Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Communism Bankrupt?


It seems that the French Communist Party has hit on hard times. Nevertheless, the PCF is denying rumors that it will sell its spectacular Oscar Niemeyer-designed headquarters on the place du Colonel-Fabien (picture here), the art works inside, or its one item of residential property in Paris, a small apartment once occupied by Lenin. With only 1.93 percent of the vote in the presidential election, it will not be fully reimbursed by the state for its campaign expenses, and with a dwindling number of deputies, it can no longer count on their salaries, which used to go to the party treasury. The situation is dire.

Here in the United States, another venerable monolith finds itself in a similar pinch. The Catholic archdiocese of Massachusetts has been forced to sell off much of its property to pay legal expenses and compensate for the dwindling of its flock.

The comparison is not altogether facetious. In France some of the working-class voters who have fled the PCF have wound up in the camp of the Front National, which is well-established in old blue-collar towns and provides some of the kinds of support that used to be associated with the workers' party. The old party discipline and culture have evaporated. In the US, similarly, working-class Catholics once educated and to some degree formed politically by the Church now turn to evangelical denominations that instill a quite different culture and a radical-right political agenda bearing little resemblance to any of the forms of political Catholicism of old.

The disintegration of these two ideological anchors of the recent past has transformed the politics of the two sister republics.

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