The Communist Party of Greece (Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas), better known by its acronym, ΚΚΕ (usually pronounced "koo-koo-eh" or "kappa-kappa-epsilon"), is the communist party of Greece and the oldest party in the Greek political scene.
At the Second Congress of the SEKE in April 1920, the party decided to affiliate to the Third International. In addition, it extended its name to the Socialist Labour Party of Greece-Communist (SEKE-K). A new central committee was elected, which included Nikos and Panaghis Dimitratos, Yannis Kordatos, G. Doumas and M. Sideris.
At the Third Extraordinary Congress of the SEKE-K in November 1924, the party was renamed the Communist Party of Greece and adopted the principles of Marxism-Leninism. Pandelis Pouliopoulos was elected as general-secretary. Ever since, the party has functioned on the basis of democratic centralism. A series of laws aimed explicitly at punishing communist thoughts and beliefs (the 1924 Katochyrotikon, the 1929 Idionymon, etc.). The party was banned in 1936 by the Ioannis Metaxas' 4th of August Regime. Many of its members were imprisoned or exiled in isolated islands.
KKE aligned with Comintern that formed right after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917.
KKE strongly opposed Greece's involvement in the Greco–Turkish War of 1919–1922, which it considered an imperialistic scheme to control of the market of Asia Minor given the new political situation in the collapsing Ottoman Empire. KKE members propagated this position both in the front, which provoked accusations for treason by the Greek government, as well as in the mainland. KKE collaborated with the Soviet ambassador to persuade Venizelos's administration to withdraw its troops from Asia Minor, and to persuade the Soviet Union to exert political pressure on Kemal Ataturk's movement to allow autonomy for Greek cities in Asia Minor.
KKE collaborated with other newly founded Communist Parties to oppose the rise of the Fascist movement in Europe. In 1932, Commitern decreed to create Antifascist Fronts internationally. KKE responded by creating the People's Front, which was the largest marxist antifascist organization in Greece prior to the Metaxas dictatorship.
KKE and other leftist political forces fostered the creation of labor unions in all sectors, including the General Greek Workers Confederation (ΓΣΕΕ). This was met by opposition from the Mid-War governments; in 1928, George Papandreou as minister of Education, passed legislation against organized communist teachers, known as Idionymo. Such legislation was often used to prosecute KKE members and other leftist activists.
KKE members volunteered to fight on the side of the socialist government of Spain during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939; about 440 Greeks joined the ranks of the International Brigade, many of whom were high-ranking KKE members.
At its third party congress in 1924, the KKE announced its policy to promote the creation of two new independent states in the northern Greek regions of Macedonia and Thrace. This party position was dictated by the general policy of the Communist Parties for self-determination of the various nationalities that were under the same state and it had its roots on the successful example of the newly founded Soviet Union. KKE's declared policy on this Congress was the foundation of a People's Republic State that all the nationalities will be self determined and independent. At the same time gave room to a hard attack from the political status quo against the Communist Party as a Party that is aiming to the negation of the Greek State, an attack that is held up-to-day.What is today known, is that the ruling parties where at the same time trying to cut a deal with Turkey and Bulgaria for parts of the Northern Greece (Macednia and Thace) with return some of the islands of the Aegean and parts of Macedonia territory within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This policy was reiterated several times throughout the pre-war era.
In 1934, the KKE expressed its intent to "fight for the national self-determination, and ultimately secession, of the repressed Macedonians and Thracians, and to collaborate for this goal with the Bulgarian organizations of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and the Thracian Revolutionary Organisationunder a People's Republic were all Nations will found their self determinations and will build the common state of the workers..."..
Main front of this attack was the partial presentation of party's position.As a result to this KKE was presented by the main political status a party who's policy was , "the detachment of large areas of northern Greece," and that "this was dictated by Comintern and hurt the popularity of Communism at the time". Nikos Zachariadis officially renounced KKE's policy of secession in 1945.. The small organized forces of KKE by that time, although with strong political roots mainly in big cities, could not stop this propaganda of the ruling parties during the Mid-War Era.
During the 5th congress of the central committee of KKE held in 1949 was quite clear about this issue "...The Greek and the Macedonian people will win on this struggle only united..." ; . This paragraph gave the opportunity in the government of Athens together with the British government to unleash a propaganda assault against KKE and DSE blaming them for plans of secession of northern Greece. Yet, at the same time, the British were closely collaborating with Tito's Yugoslavian government for putting more pressure on DSE rear front. Yugoslavian army closed the borders and Slavomacedonian Nationalists formed militia units and attacked the positions of DSE in Vitsi mountain. Proof of the close cooperation between the Yugoslavian government under Tito and the British government under Churchil is the fact that Tito named the Macedonian region inside the Yugoslavian state " Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia" and the government of Athens accepted it with minor opposition. In order KKE to clear up its position on the "Macedonian" subject called the 6th Congress of its Central Committee a few months later and clearly stated that KKE is fighting for a free Greece and for a common future for both people the Greek and the Slavomacedonian under the same state. Another historical issue that led KKE on this position in 1949 is that big numbers of the population leaving in the border villages with Yugoslavia that had a Slavic origin were fighting in the ranks of DSE. Some accounts raise this number on 40%,, but official DSE documents based on DSE fighters registries don't go above a 10-12%. It is nevertheless a fact that the number of Slavic speakers in the DSE increased considerably after the merger of it with the National Liberation Front in 1946, but this people were previously fighting mainly in the ranks of ELAS and EAM.
A strong historical fact is that when Yugoslavian government in 1948 tried to exploit the Slavic speakers in the ranks of KKE and DSE, the Central Committee issued a direct order of prosecution of "the agents of Tito inside the ranks of the party and of DSE" whenever they were revealed.
The issue was ended by Central Committee in 1954 with the withdrawn of the position of self-determination of minorities in the North, as there was no real ground on insisting on this policy. In 1988, the General Secretary of KKE, Charilaos Florakis, closed once and for all this subject in his speech in the Greek Parliament, presenting KKE's political position on the matter.
By 1940, the Security police had proved extremely successful in dismantling the KKE organisation; not only had it imprisoned the leadership, but it created a fake series of Rizospastis, the Central Committee newspaper. This generated confusion among the remaining scattered underground members. Nevertheless, a small group of old party officials formed the "Old Central Committee". Two of them were elected by the 6th Conference.
The position adopted by the "Old Central Committee" against the war with Italy and Germany, gave room to divergent interpretation. In his memoirs for the Greek Civil war, C.M. Woodhouse (British allied liaison with Greek resistance groups during WWII) wrote "The 'Old Central Committee' interpreted a directive issued by Comintern as indicating collaboration with the German and Italian dictatorships, given the Hitler-Stalin alliance.. On the other hand, Woodhouse argues, Siantos, who had escaped from prison, and Zachariadis, who was incarcerated, took the opposite view that KKE must support Metaxas in his position against Mussolini. The archives of KKE also address the confusion between different KKE cadres; the "Old Committee" interpreted the politics of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as part of the "imperialistic game between the Axis forces and the British." KKE considered that the Metaxas regime was a "pawn of British imperialism in the region," and, therefore, the "Old Committee" viewed any war between the Axis forces and the British as an "...imperialistic war that the people of any of the countries involved should not participate in...". According to KKE's account, this position had been criticized by Comintern since 1939 (a few months after the non-attack treaty between the USSR and Germany), which additionally had instructed KKE to fight against Italy in an eventual invasion of Greece. Nikolaos Zachariadis, KKE general secretary, wrote from prison on 2 November 1940: "''Today the Greek people are waging a war of national liberation against Mussolini's fascism. In this war we must follow the Metaxas government and turn every city, every village and every house of Greece into a stronghold of the National Liberation Fight ... On this war conducted by Metaxas government all of us should give all our forces without reservation. The working people's and the crowning achievement for today's fight should be and shall be a new Greece based on work, freedom, and liberated from any foreign imperialist dependence, with a truly pan-popular culture.
Several party members, including Nikos Ploumpidis of the "Old Central Committee" denounced this letter as a forgery of the Metaxas regime. Zachariadis was even accused of releasing it to win the favour of K. Maniadakis, the Minister for Public Order in order to be released from prison. According to some sources, when drafting this letter, Zachariadis was reportedly unaware of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and was castigated by the Comintern for an anti-Soviet stance.
According to KKE's official historiography, the "Old Central Committee" had denounced for its stance on the war issue; today KKE claims that the majority of the party membership had not followed the decision. On 16 November 1940, according to non-communist sources, Zachariadis repudiated the line of his first letter in a second letter where he accused the Greek Army of waging a "fascist" and "imperialistic war" and appealed to the USSR for peaceful intervention, thus aligning his position with the "Old Central Committee".
On 7 December 1940, the "Old Central Committee" issued a manifesto addressed "to all the workers and public servants, to all soldiers, sailors and airmen, to patriot officers, to the mothers, fathers, wives and children of the fighters and the workers of all neighboring countries", in which it describes the war as a game of the imperialist powers, headed by the British. According to KKE, the "Old Central Committee" based this opinion on the belief that Mussolini's Italy would not dare to attack a country that had a cooperation agreement with Soviet Union. It was using the example of Serbia, which by remaining neutral the USSR kept it from being attacked by the Germany. The main political line of this manifesto was the call to the soldiers on the front not to go beyond Greek borders, but after securing them to try seek a peace agreement with the enemy and then to the struggle against the regime in order to establish a new broad National Salvation Front. This manifesto was criticized by the majority of the members and officials, in exile, in the prisons and free.
According to references opposing the Communist Party of Greece, Zachariadis issued a third letter, on 17 January 1941, in which he explained the motives for his first letter and wrote: "Metaxas remains the principal enemy of the people and the country. His overthrowing is in the most immediate and vital interest of our people ... the peoples and soldiers of Greece and Italy are not enemies but brothers, and their solidarity will stop the war waged by capitalist exploiters." On 22 June 1941, the KKE ordered its militants to organize "the struggle to defend the Soviet Union and the overthrow of the foreign fascist yoke".
On April 21st the German invasion was launched, and Athens was occupied on 27 April, following an unconditional surrender of the Greek forces by General Georgios Tsolakoglou, who was later appointed Prime Minister by the Nazis.
C.M Woodhouse, a British Intelligence officer, head of the British military delegation stationed by the Allies in Greece during WWII, wrote that on 18 March, when the Germans were moving unopposed into Bulgaria, KKE advised Greeks to follow the example of "the heroic fraternal people of Bulgaria" Moreover, according to George Papandreou, there were hints of a possible collaboration between KKE and the Germans in forming a government under occupation. This has not been historically proven since to date no evidence of such collaboration has been found. To the contrary, the allied command - to which ELAS was referring after the Cazzerta Pack- ordered the Greek resistance groups not to attack the retreating Nazi forces from Greece. ELAS never obeyed this order..
In any case, confusion remained among many Greek communists as to what the Moscow-sanctioned position was. In his memoirs, KKE leader Ioannis Ioannidis wrote about a regional communist cadre who proclaimed the following as Greece was being bombed by the axis: "The Germans will not bomb us. The mustached-one (Stalin) will not let them, he said that they are communists there (in Germany)"
According to KKE historiography, the Macedonian Bureau of KKE formed the first armed resistance group in Greece following the surrender.
A large number of KKE members were already in prison before the German invasion.The occupation government handed them over to the Nazis although all of them - following the party's line- requested to be drafted and fight in the front. There were a few occasions that police officers released the communist prisoners. The majority of the Communists were used as human shield to prevent ELAS attacks against occupation forces or they were executed as retaliation to those attacks -most known example being the 200 executed communists in Kesariani Shooting Range on the 1st of May 1944. In 1941, several KKE members managed to escape prison.
According to Woodhouse "...communist prisoners were released by the German occupation forces from the jail on Akronafplia, at the request of the Bulgarian embassy in Athens". . Unfortunately for the writers, this report was never verified by any other document or report giving room to question the overall validity of Woodhouse's facts.
Although KKE was suffering from lack of central political leadership, its members, in groups per prison or per town were continue struggling according to their believes, trying to maintain constant connection with each other as much as possible.As an example that helps understanding KKE's members organization and determination is this of the twenty communists held as political prisoners in Heraklion, Crete. They demanded to be released to fight against the invading Germans. The collapsing Mataxas regime refused to release them, and they eventually escaped after their jail was bombarded, and joined with the Greek Army forces guarding the Heraklion harbor. After the fall of Crete, General Mandakas, the commanding chief of the Greek Army forces, joined the forces with ELAS and became one of its high ranking officers, operating in the resistance group's command center of Southern Greece and contacted the Battle of Athens against the British invasion on December 1944 as the military leader of ELAS's 1st Army Corp.
Nikos Zachariadis was imprisoned in the Dachau Concentration Camp; he was released in 1945 and returned to Greece as the elected general secretary of the KKE. During his imprisonment Andreas Tsipas and Georgios Siantos served as party general secretaries.
The 6th Meeting of KKE Central Committee was held in Athens from 1–3 July 1941, which decided on the basis of an armed liberation struggle against the invaders. At the same time, the "Old Central Committee" submitted to the authority of the new Central Committee.
On 27 September 1941, after contacts between the KKE and all the remaining political forces, Greek communists together with five other Centrist and Leftist parties formed the National Liberation Front (EAM), in Kallithea, Athens, and began forming partisan militia units. The first united resistance organization was founded in the regions of Macedonia and Thrace on 15 May 1941. In Thessaloniki, the Macedonian Bureau of the KKE established, along with the Socialist Party, the Agrarian Party, the Democratic Union and Colonel Dimitrios Psarros, the "Eleftheria" (Liberty) organization. At the end of June 1941, the Macedonian Bureau of KKE organised the first two partisan units: the first was based in Kilkis and was named "Athanasios Diakos", the second was based in Nigrita and was named "Odysseas Androutsos". Those small partisan units blew up bridges, attacked police stations and finally organized into larger combat units comprising of more than 300 men each. In several other places and in major cities, small armed groups of KKE members as well as non-communists began to emerge, protecting people from looters, the Germans or collaborators.
On 16 February 1942, the National People's Liberation Army (ELAS) was founded in a small kiosk in Fthiotida, and by 1943 consisted of 150,000 members, both men and women, with 30,000 as reserve units in major cities. The KKE played a prominent role in the organisation. By the end of the war, 800,000 Greek citizens, including workers but mostly peasants, had joined the ranks of the KKE. Despite its size, the KKE maintained the alliances in the EAM and its main stated aim was to form a unity government with all the parties that wanted to see Greece liberated from all powers.
This Civil War involved two sides. On the one side was the internationally recognised Greek Government, led by Konstantinos Tsaldaris and, later, Themistoklis Sophoulis, which was elected in the 1946 elections which the KKE boycotted. On the other was the Democratic Army of Greece, of which the KKE was the only major political force, formally declared in December 1946.
According to EAM figures, in the few months after the Treaty of Varkiza, the anti-communist violence on the Greek mainland had resulted in the imprisonment or exile of 100,000 ELAS partisans and EAM members, the deaths of 3,000 EAM officials and members, the rapes of between 200 and 500 women, the burning of houses, etc.
According to the official KKE history, in its efforts to uphold the Treaty of Varkiza but also in its desire to protect its supporters from attacks by right-wing militias, the KKE leadership was caught in a contradiction that gave time to government, which enjoyed British support, to reorganize the state based on forces that had collaborated with the German occupation (state officials, high-ranking military and police officers, and militia units). The KKE Central Committee issued a directive to all party forces not to engage in any armed conflict with these groups but to try to prevent attacks by other means. This caused confusion among the majority of its supporters, and served to weaken the party organisation across the country.
Large groups had returned to their partisan hideouts in the mountains and gradually formed smaller partisan units. As most of the ELAS armoury had been surrendered under the terms of the Varkiza treaty, these units armed themselves with weapons seized from attacks on militia units armed, which had been by the police, as well as on police stations. Forming a critical mass by mid 1946, these units forced the KKE leadership to change its "neutral" position and, in summer 1946, to study a plan of forming a partisan army with the officers and fighters that were still free. On 26 October 1946, KKE militia units attacked the police station in Litochoro, armed their forces and founded the Central Greece Command of the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE). After this successful operation, the remaining, scattered groups followed the party line and reorganized the pre-Varkiza Treaty ELAS formations all over the country. The KKE's political influence and organization structure helped form units even in the Aegean Islands of as Mytilene, Chios, Ikaria, Samos, and Crete. In 1947, the KKE and its allies that participated in the Civil War formed the Provisional Democratic Government. Apart from issues regarding the war effort, the Provisional Government had to deal with issues regarding the "People's Law" in the territories controlled by the DSE. These had to do with the judicial, financial, and political systems, etc. As the Provisional Government was based on political forces which aimed to establish a social state, its decisions were driven by this political agenda. The self-determination of national minorities living in Greece was one of them. The Provisional Government and the KKE still, at this state, intended to establish a People's Republic of Greece in which all nationalities would work together in a Socialist state. An article written by Nikos Zachariadis expressed the KKE's strategy after the envisioned victory of the Democratic Army of Greece regarding what was then known as the "Macedonian Issue": "The Macedonian people will acquire an independent, united state with a coequal position within the family of free peoples’ republics within the Balkans, within the family of Peoples’ Republics to which the Greek people will belong. The Macedonian people of Aegean Macedonia is today fighting for this independent united state with a coequal position and is helping the DSE with all its soul ...". The policy of self-determination for Macedonia within a People's Republic was reiterated during the 5th KKE Central Committee meeting held in January 1949, which declared that the Macedonian people participating in the liberation struggle would find their full national re-establishment as they want giving their blood for this acquisition ... Macedonian Communists should pay great attentions to foreign chauvinist and counteractive elements that want to break the unity between the Greek and Macedonian (Slavomacedonian) people. This will only serve the monarcho-fascists and British imperialism ...”
The fatal blow to the KKE and the DSE, was political, not military. In June of that year, as a result of the Tito-Stalin split, the Soviet Union and its satellites broke off relations with Yugoslavia, depriving the Yugoslavian support in land and ammunition and at the same time creating political problems in its ranks with agents working against trying to bring confusion related with the "Macedonian Issue". At the same time, the National Army found a talented commander in General Alexander Papagos. In August 1949, Papagos launched a major counter-offensive against DSE forces in northern Greece, code-named "Operation Torch". The plan was the National Army to gain control of the border line with Albania so as to surround and defeat DSE forces (8,500 fighters). The DSE suffered heavy losses from the operation, but managed to retreat its units within Albania. Charilaos Florakis, whose nom-de-guerre was Kapetan Yiotis, was a DSE-appointed Brigadier General during this battle. The DSE bestowed military titles on to its leading partisan leaders. Moreover, the title of Kapetan was frequently adopted by DSE Guerrillas. According to non-communist accounts, the DSE was an irregular partisan army employing guerrilla tactics. According to KKE historiography, the DSE was organized as a regular army adopting partisan tactics, given the nature of the war. DSE's organization mirrored that of KKE. Florakis was ordered by DSE High Command to re-enter with his battalion to the Grammos mountain and try to establish connection with all the forces of DSE that remained within Greece. The battalion indeed reached small DSE units south of Grammos up to Evritania, and retreated thereafter. As the retreat operation was deemed successful by KKE, and Florakis enhanced his position as a key-official of KKE.
On 28th of August 1949 the Civil War in Greece ended with the DSE forces defeated military and politically and KKE entering a new phase in its history.
The country entered the post Civil War era, with the Communist Party of Greece banned and the consequences of the civil war haunting the Greek political setting ever since. In 1989, with a law of the 3-months government between Coalition of Left (That KKE participated) and the right-wing party of New Democracy, the political consequences of the Civil War were finally lifted: DSE was recognized as an equal Greek army to the National Army, and DSE fighters were named "DSE fighters" instead of "Communist Gangfighters"(kommunistosimorites). The war was named "The Civil War of Greece" instead of "The War against the gangs and thieves" that was the official state name for that era.
Former King Constantine claims that in 1964 he proposed to George Papandreou (senior) that the KKE be legalized. According to the former monarch, Papandreou refused to comply so as not to lose his party's left-wing supporters. This allegation cannot be verified, as it was expressed after Papandreou's death. Moreover, Constantine's public statements regarding communism during the 1960s renders the veracity of this allegation questionable.
In 1968 a crisis escalated between the KKE's two main factions. The crisis was triggered by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed the Prague Spring. The brutality of the event led many Greek communists to break with KKE that was loyal to the Socialist Republic's policy and to follow the nascent Eurocommunist line, which favored a more pluralistic approach to socialism. A relatively large group split from the KKE, forming what became known as the Communist Party of Greece (Interior). The spin-off party forged bonds with Eurocommunist parties such as the Italian Communist Party. Its supporters referred to KKE as the KKE (Exterior) ("ΚΚΕ εξωτερικού"), inferring that the KKE's policies were dictated by the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Despite the difficulties derived from the split, KKE continued its opposition against the Greek Junta throughout the next 6 years. Its political line for escalating political fighting against the regime was expressed via small or big worker strikes and small topic violent outbursts all over the country. Its power was rising inside the Universities were the newly founded KNE was working underground. All this time KKE underground forces were working closely with other political groups of the center or left, such as PAM, within Greece and abroad. In many European Capitals anti-Junta committees were founded to support the struggle in Greece.
In 1988 KKE and Greek Left(Greek:EAP, former KKE Interior), along with other left and center parties and organisations, formed the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos). In the June 1989 elections Synaspismos gained 13.1 per cent of votes and joined a coalition with New Democracy to form a short-lived government amidst a political spectrum shaken by accusations of economic scandals against the previous administration of Andreas Papandreou's Panhellenic Socialist Movement. On November of the same year Synaspismos participated in the "Universal Government" with New Democracy and Panhellenic Socialist Movement which appointed Xenophon Zolotas as Prime Minister for 3 months. In 1991, KKE withdrew from Synaspismos. A portion of its members, however, left from the party and remained in Synaspismos, which evolved into a separate left-wing party.
In 1956, after the 20th Conference of Communist Party of USSR, a fraction created the Group of Marxist-Leninists of Greece (OMLE),
In 1988 KKE and Greek Left (former KKE Interior), along with other left parties and organisations, formed the Coalition of the Left and Progress.
At the same year the vast majority of members and officials from Communist Youth of Greece (KNE), the KKE's youth wing, split to form the New Left Current (NAR), taking the majority of its youth in major cities, especially in Thessaloniki.
In the early 2000s, a small group of major party officials, such as Mitsos Kostopoulos, left the party and formed the Movement for the United in Action Left (KEDA), which in the 2007 legislative election participated in the Coalition of the Radical Left.
KKE's youth organization is the Communist Youth of Greece, KNE, which closely supports KKE's goals and strategic targets.
It publishes the daily newspaper Rizospastis. It also publishes the political and theoretical journal Komounistiki Epitheorisi (Communist Review) every two months and a journal with educational issues, Themata Paideias.
|Results since 1926|
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|1936 (mid)||<10,000 (est.)|
|1941||200 (est.) free + 2,000 in prison|