Tran Dac Loi*
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, amid difficulties and challenges in international situation, communist and workers’ parties in the world have continued their efforts to consolidate their organizations and forces, expanding international cooperation and enhancing their role and influence in socio-political life.
On international cooperation
On bilateral level, communist and workers’ parties in the world have established and maintained relatively close bilateral relations with other parties in the movement. Besides, communist and workers’ parties in China, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, and many other parties also have extensive relations with communist and workers’ parties in the world, such as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has had relations with 150 parties; the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia in the Czech Republic with more than 100 parties. For small parties in difficult conditions, establishing and maintaining relations with other parties are challenging; Most of these parties have maintained ties with only a few parties.
The main forms of relations between the parties are exchange of delegations, information, and documents, sharing experiences, attending conferences, and forums. Recently, some parties are interested in exchange of theory. Mechanism for periodic exchange of theory among parties, such as the Communist Party of China and the Communist Party of Vietnam, and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party; the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the Communist Party of Cuba, the Communist Party of Japan, the Communist Party of France.
On the multilateral level, along with the gradual restoration of relations among communist and workers’ parties, in the late 1990s, many multilateral mechanisms and forums of communist and workers’ parties were established in various forms, including regular mechanisms and conferences and seminars. Many annual forums have become world-wide events, bringing together a large number of communist and workers’ parties from all over the world.
Formed in 1998 by the Communist Party of Greece, the International Meeting of the Communist and Workers’ Parties (IMCWP) has so far attracted the participation of 118 communist and workers’ parties from 85 countries, becoming the most important multilateral forum for communist and workers’ parties to exchange information, share experiences and strengthen cooperation and collaboration for the common cause of struggle. The number of communist and workers’ parties attending the meetings has risen compared to the early period and remained relatively stable, and increasingly representative. IMCWP has established the fast information network SOLIDNET (www.solidnet.org) as a forum for information exchange between parties and published the Information Bulletin three times a year in the past and is currently carrying documents after annual meetings. Building on a forum initiated and hosted annually by the Communist Party of Greece, since 2006, the IMCWP has been rotatingly hosted by its member parties, taking into account continent element. To date, 19 IMWCP has been held in all continents. Parties’ close coordination in preparation for the meeting has increased. In 2004, the IMCWP created a Working Group, step by step completed the group with increasingly clear regulations to exchange important issues of the forum and prepare for annual meetings. The first IMCWP approved the joint documents of participating parties at the 2002 Meeting and continued to issue joint documents in the form of joint declarations or joint communiqués in subsequent periods. However, in the recent 5 successive meetings, disagreements over viewpoints, strategies and tactics among member parties have divided the IMCWP, thus a minority group with the Communist Party of Greece as the core and the majority cannot reach unanimity on joint documents. In October 2016, at the 18th IMCWP taking place in Hanoi, under the leadership and efforts of the Communist Party of Viet Nam, the IMCWP reached high consensus and approved joint documents after many years of interruption, contributing significantly to the unity and solidarity of the communist and workers’ parties of the international communist and workers’ movement in the current situation.
As a multilateral mechanism initiated by the Party of Labor of Belgium (PTB) in 1992, by 1995 the International Communist Seminar (ICS) attracted the participation of a large number of communist parties around the world to discuss ideas, ways of struggle and coordinated actions of communist and workers’ parties and the leftist movement in the world. The ICS, however, stopped its activities as PTB saw the need to reconsider the method of organization. In addition, there are also International Seminar “Globalization and development issues” initiated by the Communist Party of Cuba, the annual international seminar of the communist and workers’ parties organized by the Democratic Constitutional Rally of Tunisia (PRD). (1)
Regular regional forums have also flourished. Among the various initiatives of the Communist Party of Greece, the annual meeting of European communist and workers’ parties on education were organized from 2006 to 2010. Despite many difficulties, communist and workers’ parties in the Balkan region have held regular conferences to discuss regional issues, and exchanged experiences, such as the Meeting against “military presence of imperialism” in the region in September 2006, the Meeting on “Developments in the Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean region and the tasks of the communists” in December 2009 and January 2011. Some regional forums have gone beyond the original geographic scope to become events of world scale. The Sao Paolo Forum was launched in July 1990 by the Brazilian Labor Party and the International Conference “Parties and a New Society” organized by the Mexican Labor Party rallied not only the communist and workers’ parties, leftist and progressive forces in Latin America, but also observers and guests from political parties in all continent and international organizations.
In addition to the periodic mechanisms mentioned above, communist and workers’ parties in the world have held many meetings, conferences, scientific seminars on specific topics to discuss emerging issues in the world, regions and the international communist and workers’ movement. These activaties have commonly taken place among European communist and workers’ parties and initiated by some European communist and workers’ parties. For example, the meeting of 23 European communist parties in March 2006 at the initiative of the Portuguese Communist Party (CCP) to condemn Resolution 1481 on the so-called “Need for international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes adopted by the Europe Council. CCP organized a Meeting of Communist Parties of European Union (EU) member countries in March 2008 on the subject “EU Agreement. Developments in the EU and the struggle of the people”; Meeting of the European Communist Parties in April 2011 on ” Socio-Political process in Europe and the Response of Communists”; Meetings of communist and workers’ parties in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf in 2006, and 2008. In 2005, the Ukrainian Communist Party held a Roundtable on “The Real Perspectives on Europe and the way to organize the European Left” with the participation of mainly communist and workers’ parties in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
In addition, there were many international meetings, such as the Cyprus Conference in December 2000 entitled “The Need and the Organizational Method to Respond to the New World Order and Economic Globalization” which attracted 60 delegations of communist and workers’ parties; the International Conference in Berlin in June 2001 entitled “Capitalist Globalization- Alternatives – Opposition Forces – The Role of Communists” attended by 33 communist and workers’ parties and movements in 31 countries; international meetings and seminars on the Russian October Revolution were organized by Communist Party of the Russian Federation several times.
Major annual events of parties, such as the Avante! Festival of the Portuguese Communist Party, L’Humanite Festival of the French Communist Party, have been attended by dozens of international delegations, discussing many issues, such as security, peace, cooperation, social-environment, solidarity and socialism.
The diversity of linkage and rally among communist and workers’ parties around the world have helped create channels for promoting bilateral relations, and facilitating communication among parties. This is the premise for the development of each party, strengthening coordination and co-operation among the parties in the movement.
These external activities of communist and workers’ parties in the world show that the linkage and coordination among them in the international arena have been increasingly strengthened. The parties agree to step up relations on the basis of five principles: 1. Independence; 2. Equality; 3. Mutual respect; 4. Non interference in each other’s internal affairs; 5. Solidarity and friendship.
However, the coordination among communist and workers’ parties has still faced many challenges. These are: Firstly, differences in strategic viewpoints and principled issues, including stance on objectives, modes of struggle, force gathering, road to socialism as well as a number of other international issues within and between parties. Secondly, in many countries, the communist movement have been deeply divided, unable to unite in thought and action. Multiparty phenomena in communist and workers’ movement has contributed to weakening the international communist movement.
Position and role of communist and workers’ parties in socio-political life
In socialist countries at present, ruling communist parties have constantly striven to strengthen party building, enhance the ruling capacity and governance, and expand their prestige in the international arena through achievements in national construction.
In the wake of “political turmoil” in the Soviet Union and the collapse of socialist states in Eastern Europe, communist and worker’s parties have gradually restored their right for open, and legal status and regained their prestige, and influence in society and politics. Many parties have run for parliamentary, presidential and local elections and won the support of voters, set up caucuses in the parliaments, and become important political force in political arena with representation in their countries’ power structures.
In the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Communist Party of Moldova (PKRM) was the first communist party to return to power through constitutional democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the only communist party that once gained the majority in the Government of Moldova. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation has maintained its second place in Russian elections. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia in the Czech Republic joined the ruling coalition in 2001-2009 and has still maintained its involvement as a political party with significant influence in the Czech Republic.
The Japanese Communist Party is the second-largest opposition party in Japan with 21 seats in the House of Representative, 14 in the House of Councilors and 2,811 in local councils. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) has long held a key role in the political life after the establishment of a democratic society in Nepal.
Many other parties have also consolidated their positions in the power structure of their countries. Though a small party of about 6,000 members, the Communist Party of Belarus (KPB) won 8 out of 10 seats in the Parliament after the elections to the House of Representatives, 6th Legislature in September 2016, 2 seats higher than the previous elections. The Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan was the largest political force in that country in 2001-2005 and joined the Parliament until 2010. The Communist Party of Tajikistan was represented in the Parliament in the 2000-2005 and 2010-2015 terms. The Portuguese Communist Party is currently the fourth largest party in Portugal’s Parliament.
Some parties have achieved positive turnout in local government elections. The Communist Party of Russia currently has more than 100 seats in local government bodies, including two provincial legislation bodies. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia in the Czech Republic won 20.4% of the vote (compared to 11.27% in 2010) in the local elections in October 2012, topped 2 out of the 14 localities and gained another 68 seats in localities. In India, the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) have played a pivotal role in the Left Front-led
governments of the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
On a regional scale, in the 2014 European Parliament elections, some communist and workers’ parties and left-wing parties won 52 out of 372 seats and formed a leftist parliamentarian group.
The commonality of these groups is to pursue a peaceful, balanced, rational and flexible domestic policy. They have received the attention and support of the masses as they have involved directly to settle their countries’ important socio-economic issues, winning confidence of an important part of the voters.
However, for most political parties, their representation in parliaments remains low. Their time in power is neither stable, nor lasting; some party failed to maintain their leadership or representation in the power structure of their countries. The Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan, once a big political party having seats in parliament, did not gain enough votes for a seat. At the same time, while the communist force is weak, the fact that several communist parties run for elections in a country has divided the votes, resulting in lower proportions of votes for a party, like the case of Russia. The objective cause is that the communist and workers’ parties are subject to competition, fierce attacks from other parties and the impact of unfavorable adjustments in the election regulations of governments. In addition, subjective reasons is lack management and governance experiences, especially in solving important socio-economic issues and personnel resource management for administration structure. Consideration of force to join and force-gathering options may also be the reasons for declining turnout. After ending support for the coalition government led by the Indian Congress Party, the parliament seats of the CPI and the CPI-M have fallen dramatically. Most of the other parties have a low-impact role in both social and political life. Although communist parties and organizations in most Central Asian countries, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, have been restored, their real power is small in both number and political influence. They have received low support from the mass due to their inappropriate policy to attract voters and to care for the interests of laborers and low prestige among the people.
In general, after upheavals and declination, many communist and workers’ parties have begun to restore their role and position in their countries’ political and social life, demonstrated by their encouraging and important results at national and local elections. However, power development and consolidation of the majority of the parties are not stable, depending largely on the political situation of their countries as well as their lines, leading capacity and settlement of socio-economic issues.
Looking back at the situation of communist and workers’ parties in the world in recent years, positive progress has been made in the development and expansion of international relations. At the same time, many parties have striven to gain significant role and position in socio-political life. However, there remain big challenges for these parties in particular and for the international communist and workers’ movement in general. To overcome limitations and challenges, win and maintain their voice on political issues, each communist and workers’ party has to constantly exert efforts, renew themselves, sharpen theory, gain practical experiences and knowledge in management and governance to meet new requirements and demands of the situation.
*Permanent Deputy Head of the Central Commission for External Relations
(1) Following political developments in Tunisia, the Middle East and North Africa in early 2011, the Tunisian the Democratic Constitutional Rally of Tunisia (PRD) was dissolved, the seminar was no longer organized.
This article was published on the Communist Review, No. 902 (December 2017)