The KKE, in the face of the new facts which the predominance of the counterrevolution created, was not disoriented by the current of defeat and ideological confusion. It mobilized all its forces and elaborated its strategy in the new conditions. Examining the causes of the overthrows of socialism, it was obliged to deeper study the history and development of the class struggle in the 20thcentury.
One initial and strategically important conclusion is that the capitalist states and indeed those with the most developed capitalist economies no longer have the capability to make concessions to the working class.
After the 2nd World War in Europe, in conditions of the dynamic rebuilding and development of the capitalist economy and a new balance of forces, as was shaped after the war, the labour movement acquired a series of important gains.
The same occurred in Greece where important gains were acquired chiefly after 1974.
In the period after the war the opportunist current was strengthened and took the form of the “Euro-communism” with particular expression in Italy in the form of the Italian Communist Party, which developed the theory of the so-called “historic compromise”.
The basis of this current was that capitalism could be transformed, to be reformed into a more modern and fair society, in the direction of socialism without ruptures and overthrows.
A cornerstone of these views was the extensive state sector, the state-monopoly reforms in the management of the system and certain provisions which were made within the framework of the system.
This line caused a great deal of damage within the labour and trade union movement. It led the Communist Parties into the embrace of social-democracy and today to their dissolution or mutation. The labour and trade union movement passed into a period of decades of shrinkage, bureaucratization, inertia and assimilation into the various governmental, EEC and capitalist designs.
This current exerted a powerful influence over a series of parties, amongst them the KKE. Repeated confrontations were needed to free the party from its influence.
Our party, studying the historical development of class struggle at a European level, came to the conclusion that the capitalist system has not only exhausted its capability for concessions but has moved into a reactionary counterattack to overthrow all the basic gains of the workers. From the middle of the 1970s, this tendency was apparent and was completed in the 1990s by the unified strategy of the EU. This is an important conclusion which assisted our party not to be disoriented and to fight against a series of theoretical, political positions and practices which caused confusion and damage.
The acceleration of capitalist internationalization, the creation of the EU and the formation of centre-left governments, were interpreted by many and particularly by various opportunist currents as a new era of positive developments. Various social forums were promoted as new subjects of the class struggle which called into question the role of the working class and the necessity of the revolutionary party.
The strategy for the overthrow of the gains and rights of the working class came about due to the difficulties in the expanded reproduction of social capital, the successive crises of capitalist over-accumulation, the fall in the average rate of profit, due to the internal contradictions of the capitalist system. This strategy had as its goal to strengthen the profitability of capital, i.e. to stop the tendency for the average rate of profit to fall in the 1970s. The implementation of this strategy was assisted by the changes in the correlation of forces which were caused by the counterrevolutions in the socialist countries.
The unified strategic offensive against the labour movement did not only have to with the conditions of the outbreak of the capitalist crisis, but also the conditions of capitalist development, because the economies of the USA, Japan, Britain etc were losing their position in the international capitalist market, the competition was sharpened with the emergence of new powers, such as China, and the fiscal deficits grew.
Particularly in the last two decades, the growth phases were anaemic and did not lead to a rise in prosperity in the most advanced capitalist societies.
The deeper and synchronised economic crisis which broke out in 2008 not only confirmed the theses of the KKE, but also confirmed in the clearest way the theory of scientific socialism. At a theoretical level and also at the level of political and class struggle, the superiority of the Party against the opportunists was once again confirmed.
These analyses helped the party modernise and develop its strategy, an element of which was the creation of PAME and the confrontation with the leaderships of the trade unions which have as their main line of struggle the strengthening of the competitiveness of the economy and the convergence with the EU countries as a precondition for the prosperity of the working class.
The KKE rejected and exposed the bourgeois and opportunist theories and guarded the movement against dangers.
It promptly opened a front of struggle against theories concerning convergence with the EU, competitiveness, the smaller state, against illusions concerning the dynamism of capitalist development.
It helped the movement resist and defend gains which in other European capitalist countries had been swept away one after the other.
The class-oriented trade union movement was better prepared to face the crisis and fight against the various anti-scientific theories concerning the causes of the crisis.
The assault which is escalating today with the economic crisis is the continuation of the strategy of capital elaborated in the previous period, in the development phase. It is one more piece of evidence that capitalism has lost whatever dynamism it had concerning the development of the productive forces. It is fully opposed to the needs of ordinary families. The only capability which the system has is to distribute labour through the expansion of part-time work and the generalization of flexible labour relations, the liberalization of labour time through the abolition of overtime rates of pay and the establishment of compulsory overtime. The capitalists, their governments and imperialist unions, in order to ensure the greatest possible profits operate in opposition to the capabilities of the productive forces and the productivity of labour which have created possibilities not only for the end of unemployment but to allow shorter working hours and the total satisfaction of the continually expanding needs of the people.
The capitalist relations of production, i.e. the private ownership of the means of production, not only put a brake on the development of the productive forces, but, due to this massive discrepancy, reveal the historic boundaries of the capitalist mode of production, its parasitism and its deeply reactionary nature.
The labour and trade union movement in these conditions, without a strategy directed towards the abolition of the capitalist relations of production, is doomed to dissolution or full assimilation into the system, to mutate into a partner in capitalist management. Even defensive struggles cannot slow down or impede this barbaric assault, if they are not part of a strategy for the concentration of forces for the final confrontation, for the overthrow.
Capital’s contemporary strategic offensive which is escalating on every front in the conditions of crisis will continue after the crisis as well in order to stabilise the recovery which will be temporary and anaemic. What is apparent today and constitutes a relatively new element is that the capitalist system at a national, regional and international level has very limited capabilities in terms of managing the crisis in comparison to the past, due to the competition, the even greater anarchy in the conditions of the liberation of the movement of capital and the increase of the imperialist centres which fight for the redistribution of markets.
The labour movement will only achieve victories through a strategy of confrontation.
The KKE, within this framework, after studying the line of struggle of the labour and trade union movement at a national and European level and more generally, observed serious and deep deviations in the leadership of the class struggle. The main deviations were the detachment of economics from politics. And the abandonment of the tested theoretical principles of the class struggle. We saw the absolute elevation of the economic struggle as the determining factor for the improvement of the life of the working class.
For many years collective bargaining agreements were at the centre of the struggle of the trade unions, in general the conditions concerning the price of the sale of labour power, while some basic necessities for the reproduction of labour power (education, health) were mainly the responsibility of the state as the overall representative of the interests of capital.
A problem in the leadership of the class struggle was the denial of the basic principle of Marxism concerning the relative and absolute destitution of the working class as a permanent trend within the framework of the capitalist mode of production.
These deviations led the labour and trade union movement in several countries, and especially in the developed capitalist countries to subordinate the interests of the working class to the plans and interests of the bourgeois class in each country and to abandon internationalism. The labour and trade union movement found itself essentially disarmed in the face of the counterattack of capital and in dealing with the economic crisis.
The working class and its movement cannot give up on the economic struggle for the improvement of living and working conditions even for a second. The working class through these struggles learns, understands its strength, and grows morally, intellectually and politically. Its gains are a question of the correlation of forces. But this struggle has limits. Whatever gains made are continually challenged. If this position was of importance at the dawn of the emergence of the organized trade union movement, then today it is a condition for its existence.
In today’s conditions of the dominance of the monopolies not only does the level of exploitation increase through the overthrow of all the gains of the working class, but the conditions of its reproduction have also become an object of exploitation for accumulated capital, through the generalised privatizations of education, health-welfare etc.
The economic struggle today is not enough. It is a defensive struggle, very limited and it is not sufficient for the working class to fulfil its socially liberating role. Only in combination with political and theoretical struggle can it realize its historical role.
Whatever gains the working class achieves through its struggle, its position in the system does not change, not does its position in the relations of production alter in the slightest- these are relations of exploitation, dependence on capital, a relation of wage slavery, the exploitative labour conditions do not change. The law of capitalist accumulation excludes any reduction in the level of the exploitation of labour- the boss remains the boss.
Consequently the basic content of the class struggle is the emancipation of the working class from exploitation.
The correlation of forces today of course creates significant difficulties for the development of class struggle with this content and orientation. The linking of economics with politics is a condition for the overcoming of difficulties and so that the balance of forces at a national and international level is overturned.
We are of the assessment that in conditions of crisis, both the communist party and the labour and trade union movement must conduct a very complex struggle. On the one hand they must create foci and conditions for rallying based on the daily problems which the crisis is sharpening, so that wider working class masses are drawn into activity, especially younger age groups which are relatively immature and have been educated in the conditions of the retreat of the global revolutionary labour movement. At the same time all these specific fronts in the workplaces and industries must be united into a single movement which will struggle for the overturning of the balance of forces, the overthrow of the power of the monopolies- it must be directed towards the prospect of socialism.
Of course this is not an easy matter, as in conditions of crisis the radicalism which can develop comes face to face not only with state violence and ideological intimidation, but also the systematic dissemination of reformist and opportunist views which muddy consciousnesses, weaken, fragment and assimilate.
But there is no other option apart from the strategy of rupture and overthrow.
Form many years and due to the detachment of economics from politics, the trade unions and their struggle will continually slide into a blunting of the class struggle. Views and practices were strengthened concerning the neutrality of the unions and the ideological and political struggle of the communists within them retreated in favour of reformism. Thus the way was left open for the domination of social-democracy in the leadership of the trade union movement.
This phenomenon was almost total in the EU countries and the USA. Today the trade union movement in the USA the trade union movement is on the verge of dissolution, while in the EU it is weak in every basic intervention. This will not change unless there occur major upheavals and the formation of a strong class current of confrontation and rupture with the reformist trade unions subjugated to class collaboration.
The party promptly declared war on this line, and not without difficulties.
The unity of the working class is a fundamental strategic matter for the KKE in the labour and trade union movement. But the unity in its ranks has as a precondition its emancipation from the influence of the bourgeois class and the reformist illusions which are powerful in its ranks and were strengthened in the specific historical conditions of the development of capitalism.
In today’s conditions, when the issue of the replacement of the capitalist mode of production has been objectively posed, the unity of the working class will come about through the regroupment of the labour and trade union movement with as its axis of struggle the contemporary needs of the working class which are irreconcilable with the monopolies and imperialism.
The orientation of the trade union movement and the struggle which is being waged in its ranks is a central problem of the class struggle and is of fundamental importance for the interests and fate of the labour movement.
The contradiction capital-labour is implacable, irreconcilable and cannot be bridged. The view of the reformists and opportunists that waged labour and capital can peacefully coexist, that their contradictions can be regulated, is the death knell for the trade union movement.
The defeat and bankruptcy of these views and practices is a condition for the regroupment of the labour movement, for the defence of the interests of the working class, a struggle directly connected to the main task: the liberation of the working class from the torments of capitalist exploitation and slavery.
The struggle for the strengthening of the class-oriented current in the trade union movement naturally met the rabid attack of the trade union leaderships at a national, and also a European level with opportunists of every kind playing the leading role.
Voices were raised that the unity of the struggles was being undermined and split, that the economic struggle was being abandoned and other such claims.
The question which the KKE poses is the combination of the economic and political struggle and the need for one-sidedness and assessments of an absolute nature to be overcome. In conditions of the domination and expansion of monopoly capital, in conditions of economic crisis, in conditions where the need for another path of development has been posed objectively, you are surrendering the working class bound hand and foot to the enemy if you restrict the struggle to sectoral or enterprise-level demands in the name of unity. It means not only abandoning the economic struggle, but the struggle in general.
The problem which has been placed before the communist movement as a vehicle of working class unity is exactly the strengthening of this unity, based on its common problems, in the organized and coordinated struggle which overcomes narrow sectional interests and fragmented struggle against individual employers. It is a line which raises the economic demands to a more advanced basis, in confrontation with the monopolies, big capital and the political line which serves it. In any case, the economic and other problems are not exclusively the creation of any individual employer, but of the general political line of the unified strategy of capital and its imperialist unions.
Consequently the issue is not the abandonment of the economic struggle and the unity of the working class, but the direction and goal of the struggle: if it is to be restricted to a small increase in the salary or on the other hand aims to satisfy the contemporary needs of the workers and thus be directed on the path of class struggle. Either we offer prospects to the unity and struggle of the working class or we will become accomplices along with the reformists and opportunists in its immobilization within the limits which the exploiters and their system set.
Will we have unions which are controlled by the employers and the sold-out trade union leaderships or class-oriented trade unions which will fight against the unified political line of the monopolies and imperialism? There can be no reconciliation between these two lines. It would be an unacceptable and dangerous compromise and conciliation with opportunism. It is a denial of the class struggle. It is one thing to take the difficulties into account and the complex problems of the class struggle and another to subordinate oneself to these things, to retreat, to compromise.
Amongst these complex problems is the entrance of new and inexperienced forces into the ranks of the working class which require specialised policies, as well as the manoeuvres of the bourgeois class through governments of cooperation with reformist and opportunist forces. The expansion of its forces with new sections which come from petty bourgeois strata does not negate in any way the fact that the industrial proletariat is its basic component, as industrial capital-as was proved by Marx-is uniquely essential for the existence of capital as a whole.
The question of political power for the working class and its allies must enter the labour movement itself not in a sloganistic or voluntarist way, but in a planned way, taking into account the experience of the masses. It is true today that the working class, as large a section of it as possible, must be convinced from through its own experience. But for this political experience to be transformed into political maturity, correct revolutionary strategy and tactics are required, otherwise the experience of the masses will be formed not only on the basis of their problems, but by the ideological rubbish of bourgeois ideology and reformism, opportunism which will determine a compromised stance of assimilation.
3. The issue of alliances
The KKE, by studying the developments and especially the arrangement of the social forces, enriches its strategy with new elements.
The monopolies, their dominance and their prevalence to a greater or lesser extent in all the branches of production and their expansion into every field of social life from the birth of the child to old age, does not only increase the exploitation of the working class but of all the popular strata, the self-employed, even those who use a limited amount of waged labour, and of the small and medium sized farmers.
The alliance of the working class with these strata is a crucial issue for its interests in opposition to the yoke of the monopolies. The main line of the alliances is subordinated to this goal and serves the need to form a strong socio-political front to confront and overthrow the power of the monopolies.
This strategy has dynamism, exerts influence, brings results and opens a hopeful perspective. The joint platform of struggle operating in this direction which PAME has agreed with the All-Greek Anti-monopoly Rally of the professionals, craftsmen and tradesmen and the All- Greek Rally of Farmers, the radical women’s movement, the Federation of Greek Women, and the Students’ Struggle Front, is a good start. The social alliance will win over the working class and popular masses to the extent which it will be taken up by them and assist them to be freed from the illusions concerning the management of the system and parliamentarism.
It will be enriched and develop through the generalization of the experience from the activity of the popular masses, in a constant front against its class and political opponents.
The political line for the regroupment of the labour movement and its alliances does not only concern the defence of the working class and popular strata from the aggressiveness of the monopolies and imperialism, but is subordinated to the struggle for the change of the correlation of forces at a social and political level. It is a goal of a strategic alliance for overthrows at the level of the economy and power.
* Dimitris Gontikas is a member of the PB of the CC of the KKE