Gegen den imperialistischen Krieg oder für die »Verteidigung des Vaterlandes«

Nun macht die englische Übersetzung einen großen Sprung um 17 Jahre. Das 5. Kapitel startet im September 1939. Zur Erinnerung: 1936/37 hatten die großen Schauprozesse in Moskau reinen Tisch gemacht. Im Sommer 1935 fand der letzte Kongress der Komintern statt (bevor sie 1943 endgültig aufgelöst wurde), Frankreich und Russland unterzeichneten einen Verteidigungspakt und die KP wurde auf die antifaschistische »Heilige Union« der »Volksfront«-Regierung eingeschworen. 1939 dann die erneuerte Kehrtwende: Hitler und Stalin schlossen ihren Pakt und überfielen Polen. Die Köpfe der »offiziellen (stalinistischen) Kommunisten« waren schon vollkommen verwirrt und versuchten sich auch dies noch zu erklären (Stinas bietet hier einige Zitate). Ob »Volkfront« oder »Hitler-Stalin-Pakt« gehandelt wurde nicht von einem Klassenstandpunkt, sondern aus der Perspektive eines Staates im imperialistischen Weltgerangel. Auch die Trotzkisten die gegen den Widerstand der Genossen der RKD 1938 eine IV. Internationale gegründet hatten, nahmen im zweiten imperialistischen Weltkrieg keine klare Klassenposition ein und verfielen meist einem imperialistischen Lager (dazu vielleicht später mal mehr Texte). In Griechenland saßen sowohl die Linkskommunisten als auch die Stalinisten im Knast, hier startet das 5. Kapitel. Unser erster Abschnitt endete mit der Ermordung Trotzkis im Mai 1940 in Mexiko und dem Ausbruch des Kriegs zwischen Italien und Griechenland. Hier wurde die KP wieder »patriotisch« und rief zur »Verteidigung des Vaterlandes« auf.

In Aiyina

In September 1939, we, Pouliopoulos and I, were incarcerated in Aiyina. All the Stalinist detainees in the prison were then exalting in and celebrating the victories of the two partners in the Pact: the carving up of Poland, the occupation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Russians, and of Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Norway by the Germans, the fall of France, the tragedy of Dunkirk.

By way of a everyday amusement they competed to see who could invent the most stupid jokey remark against France and Britain: about Gamelin and his »military talent«, about de Gaulle and the »Free French«, about Churchill and his appeals etc.

At the end of two months, with his sentence completed, Pouliopoulos was transferred to Akhronaflia. Then I was alone for a long time in the midst of hostility, animosity and incredible stupidity. Finally the archeiomarxist Tzikas arrived. Then Ioannidis (or Yovanis) arrived a few days after. He was a school teacher from Amyntaion in Macedonia, a member of our group, a militant of the most hardened variety. He was lame from the consequences of an unfortunate attempt to escape. In the room where they were passing judgement on him in Thessaloniki he was sitting near the window which overlooked a tree. He believed that if he jumped out he could reach it. He gave it a go. But the branch which he hung onto broke and he fell to the ground, where the gendarmes picked him up and took him to the hospital on a stretcher.

These two militants met their death under the Occupation. The Stalinists murdered Tzikas, even though he had proposed to them that he fight with them within ELAS. Ioannidis was relegated to the Isle of Aï Strati till the end of his sentence. He refused to »sign« when the majority of exiles had done so and preferred death from hunger when the Germans forbade the inhabitants of the isle from selling goods to the exiles.

Return to Akronafplia

In May 1940, I was summoned to the secretariat of the prison where they let me know that I had served my sentence and that I must get ready for the next morning. Then the same old procedure began again: I was released, but with handcuffs, and a sealed letter to the authorities of Akhronaflia (with the strict note »Attention, extremely dangerous«) and an escort of two gendarmes. Two or three days in the transfer section of Piraeus, and from there the ferry to Nafplio. In the camp they sent me to the First Wing this time.

In our group there was Makris, Rigas, Remboutsikas, Voursoukis and Krokkos. Panayotidis and Skaleos were dead, Tsoukas had been transferred to the mental hospital and Mantas had signed, with the agreement of the other comrades, so as to go and reconstitute the group on the outside. But the war began and he was mobilised and killed. From the Pouliopoulos group, there were, apart from Pouliopoulos, Yannakos, Xypolytos, Tournopoulos, Kh. An., Kh. Soulas, Mitsis, Paraskevas and Loukas. There were the archeiomarxists Hatzichristos, Saoussopoulos, Berachia, Pierakeas and Il. Papadopoulos. Phlorias was dead and Christophas had been transferred to an island. Finally, there were Seitanidis and Iliadis.

The camp was as I had left it two years before, with its secretariat, its room bosses, its male nurses, its postmen, its workshops, its various officials and its severe discipline.

The humour of the Stalinists had obviously changed. Like their comrades in Aiyina, they rejoiced in the victories of the two partners of the Hitler-Stalin pact and celebrated them. But, during the invasion of Finland by the Russian army, they foamed with rage about the relentless and victorious resistance of the Finns. Why, they cried in a righteous anger, wasn’t the little country being reduced to ashes, why weren’t the cities being bombed?

The assassination of Trotsky

In August 1940, agents of the GPU assassinated Trotsky in Mexico. Stalin had finally achieved his goal. First of all he had literally exterminated the family of Trotsky. His first wife (…). One of his daughters (…) The other committed suicide (…). Their husbands also died in Siberia. Their children disappeared. (…) All his personal friends, his secretaries and his parents met the same end. (…)

No man had ever been persecuted with such rage as Trotsky was by Stalin. (…)

We organised a political commemoration in the Third Wing together with the Pouliopoulos group, with Pouliopoulos and myself as orators.

The war between Greece and Italy

The Greco-Italian war began in October 1940(1). We learnt about it from the appearance of the black-out. Two or three days later the camp authorities themselves made public the poisonously chauvinistic letter of Zachariadis(2) : “To this war which the Metaxas government is leading, everybody, we must dedicate all our strength…”, etc. The leadership of the Self-help Group called assemblies for each wing. All the Stalinists were without exception for the »defence of the fatherland«. They solemnly declared themselves in agreement with the letter of their chief and signed a petition to be mobilised and sent to the front.

For our part we spoke up in the assemblies, during the few minutes allotted to us, condemning the treason with all our strength, denouncing the chauvinist politics of the CPG and the Zachariadis letter, defending the principles of revolutionary internationalism and the transformation of the war between peoples into a war of peoples against their exploiters.

In the assembly in our wing it was D. Paparigas who represented the Stalinist leadership and its chauvinist politics. He did not respond to the basis of our critique, any more than he responded to our questions: isn’t the nation and the fatherland that calls the people to shed their blood for it bound up with capitalist society? Is capitalism or is it not responsible for wars? In what way is this world war to be distinguished from the previous one? Isn’t it also a war between brigands, the stuffed against the starving, for the dividing up of the world? Was the position of Lenin during the last war correct or not, and if it was for that time, why isn’t it anymore today, what has changed?

Paparigas didn’t answer. What could he answer? We were defending precisely what he had himself defended over the years. By way of a response, at the close of the assembly, he attacked us by accusing us of… trying to weaken the confidence of the people in the CPG, the »party of the working people« etc.

The nationalist policy of the CPG was in complete contradiction with its own principles, with the essence of its programme, and with all of its action up until 1932. It went back on everything it had stood for.

The Communist parties had been founded in the revolutionary wave which had followed the world conflict, when the peoples cursed the war and those responsible for it: men, classes and the social system. It was the very policy of transformation of the imperialist war into revolution which separated them from the old social-democratic parties. It is on the basis of this that Lenin differentiated himself: at Zimmerwald he opposed himself to the majority because they refused to put into their proclamation that principle which he judged essential. »The struggle against the war«, he said, »presented in such a general and abstract manner, without an appeal to its transformation into a civil war, is nothing but a trick«.

The first proclamation of the Communist International began with the words: »Remember the war«. One of the twenty one conditions whose unreserved acceptance was indispensable to form a section of the Communist International was the exclusion from the party of any cadres who had pronounced themselves for the defence of the fatherland during the war. During those years being taken for a patriot was the worst insult for a communist. It amounted to being accused of treason.

We will cite a few passages from Lenin’s The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky.

»From the point of view of the proletariat, recognising ‘defence of the fatherland’ means justifying the present war, admitting that it is legitimate. And since the war remains an imperialist war (both under a monarchy and under a republic), irrespective of the country – mine or some other country – in which the enemy troops are stationed at the given moment, recognising defence of the fatherland means, in fact, supporting the imperialist, predatory bourgeoisie, and completely betraying socialism. In Russia, even under Kerensky, under the bourgeois-democratic republic, the war continued to be imperialist war, for it was being waged by the bourgeoisie as a ruling class (…)«

»If a German under Wilhelm or a Frenchman under Clemenceau says, ‘It is my right and duty as a socialist to defend my country if it is invaded by an enemy’, he argues not like a socialist, not like an internationalist, not like a revolutionary proletarian, but like a petty-bourgeois nationalist. Because this argument ignores the revolutionary class struggle of the workers against capital, it ignores the appraisal of the war as a whole from the point of view of the world bourgeoisie and the world proletariat, that is, it ignores internationalism, and all that remains is miserable and narrow-minded nationalism. My country is being wronged, that is all I care about – that is what this argument amounts to, and that is where its petty-bourgeois, nationalist narrow-mindedness lies. (…)«

»The socialist, the revolutionary proletarian, the internationalist, argues differently. He says: ‘The character of the war (whether it is reactionary or revolutionary) does not depend on who the attacker was, or in whose country the ‘enemy’ is stationed; it depends on what class is waging the war, and on what politics this war is a continuation of. If the war is a reactionary, imperialist war, that is, if it is being waged by two world groups of the imperialist, rapacious, predatory, reactionary bourgeoisie, then every bourgeoisie (even of the smallest country) becomes a participant in the plunder, and my duty as a representative of the revolutionary proletariat is to prepare for the world proletarian revolution as the only escape from the horrors of a world slaughter. (…)’ (3)«

All this is very clear. Lenin wrote so as to be understood. He did not use the smallest word which could lead to confusion. Revolutionary defeatism was the most fundamental principle, the most essential one of the CPG, at least until 1932. How can this have transformed itself so abruptly, without the slightest condemnation, without the slightest critique of this principle, into an »authentic« Greek nationalist party? We will return later to its metamorphosis and its »patriotism«.

(1) Mussolini sent an ultimatum to Greece on 28 October 1940, demanding numerous territorial concessions, including Crete and Corfu. Then he immediately invaded Greece from the north west, setting out from Albania which he had annexed in April 1939.

(2) From the depths of his prison Zachariadis had sent to Maniadakis this “open letter” to “the people of Greece” on 31 October. The minister immediately had it published in the press (on 2 November). The leaders of the CPG who were still free believed it to be a fake and denounced it as such.

(3)This translation comes from the Lenin section of