What attitude should democratic Socialists, who reject Communism and abhor the abuses of which Communist Governments have been guilty, take up towards Communist Parties and towards individual Communists in the light of recent developments in the Soviet Union and in the “party line” in other countries? The Editors of DISSENT have asked me to give their readers my views on these questions; and I am glad to do so, though I do not think they admit of simple or universal answers. For one thing, the situation differs quite widely from country to country. For me, an Englishman, it would be quite ridiculous to suggest that the Labor Party ought to come to any sort of agreement with a Communist Party that has no significant following and no claim to be taken seriously as a political party. But it does not follow from this that the French Socialist Party is right in taking the same line; for it is evident that in France there can be no real advance towards Socialism without the support of a great many persons who are at present members of, or vote for, the French Communist Party … Nor, again, does it follow that what is right for Great Britain, or for the Scandinavian countries, is right for India or Burma or for the Socialist Parties of the Arab world. It may be that in all these cases there are valid reasons against any alliance, or friendly dealings, between democratic Socialist Parties and Communist Parties; that is a matter I shall proceed to discuss. All I am saying at present is that, whereas the answer is obvious in the light of the British situation, it is much less obvious in countries where a large part of the working class at present follows the Communist lead.
It is less obvious because a high degree of working-class unity is a sine qua non for advancing towards Socialism and because, under such circumstances, a refusal to have anything to do with the Communist Parties is apt to throw the Socialist, even unwillingly, into alliance with anti-socialist and even with reactionary elements. I think the present position of the French Socialists illustrates this danger very clearly. The present French Government, under a Socialist Prime Minister and with Socialists holding the key 198 offices in international affairs, is pursuing an utterly wrong policy in relation both to Algeria and to the Suez crisis, and is bringing the whole Socialist movement into the utmost discredit. I am not saying that the proper remedy is for the French Socialists to ally themselves with the Communist Party; for I see no good reason to suppose that such an alliance is practicable on satisfactory terms. But I am pointing out that the division in the French working-class movement condemns it to sterility as a force for Socialism, and at least threatens to condemn the French Socialist Party to a still worse fate.