Any appraisal of the Communist parties in Western Europe must begin with a distinction that may appear semantic but really touches on one of the most exposed nerves of this strange movement which claims a unique understanding of history, indeed the capacity to "make" history, and yet which contemporary history has so badly lacerated. Communism is a factor, sometimes serious, sometimes vestigial in Western Europe today; but "Western European Communism" does not exist. There is no historically evolved fraternity of parties accustomed to mutual exchange and fitting their national particularities into a common strategy, based on a joint analysis of the economic and social terrain that has, since the war, become increasingly integrated.
The Communists are a collection of forces, whose estrangement from one another has been concealed by a common ideology. Some parties are but sects under ambitious (and often picturesque) chieftains, as has been the case in Holland, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Others are the left wings of expiring or reviving nationalisms, as in Iceland or Cyprus and perhaps in Belgium. Some are the vestiges of movements whose followers have turned to left-wing Socialist parties en masse, as in Denmark and Norway. Certain parties may yet have a future, as in Spain and Portugal, whereas in Western Germany Communism is a ghost that broods over calamitous error and tragedy from which a once proud movement could not recover. Some parties, as in Sweden, strive desperately to achieve rejuvenation, rejecting even a formal solidarity with their ideological kinsmen. In France, Italy and Finland, where the Communists lead formidable electoral blocs, they cannot integrate themselves into their political communities with any real hope of influencing policy unless they undergo an inner transformation. This must call into question rather basic ideas and modes of behavior, not the least of which is their attitude toward Western Europe as an entity.
The gathering in mid-June of 19 Communist movements at Brussels was the first of its kind. Two years before, the Communist parties of the Six
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