Friday, March 13, 2015

KKE "sectarianism" (Pt. 1)

My google search on the words "KKE" and "sectarianism" yielded a stunning 823,000 results. It's as if there exists some kind of Word feature that inserts the second word after every use of the first: the KKE is "sectarian" with the same phrasal predictability that the sky is "blue", the summer is "hot", or that kittens are "cute".

But then, what does "sectarian" really mean?

In an article entitled "Understanding the Greek Communists" (as in "Understanding the sexual rites of Kiribati", or "Understanding bipolar disorder"), published in the inevitable Jacobin, Nicos Lountos glosses it this way:
The reality is that the KKE has been paying for its sectarianism more than its radicalism. The KKE not only opposes common action with other political forces on the Left, but it’s stood apart from the broader mass movement in recent years.
KKE "sectarianism", then, appears to involve two nominal features: a. the refusal of collaboration with other political parties allegedly on the Left and b. the refusal to participate in the "broader mass movement."

Let's begin with the latter. Before nodding their heads in reflexive disapproval of the evil of "sectarianism", rational and politically informed persons would presumably ask themselves the question: what broader mass movement? For even KKE detractors admit the obvious: the KKE is a mass force on the street, the party with the most active supporters in terms of participation in the hundreds of demonstrations, rallies, protests, etc it organizes every year. Would SYRIZA's advertisers habitually steal KKE rally images and present them as its own (most recent symptom) if it were otherwise?

So when Lountos uses the words ""broader mass movement", he can only be referring to mobilization outside the parameters of the labor movement. When it comes to the labor movement, KKE and affiliated organizations like PAME are either a) the only ones demonstrating in the street or b) a segment of broader mobilizations organized by the Confederacy of Labor Unions (GSEE) or in popular marches (like the Polytechnic march, picture above), in which many different political organizations and parties (including both SYRIZA and ANTARSYA) participate. It is an organized segment, always, and a discrete element in any protest march, but so is every other major political organization. I can personally testify that when I attended a KKE rally against the imperialist intervention in Libya in Thessaloniki, there was a number of people from other political organizations there, including the Trotskyists of SEK (ANTARSYA), who were distributing their pamphlets and selling their newspaper peaceably and undisturbed and then formed their own block in our march.

But perhaps Lontos is not referring to the labor movement or the traditional progressive social movement but to new-fangled "movements" like the Greek indignados of 2011; yet KKE/PAME was there too, going to Syntagma square whenever there was a strike march. What it refused to do was to violate the principle of the Communist Manifesto according to which communists "disdain to conceal their views and aims" and hang around the plaza incognito to hear Varoufakis and the other "left economists" (Lapavitsas, Kazakis, and others) who were catapulted to fame there.

It is well known in Greece, but probably hushed abroad, that the "indignados", probably under the influence of circles that wanted to keep the movement controlled by themselves, declared open hostility against all political parties and labor unions; "Out with parties and syndicates" was a central --and politically extremely worrisome-- slogan of the Greek indignados. I will never forget the infernal booing to which a solitary Trotskyist, from what I later learned, was subjected for carrying a hammer and sickle flag to the plaza.

Page 3 of internal SYRIZA document containing instructions of how to do party work posing as "regular citizens". Published December 2011.
He wasn't the only one to be greeted with hostility while SYRIZA personnel (and arguably, Golden Dawn) did their propaganda work "undercover", without bearing insignia, and pretending to be "regular citizens"; KKE-ML faced widespread crowd hostility for daring to distribute their pamphlets as well. As for PAME, you may see for yourself how a young kid trying to distribute worker propaganda among the indignados is treated (it's worth noting that the video was uploaded by a fascist organization called "Hellenic Fist", as a gloating sample of what happens to people who try to do party propaganda; it's also worth taking a note of the guy in shaven head and t-shirt with German cross and skull, as no one had really thought of "Golden Dawn" as a rising political force with an active role in the indignado movement in 2011):

Or one could point to this video, where a PAME worker demonstration is actively booed by a crowd assembled in front of a "helicopter" banner; the "helicopter" banner was deployed by one of SYRIZA's most active constituents in plaza "fishing", KOE (as you will see the video of booing PAME is uploaded, similarly for gloating purposes, by the "Association of SYRIZA supporters"):

Indeed, on June 28, 2011, a Greek website was reporting the events thus:
The indignados pushed back a PAME rally

A short while ago, thousands of indignant citizens and employees who are demonstrating against austerity measures and against the voting of the Short-Term Program, and after the turmoil caused once again by hood wearers in the Athens center, pushed back PAME members who arrived outside the Parliament, after a march that began in the columns of Olympian Zeus.
 So much for "sectarianism" in the "broader social movement", then.

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