Communist & Workers’ parties meet in Athens
ATHENS, Greece – Meeting in the wake of the U.S. military invasion and occupation of Iraq, but bolstered by the unprecedented global peace upsurge that resisted the war, representatives of some 60 Communist and Workers’ parties gathered here June 19-20 to exchange views and increase international solidarity.
Major themes of the meeting included finding ways to curb the aggressive, warlike actions of the Bush administration and to point the way out of a deepening world economic crisis.
As part of the weekend’s activities, the delegates boarded buses to Thessaloniki where they hit the streets and participated in the huge “People’s Counter EU Summit” demonstration for labor rights, social justice and equality.
Such conferences have been held annually since 1998 at the initiative of the Communist Party of Greece (CPG). This year’s theme was “The movements against war and capitalist globalization, and the role of Communists.”
Circumstances confronting the parties vary. Some are ruling parties, as in socialist Vietnam and Cuba. Others serve in coalition governments, like the Communist Party of Brazil, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) of Cyprus (which is now the leading party there), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the states of Bengal and Tripura. Still others are struggling under exceptionally difficult conditions, including those that remain outlawed under repressive, right-wing regimes.
Some are relatively small, and others are huge. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India have a combined membership of 1.5 million. The CP of the Russian Federation numbers some 530,000. Some, like the CP of Bohemia and Moravia, routinely get 20 percent or more of the vote.
Parties came from every continent, although most came from Europe. A number were unable to attend due to financial difficulties or pressing events at home. Delegates called for setting up a solidarity fund to help fraternal parties attend future meetings.
The global peace upsurge was widely hailed. Despite their inability to stop the war against Iraq, the peace movements are alive and well, and many of them are joining with social movements in response to the capitalist economic crisis. In the U.S., for example, struggles to save health care, education, pensions, and other social programs are overlapping with the peace movement’s demand to cut the military budget and fund human needs. This is true elsewhere, too.
Even in European countries that refused to participate in the Iraq war, huge demonstrations and strikes have taken place against cuts in pensions and services, underscoring the systemic nature of capitalism’s crisis and the broadening fightback.
As Raid Fahmi of the Communist Party of Iraq (CPI) said, “The exceptional worldwide mobilization against the war and its convergence with the movement against capitalist globalization has been a remarkable expression of the level of consciousness reached by people all over the world.”
The CPI, at one time the largest Communist party in the Arab world, is once again emerging as a powerful force as its formerly underground and exiled members resume open political activity throughout the country. The CPI is widely respected and has relationships with organizations across the Iraqi political spectrum.
Fahmi summed up the general concerns held by most parties: “The world is going through one of its most critical periods in recent history. The war has far-reaching implications, not only for Iraq and the Middle East, but the whole world.”
There was excitement over the explosive growth of the U.S. peace movement. Because it is based in the most powerful imperialist country, the U.S. movement is watched closely by people worldwide. One participant told me that they constantly watched CNN to see what demonstrations the Americans were organizing. Millions around the world are counting on the U.S. working class and people to defeat Bush in the upcoming elections.
One of the hallmarks of an international Communist gathering is hearing the many different voices that make up the world Communist movement.
Issam Makhoul, general secretary of the Communist Party of Israel, said the peace movement can grow to become an even more powerful force: “We reject the idea that there can only be a unipolar world. Millions are demonstrating and creating a new pole.”
The CP of Israel is one of the few organizations in Israel that unites Jews and Arabs in the same organization and has consistently called for a two-state solution to the conflict.
Makhoul said that a growing number of Israelis are rejecting Ariel Sharon’s policies. “The Israeli government cannot continue to humiliate the Palestinians under Israeli occupation without humiliating the poor, the unemployed and the workers of Israel at the same time,” he said. “The chains of the Palestinians under occupation are the same chains binding the hands of the Israeli working class.”
In her opening address, Aleka Paparigha, general secretary of the Greek Communist Party, said Communist and Workers’ parties everywhere had played a vital role in the peace movement. This activity had given direction on “strategy and tactics in dealing with imperialist aggressiveness and barbarism,” particularly by promoting unity of all peace forces.
The CPG has made impressive gains in recent years. They lead all sorts of movements, including those that put the largest numbers of people in the streets during the recent antiwar and anti-globalization protests. The Communist Youth of Greece is also growing rapidly.
The main focus of the meeting was on the Bush administration, and there was much agreement about the danger posed by the Bush Doctrine. Many delegates stressed the new danger of nuclear war and warned against a new arms race. Most saw U.S. imperialism’s goal as the domination of all energy resources, particularly oil.
But contrary to the belief that all Communists think alike, a wide variety of opinions were expressed. While most urged greater unity of action against the U.S. policy of preemptive war and unilateralism, there were differing opinions on how best to build such unity.
Jorge Castro, representing the Communist Party of Cuba, said that aspects of the Bush policy were “fascist” and called for a global anti-fascist front.
At the same time, Jose Reinaldo Carvalho of the Communist Party of Brazil noted that the “struggle for peace calls for the creation of a broad international front against imperialism … [that would] take on a scale never witnessed in any other historical period.” Carvalho said this front involves a variety of political and social movements, and includes democratic and progressive governments as well.
This writer, representing the Communist Party USA, read a party statement that said in part, “Greater unity of action of all Communist, working-class and democratic forces in a global front for peace, democracy and economic security is essential. This front includes mass movements, entire nations, including socialist and many nonaligned and developing nations.”
Some parties view the Bush Doctrine as an extension of capitalist globalization, the result of the crisis of capitalism and the need to control limited world resources and markets among imperialist powers. Navid Shomali, of the Tudeh Party of Iran, said, “The war against Iraq was an integral part of the U.S. strategy to accelerate the process of globalization and to consolidate the ‘New World Order’ first declared in the early 1990s.”
Many parties, including the CPUSA, see the Bush Doctrine as a radical new set of policies of the most reactionary sections of U.S. monopoly capital, which bases itself on its overwhelming military superiority. Implementation of these policies was made possible by the Sept. 11 tragedy.
Fathi Mohamed of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) said the Bush administration used the “war on terror” to force its way back into the Sudanese oil market, which had been opened to China. This is part of a plan by U.S. oil corporations, he said, to dominate African oil resources in Chad and the African Great Lakes Region, including Angola.
The Bush administration has suddenly taken a keen interest in solving the 20-year civil war that has killed two million Sudanese to make the southern region stable for oil exploration. The SCP is part of a broad movement fighting to oust the current dictatorial regime while fighting for national unity.
The Communist Party of Vietnam described the difficulties it faces building socialism in a world dominated by capitalist globalization. CPV representative Ta Minh Chau said, “It is our view that participation in globalization has become a long and complicated process of both cooperation and struggle.”
“The fight against ‘capitalist globalization’ has become an important part of the national and class struggle in the present world,” Chau said. “All countries and nations, on the one hand, cannot help participating in the economic globalization as an objective economic process, which closely is linked to the development of productive forces of human society. On the other hand, they cannot help but struggle against capitalist influence on this process,” he said.
The European parties expressed concern over the consolidation and expansion of the European Union and plans for its militarization. Some parties have concluded that because of EU consolidation, the nation-state will disappear. They projected the creation of a European-wide Communist party. But most parties didn’t share this view.
Robert Giffiths, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain said, “We are opposed to the creation of such a United States of Europe. We defend Britain’s parliamentary democracy and sovereignty, however limited and distorted under capitalism.”
“We reject the vision of an imperialist military United States of Europe as a counter-weight to the United States of America. It is a recipe for massive global warfare in the future,” he said. The CPB is a leader of the British peace movement.
But each country, party and working class has its own particulars and alignment of forces. For example, AKEL doesn’t oppose the EU. As part of a governing coalition, it believes the acceptance of Cyprus into the EU will force an end to Turkish occupation of 37 percent of the country, which began in 1974.
Regardless of the differences, there was much to agree on.
There was widespread agreement that U.S. unilateralism could be reigned in by strengthening the UN, international law and treaties. Many parties supported the petition being circulated by nongovernmental organizations, which calls for a special session of the UN General Assembly to remove the U.S. and Britain as occupying powers in Iraq and allow the UN to oversee the transition to Iraqi rule and the distribution of humanitarian assistance.
Many countries, including the new Brazilian government, which is establishing a trade bloc among South American countries and strategic partnerships with China, India, Russia and South Africa, are taking multilateral steps to counter U.S. domination. There are also efforts by the nonaligned movement, led by South Africa, to develop an independent voice.
Solidarity was expressed with the Palestinian people in their struggle to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and for an independent Palestinian state. Specific solidarity campaigns were projected for both socialist Cuba (see “Communists parties pledge Cuba solidarity,” June 28) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and for the Iranian people.
Just a few years ago capitalist ideologues were trumpeting the victory of capitalism in the Cold War. But Communists everywhere spoke of the tremendous crises faced by capitalism, including massive joblessness, poverty, instability, disease, racism and repression. Many parties reported membership growth and called for stepping-up the advocacy of socialism as a necessary solution to the crises of capitalism. It seems, to paraphrase Mark Twain when he read his own obituary, the reports of the Communist movement’s death are highly exaggerated. The struggle continues!
John Bachtell, a member of the Communist Party’s national board and its Illinois district organizer, represented the CPUSA in Athens. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org