ATHENS - "Socialism is the future" was the theme of a meeting here of communist and workers parties from 59 countries last month. The question, of course, was how to get to socialism. Varied views were expressed on this. (Note to Glenn Beck types who conjure up a monolithic "world communist conspiracy": it just ain't so.)
At the same time, the meeting demonstrated that those who say socialism is dead need to think again.
An array of countries were represented where communist and workers parties lead or are part of the government. These include not only countries like Cuba, Vietnam and Laos, but also, for example, Guyana, where the People's Progressive Party has led the government for 19 years; South Africa, where communists, as members of the African National Congress, serve in government; Cyprus, whose president is a leader of the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL); and a number of Latin American countries such as Brazil and Paraguay, where communists hold positions in governments led by allied progressive forces.
The gathering, hosted by the Communist Party of Greece, was held Dec. 9-11 at the height of the economic crisis there.
Pointing to "the deep and prolonged capitalist crisis" prevailing internationally, including in the U.S., the meeting's final statement noted, "It becomes increasingly obvious for millions of working people that the crisis is a crisis of the system."
Many speakers referred to the Occupy Wall Street movement as an indication of this emerging sentiment. The Communist Party USA delegate spoke of a "surge in united action by labor and major organizations of the African American and Latino people and other democratic forces."
The Portuguese Communist Party representative said, "The attempt to make working people pay for the crisis is spurring the organized working-class struggle in several countries ... and leading to hugely diverse demonstrations that reveal capitalism's shrinking support base, and the availability of other anti-monopoly strata to struggle."
He continued, "There is a potential to build broad social alliances that ... can contribute toward a needed struggle against the dominant big-business policies and toward building democratic, patriotic and anti-monopoly alternatives."
The South African delegate emphasized that the whole of the left "needs to take up in earnest [the] ecological destruction caused by the rampant accumulation of capitalism." The meeting adopted the South African Communist Party's proposal for an international conference of communist and workers parties specifically on climate justice, to be held in 2012 in South Africa.
Discussion was also shaped by the "Arab Spring" uprisings and continuing popular struggles in North Africa and the Middle East.
The Turkish Communist Party's delegate warned that today's imperialist policymakers see "political Islam" - groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or Turkey's ruling Islamist party - as "compatible" with imperialism.
"The Muslim Brothers are ready to serve the imperialists," the Jordanian Communist Party representative said. U.S. policy, she said, "is based on creating an alliance with the Islamists and even the fundamentalists." The Lebanese representative declared that "Turkey is spearheading the imperialist efforts in the Arab world and the Middle East."
Likewise, several Middle Eastern parties warned that the feudal Gulf states are acting as agents of the U.S. and other capitalist powers, funneling cash, arms and other forms of assistance to "strengthen the conservatives and the Islamists," as the Jordanian representative put it.
As to how to deal with the current crisis and how to get to socialism, parties projected differing approaches.
The leader of the Communist Party of Greece said no proposal to deal with the crisis can "constitute a pro-people way out ... unless it poses as a question of principle the rupture ... with capitalist ownership, its state institutions, its international alliances."
She spoke of "the regroupment of the workers' and people's movement with a clear anti-imperialist antimonopoly orientation, anti-capitalist in the final analysis." A policy of alliances, she said, can go only two ways: either aim at the prolongation of bourgeois political power, or aim for the overthrow of the bourgeois government.
On the other hand, the representative of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) spoke of the participation of communist parties in Latin America and the Caribbean in different kinds of broad progressive political fronts that govern their countries. These fronts, he said, "are part of a tactical process of accumulation of forces, within the borders of capitalism." This, he said, advances the strategic objective of winning political power in order to start the transition to socialism.
He, and a number of others, emphasized that "there is not a single and non-historical model of revolutionary process neither of construction of socialism."
"What we have is a set of principles, formulated by Marx and Lenin and developed by other revolutionaries. Socialism is universal as a general theory and desire for freedom of the working class and the peoples in the entire world. But socialism takes on national features ... it is accomplished according to the social formation and the particular historical conditions of each people."
That, he said, requires from communists, "in each country, the elaboration of original programs and the formulation of strategies and tactics that are adequate to present times."