Courtesy Reuters

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,

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