Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

The Communist Successor Parties and Party Organizational Development in Post-Communist Politics

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

The Communist Successor Parties and Party Organizational Development in Post-Communist Politics

Article excerpt

The emergence of competitive party politics in the countries of postcommunist Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has offered a unique opportunity to test some long-held propositions in party organization theory What factors may promote certain types of organizations over others? To address this question, I develop a theoretical framework which identifies a set of party organizational types and the factors which might lead to the development of certain types over others. Second, I test these in light of the evidence from the communist successor parties from ten Eastern European and former Soviet countries. It was found that, among several independent variables, the previous communist regime type, the strength of the constitutional presidency, and the features of the electoral system were the best predictors of party organizational type among the communist successor parties.

Democratization and the emergence of party politics in the countries of post-communist Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have offered a unique opportunity to observe the development of party organizations, and to test some long-held propositions in party organization theory. Although a considerable body of work has emerged on the evolution of party systems and on political attitudes in the post-communist world, there has been very little systematic comparative work done on the organizational development of political parties. To be sure, there have been a number of studies which have investigated individual cases (Agh 1995, 1997; Zubek 1994; Roper 1995; Zudinov 1994) and a few works which have compared across several countries in East-Central Europe (Kopecky, 1995; Lewis 1996; Wightman 1995; Novopashin 1994; Segert and Machos 1995). However, there has been very little work comparing the different types of party organizations which have emerged throughout the post-communist world. What factors may promote certain types of organizations over others?

This article represents an initial attempt in addressing this question. To begin to do so, I first develop a theoretical framework which identifies a continuum of party organizational types and the factors which might lead to the development of certain types over others. In particular, I employ the western literature on party organization as a set of general theoretical guidelines to investigate party organizational development in post-communist politics. There are two reasons for primarily using the western theoretical literature on party organizational development as opposed to the burgeoning descriptive literature on parties and party organizations in Eastern Europe as a starting point. First, by doing so this article will ascertain the utility of these theories in explaining post-communist party organizational development. Second, using western theories provides the opportunity to adopt a broader comparative perspective than that suggested by singlecountry or small-n studies. For the empirical sections of this study, I focus on a subset of communist-successor parties, or those parties which were formerly the governing party in the communist regime and which inherited the preponderance of the former ruling parties' resources and personnel.

Specifically, I investigate the organizational features of ten communist successor parties. These include: the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (CPBM) in the Czech Republic, the Slovak Party of the Democratic Left (PDL), the Estonian Democratic Labor Party (EDLP), the Hungarian Socialist Party (HSP), the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party (LDLP), the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland party (SdRP), the Party of Social Democracy of Romania (PSDR), the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), and the Communist Party of the Ukraine (CPU). These parties were selected for two reasons. First, unlike "new parties," the communist successor parties are not merely clubs of notables or "couch parties" (where all members could fit on a single couch). …

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