August 1st marked the 47th anniversary of the death of Nikos Zachariadis, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) from 1931 to 1956, one of the most significant figures of the European and international communist movement in the 20th century.
In 1919-1922 he travelled extensively to the new 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 the "Stalin School", in the Soviet Union. After the Greco-Turkish War and the exchange of populations in 1922 the Zachariadis family moved permanently to Greece, during a period of severe political and economic crisis.
During his stay in the Soviet Union Zachariadis had become a member of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and in the summer 1924, after finishing his studies in the Soviet Union, Nikos travelled secretly to Greece where he undertook duties for 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.
Nikos Zachariadis moved back to Greece in 1931 following a decision by the Communist International and became Secretary of the Central Committee of the Greek Communist Party (KKE). He led the Party during extremely difficult times, especially in a period of harsh anti-communist laws and violent 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-assumed the KKE leadership, thus becoming the Party's General Secretary. During the peak of class struggle in the country following the restoration of the monarchy by Anglo-American imperialism he organised the heroic Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) which fought against the bourgeois army and it’s British and American imperialist allies during the 1946-1949 Civil War. After the defeat of DSE in 1949, the KKE leadership, including Zachariadis, fled into exile in the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries. Zachariadis spent a few years in Tashkent, the capital of Soviet Uzbekistan, which has become the exile home of a large number of Greek communist exiles.
The death of Joseph Stalin and the right, opportunist turn of the CPSU that followed had a serious impact in the Greek communist movement. In May 1956, the 6th Plenum of the Central Committee of KKE – significantly influenced by Khrushchev's revisionist leadership – wrongfully denounced Zachariadis for "serious mistakes" and "sectarianism”. On February 1957 he was expelled from the Party. Nikos Zachariadis passed the rest of his life in exile in Siberia, particularly in Yahuta and Surgut. On 1st August 1973, at the age of 70, he was found dead in his home in Surgut. According to the official account of his death, Zachariadis had committed suicide.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 (KKE) fully rehabilitated Nikos Zachariadis as General Secretary and Party member, reversing the unjust decisions of the 6th Plenum.
Nobody can take away your honour. You can only lose it by yourself - Nikos Zachariadis.