Communism's name

Louis R Godena louisgodena at
Sun Jun 16 10:03:32 MDT 1996

On June 13th, Zeynep wrote (in speaking of the Zapatistas):

"...Admit it, communism has a bad name.    Marxism conjures [up] images of
milions of people fighting each other, using [obscure] language, over
questions the relevance of which is not explained to anyone outside in any
sensible manner."

Zeynep's words have a special resonance this morning as I arrive home to
omnipresent coverage of the Russian elections.

What is the legacy of the communists today?    Why are communist parties
frequently held at arm's length throughout the world by mass movements of
every type and description?     How is it that those who claim to be the
political heirs of Marx, Engels and Lenin have today degenerated into a
galaxy of minute, warring sects, united only by their failure to attract
more than an insignificant fringe of the workers' movement, and by the brave
illusion that their prescriptions for revolution represent the interests and
ambitions of the workers?    The Communists, it seems to me, have in many
instance lost the core of their creed, and have gone on to repeat formulas
that have lost their credibility.    True, there are exceptions--in Peru, in
the Philippines--but I am not reassured when I look at the present disarray
of the left virtually everywhere else.    We communists suffer from a lack
of credibility, even among those who subscribe to the letter of our beliefs.

I recall, some years ago, an interview with Margerite Duras, the French
novelist and radical, who proclaimed proudly--this was during the crisis of
1989-1991--that "I am still a Communist!"   She was asked about the PCF.
"The PCF has nothing to do with communism!"  she snapped.    One should not
perhaps make too much of a remark wrung from her in a dark hour of despair,
but looking around at communist parties and movements in most of the world,
I would be hard pressed to find an occasion to retract her verdict in most
countries today.

Can we then criticise with any legitimacy the shortcomings of popular
movements like the Zapatistas who, in our view,  fall prey to reformism,
nationalism, and other anti-Marxist practices?

Zeynep's offhand remark deserves much discussion.

                                               Louis Godena

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