Modernising French Communist confronts Soviet past

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Mon Dec 18 18:20:53 MST 2000


Monday
18 December 2000

Modernising French Communist confronts Soviet past
PARIS: French Communist leader Robert Hue gave a landmark speech denouncing
his party's Soviet past on Saturday, just before a futuristic rave party
intended to enhance the party's appeal to the young on its 80th anniversary.
Confronting the French Communists' embarrassing Stalinist history more
directly than ever, Hue admitted that the movement had closed its eyes to
oppression while toeing the line of the Soviet Communist model.
"We know what monstrous blindness to the terrible realities, perfectly
antagonistic to the Communist ideal, this conception has brought," Hue said.
Hue said the French Communist Party had in the past strayed from its true
values by identifying too closely with the Russian experience.
There had been "the very heavy consequence, in the context of a terrifying
global confrontation between Communism and capitalism, of throwing the
parties identifying with the second into obeying Stalinist dogma".
"So this imposed a conception of Communist parties, making them instruments
of an international Communist movement at the heart of which was the
obligation to recognise the Soviet model," he said.
"It must be said, the French Communist Party was the not the least zealous
in going along with this conception," he said.
Party sources said the speech marked a turning point in efforts to exorcise
Stalinist ghosts lingering from the decades when the party slavishly
supported the former Soviet Union's foreign policy even as other European
Communists turned away.
Memories persist of the party's support for the Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia in the "Prague Spring" of 1968. Hue's predecessor, Georges
Marchais, went on television to defend the Red Army's invasion of
Afghanistan in 1980.
Faced with three decades of declining support, Hue fired a
"modernise-or-die" warning at his party in March, convincing militants to
adopt a plan to refresh its image and seek support from the young, women and
immigrants.
Crowning the party's anniversary celebrations, activists organised a disco
in its imposing Paris headquarters -- once nicknamed "Le Bunker" -- adopting
the theme "Marx Attacks" with a flying saucer motif.
Hue's modernisation drive has drawn scorn from hardliners who say the
party's place in a coalition with the ruling Socialists and Green party has
diluted its ideals.
Hue said he was committed to transforming the Communist Party into a force
that would put power back in the hands of citizens and look further than
capitalism.
"It is this desire that give sense to our modern Communist ambition of going
beyond capitalism -- and not just adapting it -- to set ourselves free," he
said.
Once a major force in French politics, the Communist Party won one-fourth of
votes in the early 1970s but garnered under seven percent in European
Parliament elections last year. (Reuters)
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