Part Two The 1920s debate in the Comintern and the KKE on the Balkan Question
The slogan for a United and Independent Macedonia (and a united and Independent Thrace) entered the Balkans under Stalin. It was pushed by the Bulgarian Communist Party and became Comintern policy. It was the central slogan for the Balkan Communist Parties in the 1920’s.
The slogan originated among Slavo-Macedonians in Pirin (south-west of Bulgaria) and was taken up by Alexandrov, Panitsas and Protogerov, who were separatist leaders in the region. It was seized upon by the Bulgarian capitalist government, which saw it as a means of extending its borders southwards to the Aegean.
In 1923, Protegerov and Alexandrov allied themselves with Tsangov, the Bulgarian leader. But Tsangov imprisoned and murdered thousands of communists and refused to implement the demands of Protegerov and Alexandrov for a United and Independent Macedonia. This is where Stalin entered the picture allying himself with Protogerov and Alexandrov and making the slogan Comintern policy for the Balkans. It was an early example of the Cominterns attempt to build alliances with the peasantry, etc. after the defeat of the workers in Germany – attest case for China.
Stalin made an alliance with Radic in Cratia as well as with the ‘Komitsadides’ the committee set up by Panitsas and Protogerov. It was an attempt to bring the Slavo-Macedonians, among others under the influence of the Comintern rarther than anyone else.
For us the national question isn’t a geographical question, it is one of distinct peoples with a distinct culture, language, etc. It’s impossible to accept that a ‘Macedonian’ nationality which is composed of Greeks, Jews, Pomaks, Vlachs and Albanians – but a united Macedonian nationality just doesn’t exist. Neither is there any Thracian nationality – some people in Thrace are of Mulism descent.
Almost immediately after I entered the labour movement in 1921, the question of a United and Independent Macedonia became a central issue (aroun 1923-24). Initially, the Greek communists were opposed to the slogan, but when representatives of the KKE went to the Fifth Congress of the Comintern in 1924 (the Comintern was now led by Zinoviev) the party changed its views and supported the Troikas position). The three delegates – Pouliopoulos, Maximos, and Mangos – went to the Congress with a position against the slogan and came back supporting it. The third emergency congress of the KKE then took place and accepted the slogan. This was the so-called ‘Bolshevisation’ of the KKE in reality it was the beginning of the partys Stalinisation. Pouliopoulos who had gone to Russia after 1921 and spoken to Trotsky and was in awe of his role in the civil war, was deliberately made to give the main report at the Conference. Meanwhile Kordatos and Apostiliades were expelled for differences on this issue. The Archeiomarxists of which I was a leading member, were also expelled in 1924 – for allying themselves with Trotsky.
What actually happened was that although there were differences over the slogan, the leadership imposed it on the party. Then the ruling class locked up every member of the KKE on the grounds that they were seeking the break up of the Greek state.
If Greek Macedonia had to become independent that would mean the KKE had to be divided into two. If the three Macedonias had to be united, the Bulgarias, Serbian and Greek Communist Parties first had to split into six parties then the three in Macedonia had to fuse. In other words what is happening now Stalinism proposed back in 1924.
After Greece lost the 1921 war with Turkey, there were population transfers in Greek Macedonia. About 10,000 Slavo-Macedonians living there went to Bulgaria and there was a huge influx of Greek refugees from Constantinople and elsewhere in Turkey. In all some one and half million refugees came to Greece following a pogrom in Turkey, 700, 000 of whom stayed in Greek Macedonia whilst the rest settled in Athens. A large and militant refugee movement was set up. In Athens, it demanded housing, food, etc. The KKE was not resepcted among the refugees because implicit in its slogan for a united and Independent Macedonia and a United and Independent Thrace were new population transfers. The KKE secretary KOrdatos (who was allied with Souvarine and Trotsky in this period) wrote that if you continue this, you will turn the refugees into fascists. In western Greek Macedonia, in two districts – Florina and Edessa – there were communities of Slavo Macedonians.
When the Archeiomarxist Vitsoris went to see Trotsky in Prinkipo, Trotsky was using a reference for the discussion his period in the region writing about the Balkan wars. But in 1912-14, the area had been much more mixed. Trotsky was using as a reference for the discussions his period in the region writing about the Balkan wars. But in 1912-14 the area had been much more mixed. Trotsky didn’t accept Vitsoris argument – he said something is brewing, there is a national issue. I think there was an issue in Edessa and Florina, which the Archeiomarxists ignored, but not where Trotsky thought there was one. Later the Arcehiomarxists accepted that there was a SlavoMacedonian issue in the ‘triad’ –Serbian Macedonia, Bulgarian Macedonia and Edessa and Florina –but they were opposed to the inclusion of the whole of Greek Macedonia. (Its important to note that at the Fifth Congress of the Comintern the Serbian CP delegates had not voted for the slogan)
In the 1930’s, the Greek ruling class opposed Macedonian independence because of the territory it would lose. Today the slogan of Macedonian independence is being put forward by imperialism as part of its plan for a New World Order. Gligorov President of Macedonia wants an exit to the south. As Mitsotakis (ND) is in the pocket of the US his position on Macedonia is contradictory (as it is on Thrace, which is claimed by Turkey). Its possible that the Greek ruling class would accept the loss of some territory in exchange for the southern part of Albania which has a majority of Greek speakers. The leaders of the 400k Greek speaking Albanians have indicated that they will organise a plebiscite demanding unity with Greece. My opinion is that these referendums can be manipulated by nationalist demagogues.
In the north of Yugoslavia the dominant influence is Germany, in the south, the US. The overall aim of imperialism is to smash Serbia. We are entering a dark period of imperialist conspiracies in the Balkans.