The European Dimension of opportunism: The ELP and the role of the PCE

The proletariat fights for the revolutionary overthrow of the imperialist bourgeoisie; the petty bourgeoisie fights for the reformist “improvement” of imperialism, for adaptation to it, while submitting to it[1]

V.I. Lenin

The importance of the struggle against opportunism and its European dimension.

Capital is an international force, which requires that the working class becomes also an organized international force. The long way that workers' and communist movement has walked since the creation of the International Workers Association until today has been crossed by a constant debate between two positions: the revolutionary one, expressing the interests of the proletariat, and the opportunistic one as an expression of the influence of the bourgeois policy and ideology in the labour movement.

At European level, the constitution of the European Left Party (ELP) as an instrument for building an opportunist pole with a continental dimension and a force for class collaboration in the framework of the European Union, requires that the communist parties that base their policy in Marxism-Leninism clearly set out their views on this new coalition of opportunistic forces "recommended" by capital, as we shall see.

The anti-imperialist struggle we wage is directed against imperialism as a system, against capitalism in its highest stage, which involves a direct confrontation against the imperialist unions and the political organizations that support them in one degree or another. As throughout history, the triumph of the revolutionary positions in the workers and peoples' movement involves a determined struggle against opportunism in all its forms and manifestations.

Given the important class struggles to come, there can be no tolerance or coexistence with opportunism. One of the urgent tasks that the communist movement is facing is to strengthen the ideological front, allowing in all fields to depute the hegemony that the forces class conciliation, as opportunism and social-democracy, still hold in the workers' and trade union movement. The struggle against the ELP and its forces in each country is not an option for the Marxist-Leninists forces, but it is a need arising from the conditions under which the class struggle develops.

Where does the ELP project come from? Which forces are promoting it? To what interests do this force stand for? Let's see.

The Euro-communist origins of the ELP.

In the article From “Euro-communism” to present opportunism, published in No. 2 of the International Communist Review, Euro-communism was defined as a revisionist right-wing current opposed to scientific socialism and enemy of Marxism-Leninism, which served as a vehicle to the penetration of bourgeois ideology in the ranks of the working class movement and the communist movement. [2]

This current was highly effective in its task of dividing and weakening the international communist movement, acting as a “fifth column” inside the movement, in open opposition to the forces that remained loyal to Marxism-Leninism and the socialist countries. In the capitalist conditions of the management of the crisis of overproduction and over-accumulation of capital that began in the 70s, their positions were a retaining wall of the workers' struggle, channeling popular anger towards the systemic margins of what was called “Welfare State”.

Euro-communism did not disappear with the counter-revolutionary triumph in the USSR and the other socialist countries of Eastern Europe. Since its inception it was designed to fragment the communist movement, generating an opportunistic European pole whit the hegemony in mind. As we will see, the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) played and still plays and important role in that task.

The 8th Congress of the PCE, held in 1972, agreed to support the entry of Spain into the European Community (as it was called then) considering that this was a “strategic substantive choice that was a response to the need to act in a supranational framework in the time when a clear internationalization of economy was taking place, market penetration, development of businesses and the media, along with the need to move towards homogeneous geographical and political spaces”. [3]

Four years later, in June 1976, the Conference of Communist and Workers' Parties of Europe was held in Berlin, where the Communist Parties of Spain, France and Italy presented in a common front the Euro-communist platform, in which the support to the process of conception of a European inter-imperialist union played a decisive role.

These positions would be ratified by the 9th Congress of the PCE -the first one held legally after 46 years-, which was held in Madrid from 19 to 23 April 1978, and where it is formally agreed to abandon Marxism-Leninism and the ideological definition that PCE retains today is elaborated. The theses of this congress picked the revisionist approaches that the Euro-communist leadership had progressively imposed since the mid 50s, as Santiago Carrillo [4] recognizes in its Report to the Congress on behalf of the outgoing Central Committee:

That “strong will is what has led us not to abandon Leninism -as said- but to propose, in the definition that we bring to the Congress and will be discussed at the time, a text that we think that corresponds better to what is the party's political practice and its theoretical elaborations of the revolutionary experience lived for over twenty years.

And in this respect I want to say that the debate on the content of these problems is not new. It began, at least, twenty-two years ago, both on reconciliation, the alliance of the forces of labour and culture, the pact for freedom, socialism in freedom, the integration of Christians in the party and other issues, as on our conceptions of the international communist and workers' movement and our differences with large communist parties in power[5]

The 9th Congress of the PCE again adopted a position in favour of Spain's participation in the European Economic Community (EEC), with a speech that will certainly and immediately recall the reader what is defended today by some political forces in Europe:

The PCE, when advocating Spain's entry into the EEC, affirms its willingness to transform, alongside other leftist forces in Europe, the current character of the Community, dominated by the big monopolies. We aspire to the Europe of the workers, the Europe of the peoples: a Europe united in the economic and political fields, that has its own policy, independent, that is not made subject to the United States or the Soviet Union, but maintaining positive relations with both powers, a Europe that is an autonomous factor in world politics, helping to overcome the military blocs and bipolarity, to democratize international life, making it easy for all people to have more freedom to be masters of their fates. Distention and coexistence will thus have a more effective and deeper content”. [6]

At the same time they pointed to a very specific alliance policy:

“(...) we consider essential to start a dialogue between communist, socialist and social-democratic parties in Western Europe, with an open mind, courage and seriousness, in order to find common ground to foster joint action for concrete goals, which aim to find a progressive way out of the crisis of the capitalist system”. [7]

The theses of this Congress defined the outlines of what is to this day the position of PCE, also largely reflected in the theses of the ELP. At the risk of boring readers, we consider it appropriate to quote some passages from subsequent congressional theses of the PCE which demonstrate the important role played by Spanish revisionism at the European level.

The 12th Congress of the PCE, held in Madrid in February 1988, in which Julio Anguita was elected as Secretary General, stated:

A profound transformation of the EC is therefore necessary. For this procedure, we are committed to building broad alliances, from the labour movement and other social forces of progress, sustained in the political field by the convergence of the communist, socialist, social-democratic, labour and green parties”. [8]

In the Base Document of the 5th National Conference of the PCE, held in Madrid in 1989, we can find together all the positions for the European Union which had already been broadly adopted since 1972. In summary, the opportunistic position regarding the EU is characterized by the defense of the entry and stay of Spain in the European Union, by the defense of a politically and economically united EU with an independent foreign policy, under the banner of social Europe or Europe of the people, by the organization of a leftist force with a European dimension born of the confluence of communists, social-democrats, labourists and greens, and by the support to the consolidation of the European Trade Union Confederation, prompting the incorporation to the ETUC of CCOO, the French CGT and the Portuguese Intersindical. [9]

As evidenced by the passages reproduced, the so-called Communist Party of Spain has played a relevant role in elaborating the political positions that would subsequently adopt the European Left Party, whose creation was anticipated by the Spanish opportunists more than three decades ago . It also demonstrates the continuity between the founding positions of Euro-communism regarding the European Union and the present position of the mutated Communist Parties which are part of the ELP, among them and prominently the PCE.

The founding myth of the ELP: the reactionary utopia of social Europe.

With the active involvement of European institutions, the broad opportunist alliance at European scale pursued by the PCE since the triumph of Euro-communism was founded in 2004. In the so-called Berlin Appeal for the establishment of the European Left Party, signed on January 11, 2004 ELP opportunistic forces agreed to defend a “democratic, social, feminist, ecological, peaceful Europe, a Europe of solidarity”. [10]

Nice words, no doubt. But the road to hell is paved of good intentions, as they say. Lenin warned about this in his famous article entitled On the slogan for a United States of Europe, where not only he put forward the law of uneven economic and political development in capitalism, basing the possibility of the victory of the socialist revolution in a few countries, and even in one country, but he also developed the Marxist analysis of the character of an alliance of European countries under the conditions of imperialism. Let us reproduce some excerpts:

From the standpoint of the economic conditions of imperialism—i.e., the export of capital arid the division of the world by the “advanced” and “civilized” colonial powers—a United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary.

War does not contradict the fundamentals of private property—on the contrary, it is a direct and inevitable outcome of those fundamentals. Under capitalism the smooth economic growth of individual enterprises or individual states is impossible. Under capitalism, there are no other means of restoring the periodically disturbed equilibrium than crises in industry and wars in politics.

Of course, temporary agreements are possible between capitalists and between states. In this sense a United States of Europe is possible as an agreement between the European capitalists ... but to what end? Only for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe, of jointly protecting colonial booty against Japan and America

 On the present economic basis, i.e., under capitalism, a United States of Europe would signify an organisation of reaction to retard America’s more rapid development. The times when the cause of democracy and socialism was associated only with Europe alone have gone for ever.” [11]

Leninist analysis demolishes each and every one of the ELP approaches. How is it possible to speak of a fully democratic EU in the middle of the reactionary tendency of imperialism? How can you talk with a minimum of seriousness of a peaceful EU when the imperialist war is a constant and the European monopolies unite in the dispute with other imperialist powers? How is it possible to speak of a social Europe when the EU is organized to demolish social rights and intensify the exploitation of the labour force?

There has not been and there will not be a social Europe in capitalism, whatever the opportunistic force of the ELP say. Engels dedicated the following words to the folly of Mr. Dühring: “If I include a shoe-brush in the unity mammals, this does not help it to get mammary glands.” [12] So, mammary glands do not appear on shoe-brushes nor the European Union can turn into an instrument of peace, equality, respect for the environment and social policies.

ELP forces have transferred to the European level the opportunist positions adopted decades ago in their own countries. They denied the socialist revolution, refused the dictatorship of the proletariat, resigned to the goal of building socialism-communism, denied proletarian internationalism and embraced anti-Sovietism, they practiced and practice parliamentary cretinism and extreme reformism. These positions, moved to the area of the European Union, involve the application of a line against the interests of the labour movement and the international communist movement that has a concrete expression in the defense of the following approaches:

  • Defense of the European Union as a counterweight in the international arena, especially with regard to the U.S., by changing the balance of power in favour of a supposedly “fairer” and “more democratic” world, settled in what is known as multi-polarity.
  • Defense of the broad fronts of the “left”, which dilute the role of the Communist Parties, deny their revolutionary functions and press for the mutation and integration of the communist forces.
  • Participation in capitalist governments, as has happened in France or in different Spanish regions where United Left ruled in the past or is ruling now with the PSOE, as has happened in the Basque Country, Catalonia, Asturias and Andalusia, where IU voted for the cuts and reduction of wages of workers in the public sector.
  • Defence of trade-union reformism, settled on compromise and conciliation of classes practiced by the ETUC.
  • Denial of everything related to the construction of socialism-communism, flatly rejecting the revolutionary traditions, in open opposition to scientific socialism, the class struggle and socialist revolution.

The ELP, created under European directives and the EU institutions, is not a naive force. It is called to play, and actually plays in the practice, the proper role of opportunism in all times and places: the integration of the labour movement, its adaptation to capitalism, its conversion into a movement with a bourgeois character.

In this respect the analysis that the opportunists make about the current capitalist crisis is of particular interest. For the forces of the ELP the causes of the crisis are not in the internal logic of the capitalist economy, but in a certain type of management, the neo-liberal one, that would have led capitalism to commit certain excesses that become the cause the crisis. Therefore, the ELP forces oppose the current policies promoted by a fraction of the oligarchy (which they identify with the neo-liberal right wing), to embrace, immediately afterwards, the expansionary policies promoted by the sector of the oligarchy that has historically been represented by social-democracy. Hence the rhetorical discourse on the need to look back to the productive sector, or real economy, which they unscientifically oppose to the financial-speculative sector, and the slogans they promote: “people before profits” or “it is not a crisis, it is a rip-off”, coinciding with the movement of “indignados”, which is functional to the system of domination and an expression of the class interests of the petty bourgeoisie.

Their action programme serves the resumption of the cycle of expanded reproduction of capital through typically social-democratic investing policies. In the words of the current Secretary General of the PCE, Jose Luis Centella, “going towards a model where the real economy is imposed on the speculative one[13]. In the case of PCE, their so-called Anticapitalist Social Alternative condenses the opportunist political proposal to face the systemic crisis defending the following positions: “role of the ICO (public loans to small businesses) and a public banking, tax reform contrary to the VAT increase that increases the progressivity of taxes (corporate tax and income tax of natural persons), while decreasing the indirect taxes (VAT) at the time that the inheritance tax is recovered. Similarly we must defend that the Savings Banks defer evictions for families who are unemployed[14]. What are these proposals but typically social-democratic measures? Where is the anticapitalist character of these proposals?

The stance of the ELP and its member parties generates utopian illusions in the working masses, it embellishes the inter-imperialist union that is the European Union and guides the workers and people's struggles to the dead end of the reform. Ii is enough to say that the PCE defended in the European elections of 1989 the following: “The next elections should open a constitutional process that will give the European Parliament a mandate for elaborating a democratic Constitution[15]. That was the position defended by the PCE before the Spanish working class. Years later the monopolies collected the proposal of PCE and tried to impose to the peoples of the EU a brutal Constitution on which United Left wailed by promoting the pathetic slogan “Yes to Europe, but not this way”.

The ELP against the Communist Parties: The undermining role of the PCE.

The PCPE has first-hand knowledge of the double-dealing practiced by the PCE in its international relations. In recent times, its foreign policy aims to bring the Communist Parties who once refused to be part of the ELP closer. To do this, they sweeten the role that the PCE itself is playing in Spain, exposing everywhere a non-existent strengthening based on the exercise of self-criticism. They base their speech on the need to strengthen the ELP with the presence of more communist parties, which would correct some issues which they cynically criticize.

The truth is that the PCE occupies the Vice-Presidency of the ELP. From that position, they bluntly support opportunistic forces like SYRIZA in Greece or the Left Bloc in Portugal, with whom they share row on the European stage and management positions in the ELP.

But the role of the PCE is not limited to the European environment. Spanish opportunists, using the historical relations and the linguistic coincidence with various Latin American countries, defend the same opportunist position for Latin America that the ELP defends in Europe, in this case embracing the theses of the so-called socialism of the 21st century. For this they have the enormous resources that the EU gives to the ELP, which are used to promote the mutation of the communist forces on all five continents.

A paradigmatic example the undermining work played by the PCE and the ELP is the organization of the seminar Crisis and Democracy in Belarus, in support of the pro-imperialist force Better World, to which the PCE and United Left sent Mr. Pedro Marset, who was expelled by the Belarusian authorities on June 8, 2012 [16].

There is no middle ground: revisionism or Marxism-Leninism?

The position of the consistent Marxist-Leninist parties on the nature and character of an imperialist union as the European Union is clear. This is a principled stand based on the analysis of the process of “European construction” from scientific categories and that is diametrically opposed to the assessments of the organizations that constitute the European Left Party. Consistently, our analysis rejects and combats the tactical political positions to which they lead and which have been mentioned above.

In this regard, the statement of 21 Communist and Workers' Parties of Europe on the occasion of the 2009 European elections is abundantly clear: “The EU is a choice of the capital. It promotes measures in favour of the monopolies, the concentration and centralization of capital. With the “Lisbon Treaty” its characteristics as an imperialist economic, political and military bloc have been strengthened against the interests of the workers and the peoples. Armaments, authoritarianism, state repression are being strengthened.” [17]

Nothing has changed in the position we held in the bilateral declaration signed by our Party and the Communist Party of Greece in March 2012, about the fact that the capitalist crisis is exposing bourgeois and opportunist forces and has served to clearly see that “The proposals of the ELP concerning “a pro-people capitalist development” and concerning multi-facetted borrowing via the ECB, which the working class and poor popular strata will be called on to pay for, are tailored for big capital and its interests. ”[18].

The capitalist crisis has made evident for large sections of the working class and the working people that the EU only serves the interests of the big monopolies, and the following idea permeates the masses: intermediate positions are no longer valid, but a clear position to overthrow the power of monopolies and the political structures that serve them, in short the overthrow of bourgeois power, which necessarily involves the unilateral disengagement from these imperialist unions of each member state.

The PCPE bluntly states in the theses of the 9th Congress that the principled position on the nature and characteristics of the European Union defines the line between the revolutionary organizations and the reformist organizations. On that basis, it is easy to verify how reformist positions not only prevail within the ELP, but also can be found, with surprising coincidence, in organizations coming from currents such seemingly antagonistic in principle as Maoism or Trotskyism.

The latest political dynamics are serving to verify that left wing and right wing positions within the labour movement eventually converge with reformism, on behalf of an alleged tactical flexibility which always ends up by challenging and denying any revolutionary strategy.

Let's look at some examples. Within the ELP, as mentioned above, we can find organizations coming from Euro-communism, Trotskyism and Maoism. For example, in the Portuguese Left Bloc we could find (until the dissolution of the organizations that originally formed the Bloc) the Maoist People's Democratic Union and the Trotskyist Revolutionary Socialist Party. In Greek Syriza we can find the Maoist Communist Organization of Greece -KOE- along with some Trotskyist organizations such as the Internationalist Workers Left -DEA). In the Danish Red-Green Alliance you have the Socialist Workers' Party -SAP-, Trotskyist, and the Communist Workers' Party -KAP-Maoist. In all cases, regardless of the proposals or analysis that adorn their documents or web pages, each and every one of these parties supports the proposals of the ELP on behalf of tactics or whatever, which calls into question any other approach they can do.

But this confluence is not only within the ELP. It is somewhat remarkable that other organizations who also come from these ideological currents, coincide with the ELP in their perception of the EU. Let us take the example of the Dutch Socialist Party (SP) Dutch and the Spanish party Anticapitalist Left, twinned with the French NPA.

Dennis de Jong, MEP of the SP, recently wrote an article entitled “The social face of Europe”, published on the website of his party, which openly stated: “It would certainly help if working people knew that Brussels was looking to reinforce their rights rather than undermining them. A social project of this kind would improve Brussels’ standing, and would have the SP’s support[19]. In another text, entitled “A better Europe starts now[20], the SP declares its proposals to meet this aim, including the strengthening of national parliaments, the strengthening of national governments, the introduction of the popular legislative initiative or to make the Council more transparent. Ultimately, measures coming from outside the ELP but could be signed by each and every one of its members.

Meanwhile, Anticapitalist Left openly stated in its framework programme for the 2009 European elections that “the construction of the European Union in recent decades has been more focused on the establishment of an economic and trade bloc than in ensuring the "Europeanisation" and the widespread of social rights[21], suggesting the possibility of a construction that could “defend social rights” without calling into question the capitalist framework. Perhaps the summary of their position if the following, as proposed within their “10 urgent measures and alternatives against the crisis and capitalist Europe”:

Another Europe is possible: repeal of the Maastricht Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact. No to the Lisbon Treaty, for a Europe based on the upward harmonization of rights and conquests achieved and in the solidarity with the people of the south”.

All of them reform proposals, which may sound nice to the working people as far as they are opposed to concrete expressions of the capitalist character of the EU, but without making any reference to how to end with the EU.

In short, we verify the confluence of certain organizations coming from Trotskyism and Maoism with the ELP opportunism when facing the struggle priorities of the working class of the peoples of Europe against the EU since, regardless of the analysis in which they are based on, the final practical position always means not to directly confront with the EU of the monopolies.

And all this is not happening at any given moment, but in a situation of structural crisis of the international capitalist system, which characterizes this era as the epoch of transition from capitalism to socialism.

[1] Lenin. The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky. Collected Works. Progress Publishers (Spanish version). Vol. 37, page 304.

[2] International Communist Review No. 2, December 2009, Spanish edition, pages 25-39.

[3] Socialism. A permanent search (Materials of the PCE between the 12th and 13th Congress). Pages 114 -115.

[4] Santiago Carrillo occupied the General Secretary of the PCE since the 6th Congress, held in Prague between December 1959 and January 1960, until 1982.

[5] 9th Congress of the PCE. Reports, debates, records and documents. PCE Editions. Printed in Bucharest (Romania) in 1978. Page 41.

[6] Idem. Pages 410 and 411. Underline ours.

[7] Idem. Page 411.

[8] Socialism. A permanent search (Materials of the PCE between the 12th and 13th Congress). Page 32.

[9] The documents of the 5th Conference of the PCE say: “To promote this articulation process, the PCE believes that it is necessary that the Trade Union Confederation of CC.OO is incorporated to the ETUC, together with the French CGT and the Portuguese Intersindical, and is committed to make any actions necessary to support this incorporation”.

[10] European Left. Release in Spanish distributed by the European Left Party, with the support of the European Parliament, in 2004. Page 5.

[11] V.I. Lenin. Collected Works. Vol. 26. Progress Publishers (Spanish version). Pages 374-378.

[12] F. Engels. Anti – Dühring. The subversion of science by Mr. Eugen Dühring.

[13] Statement from José Luis Centella in a breakfast meeting with the media held in Madrid on June 28th, 2012:

[14] The PCE document entitled “For the unity of the left around an Anticapitalist Social Alternative (ASA) to the crisis”, can be found in

[15] Socialism. A permanent search (Materials of the PCE between the 12th and 13th Congress). Page 131.



[18] Joint Statement of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE). March 16, 2012.