Thinking About the Unthinkable in Ukraine
What Happens If Putin Goes Nuclear?
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 together with the British had met in the same city, whereas in Rome, in 1959, only the Six held their first meeting. The Dutch party this past June refused to sign any part of the common declaration, even that aspect which projects a European security system, including both East and West, to replace NATO. The Swedish party did not attend at all, because it "had just decided that no position can hereafter be adopted in its name, nor any declaration published, unless decided by its own elected organs."[i] This "isolationist" stand may in fact undo the regional, purely Nordic gatherings of Communists such as last took place at the end of 1962.
If, as Richard Lowenthal has observed, "international Communism no longer has a single world-wide organization, a single center of authority, or a single orthodox doctrine,"[ii] it is also true that the "polycentrism" advocated by the late Italian leader, Palmiro Togliatti, has not taken hold. Part of the explanation lies in the curious relations between the two strongest movements, the French and the Italian. When, at the end of May, the new Italian General Secretary, Luigi Longo, met his French counterpart, Waldeck Rochet, for the first time since the passing a year ago of both Maurice Thorez and Togliatti, it was noticed that they chose Geneva for their meeting place. Geographical convenience? Perhaps. The neutral ground was, however, appropriate. The two parties have been in sharp disagreement, both as regards what each of them is doing on his own terrain and the impact which divergent policies plus differences in style and stance have on one another.
This disarray dates from the failure of the Communists in Western Europe to make the integration and unification of their part of the world their own basic policy initiative at a time when, 20 years ago, they stood at the peak of their strength. The "internationalism" of the Communists (so important an attraction to the survivors of war-torn Europe in the twenties) never really developed as a solidarity toward one another, except possibly during the struggle in Republican Spain and to some extent in the Resistance to Hitler. Their "internationalism" ran almost exclusively from each party toward the Soviet Union.
Western Europe was viewed essentially as a peninsula of the Eurasian continent which the Soviet armies had been unable to reach in time. The Communist parties saw themselves not as architects of a new relationship with the Socialists and Catholics in the refashioning of this old center of Western civilization on some authentically autonomous basis, but as outposts to be held intact in terms of several calculations: the United States was assumed to face a postwar crisis on the scale of 1929-33 which would open the Western European economy to drastic socialization; to avert this crisis (or find a way out of it) the United States would launch an anti-Soviet war. In 1949, the Communists asserted that in case of war Western Europe would be turned into a guerrilla area and the Soviet armies welcomed to the English Channel. The Communists conceived of their task as holding fast to postwar positions (they were almost everywhere members of the government) until the Soviet Union's economic recovery could stalemate Anglo-American military power. The Soviet acquisition of the atomic bomb appeared as a milestone in this strategy. The coming to power of the Chinese Communists gave it an intercontinental dimension. The Sino-Soviet alliance seemed to give Communism an Archimedean lever by which the earth itself could be moved.
The task of the Communist parties was thus to "tread water" politically in anticipation of a transformed relationship of forces, in which the struggle for world supremacy was the cold war itself. This required avoiding the seizure of power in any country where, as in Greece, it threatened to involve the weakened Soviet Union. It also required a rigorous Stalinization of each party, both to endure the historical interval and to communize Europe. As coördinates in this strategy the Communist parties were thus not simply Soviet agents, but supporters of the U.S.S.R. until such time as they could become its allies. The nuance is important because it helps explain the inner rationalizations of men who could claim that in facing the Axis they had been patriots.
But the Stalinization had to be unconditional. New leaders who had come to Communism in the Resistance and who proved hard to bureaucratize were everywhere shunted aside. In Norway, this took the form of a shabby conspiracy against the foremost Communist leader, Peder Furubotn. In France, it forced the retirement of Charles Tillon and the disgrace of the veteran André Marty. Everywhere the Communists were prey to their own version of McCarthyism, which grew endemically in the atmosphere of a beleaguered force making a difficult passage either toward Armageddon or Canaan.
The trauma of the past decade (it will be ten years this February since Khrushchev opened Pandora's box at the Soviet Party's Twentieth Congress) does not lie only in the successive detonations that have exploded the edifice of Stalinism. It lies in the realization that all the circumstances which underlay the Communist options have been proven wrong, a fact which is not assuaged by the many miscalculations of Communism's opponents.
Western Europe has undergone a remarkable economic and social transformation, at rates of growth which exceed those of the Communist world. The decline of petty agriculture as well as the small-merchant economy; swift urbanization and the new mobility of labor; the rise of truly large-scale industry on new technological foundations fostering differentiations within the working class and a new technocratic middle class-all of it with a measure of planning and supranational institutions- these had the double effect on the Communists of turning their ideology into an anachronistic dogma while reducing their own appeal to marginal exploitation of transitional dissatisfactions.
This rise of Western Europe has been contemporaneous with the decolonization of Africa and Asia. But far from collapsing when its colonial bulwarks were removed, as Lenin's essay on imperialism posits, Western Europe has flourished. In this entire process, the United States has come to have a relevance for European development far greater than is true of the Soviet Union and its disintegrating bloc. Quite apart from whether the United States has built a "great society," it serves, by the nature of the problems with which it has been grappling, as a mirror to Western Europe. The Old World faces on its own terms those changes through which the New World has been going, but to whose threshold the Soviet world has yet to come.
The Communists are able to derive some mileage by an oversimplified hostility to American imperialism; they capitalize on both the contempt and the jealousies characteristic of outmoded aristocratic and disintegrating lower-middle classes, the traditional ingredients of Europe's view of America. But the process of American life, its significance as the most advanced society in which socializing factors are at work within a democratic framework, has escaped the analysis of European radicals. Neither Europe's Socialists nor its Communists have ever seriously probed America's significance. They have always borrowed from a small fringe of American imitators who were permanent "expatriates in their own country" and viewed the United States through European lenses. It is striking to converse with the leading Communist theoretician in France, Roger Garaudy, and hear him admit, as though it did not much matter, that he really pays no attention to American life and knows little about it.
Confronted by an era of coexistence in which the Soviet Union can neither assist them nor serve as an example-and indeed must answer for the monstrous legacy of Stalinism-the Communists have also had to face the bewildering sequences of the Sino-Soviet schism. At the outset many felt an instinctive sympathy for the Chinese. They seemed to be calling for an honest analysis, and their stress on the autonomy and self-respect of each party promised to give the Russians their long overdue comeuppance. China's pristine Leninism evoked a certain nostalgia among those who harked back to the memory of the early twenties, before Stalin had conquered and, to paraphrase Swinburne, the Communist world had "grown grey with his breath."
But the tone of the quarrel has been repulsive, "reminiscent of village fights in bygone days and of soldiery on leave," as one Swedish Communist put it.[iii] Russia and China seemed to be as much concerned about border regions in untracked deserts as about differences in world revolutionary strategy. If national antagonisms were products of capitalism in decline, as Leninists have insisted, how explain their survival and indeed their intensification as Communist power multiplied? More important, what the Chinese seemed to be demanding was that the Communists in Western Europe "tread water" and become outposts of China's ambitious project of encircling the West as though it were some sort of Kuomintang village to be undermined, surrounded and taken by a combined offensive from within and without. This was exactly the effort on which the Communists in Europe had just expended a quarter-century's accumulated political and human resources. It was an impossible task, especially for those Communists in Western Europe who want to achieve something with what they have, in this generation.
As for the Soviet Party's counsel that national roads to socialism now lie open, the difficulty lies in the fact that it has been heard before, and twice abandoned, once in the late thirties and again in the mid-forties. If the Socialists and Catholics, whom the Communists want to persuade, are interested at all in the agonizing reappraisal now under way, they also place the burden of proof on the Communists. They are not at all sure (except in a few countries) that the Communists are needed. The situation is quite unlike the period of 1945-46 when their own wartime trauma drove Norwegian and French Socialists, for example, to consider fusion with the Communists.
Thus the question today is not whether the Communist parties side with the Soviet Union. Most of them do, while trying to keep their distance from the gyrations and imperatives of its policy toward China. As for the pro- Chinese trends, these exist as moods and tendencies, flourishing mainly where Communism has already been reduced to sects. Only in Belgium is there a significant pro-Chinese party (gaining perhaps a tenth of the vote of the official Belgian party) and exploiting mainly Walloon separatism and Flemish nationalism. The real distinction to be made among the Communist parties, as they confront an era for which their "previous condition of servitude" did not prepare them, is whether they can undergo that inner transformation which the new European reality demands. Yet the paradox is that where they seem prepared for this inner change-in Italy as distinct from France-the question arises whether they must not abandon what is distinctively Communist about them. They are compelled to reexamine what, in fact, is meant by socialism in the first place, indeed, whether Western Europe needs it at all. Each stage of reappraisal opens up ideologically forbidden dilemmas.
In the Scandinavian countries, the chief trend is toward left-Socialist formations seeking a fraternal bond to the prevailing Social Democratic Parties. As long ago as 1958, the Danish Communists expelled their long- time and foremost leader, Aksel Larsen, on the grounds of "Titoism." Thereupon, he organized a Socialist People's Party, took most of the Communist intellectuals and trade unionists with him, and in the November 1960 elections gained five times as many votes as the official party and all its seats in the Folketing, the Danish parliament.[iv] This reversal was confirmed in the September 1964 balloting. The official party is left with some trade union influence, and a daily newspaper, Land og Folk, once the leading paper of the Left and now a heavy burden. When Ib Norlund, the official party's chief theoretician, is asked about his party's prospects, he foresees a long period of "perserverance and endurance." As for relations with Larsen, they are so hostile as to impede the mobility of the orthodox Communists, such as there is of it.
In Norway, the left-Socialist trend originated in 1961 within the traditional Labor Party. The consequence has been that even as the Norwegian Communists have retired some older leaders and have striven to dovetail their electoral tactics with the reigning Laborites (the problem in the elections for the Storting this autumn is whether all sectors of the Left combined can gain a stable majority against the "bourgeois opposition"), they find the field preëmpted by the Socialist People's Party. Moreover, the Norwegian Party has been unable to rehabilitate its former leader, Furubotn, and his influential group; he was expelled as a "British spy" or worse in 1949, but in fact he was a Norwegian cross between Peer Gynt and Joseph Stalin-at least this is how the Swedish Communists put it.
Iceland and Finland are special cases. In the former, a country of 170,000 which has really been a "nation in formation"[v] and where almost everybody is related to everybody else, the Communists have been protagonists of Icelandic cultural revival. They have found a common ground with two successive divisions among the Social Democrats, and have for years enjoyed two posts in the Icelandic Government. Finland, with its tormented history in relation to both Tsarist and Soviet Russia, is more readily understood as an Eastern European country, except that a Communist attempt to seize power in 1947 à la Prague was thwarted, without reducing its important mass following. The Finnish Communist Party does not exert its electoral influence in its own name. It has for years dominated the S.K.D.L., the Democratic Union of the Finnish People, a front organization which embraces a variety of socialist-minded organizations and individuals. In the past three years, the intellectual weekly, Tilanne, has brought the ferment of the European Left to a country where the Communists have been unusually rigid and cautious toward the changes within the Soviet Union. This has prepared the ground for a rather astonishing development-the breakdown of Communist control inside their own front. In February 1965, a non- Communist, Dr. Ele Alenius, was elected Secretary-General of the S.K.D.L., defeating the country's best known Communist, Hertta Kuusinen. Alenius has been calling for an end to the monopolistic influence of the Communists, and a fusion of all Finnish Socialists, independence toward the Soviet Union (within the limits of Finland's special position) and concentration on the new features of Finland's changing industrial-agrarian patterns to which the traditional verities have given little answer.
The Swedish Communist evolution has impressed close political observers as unusual, because it has been taking place without the splits such as envenomed Danish life, although the new leadership, under C.H. Hermansson, the former editor of Ny Dag, came to the helm at his party's twentieth congress in January 1964 after the most severe ideological reappraisal. Typical of the debate was the demand by Sven Landin, the former chairman of the parliamentary group and a leading "rebel," that the Communists "should endorse the democratic pattern of government that has evolved in our country and the consequences thereof should be reflected in its actions and standpoints."[vi]
The Communist change happened to coincide with parliamentary elections in which the C.P.S. gained slightly.[vii] More important, it achieved a balance of power in the Riksdag: the reigning Social Democrats lack an absolute majority. This has put the Communists in the limelight, and Hermansson and his aides have acquitted themselves well in the national TV debates, showing a certain frankness and modesty. It has already been noted that the Swedish Party simply did not attend the conference of the other parties in Brussels last June, an independence attuned to Swedish traditions. On the other hand, Hermansson has been sharing platforms in Copenhagen with the dissident, Aksel Larsen, and with the left-Socialists in Oslo, much to the distress of the official Communists, especially in Denmark.
The party's constitution is now being revised. A new category of membership has been created, making it possible for sympathizers to support the C.P.S. without the usual party discipline, which further dismantles the old Leninist conceptions. Some serious thought is being given to a change of name. This would not be unprecedented, since many Communist parties in Eastern Europe and Latin America have changed names without changing substance. But in the current Swedish atmosphere, the change would be more than nominal. The phrase "structural reforms" (taken from the Italian Communist lexicon) crops up in conversation with Hermansson. He maintains that the Communists "must never follow other than the democratic traditions of Sweden" and that "further measures of a socialist character" must be taken "in a normal way, via a majority." He does not blink at the crucial if hypothetical question that embarrasses the French-namely, whether in any government in which the Communists were a leading factor they would agree that socialist changes might be reversible. Hermansson grants that "we must follow the results of any vote against us." He speaks of a new relationship with the Social Democrats, from whom his party should not be separated by a "Chinese wall," or, he adds, "a Russian wall or a Berlin wall." Yet the new Communist leader is far less persuasive when explaining why Sweden needs a Communist movement at all, and what exactly a socialist Sweden would do that cannot be done by its welfare state. In speaking of the need for "clear socialist ideas" and concepts of "industrial democracy" or the insufficiencies of housing for all who need it, one wonders why any of this requires a Communist movement to bring it about.
No particular pattern emerges from a study of the minor parties except that, while some have fallen into a fossilization that preserves them intact, in other cases there are curious signs of stirring.
Holland offers an example of petrification. Its Communist movement had vigorous socialist antecedents, many of whose leaders were forerunners of Lenin. During the war it reached its peak of 12 percent of the vote, and its newspaper, De Waarheid, shot up from a circulation of 7,000 to a quarter of a million in 1946. Its chief figure, Paul de Groot, has shown an uncanny capacity for personal as well as political survival and has strewn the landscape with groups and factions, expelled over the years on every conceivable charge; their chief failure, it seems, lay in their inability to oust him. De Groot has abstracted one guiding element from the Sino- Soviet cataclysm, namely, to remain independent of everyone else on the basis of a pure and simple Stalinism, nurtured in his own political hothouse.
In Austria, on the other hand, a party that came out of the war with 5 percent of the vote (despite the Soviet occupation, or perhaps because of it) has vegetated until recently. Last spring, however, this party took a swing toward full-scale "revisionism." After a deplorable incident in which an old rank-and-filer died after a beating by neo-Nazi thugs, a revulsion swept Austria and it brought the unprecedented sharing of a common platform between the Communists and the Social Democratic leaders of the country. Accident and circumstance often combine in Western Europe with such issues as the fear of neo-Nazism to place the Communists in a spotlight which nothing in their routine activity would warrant.
This consideration may also explain a certain electoral revival of the Belgian Communists, who seem to have begun a liberalization within their own ranks as early as 1954, prior to the general trend. Faced with the disintegrating effects of separatism and of nationalism, Belgium's unity as a nation is presently at stake. The Belgian Socialists have lost heavily by their unwillingness or inability to mirror either the demands for linguistic autonomy of the Walloons or the grievances of the Flemish, long the underdog in Belgian life. The Communists have championed a restructuring of the country on the basis of a federation of the two peoples and the three distinct regions (for Brussels has by now a cosmopolitan character of its own). In Belgium, the Communists derive a certain satisfaction in being "more Italian" than the French Communists to whom, of course, they are culturally very close. Perhaps this characteristic explains a slight increase of their vote in the May 1965 elections,[viii] despite the defection of the pro-Chinese who have had the insouciance to take the identical name as the official Belgian Party and present themselves as the true believers.
If the French and Italian Communist Parties were merely objects of study for political scientists, they would offer themes of uncommon fascination. For they have shown an unusual ability to withstand ideological vicissitudes. Their importance, however, transcends the academic, for in the major problems of public policy confronting these two ancient centers of Western civilization the Communists can either take part influentially or present serious obstacles to other political forces. Despite fluctuations from more than 2,000,000 to something over 1,600,000 members, the Italian Communist Party now has a quarter of the vote. It gained a full million in the November 1963 balloting. Its hold on local governments has declined since the Socialists joined in a national coalition with a wing of the Christian Democrats. But the Communists still share in governing 1,100 communes with 8.5 million people. They are also decisive-in uneasy alliance with the Socialists-in the largest labor federation, the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro. The center-left government may at any time find its survival depending on Communist votes. Italy's new president, Giuseppe Saragat-the Social Democratic Party leader and longtime foe of the Communists-owes his election to them. When Palmiro Togliatti passed away a year ago, leaving a testament which rocked the international movement, Pope Paul considered it important to pay respects to a departed foe.
The French Communist influence is far less pervasive. The party's membership has declined from the postwar peak of 800,000 to perhaps 250,000, of whom a third are reliable cadres. But its vote, except in some Gaullist plebiscites on Algeria, has remained at some 25 percent of the total, giving the P.C.F. great political leverage. Since Gaston Defferre failed in his effort to create a Socialist-Democratic federation of the non- Communist parties, the field has been left open to a candidate the Communists can support. The paradox of the Communist position lies in the fact that they are trying to find some common ground with de Gaulle, and not without success and with a suave reciprocity on the General's part. They share a strong animosity to supranational tendencies in Western Europe plus a virulent anti-Americanism, even if the intellectual sources of both attitudes are quite different from those of de Gaulle. Maintained for twenty years as a party that could make its weight felt in the balance wheel of Soviet politics, the P.C.F.-even if its left-Socialist admirers and rivals are constantly bewailing its immobilisme-can use its strength to impede long overdue realignments within French life, justifying its evasion of inner change on grounds of foreign policy. Gunnar Myrdal has called the Italian Communist movement "a vast Tammany Hall," a metaphor which credits its common touch in Italian life, its capacity to wheel and deal, if not its principles. Annie Kriegel, in her massive two-volume study of the P.C.F.'s origins,[ix] stresses that the French Communists achieved a "pseudo-solution" to the basic dilemma of inheriting both reformist and anarcho-syndicalist tendencies, by sublimating them in a revolutionary party which did not enjoy a revolutionary situation. What the P.C.F. became and what has enabled it to survive was the strategy of "turning itself into a sort of imaginary global society, on the model of the Soviet Russian universe."
The Italians, as their admirers in Western Europe like to point out, have formed a "modern movement." Most of its members are new and the largest body of its leaders came out of the Resistance to Fascism in 1943-45. These young men, in their late thirties and forties, who have, taken over from the veterans that survived Mussolini, are anxious to achieve something more than to wait for a favorable turn of events in the Communist world, with which they are deeply disillusioned. By contrast with France, where the old guard has held on and the younger leaders were either bureaucratized or shunted aside, the Italian Communists give the impression of having created an "open society." They argue among each other, form groups and publish the vote count in their Central Committee meetings; they mingle easily with political opponents. One Italian Socialist leader who otherwise opposes them declares in private conversation that the P.C.I.'s top cadres "are cynical and strong, but men of a humanistic culture, not at all 'killers,' and far from Stalinism." Some have a relatively recent immersion in Communist thought. Some have a technocratic bent, and others (as their Socialist opponents like to remember) were schooled in the last days of Mussolini's "Social Republic." There is an agnostic quality in the Italians, perhaps understandable in so Catholic a country, but also a profound admiration for the ability of the Catholic Church to adjust to new realities, as it had been doing with the late Pope John's ecumenical movement. Proud of the late Togliatti's heritage, the Italians have made a legendary figure out of their founder, Antonio Gramsci, who died in Mussolini's prisons in 1937. In France, Khrushchev's famous denunciation of Stalin in February 1956 has never received an official imprimatur, and it was left to an opposition journal, Unir (which circulates 20,000 copies), to publish it. But the Italians now know from Togliatti's own writings that the venerated Gramsci had the deepest reservations about Stalin's treatment of the Old Bolsheviks, and they have food for reflection in the thought that, had Gramsci escaped to Soviet exile, he might well have perished in Stalin's purges. Thus, in Italy the works of both Trotsky and Bukharin can now be found in party bookshops. In France, the P.C.F. tries hard to keep Italian Communist literature from the reach of its members. Indeed, while the Italians have tried to make their Istituto Gramsci a center for research and debate, with anyone and no holds barred, the French Party does not allow its own intellectuals to take part in the encounters in Rome, except by special dispensation and solely in their personal capacities.
Yet the vital dissimilarities of the two movements lie in something deeper: their divergent attitudes toward the problem of their own transformation. In France, the Communists have conducted desultory discussions with the Socialists and have begrudgingly granted that transitions to socialism would require a multiplicity of parties. The example of "the Prague experience," the Czechoslovak coup of February 1948, has been renounced. Yet the P.C.F. has much less difficulty making local alliances with Guy Mollet, the Socialist leader, throwing votes as bargains may require, than it has in reëxamining its own past. The Communists reëmphasize unity of action with the Socialists but they do not really respect them as allies. Self-hypnotized by its own image as France's leading party, the P.C.F. has great difficulty working with those on the Left who have different origins or nuances of view. One example is Emmanuel d'Astier, an original Gaullist, who sought common ground with Marxism, but whose fellow-travelling newspaper, Libération, was run to the ground when d'Astier, who had long served the Communists as head of the "peace movement," finally kicked over the traces.
The French Communists now devote a great deal of attention to Catholic opinion, for a good deal of trade-union life and much that is new among French farmers stem from Catholic concerns. Roger Garaudy, who recently took part in a round table on "Christians and Marxists Speak of God," went further than his party ever has gone in recognizing the importance of "transcendence" in the human experience. He also went rather beyond the traditional P.C.F. policy of the "outstretched hand" toward the Catholics by urging Marxists "to understand, to integrate and to realize the human basis of Christianity," while calling on Catholics to admit the "purifying virtue" of Marxism. And he envisaged not so much a dialogue as a "perspective of mutual instruction and emulation."[x]
Italy, too, has seen a significant repercussion of both the changes in the Catholic world with Pacem in Terris and the acknowledgement by the Communists that separation of Church and State does not exhaust the problem. In preparation for the P.C.I.'s Tenth Congress at the end of 1962, the party declared that "today it is no longer a matter of overcoming the prejudices and sectarianism which constitute an obstacle to the collaboration of socialist and Catholic forces in obtaining immediate political and economic gains." The issue was much more profound, that is, "a matter of understanding how the aspirations toward a socialist society may find a stimulus in the religious conscience itself as it confronts the dramatic problems of the contemporary world. Herein the problem of religious rights in a new society presents itself in a new way."
Left-Catholic circles, especially those around the influential Florentine weekly, Politica, quickly recognized that something new was being said. Moreover, when the former Soviet ideological boss, Leonid Ilyitchev, came out with a famous pronunciamento, denying any common ground between Marxism and Christianity and renewing the Soviet anti-religious campaign, the Italian Communists gave this the cold shoulder. The upshot has been an unusual volume, "Dialogo alla Prova," in which Catholics and Communists have confronted each other's views and sought a meeting of minds. This volume has been circulating widely in both spheres of Italian life.
One year ago, the Italian leader, Giorgio Amendola, came forward with the concept of a new, unified party of the Left, which he believes should embrace Socialists and left-Catholics. His proposal has become the major subject of the internal Communist debate, officially endorsed by Longo and the entire P.C.I. leadership. Amendola made what he called "a critical determination"-namely, that "neither of the two solutions proposed to the working classes of the capitalist countries of Western Europe over the past 50 years (the Social Democratic and the Communist solutions) has revealed itself able, as of today, to realize a socialist transformation of society. . . ." Continuing in this vein, Amendola declared, "I do not see how one will succeed in achieving today or tomorrow . . . what one has been unable to do in 50 years. A political organization which has not reached its objectives in half a century, with the coöperation of three generations of militants, must seek the reasons for this failure and must know how to transform itself."[xi]
Thus, the issue of the self-transformation of Italian Communism is posed. Yet what it means, and whether the badly divided Italian Socialists will respond, and whether the left-Catholics will find common ground with them, remains very much to be seen. Amendola clearly wants to shake off the old baggage. Whether a large body of the rank-and-file, reared in another tradition, will allow the change that most of the P.C.I. leaders clearly see necessary is another matter. In a sense, the Italian Party is the victim of its own strength relative to those with which it hopes to unite. Many Socialists resent the P.C.I.'s hostility to the center-left experiment, just as many Communists feel that the road toward the P.C.I.'s participation in government lay through tacit support of the center-left and an effective pact of action with the Socialists, rather than a vague, if sensational, prospect of a unified party. In a land where socialism has been a byword and a banner for a very long time, it still requires precise definition. The Italians are probably the only Communists who have the courage and the incentive to make this effort. Yet the very popularity, indeed promiscuity, of the old language may inhibit it.
In the longer view what happens to the Communists in Western Europe does not depend on their own decision alone. They will be reacting, not only to events in their own world, but to the upholding of competitive coexistence. What they shall need is ideological confrontation, especially with American intellectual and political circles. This will be in our interest as well as theirs. If "peaceful engagement" with Communism is a sound basis for relations in Eastern Europe, then surely a vigorous engagement in debate and a much greater contact would assist in the process of change now gripping Communists in Western Europe. Most of them have yet to make a genuine and serious discovery of America, as indeed Americans have yet to meet them on their own intellectual terrain. The process of exchange as well as change may well be a reciprocal responsibility.
[i] Le Monde, June 11, 1965.
[ii] The Prospects for Pluralistic Communism, an essay in ''Marxism in the Modern World," Stanford University Press, 1965, p. 225.
[iii] C. H. Hermansson in Ny Dag, September 23, 1963, quoted in "Communism in the North," prepared by the Swedish Foreign Policy Institute and scheduled for publication in English this fall by M.I.T.'s Center for International Studies.
[iv] The Socialistisk Folksparti gained 149,000 votes and 10 seats, compared with the official Danish party's 30,000 votes; in 1946, the latter had a quarter of a million votes and 18 deputies.
[v] Mary S. Olmsted, "Communism in Iceland," Foreign Affairs, January 1958.
[vi] Sven Landin, "Regeneration," Ny Dag, November 9, 1963. Also, December 21, 1963. Ake Sparring, in "Communism in the North," ibid., believes "there is every sign that the C.P.S. is in the course of transforming itself from a Communist party of the traditional type into something that for want of a better description may be called a left-wing Socialist party."
[vii] The vote increased from 4.5 percent to 5.2 percent, compared with the low of 3.8 percent in the 1962 local elections. The Communists have eight seats in the Riksdag but have managed only to restore the same percentage as they had in 1921. In 1946, they had 11.2 percent of the vote and 15 members in the parliament.
[viii] With 4.6 percent of the vote, the Belgian Communists now have a third of their 1946 vote, and have been outstripped by the Volksunie, the Flemish nationalist movement.
[ix] Annie Kriegel, "Aux Origines du Communisme Francais, 1914-20," Mouton & Co., Paris and The Hague, 1964. Cf. the commentary of Eric Hobsbawn in New Left Review, London, May-June 1965.
[x] Publication in the Catholic weekly, Témoignage Chrétien, of Garaudy's piece brought a rebuke to the journal from the archbishop of Paris, March 30, 1965.
[xi] Rinascita, November 24, 1964.