The theory and practice of communism; World Communism Today
Now what this this lovely phrase theology me. It means simply that there isn't it in your logical equality among the communist nations of the world. And that to the degree that Marxism is only a guide to action and not a creed. Every country can through its own varying experiences contribute something to the advancement of that ideology. This means that there is no longer a role in law in the theological sense to speak on every question. But there are many Romans. And they each has a right to speak on these things. Preferred point remain Europe is developing relations of collaboration says child share school with all countries regardless of social system. Deeming that this is one of the ways of strengthening confidence and collaboration among peoples remaining years developing economic cultural scientific and political relations with
France Italy England Austria and other countries. As far as those other countries are concerned I might put in two footnotes here. One is that the Rumanians did try to work out a trade agreement with the United States about two years ago. And failed even though they sank contracts with two of the large companies in the United States. Extreme right wingers in the United States conducted a campaign against those two companies and scared them into remaking on their contracts with Rumania. So remain us having a rather tough time in establishing relations with the United States. However the Rumanians have done something that is absolutely breathtaking in the communist world they have. I opened up diplomatic relations with West Germany thus putting him into the house time doctor and. I. And the
rest of the communist camp. Whether Willie or nearly a rose up against this. But I think that the Romanians have opened up a whole new trend of East-West relations in this way. A fifth point and the last one I want to cite in Cheshire schools talk is and I quote him. The military blocks and the existence of military bases and military troops on the territory of other states is one of the barriers in the path of collaboration among peoples. Now what this comes down to is the Rumanian suggestion that if we Communists all agree that NATO's ought to get out and liquidate itself no need to own Western Europe we also ought to agree that there should be no communist military pact in Eastern Europe. If we believe that this little one is going to lessen tensions we should also believe that the other is going to lessen tensions. This course brings out. All kinds of problems.
Let me leave Eastern Europe with that. As for Latin American or African communism or Asian communism it would be arrogant of me even to attempt. Some sort of summary of areas in which I have little or no expertise. But I feel that I cannot leave this seminar without at least saying something about the communist parties of Western Europe. And this is what I'd like to devote the rest of the work to. Not only because Western Europe interests us offer all kinds of cultural and economic and military reasons but because what's happening to the Western European communist parties may be in fact showing the way of what happens to any communist country in any politically democratic and economically advanced country. Let me say first the box historically on this point. Is.
That because of the almost peculiar development of Western thought in modern times in the more scientific age one of the actually buttes of the modern Western secular mind has been really to accept nothing on faith that you don't have to especially in the scientific world. To test everything and not to take anything as dog at least outside of the realm of religion. Now I have spoken at great length here in our seminar on the pseudo religious appeal of Marxism. This appeal has been greater outside the western world than in the western world itself. And as far as the Western world itself is concerned. When we talk about the lives of these a semi-religious appeal of communism we are talking about people who. Might better be discussed in terms of psychology rather than politics. The
general outlook in modern Western society has been one of pragmatism and of empiricism of testing. And so what a Marxism that became a kind of religious creed to the Russian maximalist as God calls them from the start was something that Western socialists felt they could discuss. I have referred to many different kinds of Western socialism. In the very first the second session of this seminar and I made a point of emphasizing the role of the end by Benj back and who lived at the in the turn of the century. Not only Barry STEIN But other socialists in the West. Got used to thinking that western capitalism was not really conforming to Marxist dire predictions. For one thing there was no increasing impoverishment of the masses
but rather a rise in the number of capitalists and the rise in the standard of living of the increasing masses and saw not only bearish turn but other Western socialists even before 1914 began to think of socialism as being more an evolutionary process than a revolutionary one. I think this flies at the historical basis of much of what's going on in West European communism today. Another factor that influences West European communism is simply the grim memory that Western communist parties have of what it was like under Stalin when they were all mobilized in the common tearing the Communist International and had to toe the line in the 1930s in 1940. Now it wasn't simply toeing the line that made them resentful but toeing the line in ways that hurt them and their own interests in their own countries. This is what hurt. Let me give just a couple of examples about which holy
books have been written. First the fact that in Stalin's time the German Communist Party was actually given. The insane orders. To. Write. The German Socialist the Social Democrats instead of collaborating with him so that at at a time when Naziism was on the rise in Germany the people who had reason India logically to be most against the Nazis the left wing the Communists and the Socialists were were forced into a fight between themselves even to the point of that on the communist side resorting to intrigues and handing over of fairness to the other side to the Gestapo. It was a very cruel fight and the only Victor out of it was Adolf Hitler of course. In the Italian case something similar happened.
Stalin for reasons involving say serviette foreign policy. Actually ordered the Italian Communist Party for a certain period to play ball with Mussolini's fascists to such a degree that pioneer to the RTT Italian leader through his underground connections said to message to Mussolini that the Communists were willing to accept the fascist program and to support it. Now all of this for purely tactical reasons and for reasons that serve not only are not Germany but the Soviet Union. Any one of us knows anything at all about the civil war in Spain in the late thirties or mid 30s remembers that pro-war one wondered whether there were just two sides might not there be three sides because among the leftists that were fighting for the Spanish Republic. Various communists and various Socialists were literally shooting it out among themselves among the battlefield and there were cases of all
kinds of shooting in the back. So there was one hungry memory. But how how is it possible that the communists in Western Europe stuck to all of this. Anyway I think one of the reasons is the Great Depression of the 1930s because it seemed to be the great economic depression of the 30s. It seemed almost to to to. Corroborate what Karl Marx was saying that the capitalist system was on its last legs that it was falling apart and that the deep this depression might be the last blow after all. And so communist parties could have felt that they were on the threshold of some great transformation and that regardless of the troubles they were in and the discipline of Moscow it was worthwhile to stick together. I might say that once the Soviet Union was attacked by the Germans in World War Two this kind of communist unity found another justification and other reasons.
But once the war was over. The communist parties again found themselves under Stalin Saddam and forced to do things that were not to the best interests of themselves or their own countries. Let me give you just one of the most important examples of this. You remember that the United States not only with generosity but great practicality offered help to the allies in the form of the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan was such a good thing that even the communist countries thought about accepting Czechoslovakia for example and I mentioned in my lecture the other day that Czechoslovakia had indeed accepted the Marshall Plan and then was given orders from Moscow how dare you say no. And they went back on their word. Now in a country such as France and Italy and still other Western European countries the communist parties were given orders from Moscow
to repudiate the Marshall Plan when Actually that would have been the best thing for their countries and actually was and the Communist leaders in those countries knew that. And still they had to toe the line. Another feature that took away from the popularity of the communist parties was the Cold War and the nature of Stalin as I'm practically the only countries in which the communist parties were fairly successful in getting attracting the protest vote from work France Italy and Finland. But in the other countries communism had a very very hard time of attracting the electorate because of the Cold War and Stalin this and. Stalin's death in 1953 brought relaxation but to the point of disarray and 1056 of course is the critical year especially the Hungarian and Polish uprising. These uprisings were put down especially in Hungary so brutally. That many communists found that the
occasion for resigning from their Western European parties in disgust. There were mass resignations in England in France in Italy and elsewhere as a result. Another blow came of course with the Chinese Soviet rift. In which the Communist Party of the Soviet Union lost power and prestige. The Western European party simply refused to play ball as they used to. The Italian Communist Party for example in 1983 actually rejected a Soviet call for a conference against the Chinese. Norway's Communist Party declared neutrality in the whole business. The Swedish Communist Party was so rent asunder that the split brought to power. Hammond son about whom or so on and up and made out of the Swedish Communist Party the most prodigious party in world communism. Khrushchev successors were forced to adopt a looser and more
permissive attitude towards the communist parties of the world and by 1965 even the traditionally disciplined communist parties of France and Finland became more independent and rambunctious. What is the attitude of the communist parties of Western Europe today. First of all it is based on economic recovery and the rise in the standard of living for all. This makes all the old arguments and appeals about depressions and all the rest outmoded. Nobody really believes anymore that another depression is around the corner. Rather people have come to believe that capitalism has learned something and has stopped some of its problems indeed that don't want can really not talk about capitalism anymore. In many countries in the West such as our own but rather a mixed economy based on reforms and so drawing conclusions from this the communist parties of the West have established as their
goal to work within existing systems rather than to overthrow them and to work for a limited goals more in the nature of reform rather than of the big blow up the revolution. Furthermore the communist parties of the West. Are seeking to convince themselves and others that they wish to preserve the gains of political democracy. But they have respect for the parliamentary system and that they prefer a peaceful way to socialism. Certainly in reading what Communist leaders in the West are writing about the whole concept of dictatorship of the proletariat has been thrown out the window once and they do not rejected they simply don't talk about it in March. As though it were not relevant. Rather take cept the pluralistic society of the West. And are quite willing to cooperate with a great many people including the
Social Democrats and what they call the progressive Catholics. Another factor is that upheld some of the communist parties after just after World War Two was the idea of waiting for Godo. This is known as in France. Godo syndrome that the Soviet army was on the border just waiting to come into Western Europe to liberate the working class from capitalism. That idea died very soon in even before the cold war began. In fact the Cold War may be called one of the results of the death of that idea. Rather Western communist parties have come to feel that they must play the normal electoral game in competition with or alliance with other parties vying for the votes. Is this Marxism Leninism. Sounds more like bench Danielson. And yet everyone even the revisionists weans insist that they are true
to Leninism at least in spirit and as they were saying what Peter was saying that Leninism means actually revisionism but is opportunism. Trying to adapt Marxism to particular conditions in your own way. This is the spirit the creative spirit of Leninism. They say because after all this is what Lenin did to Marxism in Russia. Whatever it is Western communism has been in fact housebroken and domesticated. The Swedish case is to Western Communism what you sloppiest Eastern communism. Thanks to the leadership of Karl Hendrick Herrmann son. Who became president of the Communist Party of Sweden in 1964. Let me say just a few words about this Swedish party because in a sense it's becoming a model for some of the others. The Swedish Communist Party is based on internal democratization and absolute freedom of debate
within the party and quite openly so. A relaxation of discipline and accommodation of the most divergent opinions. For example the Czech pro-Chinese Swedish communists are almost embarrassed that they can't be nasty about Nope nobody wants to kick them out of the party. They're still in the party. The whole spectrum from extreme left wing to right wing that we have here internationally exists within the Swedish Communist Party. Now if you'll note this is exactly the American political system. Political view of the political party can one imagine anything more extreme than the extremes of the Democratic Party save the United States where you have everything from what the enemy is willing to call people liberals and worse down to the most reactionary. A Southern racialists all of this is in the Democratic Party of the United States
and I might say the Republicans have their extremes as well. How come. Because in American political practice we have chosen the Rhone of working out differences within parties. Rather than having a special party on every issue. This is why we have two parties whereas in many European countries there are 10 12 and 14 parties depending on all of these issues. Now the Swedish Communist Party is adopting the line that there is room for everybody in our party as long as they're Marxist and are willing to go along at least halfway. The results in a practical sense have been very impressive in Sweden where I was their neighbors the communist parties of Norway and Denmark have shown decreases in their ability to attract voters in Sweden. The trend has been up about the Swedish Communist Party is still far from being even influential in
Sweden. I remember talking to a Swedish communist once in Bulgaria I was visiting Bulgaria who said it's really hard to be communist in Sweden and get along says there's no class struggle things are too good. But that an appeal is being made to the young by the Communist Party. You remember the other day I said to one of you that in America the extremist demonstrative minority among our young hippies perhaps the hippies not the work the New Left in America the New Left looks upon the communists. As Oh timers and conservatives and authoritarians. Now in Sweden what the Communist Party is trying to do is to get away from the Stalinist image from the image of authoritarianism because this is what the youth of the world today does not like in any shape.
Leaving the Swedes for the moment the relation of Western European communist parties to Moscow has been not only loose but even defiant. For example in 1964 65 the communist parties of Britain Italy Holland Sweden Norway and Iceland opposed Soviet pressure for an international conference obviously called to buttress the Soviet position. Some West European and communist parties openly disassociate themselves from what's going on in Eastern Europe and Eastern European communism. They say that's another kind of communism. One of our almost are prone to think and get in terms of religious analogies that is church history analogies the eastern and western parts of the Catholic Church. Let me give you an example of this today. This in Europe ski and Danyel trials in the Soviet Union in February 1066 went to a rather
rambunctious and rebellious Soviet afterwards were brought to court for some of their writings. Many Western communist parties condemned the verdict against these two men and the Danish communist party openly called the proceedings this in comprehensible verdict is the phrase that came out in the Danish common newspaper. And all Moscow could do was to have Procter write an editorial expressing regret and I quote that some honest people in the West have been misled by anti-Soviet propaganda because instead of a policy in this of this loosening. Of communist parties in the West Moscow is actually encouraging it. It is going along with the train I think largely because it has wanted to relax tensions between east and west in Western Europe and thus do away with the theory that underlay the necessity for NATO
the Soviet leaders are quite practical if you want to get rid of Natal just make everybody feel comfortable in Western Europe and they have succeeded to a large degree or else trying to go to France would not have invited NATO to leave France lock stock and barrel. In February 1967 there was an international communist conference of eastern and western European parties communist parties held in Warsaw and it was called by Moscow to prepare for another conference a card lobbying body in Czechoslovakia and one of the biggest issues on the agenda was to be the Chinese case. Of the Eastern Communist Party's three refused to come. The pro Chinese out pain is of course. The Yugoslavs in the Rumanians there are just empty seats for them. Of the Western communist parties the following were absent. The Swedes the Norwegians the Dutch the Icelanders the Luxembourg racin the Cypriots and Moscow right equiv wish that more had stayed away. Because those that came argued and
many of them refused to accept the whole proceedings and the whole assumption. Well one could go on with quite a history of these inner conflicts within the Communist movement but in the light of all of this what are the prospects for the Western communist parties. Will their influence rise or fall. I don't think any generalization is easy because much depends on local conditions in each country. Much depends on such variables as the quality of individual leaders political alignments with others and so forth. But I don't think one can say with some confidence that there is an increasing disposition in Western European countries except for West Germany to accept communist parties as normal political parties dog sort of on probation and under watchful eye to the degree that this is true. This leads me to another conclusion and that is that this kind of acceptance and greater looseness
will encourage communists in the West to be even more revisionist than they have been in the past. And even more diverse from one another. Even so I must make a third generalization here. The communist parties of Western Europe are generally minor in influence. I'm almost sorry about this because to the degree that I myself like the trend of the loosening up of communist parties in Western Europe I wish that they had more influence on the others. But communist parties of Western Europe have very little influence. For example in Britain both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland in Britain in Norway Denmark and Austria. There is not a single communist in the parliaments of those countries in Holland and Switzerland. Communists do have a few delegates in Parliament though they have less than 5 percent of the vote and the only reason they have any delegates at top is
because of the election laws on proportional representation in those countries. In Luxembourg the communists have 12 percent of the vote but if they had 100 percent of the vote in Luxembourg I don't think it would scare many people. In Iceland they have 16 percent and again that wouldn't. That doesn't sound very scary. In Iceland I would say the Communist vote is largely based on anti-American feelings. The Swedes have made gains as I have pointed out here but even so the Swedish Communist Party continues to be a moderate force. The Finnish Communist Party isn't gauged in the coalition government and the Soviet Union has made it a part of its policy since World War 2 and not to rock the boat in Finland but to permit that coalition government to go on not to turn Phil into a satellite state in France. True they have a large communist party but this party has had its teeth
taken out so to speak. Both because it has been part of a general leftist alliance with their other strong people and because the Communist Party has on occasion even joined the government. What could be a more radical departure from communist theory than the spectacle of the French Communist Party approving and disapproving the revolution in our area which is the position they were in one time. The Italian Communist Party is less fortunate because of the strong opposition of the center and left coalition. The fact that the socialists in Italy are a stronger force India logically and in the government than the communists in the socialist distrust the communists. Yet the Italian Communist Party is strongly organized and using or trying to use every opportunity to make political capital but this is precisely what we consider in the way because it is playing a parliamentary game. The electoral gain. If I took other
countries Greece for example recent events in Greece make it virtually impossible of talking about the existence of a Communist Party in this country. Another element in all of this is that the most talented. And popular communist leader is in western Europe today are largely revisionist and humanist and anti Stalinist Roget Garro dear friends parents Fischer of Austria and people of this can't. You. Another factor that we can see communist parties in Western Europe is the fact that practically every one of them has been split over the Chinese issue. For example there are pro Chinese factions in Austria Belgium Britain Cyprus Denmark Holland Finland France Greece Ireland Italy Luxembourg Portugal Spain Sweden Switzerland and West Germany. Chinese factions are pro-Chinese factions in each of these Tommies parties and in some places there are now two Communist Party. If the three are orthodox
one and the pro Chinese 5. The fruit Chinese communist parties are rebel groups. Fringe groups but there is trouble some to the left as the Birch Society and Minutemen are from the from to the right in this country. So the main conclusion is the economy. Party in Western Europe. I have so many in Eastern Europe are trying to operate on the level of political interest and not revolutionary idiology. You have been listening to Professor Michael B Petrovich of the University of Wisconsin as he discussed world Communism today in a final lecture series the theory and practice of communism. These lectures were originally heard as part of the 1967 Wisconsin Alumni seminar at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. They were arranged for radio by w AJ the University of Wisconsin kin almost
- World Communism Today
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- University of Wisconsin
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Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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