At the 12th plenary session of its Central Committee, which met between the 3rd and 12th February 1968, the Greek Communist Party split. A captive of its myths, transplanted into a foreign environment, institutionalized in the framework of a dubious legality, cut off from the political and social life of its own country, the Greek Communist Party had traditionally assimilated into its own work the deformed practices of the Eastern European countries. The split, which has occurred at a time when the entire Greek Left is engaged in working out a common programme adapted to the special conditions of the struggle against the dictatorship, was doubtless inevitable. It is itself a positive phenomenon because for Greek Communists abroad it is the beginning of an acknowledgment of reality, and for Communists at home of spiritual liberation. But above all it is the end of a myth.

Since 1949 the Greek Communist Party has been based abroad, following the collapse of the Democratic Army when thousands of Greeks left the country. The ‘Romiosini’, (Democratic Army) dispersed through all the peoples’ democracies and the Soviet Union, turned inwards upon itself politically and from that moment on regarded its very existence alone as a political act. Unlike Greeks living in other parts of the world, its members refused to establish links with local life but lived closed in within the environment of the Greek Party which was underpinned by a legal party organization, resting on the firm basis of devoted cadres who automatically approved every party decision. The party thus established for itself a position of unassailable power, and on the basis of this make-believe power and an artificially created reality carried out its policy.

An examination of the background to the errors of the Greek Communist Party is important not only for an understanding of the disruptive process within the party, of the February 1968 split, and its ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’ problems, but also because it sheds light on one of the principal aspects of the crisis now shaking the Greek cp and the entire Greek left.

During the German occupation, the Greek Communist party played an outstanding role in organizing the resistance movement. Under its leadership elas and eam came into existence. Most of the underground network was directed by Communists and, because over half of the territory of Greece was under the control of elas, in the liberated areas power rested for all practical purposes in the hands of the Communist Party. Thus the inhabitants of poor and backward mountainous regions, who until then had lived in conditions of medieval oppression, overnight found themselves masters of their own fate. Intensive recruitment of new members rapidly changed the composition of the party. From below upwards the worker and intellectual element gradually disappeared, and a system of village committees, self-management bodies and various formations of civilian defence organizations set up in the liberated areas enabled thousands of party members of peasant origin to wield institutionalized power and receive schooling in an atmosphere in which the cult of the party reached its peak. In this period there was born a whole style of work and arose a new mentality; in conditions under which law was wholly subordinated to the party, or rather was wholly in the service of the party, the new members and officials regarded every manifestation of a critical or creative spirit as treachery. This was a kind of a prototype of the mentality which in the ensuing years was to be predominant in the party. It was in this period, too, that the myth of the infallibility of the party leadership was born. Its peasant basis became the fertile soil in which complacency and intolerance flourished.

The towns, which were occupied by the Germans, and which called for a style of work completely different from that illegal activity, remained untouched by the ‘spirit of the mountains’. The party organization thefe was confronted by an entirely different situation: differences of opinion, the activity of the non-Communist network, the broad spectrum of political parties and organizations associated within eam, required from the Communists the highest degree of adaptability to political reality. The first signs of the conflict between ‘towns’ and ‘mountains’, between two concepts of power began to appear: the first took into consideration the plurality of political life, while the second was based on the principle of relentless armed struggle under any conditions whatever. This second conception had its origin in the extraordinary situation that existed in the mountains in the period of the occupation and in which the Communist party held a political monopoly. This conception, which was turned into a dogma—later modified for psychological and ideological reasons—lost all tactical virtue and in the end became the well which fed the self-delusion of officials and members of the party who imagined that they disposed of unlimited power under any circumstances. The ‘mountain spirit’ which at one time had developed naturally in Greece, only later on became symptomatic for the ‘foreign’ section of the party. It should be emphasized that the differences between the ‘towns’ and ‘mountains’ were at that time hardly perceptible at first glance.