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A communist party is a
political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
that seeks to realize the
socio-economic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies social progress, progress, economic stagnation ...
goals of
communism Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...

communism
. The term ''communist party'' was popularized by the title of ''
The Manifesto of the Communist Party ''The'' () is a grammatical article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identifiability of the referents of the noun phrases. The ca ...
'' (1848) by
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wis ...

Karl Marx
and
Friedrich Engels Friedrich Engels ( ,"Engels"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
. As a
vanguard party In the context of the theory of Leninist revolution In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political act ...
, the communist party guides the political education and development of the
working class The working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in manual-labour occupations or industrial work, who are remunerated via waged or salaried contracts. Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar colorCo ...
(proletariat). As the ruling party, the communist party exercises power through the
dictatorship of the proletariat In Marxist philosophy Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's Historical materialism, materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly ...
.
Vladimir Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. ( 1870 – 21 January 1924), better known by his alias Lenin,. was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding head of government The head of government is e ...

Vladimir Lenin
developed the idea of the communist party as the revolutionary vanguard, when
socialism Socialism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, ...
in
Imperial Russia The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, succeeding the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad that ended the Great Northern War. T ...
was divided into ideologically opposed factions, the
Bolshevik The Bolsheviks (Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (росси ...
faction ("of the majority") and the
Menshevik The Mensheviks (russian: меньшевики́), also known as the Minority were one of the three dominant factions in the Russian socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosop ...
faction ("of the minority"). To be politically effective, Lenin proposed a small vanguard party managed with
democratic centralism Democratic centralism is a practice in which political decisions reached by voting processes are binding upon all members of the political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's electi ...
which allowed centralized command of a disciplined
cadre Cadre may refer to: *Cadre (military), a group of officers or NCOs around whom a unit is formed, or a training staff *Cadre (politics), a politically controlled appointment to an institution in order to circumvent the state and bring control to the ...
of professional
revolutionaries A revolutionary is a person who either participates in, or advocates a revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term ''revolutionary'' refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor. D ...
. Once the policy was agreed upon, realizing political goals required every Bolshevik's total commitment to the agreed-upon policy. In contrast, the Menshevik faction, which initially included
Leon Trotsky Lev Davidovich Bronstein. ( – 21 August 1940), better known as Leon Trotsky; uk, link= no, Лев Давидович Троцький; also transliterated ''Lyev'', ''Trotski'', ''Trotskij'', ''Trockij'' and ''Trotzky''. (), was a Ukrainian ...

Leon Trotsky
, emphasized that the party should not neglect the importance of mass populations in realizing a communist revolution. In the course of the revolution, the Bolshevik party which became the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Abbreviated in Russian as КПСС or ''KPSS''. was the founding and ruling political party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU was the One-party state, sole governing party of the Soviet Union until 19 ...
(CPSU) assumed government power in Russia after the
October Revolution The October Revolution,. officially known as the Great October Socialist Revolution. under the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence ...

October Revolution
in 1917. With the creation of the
Communist International The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International, was an international organization founded in 1919 that advocated world communism, headed by the Soviet Union. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "str ...
(Comintern) in 1919, the concept of communist party leadership was adopted by many revolutionary parties, worldwide. In an effort to standardize the international communist movement ideologically and maintain central control of the member parties, the Comintern required that parties identify as a communist party. Under the leadership of the CPSU, the interpretations of
orthodox Marxism Orthodox Marxism is the body of Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social class, class relations and s ...
were applied to Russia and led to the
Leninist Leninism is a political ideology developed by Russian Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin that proposes the establishment of the Dictatorship of the proletariat#Vladimir Lenin, dictatorship of the proletariat led by a revolutionary Vanguardism ...
and Marxist–Leninist political parties throughout the world. After the death of Lenin, the Comintern's official interpretation of Leninism was the book ''
Foundations of Leninism ''Foundations of Leninism'' is a 1924 collection by Joseph Stalin Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin . ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgia (country), Georgian revolutionary and the ruler of the Soviet Union from 1927 until 1953. He served as both ...
'' (1924) by
Joseph Stalin ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgians, Georgian revolutionary and Soviet political leader who governed the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. He held power both as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952 ...
.


Mass organizations

As the membership of a communist party was to be limited to active cadres in Lenin's theory, there was a need for networks of separate organizations to mobilize mass support for the party. Typically, communist parties built up various
front organizations A front organization is any entity set up by and controlled by another organization, such as intelligence agency, intelligence agencies, organized crime groups, terrorist organizations, secret society, secret societies, banned organizations, religi ...
whose membership was often open to non-communists. In many countries, the single most important front organization of the communist parties was its youth wing. During the time of the
Communist International The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International, was an international organization founded in 1919 that advocated world communism, headed by the Soviet Union. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "str ...
, the youth leagues were explicit communist organizations, using the name '
Young Communist League The Young Communist League (YCL) is the name used by the youth wing of various Communist parties A communist party is a left-wing Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism Egalitarianism (), or equalitarianism ...
'. Later the youth league concept was broadened in many countries, and names like 'Democratic Youth League' were adopted. Some
trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native ...
s and students', women's, peasants', and cultural organizations have been connected to communist parties. Traditionally, these mass organizations were often politically subordinated to the political leadership of the party. After the fall of communist party regimes in the 1990s, mass organizations sometimes outlived their communist party founders. At the international level, the Communist International organized various international front organizations (linking national mass organizations with each other), such as the
Young Communist International The Young Communist International was the parallel international youth organization affiliated with the Communist International The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international ...
,
Profintern The Red International of Labor Unions (RILU) (''Russian:'' Красный интернационал профсоюзов—Krasnyi internatsional profsoyuzov), commonly known as the Profintern, was an international body established by the Communi ...
,
Krestintern The Peasant International (russian: Крестьянский Интернационал), known most commonly by its Russian abbreviation Krestintern (Крестинтерн), was an international peasants' organization formed by the Communist Inte ...
,
International Red Aid International Red Aid (also commonly known by its Russian acronym MOPR, for ''Междунаро́дная организа́ция по́мощи борца́м револю́ции'') was an international social service organization established by ...
, Sportintern, etc. Many of these organizations were disbanded after the dissolution of the Communist International. After the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
new international coordination bodies were created, such as the
World Federation of Democratic Youth The World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) is an international youth organization, and has historically characterized itself as anti-imperialism, anti-imperialist and Left-wing politics, left-wing. WFDY was founded in London in 1945 as a b ...
,
International Union of Students The International Union of Students (IUS) is a worldwide nonpartisan association of university student organizations. The IUS is the umbrella organization for 155 such students' organizations across 112 countries and Territory (administrative div ...
,
World Federation of Trade Unions The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) is an international federation of trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achie ...
,
Women's International Democratic Federation Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF) is an international organization that professes to work for women's rights, which was established in 1945 and most active during the Cold War. Its initially identified areas of concern included anti ...
and the
World Peace Council The World Peace Council (WPC) is an international organization that advocates universal disarmament Disarmament is the act of reducing, limiting, or abolishing weapons. Disarmament generally refers to a country's military or specific type of wea ...
. The Soviet Union unified many of the Comintern's original goals among its East European allies under the aegis of a new organization, the
Cominform The Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers' Parties (), commonly known as Cominform (), was the official central organization Centralisation or centralization (see American and British English spelling differences#iseize, spelling d ...
. Historically, in countries where communist parties were struggling to attain state power, the formation of wartime alliances with non-communist parties and wartime groups was enacted (such as the
National Liberation Front of Albania The National Liberation Movement ( sq, Lëvizja Nacional-Çlirimtare; or ''Lëvizja Antifashiste Nacional-Çlirimtare'' (LANÇ)), also translated as National Liberation Front, was an Albanians, Albanian communist resistance organization that fought ...
). Upon attaining state power these Fronts were often transformed into nominal (and usually electoral) "National" or "Fatherland" Fronts in which non-communist parties and organizations were given token representation (a practice known as ''
Blockpartei A bloc party ( German: ''Blockpartei'') in politics may refer to a political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have ...
''), the most popular examples of these being the National Front of East Germany (as a historical example) and the United Front of the People's Republic of China (as a modern-day example). Other times the formation of such Fronts were undertaken without the participation of other parties, such as the
Socialist Alliance of Working People of Yugoslavia The Socialist Alliance of Working People of Yugoslavia or SSRNJ ( sh, Socijalistički savez radnog naroda Jugoslavije/Социјалистички савез радног народа Југославије, SSRNJ/ССРНЈ, sl, Socialistična z ...
and the
National Front of Afghanistan The National Front of Afghanistan (NFA; fa, جبهه ملی افغانستان, Jabhe Melli; also Afghanistan National Front, ANF), or Jabh-e Melli, was established in late 2011 by Ahmad Zia Massoud, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and Abdul Rashid Dostum. ...
, though the purpose was the same: to promote the communist party line to generally non-communist audiences and to mobilize them to carry out tasks within the country under the aegis of the Front. Recent scholarship has developed the comparative political study of global communist parties by examining similarities and differences across historical geographies. In particular, the rise of revolutionary parties, their spread internationally, the appearance of charismatic revolutionary leaders and their ultimate demise during the decline and fall of communist parties worldwide have all been the subject of investigation.


Naming

A uniform naming scheme for communist parties was adopted by the
Communist International The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International, was an international organization founded in 1919 that advocated world communism, headed by the Soviet Union. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "str ...
. All parties were required to use the name 'Communist Party of (''name of the country'')', resulting in separate communist parties in some countries operating using (largely) homonymous party names (e.g. in India). Today, there are a few cases where the original sections of the Communist International have retained those names. But throughout the twentieth century, many parties changed their names. Common causes for these shifts in naming were either moves to avoid state repression or as measures to generate greater acceptance by local populations. An important example of the latter was the renaming of many
East European Eastern Europe is the region of the Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly r ...

East European
communist parties after the Second World War, sometimes as a result of mergers with the local
social democratic Social democracy is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individu ...
and
democratic socialist Democratic socialism is a political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. ...
parties. New names in the post-war era included "
Socialist Party Socialist Party is the name of many different political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas abo ...

Socialist Party
", " Socialist Unity Party", " People's (or Popular) Party", "
Workers' Party Workers' Party is a name used by several political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar ideas about poli ...
" and " Party of Labour". The naming conventions of communist parties became more diverse as the international communist movement was fragmented due to the
Sino-Soviet split The Sino-Soviet split was the breaking of political relations between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), caused by Doctrine, doctrinal divergences that arose from their different interpretati ...
in the 1960s. Those who sided with China and
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a par ...

Albania
in their criticism of the Soviet leadership, often added words like 'Revolutionary' or ' Marxist-Leninist' to distinguish themselves from the pro-Soviet parties.


Membership

In 1985, approximately 38 percent of the world's population lived under "communist" governments (1.67billion out of 4.4billion). The CPSU's International Department officially recognized 95 ruling and nonruling communist parties. Overall, if one includes the 107 parties with significant memberships, there were approximately 82 million communist party members worldwide. Given its worldwide representation, the communist party may be counted as the principal challenger to the influence of liberal-democratic, catch-all parties in the twentieth century. In the capitalist counter-revolutions of 1989–1991 in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, most of these parties either disappeared or were renamed and adopted different goals than their predecessors. In the 21st century, only four ruling parties on the national level still described themselves as Marxist-Leninist parties: the Chinese Communist Party, the Cuban Communist Party, the Communist Party of Vietnam, and the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (North Korea has abandoned Marxism-Leninism from its 2009 constitution but its ideology (
Juche ''Juche'' ( ), officially the ''Juche'' idea and also translated as ''Juche'' thought and Jucheism, is the state ideology of North Korea, described by the country's government as "Kim Il-sung's original, brilliant and revolutionary contributio ...

Juche
) is still considered a variant of Marxism-Leninism). As of 2017, the
Communist Party of China The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), officially the Communist Party of China (CPC), is the founding and One-party state, sole ruling party of the China, People's Republic of China (PRC). The CCP leads List of political parties in China, eight other ...

Communist Party of China
was the world's second largest
political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
(until now), holding nearly 89.45 million (2017).


Views

Although the historical importance of communist parties is widely accepted, their activities and functions have been interpreted in different ways. One approach, sometimes known as the totalitarian school of communist studies, has implicitly treated all communist parties as the same types of organizations. Scholars such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Francois Furet have relied upon conceptions of the party emphasizing centralized control, a top-down hierarchical structure, ideological rigidity, and strict party discipline. In contrast, other studies have emphasized the differences among communist parties. Multi-party studies, such as those by Robert C. Tucker and A. James McAdams, have emphasized the differences in both these parties' organizational structure and their use of Marxist and Leninist ideas to justify their policies. Another important question is why communist parties were able to rule for as long as they did. Some scholars have depicted these parties as fatally flawed from their inception and argue they only remained in power because their leaders were willing to use their monopoly of power to crush all forms of opposition. In contrast, other studies have emphasized these parties’ ability to adapt their policies to changing times and circumstances.See George Breslauer, ''Five Images of the Soviet Future: A Critical Review and Synthesis'' (Berkeley, CA: Center for International Studies, 1978); Stephen F. Cohen, ''Rethinking the Soviet Experience'' (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986; and Martin K. Dimitrov, ed., ''Why Communism Did Not Collapse: Understanding Authoritarian Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe'' (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013)


See also

* Criticism of communist party rule


References


External links

* {{authority control Communist organizations