The Guardian 1 June, 2005
Harilaos Florakis —
A life lived in the struggle for socialism
We regret to announce that Comrade Harilaos Florakis, the Honorary Chairman of the Communist Party of Greece (CPG), died on May 22.
Comrade Florakis was associated with CPG for 76 years, from a 15-year-old member of the Party’s youth organisation to serving as General Secretary.
In a message of condolence, the CPA Central Committee said in part:
“Comrade Florakis’ life epitomizes the history and struggles of both the Communist Party and the left people’s movement of Greece. He was a gifted and spirited people’s leader who dedicated his whole life and energy to the struggle for the emancipation of the working people and the creation of the communist society of the future.
“We take comfort from his legacy: his ideological clarity and steadfastness, his deep faith in the just cause of the working class, and the splendid fighting contingent of the international communist movement that is the Communist Party of Greece.”
In his Party activity Comrade Florakis faced storms and great difficulties with courage and optimism, with the wisdom and decisiveness as a communist who had a full appreciation of his mission and the ferocity which characterises the class struggle.
During the Metaxas dictatorship and before it, during the Nazi occupation and the armed struggle from 1946 to 1949, Comrade Florakis proved his many political and military qualities.
“Were you not afraid of death?”, they asked him. “Of course we were frightened of it”, he answered, “who does not value his own life? Only a madman or someone devoid of feelings can avoid being afraid of death.
“But what distinguishes the communist is that he finds the strength, when it is needed, to sacrifice the most valuable thing he owns and overcomes his fear of death.”
Comrade Florakis used to say that if it were possible to choose again, he would choose the same path, because he knew he was not mistaken and because he understood that his life had been sweeter and that the essence of humanity is realised only through the struggle for social change.
In the great trial of 1960, answering the charge of spying for a foreign power, Comrade Florakis said among other things: “Of course the Communist parties have relations with each other. A common ideology, common ideals, the friendship and fraternity of our peoples bind us. We also have a common enemy, imperialism. This alone suffices for our solidarity.”
Comrade Florakis’ achievements were recognised by many communist parties. He was presented with “the Friendship of the Peoples” award by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the “Karl Marx” prize from the German Democratic Republic, and the “Georgi Dimitrov” award by the socialist state of Bulgaria.
From 1954 to 1966 Comrade Harilaos was in prison, along with 85 other communists. They could have avoided all the hardships if they had signed a statement renouncing the CPG and its ideology. They refused.
His life as a “free” man lasted under a year. On the April 21, 1967 he was exiled to Yiaros, then to Leros for four more years. On Party orders he escaped and went into exile.
Comrade Florakis made a profound contribution during the legalisation of the CPG in 1974 after 27 years of illegality and many years without Party organisations in Greece. Then he helped rebuild and led a party which came to legality stripped of two generations of cadres, first by the murderous blows of war and the persecution that followed; second by the dissolution of the Party organisations in 1958.
When the counter-revolution started in the former socialist countries, when leaders of many communist parties retreated and recanted, Comrade Florakis remained true. His contribution was decisive in defending the CPG against those who plotted its dissolution.
Comrade Florakis defended the contribution of the socialist system, especially the Soviet Union, to the social rights of the people, to peace, to the struggle for a world rid of the exploitation of man by man. He knew their solidarity from firsthand experience as a political refugee, and also from their contribution to the revolutionary and national liberation movements of the peoples.
Comrade Harilaos Florakis was a leader respected not only by communists but also by many workers who did not identify with the ideology of the CPG. He was a leader of the people, because he was a communist.
In September 1994 he wrote a “farewell letter”. It was opened after his death and says in part:
“I do not call this paper a testament, because I have nothing to bequeath. Whatever belongings I had I have given to the Party, to the Communist Party of Greece with its well-known symbols, its Marxist-Leninist ideology, its program and its principles. Nor do I have anything to leave politically. Whatever I had I have given through my specific action. I do not consider it appropriate to leave political advice.
“I do not want speeches or wreaths. These should rather be expressed in the form of help given to the Party.”
Goodbye, Harilaos Florakis