Without Marxist-Leninist orientation and organisational independence there is no Communist Party

Ali Ruckert, President of the Communist Party of Luxembourg

Experiences of the Communist Party of Luxembourg

The intentions to destroy the Communist Party have started already in the time of the publication of the first works of the Marxist theory. Only four years after the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” was published, we have witnessed the attempt to ban the Party of Communists, which was just under creation, with the help of the “Trial against Communists” in the German city of Köln (Cologne) in 1852.

In almost every country of the world, the bourgeoisie has been trying to prevent the development of a strong Communist movement. These attempts did not stop in our times, on the contrary: they became even more aggressive and multifaceted. At the same time there are always attempts of impersonating the tactics of the “Trojan horse” – that means to revise the basics of Marxism, the doctrine of the class struggle, by using the pretext of “modernisation” of the Marxist theory.

In Luxembourg, the Communist Party has been facing many attacks from the reactionary forces since its foundation in January 1921. After all strikes, actions and manifestations in the 20ies and in the 30ies it were always the Communists who had been arrested and reprimanded as political “ringleaders”.

One long-term prepared attempt by the reactionary bourgeoisie of Luxembourg to ban and to dissolve the Communist Party and many other left-wing organisations by a new law failed on 6th of June 1937. In May 1935, the government had introduced a draft “Law on the protection of the political and social order”, which led to a broad opposition within the Luxembourg people. The law was adopted by the national parliament on 23rd April 1937 with 34 votes in favour, 19 against and one abstention. At the same time it was decided to ask the voters for support in a national referendum. The Communist Party, together with many trade unionists, social democrats, freethinkers and other democratically minded people organised a broad campaign to explain the background of this law. Finally it was rejected by 50.57 per cent of the votes in the referendum of 6th of June 1937.

Not even the occupation of Luxembourg by the German fascist troops could stop the activities of the Communist Party. Contrary to all other political parties of the country, which dissolved themselves, the KPL decided to continue its activities in the underground. The Luxembourg communists earned great merits and the respect of the people by their active resistance against the fascist occupants. Even though the party suffered huge and painful losses by raids, detentions, imprisonments, tortures and murders, the fascists and their henchman did not succeed to destroy the Communist Party. The KPL came out morally strengthened after the time of occupation and reinforced its ranks by many new militants in the entire country. Between 1945 and 1994 the KPL was permanently represented in the Chamber of Deputies (the national Parliament) and in the municipal councils of many localities in the south of the country.

But the structural changes in economy and society taking place between 1979 and 1990 as well as the dismantlement of the steel industry led to severe problems for KPL. The militants of the party had come mainly from the mining and steel companies. They were more than less long-time party members with a certain Marxist education. But as a result of its successful activities within the peace movement after 1980, there were more and more young people and intellectuals becoming members of KPL. Several of them felt that it was their vocation to “correct” or to “improve” the Marxist theory on the basis of their collected bourgeois knowledge.

At the time of the dramatic defeat of the states of real socialism, the victory of capitalism in the “cold war” and of the restoration of capitalist social relations in the Soviet Union and in the previous socialist countries of eastern Europe, the KPL, which was always standing in firm solidarity with the USSR and the socialist countries, found itself in a difficult situation, and even its survival was at stake.

Up to 1990 the KPL could finance its activities mainly by the membership fees and donations by friends of the party, additionally by remunerations of its parliamentarians on national and communal level and by the party-owned printing house. After 1990, only one deputy in the national parliament had been left, and after the annexation of the German Democratic Republic by the Federal Republic of Germany the printing orders from GDR companies for the party-owned printing house had been stopped from one day to the other. In this situation, even the communist daily newspaper was in serious danger.

The defeat of the socialist societies in Eastern Europe had also led to a situation in which many communists lost their courage. They had been convinced of the historic supremacy of socialism over capitalism, and in many cases they did not differentiate between their wishes and the reality. Now many of them stopped their active militancy or even left the party.

1991 – 1993: Revisionism under the disguise of “Renewal and Opening”

The Communist Party of Luxembourg became seriously weakened and hat to freeze its activities in factories and on communal level. But its existence as communist party was at stake because of revisionist ideas, which aimed at destroying the communist character of the party, its forms of organisation, to dismantle its Marxist-Leninist basis and at leading the party on a reformist way. All this happened under the disguise of “isolating conservatism and sectarianism”, “breaking up the rigid structures which had characterised the way of acting over many decades”, of “modernising” the party and to make it “more democratic” and “more effective”. These were the main points of an appeal which was published under the title “To give our Party and the Left a future!” by a group of “renovators” at the beginning of December 1993, during the preparation of the 27th congress of KPL.

Several comrades followed these ideas, since at that time practically all communists were not satisfied with the situation of the party. On the one hand, there have been real deficits regarding the democracy inside the party, and on the other hand, many comrades were seeking any kind of helping hand to prevent a further decline of the party.

The mentor of the group of “renovators” inside KPL had already published a series of articles in the communist daily “Zeitung vum Lëtzebuerger Vollek” under the title “Parting from Communism? Pleading for a new social humanism”. In those articles he expressed among other ideas, “the modern Party, which is addicted to the radical social democratisation” can not be a “class Party” or a “Party of Leninist type”, since “this type had already bearing the seeds of later deformations”. Neither this party “can possess ONE correct theory”. Furthermore “the limits between parties, the limits between party-political form of organisation and other forms of organisation are partly artificial”. Therefore it should be “of decisive importance to stimulate the overcoming of these limits”. By writing this, the ideologist of the “renovators” already anticipated the foundation of a cross-party left-wing movement which appeared later and in which the communist party should have been dissolved, according to the intention of the “renovators”.

Exactly in the spirit of “openness” the communist newspaper should have been converted into a “pluralistic left-wing paper”. The Central Committee of KPL with its power of control over the paper should have been replaced by a “society of editors” in cooperation with “a broad left-wing circle of interested people”, and the function of the editor in chief to be replaced by a “renovator”.

Nobody is possessing the absolute truth” – this has been in those times the usual argument of the “renovators” in the course of internal discussions inside KPL, when they attempted again and again to put into question the Marxist-Leninist ideology, its application for the analysis of the society as well as the conclusions to be drawn from it for the policy of a communist party.

To achieve this aim, they liked to “quote” Rosa Luxemburg and Antonio Gramsci, to use them as mace against Lenin and against the “Stalinist hardliners” inside the party. In their appeal of December 1993, they demand that the KPL should go on a similar way as “the renewed PCE or the ‘United Left’ in Spain, which can co-exist without any problems, as the Rifundazione Comunista in Italy with its broad-based electoral alliances, as the PCF in France, which is discussing openly in front of the entire country and renews itself, as the (German) PDS of Gregor Gysi, who showed us during his visit, how a left-winger can attract public and media attention”.

It is well known that the formula for success – “Openness and Renewal” – which the members of KPL were promised in those days with reference to the policy of communist parties that had followed the revisionist path of “Eurocommunism” in the 70ies and 80ies – a path that the KPL had refused to go – finally led to a “mutation” of those parties. They threw away their Marxist-Leninist orientation, renounced the class struggle and opened themselves more and more to social-democratic, neo-feministic and anti-globalisation influences – and they finally failed.

The French Communist Party (PCF) lost practically all its influence in the working class, while the Italian Communist Party (PCI), which once had strong positions in parliaments and deep roots in the working class, developed itself in the direction of social-democracy, changed its name and its communist ideology (but kept its properties), and communist splits started a complicated new beginning.

The debates inside KPL about its future ideological and political orientation reached its culmination at the 27th congress on December 19th, 1993. The “renovators” failed with their intention to give the party another orientation. Three quarters of the congress delegates voted in favour of a resolution, which rejected all manoeuvres “to make the organisation incapable of action, to give up its communist ideas and its Marxist ideological basis as well as to destruct its structures”. This resolution supported the later election of a Central Committee which should be able to re-establish the party’s capacity to act.

The spokespersons of the “renovators” – among them some elected deputies – were not re-elected as members of the CC. 24 of the “renovators” then decided not to accept the decision of the majority of the delegates and in the month of January 1994 they officially left the party, though they previously always had demanded “secret votes for all party positions”. This was even adopted at the 26th congress of KPL in November 1990. In March 1994 those who left the party founded the “New Left”, which had been announced as a “cross-party and left-wing movement”, but in practice it was directed against KPL and intended to headhunt militants of the KPL, to defame and to harm the party in the public.

This split made the work of KPL even more difficult. On the one hand, the only remaining KPL deputy to the national parliament refused to return his mandate to the party, and on the other hand, the “reform communists” of the “New Left” were further used by the bourgeois media as instruments against “the Stalinist hardliners of KPL”. But internally the Communist Party of Luxembourg found its way back to a new closeness based on Marxism-Leninism. This was an important precondition for the party to fulfil its main tasks in the very difficult years that followed.

1999 – 2003: An electoral alliance with serious consequences

In the spring of 1999, in a period when KPL had not yet recovered from the negative consequences of the defeat of socialism in the “cold war” and of the split in 1993, when the party was still isolated to a large extend and had no chances to receive any mandates on national and on communal level, the Enlarged Central Committee of KPL (members and candidates of the CC, members of the local party committees and members of the party’s Control Commission) took the decision to participate on the national elections of June 1999 as part of an electoral alliance. In this alliance participated the “New Left” as well as a Trotskyist Organisation, members of the social-democratic trade union, which had left the “Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party” (LSAP), and left-minded individuals that have not organised in any party.

The decision to participate in that alliance was not taken on a theoretical basis, but for tactical reasons, with the aim to improve the opportunities for KPL at the parliamentary election of June12th, 1999 as well as for the communal elections four months later. However there was no profound discussion about the principles of the communist policy of alliances before the decision was taken.

But the members of the CC had been aware of the fact that the party would face a great challenge, since the political, ideological and even personal differences between communists and “renovators” continued to exist. It could not be excluded that several partners of the new alliance would misuse the co-operation to neutralize the KPL politically.

It was an additional disadvantage that the overwhelming majority of the comrades had neither theoretical knowledge nor practical experiences concerning the policy of alliance, because they had not witnessed the time of local alliances between communists and social democrats on communal level. Furthermore, about one third of the comrades had joined the KPL after 1990.

There also had been comrades who for principal reasons rejected any kind of co-operation, since they did not recognise that an electoral alliance of communists with social democrats and other left-wing forces can be useful – given the fact that the compromises necessary for such an alliance are not violating ideological or strategically important issues. One local group of KPL even abstained from establishing a list of candidates for the local elections and called for voting in favour of the social democratic LSAP. Other comrades did not want to shoulder the additional burden and abstained from participating in the election campaign.

From today’s point of view we have to evaluate that the alliance under the name of “déi Lénk” (the Left) was ill-fated from the very beginning, since the diverging concepts of the different partners of the alliance had not been finally discussed in the preparation process.

The communists did not succeed in implementing their proposal to define the co-operation as an election alliance of independent organisations. Instead an individual membership was adopted. Furthermore it was decided that the allowances of future deputies on national or communal level would be given to “déi Lénk”.

In the course of establishing the lists of candidates there have been many attempts to exclude candidates proposed by the KPL and to keep the number of KPL militants on the lists a low as possible. The electoral law in Luxembourg allows the voters to give individual votes for individual candidates, as well as for a complete list of a party, or even for individual candidates of different lists. On the other hand, the law does not allow the participating parties to give preferences to candidates on their lists. This does not favour alliances between two or more parties.

Unfortunately, in several cases machinations against communist candidates were successful. Even some members of the CC of KPL who had already broken their relatedness with the party and later publicly changed the side, have been involved in the intrigues. Inside the party a feeling of mistrust appeared and the organisational structure of the party was weakened. In that time the KPL already had big financial problems and had difficulties to maintain its printing house and the communist newspaper. Under those circumstances, the party leadership had to undertake bigger efforts to secure the property of the party. This went on the costs of other political activities.

As a result of the elections one deputy was elected into the national parliament and several common candidates on local level became deputies in the bigger working class cities in the south of the country. The candidates nominated by KPL had relatively good results. The consequence of this success was that the differences between the various components of the electoral alliance were not further discussed. But beyond the surface the intrigues against the communists went on, and there have been growing intentions to develop the electoral alliance into a political party.

This option had been formally excluded by all participants at the very beginning of the foundation of the electoral alliance. Nevertheless it became more and more clear that a certain part of the participants did have the agenda of forming a new political party and thus to destroy the Communist Party of Luxembourg. This could easily have happen, if the KPL would not have reacted.

In the course of 2002, the party leadership – some members were at the same time involved in the leading bodies of “déi Lénk” – had to reject again and again several attempts to prohibit activities or even own slogans of KPL on the occasion of public manifestations, as well as declarations of the party on national and international issues. Additionally those members of “déi Lénk” who were actives on international level systematically tried to make other communist and workers’ parties believe that the Communist Party of Luxembourg had ceased to exist. In some cases members of KPL, who later left the party, had been involved in those anti-communist activities. So the Communist Party of Luxembourg began to renew its direct contacts with other communist parties.

In February 2003, the electoral alliance refused to establish in a due time the list of candidates for the elections to the “European Parliament” in June 2004 and to give a guaranty that a certain number of KPL members would be included in the list, though the communists had strictly fulfilled all agreements. This was the beginning of the final break of the electoral alliance.

Before the Communist Party of Luxembourg announced the establishment of its own open list of candidates in April 2003, it sent a letter to the “National Co-ordinating Committee” of “déi Lénk” with a last attempt for an agreement on a joint list with equal representation of candidates nominated by KPL and “déi Lénk”. This was immediately rejected by “déi Lénk”, since some of the previous “renovators” and “new leftists” expected an easy success if there would be no KPL members on the lists. But at the parliamentary election in June 2004 neither KPL nor “déi Lénk” received a mandate in the national parliament.

At the parliamentary elections of June 2009, the KPL reached 2.1 per cent in the largest electoral district, but could not reach the four per cent necessary for a seat in the parliament. In 2012, the KPL after 18 years of absence reached communal mandates in the second and the third biggest cities of the country: in Esch/Alzette (5.25%) and Differdingen (4.84%), and in the city of Rümelingen (9.29%).

From today’s point of view we have to assess that the electoral alliance formed in 1999 under very unfavourable conditions with other left-wing forces in that time, easily could have been led to a disappearance of KPL from the political scenery.

However this unfortunate experience must not be used as a pretext to principally reject alliances with left-wing and social-democratic forces, since compromises in political issues – but never in ideological and in important strategic questions – belong to the normal practice of Marxism.

But in questions of the policy of alliances in general and of electoral alliances in particular it is in any case important to keep in mind basic considerations of the Communist movement. Otherwise there will be a great danger for the existence of the communist party.

Questions of alliances and in particular of electoral alliances always have to be analysed under the premises that they have to serve the task to create class consciousness, to win the majority of the working class for our aims and to enlarge our influence on other social strata.

Furthermore we have to take into account different national conditions and experiences. This means that our own analyses and conclusions can not be translated automatically to the conditions of other countries.

The most important principle has to be that the political ability of acting of the communist party must not be damaged or even endangered by the form of the alliance for the participation in elections. The organisational and ideological independence of the communist party has to be ensured. In other words: The communist party must not get carried away with the alliance, its independent action must not be restricted.

Friedrich Engels wrote in 1889 in a letter to the Danish social democrat Gerson Trier:

For the proletariat to be strong enough to win on the decisive day it must – and Marx and I have advocated this ever since 1847 – form a separate party distinct from all others and opposed to them, a conscious class party.

But that does not mean that this party cannot at certain moments use other parties for its purposes. Nor does this mean that it cannot temporarily support the measures of other parties if these measures either are directly advantageous to the proletariat or progressive as regards economic development or political freedom.” [1]

Engels continued writing that he “would by no means be unconditionally opposed to any and every temporary collaboration with” other parties “for definite purposes”, “provided that the proletarian class character of the party is not jeopardised thereby. For me this is the absolute limit.” [2]

[1] German version: “Marx Engels Werke”, Band 37, Seiten 326 und 327, Dietz Verlag Berlin 1974

[2] English version: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975