Peter Sedgwick, Too Involved, International Socialism (1st series), No.22, Autumn 1965. (review)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Revolution and Defeat: The Story of the Greek Communist Party, D. George Kousoulas, Oxford 35s.
The writing of the history of communism is no longer a pioneering activity, conducted as a political imperative by ex-insiders or radical critics. It has become an academic industry, with all the attendant advantages and disadvantages of such a turn. Given access to a good collection of old Party documents and publications, linguistic knowledge and a little background, it is possible for a passable chronicle of the record of any national CP to be produced by a budding specialist in modern studies. Some of these products can be very valuable; nobody else has the time, after all, to trace in detail the ramifications of Comintern Balkan policy or the ins and outs of Indonesian Stalinist manoeuvrings. Unfortunately such works are often rather lifeless and packaged.
Kousoulas’ book is not this sort of monumental exercise. Covering the history of Greek Stalinism from the foundation of the Party to the present day, it pays only cursory attention to the different phases of CP policy. The author evidently believes that the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) has been consistently pursuing the ends of proletarian revolution and conspiratorial subversion throughout its history, even during the Popular Front and the period of ‘national resistance’. This might conceivably be so; a number of the KKE’s leaders (who ousted each other in successive waves of denunciation hardly to be paralleled anywhere in Comintern history) seem to have been of the Palme Dutt or Andre Marty type, with a streak of coarse Leftism that Right policy-shifts could not obscure. But then Kousoulas’ approach is so jaundiced that we might suspect this conclusion; his judgements are generally determined by a retrospective anti-communism in which republicans and monarchists are chided for failing to make common cause against the KKE, and acts of political repression are looked at in a kindly, relativistic light if they are directed against the Left.
Practically any orthodox Chatham-House type survey will give the reader a much fairer picture of Greek politics than this. There is very little social and economic information about Greek society, and virtually no attempt to disentangle the genuine revolutionary implications of EAM/ELAS from the superimposed twists of eg Stalin’s Macedonian policy. On the other hand, Kousoulas has worked hard on the archive material, has interviewed survivors of past squabbles, and has an eye for character. His comments on the limitations of guerrilla warfare are intelligent, and we must be grateful for his charting of the complex web of intrigue that surrounds KKE policy in the thirties and forties. It must be left to a historian less involved in old national quarrels (Kousoulas is an ex-insider from the other side) to do justice to the heroic and popular dimension of the KKE’s experience, and to the genuinely tragic character of its activity and suffering.
Last updated on 20.8.2007