Euro-Communism: Definition, Nature, Origin and Assessment


In the vast vocabulary of socialism and its allied concepts (such as democratic socialism, Fabian socialism, evolutionary socialism etc.) Euro-communism is not simply an addition; it is a vital and influential part of socialist movement that grew in the mid-seventies of the last century. It is blessed with several definitions and an important one is found in Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics: “A body of thought developed within, the Italian, Spanish and French communist parties from 1975 which had a profound influence upon the communist movement”.

The author of the article published in A Dictionary of Marxist Thought gives a definition: “A movement of strategic and theoretical change begun in the 1970s by many communist parties in the capitalist democracies”. Still there is another definition. Euro-communism is a theory and practice of communist movement that developed in Western Europe to establish the identity of communist parties in some countries of Western Europe. It may be regarded as an aftermath of the Second World War.

It is also an attempt to expand communist movement in other states. It seeks to recognise the freedom of each communist party to follow its own course of action. It is a moderate way of allowing the communist party to follow their own course of action. To sum up, Euro-communism admits the multiplicity of ideas and organisations that thrived after the Second World War.

Nature of Euro-Communism:

The Euro-communism is characterised by few models. One such model is that Soviet Union was not the only model of international communist movement or Soviet communist party is not the ideal of all communist parties of the world. In other words the monolithic nature of communist party was faced with a clear challenge.

Almost at the beginning of the 1970 this challenge surfaced and assumed clear shape towards the middle of the 1970s. Each communist party functions within a special economic and political environment and constraint which it cannot evade.

Naturally a national party cannot always be bound by the motives and directions of other parties. The second thesis of euro-communism is communist party is the party not only of the workers but also a party of all progressive sections of society such as shidente, clergymen, middle class people, teachers, researchers and even a section of white- collar employees. Men having faith in socialism and democracy shall be included into the party in order to make the communist party broad-based.

In the third place the communist party must be democratised through the revision of organisational structure At the same time, fresh air is to be allowed to enter into the party and to reach this goal debates and discussions are to be allowed within the party, Since the inception of the Bolshevik Party utmost strictness was observed within the party. Top leaders decided everything and though there was a principle of democratic centralism, in practice the rank and file of the party had no say as regards organisation, functions and policies of the party. Euro-communism changed it.

Origin of Euro-communism:

The origin of Euro-communism can be traced to the communist party of Italy (P.C.I). Italian Communist Party first showed to the world that it wanted to give special importance to the local and national issues (that is Italian issues) in the programmes and objectives of the party. It does not like to chop off its relations with the communist parties of other countries but its priority is always towards the national and local problems and welfare of Italy. The term Euro-communism was first coined by an Italian journalist.

The communist parties of France and Spain quickly followed Italian footsteps and the Communist Party of each country enthusiastically adopted Italy s example. In this way Euro-communism spread its tentacles far and near.

The parties of these countries refused to be dictated by the decisions and directives of Moscow. From 1917 to 1970 Moscow was the headquarters of all the communist parties of the world and Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU) was the holder of master- key of communist movement in all states of the world.

A section of Marxists in different countries in Europe was very much eager to make experiment with Marxism. These people did not deny the importance and utility of Marxism but they wanted to adjust themselves with the new situations.

They abandoned the orthodox apparel of Marxism and desired to make it suitable for all changed situations. This feeling gave birth to a new ideology and this is Euro-communism. Some researchers are of opinion that the origin can be traced to the 20th Congress of C.P.S.U. which was held in 1956. The seeds of the Euro-communism lay in that Party Congress.

Causes of the Origin:

Several factors can be attributed to the rise and growth of Euro-communism and some of them are:

1. After the S.W.W. the academics, scholars and researchers were eager to adopt and follow independent thought and the party leaders topped them. Many of them refused to be dictated by the leaders of other countries and this tendency caused the formation of separate units on the basis of same or almost same political ideology.

2. It was a question of prestige and national pride not to be dictated by other party larders. For several decades Moscow was the centre of international communist movement and in the 1970s Moscow was pulled down from that ivory tower. The parties of Spain, France and Italy wanted to go alone even if none responded to their call.

3. It was firmly believed that only alternative to capitalism was socialism and the road to socialism was not one but more than one. The adherents of Euro-communism demanded that the communist party of each country would be allowed to follow its own course and adopt own methods considering the national issues. This feeling was so intense that this ultimately made way for Euro-communism.

4. Marx addressed his supporters to follow armed revolution for setting up socialism. That was the middle of the nineteenth century. After one century political situation underwent sea changes. Democratic and parliamentary methods were considered more appropriate than revolution.

5. In many European countries there arose a strong wave of de-Stalinisation. There was also a wave of de-Bolshevisation. These two waves were sufficient for the rise of Euro-communism. At the beginning of eighties in Russia there arose a new political climate which was against the current trend.


Some of the important assumptions of the Euro-communism are the following:

1. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and many other openly announced that only the dictatorship of the proletariat could bring about an end to exploitation. In the sixties and seventies it was clear to many Marxists that such a dictatorship was impossible. The only way to reach socialist goals was democratic means and constitutional procedures.

2. A firm conviction had developed that it was impossible to destroy capitalism. The only way is to mend it and this can be done by democratic ways such as election, universal franchise, reforms, peaceful agitation etc.

3. Gramsci and some others were of opinion that the most important way to combat capitalism was to strengthen civil society. Gramsci said that the cause of the survival of capitalism was the increasing strength and importance of civil society. This civil society could be utilised for the greater and better cause and purpose of socialism.

4. There were enormous differences between capitalism of Marx’s time and that of the mid-fifties of the twentieth century. It is ludicrous to think of annihilating the capitalist state structure. Rather it is far better to make adjustment with it by introducing socialist methods.

5. It was felt that the existing Marxist regimes were not up to the real Marxist concepts. There is a need to rectify some of the ideas of Marxism and Euro-communism wants to do this.

6. One-party system cannot fulfill the aspirations of people and it is undemocratic. Multiplicity of parties should be allowed to function.

7. Socialism combined with democracy can save society from all evils and not pure Marxism alone.


Euro-communism evoked tremendous enthusiasm in the minds of socialists. But within a decade this enthusiasm died. A critic has said: “Euro-communism, greeted in the 1970s as a plausible new trajectory for left success situated between the equally unpromising paths of traditional communism and social democracy, had demonstrated serious weaknesses by the 1980s.” “Yes, this was the inevitable fate.” It created tremendous enthusiasm in the minds of its adherents but that enthusiasm did not last long. Why?

There are several reasons behind the failure of Euro-communism and one such reason is it could not provide a powerful alternative to capitalism. It was assumed that people would lend their full support to Euro-communism and in reality that did not happen. The Italian Communist Party was the first practitioner of Euro-communism. In 1976 the P. C. I.s electoral gains were impressive but in 1980 its success was not noteworthy at all.

The communist party of Spain failed to inroad into the capitalist citadel. Euro-communism was rejected in other European countries. Euro-communism was floated as a viable alternative to capitalism. But the interesting fact is that capitalism, by amending or changing its methods and approach, succeeded in conquering the minds of people.

This was a bad sign for Euro-communism. Again, the collapse of Soviet Socialism was a great blow to Euro-communism. In spite of all these it can be said that it was not a complete failure. The Third World states today are following their own paths of socialism though they do not assume the brand name of Euro-communism. Today there is not a single perfect socialist party.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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