Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Red Cross

It is impossible to imagine a greater triumph for the Eurocommunism of yesteryear: the French Communist Party, once more Soviet than the Soviets, has just dropped the hammer and sickle from its membership cards in favour of something acceptable to Greens, Trotskyists and whoever else. The industrial proletariat and the peasantry are out. No one works anymore, daaahhhling. It is all about where environmentalism, feminism and the gay movements have caused us to arrive 30 or 40 years on.

In Britain, that triumph would at first appear to have been achieved 20 years and more ago, with the Blairite takeover of the Labour Party following on from the dissolution of the Communist Party, the event by which the Marxism Today crowd had freed themselves to colonise Labour instead. But be not deceived. Among the Labour MPs who have just voted to defend traditional marriage were two members of the Socialist Campaign Group, figures staunchly Old Left even by the standards of that formation. While clear majorities both of the Labour MPs who voted that way (13 out of 22) and of those who abstained (nine out of 16) were signatories to Early Day Motion 1334, which calls for the BBC to lift its blackout of the Morning Star.

Among the abstainers were two Shadow Ministers who are prominent Evangelical Protestants, including the only Pentecostal pastor in Parliament. Yes, Labour; first elected in 2010, not born until 1981, and, if it matters, white, like the other one, whose speech made it abundantly clear that he would vote against Third Reading if such a thing ever presented itself. As well as at least two Muslims and a famously proud Brahmin. Not to mention that most celebrated son of the manse. But a high proportion of the 16 abstainers and a very high proportion of the 22 opponents were made up of practising Catholics. Including at least one of the Campaign Group members, himself not merely a signatory to, but a sponsor of, EDM 1334.

Britain, then, seems to be the land where there is still a significant, if largely unorganised, political body comparable to the old Cattocomunisti, no less Catto than comunisiti, and both of those things within the meaning of either the Italy or the Britain of the time. Unless I am very much mistaken, no Communist state has ever defined marriage as anything other than the union of one man and one woman. At least one Leader of the French Communist Party was totally pro-life. A parliamentarian from the bloc of which that party still forms the core spoke powerfully in recent days in defence of traditional marriage.

The CPGB never much cared either for abortion or for the homosexual lobby, even for homosexuality at all. That last remains viciously persecuted in Cuba, the country to which I should move if I wanted a government like that. Such an attitude has been the norm on the part of Communist states. Possibly, unless you know otherwise, it has been and remains universal among them. The West European Left was, at least by the 1980s, generally more tolerant than that. But the extremely novel 1970s use of homosexuality to define individual and collective identity was an intrinsic and important part of the sidelining and the supplanting of the workers and the peasants.

In any case, the left-wing Democristiani were well to the Left by British standards even at the time, and most of the Italian Left has been subsumed into the Democratic Party, which has elected as its President Rosy Bindi, late of Azione Cattolica and Democrazia Cristiana. Her election, together with that of her preferred candidate for Leader, is an immensely positive sign, and she herself deserves much credit for having reached out in this way, when we consider that she lost at least one close friend to the Red Brigades. Their erstwhile supporters exist on the fringes of her major new party. But its internal electoral results leave no doubt as to where its centre of gravity lies, as to what is its mainstream.

Within the East German Bloc Party system, much of the CDU opposed the legalisation of abortion in 1972, only one year before its legalisation either on demand or at all, but by judicial fiat rather than by even so inadequate a parliamentary means, by the overturning of the laws of all 50 of the United States of America. It is worth researching how much Christian Democracy, Liberalism, Nationalism or Agrarianism was carried over into each of the Bloc Parties other than the SED, or for that matter how much Social Democracy rather than Communism was carried over into the SED itself. Say it again: East Germany legalised abortion only one year before the United States did so, and fully five years after its legalisation in California by Ronald Reagan.

In Ireland, whatever else may be said of the Workers’ Party, it is still functioning in Northern Ireland, and, unless anyone knows better, there seems little reason to doubt that its remnant voters are at least occasionally observant Catholics, if not fully practising ones. Just as in the days when the Cold War was being fought hotly by proxy within the Republican subculture there, between the agents of two superpowers equally, and equally violently, opposed to the continued existence of the United Kingdom. In its pomp, the Workers’ Party had several internal disputes over abortion.

Even now, on his Twitter page, the 25-year-old President of the Socialist Labour Party professes himself a Catholic before he professes himself a Marxist. There is potential.

Like Stephen Timms and Gavin Shuker recalling Norman Thomas and assorted American Civil Rights leaders, including avant la lettre, the Cattocomunisti and their fellow-travellers on the Labour benches stand in a valiant tradition which may barely be alive in Italy, never mind in France, although it remains to be seen quite what the present economic circumstances will reawaken. But it is demonstrably alive and quite well in that institution which Marx, Engels and Lenin all wanted to be upheld rather than destroyed. The Parliament of the United Kingdom.

1 comment:

John said...

It is also interesting to note that the Italian Communist Party under Palmiro Togliatti refused to lobby for the legalization of divorce in Italy after World War II, and never really pushed strongly for the legalization of divorce even up to the 1970s.

The strongest proponents for divorce were the Liberals (libertarians) and the liberal socialist parties.