice that the activity of the communists and the struggle against the influence of bourgeois forces in the movement, the employers, and various state mechanisms that intervene in the movement in an organized manner and an elaborated plan is no less demanding than the independent ideological–political activity of the Party. On the contrary, it is more complex, especially in conditions of an extremely negative correlation of forces, declining trade union membership, demobilization and conservatism. It should be understood in depth that the struggle within the movement cannot be done by the unelaborate use or the mere copying of the central Party propaganda, the central or local political initiatives of the Party. Trade unions are comprised of workers with varying degrees of class consciousness, expressed in different ideological–political perceptions and influences, with different trade union experience and action, while the trade union struggle by its nature revolves around the conditions of sale of labour power. Only through the intervention of the communists will the unions be able to walk the path of the anti-monopoly and anti-capitalist struggle.
The cadres and members of the Party, operating in the ranks of the labour–trade union movement, with their vanguard activity need to develop the ability to wage the ideological–political struggle in a lively manner in the mass movement, addressing labour forces that find it difficult to reject the deeply entrenched liberal bourgeois, social democratic and opportunist views. They need to develop their ability to take into account the workers and people that do not participate, are disappointed, passive, and trapped in the framework of individual solutions, by struggling against the factors that paralyse them. We seek that the struggle within trade unions supports the selection criteria of demands, reveals the mechanism of exploitation, enriches and enhances the anti-capitalist and anti-monopoly character of struggle, contributes to the organization and active participation of workers, and confronts —insofar as the Party members and cadres are able to do so— the reformist–government or trade union–opportunist influence. Our intervention must aim the class opponent and not only the bourgeois government, to foster the need to expand the struggle for wider rights and needs as well as for different fronts of struggle (health, education, etc.), to highlight the terms and conditions for resisting and fighting back the elaborated strategy of capital, and to shed a light on the potential to satisfy the ever-increasing popular needs.
A main issue of the political guidance work of the organs remains how to utilize the ideological assets provided by the Party, as the problems we face are connected to gaps in the assimilation of crucial ideological positions and elaborations of the Party as well as difficulties to specialize the policy of the Party in each sector and workplace. In this regard, the continuous study and generalization of experience apropos the way we work in practice with the political line and the theses of the Party will have a decisive contribution.
33. During the pandemic, we witnessed an unprecedented situation, in which the Party activity within the working class needed to be continued and the response of the labour movement to the bourgeois policy, that sacrifices social needs to secure the operation of the capitalist system and the profitability of business groups, needed to be prepared. The experience gained from the escalation of the content and the forms of struggle under conditions of curfew, fear and obstacles to mass political struggle is crucial for the future. Since the first mobilization by doctors to the May Day demonstration and the first nationwide strike in November under pandemic conditions, there was an enormous volume of work to form goals and demands as well as to enrich and escalate the forms of struggle and propagation.
The accumulated experience from mobilizations shows that it is very important for the Party, through the activity of its members and cadres, to undertake initiatives not only to raise issues but also to massively intervene among the workers, to consolidate a right basis for the demands, plans and orientation from the very beginning, regardless of the dimension the may acquire. The assistance provided from the guiding organs should encourage the party basis to undertake initiatives, to acquire thorough knowledge of the situation prevailing in each area, without underestimating any problem that potentially could be the final straw, in order to immediately develop actions where the situation becomes acute. Constant readiness is needed so as to intervene against problems created by the general political situation, such as the ones that recently emerged due to the pandemic. In such cases, we may achieve some immediate results, mainly concerning a rise in the class political consciousness.
When conditions of mobilization are formed around acute problems, the Party members play a vanguard role and intervene, even when the mobilizations are initiated by organizations and groups where we do not have the majority or have no representatives. We examine each time the form and the escalation of our intervention in a collective and specific manner. This also applies to our stance towards mobilizations that we deem necessary and strike rallies of sectors organized by federations and first-level trade unions, so that the communists, the Party supporters and the trade unionists who rally in PAME intervene and participate in their trade unions. In such matters of tactics, any schematic approach or replication of other cases is wrong. In each occasion, we need to examine whether our forces will be dissociated from that particular mobilization in terms of place and time.
We have the ability and it is necessary to assess in a timely and objective manner the dispositions of the masses. It is necessary for the communists to intervene in a planned and organized manner as the vanguard in terms of the content, the direction, the forms of organization and struggle, leading in the mass collective processes of the movement, being flexible towards the joining of new forces and at the same time being very careful, without diminishing the element of ideological–political vigilance and struggle.
A CRUCIAL ELEMENT IN REGROUPMENT IS THE COURSE OF PAME AND THE INCREASE IN TRADE UNION ORGANIZATIONS THAT RALLY WITH IT
34. The creation and the action of PAME all these years has proven to be of decisive importance. PAME was founded on the initiative of communists who were developing vanguard action in the labour–trade union movement, and it is the class-oriented rallyof Federations, Labour Centres, labour unions and trade unionists in a line of struggle in an anti-capitalist and anti-monopoly direction; it is a highly significant achievement of the movement, as we estimated at the 20th Congress as well.
The development of its course and its scope is important. It has become a point of reference, it expresses the necessity for regroupment and the counterattack of the labour–trade union movement, the existence of a distinct class pole in conflict with government and employer-led trade unionism and the line of the opportunist current.
At its founding in 1999, a conference of trade unionists was held at the Stadium of Peace and Friendship, representing 230 first-level trade unions and 18 second-level organizations, Federations and Labour Centres.
Today, after the 4th Nationwide Conference in 2016, PAME rallies 335 first-level unions, 25 second-level organizations (9 Federations and 16 Labour Centres). This positive course, however, must not foster complacency because it does not negate the fact that workers for the most part do not actively participate in their unions and there are problems in union function and action.
In the years that have followed, serious steps have been taken to confront outdated perceptions and habits, the phenomenon of seeing PAME as a trade union grouping; firstly, to make clear to Party forces what PAME’s character is —a front to rally labour unions and trade unionists that mobilize on a nationwide level based around a framework of struggle that has been created and is constantly being enriched, taking the developments into account. There is a wealth of experience, but a steady orientation is required in all the guiding Organs, the PBOs and the Party Groups, so that, due to the very situation of the labour–trade union movement, mistakes, hesitations, and delays that enmesh the existing dynamic will be dealt with.
Although organizational issues have been resolved, such as where and if local Secretariats are being established, that they are not a substitute for a union, there are still problems with the existence and function of sectoral Secretariats that were created in previous years. Today, we can deal with such problems from a much better position.
It is the responsibility of the cadres and the members of the KKE that are elected to the bodies and are active in the labour unions of the working class to strengthen the role of the unions themselves that participate in PAME, for it to become fully established and expand as the class rally of the labour movement whose action is based on mass and collective processes, with the active participation of the workers, and is not restricted to the oppressive framework imposed by state control of mass action. The function and the action of the unions must be ensured. Through our activity, the unions need to confirm their rally with PAME; this process needs to mature within their ranks and to reach a deeper agreement on the line of anti-capitalist orientation.
We must consider and not underestimate that even when the totality of members of a union have made a collective decision to participate in PAME, there are still different viewpoints and naturally disagreements, prejudices, and confusions. Even where the majority or the leading force are communists, it is not correct to interpret this as total agreement with the framework and the line of PAME, even when the statute of the union recognizes the principle of class struggle and accepts the abolition of exploitation as a declared goal.
The work of communists on the elaboration of positions and slogans in each sector and union; on the development of apt demands and argumentation, of a framework of struggle, of a plan of action; on the choice of the appropriate forms of struggle, is also necessary within the unions that participate in PAME. There are even greater demands in those unions that do not rally with PAME, in trade unions where communists are in the minority or we do not have representatives, much more so in workplaces without union representation. We need to understand and to distinguish criticism towards the viewpoints of workers and criticism towards the leaderships of government and employer-led trade unionism or the line of the opportunist forces; in the first case, it is not directed towards the class enemy, but towards working men and women who have an objective interest in clashing with the capitalists and their state, to struggle with us to overthrow capitalism.
21 years after the founding of PAME, it is necessary for us to ensure the follow-up of initiatives, with goals and a plan, centrally and by sector; to become even more capable within the actions of the labour–trade union movement; to contribute so that PAME becomes its main force, expressing ever-wider sections of the working class. Thus, it is necessary for PAME to expand through struggles to win the majorities in new unions, Federations, and Labour Centres, with a plan to create mass unions and to establish new ones, to organize young working masses, further reinforcing its influence, drawing those unions where communists are not in the majority into the joint struggle. All of this in combination with the ideological–political intervention of communists in the workplace, person-to-person, so that we steadily win over sections of the working class with the political line of the KKE, freeing them from the dominant ideology and politics.
Understanding this issue is necessary to deal with an existent danger, that under the weight of the movement’s retreat, there is complacency and compromise in guiding Organs and Party Groups, around the very small steps that are occurring to make the unions mass organizations and the expansion of PAME with new ones.
35. The trade unions that participate in PAME took on initiatives that led to joint action with other unions that do not participate in PAME around large fronts of struggle, a fact that revealed the new possibilities. Overall, in all the initiatives, approximately 165 unions that do not rally with PAME agreed on joint action. This militant coordination reached the point where general strikes took place four times over recent years, with decisions by unions and second-level organizations, overcoming the undermining and open strike-breaking action of the majority in the administration of GSEE. This effort and the joint action with the radical forces in the movementsof the farmers, the self-employed, the women, and the youth are factors showing an awakening and pressure on the union organizations where forces are in the majority who are opposed to, or who do not understand, the need for a class orientation of the movement.
It is vital to continue to broaden and to maintain a network of unions and other types of collective organizations around PAME (who are not rallied in PAME) with mass processes, through struggle, with an ongoing effort, with planning by sector and region. Sometimes it will be more, other times less, striving for every initiative of the class movement to become a focus of struggle with the other forces, to create rifts.
There are, however, cases of unions where the class-oriented forces are in the minority, and where no work takes place in that direction because there is the fear that a proposal to meet with PAME will be voted down or that, if a positive decision is taken, it will whitewash employer-led trade unionism and the forces who are responsible for the situation in the movement will find a way to enhance their image. Ultimately, this stance in practice hinders and weakens the struggle, it places obstacles to the unified implementation of striking a blow at government and employer-led trade unionism.
Our planned action aims to rally unionists and unions where possible, through collective decisions, but also to reveal to the workers the forces that hinder the organization of their struggle, or attempt to subjugate the content and the waging of the struggle to capitalist interests. This is the most essential way for working people to draw conclusions, through their very own experience, a process which of course cannot alone ensure that a revolutionary workers’ consciousness will mature but is an important pre-condition.
The struggle with the employer and government line, but also with the opportunist stance, must be waged through mass processes in the first-level unions, either sectoral or enterprise-based. We should not retreat in facing the great demands that mass processes in the unions have (general assemblies, gatherings, meetings), in which our forces become more experienced and more capable. Here lies the opportunity to change the situation in the unions and to educate new forces within the movement.
This orientation has not been mastered in depth nor in a unified way by all the guiding Organs and the central Party Groups. We have gained very positive experience from some specific sectoral interventions, such as in Tourism and the Hospitals, where the class-oriented unions have played a vanguard role in the participation and action of many unions in their sector. However, there is no corresponding plan and orientation in all the Federations and Labour Centres where our forces are in the majority and the initiatives that they take are directed to and rally a minimal number of unions in relation to the number of members they have.
Despite the disrepute of GSEE, government and employer-led unionism, together with the notion of “social partnership”, dominate in the key Federations and the union organizations of strategic sectors (Energy, Banks, Transportation, Telecommunications), from which they drawtheirstrengthin GSEE as well. It is an element that will weigh down and hinder regroupment in the coming years as well. In these sectors, almost all the problems on how we work in unions where we have a minority position is expressed. Of course, the objective difficulties also weigh us down, because despite the change in the composition of the workplaces and labour relations, the decrease in the number of permanent employees hired by the trade union groupings of the government parties, they continue to be sectors with the most hard-core segment of labour aristocracy, that maintained a decent level of benefits and income, even during the decade of the crisis.
36. In the years since the 20th Congress of the Party, the struggle on the role of the unions, the orientation of struggle, and the rise in the degree of organization has intensified. It was expressed through struggles in which communists led the way, in congresses of Labour Centres, Federations; in the very Congress of GSEE in Kalamata, Rhodes, and Kavouri, which helped to expose the mechanism and methods of the employers and the bourgeois state to manipulate the labour–trade union movement, for the open and hidden buying-off of consciousnesses, the flagrant intervention of employers. The confrontation with bourgeois and opportunist forces —who unite against the Party but also against PAME— intensified, utilizing various forms and means of the movement (e.g. protests, resolutions, demonstrations, take-overs, threat of lawsuit and lawsuits, press conferences, articles, parliamentary questions).
The possibility for trade unionists who do not agree with the totality of our politics to join forces with communists was demonstrated through these confrontations. Some more, some less, stood up to great pressure, cooperated in an honourable way, acknowledging to the vanguard communists that they can organize the struggle with consistency and defend the interests of the workers; they acknowledged and trusted in their intervention to change the negative situation in the labour–trade union movement, the struggle against the employers’ role, in which trade union leaderships are completely immersed.
In all cases, our forces came out strengthened in terms of experience; new cadres emerged who will constitute a mainstay in the upcoming years. Positive changes in the administrations of Labour Centres created more favourable conditions to escalate the struggle, that can contribute to the effort to step up the organization of first-level unions, an issue that cannot be resolved automatically as it requires a steady orientation and corresponding initiatives. Despite all of this, there are many Federations and Labour Centres where we do not act, where we do not have any elected representatives.
The situation is not the same in all cities and unions, as regards both the unions that rally in PAME and those where communists are in the minority or there are no elected communists. There are, that is, unions that have problems with their functioning and the ability to mobilize workers.
The organizational power and influence of the KKE in each sector and workplace is a decisive element to change the situation, it demandsforesight, steady orientation and planning from the guiding organs and the Party Groups, strong ties with the masses, enhanced ideological–political level, the ability to maneuver, boldness and initiative to cope with this task.
37. The retreat of the labour–trade union movement in our country is also affected by the situation in the international labour movement, with the domination of “Free” trade unions worldwide and the dominance of the ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation) in Europe, which is an organic element of the EU. GSEE participates and is a member of ETUC.
Our Party supports the action of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). PAME, as a rallying front of unions and trade unionists, participates in the WFTU, as well as in the sectoral federations of the WFTU and in its Presidium.
Throughout the previous years, very significant international action was developed with informational campaigns, coordination of militant mobilizations, solidarity with large strike battles, in which the organizations that participate in the WFTU were at the forefront, e.g. in India with one million strikers, in South Africa, and in France.
The WFTU was strengthened with new organizations from all the continents (e.g. South Africa COSATU, India and at the European level) which was an important issue in previous years, with the development of joint action with second-level organizations, such as the Labour Centre of Marseilles, Labour Centres of boroughs in Paris, the Federation of Chemical Workers of France (FNIC-CGT), unions in Italy and Spain.
The recognition of PAME at the international level is great. Indicative is the Workers’ May Day demonstration of 2020 that gained international acknowledgement.
The WFTU was formed on 3 October, 1945 in Paris, immediately after the end of the imperialist World War II with the Anti-fascist Victory of the Peoples. It survived the counter-revolution and, with the contribution of KKE forces and other militant trade unionists on a global level, developed new action, demonstrating the capacity for mobilization and joint coordination.
The ideological–political struggle is also developing within the ranks of the WFTU, which reflects the situation in the International Communist Movement. Even bourgeois forces seek to exploit the blunting of anti-capitalist reflexes, the ideological confusion that prevails even among communist forces who are active in the international trade union movement. Despite all this, better conditions have been created to develop discussion on the correlation of forces in each organization that participates in the WFTU, their prospects, their framework of struggle, and our intervention.
THE MAIN TASK FOR REGROUPMENT IS THE INCREASE IN THE DEGREE OF ORGANIZATION OFTHEWORKINGCLASS
38. Today, we urgently need to contemplate how to strengthen the unionization of workers at their workplaces. It is a task of primary importance and a basic criterion for effective action. Organization in the workplace, the increase in the degree of organization of the working class, and the changes in the correlation of forces are basic objectives and must be fought for in a unified way, in every sector and area.
We actively work in all the unions, independently of their form of organization (sectoral, enterprise-based, occupational). The situation in Attica and Thessaloniki, the largest regions of the country where the majority of the working class is concentrated based on the unions that make up the Labour Centres in those regions, shows that the vast majority of organized workers (with a criterion being that they’ve paid their union dues and participate in union elections) are in enterprise-based unions. From those who voted in the Labour Centres of Attica, 60% are in enterprise-based unions, 23% in occupational, and 18% in sectoral ones. Correspondingly, the percentage of voters in union elections are 61% in enterprise-based unions, 31% in sectoral, and 21% in occupational ones.
The sectoral unions can embrace the great mass of young workers who are mainly working in a highly mobile and flexible environment with new forms of employment, without of course leaving the totality of workers outside of the action. We strive for the sectoral unions to contribute mainly to organizing workers in large workplaces, to connect their struggle with the struggle of the enterprise-based unions in large enterprises in each sector, and to coordinate the unions in different sectors. Older and more recent experience has shown that it is difficult to develop struggles successfully, if they are not grounded in a strong organization in each enterprise. Wecanspecifythisorientationbysectormoreprecisely.
There are workplaces all over the country where the need to establish new unions is crucial, like the concentrated retail sector (commercial centres of all types), food chains (supermarkets), in Tourism with the hundreds of hotels, the food production industry, etc. Where there are unions, we develop vanguard action within them, even when our forces are minimal. Otherwise, we contribute with a plan to the formation of sectoral, or enterprise-based unions in large workplaces, which can unite all the categories of workers in each enterprise, in commercial centres, and groupings of enterprises.
We need to study more substantially the content and forms of our intervention in sectors that have dynamic development, that are prioritized by capital and are in a phase of concentrating new labour force. Accordingly, we need to study the internal changes in sectors that are also of strategic importance. Such sectors are Energy, Transport, Freight Forwarding and Logistics, Metal, the modern Military Industry, Telecommunications and Information Technology, Recycling. We also need to examine the elements of development, how they are reflected in the Party and trade union structures, the needs, identifying the objective factors that act upon this work and hamper, for instance, the organization of the trade union movement at the Federation level or of first-level unions that do not correspond to the developments in a sector and do not cover the totality of workers in them, but also the related initiatives for the creation of new unions, for adaptations, even for the changes that are needed to be made in the deployment of our forces or the unions that rally in PAME in a sector.
At the second-level Federations, we advocate sectoral federations and not occupational federations that foster division and fragmentation.
We must contribute to the creation of unions in areas that harmoniously combine such work at the workplace with the place of residence, with careful preparation and concentration of forces, but also making sure not to set up makeshift unions in every municipality and region. Especially in the urban centres of Athens and Thessaloniki, there are municipalities with a large population and a concentration of thousands of workers in sectors, such as the Retail Industry, Food and Hospitality, Tourism, that cannot be covered by the existent unions, with headquarterslocated far away and with the experience today’s workers have with unions as a reality. In any case, wherever and as long as there is no union, we are for setting up Struggle Committees of workers that can constitute an initial form of a union.
At the same time, we support and promote new forms of organizations, along with the unions, that will embrace the large section of precarious workers, with flexible forms of work, in under the table work, with continual mobility, without sectoral consciousness. Such initiatives of organization and collective action are the Worker-Youth Centres in the neighbourhoods, the Greek and Immigrant Workers’ Clubs which operate within a framework of solidarity and collective expression, teaching the Greek language to immigrant workers and refugees, that may not be forms of organization within the formal structure of the trade union movement, but can unite the workers, and to educate them in the spirit of collective organizing.
A primary issue is the action of the unions to deal with the problems of immigrants, considering that objectively they are a part of the working class of Greece. Our experience has shown that it is not an easy issue. However, our action on this front, from the period of the counter-revolution where immigrants began to arrive here en masse from the former socialist countries, especially from Albania, but also from Asian countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan, India), had positive results, in the Construction sector, in Textiles, the Food industry and elsewhere. Of course, during the period of capitalist economic crisis immigrants began leaving for their home countries or to other countries of the EU, while at the same time the imperialist wars in the Middle East increased the waves of refugees and immigrants from Asian countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria), but also from countries of Northern Africa.
We need to deal with the issue of immigrants more systematically, as a section of the working class of Greece, so that they are assimilated and struggle together with Greek workers, both for their own problems which are created by the exploitative system, but also for the totality of issues of the working class.
In addition to the action that must be developed by the unions, with the intervention of communists, to unionize women and young workers, the possibilities and the contacts of the Women’s Associations must be better utilized, particularly with working women in Retail, in Health, in Education. This will provide impetus to the unions as well and will have a positive effect on their becoming mass organizations, to the degree that they coordinate their action and occupy themselves actively with all the issues that concern the working class–popular family and the youth. There are scores of issues for action starting with the neighbourhoods, in combination with action around problems at work. In addition, we strive for cultural activities (music, theater, books), athletic activities, and solidarity actions, with organized intervention for leisure time, to become hubs of activity to get people organized.
39. The struggle for the role of the unions is a tough ideological, political, and organizational struggle, first with the capitalists and their organizations, the bourgeois governments, the bourgeois parties and as an extension, their forces in the movement. Today, the bourgeois parties and the government are turning their attention once again to the situation in the trade union movement, desiring to reinstate their manipulative tactics, to invest now for the difficult periods ahead.
The call for “parties out of the trade union movement”, independence, without a political party identity has returned. Of course, the union has organizational independence, which we militantly defend against the multifaceted intervention of employers and the state in trade union activity. In addition, it is crystal clear that the trade union movement and the unions, are not a party; thus they do not have an independent programme to achieve power. They are directed to all workers, independently of their political and ideological choices. However, they are constantly coming face-to-face with the consequences of the exploitative economy and power, thus, in confrontation and clash, not only with each capitalist, but also with the government and the bourgeois parties. There is no such thing as neutrality in the unions. Of course, this confrontation does not take place in a uniform way since there is no uniformly developed class political consciousness. The aim for this to mature within struggles, to be expressed to one degree or another within the interventions of the unions, is a complex issue and is the responsibility of the communists.
However, the state is dealing a heavy blow to the heart of union functioning, under the pretext of alleged existent problems. The absence of General Assemblies, gatherings, and workplace visits by trade union leaders, the lifeless congresses with empty auditoriums only for the election of the Executive Board and representatives, without discussion and struggle, are all signs of a degradation that was brought about through conscious choice. They use methods, such as organizing union elections through electronic platforms, which they present to the workers as a form of modernization, with the goal of eradicating General Assemblies.
This overall direction will be implemented and will co-exist with the escalation of oppression and the obstacles placed on the action of communists in the labour movement, to restrict union organization and action, especially against the mobilization of class-oriented unions and PAME.
Based on the new “legality” that is being created, during the next period there will be even more instances where institutions of the bourgeois state (trials, etc.) and employers will not recognize unions and collective decisions; they will reject the signing of Collective Agreements under legal pretexts; they will penalize action, even mass processes of union organizations. The confrontation between the labour–trade union movement with the oppressive state-monitoring of the unions is a serious issue of ideological, political, mass intervention and struggle.
The period of the pandemic brought rich experience from “Organized Disobedience” and the action of unions against the prohibitions and the oppressive measures that the government took under the pretext of the “healthcare crisis”.
Through the organization and mass participation of working people in collective processes and the action of unions, we strive to challenge the reactionary legal framework, but also in cases of various forms of prohibitions, to establish de facto the existence, the function, and the collective processes of the unions. For the greatest possible pressure to be put on the state and employer organizations to be forced to accept the action of unions, even to legally recognize them, but also to reveal the limits of bourgeois legality.
With the pretext of the pandemic, there was an effort to proceed to electronic voting processes for electing leadership and the administrative councils in Education and in other sectors of the Public Sector. The almost universal abstention from the vote, of more than 90% of educators from the process, show that there is resistance and reflexes among the working people, who comprehend the reactionary nature of these regulations.
40. The experience from the struggles of the labour movement brought to the surface the difficulty and weakness as regards the guiding work of communists around the content of action in the first-level unions, so that these are truly organizations that concentrate the majority of workers and are organizations of class struggle. It is a problem of guidance as much in the Party Organs, especially in the Sectoral Committees, as well as in the Party Groups of the Federations, where to deal with the issue, the CC itself and the Section on Labour–Trade Union Work must contribute. We must be aware of the problems in guiding Party members, to change the function of the first-level unions that is not efficient, with the danger that under conditions of greater retreat of the movement it will get much worse.
The development of an integrated network of union organizations and the concentration of forces against the class enemy cannot happen if, with responsibility of the communists, the functioning of the unions is not improved and upgraded, so that the Executive Boards have an idea of the problems their members face, the situation in the workplace and the sector, a steady plan of initiatives that promote a framework of struggle, concern about finding new ways and forms to make it easier for workers to participate. To utilize all the forms and possibilities, so that the unionized workers, either in the sectoral, or in the company-based union, will play their role, to not limit their action simply to participation in elections. To be helped so that inside the workplace, in the production division where they work, to be the “eyes and the ears” of their union. Together with the other trade unionists, initially, workers can be gathered, even informally in a group, a committee of the union that will inform and mobilize fellow workers, that will confront the bosses in a militant manner. To be an initial form of a possible union committee or a health and safety committee. To get other workers to join the union. It is a guiding task of vital importance for the next years, to widen the circle of workers that actively work next to the Executive Board of the unions, expanding the structure of the union organizations, creating at the same time a plan and the pre-conditions to get the majority of workers into the unions and the Federations, an issue which does not concern only the battle in the period before the union elections.
An issue that must concern us is the guidance of the members of the KKE and KNE on their participation and action as much in the unions but also around the acute problems that the working-class family is facing in their neighbourhood. It requires tenacity to break down whatever boundaries exist between the action of communist trade unionists in the workplace and in the neighbourhood, the logic that arises again from the past which says that workplace problems are taken care of by the union, and neighbourhood problems are the responsibility of some other comrades in the area-based PBO or of those comrades with duties in Local Administration.
The task, for instance, of getting a worker to sign up and to participate in his union is very complex and difficult compared to previous years. The great devaluation of unions and the general retreat are serious hindering factors. For the necessary steps to be taken, the requisite trust towards the vanguard militant–communist–trade unionist must be developed. Consequently, action is needed in everything —they must see us at work, in the neighbourhood, in the Parents’ Committees, at the Health Centres, for every small and great problem we need to be on the frontline, for discussion to take place on all the problems in the workplace and for constant effort to be made through forms and initiatives for participation in the union. With militant action, which means well-posited, correct ideological–political work be carried out, so that the need for the struggle to be organized against the strategies of capital is assimilated more widely.
THE NEED TO ESTABLISH COORDINATING COMMITTEES OF TRADE UNIONS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS OF THE MOVEMENT OR STRUGGLE COMMITTEES ON A TERRITORIAL BASIS, IN THE NEIGHBOURHOODS AND THE CITIES
41. The coordination and joint action between trade unions and other mass organizations have had a certain contribution as a way of intervention. Mobilizations and solidarity actions were organized in areas affected by natural disasters (e.g. Mandra, Mati, Lesvos, Karditsa, Samos). The communists were at the forefront of organizing solidarity actions through the trade unions, of highlighting the causes of the disaster, and of demanding infrastructure and services for protection against natural disasters (wildfires, floods, earthquakes). More planned interventions were carried out that found expression in mass mobilizations against the bourgeois governments and the Regional–Municipal authorities’ policies on the environment and the quality of life of the working class and popular strata, on waste management, towards industries that pollute Attica, Piraeus, West Thessaloniki, Volos, etc. and recently on wind turbines in Thessaly. These examples illustrate the struggle of the labour movement on a wide front that also took on the character of coordinated action of trade unions with unions of the self-employed, farmers’ associations, women's associations, youth organizations, student councils, parents’ associations, etc.
Of particular importance was the Party’s intervention and role regarding the sharpening of the refugee issue on the islands and in areas of mainland Greece, as well as its vanguard action against the entrapment of refugees and the tackling of reactionary forces that acted and continue to act supported by the tentacles of state and other apparatuses together with NGOs, seeking to integrate the workers and the people. The activity of the Labour Centres of Lesvos, of Samos, of the Northern part of the Dodecanese, and of the Chios Regional Section of ADEDY provided as with valuable experience for our political guidance work. They were at the forefront of the justified reaction of broad popular sections against the government and EU policy as well as the imperialist agreements and plans that are responsible for the entrapment of refugees. They reacted against the presence of enhanced repressive forces on the islands, expressed their solidarity with refugees, and isolated fascist groups and relevant slogans.
42. Through the planned and vanguard action of the Party and KNE forces, we seek to form a militant movement that will mobilize broader popular masses around acute problems on a territorial basis (city or neighbourhood). The direction of this movement will be reinforced along the struggle. At the same time, we strive to lay the foundation and substructure of sectoral and enterprise-based unions on a territorial basis. The expansion of the unions’ framework of struggle, that is, beyond demands related to financial and other working issues, needs to stimulate the struggle for all the problems that the workers and the people face, taking into account their sharpening and their necessary escalation. We need to create preconditions for joint action with the organizations of the self-employed and other mass organizations, with women's associations, with parents' associations, etc. We aim to be on the frontline in every place through the unions and other organizations of the movement, so that the workers get organized and struggle for their life and survival, strengthen solidarity, and coordinate their various sections.
The initiative of the communists in each area must be be grounded on existing possibilities in order to to help more organizations rally and mobilize around fair demands, which will open the way to come into contact and struggle with broader popular forces. Other political forces are likely to participate —since they are mass organizations— through their representatives in the movement. For this reason, elaborate preparation is required for all issues, demands, frameworks and forms of struggle.
Through this intervention, the movement can emerge more massive and robust in terms of organization. We can make steps to detach workers and people from capitalist manipulation, so that they will not be trapped in the system nor in social democratic and opportunistic delusions, to join forces with the Party and ΚΝΕ. We can also make steps towards the promotion of social alliance, so that the direction of struggle acquires an anti-capitalist and anti-monopoly orientation.