The Slovak Party of the Democratic Left: A Successful Post-Communist Party?

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Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of the Slovak Party of the Democratic Left (PDL). It analyzes the PDL from its evolution from the Communist Party of Slovakia to its recent internal crisis. It deals also with the PDL's identity conflict between two party wings in the second half of the 90's--the "radical socialists" and the "modernists"--which ended with the victory of the "radical socialists." In conclusion, the paper argues that the PDL today represents an interesting case of a communist successor party whose ideology lies somewhere between its communist origins and modern social democracy. In short, the PDL can be termed a post-communist "radical socialist" party.

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The Party of the Democratic Left (Strana demokratickej lavice) experienced extensive transformation from its original communist structure in the 90's and eventually came to be considered--in contrast to the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (CPBM)--a "social-democratised" ex-communist party. Thus, it bears similarities to post-communist parties in Poland (Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland) and Hungary (the Hungarian Socialist Party). At the same time, and in contrast to these parties, the PDL has never enjoyed broad popular support (its maximum share of the vote, 14.7%, was reached in 1992 and 1998) and has suffered as well from serious inner conflicts which have resulted in a moving away from social democratic positions. This article focuses on the reasons for the PDL's particular evolution, tracing the internal development of the PDL in the 1990's as well as the party's ideological development, organizational structures, and concrete policies.

The Genesis of the CPS and its Relationship to the CPC

It is not possible to understand the different development of the Czech and Slovak post-communist parties without first outlining their origin within the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPS). By 1989, the predecessor of the PDL--the Communist Party of Slovakia (CPS)--was a branch of the CPS. In the days of the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918--1938) the Slovak communists represented only one of the CPS's regional organizations. During the Slovak war-state the Slovak regional organization was transformed (under underground conditions) into a separate party--The Communist Party of Slovakia (CPS). During a short semi-democratic period immediately after the end of the war (1945-1948) the CPS became formally independent, although its political line was coincident with the politics of the CPS. This organizational independence was lost in 1948 when CPS leaders came to the conclusion, after the establishment of the communist regime, that a continuation of the CPS's independent existence was pointless. Thus, the party was again transformed into the CPS regional organization, with the name CPS staying. This produced more or less hidden frustration among the Slovak communists. Nevertheless this situation lasted until 1989. The CPS still worked without legal status during the first months after 1989 and in 1990. During the first parliamentary election, it stood in the election as a part of the CPC. Yet the CPS's pursuit of independence was manifested not only in its political programme (whose title, the "Election programme of the CPS as an independent part of the CPC", emphasized the CPS's organizational independence) but also by its next election document "Who we are and where are we going". In this document the party argued that the CPC should undergo structural change so as to allow the Czech and Slovak communists to behave as separate political forces. During the CPC congress in November 1990, it was decided to create a new federal party consisting of a Slovak organization (CPS) and a Czech organization (CPMB). After the congress, relations between the CPS and CPMB became even less close, since the two parties were moving in very different ideological directions. …