Failing French Communist Party still resists change But divisions force way into Politburo

September 05, 1991|By Diana Jean Schemo | Diana Jean Schemo,Paris Bureau of The Sun

PARIS -- The French Communist Party, so orthodox it opposed Mikhail S. Gorbachev's early efforts at perestroika and glasnost, yesterday ruled out following the Soviet Union's Communist Party into the dustbin of history.

At a two-day meeting that ended yesterday, the party's Central Committee also rejected internal calls for reform and for the resignation of its Politburo -- despite a steady loss of membership over the past few years, a growing disorientation among the rank and file and a disaffection that reached into the Politburo itself.

"The French Communist Party refuses . . . [to] surrender before capitalism," said Andre Lajoinie, president of the party's parliamentary group.

PD "Of course, events in the Soviet Union touch us profoundly, they

make us think," Mr. Lajoinie told the Central Committee. "But the [French] Politburo's opinion is that these events contradict nothing of what our party has become and the objectives it pursues.

"The reality is that what our party has become has nothing to do with what the Communist Party in the Soviet Union does," he said.

Though the French party has barred the doors to immediate change, the failed Kremlin putsch has deepened divisions within it.

The party had been reeling from changes in the political landscape since the early 1980s, when it commanded 20 percent of the vote and held four ministries in Socialist President Francois Mitterrand's first government.

In 1984, Georges Marchais, the party's unbending secretary-general, took it out of the government after Mr. Mitterrand came out against stationing Soviet missiles in Eastern Europe.

Since then, the party has lost many members to the right-wing, working-class appeal of Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, and evenmore as the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe fell.

While its key role in the French resistance to Nazi occupation gave the party its historic clout and credibility, its share of the voting bloc has dropped to just 6 percent today.

The party's reform-minded members argued that the refusal to adapt to the changes in Moscow was turning what remained of the party into a political dinosaur.

"The leadership today persists in its obstinacy to see nothing, to hear nothing. That is fatal," said Anicet Le Pors, a former minister of civil service in the Mitterrand government.

Mr. Le Pors, criticizing the leadership for its failure to condemn the coup against Mr. Gorbachev, said, "What these recent events call most into question is the collective behavior of the . . . Politburo."

Before the meeting ended, three of the eight members of the Politburo themselves were demanding reform.

"It would be irresponsible not to see that what is at stake is the survival of the party," said Philippe Herzog, the Politburo's chief economic expert. "Only the bold innovation of ideas and initiatives can save us."

But the party that only condemned Josef V. Stalin in 1976 -- 20 years after Nikita S. Khrushchev did -- appears less able to adapt than the Soviet worker.

The differences in doctrine between Paris and Moscow have led to such scenes as occurred in the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers last Monday.

There, reformist Communist Mayor Jack Ralite brought in a Gorbachev adviser to explain the recent events in the Soviet Union to "all who were interested."

About 1,000 people showed up, many of whom insisted that the Soviet Union should not abandon communism and its ideals.

"Communism is considered an idea that no longer has a reason to exist in our country," said Alexis Kojemiakov, the Gorbachev ,, aide. "Capitalism, socialism: We have seen the results of this black-white vision of the world. Get out of this cliche, abandon these schemas that lead to nothing."

But die-hard Communists shouted the Gorbachev aide down. "Long live Stalin!" shouted one.

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