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In contrast to others, this Greek Communist leader would openly express himself

By Harsh Thakor 

On August 1, 2023, the International Communist Movement commemorated the 50th anniversary of the death of Nikos Zachariadis. General Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) from 1931 to 1956.He ranked amongst the most impactful and illustrious characters in shaping the European and international communist movement in the 20th century. Few leaders ever more fiercely and boldly confronted revisionism, creating shivers down its spine and sending tremors to its camp. His biography entailed the most fascinating experiences.
He was born to ethnic Greek parents in Ottoman Empire's Edirne (Andrianoupolis) in 1903. At the age of 16, Nikos moved to Istanbul where he worked in various jobs, including as a dockworker and sailor. It was there when he baptism with the working-class movement.
In 1919-1922 he travelled extensively to the Soviet Union. In 1923 he became a member of the Communist Party of Turkey. He studied in the newly-founded "KUTV" (Communist University of the Toilers of the East), also known as "Stalin School", in the Soviet Union. After the Greco-Turkish War and the exchange of populations, the Zachariadis family moved permanently to Greece, during a period of severe political and economic crisis.
On summer 1924, on completing his studies in the Soviet Union, Nikos Zachariadis travelled secretly to Greece where he adopted work at the Young Communist League of Greece (OKNE). In 1926, during the dictatorship of General Pangalos, he was arrested and imprisoned in Thessaloniki. He managed to escape and worked secretly in various party positions. He was re-arrested and re-imprisoned in 1929, but once again he escaped and fled to the Soviet Union. During his stay in the Soviet Union he became a member of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks).

Life as Communist Leader

Nikos Zachariadis moved back to Greece in 1931 following a decision by the Communist International and became Secretary of the CC of the Greek Communist Party (KKE).
He led the Party during the most tumultuous times, especially in a period of repressive anticommunist laws and merciless persecutions by the bourgeois governments. He was captured and imprisoned in August 1936 by the State Security of Metaxas' fascist regime. From 1936 to 1941 he remained in prison. After the Nazi German invasion of Greece in 1941, he was transferred to the notorious Dachau concentration camp in Bavaria. Zachariadis was released in May 1945.
Returning to Greece he re-captured the KKE leadership, turning into the Party's General Secretary. At the height of class struggle in the country, he organised the heroic Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) which battled against the bourgeois Army and its imperialist allies (Britain, U.S) during the 1946-1949 Civil War. After the defeat of DSE in 1949, the KKE leadership, including Zachariadis, skipped into exile in the Soviet Union and the Socialist countries. Zachariadis passed a few years in Tashkent where exiled Greek communists constituted a large community.
The death of Joseph Stalin and the right, opportunist path of the CPSU had a strong repercussion in the Greek communist movement. In May 1956, the 6th Plenum of the Central Committee of KKE – moulded greatly by Khrushchev's revisionist leadership - (wrongfully) condemned and implicated Zachariadis for "serious mistakes" and "sectarian policy". On February 1957 he was expelled from the Party. Nikos Zachariadis spent the rest of his life in exile in Siberia, particularly in Yahuta and Surgut. On August 1st, 1973, at the age of 70, he was found dead in his home in Surgut. According to the official sources, Zachariadis committed suicide.
The duel between the members of the faction and the rest of the Greek communists was intensifying and the situation in Tashkent was very tense during the period of August-September 1955. In such an atmosphere, three assassination attempts were made against Nikos Zachariades. In the first one, the Armenian KGB Colonel Saakov offered him a poisoned ice cream but Zachariades refused being always careful what and where he ate. In the second one, somebody flung a heavy brick at him while he was delivering a speech in a party meeting; Zachariades dodged it at the last moment (Ahillea Papaioannou, ‘H apagoreumeni eikona – Dioktes kai ieroktonoi tou Nikou Zachariades’, Athens 2004). In the third one, the best organised of the three, three individuals ambushed the car that was to carry him to airport. The plan failed only because Niyazov, the Stalinist general secretary of the CP of Uzbekistan, discovered the plot and notified Zachariades.
There was good reason why the revisionists wanted to eliminate Zachariades, already in 1955. They knew very well that if Zachariades had been present in the 20th Congress he would have left no stone unturned in ‘criticism of the cult of personality’. This is because Zachariades mustered the courage to express his opinion openly in contrast to the leaders of the other communist parties. D. Vlantas (member of the KKE Politburo) writes in his book, ‘Nikos Zachariades and 22 associates’, the following: ‘When I arrived in Tashkent on July of 1955, a representative from the Soviet leadership proposed to me to help him complete the conspiracy that started in 1949 and they, in return, would help me become General Secretary of KKE. I rejected this proposal. Zachariades came to Tashkent in the mid-August 1955. I reported him about an extremely critical situation. I stressed to him that it was not any more just the Tashkent Organisation that is at stake but the whole party. I suggested to him that we should return to Bucharest, the seat of the CC, convene a session where we will demonstrate the existence of conspiracy and then send a delegation to Moscow asking for full explanation. Zachariades turned down my suggestion.’
In December 1991, his remains were repatriated in Greece where he was given a funeral at Athens' First Cemetery.
In July 2011, taking a historically and politically significant decision, the National Conference of the Communist Party of Greece fully rehabilitated Nikos Zachariadis as General Secretary and Party member, reversing the unjust decisions of the 6th Plenum.

Qualities and Impact

Zachariadis blended the qualities of a political leader, a theoretician and a revolutionary in action. He crystallised as a leader through the “furnace of class struggle and not through labyrinths of party offices.”
At every juncture of his life, he overcame the most tortuous paths or steepest hurdles, to temper the spirit of revolution. In the most dire straits, he would resurrect torch of revolution.
Before adopting n the mantle the post of the general secretary of the KKE, at the age of 29, he embarked on a proletarian revolutionary life, in Turkey, Greece and the Soviet Union. He worked as a dock worker, to board ships, to study at the Communist University of Workers of the East (KOUTB, hence the nickname Koutvi, which accompanied him), to emerge as a trade union leader, to lead party organizations, to be persecuted, imprisoned and to escape several times (twice from prison).
That is why his relationship as a leader, not only with the members of the party, but with the wider popular masses, was unique. He was adored, because everyone considered him one of their very own.
Zachariadis blends many aspects that are hardly common nowadays. Revolutionary consistency, theoretical work, leadership political skills, knowledge of tactics and its dialectical relationship with strategy, dedication to communism and proletarian internationalism and an inimitable populism, were his chief attributes.
Nowadays, with flourishing of revisionism or reactionary forces ,the non-existence of a revolutionary contingent of the working class and parliamentary capitulation shimmering at a helm, the work and life of Nikos Zachariadis is a model every communist to emulate. Thus we need to resurrect his kind.
In Perissos they organized an event for the 50th anniversary of the death of Nikos Zachariadis.. Their main objective was to counter he lie of his suicide. As the speaker Aleka Papariga said, the new Essay on the History of the KKE of the period of the military dictatorship 1967-1974 will soon be completed, in which “conclusions, lessons will be drawn up regarding the conditions and factors that led to a thoroughly tested, steeled communist to choose to end his own life on August 1, 1973”.
The greatest contribution of N. Zachariadis lies was in foundation and the activation of the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), the most significant event in the history of the class struggle in Greece in the 20th century.
Nikos Zachariadis identified the socialist character of the revolution in Greece. The contribution of N. Zachariadis includes his unflinching resilience regarding the creation and the development of the KKE’s party organizations in Greece irrespective of the conditions. Prevailing.This commitment did not recede or waver despite the merciless actions of the bourgeois state.
The aggressive opposition of the Greek communist political refugees, headed by Nikos Zachariades against the Khrushchevian clique in September 1955 in Tashkent, was chronologically the first in the history of the international communist movement’s struggle against Khrushchevian revisionism, and, also, a culmination of the revolutionary KKE (1918-1955) heroic struggle.
If one analyses the subsequent turmoil caused by Khrushchevian revisionism to the communist parties (destruction of socialism and restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, dismantling of the capitalist Soviet Union, liquidation of the communist parties), it can be concluded that it was not just an outcome of the long struggle of the Stalinist-Zachariadist KKE, but a heroic moment in the struggle of the international communist movement (Comintern-Cominform) against the counter-revolutionary trend of Khrushchevian revisionism which sprung in the mid-1950s.That period marked the advent of the most intense ideological-political struggle against Khrushchevian revisionism in international level. That battle which was waged for half a century now, is still proceeding and will determine the fate of the Communist movement.
His open letter to the KKE and Speech at the 2nd Congress of the National Liberation Front were heart rendering and carved a niche in the annals of the history of World Communist movement. In the letter he attacked fascism at it’s strongest point, in a most articulate manner. In his speech, he underlined the factor of the Unity of the Greek and Macedonian people, in context of establishing a broad united front to overpower fascism.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has extensively studied the International Communist Movement. Thanks information from ‘In Defence of Communism’, ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ and hellas.posten



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