Construction and deconstruction of a cult: Edgar Lalmand and the Communist Party of Belgium

Summer 2009

The general secretaries of the Belgian communist party (PCB) between the wars were selected primarily as a function of the conformity of their political profile with the successive phases of Comintern policy, even if it meant being removed and then restored to one’ s position in accordance with these developments. The hazards of repression under the occupation saw the installation of a completely new leadership which after the war maintained a mode of functioning deriving from the military discipline required in conditions of clandestinity. However, it was only very slowly that these rites of sacralisation were established, more in imitation of the Soviet and in particular of the French communist parties than in step with Belgian traditions.  A particular feature of the Belgian case is that in 1954 a deeply rooted movement at the party’s grassroots rejected both the policies and the leadership which had led to successive setbacks since the liberation. Despite the attempts of parties under its tutelage, like those in France and Italy, Moscow was beset by the issue of Stalin’s succession and was unable to resist this development. At the same time, certain gestures of autonomy on the part of the deposed general secretary, who had had no experience of the schools or congresses of the Comintern, may also explain Moscow’s passivity.

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TCC 1 Communism and the leader cult