Eurocommunism was a new trend in the 1970s and 1980s within various Western European communist parties to develop a theory and practice of social transformation that was more relevant in a Western European democracy and less aligned to the partyline of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Origin of the term

The origin of the term "Eurocommunism" was subject to great debate in the mid-1970s, being attributed to Zbigniew Brzezinski and Arrigo Levi, among others. Jean-François Revel once wrote that "one of the favourite amusements of 'political scientists' is to search for the author of the term "Eurocommunism." In April 1977, "Deutschland-Archiv" decided that the word was first used in the summer of 1975 by Yugoslav journalist Frane Barbieri, former editor of Belgrade's NIN Newsmagazine.

Theoretical foundations

The main theoretical foundation of Eurocommunism was Antonio Gramsci's writing about Marxist theory which questioned the sectarianism of the Left and encouraged communist parties to develop social alliances to win "hegemonic" support for social reforms. Eurocommunist parties expressed their fidelity to democratic institutions more clearly than before and attempted to widen their appeal by embracing public sector middle-class workers, new social movements such as feminism and gay liberation and more publicly questioning the Soviet Union. Early inspirations can also be found in the Austromarxism and its seeking of a "Third" democratic way to socialism.

Western European Communist Parties

Some Communist parties with strong popular support, notably the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) adopted Eurocommunism most enthusiastically. On the contrary, at least one mass party, the French Communist Party (PCF) and many smaller parties strongly opposed to it and stayed aligned to the positions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union until the end of USSR (although the PCF did make a brief turn toward Eurocommunism in the mid-to-late 1970s).

The PCE and its Catalan referent, the United Socialist Party of Catalonia, had already been committed to the liberal possibilist politics of the Popular Front during the Spanish Civil War. The leader of the PCE, Santiago Carrillo, wrote Eurocommunism's defining book "Eurocomunismo y estado" ("Eurocommunism and the State") and participated in the development of the liberal democratic constitution as Spain emerged from the dictatorship of Franco. The Communist parties of Great Britain, the Netherlands and Austria also turned Eurocommunist.

Western European communists came to Eurocommunism via a variety of routes. For some it was their direct experience of feminist and similar action. For others its was a reaction to the political events of the Soviet Union, at the apogee of what Mikhail Gorbachev later called the Era of Stagnation. This process was accelerated after the events of 1968, particularly the crushing of the Prague Spring.

The politics of détente also played a part. With war less likely, Western communists were under less pressure to follow Soviet orthodoxy yet also wanted to engage with a rise in western proletarian militancy such as Italy's Hot Autumn and Britain's shop steward's movement.

Outside Western Europe

Eurocommunist ideas won at least partial acceptance outside of Western Europe. Prominent parties influenced by it outside of Europe were the Movement for Socialism (Venezuela), the Japanese Communist Party, the Mexican Communist Party and the Communist Party of Australia. Mikhail Gorbachev also refers to Eurocommunism as a key influence on the ideas of "glasnost" and "perestroika" in his memoirs.


Eurocommunism was in many ways only a staging ground for changes in the political structure of the European left. Somendash principally the Italiansndash became social democrats, while others like the Dutch CPN moved into green politics and the French party during the 1980s reverted to a more pro-Soviet stance.

Eurocommunism became a force across Europe in 1977, when Enrico Berlinguer of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), Santiago Carrillo of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and Georges Marchais of the French Communist Party (PCF) met in Madrid and laid out the fundamental lines of the "new way". The PCI in particular had been developing an independent line from Moscow for many years prior, which had already been exhibited in 1968, when the party refused to support the Soviet invasion of Prague. In 1975 the PCI and the PCE had made a declaration regarding the "march toward socialism" to be done in "peace and freedom". In 1976 in Moscow, Berlinguer, in front of 5,000 Communist delegates, had spoken of a "pluralistic system" (translated by the interpreter as "multiform"), and described PCI's intentions to build "a socialism that we believe necessary and possible only in Italy". The "compromesso storico" ("historic compromise") with "Democrazia Cristiana", stopped by Aldo Moro's murder in 1978, was a consequence of this new policy.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War put practically all Leftist parties in Europe on the defensive, and made neoliberal reforms the order of the day, many Eurocommunist parties split, with the Right factions (such as Democratici di Sinistra or Iniciativa per Catalunya) adopting social democracy more whole-heartedly, while the Left strove to preserve some identifiably Communist positions (Partito della Rifondazione Comunista or PSUC viu/Communist Party of Spain).

Criticism of Eurocommunism

Two main criticisms have been advanced against Eurocommunism. First, it is alleged by right-wing critics that Eurocommunists showed a lack of courage in definitively breaking off from the Soviet Union (the Italian Communist party, for example, took this step only in 1981, after the repression of Solidarność in Poland). This "timidity" has been explained as the fear of losing old members and supporters, many of whom admired the USSR, or with a "realpolitik" desire to keep the support of a strong and powerful country.

Other critics point out the difficulties the Eurocommunist parties had in developing a clear and recognisable strategy. They observe that Eurocommunists have always claimed to be different - not only from Soviet Communism but also from Social Democracy - while, in practice, they were always very similar to at least one of these two tendencies. Thus, critics argue that Eurocommunism does not have a well defined identity and cannot be regarded as a separate movement in its own right.

From a Trotskyist point of view, Ernest Mandel in "From Stalinism to Eurocommunism: The Bitter Fruits of 'Socialism in One Country"' views Eurocommunism as a subsequent development of the decision taken by the Soviet Union in 1924 to abandon the goal of world revolution and concentrate on social and economic development of the Soviet Union, the so-called "Socialism in One Country". Thus the Eurocommunists of the Italian and French Communist parties are considered to be nationalist movements, who together with the Soviet Union abandoned internationalism. This is analogous to the Social democratic parties of the Second International during the First World War, when they supported their national governments in prosecution of the war.

From an Anti-Revisionist point of view, Enver Hoxha in "Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism" views Eurocommunism as the result of Nikita Khrushchev's policy of peaceful coexistence. Khrushchev was accused of being a revisionist who encouraged conciliation with the bourgeoisie rather than adequately calling for its overthrow. He also stated that the Soviet Union's refusal to reject Palmiro Togliatti's theory of polycentrism encouraged Communist parties to moderate their views in order to join cabinets, which in turn forced them to abandon Marxism-Leninism as their leading ideology.

More generally, from the point of view of most revolutionary left-wing movements, Eurocommunism simply meant an abandonment of basic communist principles, such as the call for a proletarian revolution, which eventually led many Eurocommunists to abandon communism or even socialism altogether (by giving up their commitment to overthrow capitalism). Such critics felt strongly vindicated when several Eurocommunist parties scrapped their communist credentials following the fall of the Soviet Union.

More rhythmic criticisms of Euro Communism were presented by the poet John Cooper Clarke, in 'Euro Communist/Gucci Socialist.'

Further reading

* Antonio Gramsci, "Prison Notebooks: Selections", Lawrence and Wishart, 1973, ISBN 0-85315-280-2
* Santiago Carrillo, "Eurocommunism and the State", Lawrence and Wishart, 1977, ISBN 0-85315-408-2
* [ Michael R. Krätke,Otto Bauer and the Third Way,Early Inspiration to the Eurocommunist Movement,Michael R. Krätke]
* Detlev Albers u.a. (Hg.), Otto Bauer und der "dritte" Weg. Die Wiederentdeckung des Austromarxismus durch Linkssozialisten und Eurokommunisten, Frankfurt/M 1979
* Enrico Berlinguer, Antonio Bronda, Stephen Bodington, "After Poland", Spokesman, 1982, ISBN 0-85124-344-4
* Richard Kingsley (ed.), "In Search of Eurocommunism", Macmillan Press, 1981, ISBN 0-333-26594-2
* Roger Simon, Stuart Hall, "Gramsci's Political Thought: An Introduction", Lawrence and Wishart, 1977, ISBN 0-85315-738-3
* Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, "Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics", Verso, 2001, ISBN 1-85984-330-1
* Ernest Mandel, "From Stalinism to Eurocommunism: The Bitter Fruits of 'Socialism in One Country"', NLB, 1978, hardcover, ISBN 0-86091-005-9; trade paperback, ISBN 0-86091-010-5
* Robert Harvey, "A Short History of Communism." New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004. ISBN: 0-312-32909-1


* "A Trotskyist criticism" is adapted from the Wikinfo article, [,_the_Trotskyist_criticism "Eurocommunism, the Trotskyist criticism"]
* [ "Enver Hoxha - Eurocommunism is Anti-communism"]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Eurocommunism — [yoor΄ō käm′yə niz΄əm] n. a former policy of some western European Communist parties stressing their independence from the Soviet Union, support of democratic political procedures, etc. Eurocommunist adj., n …   English World dictionary

  • Eurocommunism — Eurocommunist, n., adj. /yoor euh kom yeuh niz euhm, yerr /, n. a form of Communism that developed in some western European nations independently of the Soviet Union. [1970 75; EURO + COMMUNISM] * * * Trend among European communist parties toward …   Universalium

  • Eurocommunism —    A briefly important school of Marxism that flourished in the 1970s, but which had effectively ceased to exist by the early 1980s. The movement and its ideas are primarily associated with the three largest European communist parties of the time …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • eurocommunism — eurokomunizmas statusas T sritis Politika apibrėžtis Vakarų Europos šalių (Ispanijos, Italijos, Prancūzijos) komunistų partijų ideologija ir politika; atsisakoma revoliucinės politikos, proletariato diktatūros koncepcijos, pripažįstamas politinis …   Politikos mokslų enciklopedinis žodynas

  • Eurocommunism — noun Date: 1976 the communism especially of western European Communist parties that was marked by a willingness to reach power through coalitions and by independence from Soviet leadership • Eurocommunist noun or adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Eurocommunism — noun a European form of communism which advocates the preservation of many elements of Western liberal democracy. Derivatives Eurocommunist adjective &noun …   English new terms dictionary

  • eurocommunism — eu·ro·communism …   English syllables

  • Eurocommunism — Eu•ro•com•mu•nism [[t]ˌyʊər əˈkɒm yəˌnɪz əm, ˌyɜr [/t]] n. gov a form of Communism that developed in some western European nations independently of the Soviet Union • Etymology: 1970–75 …   From formal English to slang

  • eurocommunism — n. a form of Communism in Western European countries that is independent of the Soviet Communist Party. Derivatives: Eurocommunist adj. & n …   Useful english dictionary

  • ЕВРОКОММУНИЗМ — (eurocommunism) термин, обозначающий политические изменения, которые произошли в коммунистических партиях Западной Европы (особенно французской, итальянской, испанской и британской) в течение 1970 х гг., включая разработку национальных,… …   Большой толковый социологический словарь

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”