From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal-Open Letter to the ECCI From The Greek Left Oposition (1933)
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This is an excellent documentary source for today’s militants to “discovery” the work of our forebears, whether we agree with their programs or not. Mainly not, but that does not negate the value of such work done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.
Open Letter to the ECCI
Open Letter of the Communist Organisation of Bolshevik-Leninists (Archeiomarxists), Greek Section of the International Left Opposition, to the Executive Committee of the Communist International
As the Archeiomarxists encountered the Communist Party on a far more level footing than many of the much smaller Trotskyist organisations in the rest of the world, they were also the ideal vehicle for posing the politics of the Left Opposition to the Communist movement on the international level, especially after the German debacle of 1933. One example of this is the following open letter.
Within a few months a crisis arose in the relations between the organisation and the world Trotskyist movement. For some time Giotopoulos had been functioning as International Secretary in an arbitrary way. When he reported on the British Trotskyists on 22 September 1933, he let them know that opinion was not unanimous on the International Secretariat regarding entry into the ILP (cf. Bornstein and Richardson, Against the Stream, London 1986, pp.142, 153, 157 n67) and supported the French Trotskyists who opposed entry into the SFIO (cf. L.D. Trotsky, A Good Omen for Joint Work in Britain, 9 April 1936, in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1935-36, New York 1977, p.298, and A False Understanding of the New Orientation, 8 October 1933, in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933-34, New York 1975, pp.30-1). Trotsky therefore framed the resolution that removed Giotopoulos from his position as International Secretary (L.D. Trotsky, Comrade Witte’s Violations of Bolshevik Organisational Principles, 28 September 1933, in Writings of Leon Trotsky: Supplement 1929-33, New York 1979, pp.308-11). Witte’s absolute control over his Greek organisation brought about a split with the International Communist League in 1934, and the Archeiomarxists then affiliated to the London Bureau (cf. L.D. Trotsky, The Crisis of the Greek Section, 5 April 1934, in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933-34, New York 1975, pp.279-84). The result of this, however, was the formation of a Trotskyist faction inside the leadership of the Archeio opposed to the split with the Trotskyists led by George Vitsoris, which gained a majority of the membership and set up a new organisation publishing the weekly paper The Bolshevik (cf. L.D. Trotsky, Reproaching the Dutch Section, 17 March 1934, in Writings of Leon Trotsky: Supplement 1934-40, New York 1979, p.462, and Stinas, Memoires, pp.149, 156). This remained the official representative of the Trotskyist movement in Greece up until the unification of all the groups in 1938.
The parent group gradually dwindled away in a series of obscure splits. Giotopoulos went to Spain at the time of the Civil War, and was for a while imprisoned in close confinement whilst ill by the Stalinists (Revolutionary History, volume 1 no.2, Summer 1988, p.45). On his release he went to Paris, where he was encountered by Ernie Rogers, who was amazed at his authority among Greek workers abroad. He went back to Greece, and during the Metaxas dictatorship the Archeiomarxists supported the defence of the Soviet Union, and found themselves in the prisons and the camps along with the Stalinists and the Trotskyists. But during the occupation they supported the EAM, and large numbers of them were murdered by the Stalinist OPLA. At one point it was mistakenly reported that Giotopoulos had been killed at Thessalonica along with large numbers of Archeiomarxists and Trotskyists by the Germans (David James, Greek Patriots Sentenced by Fascists, in Socialist Appeal (RCP), volume 6 no.4, August 1944), and Ernie Rogers was told the same story by some Greek seamen whom he met when in prison at this time. But both Giotopoulos and the Archeiomarxists survived – after a fashion. During the Greek Civil War they sided with the anti-Communist ‘national army’, which they claimed was defending ‘democracy’ against the KKE, which they claimed was a fascist movement (to begin with they equated ‘Royalist reaction’ with ‘Russian totalitarianism’ – cf S.T. Witte, The Situation in Greece, in Left, the theoretical organ of the ILP, no.122, December 1946, pp.269-71), and their paper circulated freely during the fighting and repression (for details cf. A. Stinas, Memoires, pp.149-50, 297-8). This was effectively their end as a Socialist movement of any sort, and a sad decline. Witte himself died in 1965.
Before the entire world working class, before the millions of the oppressed on earth, we, the Bolshevik-Leninists (Archeiomarxists) Greek Section of the International Left Opposition, address ourselves to you, the highest body of the international Communist movement, the official representatives of the October Revolution, in order to denounce the greatest and most vulgar betrayal which has occurred against the proletariat for the sake of its class enemies by the corrupted clique appointed by you which leads the KKE.
The historic importance of this betrayal is so great, and its consequence so tragic for the revolutionary movement of the proletariat, that even the most merciless punishment of those responsible will be unable to erase the filth which has covered the heroic and bloodstained flag of the October Revolution in Greece.
On 2 July the second round of the parliamentary elections occurred in Thessalonica. In today’s tragic situation for the oppressed, and with the frightful intensification of the contradictions in the bourgeois camp, these elections took on a lively form, and the struggle between the two camps of the bourgeoisie reached the point of mutual conflict. The oppressed masses, paying the most heavy price for the politics of the bourgeois parties, started, particularly in the most recent period, to turn decisively towards Communism.
The decisive and bloody battles, the truly revolutionary insurrections of May-June 1932, December 1932 and March 1933, and a stable increase in the influence of the Communists (55,000 votes in elections in September 1932, 67,000 votes in the elections of March 1933) showed that we were in a new period of upturn of the revolutionary movement. In these favourable objective circumstances a correct Communist line would lead to a higher stage in the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat.
Under the conditions of these elections an exceptional chance was given to the KKE to come ever closer to the oppressed masses, to fly its revolutionary flag, to develop its revolutionary programme, to win the trust of new layers, to advance steadily, and take important steps forward. That is what the advanced workers and poor peasants have been expecting from their revolutionary party – the party which officially represented the October Revolution in our country.
But the KKE has abandoned the arena of struggle. The KKE, which has in its leadership an irresponsible and ignorant clique, which you appointed without asking the opinion of the party, betrayed the proletariat, betrayed the revolution and betrayed its flag. The KKE has denied its ideology and defended the party of big finance capital, the party of Venizelos, the executioner of the Greek workers, the mortal enemy of the revolutionary workers, and the murderer of hundreds of Communists and advanced workers and peasants; the party which many times in the past in this same city of Thessalonica, had organised the most violent slaughter against the workers in the places where they met to find work, a slaughter which surpassed in victims and barbarity anything that had occurred previously; and the party which voted for the anti-Communist law. This is the party which filled the prisons and barren islands of the Aegean with Communists, reaching the point of murdering them inside the prisons, as occurred with the Archeiomarxist Pampakopoulos.
For the sake of this party the revolutionary party of the proletariat essentially withdrew from the elections with a stupid and sensational manoeuvre, placing the list of its candidates two days after the time limit laid down in the law. For the sake of the party of capital, the KKE left the workers without Communist ballot papers. Its candidates entered the elections as individuals ‘isolated’ and independent. For the sake of this party the KKE betrayed the workers. Six thousand Communist votes were given to Venizelos’ party, thus guaranteeing its victory.
Why? How could such a horrific crime occur?
Not only in the upper echelons of both bourgeois parties, but also in the circles which are closely associated with the upper echelons of the KKE, the question appears thus: as regards the Venizelos party, Sofianopoulos, the peasant representative is commonly accused by Rizospastis of being a “peasant-Fascist” – whilst also being a “Friend of the USSR” closely related to the Soviet Embassy and a Legal Adviser of the Soviet Trade Mission!
For the sake of the bourgeois oppositionist parties who have started trading, he has held discussions with the leadership of the KKE and the Soviet Delegation, and concluded a deal on the following basis: Venizelos’ politics are a turn towards approaching Turkey and Russia. Tsaldaris’ politics turn instead towards France. If the KKE supported Venizelos in the elections, apart from the immediate gains they would have from that, they would support the foreign policy of the USSR. Around this question, the bourgeois parties which are governing today have started a campaign of slander which is aimed not only against the KKE, but also against the Communist International and Soviet Russia, who are accused as those directly responsible for the alliance of the Communists with Venizelos.
What is happening, comrades? Has your reactionary ‘National Socialist’ theory of ‘Socialism in one country’ made it possible to lead you to this point? We cannot believe it, despite the fact that we have in front of us the disgusting fact that Comrade Potemkin, ex-Ambassador of the Soviet Embassy in Athens, has sent a congratulatory message to Venizelos concerning the saving of his life after an attempted murder which the ‘populists’ had organised against him – a message with which he expressed his great joy for the saviour of this “precious life” of the most bloodstained and maniac executioner of the Greek workers. It is up to you to clarify your position on this question.
Also, along with all the working class of this country, we have in front of us the most vulgar betrayal, which has marred the flag of Communism, a betrayal for which the Central Committee of the KKE has still not given an explanation and whose consequences are frightfully disastrous. A whole era of work by millions of militant has been destroyed and been thrown into the mud. Today the word ‘Communist’ has become synonymous with ‘traitor’.
In a country where all the objective conditions are leading to a revolutionary insurrection, in a country which in the immediate period could become a new revolutionary arena, Communism, the revolutionary ideology of the proletariat, the ideology of Bolshevism, has suffered the heaviest blow from its own representatives. Using, the theory of the ‘lesser evil’, the Central Committee has led the party into the enemy’s camp. For the workers, the KKE has ‘sold out’. The KKE has erased itself in the most dreadful manner from the consciousness of the workers. Neither our superhuman efforts nor our independent participation in the elections for the rehabilitation of the Communist flag, could hold back the wavering of the workers.
You are the ones mainly responsible for this situation, independent of the fact of whether in this particular instance you are guilty or not. From 1923, from the time you took the leadership of the Communist International from Lenin and Trotsky’s hands, you did whatever you could to destroy its prestige, and to squander in an unconscious way all the capital of Bolshevism and the October Revolution. You have subjugated the Communist parties into being your esteemed subjects, who have, as their only obligation, to support and applaud your empirical and disastrous policies. You have strangled their will, you have strangled their thoughts, you have established in their internal regimes a vulgar bureaucratic machine abolishing control by the base, and crushing democratic centralism, which constitutes their fundamental organising principle. You have expelled every courageous revolutionary who dared to raise his voice against your crimes, and every Bolshevik who defended Lenin’s politics against your centrist policies, which led to the vulgar compromises and destruction of the Chinese Revolution, the ludicrous tactics of the ‘Third Period’ and the dreadful betrayal in Germany.
You have expelled Trotsky, Lenin’s most able co-worker, the organiser of the October Revolution and the creator of the Red Anny. You have exiled Rakovsky. You have murdered Blumkin, Zingantie, Rabinowitz, Smirnov. Riazanov and Tsoulokitze. You have thrown in the Siberian gutters the elite of Bolshevism. You have hounded all the parties who had the courage to give their opinion, and you have based yourselves on the most bankrupt, corrupted. most suspect, most adventurist and opportunist elements, whom you with your prestige as leadership of the Communist International have imposed on those parties.
Here are the consequences. After the Communist Party of Germany, the KKE has now sunk deep into the swamp of the most vulgar betrayal. It has become a nest of provocateurs and traitors against the Oppositionists, now having nothing more than a vestigial influence amongst the masses, who having been won over by the October Revolution, once saw in the party the representative of the Revolution. Today it is seen as traitorous. And this is how they view Communist ideology along with it. New and fierce struggles and new incalculable sacrifices are needed to rebuild what was destroyed in a day.
In the presence of the loud protests of the workers and a flag that has been stained – this party of traitors cannot present itself again to the working class. It is rotten to the core. No further attempts can save it.
In the name of the working class which has been betrayed, in the name of the victims of the class struggle who, with their life and blood have watered the tree of Communism. we demand the convocation of an Extraordinary Congress of the Greek Communists with the participation of the Left Opposition.
Above all, we demand from you a reply to the working class of our country and the entire world – who is responsible for this betrayal? Who delivered Thessalonica's workers to their executioner'?
With Communist Greetings
The Political Bureau of the Communist Organisation of Bolshevik-Leninists (Archeiomarxists), (KOMLEA),
Greek Section of the International Left Opposition