Memoirs of a revolutionary (A. Stinas, Greece): Nationalism and antifascism

The extracts we‘re publishing from the book by A Stinas, a revolutionary communist from Greece (1), are an attack on the antifascist Resistance during the Second World War. They thus contain a pitiless denunciation of the fusion of three mystifications which are particularly murderous for the proletariat: the ‚defence of the USSR‘, nationalism and ‚democratic antifascism‘.

The explosion of nationalisms in what used to be the USSR and its empire in eastern Europe, like the development of huge ‚antifascist‘ ideological campaigns, in the countries of western Europe in particular, make these extracts, written at the end of the 40s, as relevant as ever (2).

Today it is becoming harder and harder for the established order to justify its rule. The disaster that its laws have led to prevent it. But faced with the only force capable of overthrowing it and building another kind of society, faced with the proletariat, the ruling class still has at its disposal ideological weapons that can divide its enemy and keep it subjected to national factions of capital. Today nationalism and ‚anti-fascism‘ are at the forefront of the bourgeoisie’s counterrevolutionary arsenal.

A. Stinas takes up the marxist analysis of Rosa Luxemburg on the national question, recalling that once capitalism reaches its imperialist phase, „… the nation has accomplished its historic mission. Wars of national liberation arid bourgeois democratic revolutions are henceforth void of meaning“. On this basis he denounces and destroys the arguments of all those who called for participation in the ‚antifascist Resistance‘ during the second world war, on the pretext that its ‚popular‘ and ‚antifascist‘ dynamic could lead to the revolution.

Stinas and the UCI (Union Communiste Internationaliste) were part of that handful of revolutionaries who, during the second world war, were able to swim against the tide of all the nationalisms, refusing to support ‚democracy‘ against fascism, to abandon internationalism in the name of the defence of the USSR‘(3).

Since they are almost unknown, even in the revolutionary milieu, partly because their work only existed in the Greek language, it is worth giving some elements on their history.

Stinas belonged to that generation of communists who went through the great international revolutionary wave which put an end to the First World War. All his life he remained faithful to the great hopes raised by Red October in 1917 and by the German revolution of 1919. A member of the Greek Communist Party (in a period in which the Communist Parties had not yet passed into the bourgeois camp) until his expulsion in 1931, he was then a member of the Leninist Opposition, which published the weekly ‚Drapeau du Communisme‘ and which referred to Trotsky, the international symbol of resistance to Stalinism.

In 1933, Hindenburg gave power to Hitler in Germany. Fascism became the official regime there. Stinas argued that he victory of fascism signalled the death of the Communist International, just as 4 August 1914 did for the Second International, and that its sections were definitively and irretrievably lost to the working class. Having begun as organs of the proletarian struggle, they had now become part of the class enemy. The duty of revolutionaries all over the world was thus to form new revolutionary parties, outside and against the International.

A sharp debate provoked a crisis in the Trotskyist organisation, and Stinas left it, after being in a minority. In 1935 he joined an organisation, Le Bolshevik, which had detached itself from archeomarxism and which now became a new organisation calling itself the Union Communiste Internationaliste, At that time the UCI was the only recognised section in Greece of Trotsky’s Internationalist Communist League (ICL); the Fourth International wasn‘t created until 1938.

From 1937 on, the UCI rejected a fundamental slogan of the Fourth International: the ‚defence of the USSR‘. Stinas and his comrades didn‘t reach this position through a debate on the social nature of the USSR, but through a critical examination of the policies and slogans to be adopted in the face of an imminent world war. The UCI aimed to eliminate from its programme any aspect which could allow the infiltration of social patriotism, under the cover of the defence of the USSR.

During the Second World War, Stinas, as an intransigent internationalist, remained loyal to the principles of revolutionary marxism, such as Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg had formulated and practically applied during the first world war.

Since 1934 the UCI had been the only section of the Trotskyist current in Greece. During all the years of war and occupation, isolated from other countries, this group was convinced that the Trotskyists were fighting along the same lines, for the same ideas, and against the stream.

The first news they got about the real positions of the Trotskyist International left Stinas and his comrades open-mouthed. Reading the French pamphlet ‚Les trotskystes dans la lutte contre les nazis‘ provided proof that the Trotskyists had fought against the Nazis like all the other good patriots. They then learned about the shameful attitude of Cannon and the Socialist Workers Party in the USA.

In the war, i.e. in conditions which put the organisations of the working class to the test, the Fourth International had crumbled to dust. Its sections, some openly through ‚the defence of the fatherland‘, others under the cover of the ‚defence of the USSR‘, had passed to the service of their respective bourgeoisies and had in their own way contributed to the massacre.

In autumn 1947, the UCI broke all political and organisational links with the Fourth International. In the years that followed, the worst period of counter-revolution at the political level, when revolutionary groups were reduced to tiny minorities and when most of those who remained faithful to the basic principles of proletarian internationalism and the October revolution were completely isolated, Stinas became the main representative in Greece of the Socialisme ou Barbarie current. This current, which never managed to clarify the completely capitalist nature of the social relations in the USSR, developed the theory of a kind of third system of exploitation, based on a new division between ‚order-givers‘ and ‚order-takers‘. It moved further and further away from marxism and finally fell apart in the 1960s. At the end of his life, Stinas didn‘t really have any organised political activity. He moved close to the anarchists and died in 1987.