The Communist Party of Greece (Greek: Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, Kommunistiko Komma Elladas), better known by its acronym ΚΚΕ (usually pronounced "koo-koo-eh") , is the communist party in Greece.
The party was founded on 4 November 1918 as the Socialist Labour Party of Greece (Acronym: SEKE, Greek: Σοσιαλιστικό Εργατικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, Sosialistiko Ergatiko Komma Elladas) by Avraam Benaroya, a Greek Jewish teacher and leading labor movement leader in Thessaloniki. The party was run by a five-member central committee which included N. Dimitratos, D. Ligdopoulos, M. Sideris, Arvanitis and Kokkinos.
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 Socialist Labour Party of Greece-Communist (SEKE-K). A new central committee was elected, which included N. and P. Dimitratos, Y. 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. It has been functioning ever since on the basis of "democratic centralism".
With a few exceptions it was banned from 1918 to 1974.
WWII, Resistance and Civil War
Main articles: Greek Resistance and Greek Civil War
An ELAS soldier.After the German attack against the Soviet Union and while Greece was under occupation, the Greek Communists together with other parts of the Left formed a resistance group called the National People's Liberation Army (in Greek the Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos or ELAS). They were joined by other, center-left or non-politicised Greek resistance fighters and by 1944 they controlled three-fifths of the country. As the outcome of the war was becoming inevitable, ELAS and other non-communist resistance groups, including the republican Greek National Democratic Union or (EDES), fought increasingly bitter battles against each other to secure post-war dominance. In a rare instance, ELAS and EDES-EOEA joined forces on November 25, 1942, and blew up the Gorgopotamos bridge. This action disrupted the German transportation of ammunition via Greece to Rommel.
At the end of the war, fighting broke out between ELAS and the Greek government. ELAS forces were backed by Greece's communist neighbors, whereas the Greek government was backed by the British army. Following a cease fire agreement known as Varkiza pact, ELAS laid down arms with the idea of a political process. However, alleging percecutions of leftists after the Varkiza accord, ELAS reversed its stance and restarted armed fighting in 1946. The war was extremely violent, with heavy casualties on both sides. The Greek Civil War was to last until 1949, with the defeat of the communist insurgency.
Most historians attribute the final outcome of the war to two determining factors: on the one hand, the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine provided crucial support to the governmental side. On the other hand, Tito cut off all military support and training to ELAS after he broke-off relations with Stalin. One can also argue that by refusing to participate in the first post-war elections, the KKE precluded its voice from the democratic debate, leaving military opperations as the most obvious alternative. At the end of WWII, similar condition of near civil war had existed in Italy, France and Belgium but there, the communist parties chose to become active in the democratic procedures and the reconstruction process.
After the Civil War, KKE was declared illegal and most of its prominent members had to leave Greece or go underground. Those that chose to do neither were prosecuted, jailed and exiled. A notable member of KKE, Nikos Beloyannis, was executed in 1952 despite international appeals for clemency. Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos, later to become the leader of the Regime of the Colonels was one of the three judge court martial that condemned Beloyannis to death.
During this period of illegality, KKE critically supported the "Eniaia Dimokratiki Aristera" (EDA) party and scores of KKE members also enlisted with the EDA.
Former King Constantine claims that in 1964 he proposed to George Papandreou (senior) that KKE be legalized. According to the former monarch, Papandreou refused to comply so as not to lose his party's left-wing supporters.1 This allegation is, however, impossible to verify since it was expressed after Papandreou's death.
During the Junta
Main article: Regime of the Colonels
In 21 April 1967 a group of right wing colonels of the greek army, lead by Georgios Papadopoulos succesfuly carried out a coup d'état on the pretext of imminent "communist threat", establishing what became known as the Regime of the Colonels. All political parties (including EDA) were dissolved, and civil liberties were supressed for all Greek citizens. KKE members were persecuted together with all opponents of the junta.
In 1968, during the junta, a crisis escalated between KKE's two main communist factions. The crisis was provoked by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed the Prague Spring. The brutality of the event led many Greek communists to break with the Moscow-oriented KKE and to follow the nascent Eurocommunist line, which favoured national agendas and a more democratic road to socialism. A relatively large group split from KKE, forming what became known as KKE Interior ("ΚΚΕ εσωτερικού"). It later established new bonds with eurocommunist parties such as the Communist Party of Italy. Supporters of KKE Interior called KKE KKE Exterior ("ΚΚΕ εξωτερικού") to evoke the belief that KKE's policies were dictated by the Politburo in the Soviet Union.
After the restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1974, Constantine Caramanlis in a historic move legalized KKE. Some argue Karamanlis recognized KKE's role in resisting the junta, whilst others suspect Karamanlis hoped to contain its "underground" appeal. In the 1974 elections KKE appeared in the first elections together with the KKE Interior and the EDA under the name United Left (Greek: Enomeni Aristera, Ενωμένη Αριστερά), receiving 9.36% of the vote. This collaboration could be hardly considered a coalition though, and from 1977 to 1989, the KKE appeared by itself in all elections, receiving usually around 10% of the vote. In all elections that took place after 1993, the KKE received a 4.53% to 5.9% of the vote, thus remaining the third party inside the Greek Parliament.(1993 4.53% fourth party,1996 5,61%, 2000 5,53%, 2004 5,90%)
Participation in government
In 1989 KKE and KKE esoterikou, along with other left parties and organizations, formed the Synaspismos tis Aristeras kai tis Proodou, (Coalition of the Left and Progress, Greek:Συνασπισμός της Αριστεράς και της Προόδου).In June 1989 Synaspismos gained 13,1% of votes. Synaspismos joined a controverisal 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 PASOK's Andreas Papandreou. The coalition ended when New Democracy won the next elections with a sufficient majority. In 1991, KKE withdrew from the coalition. A portion of its members, however, left from the party and remained in Synaspismos tis Aristeras kai tis Proodou which evolved into a separate left wing party.
There have been a series of splits throughout the party's history, the earliest one being the trotskyist OKDE (Οργάνωση Κομουνιστών Διεθνιστών Ελλάδας, Greek for "Organization of Communists and Internationalists of Greece").
In 1968, amidst the 1967-1974 dictatorship, a relatively big group split from KKE, forming KKE Interior ("ΚΚΕ εσωτερικού"). At this point KKE Interior essentialy broke ties with KKE's Soviet supervision and later established new bonds with parties such as the Communist Party of Italy (PCI), following a Eurocommunist line ever since.
In the early 90's, the KNE, KKE's youth wing split to form NAR, the "New Left Current". The majority of its youth in major cities, especially in Thessaloniki left to NAR. Despite the loss of many of its members, though, the KNE was quickly reorganized with new members, and became a popular youth organization. Its stance during the Yugoslav wars and the fact that it organized massive demonstrations against the European Union and the USA, which attracted many young people made it rather popular among young people and many recruitments were made during that time.
In 1989 KKE and KKE esoterikou, along with other left parties and organizations, formed the Synaspismos tis Aristeras kai tis Proodou, (Coalition of the Left and Progress, Greek:Συνασπισμός της Αριστεράς και της Προόδου). In 1991, KKE withdrew from Synaspismos. A portion of its members, however, left from the party and remained in Synaspismos which evolved into o separate left wing party.
In the early 2000's, a group of major party officials such as Mitsos Kostopoulos left the party and formed the KEDA (Κίνηση για την Ενότητα Δράσης της Αριστεράς, Movement for Unity in Left Action). KEDA has cooperated with Synaspismos in the recent legislative election, in the Coalition of the Radical Left.
KKE's youth section is the Communist Youth of Greece (Greek: Κομμουνιστική Νεολαία Ελλαδας, KNE).
The Communist Party stands in elections and has members in local government, national government and the European Parliament. In the European Parliament they are part of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left group.
It publishes a daily newspaper, Rizospastis.
List of General Secretaries
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