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A Critique of Eurocommunism

Ernest Mandel - Internet Archive
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Marxist Perspectives, Volume 2, No. 4, Winter 1979/80 (pp. 114-142). Thanks to Joseph Auciello

The term “Eurocommunism” poorly expresses the important political process underway in a number of Communist parties.  The process, in fact, began outside Europe and has embraced many non-European parties: the Venezuelan, Japanese, Australian, and now, partially, the Mexican.  And contrary to the journalistic label, its main characteristic is precisely national.  Important differences and even conflicts separate the main Eurocommunist parties: the Italian, French, Spanish, British, Swedish, Belgian, Finnish, and Swiss.

The Process of Social-Democratization

These Communist parties are progressively transforming themselves into social-democratic parties of the “classical” variant, i.e., of the German and Austrian immediately before, during, and after World War I.  They are shifting allegiance from the Soviet Union to the bourgeois-parliamentary regimes of the imperialist countries.  Historically, the decisive turn in strategy occurred in 1935 with the Seventh Comintern Congress, for the “popular front” implied support for and defense of the “democratic” imperialist state in all those imperialist countries which might become allies of the Soviet Union against Nazi aggression.

During the period of the “great antifascist alliance” 1941-1947, this policy was pursued even more energetically.  It implied the abandonment of any short- or medium-term goal of overthrowing capitalism or the bourgeois state; class-collaboration and the limiting of “offensive” goals of the labor movement to the conquest of some reforms; support of the colonial empires against the uprising of oppressed peoples; and counterrevolutionary actions against such revolutionary mass movements as that in Spain in 1936-1937.  It has become general practice of the CPs in the imperialist countries since the end of the “cold war.”

In the past these more or less classical reformist policies were applied for limited periods, interrupted by violent shifts in accordance with Soviet foreign policy.  But now that the classical reformist policy has been applied without interruption for at least a quarter of a century, it has had objective consequences in the recruitment, education, and training of cadres.  For a long period, moreover, many of these parties, most notably the Italian and French but also the Swedish and Finnish, have been deeply entrenched in the institutions of the bourgeois-democratic state and such para-state institutions as nationalized industries, municipal enterprises, and large-scale cooperatives engaged in big business even on the world market.  Smaller parties like the Belgian or British expect the conquest of similar positions on a more modest scale, and meanwhile protect their important role inside the reformist trade-union bureaucracy.  The Spanish CP, coming out of a long period of underground existence, hopes to achieve more or less quickly what the French and Italian did at the end of World War II, albeit in somewhat more modest proportions.

These powerful positions, and their length of uninterrupted tenure, inside the institutions of bourgeois democracy have led to a phenomenon identical to that which occurred during the 1910-1920 period inside classical social-democracy: the birth of a Eurocommunist labor bureaucracy integrated into bourgeois society; in symbiosis with the principal institutions of the bourgeois state; essentially attuned to conservation of these positions and therefore opposed to any violent shift in the social and political equilibrium of class forces on which the survival of bourgeois-parliamentary democracy depends.  The Eurocommunist labor bureaucracy is less and less ready to endanger its privileges and limited power positions upon instructions of the Kremlin.  Hence, it is shifting its basic allegiance from the Soviet Union to the imperialist bourgeoisie.

This process has not yet produced a qualitative change in the nature of the Eurocommunist parties; it has advanced markedly during the last years but has not reached the point of no return.  Powerful obstacles remain on the road to total transformation into classical social-democratic parties.  The traditional links with the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union still live in the political consciousness of many of the older leaders, cadres, and militants.  The material ties with the Soviet bloc are by no means completely broken, although their weight has diminished significantly for the Italian and Spanish parties and to a lesser degree for the French.

There remains a difficult problem of political identity outside the “socialist camp” and the fear of leaving the historical reference to the Russian Revolution and Communism to the revolutionary Left.  The strengthening of this Left appeals neither to the imperialist bourgeois, nor to social-democracy, nor to the Eurocommunists, nor to the Soviet bureaucracy.  There are many internal differences inside the Eurocommunist apparatus itself over the extent to which classical social-democratic policies should be adopted.

The test will probably come at a moment of sharp international crisis, threat of war, or outbreak of military conflicts between the Soviet bloc and imperialist powers -- not necessarily a world war.  During the Cold War, the leaders of the Western European CPs stated that if the Soviet army, “pursuing the aggressor,” arrived on their territory, “the people [read their party] would welcome them with open arms.”  It is doubtful that they would today speak, much less act, in that way.

What Is Not New & What Is New

When speaking of a process of transformation, in w which everything is in a flux, it is tempting to take a type of instantaneous snapshot of what Eurocommunist policies are like at a given moment.  But then one finds a bewildering number of different snapshots in different countries at different moments.  To avoid hasty and impressionistic generalizations, it is necessary to place these policies within the general framework of the evolution of the CPs since Lenin’s death -- more specifically, within Stalinism.

Stalinism transformed the Communist parties from instruments of socialist revolution and defense of the world proletariat into instruments of the policies and interests of the USSR.  The difference between the German CP of the early 1920s, which after the Rapallo agreement did not for a moment change its revolutionary orientation, and the French CP of the mid-1930s, which immediately reversed its basic opposition to the bourgeois state and national defense after the Stalin-Laval agreement, expresses that transformation.

The political and psychological mechanisms through which this transformation occurred are well known: identification of world revolution with the defense of the “Soviet bastion”; growing skepticism about the possibility of new victorious revolutions; identification of the October Revolution and the Soviet state with the ruling faction inside the CPSU; growing polarization of world politics into the dilemma “either Hitler or Stalin”: growing skepticism about the capacity not only of the Soviet working class but on any working class to exercise directly the “dictatorship of the proletariat”; growing identification of the dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship of the Communist party; acceptance of the sophism that any political difference inside a working class party immediately and directly reflects “the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat” without any mediation and without any previous test of practice; growing acceptance of the idea that Communist parties “in the service of the revolution” must therefore be monolithic, and that any opposition against the “general line” must therefore be “objectively counterrevolutionary”; and in consequence, substitution of complete, blind, servile obedience to instructions from the Kremlin.

The essential ideological mechanism of this transformation was the fatal theory of “socialism in one country.”  As Trotsky and many old Bolsheviks, including Lenin’s widow, correctly predicted, the theory would lead to a complete breakdown of internationalism.  National-communism and nationalist messianism would triumph first in the CPSU and then in many other Communist parties, pitting them one against the other with increasing violence.  This prediction has found a tragic confirmation in the open and protracted wars in Southeast Asia, as it did in the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, not to speak of the tremendous military build-up at the Soviet-Yugoslav border and later at the Soviet-Chinese border.

This transformation of the parties came in the wake of the violent destruction of genuine and democratically elected party leaders, the constant intervention of Moscow, the regressive selection of new leaders from among servile elements, and the growing dependence of the parties upon Soviet material aid.  And the Kremlin successfully exploited the great prestige of the Soviet Union, which remained identified with the Russian Revolution in the eyes of important sectors of advanced workers throughout the world.  A Communist party leadership that broke with Moscow had no prospects so long as it could not effect the break while heading a powerful revolutionary upsurge in its own country.

Stalin initiated the turn toward classical reformist policies at the Seventh Comintern Congress.  The turn does not represent something essentially new in Eurocommunism.  The British CP, under impulse and with the approval of a famous letter by Stalin, abandoned the doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat immediately after World War II.  The Portuguese CP, which is not Eurocommunist and remains loyal to Moscow, took the same step recently.  Spokesmen of the Soviet bureaucracy have said publicly and in good faith that they are not opposed to the “flexible” (read: reformist) tactics of the Eurocommunists.  The Kremlin is basically interested in the status quo in Europe; Eurocommunists serve the cause of peaceful coexistence quite well.

It would, nevertheless, be wrong to conclude that Eurocommunism really is a myth -- that there is no significant change in the role of the Eurocommunist parties inside capitalist Europe -- or even to characterize them as “Eurostalinists.”

Systematic programmatic codification of reformist practices and revisions of basic tenets of Marxist theories always have been of great importance in the history of the labor movement.  The reformist practice became predominant inside German Social Democracy about 1910.  Without that practice neither the behavior of that party on August 4, 1914 nor its counterrevolutionary role in 1918-1919 could be explained.  But when the German Social Democrats, after having stuck for a long time to the Erfurt program, finally codified their reformist practices in new revisionist programs, the Görlitz and Heidelberg ones of 1923-1925, they undoubtedly opened a new stage of integration of the German labor bureaucracy into bourgeois society and the bourgeois state.  The Godesberg program adopted by the SPD in 1959, which openly abandoned Marxism even in its reformist interpretation, meant a further step in that process, which came to fruition through the Brandt and Schmidt governments.

A new stage has been reached in the integration of the Eurocommunist parties into bourgeois society, even if their practice had long been based upon the theories now being codified.  One party after another repudiates the dictatorship of the proletariat and officially accepts the existing state as an “arena of the class struggle” to be “conquered” by the labor movement.  One party after another programmatically states that “Leninism” is irrelevant to its current policies or even that it is itself not Leninist.

More important, this codification is combined with growing public conflicts with the Kremlin over the “socialist camp” and international policies in general.  Growing criticism of the repression against “dissidents” in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, of the abuse of psychiatric internment, of censorship, and of the suppression of the freedom to express critical ideas, not only “bourgeois” but “communist,” go hand in hand with a more and more critical appraisal of Stalinism, of the present political structure of the Soviet Union, and even of its social structure.  Some of the more advanced spokesmen of Eurocommunism have even stopped referring to the Soviet Union as a “socialist country” and use a vocabulary close to that of Trotsky and the Trotskyist movement.  This language used by the leaders of the Spanish CP is now spreading to Britain, France, and Sweden.  The demand to rehabilitate fully such Communist victims of Stalinist repression as Bukharin and Trotsky follows logically.

The public differences between the Soviet and Eurocommunist leaders are by no means limited to such issues as the internal situation and the evolution of the “socialist camp.”  They already touch upon a growing number of international conflicts between imperialism and the Soviet Union.  The Japanese CP supports its own bourgeoisie against the USSR in the conflict over the Kurile Islands.  The French CP, against Soviet wishes, supports independent nuclear arms for the imperialist French army.  The Italian CP remained with Andreotti despite his support for the neutron bomb within NATO.  The Italian CP stated publicly its opposition to Soviet and Cuban policies in the Horn of Africa; indeed, all Eurocommunist parties support the Eritrean struggle for national self-determination, while the Soviet Union supports Ethiopia.  Similarly, the Spanish and Italian CPs criticize Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia, while the CPSU takes the opposite stand.

Thus, the question:  In whose interest and on behalf of what social forces are the Eurocommunists applying these reformist policies?  Whereas in the past these policies were applied in the interest of the Soviet bureaucracy -- and could therefore be reversed within forty-eight hours -- today they are increasingly applied in the interest of a national labor bureaucracy integrated into bourgeois society and under the historical pressure of the imperialist bourgeoisie.  And there remains a radical difference in nature between the Soviet bureaucracy and the imperialist bourgeoisie.

The Strategic Choice

It would be a gross oversimplification to reduce the complex evolution of the Eurocommunist parties to a matter of “social pressure of the hostile environment” and to characterize their leaders as “NATO-Communists,” as the CPUSA sneeringly does.  Eurocommunism represents a mixture of continuity with and change from the Stalinism of, say, 1934-1956.  The CPSU and its remaining Western supporters must -- but cannot -- explain how “fraternal parties” of the “world Communist movement,” faithful for decades and supported by millions of workers, could transform themselves almost overnight into “NATO-Communists” without a change in leadership, without a change in organizational structure, without a revolt of the ranks, and, most important, without a change of day-to-day policies and basic political strategy.

An understanding of Eurocommunism thus requires a sociological and ideological analysis of the inner dialectics of the great strategic debates that have continued to divide the international labor movement since the beginning of the century -- debates closely linked to the objective dynamics of the class struggle itself.  In that sense, the present strategic debate over Eurocommunism leaves an impression of déja vu.  Essentially, the Eurocommunist strategists are arguing exactly along Bernstein’s lines, and they are reaching similar conclusions.

The Eurocommunists hope to avoid, at all costs, a head-on collision between the bourgeoisie, with its state apparatus, and the working class and the masses.  According to the Eurocommunists, such a head-on collision is harmful (it leads to inevitable defeat for the working class), unnecessary (there are other ways to eliminate capitalism), and contrary to the needs of a “democratic transition to socialism” (it forces the labor movement on a road similar to that which led to the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union).  Consequently, it is necessary to have a gradual transition to socialism, which respects the basic institutions of parliamentary democracy and operates only through such reforms as can rally a large consensus -- an overwhelming majority.  Eurocommunists seek broad, long-term agreements not only with Social Democracy and other components of the labor movement and the working class, but also with sectors of the bourgeoisie -- from marginal forces like the radicaux de gauche and the “left Gaullists” in France or the Rassemblement Wallon in Belgium, to the democrazia cristiana, the main capitalist party in Italy.

For Bernstein, in a sense theoretically more consistent than the Eurocommunists, the strategy of avoiding frontal assault followed logically from an analysis that pointed to a gradual reduction of economic contradictions and class conflicts in mature (one would say today: monopoly) capitalism.  There would be fewer economic crises and less unemployment as a result of the “regulating activity” of the trusts.  There would be less and less international competition and strife.  Class and international conflicts would become milder and milder.  The stronger the working class became organizationally, the higher its standard of living would become.  The capitalists would, in turn, accept more and more regulation of economic life and social conditions through the “democratic state.”  Under these circumstances, upsetting the apple cart would be criminally irresponsible.  Why risk everything, when a constantly growing harvest of socialist reforms could be reaped within the system, thereby inexorably transforming it from within?  In any event, we have had two world wars, the greatest depression in the history of capitalism, fascism, the collapse of the colonial empires, famine in the Third World, the threat of nuclear war, and a new long depression initiated in the 1970s.

It hardly needs to be said that the Eurocommunists, like Bernstein, repudiate Marxist theory.  And here their inconsistency is most glaring.  They want to remain Marxists while rallying to gradualism.  They want to remain proponents of the class struggle while systematically practicing class conciliation.  They want to avoid frontal conflicts between capital and labor, without asking whether the deepening inner contradictions of bourgeois society do not make such conflicts periodically unavoidable.

Even more striking: The refusal of any head-on collision can only be justified by the argument that it would unavoidably lead to the defeat of labor.  Not accidentally, the “historic compromise” in Italy followed from Enrico Berlinguer’s interpretation of the Chilean coup of September 1973.  For Berlinguer the defeat of the Chilean working class was practically unavoidable from the moment Frei’s Christian Democratic party -- again, the main party of the Chilean bourgeoisie -- was solidly aligned against the Unidad Popular.  In diametrical opposition, the revolutionary Marxist analysis holds that the Chilean defeat resulted from unrealistic and treacherous attempts to avoid, brake, or fragment mass mobilization, mass self-organization, and mass armament (including organization of the soldiers and systematic attempts to disintegrate the bourgeois army) in the face of unavoidable class polarization and preparation for an armed coup by the capitalists.

Berlinguer, like the Spanish Eurocommunists, assumes the relative weakness of the working class and the still enormous strength of the capitalist class and the social forces upon which it can draw. But the class struggle in south-western Europe during 1968-1977, especially during the crisis of 1975-1977, yields no evidence for this preposterous assumption.  Bourgeois society suffered the second gravest economic crisis in its history and probably it s second gravest social and political crisis -- indeed, in Portugal, its gravest.  The labor movement had taken the offensive.

In numbers, organizational strength, and militancy, the working class has become stronger than ever before.  Berlinguer and the other Italian spokesmen of Eurocommunism, as well as many of the more leftwing spokesmen of Eurocommunism in France and Spain, had to argue in favor of gradualism while insisting on working class strength and the “irresistible ascent” of the (Communist) labor movement -- again in classical “social-democratic” terms.  The argument went: We have become so strong that the capitalists cannot risk rightwing adventures anymore; so strong that we can impose upon them more and more reforms to assure the transition to socialism.  So, why take the unnecessary risk of a collision with uncertain outcome?  But the Eurocommunists cannot argue simultaneously backward and forward.  Gradualism is necessary as the only alternative to a threatening fascist coup.  Gradualism is possible and preferable because big business has become so weak as to reconcile itself to parliamentary democracy and cannot risk rightwing adventures anymore.

In reality, history confirms again and again that periodically -- not permanently, not at the same time in all countries -- a sudden sharpening of the class struggle is unavoidable under contemporary capitalism.  It results from the combination of many factors, which do not necessarily coincide with economic depressions, although the decline of the rate of profit and the sharper economic contradictions make new reforms unacceptable to the system as such and force it to retract some granted in “better times.”

Under such conditions, a growing polarization of social and political forces generally occurs.  The tempo of the struggles of the working class and other oppressed layers of society increases sharply.  These struggles take more advanced forms and generate demands and forms of organization that objectively challenge the very survival of bourgeois society.  This is an objective phenomenon, not “provoked” by revolutionary agitators.  If anything, the previous existence of a strong revolutionary mass party would give it a more “orderly” and less “wild” character.

Simultaneously, the bourgeoisie, which observes this objective trend with growing fear, starts to prepare the defense of its “highest value” (private property and profit) with all the means at its disposal.  Having nearly a thousand years of political training and experience, it is master of the art of maneuver.  It can combine attempts at cajoling the mass movement, retreating before the onslaught, temporarily accepting unavoidable concessions even if economically very costly, so long as its essential weapons, i.e., the capitalist relations of production and the bourgeois state apparatus, are preserved.  Basing itself upon these final strongholds, it can then wait till it can go over to the counteroffensive at the appropriate moment -- a counteroffensive the more violent and sanguinary, the greater its fear of “losing everything” had been in the previous phase.

Only if the labor movement uses the favorable relation of forces produced by the general social crisis and the huge extent of the mass mobilization to strike a decisive blow against the capitalists -- i.e., expropriate them and destroy their state apparatus -- can this counteroffensive be avoided.  If the gradualists have their way, if they themselves decisively limit, weaken, and divide the mass mobilization, if they substitute a compromise with capitalism for the attempt to overthrow it, then the capitalist revanche will become inevitable.

By and large,  notwithstanding the specific variants in national politics and the class struggle, this is what happened in Germany 1918-1923 and 1933, in Austria 1918-1934, in Italy 1919-1922, in Spain 1931-1937, in France 1934-1938, again in France and Italy 1944-1948, and in Chile 1970-1973.  It has been happening right before our eyes in Portugal since 1974, and will surely repeat itself in France, where the process started with the thunderclap of May 1968, in Italy, where it started in 1969, and in Spain.  Even a traditionally parliamentary country like Britain is slowly sliding in the same direction.

Certainly, gradualism will not lead to rapid defeat every year everywhere.  The direction and outcome of the process depends upon the tempo and depth of the objective class struggle.  The German gradualists could argue that they gained a breathing spell of six or seven years for a “stable” Weimar Republic (1923-1930).  The British gradualists can argue that the working class gained much during 1945-1951.  While the economic constraints of these gains must be carefully measured for each case and require specific analysis, we are dealing with a general historical trend and a basic strategic choice, not with the tactics of a given moment in a given country.  And from that point of view, historical evidence weighs heavily against the Eurocommunist variant of reformism, gradualism, and class conciliation.  In no case in which a violent sharpening of class contradictions has objectively occurred have the conciliationists been able to avoid the feared head-on collision.  In each case in which they have dominated the working class, the collision has ended in bloody and long-term defeats.

The Eurocommunists argue that the revolutionary (Leninist) strategy has never been successful in an industrialized country.  But outside of Russia, where it was successful after all, it has never been really tried -- with the possible, partial, and inefficient exception of Germany in 1923 and Spain in 1936-1937.  The gradualist strategy has been tried again and again.  It has each time ended in bloody defeat.  So the burden of proof rests on the other side.

The Basic Theoretical Revision

The revision of the Marxist theory of the state, the theoretical basis of Eurocommunism, is strangely intertwined with the theory of “state monopoly capitalism.”  Logically, one would have assumed that such a theory would stress the growing interpenetration of the bourgeois state apparatus and the monopolies.  Indeed, since World War I, and especially after the crash of 1929, the bourgeois state, whatever its forms, governments, and policies, has intervened in innumerable cases to preserve, defend, uphold, and guarantee monopoly (surplus) profits.  But the theorists of Eurocommunism make a bizarre salto mortale: Precisely, because the state becomes more and more an all-pervading social instrument, indispensable for upholding the rule of monopoly capitalism, it is supposed also to become a kind of quasi-neutral and autonomous arena of class struggle. While state intervention and state budgets are being used for bolstering monopoly capitalism, they could also be used for ushering in socialism -- gradually, of course, very gradually -- provided the labor movement conquers more and more positions “inside the state.”

Again, the impression of déja vu can hardly be avoided.  The argument has been used innumerable times by classical Social Democrats, not to speak of their latter-day successors.  In the realm of theoretical revisionism the Eurocommunists, at least their less crude spokesmen, do argue with more sophistication than the Bernsteins, Kautskys, Otto Bauers, and Hilferdings did after World War I.

One Eurocommunist argument is based upon a semantic confusion.  When the Eurocommunists try to ridicule the idea of “smashing the state machinery” -- which, the boldest of them argue, was an inadmissible concession of Marx to anarchism after the experience of the Paris Commune -- by asking whether “we” really want to smash the post office and the kindergartens, the answer is obvious.

The word “state apparatus” is used ambiguously to indicate simultaneously all those institutions financed by public funds as against all those which are privately owned, specifically designed to uphold bourgeois class rule.  No revolutionary socialist would dream of doing away with free kindergartens or social security, just because they happen to have been publicly organized before the overthrow of capitalism.  If anything, far from being characteristic of the bourgeois state, one could call them cells of a future socialist society, which we do want to preserve and expand.  Their links with bourgeois class rule work through the bureaucratic hierarchy that administers them, the miserable and niggardly limitation of their services, the absence of large-scale self-administration by those most concerned, the bourgeois ideology that shapes much of their content -- these a socialist revolution would alter radically without suppressing the services as such.

Another argument, tied to the very logic of gradualism, tries to identify the process of conquering reforms within bourgeois society and the state with the possibility of qualitative changes.  Who could be against having Socialists and Communists replace bourgeois mayors?  Would that not help the class struggle?  But if you have a great majority of Socialist (Communist) mayors, of Socialist (Communist) high functionaries, of Socialist (Communist) members of parliament, cabinet ministers, prime ministers, presidents of the Republic, during a great number of years if not decades, can you then still speak about a “bourgeois” state apparatus?  To answer this sophism, consider the parallel with wage increases.  No serious socialist would be against higher wages under capitalism.  But do fifty years of wage increases lead to a “transformation of quantity into quality,” i.e., to a disappearance of wage-labor and the wage-labor system?  Obviously not.  Capitalists only grant wage increases inasmuch as they do not do away with profits.  And so long as profits are produced, capital is accumulated, and capitalism is far from disappearing.  If ”Socialist mayors” or “Socialist” high functionaries limit their activity to administering bourgeois society while trying to achieve some reforms, which make life more tolerable for the poor, the exploited, and the oppressed, then no real theoretical problem arises.  The state remains a bourgeois state.  Capitalism operates according to its own laws of motion, perhaps more smoothly from the point of view of the capitalist class than it would under “wilder” and more “inhuman” conditions.  But the capitalists grant such reforms grudgingly: They try to limit them to the utmost; they haggle over who is to pay; they tie them to certain economic and political constraints.  By and large, such a “class struggle within the state apparatus” is perfectly tolerable for capitalism.

Let us now assume that the Socialist (Communist) mayors try to introduce tax systems that make decisive inroads into private fortunes; that they start to arm the workers against fascist gangs; that they protect factory occupations instead of protecting factory owners; that they prepare all kinds of measures that strike at the basic interests of the bourgeoisie.  Can one seriously assume that such a form of “class struggle within the state apparatus” would be tolerated by a resigned bourgeoisie as “the verdict of universal franchise”?  For doing much less than that, the Spanish Popular Front and the Chilean Unidad Popular led straight to a fascist coup.  Such behavior, far from avoiding a head-on collision, actually precipitates it.  But then, would it not be wise to mobilize the masses in a direct revolutionary anticapitalist way, so as to improve the chances for victory in the unavoidable collision?  The Eurocommunist hypothesis is utterly preposterous.  There has never been such a “revolutionary reform of the state apparatus” -- not for a single day, anywhere.

The bourgeois state apparatus remains structurally bound to the capitalist system through innumerable l inks, mechanisms, and mediations.  Its hierarchical structure heavily favors recruitment of its upper layers from within the bourgeoisie and carefully controls worker penetration.  The income differentials on which this hierarchy rests automatically integrate the upper layers of the state apparatus into the middle bourgeoisie -- i.e., provide them with modest access to capital accumulation and opportunities for corruption.  The ideology of this upward mobility is bourgeois; the values to be defended are bourgeois; the law to be upheld is bourgeois.  In a word, the ideology, like the system itself, rests on private property.

Even worse is the functional tie of that state apparatus to the needs of bourgeois society.  Can one visualize a normally operating prison system in which the administrators systematically organize the escape of prisoners?  Can one visualize an army general staff dominated by fanatical pacifists?  But then, how visualize a Western ministry of foreign trade that systematically puts the defense of the black South Africans against the Apartheid system above the interests of exporting equipment -- police or military equipment -- to South Africa, or a ministry of finance that puts the guarantee of free social services for the poor above the consideration of “defense of the currency” or “struggle against inflation.”

Theoretical analysis confirms what empirical evidence has proved again and again.  Administration of the bourgeois state by Socialists (Communists) is possibly a lesser evil compared to its administration by bourgeois politicians.  But it does not and cannot change the nature of the bourgeois state.  The overthrow of the bourgeois state apparatus -- in the first place its repressive apparatus -- is an unavoidable specific task of the masses in the process of a socialist revolution; without it there can be no change from bourgeois to proletarian class rule.

The Eurocommunists’ misunderstanding of the specific nature of the bourgeois state is especially glaring in relation to economic policy.  Here, they claim, you have the transposition of the “class struggle within the state” par excellence.  Would it not make a decisive difference for the class struggle whether the state upholds and maintains “full employment policies,” even under conditions of severe economic crisis, or permits massive unemployment to alter radically the economic relationship of forces between capital and labor?

The neo-Keynesian spokesmen for Eurocommunism seem to forget that economic crises and increased unemployment do not result from a conspiracy by vicious employers, nor from a deplorable consequence of “wrong policies,” but result inevitably from the capitalist mode of production and its inner laws of motion.  They result from a decline of the average rate of profit, both realized and expected, which leads to a decline of investment and until profitability is more or less restored and an expanding market begins to reappear.  To believe that capitalists could be “induced,” “cajoled, or obliged to invest against their own profit motives and interests is absurd.  To believe that state investment could “gradually” substitute for private investment without provoking an even deeper crisis of overproduction is no less so.  To assume that capitalists would not react violently against any real shift of economic power away from the banks and the big monopolies is again disproved by all historical evidence.

Such a reaction generally takes the form of massive capital flight, investment strikes, sabotage of production, and organized runaway inflation; and it take the form of preparation for a violent overthrow of the political regime.  Again: Either the economic policies of the “antimonopolist alliance” do not really harm the decisive sectors of the capitalist class, and therefore do not offer a “gradual transition to socialism,” or they really hurt big business and produce the very head-on collision supposedly to be avoided at all costs.  Capitalism, like the bourgeois state apparatus, is not a kaleidoscope of assembled mutually unrelated pieces, but an organic structure that can only function according to specific laws.

You can assist capitalism to function better during crises.  As the German Social Democrats of 1929-1933 said with Tarnow’s famous formula: Act like physicians at the sickbed of capitalism.  By and large, Enrico Berlinguer has had the Italian CP doing just that during the present crisis -- upholding the bourgeois austerity measures, the main function of which is to restore the rate of profit at the expense of wages and social security outlays.  You can also try to overthrow capitalism.  But you cannot maintain capitalism and simultaneously try to impose upon it a way of functioning that contradicts its basic laws of motion.  The only thing you will produce by such policies is a growing paralysis of the whole economy, a sharper and sharper crisis, and an inevitable showdown with t he capitalist class without the workers having been politically and organizationally prepared for it.

Socialism and Democracy

The Eurocommunists decisively tie their acceptance of gradualism and reformism to the deep attachment of the Western masses to democratic freedoms and institutions.  They insist that no transition to socialism can result from political proposals that seem to do away with, restrict, or threaten these freedoms and institutions -- unless one wants to impose a transition by a violent minority rule that does not lead to socialism, as the sad example of the so-called “socialist countries” confirms.  So there is really no alternative to a “large popular consensus” and avoidance of any sudden, radical upheaval.  Therefore, if one wants to combine socialism and democracy, there is really no alternative to gradualism.

Here, the basic theoretical blunder, which both Marx and Lenin so strongly denounced, confuses democratic freedoms for the masses with the state institutions of bourgeois-parliamentary democracy.  Historically, many (not all!) of these freedoms did first appear with the revolutionary bourgeoisie’s assault on the absolutist state.  But even bourgeois revolutions have witnessed more radical forms of direct democracy, generally tied to radicalized petty-bourgeois and semiproletarian social layers, if not to the incipient proletariat itself.  Between these two types of institutions, a conflict is inevitable.  In the long run one cannot survive without eliminating the other.

The same phenomenon occurs in a much more striking way in the course of all genuinely proletarian revolutions -- i.e., socialist revolutions in which the wage-earning class plays the decisive role as a class, from the Paris Commune through the Russian, German, Spanish, Hungarian, and Portuguese revolutions, among others.  It is impossible for the working class to organize massively, as a class, or to start rule directly, through the institutions of bourgeois-parliamentary democracy, which is by its very nature representative, i.e., indirect.  So, the masses have spontaneously tended to set up organs of self-organization (councils), which grow naturally out of more radical attempts at massive self-organization during the prerevolutionary class struggle: general assemblies at factory level; general assemblies of union members; democratically elected strike committees; neighborhood committees.  Proletarian revolutions are therefore characterized by the appearance of dual power: The new organs of the future proletarian state arise before the organs of the bourgeois state have completely disappeared.  Again, the two face an inevitable test of strength.

The Eurocommunists properly stress the attachment of the Western masses to democratic freedoms.  Indeed so -- especially after the traumatic experiences with fascism and Stalinism.  But they confuse that attachment with an attachment to institutions of bourgeois-parliamentary democracy.  Often, the two seem superficially to coincide, when there is no choice.  But it is precisely a characteristic of revolutionary situations that such a choice can appear: a body of workers and people’s councils, democratically elected, set up and controlled by the masses themselves.  What then really occurs with such dual power is a struggle between two democratic legitimacies in the minds of the masses: the old legitimacy of institutions of representative bourgeois democracy based upon universal franchise, and the new legitimacy of institutions of direct workers’ democracy.

This struggle is not decided in advance.  If the defenders of workers’ power do not succeed in convincing the majority of the toilers through their own current experience that the councils provide greater possibilities for democratic freedoms -- not only socio-economic but also political ones -- then in the ensuing test of strength the bourgeois state will prevail.

On no other issue have Stalinism and its by-products created more havoc, in the minds and imagination of the masses as well as in actual practice, than on the interrelationship between political democracy for the toilers and the dictatorship of the proletariat.  Is it necessary to recall Engels’ famous exclamation that the Paris Commune, elected through universal franchise with a multiparty system, was the prototype of the dictatorship of the proletariat?  Is it necessary to recall that in Lenin’s classic State and Revolution not one word can be found about a one-party dictatorship?

To avoid playing into the hands of Social Democrats and bourgeois liberals, the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat must categorically mean the rule of the wage-earners as a class -- i.e., 85%-90% of the people in the imperialist countries -- through democratically elected workers’ and popular councils, with a multiparty system, independent unions, the freedom to strike, freedom of the press, speech, assembly.  In short, the dictatorship of the proletariat must offer the masses and individuals more, not less, political freedom than they enjoyed under bourgeois democracy, while it ends capitalist exploitation.

But cannot we “gradually” transform indirect representative democracy into a “more direct one,” or mix the two together to achieve a higher form of democracy without creating a revolutionary crisis and running the risk of bloody defeats?  Cannot we embark upon a course of gradual “democratization of the state,” which progressively eliminates most of the classical Marxist objections to bourgeois-parliamentary democracy?  Obviously, no serious socialist will object to an extension of the electoral system, or greater recourse to popular referendums.  All such democratic and progressive reforms are worth conquering, but they do not change the basic nature of the bourgeois state.  Capitalism can survive them, as it does in such countries as Switzerland and the United States.

Such reforms have to be distinguished from those changes in the exercise of political power which would indeed strike at the very roots of bourgeois class power.  Can one visualize all higher functionaries -- and especially all top personnel of ministries -- being elected by universal franchise, becoming revocable at will by their electors, and having their salaries reduced to those of an average worker?  Can one visualize the “democratization of the bourgeois army,” with the election of officers in free assemblies of soldiers who have the right to challenge and discuss, in advance, any order they receive?

The slightest step in that direction would provoke a political and social crisis of the greatest proportions and would lead directly to a test of strength between the contending political and social forces.  Either the “democratization of the state” leaves all the nerve-centers of the bourgeois class-power intact, in which case there is no real democratization at all, or it starts to touch those centers of power, in which case the head-on collision becomes unavoidable and the bourgeois state survives only if the “democratization process” is violently thrown back.

Engels correctly stated that in the last analysis, the state is an armed body of men.  Every revolutionary crisis in contemporary history has been decided by the question:  Which class disarms which?  The decisive battle has actually occurred over that question, as it recently did again in Chile and Portugal.  The political and social relationship of forces, the presence or absence of a bold authoritative leadership in each class camp, and the extent of the mass mobilization and self-organization all bear heavily upon the outcome of the struggle.  But the form remains:  In a revolutionary crisis the capitalists will more readily give up 50% of their property than 5% of their weapons.  They know quite well that if they can keep intact their army and their state power, they will sooner or later reconquer lost property -- with a vengeance.

If the upsurge of the mass movement is wide and deep enough, it inevitably touches the army, too.  Some of the soldiers do become politicized and radicalized, do want to challenge radically the oppressive hierarchy of the bourgeois army, do start a struggle for “democratization.”  But how do the conciliationists, both the social-democratic and the Eurocommunist, react?  By assuring the revolutionary officers that they would not dream of “upsetting discipline,” “challenging the nation’s army,” “distributing arms to the populace.” 

This is the logical outcome of their desperate attempts to reduce tensions, to avoid anything which could “sharpen the (class) conflict.”  And indeed, nothing “sharpens the conflict” more directly than the incipient rise of the mass movement.  But here again is the dilemma:  You cannot simultaneously defend the integrity of the bourgeois army and fight to “democratize” it.  Either way, you do not escape the test of strength.  But by discouraging or crushing the mass rebellion of the soldiers against their counterrevolutionary officers, you guarantee that this test will occur under the most favorable conditions for the enemy -- i.e., you assure your own future in a concentration camp or before the execution squads of Santiago stadium.

A more general conclusion follows:  The logic of class conciliationism in a period of tumultuous mass mobilizations calls not for extending but for restricting the democratic freedoms of the masses.  And we have seen this outcome again and again.

When the proponents of class conciliation are in the government, they must conduct that repression whether they like it or not.  That is the implacable dialectics of the class struggle at its highest point: Either you assist the masses’ freedom to eliminate capitalism, or you assist the bourgeois state in restricting that “provocative” freedom of the masses -- “anarcho-populism,” as Mario Soares so nicely called it in Portugal.  The logic of gradualism and of conciliationism ends with counterrevolutionary policies in a revolutionary situation: to save the bourgeois order when it is deadly threatened.  That is the road Eurocommunism  has engaged upon.

In that sense, all the talk about “consensus” is largely fraudulent.  There can be no consensus of fired workers with those who fire them, nor between the exploited and their exploiters.  The bourgeoisie will never “consent” to be expropriated and disarmed.  When the chips are down, you must choose to “consent” with the rebellious masses or with the bourgeois defenders of “law and order.”  You cannot do both.

The Bourgeoisie and Eurocommunism

The imperialist bourgeoisie remains divided, indeed ambivalent, over Eurocommunism.  So does the leadership of Social Democracy.  The bourgeoisie is pleased that the Eurocommunist parties abjure Leninism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the devil and all his works.  The more theoretically-minded social-democratic leaders, with reason, celebrate the regression towards Bernsteinism as their historical triumph.  Yet, the fundamental suspicion and basic hostility of the capitalists towards the Eurocommunist parties have not been essentially reduced.

The more narrow-minded bourgeois politicians rationalized their hostility by a conspiracy theory.  All the proclamations of Eurocommunist leaders about “pluralism,” “political alternance,” respect for parliamentary institutions, as well as their growing criticisms of the Kremlin, are supposed to be “pure tactics” designed to fool the public.  The most irrational of these politicians even claim that it has all been ordered by the Kremlin --a concept towards which more normal minds tend to remain a bit skeptical.

More flexible and intelligent bourgeois politicians do recognize that something important has been changing at the top of the Eurocommunist parties.  But they wonder how far the change has gone.  They still wonder if it is “fundamental.”   Their loudly voiced skepticism serves a double purpose.  It permits them to keep the CP leaders away from the fleshpots of power as long as possible and thereby serves the interests of the bourgeois politicians themselves.  Simultaneously, it constantly blackmails the Eurocommunists into making further ideological and political concessions.  Some of the politically more aggressive leaders of Social Democracy, most notably the Italian Craxi, have become real masters at that game.  They constantly shout at the Eurocommunists: “You are inconsistent!  You have to go all the way!  Say that you have nothing in common with the creed called Leninism!  Admit that adherence to ‘fanatical and religious Marxism’ is incompatible with adherence to political pluralism!  Admit that no pluralistic democracy is possible without a ‘mixed economy,’ i.e., without the survival of private property!”  The Eurocommunists react by desperately jumping in all directions, like fish caught in the net of revisionism.  Their incapacity to answer these attacks in any consistent and dignified way has provided a sad spectacle.  

But the hesitations and doubts of the more intelligent sectors of the bourgeoisie towards Eurocommunism indicate the point beyond which the process of “social-democratization” has not yet gone .  For decades no Western capitalist class has objected to having a social-democratic minister of the defense or of the interior to manage the nerve centers of the bourgeois state.  No capitalist class of the West, not even the Finnish, is ready to accept a Eurocommunist minister of the army or of the police.  During the last two decades inside the British Labor Party, the SPD, and a few other social-democratic party leaderships, an increasing number of high functionaries and state technocrats have gradually substituted for direct representatives of workers’ organizations.  Some labor representatives -- admittedly, only a few -- now even sit on the boards of big capitalist enterprises.  Nothing of the kind has happened (yet) to the Eurocommunists.  There is not a single CP leader sitting on the board of any large private capitalist enterprise.

In addition, the capitalists, while acknowledging the Eurocommunists’ movement away from the Soviet bureaucracy, note -- and weigh heavily -- that all ties with the “socialist camp” are far from broken.

Why is it, then, that the attitude of the capitalists remains ambivalent?  The French capitalists did everything possible to keep the Communists out of the government; the Spanish capitalists are doing the same; the Italian capitalists are maneuvering around the same issue.  Yet, this opposition is not a matter of principle for the Western bourgeoisie.  Simply, the capitalists think that they do not now need to have the CP in the government in order to have the Party apparatus exercise a “restraining influence” upon the trade-unions and the militant masses -- to have “social pacts,” austerity policies, and other extreme practices of class collaboration.

The bourgeoisie does not (yet) need CP cabinet ministers to get over a grave social crisis, for that crisis is far from having reached its boiling point.  In that respect, those sad post-mortem investigations of the French labor movement after the electoral setback of March 1978 brought out a significant conclusion, at least among the more critical elements inside both the CP and the SP.  The setback caused by the shift of 300,000 voters, out of 30,000,000, during the last days before the elections, was related to the throttling of the “social movement” -- i.e., the mobilization of the wage-earners in defense of their interests against the onslaught of the Giscard-Barre austerity program.  That movement had been throttled for a whole year in order to “prepare good elections.”  Under these circumstances the bourgeoisie could indeed go all out to try to prevent the Union of the Left’s coming to power.  If there had been a mounting strike wave, nay, a general strike with factory occupations against the Barre plan, one would probably have seen a repetition of May-June 1936: The bourgeoisie would have begged the Union of the Left and the CP to enter the government as quickly as possible and to start to apply reforms in order to restore “business as usual” -- i.e., to abort a revolutionary situation.

In such an eventuality, which is still in the cards in the whole of Southwestern Europe, all opposition to CP government participation would disappear among the most authoritative spokesmen of big business within twenty-four hours, provided the Eurocommunists continued to give all guarantees that they would limit their reforms to those compatible with the survival of the capitalist mode of production and the bourgeois state.  And one of the ways in which the Eurocommunists do give these guarantees is by insisting upon the participation of bourgeois parties and bourgeois politicians in their various “antimonopolist coalitions” and proposed coalition governments.

The Bureaucracy & Eurocommunism

The growing irritation of most of the ruling bureaucracies -- in the first place that of the Soviet Union and most of the “people’s democracies” -- with Eurocommunism does not stem from its revisionist theories of the bourgeois state or collaboration with the respective national bourgeoisies.  Instead, the parties that remain loyal to the Kremlin are by and large following identical policies, with the approval of Moscow.  Moscow has offered to extend that benediction to Berlinguer, Marchais, and Carrillo too, provided basic interests of the Soviet bureaucracy are not threatened by Eurocommunist policies.

But such a threat does exist, essentially in two fields.  The growing independence of the Eurocommunist parties, including material independence, from the Kremlin implies a clear threat that at some point the Eurocommunist parties will cease to support Soviet foreign policy, even partially as they do today.   Their shift would seriously weaken the international position of the Soviet bureaucracy.  True, the bureaucracy relies much more on its military strength and commercial deals with various sections of the imperialist bourgeoisie than upon the Communist parties to defend its interests in the West and Japan.  The loss of any political instrument or permanent ally within the imperialist countries would, nevertheless, weaken its bargaining power and its general political strength on the international scale.

Much more important is the threat that the Eurocommunists’ still limited and inconsistent criticisms of the political and social structure of the USSR and similar countries represent to the stability of the Soviet Union and the “people’s democracies.”  The one political group that has approved with enthusiasm and without reservations that critical stance of the Eurocommunists is the oppositional current inside the CPs of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, especially the current which has come out of the apparatus and not yet cut all links.  The Czechoslovak “reform Communists” provide a typical example.  But in Eastern Europe enthusiasm for and illusions about Eurocommunism go much further.  They engage such genuine and sincere left Communist oppositionists as Wolf Biermann, Robert Havemann, and Rudolf Bahro in the German Democratic Republic.

This convergence between Communist opposition in the East and Eurocommunism has both political and ideological roots.  The political roots are obviously tactical.  It is much more difficult for a Stalinist bureaucrat in Prague, Warsaw, or Moscow to shout “Enemy of détente!  Agent of the C.I.A.!” at someone who is quoting Berlinguer, Carrillo, Marchais, than at someone who is quoting Jimmy Carter on human rights.  The Communist oppositionists find powerful ammunition in the Eurocommunist criticism of the more repulsive features of the bureaucracy’s dictatorship.  Such criticism has become more legitimate inside the “official” Communist movement for the first time since the expulsion of the Left Opposition during and after 1927.

This tactic of the Communist oppositionalists in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union corresponds to objective reality, and not simply to illusions.  The widening debates on the nature of the Soviet Union, the nature and crimes of Stalinism, the relations between democracy and socialism, which develop inside the Eurocommunist parties, inevitably get transported into Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, albeit in a partial and distorted way.  They deal hammer blows against bureaucratic monolithism.  They are motors, still small and weak, of the coming political antibureaucratic revolution in these countries.  They are enraging the ruling bureaucracy.  Thus, revolutionary socialists must not equate the growing concessions of the Eurocommunists towards Social Democracy and the imperialist bourgeoisie with their growing criticism of the bureaucratic dictatorship in Eastern Europe and the USSR.

Only an adherent of the crude and baseless “two camp theory” would argue that every blow against dictatorship in the bureaucratized workers’ states “automatically” favors capitalism and imperialism.  Neither the Hungarian workers’ councils of 1956, nor the Prague Spring of 1968, nor the Polish strikers of 1970 and 1977, acted “objectively in the interests of imperialism.”  Even less were they “subjectively” intent upon reintroducing capitalism.

The conflict between the oppressed masses of Eastern Europe, the USSR, and China and the ruling bureaucracies has a different social and political nature than the conflict between the USSR and imperialism on a world scale, not to speak about the conflict between capital and labor in the capitalist countries.  It is perfectly possible and consistent to support every anti-imperialist and anticapitalist  struggle in the world, and at the same time to support every struggle of the oppressed masses in the workers’ states.  The overthrow of the bureaucracy’s rule and the establishment of genuine socialist democracy in these countries would immensely strengthen the world struggle for socialism, not weaken it.  It would thus weaken imperialism, not in any way strengthen it.

Still, there are deeper ideological affinities between at least one sector of the Marxist oppositionists in the bureaucratized workers’ states and the Eurocommunists.  These oppositionists are ideologically far from homogeneous.  All shades of opinion exist among them, from acceptance of parliamentary democracy as an “ideal” alternative to the bureaucratic dictatorship, to genuine proponents of workers-council (soviet) democracy with political pluralism in its midst.  But with tremendous ideological confusion and backwardness engendered by Stalinism, with long suppression of open ideological debates, and with the relative isolation of the new opposition from the lively theoretical debates among Western Marxists and scarce access even to the past debates in their own countries (especially in the USSR), it is to be expected that the first “alternative model” the oppositionists confront massively is that of Eurocommunism.  It strikes a responsive chord in them, especially since they remain under the pressure of the Soviet apparatus and must confront the apathy of Soviet workers.  These conditions induce skepticism about the capacity of the working class for self-emancipation.  And they induce illusions about the need for a “grand alliance” with the technocratic wing of the bureaucracy, which dovetail nicely with the Eurocommunist insistence upon an “antimonopoly alliance” with the “new middle class.”

Given these real threats posed by Eurocommunism, one would assume that the Kremlin would try to strike heavy blows against it.  It has not done so up to now.  It has conducted some violent polemics, often through intermediaries, and has discreetly supported some splits by die-hard Stalinists in Western parties.  But the very failure of these splits to find any serious following in the working class, especially among the younger generations, reveals the Kremlin’s dilemma.  An open break with the Eurocommunists would nowhere, with the possible exception of Finland, increase Moscow’s possibilities for influencing the political life and relationship of forces in the imperialist countries.  Indeed, it would weaken its possibilities.  The only alternative is therefore reluctantly to maintain an easy truce, to try to negotiate painfully on each specific issue with each particular CP, and to answer more or less energetically each Eurocommunist “intervention” in the “socialist camp.”

An additional difficulty for Moscow arises from Eurocommunism’s centrifugal effects inside the ruling bureaucracies themselves.  The Yugoslav sympathies for, and ideological affinities with, the Eurocommunists, appeared at the beginning.  The Yugoslavs have supported every move that undermines the twin concepts of “a single center” and “a single model” for building socialism.  The Yugoslavs provide the natural bridge between the Eurocommunists and the “reform Communist” oppositionists in Eastern Europe.  The Rumanians have carefully abstained from criticizing the Eurocommunists.  The Hungarians have restricted themselves to much milder criticisms than the East Germans or Bulgarians.  In general, for Moscow, as for others, an uneasy truce is preferable to open warfare if only to reduce the centrifugal tendencies and ideological confusion.

As for the Chinese, they first denounced “the false Communist parties” of the West as “revisionist capitulators to capitalism” -- those who had abjured Leninism and the dictatorship of the proletariat -- and then denounced them as “stooges of social imperialism” and even “foreign agents.”  Lately, however, the Chinese have reestablished contact with the Eurocommunist parties, especially the Spanish and Italian.  The Yugoslavs, again, play an obvious role as intermediaries.  Inasmuch as the Chinese leaders’ main obsession, at least for the time being, is to weaken the political leadership of the USSR, they must cast a benevolent eye upon the weakening of the ties between the Kremlin and the Eurocommunist mass parties.

The Inner Contradictions of Eurocommunism

Eurocommunism suffers from an identity crisis rooted in the process of gradual social-democratization.  Social-democratic parties exist in all the imperialist countries, some stronger, some weaker.  All have deep roots in the traditional labor movement.  If the main ideological and political differences between the Eurocommunist parties and these social-democratic parties disappear, how could the Eurocommunist apparatus maintain its separate existence?  But the strengthening and extension of its power and privileges within bourgeois society and the bourgeois state is precisely its basic motivation.  How can this contradiction be overcome?

Theoretically, the process of social-democratization could end in overcoming the historic split between the Socialist and Communist parties and could lead to single united reformist mass parties of the working class.  But in whose favor would such a reunification occur?  How would the spoils be divided?  The answer is obvious: With the possible exception of Italy, it would everywhere occur in favor of the old social-democratic apparatus.  Thus, Eurocommunist leaders shrink from brinkmanship on the question of party liquidation.

The French CP leadership provides the clearest case.  It is obsessed by the fear of losing its hegemony among the industrial workers and trade-union electorate to a revitalized Socialist party.  All its maneuvers since September 1977, which undoubtedly contributed to the electoral defeat of the Union of the Left, have been determined by that obsession.  Paradoxically, the less different the long-term strategy of the Eurocommunists becomes than that of the Social Democrats, the more they must desperately try to “differentiate” themselves from the SP, whatever the price.

All the Eurocommunist spokesmen insist that their strategy of gradual transition to socialism is “fundamentally” different from that of the Social Democrats.  “The Social Democrats limit themselves to administering capitalism; we want to transform it.”  Bernsteinian revisionism started exactly with the same argument: “Transform gradually,” by no means only “administer.”  The argument is partially dishonest.  The Austrian, Swedish, British labor parties certainly have not abandoned the idea of “gradual transformation.”  Neither has an important wing of the French, Italian, Belgian, and Spanish Socialist parties.  But it is above all blind to the logic of the historical trend: If you want to “transform capitalism only gradually,” you must administer it when elected.  A growing conflict inevitably arises between two purposes, especially in periods of acute capitalist crisis.  So when genuine differentiation with social-democratic policies becomes more and more difficult, artificial differentiations -- and clear-cut sectarianism -- must substitute for it.

The hesitations of the Eurocommunists to cut the umbilical cord that still links them to the “socialist camp” is largely explicable in these terms.  These links are less and less “paying” from an electoral or a trade-union point of view.  After the experiences of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the bulk of the Western working class no longer identifies the Soviet Union with world revolution and the struggle for socialism, as it still largely did in 1935 or 1945.  But these links remain necessary for maintaining a specific Eurocommunist identity.

But this valse-hesitation of the Eurocommunists around Stalinism immediately suggests other deepening contradictions.  They claim to favor a plural party system in the building of socialism, but they do not condemn the one-party system in the USSR.  They claim to favor independent unions and the right to strike in the “transition to socialism,” but they do not openly struggle for the same rights in Eastern Europe and the USSR.  They condemn censorship, the suppression of the freedom to speak, write, and publish in the “socialist camp,” but they do not fight for those political institutions of socialist democracy which alone can guarantee the execise of such freedoms in those countries.  And they shrink from a clear support of the Communist opposition in the bureaucratized workers’ states; much less do they take an open stand in favor of a political revolution.  In the best of hypotheses they still place their hopes in reforms from the top -- in a dialectical interplay with “pressure from below.”  Obviously, “gradualism” towards the capitalists can only be complemented by “gradualism” towards the bureaucracy.  And since they ardently court the Yugoslav and Rumanian bureaucracies and still hope for openings with the Hungarian, Polish, and Chinese, they impose upon themselves a supplementary restraint in the struggle against bureaucratic regimes.

The implications of these contradictions and inconsistencies are numerous.  The internal regime of the Eurocommunist parties remains largely bureaucratic, although a bit less than ten years ago.  The right to form tendencies and factions remains strictly forbidden.  Only the Spanish CP has made a slight move in the opposite direction.  True, public debates are tolerated more than before.  Expulsions for public expression of differences have become rare.  But the contradictions remain glaring.  What the Eurocommunist leaders are ready to grant to bourgeois political forces in the process of “transition to socialism,” they are not willing to grant to their own members.  And any concession they make along these lines  to a slowly growing pressure from the ranks immediately becomes an additional explosive issue in their relations with Moscow. 

More generally, a thorough, honest, consistent, and scientific explanation of Stalinism, of the bureaucracy, and of the complicity of the “historical” leaders of Eurocommunist CPs in permitting Stalin’s crimes, cannot take place so long as the present intermediary stance is maintained toward the Kremlin, for it becomes an additional explosive issue in their relations with Moscow.

These political-ideological contradictions are compounded by a social contradiction.  The rise of Stalinism was accompanied -- not mechanically, not permanently, not in a linear way, but, nevertheless, by and large -- by a decline of world revolution and a decline of average workingclass consciousness.  Both processes determined each other in growing interconnection.  But the rise of Eurocommunism is accompanied not only by a rise of world revolution, but especially by a rise of workingclass militancy and average workingclass consciousness in most of the relevant countries.  Tremendous conflicts and contradictions thus follow for the application of the Eurocommunist policies.

Contrary to past efforts, the attempt to ram a line of class collaboration, “social pacts,” and austerity down the throats of the Western European workers has provoked massive resistance among the ranks of the CP-dominated unions in Italy, France, and Spain.  In Spain the pressure has not only expressed itself by the appearance of massive opposition votes at union congresses, it has ended in forcing the leadership of the CP-led Comisiones Obreras to reverse partially their policies.  In France the fight of revolutionary socialists for working class unity and the preparation of a general strike against the Giscard-Barre austerity offensive has called forth an echo in the ranks of the CGT and the PCF -- much more important than the echo of the intellectual opposition around Althusser.  In Italy, in the big unions, the CP bureaucracy can still deliver votes for austerity, but these increasingly amount to Pyrrhic victories, for the resistance of the workers at the factory and even local level is deep and growing.

It is unlikely, to say the least, that these CPs can retain the kind of control over the organized labor movement they did even during the May 1968 explosion in France.  Both the CP apparatus and the imperialist bourgeoisie are deeply worried.  For this reason, among others, the French and Spanish parties are not eager to participate in coalition governments forced to impose austerity.  They prefer to realize the “antimonopoly coalition” under socio-economic conditions more favorable to capitalism.  But then, their usefulness to the bourgeoisie would be nil.  The Eurocommunists are under counterpressures: from their interest in becoming integrated into the bourgeois-parliamentary state; and from the rising expectations, restiveness, and anticapitalist militancy of a working class, whose consciousness increasingly encompasses a healthy antibureaucratic ingredient.  Historically, these contradictory pressures threaten to tear them apart. We shall witness a succession of internal conflicts and crises in these parties and cannot exclude even massive splits at moments of deep revolutionary crises.

Eurocommunism is going nowhere.  It has come twenty years too late.  There is less and less space in Western society for reformist gradualism.  Since decisive social tests of strength are inevitable in a whole series of imperialist countries, there is no future for the strategy of the Eurocommunist Parties.  Nor a bright future for their apparatus.

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