Which Socialism, Whose Détente?

West European Communism and the Czechoslovak Crisis of 1968
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424 pages

This study analyzes the impact of the Czechoslovak crisis of 1968–1969 on the two major communist parties in the West: the Italian and French ones. Discusses the central strategic and ideological tensions which these parties needed to deal with: domestic belonging versus allegiance to the world communist movement, doctrinal orthodoxy in a context of rapid societal changes, and the question of revolution and reform. These key problems were situated in different contexts: the crisis in the “world communist movement” after 1956 and the Sino-Soviet rift, socio-economic modernization and political radicalization in Western Europe, and the shift from Cold War to early détente on the European continent. The research for this work is based on the study of a large collection of recently released primary sources, particularly, the internal records of various communist parties in Europe. 


Chapter 1. West European communism and the question of internationalism. Theoretical and analytical framework 
1. The approaches to West European communism in the literature 
1.1. Scholarship on communism marked by the Cold War 
1.2. West European communism and the Czechoslovak crisis in the literature 

2. The concepts and the method 
2.1. Internationalism in theory and practice 
2.2. A concept of internationalism 
2.3. The comparison: PCI and PCF 
2.4. National and international belonging: sources of legitimacy 

3. The Czechoslovak crisis, the communist world and the Cold War 
3.1. The significance of the Czechoslovak crisis in the history of the communist world and the Cold War 
3.2. West European communism, the Czechoslovak crisis and the longer term 

4 The contexts: explaining varieties and changes 
4.1. The “world communist movement” 
4.2. The domestic situation and the domestic political interplay 
4.3. The Cold War and détente


Chapter 2. West European communism and the changes of 1956 59
1. 1956 
1.1. The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 
1.2. The invasion of Hungary and the anti-revisionist campaign 

2. The PCI and the PCF in the post-1956 communist world 
2.1. Instruments of control after 1956 
2.2. The positions and roles of the PCI and PCF 

3. The PCI, the PCF and the changes of internationalism, 1956-1962 
3.1. The PCI: Polycentrism and the “national road” 
3.1.1. Definitions of Polycentrism 
3.1.2. The “national road” and domestic integration 
3.2. The PCF: the defence of orthodoxy and the crisis of legitimacy 
3.2.1. Khrushchevism and orthodoxy 
3.2.2. The crisis of legitimacy: de Gaulle and Algeria

Chapter 3. West European communism and internationalism in the 1960s (1962-1967) 
1. The world communist movement: the Sino-Soviet dispute and diversification
1.1. The Sino-Soviet dispute
1.2. Khrushchev’s campaign for “unity” and shifting alliances 
1.3. The creation of a West European pressure group in the WCM 

2. East-West relations and the rise of European détente 
2.1. Soviet strategy: global anti-imperialism and peaceful coexistence 
2.2. West European communism and (Soviet) détente 
2.3. The crisis of the Atlantic alliance and the shift to the left in Western Europe 

3. The PCI: the symmetry of domestic and international developments 
3.1. Domestic détente 
3.2. Expanding internationalism: Polycentrism, détente, Europe 

4. The PCF: the asymmetry of domestic and international developments 
4.1. The Union de la gauche 
4.2. The tacit conflict with the Kremlin and the concept of internationalism 

Conclusions to Part 1


Chapter 4. The Czechoslovak crisis, 1968-1969 
1.The coming of the Prague Spring 
1.1.Interpretations of the Prague Spring 
1.2.Expressions of discontent 
1.3.Immediate causes for the fall of Novotny 

2.The Prague Spring: which socialism? 
2.1.Socialism, democracy and pluralism: political reform 
2.2.Economic reform 
2.3.The re-discovery of the nation: the Slovak question, Czechoslovakia and Europe 
2.4.The tension between reform and revival 

3.Mounting tension in the communist world and the invasion 
3.1.Soviet and East European reactions to the Prague Spring 
3.2.The genesis of the decision to invade 
3.3.The military invasion, the political deadlock and the Moscow Protocol 
3.4.The Brezhnev Doctrine 

4.The aftermath and the “normalisation” 
4.1.The meaning of “normalisation” 
4.2.The normalisation under Dubcek 
4.3.Husak’s rise and Dubcek’s fall 

Chapter 5. West European communist parties and the Czechoslovak crisis prior to the invasion 

1.The PCF 
1.1. The PCF and the Czechoslovak communist party 
1.2. Fragmented analyses of the Prague Spring: de-stalinisation and “orthodoxy” 
1.3. The political interplay of May ’68 and interpretations of the Prague Spring 
1.4. The PCF’s intra-communist diplomacy 

2.The PCI 
2.1. Initial support for the Prague Spring 
2.2. The domestic interplay and the qualification of support 
2.3. The low profile in the WCM crisis 
2.4. Diversification in the leadership

Conclusions to chapter five

Chapter 6. Invasion, dissent, crisis (1968) 

1.The dissent 
1.1. The PCI 
1.1.1. The genesis of the decision 
1.1.2. Arguments and motives: the centrality of détente 
1.1.3. Responses to the further event
1.2. The PCF 
1.2.1. The genesis of the decision 
1.2.2. Arguments and motives: the centrality of sovereignty 
1.2.3. Responses to the further events 

2. The politics of identity and unity: the crisis in the parties and the domestic interplay 
2.1. The PCI 
2.1.1. Disagreements in the party
2.1.2. The domestic Cold War 
2.2. The PCF 
2.2.1. The disorientation in the party 277
2.2.2. Domestic indifference

Conclusions to Chapter 6 

Chapter 7. “Normalisation” and re-alignment: West European communism in the communist world after the invasion (1968-1969) 
1. Individual re-alignment 
1.1. The PCI 
1.1.1. The open conflict with the Soviet and East German parties
1.1.2. The Moscow meeting and the PCI’s “bargain” 
1.2. The PCF 
1.2.1. The attacks on the PCF 
1.2.2. The Moscow meeting the PCF’s retreat 
1.3. The question of the West European communist Conference 

2. The re-alignment of the communist world 
2.1. The “normalisation” of the communist block 
2.2 The postponing of the world Conference and the question of the “permanent body” 307
2.3. The Moscow Conference

Conclusions to Chapter 7


Chapter 8. Re-setting internationalism (1969-1970) 

1. The PCI 
1.1. The construction of a taboo on Czechoslovakia: from selective remembering to withdrawal 
1.2. The shift to strategic internationalism 
1.2.1. The internationalist line of the 12th Congress 
1.2.2. The contradictions: the Sino-Soviet border clashes 
1.3. The limits of re-alignment: leftist criticism 
1.3.1. The “Hot Autumn” and the PCI 
1.3.2. The Manifesto affair 

2. The PCF 
2.1. The construction of a taboo on Czechoslovakia: between compliance and withdrawal 
2.2. The leadership turn-over and the epurations 
2.2.1. The rise of Marchais 
2.2.2. The epuration of “revisionist” intellectuals 
2.3. The shift to “historical internationalism” and the concept of revolution 
2.3.1. The shift to historical internationalism 
2.3.2. The question of revolution and the domestic programme 

Chapter 9. Internationalism and Eurocommunism in the 1970s’s: a hypothesis on the legacy of Czechoslovakia 

1. The enduring problem of European strategy 
1.1. East-West relations in the early 1970s 
1.2. The PCI: from dynamic détente to the turn to NATO 
1.3. The PCF: from sovereignty to defence policy 

2. The genesis of Eurocommunism and its break-up 
2.1. The bilateral and regional meetings before 1975 
2.2. Eurocommunism: between tactical shifts and a European strategy 
2.3. The end of Eurocommunism: Soviet reactions, the changes in the PCF and other

Conclusions to Part 3 

General conclusions: Internationalism, détente, revolution 

Primary Sources

"A sharp, thoughtful, graciously written study, based on impressive research in the archives of the French and Italian parties, as well as East German records, for insights into Soviet actions. The author lucidly organizes her book in small numbered section summaries. The book does not change the overall understanding of the positions and roles of the two parties, but it adds much rich detail and subtlety. Summing up: highly recommended"
"Maude Bracke has drawn extensively on formerly inaccessible materials from the PCI, PCF, and former East German archives for her book. The result is an interesting, valuable study that makes an important contribution to the scholarship on these two parties. All scholars interested in west European communism and the international communist movement during the Cold War will benefit from reading this insightful, absorbing book"