Charles Gagnon

On Enver Hoxha’s book, Eurocommunism is anti-communism. There are questions that still need to be answered

First Published: Proletarian Unity No. 22 (Vol. 4, No. 4) October-November-December 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Marxist-Leninists throughout the world are all now grappling with the criticism of modern revisionism (and social democracy). This question has been especially important in Western Europe, particularly in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, where the revisionist parties are dominant in the working-class movement. Elsewhere in Western Europe (in Belgium, West Germany, Sweden and Great Britain, for example), social democrats have the most influence in the working-class movement.

Given this situation, Marxist-Leninists have to destroy the influence of the modern revisionists and social democrats and win workers and working people to the programme of socialist revolution. In doing so, existing Marxist-Leninist organizations and parties can grow and become a leading force in the masses. It is certainly to the merit of the recent book by Comrade Enver Hoxha, first secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania (PLA), Eurocommunism is anticommunism[1], that it draws attention to this very pressing question. In his 300-page book, Comrade Hoxha traces the origins of Eurocommunism, which are indeed the same as those of modern revisionism. He then criticizes the positions of three parties in particular – the French, Italian and Spanish parties. Finally, in his last chapter he describes the principles that should guide the action of communists in Europe today.

Comrade Hoxha’s book will undoubtedly be widely read by Marxist-Leninists and revolutionaries. For this reason, and despite the fact that it is not possible to go into a detailed analysis at this time, there are two particularly important points that are worth looking into. First, there is the incomplete way that the origins of modern revisionism are examined in the book. Second, there is the abstract nature of the general perspectives given to European communists in the struggle against the opportunism of the Eurocommunist parties. The only exception to this is on the question of the defence of national sovereignty, which we shall examine in some detail.

The origins of modern revisionism

“Taken as a whole”, Hoxha writes, “it (modern revisionism) is a product of the pressure of the bourgeoisie on the working class...”[2] Further on he adds, “Modern revisionism... has it source in the hegemonic policy of American imperialism.”[3]

Revisionism is not described as representing primarily the interests of a class or of a segment of a class in a country where it appeared and developed, but as primarily the result of the bourgeoisie’s activities, especially those of the imperialist U.S. bourgeoisie.

But how did the revisionist ideas resulting from the hegemonistic policy of the U.S. come to triumph in Europe, the U.S.S.R., China and other countries where revisionism grew? According to the sequence of events described in Hoxha’s book[4], these ideas first surfaced in the U.S. party in 1943 when Browder proposed its dissolution. They then surfaced in the Chinese Communist Party, particularly with Mao Zedong, then with Tito of the Yugoslav party and finally in the Soviet party led by Nikita Khrushchev. At the same time, the French party led by Thorez, the Italian party led by Togliatti and the Spanish party led by Carrillo became corrupted by the same erroneous ideas.

Once these imperialist-inspired ideas appeared, they were able to develop, notably in Europe, because of the conditions in that region. Hoxha writes:

“The economic and political conditions which were created in Western Europe after the Second World War were even more favourable to the consolidation and spread of those mistaken opportunist views which had existed previously in the communist parties of France, Italy and Spain...”[5] Hoxha goes on to specify that the political conditions – i.e. “the re-establishment of bourgeois democracy”, “the repeal of fascist laws” and “the post-war economic boom in the West” – are factors that contributed to the growth of revisionism. So Hoxha doesn’t think that the origins of revisionism in the imperialist countries lie in the communist parties or in the proletariat. He thinks it originated with activity by the imperialist bourgeoisie and then developed according to the specific circumstances.

As for Soviet revisionism, Hoxha describes it as follows: “As an ideological and political current, Khrushchevism has no great difference from the other currents of modern revisionism. It is the result of the same external and internal pressure of the bourgeoisie, of the same deviation from the principles of Marxism-Leninism, and of the same aim of opposing the revolution and socialism and preserving and strengthening the capitalist system.”[6]

“The Communist Party of the Soviet Union degraded, was weakened, and became a ’party of the entire people’, that is, no longer the vanguard party of the working class which carries forward the revolution and builds socialism, but a party of the new revisionist bourgeoisie, which causes the degeneration of socialism and carries forward the restoration of capitalism.”[7]

This analysis of the origins of modern revisionism, which is only outlined here, does, however, pose a certain number of questions. Unfortunately, Hoxha’s book does not give any answers to these questions. For example, why was the working class in Europe and the U.S.S.R. so quickly won over to the bourgeois ideas propagated by U.S. imperialism? What about the creation of a “new revisionist bourgeoisie” in the Soviet Union? What about the importance of the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943 and of the role of the Cominform from 1947 to 1956 in this process?...

The Comintern was dissolved in 1943

It is somewhat strange that since he traces modern revisionism back to Browder’s 1943 proposal to dissolve the U.S. communist party, Hoxha does not even mention the dissolution of the Comintern the same year. It is equally strange that he does not even mention the existence of the Cominform, which did play a central role in the orientation of communist parties for nearly ten years.

It should be recalled that the June 1943 communique announcing the dissolution of the Comintern gave two reasons for the decision: the maturity of communist parties and the diversity of the concrete situations that they faced. It is all very well to then criticize Tito, Togliatti and others for their brand of “particularism” (as it is sometimes called), but we should riot forget that the Comintern opened the door for them in 1943. Later events were to show that it was only a small step from pleading “national particularities” to adopting nationalism; and the vast maČjority of parties wasted little time taking that step.

The line and slogans of the Cominform merit serious study from this same point of view of substituting bourgeois nationalism for proletarian internationalism. But there is also more than that. Why were only nine parties members of the Cominform? Within these nine, why were three of them (the parties of Tito, Togliatti and Thorez) the parties in which, according to Hoxha, the worst revisionist positions were quickly becoming dominant? Why did the Cominform devote most of its energies to promoting the peace movement throughout the world and coexistence with imperialism while giving little attention to the mass struggles against this same imperialism going on in China, Greece and elsewhere?

These questions must eventually be answered. Even if finding satisfactory answers (i.e. found scientifically) means examining the policies and activities of the Soviet party under Stalin’s leadership, the answers must still be found. Incidentally, Stalin is another of the major figures missing from Comrade Hoxha’s book.

For now, let us simply say that a historical study which ignores major events in the period being studied can hardly be judged satisfactory from a scientific point of view.

When was the “new revisionist bourgeoisie” of the U.S.S.R. created?

No one would question the fact that U.S. imperialism played a significant role in the degeneration of the international communist movement after the end of the Second World War. But we must immediately add that an ideology can only receive a positive reception in a specific class or social stratum if there are at least some people whose interests lie in accepting the ideology.

It is quite clear that the advantages gained by the labour aristocracy through the superexploitation of dominated countries by imperialist bourgeoisies were a determining factor in the growth of revisionism following the Second World War. And this situation continues to play the same role in the maintenance of revisionism. Engels proved this at the end of the 19th century in relation to the English working class.

In other words, now as before, the labour aristocracy is the social basis of revisionism for the simple reason that this segment of the working class profits from imperialism. One need only compare the living conditions in North America or Europe with those in Africa, Asia and Latin America to see this. Briefly, that is the social base for revisionism in imperialist countries; what about in other countries and, more to the point, in a country like the Soviet Union?

We saw above that Hoxha talks about a “new bourgeoisie” in the U.S.S.R. in Khrushchev’s time. So we can understand that Khrushchev was simply the representative of this new bourgeoisie within the party and the State apparatus. If Khrushchev was one member among others of this bourgeoisie while he was a party member and if there were enough Khrushchevs within the Soviet party for them to take over and transform it into a bourgeois party, we must then recognize that a communist party can become a bourgeois party because there are people with bourgeois interests within it. We may note here that Mao Zedong’s thesis of the existence of the bourgeoisie within the party of a socialist country perhaps merits more serious attention than many Marxist-Leninist organizations – including ours, incidentally – have given it thus far.

Whether or not the “new bourgeoisie” which dragged the Soviet Union back to a class society existed within the party, one thing remains certain: this new bourgeoisie was created, or at least the bases for its existence were created, within the Soviet society. In short, the origin of revisionism in the U.S.S.R. remains to be explained scientifically, because the new revisionist bourgeoisie that took power shortly after Stalin’s death was surely not imported from the United States! And, to repeat, such a study requires at least an outline study of the class relationships within a socialist society – a question to which little attention has been given thus far. In doing such a study, we must remember that the socialist society is a society of transition in which exploitive relationships are not totally destroyed until the conditions for communism itself are created. And no socialist society has yet reached this stage of development.

Principles or a programme?

The last chapter in Comrade Hoxha’s book contains a description of the principles that should guide the actions of communists, particularly in Western Europe. To sum up this chapter, Hoxha states that they should base themselves on Marxism-Leninism, that they should build solid, disciplined parties of action and not of discussion, that they should link themselves with the masses, be involved in their organizations and even create some, and that they should pay special attention to trade unions, the women’s movement and young people.

So far, there is nothing very new, nothing that has not been repeated many times for many years, beginning with the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement by the Chinese communist party, published in 1963.

The principles Hoxha recalls in chapter 4 of his book sum up what has often been called within the movement the “general line of the communist movement”[8]. At the present time, there is a considerable amount of confusion on the relative importance of such a line composed of principles compared to the programme that communists should put forward. It is easy to understand the importance of firmly applying principles drawn from Marxist-Leninist theory in building revolutionary parties. However, the construction of solid and well organized parties will never replace building parties with a correct political line, with a correct programme. Only this will allow them to determine a strategy and tactics in every situation that will lead the proletariat to victories and move forward the struggle for socialism.

By themselves, these principles only make a very abstract demarcation and often have little practical importance. For example, we say that communist parties must be parties of action and that they must not be limited by legalism. At the same time, we violently condemn terrorism. This resolves nothing, and the question of which forms of struggle are correct is left open.

But this question cannot be resolved in the abstract nor by placing the problem in the masses’ hands, as Hoxha openly suggest:

It is the complex actions of the political, ideological and economic struggle of the Marxist-Leninist parties at the head of the working class against the bourgeoisie, social-democracy, revisionism and the bourgeois state, which allow the masses to determine whether or not these activities are truly revolutionary in character. The masses know how to distinguish genuine revolutionary actions which are in their interests from terrorism and anarchism.[9]

Even if the masses do know how to distinguish revolutionary action from terrorism (something which should be studied more carefully, however), the question is whether communists can do so. They can if they are able to refer to a programme, to strategy and tactics that are based on the concrete conditions of their struggle and not simply on a “general line” of principles.

What differentiates direct revolutionary action from terrorism is not the label it is arbitrarily given, but the line that the action serves. And to judge the correctness of a political line in a given situation, we must inevitably refer to the programme that it is an application of in a given situation.

The essential differentiation between communists and revisionists is made on the basis of the programme they advocate and translate into strategy and tactics in each concrete situation. Marxist-Leninists can criticize revisionists all they want for abandoning such and such a principle. They can reaffirm the same principles continually. But their action will only bear fruit if they offer a correct path for the working class to follow in its daily struggles and, more generally, if it can offer the path of socialist revolution. In short, the present task of Marxist-Leninists is to offer the programme of the socialist revolution as the alternative to the programme of the revisionists and Eurocommunists.

Comrade Hoxha’s book, however, has little to say on the questions of programme. It neither makes a serious criticism of the European revisionists’ programme nor does it offer a communist programme.

The national question in Europe

It would be wrong to say that Hoxha’s book does not deal with any question of programme. It deals with one – the national sovereignty of West European countries. Hoxha writes:

The Eurocommunists do not want to see the existence of a major national problem, the question of American domination in Western Europe and the need for liberation from it. From the end of the Second World War down to this day, American imperialism has bound this part of Europe with all kinds of political, economic, military, cultural and other chains. Without breaking these chains you ’cannot have socialism, or even that bourgeois democracy which Eurocommunists praise to the skies.[10]

Hoxha is more precise later on when he speaks of the necessity of alliances given the threats of fascism and superpower interference. He writes:

The Eurocommunists can prattle as much as they like that their countries are free and sovereign, but in fact the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and other peoples are oppressed and exploited. A bourgeois democracy exists in each of their countries but the state there is bound hand and foot to foreign capital. The people, the working class do not enjoy genuine democracy and sovereignty, they are not free because everything is controlled by foreign capital.[11]

This political position (incidentally, it is one of the few discussed in any detail in the book) cannot be passed over in silence.

First, it is not fundamentally different from the position of Eurocommunists themselves. For example, at the 22nd congress of the French communist party, Georges Marchais stated:

Faithful to its tradition, the French communist party is fighting and will continue to fight with all its energy to keep France independent and sovereign, i.e. the capacity to act efficiently and on an international scale and to determine its own people’s future. Far from being an outdated idea, national independence is one of the main demands of our time. Winning it, defending it and consolidating it are all questions on the agenda in the contemporary world. There is nothing more pressing or more modern than the struggle for the independence, sovereignty and full development of France. The communist party calls on all the country’s democrats and patriots to play their part in this national struggle.[12]

Second, all revisionist parties, beginning with the Canadian one, have consistently defended the national sovereignty of West European and other Western countries since the Second World War. It was also the position defended by the Chinese communist party in its famous Proposal Concerning the General Line... in 1963. In short, this nationalist position was one of the essential factors in the degeneration of the international communist movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Finally, Hoxha says that the proletariat of European countries must first fight for “genuine democracy and sovereignty”[13] before struggling for socialism because “without breaking these chains (of U.S. domination) you cannot have socialism, or even that bourgeois democracy (is that the same as “genuine democracy? – C.G) which the Eurocommunists praise to the skies.”[14]

After that, we can well ask if there have been any useful results of all the fuss made for the past two years over the “three worlds theory” which made the “superpowers” the main enemy of the peoples, including the people in less powerful imperialist countries! The “three worldists”, of course, view the U.S.S.R. as the principal of the two main enemies of the peoples of the world. But Hoxha’s views and the three worlds theory share the idea that the working class in relatively powerful imperialist countries must first defend their national sovereignty against a more powerful imperialist power.

We have explained our position on this question amply in the past and we have shown how this debate brings us back to the central question that split the Comintern from the Second International. Whether this nationalist position is today defended by those who support or oppose the “three worlds theory” changes absolutely nothing. The “independence and socialism” line, as it is commonly referred to in Canada, is a revisionist line that appeared at the time of the Second World War and has acted as a gangrene in the Marxist-Leninist movement ever since, must be firmly rejected and fought.

We cannot claim to have made an exhaustive criticism of Enver Hoxha’s book. We can claim even less to have made a conclusive criticism of modern revisionism as it appears in the programmes and practices of the European revisionists. However, we believe we have raised some important questions not answered in Hoxha’s book. These should convince Marxist-Leninists that there is still much to be done in the criticism of revisionism and that this criticism cannot simply consist in indefinitely repeating the general principles of Marxism-Leninism or of what is sometimes called the general line of the international communist movement.

The fact that the Party of Labour of Albania demarcated extensively from the “three worlds theory” and the fact that it is adopting positions very similar to the positions held by those who defend this theory on a question as important as the path of revolution in Europe (i.e. advocating a path that begins with the conquest of “genuine sovereignty” before the struggle for socialism) should make it easier to understand what we have been stating for months – that the struggle against revisionism has remained superficial thus far, and that true demarcation from revisionism, including the Eurocommunist variety, must begin by drawing up a programme for revolution in various countries and on a world scale.

While the supporters of Mao and the supporters of Stalin get hot and bothered over so-called questions of principle and repeat quotations from Marxist-Leninist classics, the revisionists are free to continue boring away at the working-class movement. They can continue because the concrete criticism of their programme – i.e. an analysis showing which classes or segments of classes are served by these programmes – has not yet been done and because a revolutionary programme which alone can counter these revisionist programmes has not yet been drawn up. In short, Marxist-Leninists today have more important things to do than to spend their time building up or tearing down “monuments”.

Charles Gagnon, Secretary-General of the MLOC IN STRUGGLE! August 15, 1980


[1] Enver Hoxha, Eurocummunism is anti-communism, The “8 Nentori” publishing house, Tirana, 1980

[2] Ibid. p. 13

[3] Ibid. p. 24

[4] Ibid. p. 24-61

[5] Ibid. p. 80

[6] Ibid. p. 52

[7] Ibid. p. 53

[8] A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Foreign Language Editions, Peking, June 1963

[9] Hoxha, op. cit., p. 259; our emphasis

[10] Ibid. p. 173

[11] Ibid, p. 272

[12] PCF, Le socialisme pour la France. 22e Congres du PCF, Editions sociales, Paris, 1976, p. 56 (our translation)

[13] Hoxha, op. cit., p. 272

[14] Ibid. p. 173