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Which Socialism, Whose Détente?

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Maud Bracke

Part I. West European communism and internationalism, 1956–1967

Part I. West European communism and internationalism, 1956–1967

Texte intégral

  • 1 “La diplomatie soviétique et sa lutte pour la sécurité collective. Rapport présenté à la Section d (...)

“Peaceful coexistence is an authentic Leninist concept and not a Khrushchevite invention”1

  • 2 There is a consensus in the literature on the importance of 1956 in the history of the communist w (...)

1The responses to the Czechoslovak crisis in 1968 can be understood as the result of changes in the internationalist orientation of the PCI and the PCF after 1956. The crisis in the communist world in 1956, caused by the changes announced at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and by the Soviet invasion of Hungary, were fundamentally upsetting to West European communism.2 In the short term, 1956 created a basic problem of identity for both the PCI and PCF. Both parties—although the PCI more so than the PCF—reacted to this, in a further stage, by transforming aspects of their internationalism in its ideological, organizational and strategic dimensions. By 1968, the two parties came to converge in their criticism of Soviet-defined internationalism and came to reject some of its implications. However, the two parties did so from very different, and in some senses opposite, ideological and strategic points of reference.

  • 3 The literature on the late 1950s and the 1960s has not, in my view, sufficiently pointed at the in (...)

2Chapter two deals with the crisis of 1956 and its immediate effects, while chapter three concentrates on the new circumstances of the 1960s, the Sino–Soviet conflict in the communist world, and the rise of European détente. The narrative developed in the two chapters brings the three contexts in which the communist parties operated in close connection to one another.3 The focus is on particular “moments” which will help to explain the 1968 crisis. These can be summarized as:

  • the development of the concept of polycentrism in the PCI, and its contradictions
  • the early resistance against the changes initiated by Khrushchev in 1956 by the PCF leadership
  • the diversification in the communist world from the 1960s onwards and the multiple cleavages in which the PCI and the PCF positioned themselves
  • the limited convergence of both parties in their criticism of Soviet leadership over the world communist movement, especially in the context of the Sino–Soviet conflict
  • the ambitions of the two parties to integrate into their domestic political system and society; the crisis of legitimation in the case of the PCF from the late 1950s onwards versus the PCI’s innovations in its concept of socialism
  • the emergence of détente on the European continent in the 1960s and the distinct positions of France and Italy in this respect
  • the conflict between the PCF and the Soviet Communist Party over domestic strategy in France in the mid-1960s
  • the rise and appeal of Maoist and other radical Left groups in both countries, which acutely questioned the revolutionary character of Soviet-aligned communism

Notes

1 “La diplomatie soviétique et sa lutte pour la sécurité collective. Rapport présenté à la Section de politique extérieure le 17/3/67 par Jean Gacon,” in APCF, Fund Fajon, box 10 “International—URSS.”

2 There is a consensus in the literature on the importance of 1956 in the history of the communist world. While Rey speaks of a “Khrushchevist revolution” (Rey, Le dilemme russe, pp. 281–285), Furet has understood the 1953–1956 yeas as “the beginning of the end” (Furet, Le passé d’une illusion, pp. 503–546).

3 The literature on the late 1950s and the 1960s has not, in my view, sufficiently pointed at the interactions between the crisis in the world communist movement and the domestic strategies of the PCI and PCF. A useful (but old) exception is Blackmer, Kriegel, The International Role; and the old but still essential Fejtő, The French Communist Party.

© Central European University Press, 2007

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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