The CP position of refusing to participate in bourgeois government
Communist Review 2012, issue 2
Translation to English: Lenin Reloaded
First, please allow me to elaborate on the rich experience the KKE has garnered from its participation in bourgeois governments, an experience that is even richer when it comes to Europe more broadly. This doesn't concern very special cases, but facts and results that offer generalizable conclusions and that confirm one thing: that in the period of the transition from capitalism to socialism a CP has no reason to take responsibility in a bourgeois government or, more generally, in a government of bourgeois management. For as long as the working class and its allies have not taken power into their hands, the CP must be an oppositional power and use that position to enact its vanguard role in the movement, exploiting of course all available forms of struggle -- including the bourgeois parliament.
Participation in a bourgeois government is a mistake that cannot easily be redressed and that may prove impossible to redress.
The first experience we obtained regards the participation of the KKE in the government formed after the liberation of Greece from German, Italian and Bulgarian conquest. A bourgeois politician, Giorgios Papandreou (the father and grandfather of two subsequent Greek Prime Ministers, leaders of Social Democracy), was ordained to form a government after he was selected by the king and by Britain, next to which the bourgeoisie of Greece had long attached itself. He was selected because he had their full trust, because they figured that, using political machinations and conspiracies, he would be able to deal with the postwar correlation of forces, that was to the advantage of the KKE and of the militant patriots of the Greek resistance, and that he would lead to bourgeois stabilization. This development began to unfold in April 1944, before Greece was liberated. Giorgios Papandreou had consciously distanced himself from the struggle of the Greek people against foreign occupation; he had steadfastly refused proposals by the KKE and EAM for unity and for participation in the Resistance. Since 1943, he had been sending memos to the British government, with which he was proclaiming his allegiance to it, and of course his will to collaborate against the armed national resistance that was led by the KKE, with the objective of preventing a popular victory, as he did manage to do. The ordainment to form this government was also based on the unacceptable compromise that the KKE -- the heroic party of Resistance, its bloodgiver and leader -- along with the leadership of the National Resistance, submitted to when, before the end of the war, in mid April 1944, they made an agreement to form a united government with bourgeois political forces, coordinated by the British Strategic HQ of the Middle East. The envoys who went to Cairo, Egypt, to sign the agreement accepted the participation of EAM and of the KKE in the postwar government. The agreement violated the correlation of forces and the principles of national liberation struggle, which from the outset had posed the issue of the outcome of the struggle toward popular democracy.
The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the KKE characterized the compromises of its envoys, who did not abide by the relevant directives, unacceptable, yet the provisional government that had been formed in Greece, and that also constituted an expression of the KKE's alliance, saw the agreement as necessary. What followed were futile efforts to improve the agreement, and finally, the CC of the KKE that convened on 2-3 August 1944 approved it. The consensus of the CC of the KKE led to the participation in the Giorgios Papandreou government on the basis of the following argument: lack of participation would strengthen the more extreme parties that sought to destroy the unity and to impose an anti-popular regime by causing an open Civil War. The KKE foregrounded as its principal pursuit the obstruction of the forces that had a fascist and anti-popular tendency. The signing of the agreement gave the British imperialists the objective capacity to advance their plans successfully and to crush the movement of national resistance and provide armed support for the orgy of murder against the KKE. One compromise led to another, to new agreements that gave bourgeois parties the opportunity to return to the bourgeois apparatus and to restore the shattered mechanisms of bourgeois power, such as the "national" army -- a process that took a number of years and that gave the opportunity to the bourgeoisie, which did not at that time possess popular legitimacy, to form a political and party system that was capable of subverting the correlation of forces, turning it against the people.
Of course, the party's mistaken policy, its participation in the postwar bourgeois government, was no momentary error. Our evaluation as KKE today relates to the party strategy, which did not at the time involve any ability to predict and any of the stability necessary to connect the war against the conqueror with the struggle for political power. The leadership of the KKE and the leadership of the movement of National Resistance did not predict, did not see the danger that bourgeois forces in the country constituted for the people, even if they were momentarily disorganized; nor did they factor in the British pursuits against our country's social movement. So they did not properly evaluate the strategic issue and were not prepared for it.
During the 1940s, the KKE undertook public self-criticism for its unacceptable compromises; it resisted anticommunist terror, that was not only ideological but involved persecution, executions, assassinations and losses of communist forces. The murderous persecution of the KKE led to the formation of the Democratic Army of Greece, to the three-year Civil War that constituted, and still constitutes, the apogee of the Greek class struggle, and that left us with an important legacy, irrespective of the defeat that came as a result of the negative correlation of forces and the American imperialist intervention.
The fact that the KKE did not correctly evaluate the developments shortly before and shortly after the end of the war, that it failed to do so as a result of problems in its strategy, the fact that it did not evaluate as it should have the intentions of the British imperialists, this does not cancel out its irreplaceable contribution to the years of national resistance, to the liberation of Greece.
In the postwar era, the European experience from the participation of CPs in bourgeois governments -- usually formed under the pressure of objective factors and conditions or as a result of parliamentary delusions and above all, under the influence and hegemony of opportunist ideas and practices -- is exclusively negative. Communist Parties in France and Italy, starting from the end of WW II and until a few years ago, took part in bourgeois governments. We don't have a single example that confirms that thanks to this, the people's lives changed radically, or that they managed to curtail compromises and to block the political direction of Social Democracy. After every such period of participation, CPs lost power to the benefit of Social Democracy; they were weakened, precisely because they were seen as sharing the responsibility, but also because partnership with Social Democracy exerts a higher pressure on CPs than they can exert on Social Democracy.
The KKE possesses contemporary experience of this, out of a kind of peculiar participation in two consecutive governments in the period 1989-90, in the first case with the liberal party (ND) and in the second with Social Democracy (PASOK) as well. The participation in government was due to very special reasons, as it was impossible to form a government after elections, and according to the law there had to be a short time span until the next election so that the legal violations of which the then leader of Social Democracy [Andreas Papandreou] had been accused would not become annulled. Our party was not forced into harmful compromises, given the nature of these two governments, but a part of the people, led by Social Democracy, attributed to us a policy of "unholy alliance." This cost us in votes, but what was far more important was the development, in a period when opportunism had reared its head inside our party, of the perception that the participation of the party in bourgeois government is not a matter of principle. Even worse was the spreading of the perception that at a crucial moment, when the bourgeois political system faces obstacles, the KKE has to abandon its strategy and to support the formation of a government based on the so-called "minimum program", which in fact has never caused a rupture in the bourgeois political system, but on the contrary allows it to regroup its forces.
Recently, and in the middle of 2012, the KKE was immensely pressured to adopt the choice of participating in a "left" government, as they called it, along with opportunist forces that were abruptly catapulted to great parliamentary power, as a result of the dissolution of Social Democracy in conditions of rising poverty, because of the capitalist economic crisis that erupted in Greece and in the Eurozone. The abrupt parliamentary strengthening of opportunism was not exclusively the result of popular discontent, but was combined with a mass transfer of votes [from PASOK] through the guidance of a large number of Social Democratic cadres and mechanisms. To this transfer of power toward opportunism, a key role was also played by parts of the bourgeoisie that could see the need to shape -- even temporarily -- a different pole in the place of Social Democracy before the working and popular masses could move to real radicalization.
Our electoral losses due to our refusal to support such a government and indeed to take part in it were heavy. We lost 50% of our vote, either because a part went to the direction of opportunism, or, principally, because they chose abstention from the vote.
This development did not scare us, however much it may have caused disappointment and certainly a measure of political trauma to the electoral body. We are convinced that our stance in a period marked by fatalism, by compromise, by disappointment, is a positive legacy for the people, but also for the party itself. If we had not withstood the pressure, we would have entered a path that is slippery and without return. In such cases, there is no hope of finding the brake in time when you hit the downward spiral.
At the same time, we received a good lesson, which we must of course use to our benefit. It's not enough for your strategy to be correct, though today this is of course a basic precondition. But no relaxation of vigilance can be allowed: to allow this strategy to exert influence, to affect an important part of the working class, you must first attain the greatest abilities. First of all, the party cannot relax its systematic work to concentrate forces in the places of work, in different production sectors, in party construction within the working class, in the propagation of the social alliance of the working class with poor social strata in the rather large, in Greece, middle layer of the self-employed.
Though we have experience in ideological conflict, we did not fight as much as we should have in the last few years the parliamentary delusions shared by party friends and supporters and even by a part of party members, who don't have long-term experience and the necessary ideologico-political defenses. The major bearer of these delusions was the bourgeois political system itself, along with its parties, the reservoir of the petty bourgeoisie, and the activity of the labor aristocracy, which together form the social roots of right and left opportunism within the worker movement.