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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Pour la mise en lumière de la visée communiste

by Arnaud Spire

To Shed Some Light on Communist Objectives

Translated Sunday 9 January 2011, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Derek Hanson

by Arnaud Spire, journalist and philosopher

Should there be a candidate of the French Communist Party in the first stage of the Presidential election?

Having taught over a period of years the elements of Marxist philosophy, in the schools of the French Communist Party (PCF), and having done so in the most critical fashion possible, that is, signaling each time what was problematic about the real shifts in the balance of forces in France, I believe I always made it a point to present a practical position in theoretical reflections of the PCF. I combatted both empiricism and the application of systematic philosophical points of view in the militant practice of the PCF.

I am not opposed to the abandonment of a "democratic centralism" too directly derived from monolithic Stalinism. I even applauded the act by which we restored to each individual member of the PCF his freedom of thought and expression. But how should we go about describing this "vaguely defined subset" by which our former methods of functioning have been replaced? We no longer know who is making the decisions, who is directing things, and what are the responsibilities of militants, who cannot in any case, in my view, be regarded as sovereign individuals. Sovereignty is something that goes beyond the individual.
Communist sovereignty derives from those who have opted for the party.

As philosopher, I was upset, over a period of several years, by the uses of the concept of individual sovereignty within the activities of the PCF. One is either member of the Communist Party or one is not. No one is obliged to sign up, so I have no intention of joining my voice to those of any tendency whose organized existence, far from furthering the democratic debate within the party, has instead the effect of bringing it to a halt.

Every communist is in the process of change and becoming, and, quite clearly, the movement of communist consciousness participates in a certain original pluralism, which I not only admit, but wish to encourage. Marxist philosophy, which, more than 160 years after the Manifesto, has a considerable past history, and can only fashion itself in the context of a pluralism that overflows the strictly national context, and takes into account the present process of globalization.

I fear the practice of internal referendum, in which one can not do better than simply rally with the least-bad option, and I rarely associate myself with appeals and petitions. Nevertheless, that published in l’Humanité under the title "2010: for unity without erasing the PCF" [1] finds me in instant agreement. The existence of Communism in France is on the one hand an historical feature, part of the history of the mass movement, since the Party emerged from the period of resistance with 28% of the vote, and had a vision of the future. Must the constellation of the term communist be erased, hiding behind an electoral front in which it participates? Unless we let France become, like the United States, a country where one no longer thinks, just calculates, such a prospect seems to me completely without foundation. If the Communist Party does not have the opportunity to benefit from exposure to the media during the presidential campaign, I fail to see by what miracle its candidates for deputy will be in a position to be elected six weeks later. Its social importance, marked by the preceding revolutionary episodes (1789, 1793, 1830, 1848, the Commune, the Popular Front, the resistance, and the post-war reconstruction of France), has more significance in this period of deep crisis of the capitalist system, than would the unity expressed by a candidate of the Front de gauche. Communist populism, if it were to exist, is exactly what would prevent the party from formulating fully and dialectically our communist aims.

Didn’t the historian Claude Mazauric himself, in his writings about Babeuf, emphasize the historical importance of the ideas of this revolutionary, and the inextinguishable character of their implications? The communism of the XXI century, in a country in which capitalism has become, essentially, a creator of markets without merchandise and of "financial bubbles", continues to draw plans for a future that will liberate its citizens, with a maximum of benefits without cost, the shrinking away of the state, personal development of men and women, and their self-realization, both individual and collective.

The non-erasure of the PCF in the first ballot for the presidential election, and hence for the legislative elections that follow, is capital for casting light on the communist vision for this beginning of the XXI century.

[1"2012 : pour un rassemblement sans effacement du PCF ", see our translation of an earlier article on the subject.

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