Cheng Xiaonong: The Emergence and True Nature of the Left in Western Europe

Western Europe is the spiritual birthplace of the contemporary American left, while France is known as the “capital of the European left,” and Germany is the home of Marxism, which is still a favorite of Marxism. The rise of the left in France and Germany in Western Europe shows how the left in Western Europe has influenced its domestic politics and the political climate in North America and East Asia. The best window to understand the underpinnings of the left, which is very rampant in the United States today, is to understand the history and current state of the left in Western Europe.

I. The Rise and Dilemma of the French Communist Party

France is known as the mirror of Europe not only because it is one of the cradles of neo-Marxism (another cradle is Germany), but also because France and Germany dominate the direction of the European Union. But now French society seems to be shifting to the right, and even Macron, who advertises himself as a center force, is taking a big hit.

France is the stronghold of leftist forces in Europe. In the early 1950s, the Communist Party was prevalent in French society, and Paris became known as the “capital of the European left”. The French Communist Party was once the largest party on the French left, and the other leftist party was the Socialist Party. The French Communist Party adhered to fundamentalist Marxism and long followed the Soviet Union, with the goal of eliminating capitalism and building communism. After World War II, the French Communist Party became the largest party in the country, but its status declined, and in December 1990, at the time of the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe, the 27th congress of the French Communist Party held that capitalism was being restored in Eastern Europe, and that the French Communist Party could not become a social democratic party, but had to stick to its communist name and socialist goals. But soon the Soviet Union collapsed, the French Communist Party’s Soviet path became a mirror image, and the French Communist Party was badly shaken. The 29th Congress of the French Communist Party at the end of 1996 abandoned the term “socialism in French colors” and replaced it with “neo-communism”, advocating the implementation of The result was that it became more and more unheard of in society. By 2010, a large number of members and cadres of the French Communist Party had left the party, and the number of young members was decreasing, making the party irredeemable.

There is a social reason for the failure of the French Communist Party, which, in accordance with Marxist fundamentalism, believes in mobilizing the working class to defeat capitalism; in 1962, industrial workers in France accounted for 40% of the population, and the French Communist Party was able to incite them; since then, the number of industrial workers has gradually declined, to 30% in 1989 and 20% today. They are no longer supported by many workers. In his Communist Manifesto, Marx predicted that the development of capitalism would bring about a serious polarization and a growing working class. This prediction was clearly contrary to the facts of historical development, and Marxism did the French Communist Party a disservice.

Although the French Communist Party fell irretrievably, the old and new versions of Marxism have always been deeply rooted in France, and the decline of the French Communist Party does not mean that the French have abandoned Marxism altogether. In France, there are two other sources of Marxist influence: the so-called neo-Marxism, for which the likes of Sartre, Derrida, and Foucault contributed to the proliferation of neo-Marxism; and the influence of Maoism, or the Chinese Communist Party. The influence of these two leftist ideologies on French society was not dragged down by the collapse of the Soviet camp, and they are still very active in cultural and intellectual circles, similar to the situation in the United States.

The French “May Storm” created the New Left

Those Marxists who believed in the Stalinist model, such as Sartre, were originally members of the French Communist Party; since the Soviet Communist Party criticized Stalin in 1956, Sartre felt that it would be humiliating to continue to mix with the Moscow faction of the French Communist Party, so he parted ways with the French Communist Party. These intellectuals instead developed some so-called neo-Marxism packaged with the basic ideas of Marxism, calling themselves “post-modern” theories, but at heart they still advocate social antagonism, opposition to capitalism, and the pursuit of socialism.

France was deeply influenced by the Cultural Revolution in China, and a group of young university students, imitating the Cultural Revolution, revolted in Paris in May 1968, calling it the French “May Storm. The “May Storm” was a large-scale strike movement. The leftist students who directed the May Storm opposed the capitalist system and the parliamentary line of struggle of the French Communist Party, and, disillusioned with the Soviet model, turned to neo-Marxism and “Maoism” for inspiration. They believed that the traditional means of struggle, such as petitions and negotiations, were obsolete and ineffective, and that revolutionary actions were needed to provoke the rulers so that they would have to resort to violent repression, thus awakening the masses of people; then provoke, repress and awaken again, one wave after another, one wave after another, bringing the movement to a climax. More than 30 universities were occupied by the students, and the demonstrators carried pictures of Marx, Mao and Guevara, and even displayed the slogans “March along the path guided by Mao” and “Create another Parisian Commune”. and “Create another Paris Commune”.

The students were Maoists, while the French Communist Party was Moscowist, and since Beijing and Moscow were at odds, the French Communist Party did not support the May Storm. “The May Storm was just an opportunity and excuse for leftists to vent their emotions, without a strict organization, program or plan, and the social movement soon collapsed. The May Storm caused a serious split within the French left, with the influence of the French Communist Party declining sharply while the neo-Marxists and Maoists expanded their influence. At the same time, the “May Storm” also inspired a great unity of the right-wing forces in France, led by Charles de Gaulle.

The French Communist Party gradually collapsed, but neo-Marxism and Maoism flourished and dominated the educational and cultural circles of France and Europe. There were large numbers of teachers and students who studied Marxist theory in French institutions of higher learning, and even some university presidents were such people.

III. The French Left Faces Social Challenges

The left has long been imbued with all kinds of Marxism, and is fond of radical and childish “utopias”. From the pursuit of socialist pot luck to the pursuit of a unified Europe, to the pursuit of a world commonwealth, zero CO2 emissions, etc., this has always been the case. But once these “utopias” are turned into social policies, they often end up producing bitter results. For example, France’s long-standing leftist social policies have been permissive toward Arab immigrants, using Marxist rebellious thinking and social welfare to raise a generation of young Muslims with anti-social complexes who do not want to work and study hard, turning the peaceful Arab neighborhoods of the northern suburbs of Paris in the 1980s into a source of chaos that sympathizes with terrorists and enters the city center at every turn to vandalize and loot. France has 6.5 million immigrants, or 10 percent of the population, of whom 2.4 million are naturalized, mostly North African Arab immigrants, many of whom live in the northern suburbs of Paris, where the Arab community is highly patronizing of Muslim terrorists. The same problem exists to varying degrees in other French cities, and France’s social security suffers. Faced with this situation, the French left has generally adopted an attitude of mental escapism, often refusing to criticize the various versions of Marxism pursued by themselves and their fathers in terms of values; just as it is very difficult for people addicted to drugs to get clean.

However, French society is now beginning to resent the various social policies shaped by the old and new Marxist trends, and social discontent is concentrated on the problem of domestic social security. A few years ago, the French newspaper Le Monde published an editorial “Why does the intellectual debate favor the right wing? which argued that once upon a time French intellectuals were left-leaning, while today there is a cultural pessimism and defensiveness among French intellectuals. My understanding is that these leftists are increasingly concerned about the culturally and socially intrusive behavior of some French Muslims, but are helpless because their own leftist values are at the root of this behavior, and they neither see hope nor want to admit their mistakes.

We are now only one year away from the next French presidential election, and France is suffering from poor social security due to immigration, terrorist attacks, and suburban riots. From late April to early May, there was a spate of violent attacks on police officers across France, with suspects clearly under the spell of Islamic extremism. The French public is very dissatisfied with President Macron’s “inaction” on social security, and on May 10, the weekly Valeurs Actuelles, a leading right-wing French media, published a statement by French military officers and soldiers warning Macron, signed by more than 200,000 soldiers, accounting for three-quarters of the French army’s 270,000 personnel. Three quarters of the French army. The statement pointed out that France is in a situation of “civil strife” with a high incidence of violence; it called on the French community to rise up and avoid becoming an “Etat failli” (failed state). This view is shared by all sectors in France.

Macron represented the center when he was elected in 2017, but his seats in parliament were quite low; at that time, the French left was already defeated, the French Communist Party was routed, and the moderate Socialist Party’s parliamentary seats dropped to 40 from 277 in the past. Now Macron, the center force, is also under increasing pressure, because he still continues the basic direction of the previous leftist authorities in his policies.

Fourth, the “Red Army Faction” in Germany in the last century

German society was also in favor of Marxism. In the second half of the last century, not only did the German Social Democratic Party still respect Marx, but many Germans were also fond of the “Maoist” terrorist clique, and the post-reunification East German society was even more nostalgic for the socialism of the former Communist Party.

In the 1970s, a violent group emerged in West Germany, the Red Brigades, whose slogan was Marxism plus Maoism, with the Marxist part being the elimination of capitalism and the Maoist part being violent revolution. On April 2, 1968, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin, the leaders of the first generation of the Red Brigade, set fire to two department stores in Frankfurt, claiming that they were fighting against the consumption patterns of capitalist society. The fire caused 700,000 marks of damage. Public opinion polls in West Germany at the time showed that 40% of the West German public supported them. Many people had volunteered to provide secret homes for members of the Red Brigade; when they were imprisoned, there was a wave of solidarity with the Red Brigade.

For 28 years, this terrorist organization was engaged in underground terrorist activities, including the kidnapping and murder of German Federal Prosecutor General Siegfried Buback, banker Jürgen Ponto, and, in September and October 1977, the kidnapping and murder of Schleier, president of the German Employers’ Federation. After the crime, these key members fled to East Germany to escape the West. “The murders, bombings and robberies committed by the Red Army Brigade from 1970 to 1998, which resulted in 34 deaths and more than 200 injuries, have still not been fully accounted for.

After the collapse of East Germany, the “Red Brigade” terrorists in hiding in East Germany returned to West Germany in a dignified manner, organized the Green Party with their second-tier cadres, and ascended to the German political arena. In recent years, the old Marxist party, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, has declined, while the Greens have attracted many leftist voters under the banner of environmentalism. Merkel is about to leave office, and according to analysis, Merkel’s party may have to rule in coalition with the Greens in the next round of German elections.

In Germany, it is not only the older generation of Germans who still tout Marx, but the younger generation as well. Marxists in Germany, like Marxists in the United States, feel that believing in Marxism, respecting Marxism and following Marxism is not a shame but an honor. Marxism has done great harm to human society in the last century, and the Chinese Communist Party, a Marxist regime, remains the greatest threat to world peace in this century. Marxists in Germany pay lip service to conscience and justice, but is it not precisely a betrayal of human conscience and social justice that they continue to uphold Marxist values today?

V. The Values of East German Society After German Reunification as Usual

It should be noted in particular that after the reunification of Germany, there was no criticism of the Marxist values inculcated in East German society by the former communist regime, and West Germany, which was full of favorable feelings toward Marxism, was thus “reunified” with East German society, which had been forcibly inculcated with Marxist values. This “unification” did not complete the social transformation and thus left a deep red mark on Germany.

By social transformation, I mean that if former communist societies are to break free from fundamentalist Marxism, there must be a process of social reconstruction in which the majority of society participates, cleaning up the spiritual legacy of communist rule and re-establishing a set of values and morals compatible with democracy, a free economy, and civil society. This was done in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary in Central Europe, where a new political elite composed of dissident intellectuals and some enlightened former Communist Party officials came up with three slogans for social reconstruction, namely, “repentance,” “soul cleansing,” and “sacrifice”, which received considerable support in society. “Repentance” means that everyone should realize the mistakes of communist rule through reflection and introspection; “purification” means that people should gradually remove the communist values and moral concepts from their thinking and achieve soul purification; and “Sacrifice” requires members of society to give up the vested interests of the communist era and make sacrifices for the transformation of the system.

In Germany, West Germany only invested heavily in East Germany economically and criticized East Germany’s past secret police (Stazi) politically, but refused to criticize Marxism because such criticism would hit the West German leftists on the head. As a result, instead of social reconstruction, East Germany was called upon to “move beyond the past”; this “forward-looking” approach spared the values and morals instilled under communist rule and allowed them to continue to influence society. While this approach avoided social division, it created a mentality among the East German population that resembled that of urban Chinese in the 1980s: “pick up the bowl and eat the meat, put down the chopsticks and curse your mother. Many East Germans saw German reunification as nothing more than a victory for the West Germans and a defeat for themselves. In order to appease the East German people, Germany’s centrist ruling party chose Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, as chancellor.

  1. Merkel’s red mark and the rise of the left in Germany

Merkel, who was a youth league member during communist rule, lived in East Germany for 35 years and entered politics after reunification without ever criticizing the communist culture she embraced as an adult; instead, she looked back and said, “I had a wonderful childhood, which the West often ignores, and life in East Germany was not all politics.” Merkel’s statement is actually a disguised defense of the East German Communist Party. Merkel’s pro-communist China since coming to power is certainly a factor of Germany’s economic dependence on the Chinese market, but it is also influenced by her personal favorable feelings toward the Communist Party that she cultivated in her youth.

Merkel’s ideas and statements are very common among East Germans. I have been to Germany many times since German reunification and each time I have met intellectuals from the former East Germany who generally have a favorable view of China and are filled with loss over the loss of the vested interests of the socialist system. Merkel’s attitude toward the communist system reflects both her personal values and the values of many people in Germany. It is difficult for such a nation, such a country, to emerge from the shadow of Marxism.

Now in power in Germany in all fields are those who were generally left-leaning, left-wing revolutionary and Maoist in the 1968 generation. Germany’s society and politics have become increasingly leftist in the last 40 years, especially among Germany’s senior intellectuals, politicians, middle class and cultural elite. The Christian Coalition (CDU), to which Merkel belongs, was originally a right-of-center party in West Germany. Merkel came to power as a coalition government with the leftist Social Democratic Party, and her policies have leaned sharply to the left to accommodate the left. The majority of the members of the German Bundestag are also leftists, and the vast majority of the state governments are dominated by leftists. Therefore, the mainstream of German politics is leftist ideology and leftist forces, which dominate the policy direction of the Federal Republic of Germany. German political and social elites have been sparing no efforts to promote EU integration, the essence of which is de-Germanization, de-nationalization and de-ethnicization; the EU integration they dream of is a Europe without borders and ethnic distinctions, for which they keep eliminating Germany’s national and state consciousness and want to make Germany melt into the EU family. This is one of the reasons why the refugee influx in 2015 got out of hand in Germany.

Once the policies of the left were defeated, the Marxist “gene” in their nerves led them to abandon democracy and embrace dictatorship. For example, when criticism of the absurd open immigration policy emerged in German society in 2015, the German government mimicked the communist dictatorship by banning the media from reporting negative news about immigration crimes and dismissing public officials who publicly criticized it; the German government even used its counterintelligence agency, the National Constitutional Defense Agency, to reach out to the United States to silence critics of German immigration policy in the United States. The Western left’s promotion of Marxism reflects the ideological authoritarianism of Marxism at every turn, and the same is true in the United States today.