Reflections on Eurocommunism in the UK

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2024 Number 86

Reflections on Eurocommunism in the UK
Sally Davison pages 92-104
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.86.05.2024


The attraction of communism in the 1970s was its strong commitment to challenging the whole system rather than finding ways to manage capitalism. This was a decade in which there was a real struggle to hold on to, and even develop further, the achievements of the postwar settlement. At that point we sometimes thought we were winning, and joining an anti-capitalist party was a way of expressing this optimism. By the mid-1970s, Eurocommunism was making communism much more attractive to people of my generation. Eurocommunist parties were breaking away from their subordination to the Soviet party, and starting to base their strategies on the political realities of Western Europe; their belief in democracy had finally won out over their ingrained loyalty to the Soviet state. In the UK discussions were beginning on a new version of The British Road to Socialism (BRS), which, after many battles, adopted the notion of a broad democratic alliance for change. There was also the beginnings of an expanded sense of what constituted politics, one of many important ideas that had come from Gramsci. However, the embrace of Eurocommunism did not turn out to be the salvation of the CPGB, which voted to close itself down in 1991. The most important factor leading to its dissolution was the changing nature of the working class and the decline of the organised labour movement within the UK - itself a symptom of the wider, victorious, neoliberal counter-offensive. The other European communist parties, Eurocommunist or not, are now for the most part in decline. But some of the ideas that Eurocommunists in the UK were trying to develop remain of relevance. These include its early attempts to recognise new political subjects within the public realm, and the importance of forming alliances across difference. Rock Against Racism, the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, the GLC under Ken Livingstone’s leadership, and the creative ways in which community support for the NUM was mobilised in 1984-5, are examples of the kinds of politics we supported. 

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To cite this article
Sally Davison (2024) Reflections on Eurocommunism in the UK, Soundings, 2024(86), 92-104.

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