Communist party

Template:Communism In modern usage, a Communist party is a political party which promotes Communism, a sociopolitical philosophy based on the particular interpretation of Marxism put forth by Vladimir Lenin. Many such parties formally use the term "Communist" in their official name. Communist Parties first started to be widely established across the world in the early 20th century, after the creation of the Communist International by the Russian Bolsheviks. Communist parties have held power in 21 nations throughout history, first and most notably in the Soviet Union.


History of Communist Parties

Early Communist groups

The first international Marxist organization was called the Communist League, advocates of the principles put forth in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' Communist Manifesto. The group dissolved in 1852 after breaking into factional quarrels.

The Bolshevik party seized power in the 1917 Russian Revolution. In March, 1918, the party changed its name to "All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)", and was generally known as "The Communist Party" from that point on.

Many other Communist parties, especially in Europe, were created in the 1910s and 1920s as the result of factional splits within most of the socialist parties that existed at the time. Some factions advocated the creation of socialism through existing legal channels, while others advocated armed revolution and the ejection of the bourgeois from power through the use of force. The revolutionary groups usually called themselves communists, while those who wanted a gradual transition from capitalism to socialism kept the names socialists or social democrats.

Shortly after the split, more differences between the two sides began to emerge. During the 1920s, Communists supported the Soviet Union and Marxism-Leninism, while the socialists supported only Marxism and rejected Leninism. This rift grew even wider as both sides started to develop separate branches of their own. Most mainstream social democrats had abandoned Marxism by the 1950s. Trotskyites and several other branches of revolutionary Marxism contend that, under the influence of Stalinism, the Soviet-influenced Communist Parties drifted far away from the original Marxist-Leninist position during the same period.

Stalin-era Communist Parties

During Stalinism (roughly 1929-1953), Communist parties across the globe fell more and more under the influence of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its leader, Joseph Stalin. Stalin's opponents were purged, first from the CPSU, then from the Communist International, and finally from most local communist parties, giving him absolute control over the communist movement. Anti-Stalinist communists did attempt to regroup, largely under the leadership of Leon Trotsky and members of the Left Opposition, but the onset of World War II nullified most of their efforts.

Following Stalin's orders, the Communist International was dissolved in 1943. In the period between 1945 and 1949, following the end of World War II, Moscow-controlled Communist parties such as the Polish Polish United Workers' Party and the German Socialist Unity Party were put in power throughout much of Central and Eastern Europe, creating the Eastern bloc.

The Communist Party of the United States was considered within the political mainstream during the 1930s and 1940s, but the advent of the Cold War led to McCarthyism, a vigorous anti-Communist political repression movement in America during the 1950s which effectively marginalized the American Communist Party.

Non-Soviet controlled Communist governments

In Yugoslavia, Communist guerrillas liberated the country from Nazi occupation and established a government without Soviet assistance. As a result, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was not controlled from Moscow. Indeed, it opposed the Soviet Union vigorously on a number of major policy points, leading to Stalin's excommunication of the Yugoslav Communist government from the Soviet bloc.

In 1949, Chinese communists ended a civil war that had raged for decades, and established the People's Republic of China. A Communist party also came to power in North Korea. Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong entertained major differences of vision, however, precipitating the Sino-Soviet split between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China in the early 1960's.

Albania was liberated by Communist partisans in a similar fashion, but it developed in a very different way from Yugoslavia. The Albanian government sided with the Soviet Union early on, then took the side of the Communist Party of China in the Sino-Soviet split.

Western European Communist Parties after the war

Members of Communist parties were persecuted in many countries in the early Cold War period, when anti-Communist sentiment was fueled by Western governments as part of their Cold War strategy. Nevertheless, in capitalist countries such as Italy and France, large Communist Parties gathered lots of popular support and played a prominent part in politics throughout the post-war decades. They developed a variant of Communist ideology known as Eurocommunism. This called for a socialist planned economy under the administration of a democratic government, and a multi-party system of free elections. This was a clear break with the Soviet line, but many of these parties continued to maintain good, or at least diplomatic, relations with the Soviet Union.

Third world Communist parties

In the third world, Communist parties became quite popular in some areas because they promised the overthrow of governmental structures that many people considered oppressive, and a higher standard of living for the poor. Often, Communists played the dominant role in struggles for independence against colonial powers. The resulting wars usually became emeshed into the Cold War, with the Soviet Union supporting Communist forces and the United States supporting anti-Communist ones. The two superpowers waged wars by proxy, as in, for example, the Vietnam War, where American troops fought local Communists; or in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, where Soviet troops fought mujahideen forces supported by the United States which sought to overthrow the Communist government of Afghanistan. Vietnam and Laos are still ruled by Communist Parties.


After Fidel Castro's nationalistic revolt in Cuba, he was snubbed by President Eisenhower, who went out to play golf on the day he was scheduled to meet with Castro, and assigned Vice President Richard Nixon to meet with Castro instead. Castro was extremely annoyed at the slight, and entered into negotiations with the Soviet Union. Castro aligned with the Soviets and declared himself a Communist shortly afterward. His Communist government survived the collapse of the Soviet Union, and remains in power as of 2005.

Post-Soviet Eastern bloc Communists

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Communist parties lost their power monopolies in most of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In many places, Communist parties re-organized themselves as new socialist or social democratic parties, while in other places they remained Communist. Many of the successor organizations remain highly influential in local government elections throughout the former Communist bloc.

Currently influential Communist parties

As of 2005, Communist parties are in power in Cuba, the Peoples' Republic of China, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea. However, in the People's Republic of China, and to a lesser extent Vietnam and Laos, the ruling Communist parties have significantly altered their ideology and moved towards adopting market-oriented economics.

In the case of the Communist Party of China, the adoption of a so-called "socialist market economy" has led many observers (Communists and anti-Communists alike) to argue that the party has partially or completely abandoned Communism. However, the CCP itself vigurously denies this charge.

Meanwhile, in the former Soviet republic of Moldova, the Communist Party was elected back into power. However, as of 2004, this nominally communist government has not distinguished itself in any significant way from the capitalist government which preceded it.

As of 2004, Communist parties participated in coalition governments in Cyprus, Venezuela, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Senegal, Syria and Iraq (interim government appointed by occupation forces). Over the past 15 years, communist parties have also participated in coalition governments in France, Italy, Greece and India.

There over a hundred of communist parties in existence today, and their fortunes vary widely. Some are growing, others are in decline. See the List of Communist Parties and World Communist Movement.

Structure of Communist parties

Most Communist parties organize themselves according to the principle of democratic centralism, according to the model of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In theory, a party congress elects a Central Committee to execute the will of the Congress between meetings. The Central Committee elects a much smaller Politburo to elect a general secretary and handle day-to-day operations. In practice, the flow of power is typically the reverse; the Politburo becomes self-perpetuating and controls the composition of the Central Committee, which in turn controls the party congresses.

Famous Communists

See also

eo:Komunista Partio fr:Parti communiste ko:공산당 zh-min-nan:Kiōng-sán-tóng nl:Kommunistische Partij ja:共産党 pl:Partia komunistyczna zh:共产党


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