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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

"When the people decide to do so"


Image from KKE headquarters in Greece


On April 21 the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) released an English language translation of an interview that its General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas did with the newspaper Proto Thema. It touched on a number of domestic and international issues. Here we republish answers to four questions on what it means to be Left, nationalization and socialism.


What does the term “left” mean today?


The truth is that it is a term that has been abused by many people over time, both in Greece and internationally.


However, in the consciousness of a large part of our people, the left still means things like militancy, solidarity and affection for the toiling people. It means seeing the potential for progress created by human labour and intellect and matching it with the meeting of the contemporary needs of the people.


For example, it means opposition to employer exploitation, to all other forms of exploitation of man by man, to racism, to intolerance. It means always being on the side of the weak, “trembling with indignation at every injustice”, as Che Guevara said.


It means being on the side of all the peoples of the world and opposing those who massacre and oppress them for the interests of the few.


Could “statism”, i.e. the nationalization of all services and apparatuses, sound repulsive to large parts of the population?


The people detest the current state, and rightly so, because it is a state hostile to them. Because it threatens them with taxes and repossessions, it passes laws against them, it alternates bureaucracy and fast track processes as it suits it, it does not carry out flood protection works or anti-seismic protection works in schools, it does not clean up the forests so that wildfires are prevented, and so on...


We do not support this state. And we are not just putting forward “nationalization”, like the one that Mitsotakis [Right-wing Prime Minister of Greece] says he wants to carry out in the case of the Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Company of Athens (EYDAP), while water will continue being a commodity. We put forward socialization. That is to say that businesses, factories, ports, airports, shipyards, railways should be owned by the very workers who work them. Not by making the workers shareholders, as some others say, but by bringing all these under the control of another, genuinely people’s state that we must build from the beginning; a workers’ state and power.


What exactly does the KKE mean by the phrase “when the people decide to do so”? Some interpret this phrase as revolution with arms, others as a general uprising and destruction...


When the people decide to do so, they will find a way to express their will, as peoples have done throughout history. And then nothing will be able to stop them. For you know very well that the Establishment will do everything to prevent such radical changes. We are not afraid of the word revolution, and we declare ourselves admirers of both the revolutions that overthrew feudalism and brought capitalism to every country, such as the French and Greek revolutions, and of course the revolutions that brought socialism for the first time to many countries in the past century, such as the October Revolution in Russia or the Cuban Revolution and others.


This is certainly not about destruction, but about creating a much more just society and a better world.


Does the memory of socialism built in the 20th century still cast a heavy shadow particularly on the choices of the masses?


There is certainly some kind of shadow falling over them; however, I don’t know whether it is the shadow of memory or of absence. For sure, serious problems and mistakes occurred in the process of building socialism in the Soviet Union and other countries. Certainly, many people have memory of it in a distorted way because much ink has been spilt for anti-communist propaganda.


However, what mainly weighs them down is the thought that “socialism existed back then but it does not exist today, so it probably failed”. That beacon that allowed us to say to the people “look, they enjoy these rights over there, we can gain them here too, if we struggle in this direction” does not exist anymore.


That is why we have long started and still continue an enormous effort to study and identify the reasons for this outcome. All the evidence leads us to one basic conclusion: that ultimately it was not socialism that failed, but the attempt to solve the problems of socialism with capitalist formulas.


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