this chapter, we shall try to present the reader with the main features of
Eurocommunism, which has recently become the dominant trend in the communist
parties of developed industrialized countries.
The basic tenets forming the body of Marxist doctrine have been
subjected to critical review in the preceding chapters of this book109.
The rise of Eurocommunism confirms the validity of the thesis put
forward in these chapters, which is that, one after another, these basic
tenets are being abandoned by European communists disenchanted with the
performance of communist parties in
power in various countries of the world.
best exposition of the main features and orientations of the Eurocommunist
movement was made by Santiago Carillo in "`Eurocommunism’ and the
The ideas in the book represent not only the author's personal views
but also those of the Spanish Communist Party and the other European communist
parties, all of which, particularly those in France, Italy, Britain and Japan 110,
have fully supported them.
No better proof of the importance of this work exists than that the
Soviet Union was concerned enough to publish an official reply to the ideas
raised by Carillo.
a number of specific issues, the Eurocommunist movement has adopted positions
very different from, not to say incompatible with, those of orthodox Marxism.
It is our purpose here to highlight some of the most prominent of these
detailed exposition of these points given below will reveal the gap between
the orthodox Marxist thought still prevailing in the countries of the
socialist bloc on the one hand and that developed by the Eurocommunists and
prevailing in the communist parties of the developed industrialized countries
on the other.
Abandoning the orthodox Marxist vision of the socialist political regime,
i.e., abandoning the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and all the
ideas related thereto, such as the elimination of all the classes standing
against it, the withering away
of the state, etc.
Marxists believe that when societies reach the stage of capitalism, they
become polarized into two classes:
an exploiting class made up of capitalist owners, and
an exploited class made up of workers.
With time, the former class becomes richer through increasing profits
while the latter becomes poorer.
Gradually, the working class develops an awareness of its strength as
it comes to realize how necessary it is to the exploiting class.
Workers begin to form unions and to intensify their struggle, and
confrontations between the two classes set in.
With each confrontation, the proletariat acquires greater gains and
However, there comes a point when the capitalists refuse to grant the
demands of the workers and the contradictions between them flare up into
The workers' revolution explodes and the proletariat seizes the reins
of power, destroys the bourgeois machinery of state and establishes its
The main task of the dictatorship of the proletariat is to eliminate
all other classes, particularly those whose interests are antagonistic to its
own. Once the proletariat has accomplished its task and society becomes one
single class, the old form of the state gradually disappears and the state as
such withers away.
particular Marxist axiom is now totally rejected by the communist parties of
the developed industrial states.
In fact, the notion of dictatorship of the proletariat was one of the
main points of contention between them and what can be termed the official
communist parties in the Soviet Union and its satellite countries, which
adhere closely to orthodox Marxist views on this and other questions.
Carillo devoted the longest chapter in “Eurocommunism” and the State"
to the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat.
As it would be difficult to reproduce everything Carillo said on the
subject, we shall content ourselves here with one passage in which he
clearly dismisses this formula as a necessary form of government when
communists come to power.
Abandoning the orthodox Marxist vision of the socialist political regime.
Abandoning the orthodox Marxist view of accession to power.
the Marxist call to abolish private property and advocating the coexistence
of public and private property (while recognizing profit not derived from
the cause of democracy and human rights, and accepting political pluralism.
Advocating autonomy for individual parties within world communism and
abandoning the idea of emulating the Soviet model for achieving socialism
(in fact, criticizing several aspects of the Soviet experience)
No longer adhering strictly to the traditional Marxist conception of
Carillo says: "On the other hand, I am convinced that the
dictatorship of the proletariat is not the way to succeed in establishing and
consolidating the hegemony of the forces of the working people in
the democratic countries of developed capitalism.
In the first part of this essay, I have already tried to explain why I
am convinced that in these latter countries socialism is not only the decisive
broadening and development of democracy, the negation of any totalitarian
conception of society, but that the way to reach it is along the democratic
road, with all the consequences which this entails.
In this sphere, and at the risk of being accused of heresy, I am
convinced that Lenin was no more than half right when he said: "The
transition from capitalism to communism, naturally, cannot fail to provide an
immense abundance and diversity of political forms, but the essence of all of
them will necessarily be a single one: the dictatorship of the
He was no more than half right because the essence of all the various
political forms of transition to socialism is, as we can judge today, the
hegemony of the working people, while the diversity and abundance of political
forms likewise entails the possibility of the dictatorship of the proletariat
not being necessary." 111
mentions that Dimitrov 112 also supported the idea that it is
possible to reach socialism without the dictatorship of the proletariat 113.
Elsewhere, Carillo refers to the position adopted by the renowned
French Marxist philosopher, Louis Althusser, on the same issue when he
described the Marxist theory on the state as misleading. 114
same position was expressed by Lucio Lombardo when he declared on the pages of
"La Stampa" -in the interview mentioned earlier in this book- that
the Italian Communist Party no longer raised the slogan of Marxism-Leninism
and that it had abandoned the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
rejecting the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Eurocommunists
obviously reject all the ideas related to it, such as the elimination of the
enemies of the working class, which Marxis considers to be the main task of
the dictatorship of the proletariat when it assumes power.
In fact, European communists criticize the mechanism of repression that
continues to dominate everything in the Soviet Union and in the countries of
European communists refuse the idea of the withering away of the state as an
outcome, in traditional Marxist theory, of the dictatorship of the
proletariat. According to the theory, the dictatorship of the proletariat is
established in the period of transition from capitalism (where the state
exists) to communism (where it will have ceased to exist).
The dictatorship of the proletariat is a necessary condition for the
withering away of the state which, as an instrument of political power by
which one class dominates another, or others, will have no reason to exist
when the dictatorship of the proletariat will have fulfilled its main task of
creating a classless society.
European communists have also abandoned the notion of violent seizure of
power, and speak now of socialism coming to power peacefully, within
the constitutional framework of democratic life, through the legitimate
channels provided by the existing bourgeois state.
so many of the notions standing at the doctrinal core of Marxism as an
omniescent and irreducible world outlook being discarded by the European
communists, what remains then of Marxist political thought?
The objective answer can only be: Nothing!
Abandoning the orthodox Marxist view of accession to power.
Marxists believe they cannot come to power through parliamentary means, since
they consider parliamentary life to be a game practiced by the economically
dominant classes to imbue their political domination with legitimacy.
Accession to power, in the view of these orthodox Marxists, can only
come about through the organized struggle of the proletariat against the
In this long struggle, the proletariat would seize greater and greater
gains until matters come to a head with the outbreak of the violent workers
revolution which will break down the bourgeois state machine and install the
dictatorship of the proletariat in its stead.
Obviously, then, accession to power in Marxist theory is synonymous
with, one, the dictatorship of the proletariat and, two, revolutionary
some Marxists claim that the shift by communists in the advanced industrial
countries from the idea of the transition to socialism through the
revolutionary violence of the proletariat to the idea of a peaceful transition
within the framework of parliamentary life is nothing more than a development
in Marxist thinking, similar to developments in its other aspects.
any knowledge of Marxism cannot accept such a claim.
It is impossible to reconcile between
Marxist ideology and the idea of a peaceful transition to socialism,
because the idea of violent revolution is central to the
The struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, culminating
in the workers' revolution will lead to the destruction of the bourgeois
machinery of state.
There is thus an undeniable link between class struggle and the
transition to socialism through violent means.
One cannot exist without the other and the removal of either from the
structure of Marxist ideology entails the removal of both.
And, as class struggle is the cornerstone on which the ideology is
built, its removal would bring the whole edifice of Marxism crashing down.
can the idea of transition to socialism through violent means be separated
from the idea of dictatorship of the proletariat, inasmuch as such a
dictatorship can only be established through violent means.
It is difficult
to imagine the capitalist
class, the dominant class in the stage of capitalism, calmly handing
over the reins of power to the working class! And, as the dictatorship of the
proletariat is the bridge on which history moves towards the higher stage of
communism, without this dictatorship, communism cannot be attained.
speak now of socialism coming to power within the parliamentary system, i.e.,
through free elections, is to admit that there will not be a dictatorship of
the proletariat, the necessary precondition for the higher stage of communism.
Unless, of course, the acceptance of a parliamentary transition to socialism
by European communist parties is but a tactical stratagem to enable them to
come to power and, once there, to eliminate all other parties and tendencies.
Marxists who are trying to reconcile Marxism as a theory with the idea of a
peaceful, i.e. parliamentary, transition to socialism, may be communists from
the organizational point of view or in terms of their ideological
affiliations, but they are far from possessing a comprehensive understanding
Otherwise they would know that a peaceful transition to socialism, with
all this implies in the way of maintaining other political parties regardless
of their tendencies and the class interests they represent, abandoning the
idea of dictatorship of the proletariat, etc., is in direct contradiction with
the main conclusions drawn by Marx in his study on the Paris Commune,
"The Civil War in France," 1871. According to Marx, the greatest
mistake committed by the communards was that, having achieved their revolution
through violent action and seized the machinery of the bourgeois state, they
then failed to destroy it.
Throughout, he stresses how important
it is that the machinery of the bourgeois state be destroyed as soon as
the proletariat comes to power.
The idea of a peaceful transition to socialism also runs counter to the
views of Engels. who believed that the state, as an institution, does not
disappear immediately following the proletarian revolution, that what is
eliminated is the bourgeois state, to be replaced by the socialist state
represented by the dictatorship of the proletariat which, in its turn,
dissolves of itself and disappears.
the transition to socialism through violent revolutionary action by the
proletariat is one of the cornerstones of the Marxist ideological structure,
and its rejection represents a definitive crack in that structure, a crack
which has become `official' as the communist parties in all the advanced
capitalist countries publicly declare that `violence' and `the proletarian
revolution' are no longer necessary for the accession by communists to power.
Rejecting the Marxist call to abolish private property and advocating
long-term coexistence between the two forms of ownership: public and private 118
makes a point of showing that in
advocating the above, the European communists are going against
traditional Marxist tenets. He says: "The coexistence of forms of public
and private ownership means acceptance of unearned increment and the private
appropriation of part of this, i.e., a mixed system." 119
& 120 He goes on to say that taxes are the means by which
society can obtain its share of those profits.
That is where he comes close to Fabian socialism and the British Labour
Party. After warning that those taxes should not be such as to discourage
private projects 121, Carillo notes that the owners of private
projects should have the right to organize themselves, not only economically
but also in a political party or parties representative of their interests. 122
This, he affirms, would be one of the component parts of the political and
ideological pluralism he advocates in contradistinction to the traditional
Marxist position on the question of private property and political and
ideas, which Carillo shares with his fellow Eurocommunists, deal a decisive
blow to the most important economic theory in Marxism, the theory of labour as
value and, hence, to the theory of surplus value based on it.
For we know that Marx and all traditional Marxists recognize labour as
the sole source of value and profit and consider any other source to be
economic and social “exploitation”, whereas Carillo openly advocates the
acceptance of value not derived from labour.
Adopting democratic values and political pluralism and rejecting traditional
Marxist perceptions of the Western model of parliamentary democracy.
call by European communists for a socialism to be built within the framework
of democracy, with a multi-party system and an alternation of parties in
power, represents a clear departure from the classical Marxist line.
Not only that, but the communist parties of Europe are openly critical
of the Soviet model.
Under the heading of "Soviet Thinking and the Democratic
Road", Carillo says:
"I can already hear doctrinaire people crying out that this is
That does not frighten me.
Let us take a look at the socialist countries which have carried out
the revolution along a classical road.
The greater part of them have already experienced whole decades with
the new regime, and while the taking of power was carried out at an extremely
rapid tempo from the historical point of view, the economic and social
transformation is proceeding at a much slower pace.
Examples of inequality still continue. There are vital problems, such
as the standard of living and the supplying of the population with goods and
foodstuffs, which cannot be considered solved.
Problems of productivity, of participation, are on the agenda.
And there remains the great unsolved question - that of democracy, and
social contradictions which a one-sided propaganda hides but does not
issue of democracy comes in for a great deal of attention on the part of
Carillo, who concludes that there is a fundamental contradiction in Marxist
thought concerning the idea of democracy.
Whereas Engels exalts the wonders of the democracy which existed simply
and spontaneously during the stage of primitive communism, we find other
leading Marxists, headed by Lenin, affirming that democracy is a form of
government linked to the division of society into classes.
Lenin considered democracy to be a state system which recognizes the
subordination of the minority by the majority, i.e., an organization for the
systematic use of force
by one class against another.
considers this characterization of democracy by Lenin to be somewhat obscure, 124
noting that: "In the argumentation provided by Lenin on this subject in
"The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky", there
are aspects which (also) lend themselves to confusion, since it is stated that
society, democracy will wither away in the process
of changing and
becoming a habit, but
will never be
Commenting on Lenin's words, Carillo says: "Perhaps democracy will
never succeed in becoming
pure - it would be necessary to
examine closely what
pure democracy is - but
if it is “modified” and becomes a habit, it seems contradictory to
because of this it withers away.
What is transformed into a habit
remains and becomes habitual".
To underline the obscurity of Lenin's ideas on the subject, Carillo
mentions that in his book, "The State and the Revolution", Lenin
affirms that complete democracy will only be possible under communism 125.
several parts of his book, Carillo proclaims the commitment of the
Eurocommunists to democracy and freedoms. One passage is worth quoting here:
the roads we
propose - the winning of a socialism which would maintain
and enrich the democratic political liberties and human rights which
are historic achievements of human progress that cannot be surrendered, and
the imparting to them, furthermore, of a new economic and social dimension
the realization of this ideal, it is not enough to
rid ourselves of some of the formulas coined by our theorists, such as
that of the dictatorship of the proletariat;
or that we should affirm our respect for the democratic
public commitment to the cause of democracy, in which Carillo is joined by all
the communist parties of Western Europe, underscores the important role played
by the historical and cultural frame of reference in which these parties
operate. As we
pointed out earlier in this book, it is easy for the Soviet people to
accept tyranny and the suppression of all public freedoms as just another link
in an unbroken chain of suffering under such absolute rulers as Ivan III, Ivan
the Terrible, Peter
the Great, Anne, Elizabeth and Catherine I 127.
However, that is not the case for the peoples of developed industrial
countries in Western Europe
and other parts of the world, who have fought long and hard to obtain
public freedoms and rights.
With democracy being an integral part of their cultural heritage, it is
natural that they should be repelled - even the communists among them - by an
ideology that proscribes these public freedoms and rights.
European communists are not only advocating democracy and pluralism as the
values which should govern society at large, they are calling for the
application of these values to the internal organization of the communist
parties themselves, which had been patterned on the Soviet model.
They denounce the undemocratic practices inherited from the
Leninist-Stalinist party structure, and call for free and democratic party
elections and debates 128.
Advocating autonomy for individual parties within world communism 129
and abandoning the idea of emulating the Soviet model for achieving socialism 130
(in fact, criticising several aspects of the Soviet experience).
Eurocommunists believe the socialist states established in the Soviet Union
and, later, in the countries of Eastern Europe, to be very different from the
socialist state envisaged by the fathers of Marxism 131.
Accordingly, they insist on the right of each communist party to work
out its own policies in total independence from Moscow.
This is eloquently expressed by Carillo:
"On the other hand, Eurocommunism should demonstrate
that the victory of the socialist forces in the countries of Western
Europe will not augment Soviet state power
in the slightest, nor will it imply the spread
of the Soviet model of a single party,
but will be
an independent experience, with a more evolved socialism that will have
a positive influence on the democratic evolution of the kinds of socialism
In this respect, the independence of the communist parties in
relation to the Soviet state and
other socialist states is
fact, Carillo was not the first to challenge the supremacy of the Soviet
as 1956, the theory of `polycentrism', which denies the totally predominant
role of the Soviet party, had been developed by Palmiro Togliatti133,
general secretary of the Italian Communist Party until his death in 1964.
The present leader of the Italian party, Enrico Berlinguer, has taken
up his predecessor's call for the independence of the European communist
parties from the Soviet Union.
The independent stance of the Eurocommunists is most forcefully
expressed in their vigorous denunciation of human rights violations inside the
Their support for the human rights movement was in open defiance of the
Soviet regime, which had always considered human rights activists 134
to be traitors and agents who had to be placed in mental institutions until
they came to their senses and recovered from their reactionary ideas.
European communist parties not only advocate independence from the Soviet
Union and reject it as a model for their own countries, they call the Soviet
experience itself into question.
This critical revision is clear in the literature put out by this
school of thought.
If Arab Marxists are unwilling to admit that fact, how then can they
explain the following words of the leader of one of the biggest communist
parties in Europe?
all states are instruments for the domination of one class over another, and
if in the USSR there are no antagonistic classes
and objectively there is no need
other classes, then over whom
exercise domination?" 135
October Revolution created a state which is obviously not a bourgeois state,
nor is it a proletariat organized as a ruling class nor an authentic workers'
that state there grew up and operated the Stalin phenomenon, with a series of
formal characteristics similar to those of the fascist dictatorships!" 137
the state with which we are dealing
(the Soviet Union), has gone further than Lenin foresaw in this sphere.
It has kept not only
the contents of bourgeois law but has
also provided examples of distortion and degeneration which at other
times could only be imagined in imperialist states." 138
also firmly condemns the absence of objective criticism in the socialist
How can all that be explained if not as a rejection of both the theory
and its applications?
Recognizing that the proletariat, as conceived by Marx and other traditional
Marxists, no longer exists in today's developed industrial states.
has said openly that traditional Marxists "speak of a proletariat that no
longer exists in reality". 140
Most European communists share his views on the matter.
In an article published in "Le Monde" following the defeat of
the coalition of the Left in the legislative elections of 1978, Louis
Althusser says: "Georges Marchais (general secretary of the French
Communist Party), talks of the working class as though we were still living in
the nineteenth century!"
It should be noted that Althusser who, in the same article, denies the
poverty of today's workers, is considered by the European communists to be
dogmatic in his adherence to the letter of Marxist texts". 141
The views expressed by the general secretary of the Communist Party of Spain,
Santiago Carillo, in his book, "Eurocommunism and the State",
represent more than the essence of one man's thoughts.
In fact, judging from the support the
book received from all the communist parties in Western Europe, as well
as in other countries like India, Japan and Lebanon 142, it amounts
to a statement of principles for the entire Eurocommunist movement.
This is also borne out by the Soviet reaction to the book, which took
the form of a lengthy and highly critical review published in the twenty-sixth
issue of the Soviet weekly, New Times, in June 1977.
While admitting that the ideas put forward by Carillo were
representative of a current of thought that was spreading within the European
communist movement, the review accused Carillo and his supporters of
anti-Soviet tendencies and revisionism.