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by Julian Coman
Mea Culpa From The Comrades Members and leaders of the Parti Communiste Francais -- Europe's last major communist party -- are set to vote this week on an extraordinary report condemning in no uncertain terms its activities throughout its 80-year history. The two-page condemnation is entitled, "Has Communism Been a Failure in the Twentieth Century?" The answer it comes up with is a resounding "You Bet!"
The document states that communism "did not liberate humanity" but led to the "oppression of the individual, a tendency to see different opinions as deviation or betrayal, and practices which in all too many cases bordered on the criminal."
French communists were guilty of "preferring to keep quiet about the suppressions of freedom in the various socialist states," as well as failing to realize "the scale and the consequences" of events in Eastern Europe, including the Stalinist purges and the suppression of liberal revolutions in satellite Soviet states such as Czechoslovakia.
Comrades failed to see the value of rule of law and democracy, often criticizing these ideas as "bourgeois concepts" -- while postwar party leaders were "blind, error-ridden and behind the times." Aside from France, other communist parties throughout Europe have long since moved to distance themselves from their past.
In Italy, the former Communist Party is now in government -- having dropped its name and embraced free markets.
The Communist Party of Great Britain changed its name to Democratic Left and then abandoned being a political party altogether. Nevertheless, a handful of die-hards remain in France. One elderly activist charges that "It's not the party that needs to change. It's the rest of society."