From Eurocommunism to the Participation in the Bourgeois Government

Raúl Martínez, Member of the Political Bureau of PCTE

The long journey of Eurocommunism

On January 13, 2020 the first government of coalition since the Second Republic was established, having ministers from the PSOE and the Unidas Podemos coalition, composed by Podemos, Izquierda Unida and the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). Since then, two members of the PCE are sitting in the Council of Ministers: Yolanda Díaz, Minister of Labor, and Alberto Garzón, Minister of Consumer Affairs.

The long journey undertaken by the revisionist PCE leadership, headed by Santiago Carrillo, comes to a new chapter. The goal charted by Eurocommunism has been fulfilled. They are already in the Government. It is the moment of truth, the moment when practice confirms –or not– the theses that led to the Spanish communist leadership to give up every revolutionary strategy, implement the theses that became hegemonic after the 20th Congress of the CPSU, and strengthen the line of the collaboration with the bourgeoisie that plunged the communist movement into a crisis that lasts until our days. 

The Political Bureau of the PCTE made a public statement on the new government of coalition. In its statement on January 7, 2020 the PCTE warned that such government would do nothing but managing the capitalist exploitation. We warned against the false illusions being sowed in significant sections of the labor movement based on a series of symbolic proposals. We called to place no trust in the new social democratic government, which was coming to retain the mass mobilization against the emergent outbreak of the new capitalist crisis being now carried out with intensity.

In short, against the social democratic management of capitalism, the PCTE bolstered its commitment to preserve the independence of the working class, calling workers to take decisive steps, to strengthen the Communist Party and to gather forces around the base of a strategy for an overthrow.

The present work is actually framed within this struggle. As we will see later, many of the arguments used by the supporters of the strategy of capitalist management are based on alleged national features, some of which would be shared with other countries in Southern Europe and would justify the pursuit of an own path.

A balance of one year of capitalist management

The formation of the government of coalition and its first year managing capitalism is carried out in the beginning of a new crisis of overproduction and overaccumulation of capital. A crisis that has not been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In our view, those who explain the crisis by reducing its causes to the pandemic pretend to relieve capitalism. They are concernedly covering that the origin of the crisis is found in the contradictions capitalism is going through and not in external factors or in some or another form of management. The decisions adopted in order to face the pandemic have accelerated a new economic crisis that was being brought about since 2014, something that communists had been emphatically warning against. 

The government of coalition has answered to the breakout of the crisis by using, on this occasion, the slogan “nobody is going to be left behind”. They are trying in this way to make differences from the way the 2008-2014 capitalist crisis was managed. The problem, according to these analysis, is not in capitalism itself, but in neoliberalism. Thus, the social democratic program would allow workers not to pay the consequences of the crisis.

It is concernedly hidden that the first stage of the previous crisis was also managed by a social democratic government. They are trying to make the neoliberal management the single responsible for the consequences of the crisis and avoid the establishment of parallelisms between the measures adopted by the Zapatero Government (PSOE) and those currently being started up.

The social democratic speech is supported in a battery of symbolic measures addressed to deny the evidence that workers will be those who will pay the outcomes of the crisis within the framework of capitalism. The PCTE has reiterated that there are differences between the public statements of the Government, the measures published in the Official State Gazette (BOE), and what is happening in workplaces and the people’s neighborhoods. The distance between the social democratic propaganda and reality tends to become a chasm.

The previous capitalist crisis broke out in Spain in 2008. Since then and until the General Elections in November 2011, the Spanish Government was in the hands of the PSOE. In the first stage of the crisis, that Government answered with a program with typically Keynesian measures: the Stimulus Plan for the Economy and Employment –the popularly known as Plan E–, which was addressed together with another series of measures to support the automobile industry and tourism; and the so-called Strategy of Sustainable Economy, specified in a Sustainable Economy Law which would replace the Plan E and update the Spanish productive system under capitalist terms. That was the limit of such Government’s Keynesian policies.

Since May 2010, the same social democracy stepped up the path of austerity, imposing a hard labor reform (June-September 2010) and adopting the reform of Article 135 of the Constitution to include the so-called “fiscal golden rule” in August 2011.

Thus, amidst a major social contestation, social democracy was laying the grounds for the arrival of the People’s Party (PP) Government after the General Elections held on November 20, 2011. This was to take over the alternation in the management of Spanish capitalism with Mariano Rajoy and would keep on delivering hard blows against the working class and the people’s strata.

The rhetoric used by the current Government is a direct heir of the one wielded by Zapatero’s PSOE until May 2011. We are actually witnessing again the specific supportive plans for the automobile industry (the so-called Plan MOVES) and the tourism sector. Once again, the update of the Spanish productive network is discussed with the help of the so-called “green capitalism”, this time through the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law.

Just like in the previous crisis, the social democratic Government has placed itself at the service of the companies with a large volume of public resources. On this occasion it has been made by granting non-refundable or at a very low interest loans to capitalists and, quite prominently, through exemptions and bonuses on employers’ quotas to Social Security. 

Meanwhile, the exceptional law adopted during the first State of Alarm declared on March 14, 2020 starts a process of “update” for labor relations that serves to the interests of the bourgeoisie. The governmental political forces have moved from promising the repeal of the labor reforms adopted during the previous economic crisis (in 2010 by the PSOE and in 2012 by the PP) to develop and massively use the mechanisms implemented by those labor reforms. They are promising a new Workers’ Statute and everything is suggesting that it will be based on the deceptive concept of “flexicurity” –coined within the European Union–, thus deepening in the individualization of labor relations at the expense of collective bargaining, in the “Uberization” of labor market, and in the broadening of work at demand. 

The current Government is actually going on the path of easing some bigger work exploitation indexes by capital, therefore increasing mass impoverishment of workers. The devaluation of the workforce commodity, whose price for large sections is now found under their reproductive cost, has resulted in a fast growth of the dubbed “poor workers”. The Government has tried to answer to it by adopting the so-called Vital Minimum Income, which is coming to complement with public resources the conditions of misery and hunger imposed by the capitalist exploitation which is trying to assure the reproduction of workforce.

The far-right issue

This process of capitalist update is made under the political conditions characterized by the rise of the far right. The fast growth of Vox, born as a split of the People’s Party, is being used by the PSOE and Unidas Podemos to trap the labor movement in a false dilemma: either you support the Government of coalition or the advance of fascism is favored. 

The PCTE characterized at the time the rise of Vox as an answer from a section of the bourgeoisie to the management of the 2008-2014 capitalist crisis in a scene marked by a strong inter-bourgeois scramble, both in the national and international areas. Vox serves and promotes the interests of a part of the bourgeoisie, but it cannot be labeled as a fascist force as its strategy thus far is framed within the canons of bourgeois democracy.

Indeed, this does not mean that under conditions of increasing class struggle such strategy cannot mutate in a fascist-style program. But the fact that Vox’s speech is based on the defense of Francoism and on a radical anti-communism does not mean any substantial difference to the stances of other right-wing political parties in the last decades like People’s Alliance or the Union of Democratic Center back in their time, or with the People’s Party itself in the last decades.

What is actually new is the answer of social democracy against the far right:

  • They are fostering the verbal polarization between social democracy and far right.
  • They are presenting the current government of coalition as a new version of the Popular Front.
  • They are justifying the presence of PCE members in the government by calling to the “democratic tradition” of the PCE, i.e. Eurocommunism.

With all of this, they are trying to keep the right-wing bloc split in such way that the election law game allows them to maintain the parliamentary majority and trap the working class in the “unity of the left”. In order to do so, they are falsifying the history of communist struggle in Spain, only assuming it since the moment the PCE gave up the revolutionary path to become an essentially social democratic force.

Again, the “Patriotic Bourgeoisie”

The government of coalition is –and cannot be in other way– a capitalist government. But as long as it calls for the vote of the people’s strata and is composed by parliamentary leftist political forces, it covers its bourgeois nature by resorting to a false difference within the ruling classes.

From the ranks of both the PSOE and Unidas Podemos, there have been appeals to make agreements with “patriotic businessmen” to do so. Thereby, the existence of a “good bourgeoisie” and a “bad bourgeoisie” is presented to the labor movement. A bourgeoisie that would support the right and the far right, against the European Union and aligned with Donald Trump, Bolsonaro and so on, the heir of the Francoist autarchy, backwarded and reactionary, and that would love tax fraud and speculation… Another entrepreneurial section, the “patriotic” one, would support the government, would be friendly to agreements with trade unions within the framework of “social dialogue”. It would be willing to launch plans for the update of the Spanish economy along with the European Union, it would support the payment of fair taxes and some redistribution of wealth, and it would besides be a cosmopolitan and democratic one.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the top leader of Podemos –Pablo Iglesias– and the Coordinator of Izquierda Unida –Alberto Garzón– have directly appealed to that fantastic section of the bourgeoisie.

Old Eurocommunist recipes in the new social democratic speech

The speech of the ruling social democracy and its parties is not new at all. Actually, many of its stances are essentially inherited from Eurocommunism and actively claim the political stances followed under the leadership of Santiago Carrillo in the last years of Francoism.

The emphasis is currently placed in a certain Spanish exceptionality that would draw from the continuance of a secular backwardness in the development of the country’s productive forces –a result of the specific conditions under which the transition from feudalism to capitalism was produced in Spain– and the continuance of the fascist regime in Spain after the anti-fascist victory of the peoples in World War II. 

On this base, the revisionist forces conclude that the bourgeois revolution has not been completed in Spain. The alliance of the working class with the “democratic bourgeoisie” or with the “patriotic bourgeoisie” is therefore justified to lead such unfinished bourgeois revolution to an end and conquer a bourgeois democracy equivalent to the ones in the countries around us, justifying in such way the participation of some forces that claim to be communist in the bourgeois government.

Those stances have been expressed in the first year of government when the need of new Pacts of Moncloa was requested. Those pacts, signed in 1977, allowed the Spanish bourgeoisie to rely on a program that submitted the working class to the measures required by capitalists to face the crisis –in the economic area–, and definitely compromised the Communist Party of Spain in the transition from fascist dictatorship to bourgeois democracy and to completely renounce to a revolutionary strategy –in the political area–. The working class lost its political independence, the revolutionary labor movement was cornered and the class-oriented stances in the trade-union movement would suffer a hard blow.

In the current economic crisis, accelerated by the pandemic, the Prime Minister has not hesitated to request new Pacts of Moncloa in which the political forces would engage in the design and implementation of a whole series of measures that will allow to face the crisis by undertaking a process of updating Spanish capitalism.

Such initiative has resulted in the creation of a Commission for the Social and Economic Reconstruction in the Congress of Deputies, presided by deputy Patxi López (PSOE) and whose First Vice President was, representing the confederal group of Unidas Podemos, the Secretary General of the PCE.

The Commission for the Reconstruction was organized in different thematic subcommissions, where experts in different areas and representatives of trade-union, employers’, and other organizations appeared with the goal of reaching consensus on the measures required to face the new capitalist crisis. That is to say, it tried to reach a new pact between classes that would assure the survival of Spanish capitalism, under a new updating push, preserving certain levels of social peace.

The justification for the participation of forces that claim to be communist, both in the Government and the abovementioned commission, resorts to the main arguments used by Eurocommunism in the second half of the last century. Therefore, against the right and far-right onslaughts, the particularity of the role played by communists in Spain is vindicated: the “defense of democracy”, the “national reconciliation” policy, the “passion for unity”, etc.

Actually, the Eurocommunist policies that led to the abandon of every revolutionary strategy addressed towards the overthrow, the breakup with the international communist movement, and the betrayal to the socialist countries are highlighted. The exemplary struggle of Spanish communists against Fascism is emotionally invoked to sacrifice that example at the altar of capitalist democracy. The mutation of the historic PCE into a social democratic party is vindicated in order to justify the participation in the bourgeois movement.

Should communists participate in bourgeois governments?

The PCTE is making a hard effort to analyze the history of the communist movement in Spain. Our analysis lead to a conclusion that is radically opposed to the stances that justify the participation of the communist forces in bourgeois countries. In our view, there were no national features all over the 20th century nor nowadays that justify the communist participation in capitalist governments.

We consider that the Communist International emphasized too much the elements of backwardness present in the economic base of some countries like Spain. On this base, a certain schematism was used when characterizing the ongoing kind of revolution in each country, although it was stated that the working class should play a major role in the cases where the revolution was labeled as democratic-bourgeois. Based on such approach, the continuity of the policies on the Popular Fronts under the conditions created after World War II resulted in a weakening of the revolutionary strategy in a large number of countries, among which Spain. The line of class collaboration was strengthened and this, along with the negative conclusions of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, decisively contributed to the mutation of several communist parties, being the PCE among them.

Even if in our view overestimating the feudal remnants in 1930’s could be wrong, stating nowadays that such remnants are present in the Spanish capitalist formation and from there concluding the need of the participation of communists in the capitalist government means to completely quit Marxism. Spain is an imperialist country where the only remaining revolution is the socialist-communist one. There is no historical feature that justifies the theorization of an own path towards socialism. Those arguments are actually addressed to justify at all costs the abandon of the revolutionary strategy and the mutation of communist forces into social democratic parties.

Denying the conclusion of the time of bourgeois revolutions leads to whitewashing the capitalist dictatorship under the pretext of defending or deepening the bourgeois democracy. At the same time, justifying the participation in the capitalist government under the threat of the advance of the far right –just like what is happening in Spain– means the reduction of the working class’ program to the defense of one of the forms of domination of the bourgeoisie: the bourgeois democracy, submitting to it in the ideological, political, and organizational areas. That obviates the existing lines of continuity between the different forms and therefore the general trend to reaction in the imperialist era.

Neither the logic of the lesser evil justifies the participation of communist forces in bourgeois governments. The international communist movement treasures a large experience regarding the meaning of the participation in capitalist governments. There is no single case when the participation of communists in such governments has resulted in a strengthening of working-class positions. On the contrary, those experiences have led to a weakening of class-oriented positions, to sow false expectations on gradual developments and the parliamentary path towards socialism, and to favor the mutation of communist forces into social democratic ones.

A relentless struggle should be fought against those stances. It is required to do so in an argued way, helping the sections of the working class trapped by the logic of the lesser evil to advance towards revolutionary stances. Unmasking the measures that the government is saying that it adopts in support of the people’s sections. Patiently explaining how those measures are found within the logic of updating the exploitation. Contributing to make the workers’ answer against the crisis as massive as possible. Helping to the strengthening of the people’s strata in the neighborhoods and the students’ movement in high schools and universities. All those tasks lead to the strengthening of the Communist Party, gathering class-oriented forces that are beginning to understand, based on their own experience, that the only way out for the working class and the task of our times is a resolute struggle for socialism-communism.

Social democratic governments come to an end, but capitalist exploitation is strengthened during their time of management. Therefore, the only option is the frontal opposition and unmasking of the social democratic policies and their Eurocommunist supporters. That is the conclusion extracted from the experience in Spain.