Thursday, June 01, 2006

Socialism in one village, part two

A couple of weeks back I blogged about the village in China's Henan province whose inhabitants have chosen to recollectivise their land and factories and put giant posters of Marx and Lenin (and, more regrettably, Stalin) back up in their local square.

Now The Times is running a story on the unusual will drawn up by a Breton butcher and lifelong member of the Communist Party of France. In a handwritten document found in his home after he died, Albert Le Roy bequeathed his small house and the four acres of land that came with it to the council of Goudelin, his native village, on the condition that the village use these assets to 'prepare for communism'. The council is dominated by members of right-wing parties, and has thus been less than enthusiastic about comrade Le Roy's request. That may, in fact, be the point, The Times suggests:

Some locals believe that the centre-right council should accept the property. Others say that Arsène Savidan, the Mayor, should have nothing to do with it. M Savidan himself is perplexed. “Donations of this sort to local communities are rather rare,” he said. “But this is a difficult present. We need to know what he meant by preparing for communism.”

M Le Roy’s family believes that he is laughing from beyond the grave at having sown discord among capitalist reactionaries.

So what can be done with Le Roy's small bequest? One suggestion is that his old property might be used for 'social housing'. Whatever decision is made, some credit has to go to Le Roy's family, who could easily have been selfish and ignored the old commie's odd request:

[T]he unmarried M Le Roy never mentioned his will to his nephew or niece, who were his closest relatives after the death of his mother in 1991.

“When my sister and I found the testament, we wondered what we were going to do,” M Le Roy’s nephew said. “The house has been in our family for generations. But we thought we had to take the will to the solicitor for my uncle’s last request to be carried out.”

At the bottom of its article, The Times describes the Communist Party of France as a 'traditional' communist party which has hardly changed since the fall of the Soviet Union. If this is true, it is only because the French party had abandoned revolutionary politics long before 1991 - it apologised for the Stalinist 'interventions' in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, it helped hose down the revolution of 1968 by encouraging striking workers to get back on the job, and it shared a Cabinet table with Francois 'Rainbow Warrior' Mitterand in the 1980s. In the 2002 Presidential elections the Communist Party claimed only 3% of the vote, less than its semi-Trotskyist rivals Workers' Struggle and the Revolutionary Communist League. What a pity the party's policies lost the idealism of rank and file members like Albert Le Roy.


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