The Greek Left and the Ukrainian conflict

By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos 

An avalanche of parallel crises is now hitting all of Europe. Greece is no exception, in particular as the country faces terrible problems, after many years of destruction of its society and economy, as a result of draconian austerity policies and the “bail out” programs imposed to it by Germany, the EU, the IMF, with the cooperation of the corrupted Greek oligarchy and traditional political system. The Greek state exists mainly in name, as the economic sovereignty in Greece has been transferred to the EU and the “Creditors”, its foreign and defense policy has been hijacked by the US, NATO and Israel. 

Only God knows where those crises may lead Europer. Their causes are multiple,  national, European and global. But, behind all of them, from the climate change to the energy crisis and to the price of bread and vegetables, hangs the heavy shadow of the conflict in Ukraine and of the sui generis (hopefully not full) war NATO has launched against Russia. 

How the parties of the Greek and European Left are positioning themselves in this situation? In the context of a survey of their attitude, we asked them to clarify themselves their position. We begin today the publication of their answers to our questions, with an interview of the MEP from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Lefteris Nikolaou-Alavanos. We will publish the answers to our questions of the other two parties of the Greek Left, represented in the Greek Parliament, SYRIZA and MeRA25, as soon as we have them. 

Q: I would like you to comment on the political atmosphere prevailing in the West towards Russia, the “Russophobia”, as the Italian journalist Giulietto Chiesa called it. We are witnessing – for the first time in Europe after the Second World War – persecutions against individuals solely because of their ethnic origin and nationality, a European Minister calling for the assassination of Putin and the overthrow of the Russian regime, attempts to impose an atmosphere of neo-McCarthyism throughout the continent. How serious a threat do you think all that represents for the democratic rights in the West and the world peace?

A: Every imperialist intervention and war, such as the one that has been going on for 7 months in Ukraine, is “embellished” with ideological narratives aimed at convincing the peoples of the necessity of their countries’ involvement in these wars. We have historically experienced in many countries the “great ideas”, “wars against terrorism”, “peace missions”, “color revolutions” etc. The conflict between the US-NATO-EU on one and the evolving Eurasian bloc Russia-China on the other hand, could not be an exception. Conflict, which is taking place in many areas, and which has turned the people of Ukraine into a “punching bag”.

The KKE has rejected and denounced as unacceptable and dangerous the decision of the EU and the governments of its countries to ban the Russian media or the promotion of Russian culture, as well as any discrimination on the basis of national origin, in an attempt to “isolate” the Russians and Russia. We are also opposed to the corresponding measures taken by the Russian authorities, as well as the attempt at demonizing Ukrainians and Ukraine, which goes even as far as denying this nation or country’s right to exist. In addition, we oppose anti-communist measures and propaganda, the attack against the leader of the October Revolution, V. Lenin, which is being carried out by both the reactionary Ukrainian political leadership and the current political leadership of Russia.

This development is a blow to the democratic rights of workers both in the countries of the West and in Russia and in the other countries involved in the imperialist conflict, first of all because it limits greatly the right to information. In addition, it seeks to divide workers, increase nationalistic hysteria and, among other things, turns culture into a tool of imperialist wars.

The KKE fights against nationalism, racism, and promotes the common struggle of workers, regardless of their national origin, against exploiters, monopolies, capitalism, for a society without exploitation and imperialist wars, the society of socialism – communism.

Q: You have repeatedly called for the lifting of sanctions against Russia. Why are you calling for this?

A: For many years our people and other peoples have paid for both the capitalist development and the capitalist crisis. Now, they are also being burdened with their ‘twin brother’, imperialist war. And it’s not only the exorbitant war expenditures to armor NATO’s “security system” which create huge new government deficits and debts, for which the people will pay every penny, but there are also the sanctions.

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On the one hand, the sanctions are also part of the imperialist war, which the peoples of the powers involved in the conflict are forced to pay for. On the other hand, by establishing a policy of sanctions, the EU promotes its own interests, the strategy of the “green and digital transition”, which is been elaborated for the benefit of its monopolies.

For example, the workers in our country, who in any case pay dearly for energy in the name of the “discounts” which were given to the shipowners, in the name of the “competitiveness of the economy”, will pay more because of delignitization, in the name of the “green transition”, which has nothing to do with protecting the environment, but with increasing the profitability of capitalists. Now, they will pay far more for energy because of the war. This is well-known story as small farmers have already paid the price for the sanctions of 2014. In addition to the more expensive fuel, agricultural supplies, and raw materials, which they were faced with before the war, the damage will be even greater if one calculates that the embargo imposed on Russia by the EU costs them about 160 million every year.

The KKE is opposed to the sanctions against Russia, calls for their lifting and demands from the government not to comply with them, because they increase the economic burden on the popular strata. A burden that cannot be eased by the “band-aid” measures taken by the government and the EU.

Q: In your opinion, what should be the position of the Greek and European left on the issue of the war in Ukraine, but also on the sui generis war of NATO against Russia (at least)? Recently, two figures of the Cypriot left, the former General Secretary of AKEL Andros Kyprianou and the President of the Socialist Party EDEK Marinos Sizopoulos, spoke in favor of an immediate and simultaneous ceasefire, beginning of negotiations, lifting of sanctions and stopping the delivery of armaments to Ukraine.  Do you agree with these aims? Could they become the basis for a united action of the anti-war forces of the left in Europe and beyond it, regardless of their differences on other issues? Do you intend to take any initiative in this direction?

A: The KKE along with 41 other Communist and Workers’ Parties from all over the world has taken a position on the causes and nature of the war being waged in Ukraine. We have seen in the recent past how peace agreements, such as those in Minsk, which involved a lot of “diplomatic ambiguity”, collapsed. We have seen how international organizations, such as the OSCE, despite their various declarations about “security” in Europe, could not prevent a new war, the death of thousands of people, the displacement of millions of others. We have seen the “NATO-Russia Councils” and the corresponding Russian “channels” with the EU fail.

Our assessment is that the war is being waged for specific economic and political interests of the bourgeois classes and lead to the bloodshed of the peoples. War arises from the capitalist mode of production and is “the continuation of politics by other, violent, means”. It is conducted for raw materials, transportation routes, geopolitical supports, labor forces, market shares. In conclusion, the mass, popular condemnation of the war must be linked to the solution that must be given through the abolition of the causes which provoke war. Today, anti-war action is becoming increasingly linked to the struggle against capitalism.

The KKE highlights these aspects to the workers of Greece and at the same time leads mass mobilizations against our country’s participation in the war. Against the sending of military forces, weapons, and ammunition for the plans of NATO, of which Greece is a member. Against the existence and utilization of military installations by the USA and NATO in Souda, Alexandroupoli, Stefanovikio, Larissa, etc. Against the installation of US nuclear weapons at Araxos or elsewhere. Against the “strategic alliance” with the USA. For the disengagement of our country not only from the aggressive plans of NATO and the EU, but also from these imperialist associations themselves, something that, in our opinion, can be guaranteed by workers’ power in Greece.

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Communists are being arrested by the police and dragged to the civil courts for their vanguard action against NATO, against the ND government and the other political forces, such as the “leftist” SYRIZA, which support the imperialist war. Of course, the anti-imperialist action of the KKE both in Greece and internationally will continue, through coordination with other CPs, as demonstrated by our Party’s participation in anti-NATO events in Turkey, or in the anti-NATO demonstration in Madrid at the NATO summit or the recent joint meeting in Athens of the General Secretaries of 4 Communist Parties, the KKE, the CC of Turkey, the CC of Workers of Spain and the CC of Mexico and their related statement.

Q: You have supported the view that in Ukraine we have an “intra-imperialist” conflict, a view that practically equates NATO with Russia. But for 30 years, it is not Russia that has pursued an aggressive policy towards the West, but rather NATO. Given that Russia has suffered terrible invasions from the East, through Ukraine and Belarus, is it not natural for Moscow to fear and react to NATO expansion? Why is this imperialism?

A: Your question reverses the argument we have been hearing from the main political forces of Greece for the past 7 months, who have been speculating: “It is Russia that destroyed the borders of Ukraine, that annexes Ukrainian territories, is the aggressor and Ukraine is the defender. We must stand by the side of the one who defends himself, show solidarity” or the other argument: “Russia is a revisionist force, as is Erdogan’s Turkey. Our enemy is revisionism. If it dominates, we will also face it in the Aegean and in Cyprus from Turkey. How will we then ask for support from our allies if we do not support Ukraine now?”

But the truth is that every bourgeois class is aggressive, first of all at the expense of the workers of its country, whom it oppresses and exploits, and then, on the basis of its political-military power, at the expense of the peoples of other countries as well. There is no “peaceful” bourgeoisie. The “wolf” cannot become a “sheep”. International and bilateral agreements are formed on the basis of the power of each bourgeoisie, and they are revised in a peaceful or warlike manner when they consider it to be in their interest.

As far as imperialism is concerned, it is not correct to understand it simply as an “aggressive” policy, but as the stage in which capitalism is today, that is, as monopoly capitalism. Russia is a country with very strong monopolies: it is 5th in billionaires in the world, on the one hand it is 11th in nominal share of the world GDP and 6th in share in real world GDP, as well as in industrial production in the world. It has enormous energy power and utilizes it in the context of the capitalist confrontation. It has the capability to advance its foreign policy by exercising its right of veto in the UN Security Council.

The KKE does not equate the imperialist forces. After all, each of them has its own place in the fierce competitions that are being waged. The USA today is the strongest imperialist power on the planet, but this primacy in the world capitalist system is being challenged by China, the strongest economic power of modern capitalism, which is also rapidly developing its military power and building alliances with capitalist Russia, the 2nd military power in the world and the only capitalist country that can today threaten with nuclear destruction the strongest imperialist power on the planet, the USA. So, we are talking about a conflict of forces of the modern imperialist world, a conflict of “bandits” in which the people should not choose a side. The right side of History lies in the people’s struggle against monopolies, against capitalism, for the abolition of the exploitation of man by man. 

Q: Ukrainians certainly have, like all the peoples of the world, the right to self-determination. But shouldn’t this be exercised by leaderships that represent the people somewhat representatively and do not threaten the security of other peoples? If the Ukrainians have the right to self-determination, why the Russians who are a compact majority of the population in Crimea and Donbas, two historically Russian regions, do not have it?

A: Indeed, who can find “scales” to weigh the representativeness of bourgeois regimes? For example, the current reactionary regime in Ukraine resulted from the coup overthrow of the Yanukovich government in 2014, while the current regime in Russia resulted from Yeltsin’s coup in 1993, when tanks bombarded the Russian parliament. Both arose from the equivalent dissolution by coup of the USSR, the overthrow of socialism, against the will of the majority of the peoples of the USSR, as manifested in the referendum on the preservation or dissolution of USSR of March 1991. As a result, today, two peoples who lived and worked together for 70 years, during the years of socialism, today, under the leadership of the bourgeois classes, are killing each other.

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Regarding the question of self-determination, we must note that today this has become highly ‘flexible’ in use for the bourgeois governments. It is even used to justify the inclusion of countries, such as North Macedonia or Ukraine into the imperialist organizations of NATO and the EU.

Communists must approach this specific issue, as the leader of the October Revolution, Lenin, faced it 100 years ago, who noted, among other things, that: “The various demands of democracy, together with self-determination, are not something absolute, but a “part” of the pan-democratic (today: pan-socialist) “global” movement”[1]. In other words, Lenin was calling for us to see self-determination within a dialectical unity with the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie.

The KKE views the issue accordingly today: It defends the rights of national and religious minorities and opposes the nationalisms that are developing from various sides, it defends the borders, the territorial integrity of countries, the agreements that define them, it promotes the joint struggle of the workers against the common adversary: capitalism, the bourgeois classes and their interests.

The territories that you describe as “historically Russian regions” after the dissolution of the unitary state, the USSR, were included in the bourgeois state of Ukraine, which was not disputed then or later by the Russian leadership, nor was a referendum even called for in those territories, regarding which state their population wants to join.

You know, of course, that the Greek and Cypriot people have bitter past and contemporary experience of the pretexts that have been used over time by the Turkish bourgeoisie and its political representatives for the invasion and occupation of 40% of Cyprus, the dispute of Greece’s sovereignty over its islands, of the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus, the exploitation “games” with dangerous plans for the Muslim minority of Western Thrace.

Therefore, regardless of the pretexts that the bourgeois classes may use, the workers have no interest in the plans of the capitalists, in border changes, which are carried out through bloodshed, as now in Ukraine; they increase nationalist hate and stand as an obstacle to the vital joint action of the peoples. Let us put into practice the slogan “Proletarians, of all countries, unite!”, to put an end to capitalist barbarity.

[1] B. I. Lenin: “The Discussion on Self-determination Summed Up.” Collected Works, v. 30, p. 39 (in Greek)

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