Courtesy Reuters

The "Europeanization" of Communism?

During the almost six decades that have passed since the Russian Revolution of 1917, two contradictory qualities have distinguished the international communist movement. One has been the persistent Soviet effort to subordinate the interests of foreign communist parties to those of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU); the other has been the equally persistent effort of these parties to resist such "Sovietization" and, in the process, to question Moscow's leading role in world communism. Now, in the aftermath of last summer's Conference of European Communist Parties in Berlin, a third tendency may be observed in the international relations of the communist movement - the prospective export of what has come to be known as "Eurocommunism" from West to East, signifying a historic shift in the direction of influence and initiative within world communism.

At issue, then, is no longer only the much-discussed challenge to the primacy of Russian interests in the communist movement. After all, most foreign communists have long refused to see themselves as instruments of Soviet foreign policy or, more generally, to allow Moscow to impose its will on them. Tito's Yugoslavia defied the Soviet Union as early as 1948-49; the Italian Communist Party (PCI), under Palmiro Togliatti, advanced the once unthinkable notion of polycentrism soon after Stalin's death in 1953; and China's opposition to the leading role of the CPSU began to surface only a few years thereafter. Indeed, the classic Soviet definition of a communist revolutionary - as one who "without evasions, unconditionally, openly, and honestly" makes the cause of world revolution synonymous with the interests and, indeed, with the defense of the U.S.S.R.1 - has long become an embarrassing reminder of a past most communist parties in the world would rather forget.

What we are beginning to witness now is the active promotion by the more moderate European parties of their own brand of socialism. In their search for popular support and respectability - and perhaps guided by considerations of principle as well

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