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Speech by Dimitris Koutsoumpas, GS of the CC of the KKE at the European Communist Meeting
The struggle for the regroupment of the international communist movement as a crucial task to overthrow capitalist barbarism and to build a communist society, is a fundamental element of the class struggle and is linked to the capability of the communist parties to strengthen themselves as a whole:
- Ideologically – politically, with a revolutionary strategy, overcoming incorrect positions that predominated in the international communist movement in previous decades.
- Organizationally, to create strong foundations in enterprises and sectors of strategic importance, to intervene decisively in the workers’ – popular movement.
This aim is through a systematic struggle, within which anti-people governmental policies will be opposed and the ongoing intervention confronting the problems that the working class experiences will be consolidated, the necessary preparations will be made so that under conditions where a revolutionary situation breaks out in a given country, each CP can fulfil its historic duty and fight for the overthrow of capitalism, for socialism, at that same time creating an effective mechanism that will provide international support and solidarity.
Already one decade has passed since the onset of the deep and prolonged capitalist economic crisis, in the world, in Europe and naturally, in our country. Objectively, a new situation has been created.
The measures that led to major reversals in labor relations, salaries, Collective Bargaining Agreements, pensions, social benefits, etc., had been planned long before the crisis.
These are the so-called capitalist restructurings and anti-labor reforms. These measures were implemented more quickly in their complete form, especially in Greece since 2010.
All of these are being institutionalized and promoted in a unified manner, making capital even more aggressive and, in an especially acute way toward salaried female employment, as well as that of the youth. In the EU, the “Strategic Europe 2020” adopted by the European Council in June 2010, reflects a deepening of all of the anti-labor framework that has been created.
In Greece, the consequences of the economic crisis and the anti-labor measures that were imposed brought about great, profound and permanent upheavals in the living and working conditions of the working class, and in a large section of the self-employed and small property owners.
As a result of these developments and measures, there have been significant changes within the ranks of the working class and in their condition. The ranks of the working class were expanded with new sections from the destroyed middle strata of the city and the countryside. The number of half-proletarians increased. Unemployment and the masses of a cheap labor force dramatically increased. This broadening of the ranks of the working class with new sections that are inexperienced and have petty bourgeois conceptions make the work of communists to boost the class movement more difficult and more complex. Considerable differentiation and stratification persists within the working class and more broadly amongst those in paid employment which provides the material base for the labor aristocracy. In every instance, the struggle for the unity of the working class in each workplace, sector and more generally, is a priority.
We communists work within the trade unions together with all the workers so that they become organizers of the class struggle in their workplace, daily, untiring so that militant bonds are created even during periods where immediately visible results are not evident, with the constant concern for integrating new forces into the class struggle from the great mass of the unorganized working class, of young people who work without any rights and with very low salaries, women, immigrants.
An important factor in the struggle that is being waged in our country that concerns the entire working class is the proposal by 530 Labor Centers, Trade Union Federations and Unions for Collective Bargaining Agreements, for a National Collective Bargaining Agreement, to restore the minimum wage to 751 euros, for the abolition of anti-labor laws. This initiative became a legislative proposal that was submitted by the KKE one year ago and was rejected by all of the other, bourgeois parties, “right”, “center”, and “left”.
In view of the predictions made by the bourgeois administration regarding the passage to a phase of capitalist recovery, large enterprises are demanding new measures for the reinforcement of their competitiveness, with even greater ‘flexibility”.
Capital does not desire, nor does it intend to give back whatever it seized from the workers during the crisis years. A capitalist upturn will not lead to even a partial recovery of the great losses of the broad masses during the period of the crisis, but in fact, will worsen the situation for the people.
For the past three years, the SYRIZA – ANEL government in Greece has proven to be most useful for the bourgeois class, as well as for its key international allies, i.e.; the EU, the IMF. What the bourgeois class and its foreign allies recognize is not only the anti-people legislative decisiveness of the Tsipras government in its support of capitalist profit (a feature common to all bourgeois parties), but its ability to manipulate. In other words, they recognize the capability of the new Social Democracy to blunt popular resistance, to assimilate it into the system and disorientate, to repeatedly and massively deceive the popular strata.
It’s not accidental that along with an economic war to increase exploitation, a political and ideological war is simultaneously strengthening the division, the manipulation, the disorientation and the entrapment of the workers’ and popular masses.
In our country, we experienced this war even more intensely: the covering up of the nature and the causes of the crisis. We encountered and dealt with organized provocations, the increase in state and employer terrorism, changes in governments and managers, the direct intervention of the system in the line-up of political forces. It was proven once more, how dangerous the role of reformists, of opportunists as pillars of the system is in crucial moments. These forces are responsible for the dissolution of the trade union movement, the obstruction of the radicalization of the movement under conditions of protracted crisis.
Within these difficulties the role and the contribution of the Party in this period is important, laying new groundwork for contact and communication with the working class and the popular masses. Our Party has pioneered great struggles, opening up vast ideological and political fronts and new paths.
The position of the KKE, for example, for non-participation in bourgeois governments proved to be a powerful weapon for the emancipation of the working class in Greece; it constituted a shield to protect the working class movement from submission and compromise with bourgeois manipulations. The SYRIZA government created mass disappointment within broad sections of the working class and the other popular strata, passing measures that other parties didn’t dare to do, such as the restriction of the right to strike; this government was chosen for the dirty work.
Any form of capitalist recovery that will follow will have a weak and precarious character and will not be able to eradicate or absorb the large mass of unemployment, especially in a period when the technological advances in production are being accelerated (robotics). It is also a given that it is not possible to return to the pre-crisis period in terms of the basic achievements and the rights of the working class that were gained in the 20th century.
Therefore, the strengthening of monopoly capital is bound to bring a further sharpening of the contradiction between capital and salaried labor and, thus, a sharpening of all social contradictions. This fact highlights the need and the possibilities for the communists to work more systematically within the ranks of the working class and its movement so as to reinforce class struggle that will be based on the anti-capitalist line for the rallying of forces and the creation of alliances. At the same time, the activity of the CPs must contribute to the reinforcement of the struggle for a different organization of the economy and society that will be driven by the satisfaction of social needs and not by capitalist profit, i.e. the necessity and the prospect of socialist revolution, socialist society.
Within this context we consider the pre-dominance of reformism in the trade union movement to be a primary obstacle to the advance of the class struggle.
Reformist forces and labor aristocracy have caused lasting damage as they hold key positions in sectors of strategic importance, large industries and other enterprises (in the sectors of transport, banks, ports, energy, telecommunication, state services, universities and education in general.
The line of anti-capitalist struggle, of the struggle for rupture and overthrow does not currently exert a mass influence in sectors of strategic importance. The adverse situation of the European and international trade union movement has played a negative role in this. On this basis, we draw the conclusion that the change in the correlation of forces and the regroupment of the movement is not restricted to several quantitative changes, but requires radical changes in the content and the orientation of the struggle of the trade union movement.
The All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME), since its establishment in 1999 up until today has followed a strongly significant course. It serves as a point of reference for the movement and for Greek society more broadly. It was founded on the initiative of Communists who are actively involved in the movement and is a front for the rallying of Trade Unions, Labor Centers, Federations, Struggle Committees and trade unionists. At the recent PAME conference, 1224 delegates took part who were elected by collective process in their unions, BoD decisions, G. A, meetings of struggle committees, representing 536 trade unions: 12 Federations, 15 Labor Centers, 457 Unions, 52 Struggle Committees. PAME is not composed of the members of the party and those who agree with us; nor does it function outside of the structures of the trade union movement; it participates in GSEE (confederation of the private sector) and ADEDY (confederation of civil servants) but acts independently and organizes struggles independently. Hundreds of trade union organizations are mobilized in the ranks of PAME. The forces that rally in PAME are the second strongest force in the trade union movement, with a percentage exceeding 20%.
The 20th Congress of our party gave the following definition to the regroupment of the labor movement: “the preparation and development of a labor movement capable of decisively and effectively confronting, in alliance with the popular strata of the self-employed and farmers, the unified elaborated strategy of capital and capitalist power.
These tasks include:
- Elaboration of struggle demands (on all issues: salary, social security, health-care, working hours etc.) and the choice of forms of organization and alliance with popular forces.
- Adequate knowledge of the working class’s structure, efforts to overcome the fragmentation that weakens its struggle.
- Accurate and objective assessment of the correlation of forces, of the mood of the masses, of the employers’ tactics and the political forces that act in the trade union movement.
- Daily attention and training is needed, as well as concern and care by the leading organs in order to enhance the initiatives, the daily activity of the communists, especially of the youth, in the workplaces, the sectors, and the trade unions.
- Work at a collective and individual level is required for the formation of bonds with the working class - even in periods when there are no visible results -, bonds which, under specific circumstances, would be converted into an increase in the prestige and influence of the communists.
- We must also have the capability to convincingly reveal - through the ideological confrontation that will develop within the small or large-scale struggles - the mechanisms of exploitation and especially the conditions for their abolition.
We refer to a plan for struggle and gathering forces that will have an anti-capitalist content and integrate specific demands. This plan should be based above all on strong Party Organizations in factories, enterprises, in sectors of strategic importance and dialectically create the conditions for their increase.
We are fully aware of the fact that the trend for contemporary needs to increase is objective. This is due to the modern level of development of the productive forces, the achievements of science and their applications in all sectors.
The struggle for contemporary needs also involves the formulation of demands for the reduction of working hours, the increase of leisure time, of vacation and recreation time. Workers fought for 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of leisure and social time and today we have returned to a work program from sunrise to sunset with a 10 or 12-hour workday.
It also involves factors related to the living standards, such as the quality and quantity of nutritional needs, housing and employment conditions, the role of physical education and exercise, healthcare with an emphasis on prevention, the tackling of environmental problems and occupational illnesses, the increase in life expectancy, culture etc. They also involve the necessary infrastructure and means for their satisfaction.
The difference between our demands and the ones promoted by the bourgeois parties lies not merely in the quantity and quality of the rights, but goes even deeper, thus touching upon the organization of society itself. So, for example, in terms of health-care, we demand not only better and free health services, but the priority of prevention and timely rehabilitation. In education, we not only demand public and free books at all educational levels, but primarily a radically different content in these books, radically different methods and forms of teaching which must aim at the all-round education of the children.
An issue of special importance is the struggle against imperialist wars and plans, against imperialist alliances, against nationalism and fascism and this is a key element in our struggle and in the activity of the class-oriented trade unions. We firmly support the international campaigns of the WFTU and those of the trade unions that rally in PAME against NATO, for the closure of US military bases, for solidarity with all struggling peoples, in support for refugees.
Daily political-ideological work is required for the assimilation of the position that in the event of an imperialist war the labor movement must not fight under a false flag, i.e. the flag of the bourgeois class. On the contrary, it should struggle in every instance for the overthrow of the bourgeois class, which as long it exists brings both war and peace with a gun held at the people’s head.
Another crucial issue is how a Communist Party acts and builds itself in practice, as a leader of the class struggle, as a leader of the mobilization of the popular masses around daily issues and also around general issues regarding future prospects, i.e. for the formation of the subjective preconditions in the class-oriented anti-capitalist anti-monopoly struggle for socialism-communism.
We are aware of the fact that the economic struggle on its own does not lead to revolutionary political struggle. The difficulty in the relationship between the party and the labor-trade union movement - both in terms of political practice and as a theoretical issue - flows from the fact that the Communist Party is the highest, conscious form of expression of the labor movement.
Consequently, any reference to the movement of the working class must be accompanied by a reference to the communist movement. However, lower forms of working class organization exist and will exist both in non-revolutionary conditions as well as in conditions of a revolutionary upsurge and during the period of socialist construction.
Objectively, there are no politically neutral trade unions. Either the line of class collaboration, employer and government-led trade unionism, the reformist, opportunist current or the line of anti-capitalist-antimonopoly struggle will have the upper hand. Consequently, the ideological and political struggle inside the movement is important in terms of achieving the goal of organizing a significant section of the working class in an anti-capitalist direction, in order to deepen and widen its bonds with the Party.
For all these reasons, the relationship between the party and mass working class organizations is quite complex in practice. The attempt to formulate this relationship has caused difficulties for the international communist movement and has often been accompanied by absolute approaches and mistakes, both at a theoretical level and in practice
A basic factor that determines the role and effectiveness of the party in the labor movement, in the class struggle, is party building in industry, in strategically important sectors, in combination with the increase of its strength and influence in the great mass of the working class and especially in its younger sections.
We are aware of the difficulties and we are determined to deal with them with suitable organization, utilizing the power of the working class. With our action we create the preconditions for the counterattack of the working class and at the same time the most serious and fundamental precondition for this case: the organizational reinforcement of the KKE above all within the working class.
Now is the time to concentrate forces and organize the struggle against the enterprise monopoly groups, against capitalists and their governments according to a plan that will be based above all on strong organizations of the KKE and KNE in factories, in businesses, in sectors of strategic importance, in electrical power plants, public transportation, telecommunication, ports and airports, shopping centers, health-care units and, at the same time, among the self-employed in urban centers , in the youth’s educational institutions, the places where young people of working class-popular families gather.
We honor the 100 years of our heroic party, the countless people who gave their life for our party by strengthening the KKE. We strengthen internationalist solidarity implementing in practice the slogan “proletarians of all countries, unite!”
It is necessary to strengthen our struggle in all countries in order for the CPs to become mass workers’ parties that will organize and the lead the struggle of the millions of oppressed people for the overthrow of the decayed capitalist system that only breeds poverty, imperialist wars, destruction, and refugees, for the struggle for socialism- communism!