Publikation Soziale Bewegungen / Organisierung - Europa The post-Communist Left in Eastern Europe with a real, left politics?

Information

Reihe

Artikel

Autor

Dieter Segert ,

Erschienen

Januar 2006

Bestellhinweis

Nur online verfügbar

Description of the situation and analysis after 15 years of transformation

The point of departure of its development (state socialism and its crisis) has determined the profile of the “post-Communist Left”  for the last 15 years until today: It represents both parts of the “service class” that had been closely linked with state socialism as well as groups of the population that had benefited especially from the old system (workers of the traditional industries, the “reconstruction” generation). An additional characteristics of many (not all) parties in this group is their “social democratisation” – meaning here mainly the attachment of mutated state parties to the Socialist International (and the “Party of the European Socialists”).

Today, there are among the member parties of the Socialist International (SI) from the five countries of East Central Europe (the four Visegrad states and Slovenia) four Communist successor parties. Only in the Czech Republic did the member party of the SI not emerge from the respective Communist state party. In Poland, next to the Communist successor party, also the Workers’ Union (UP) is member of the SI. Most successor parties from the other East European states (including the Socialist Party of Albania/PSSH/ and the Rumanian Social Democratic Party/PSD/ ) are also members of the former international competitor organisation to the Communist parties.

Next to these mutated social democrats, there is an additional group of successor parties linked together at the European level. The KSČM and the PDS are members of the fraction of the Confederated European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament, and the PDS, moreover, is founding member of the European Left founded in 2004 in Rome. The second Hungarian successor party, the Workers’ Party, is also a member here.

Generally, the left parties successful until today – the characteristic “left” advertises solely their self-image here – in Eastern Europe with very few exceptions   are direct successors of the former state parties. That does not mean, however, that they have remained like they were. They have changed fundamentally on the way to post socialism. They had to weather a deep crisis of adaptation  that grew from a “legitimation and credibility crisis”, from the loss of political power and members or, respectively, financial resources. Some of them had to form anew after the dissolution of the state parties, from its officials and members. Others did not dissolve, but renamed themselves. There exists not a single one of the former Communist state parties that did not change fundamentally after the end of state socialism both in its programme as well as in its organisational structures as well as in the composition of its membership. If we therefore speak of the post-Communist left here, then is meant in no way to overstate the continuity between the former state parties and its successors. It suffices to point at such facts as the former close intertwining of the state parties with the state (and its security apparatuses), their over-dimensional richness as well as the extreme inner-party centralisation (“prohibition of fractions” and party discipline) to understand this difference. Even the most “conservative” KSČM may not be confused with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia between 1970 and November 1989.

This change from all-powerful state parties to “normal” political actors in pluralistic party democracies took place in the various parties at different speeds and with a different level of consequence. In social science literature, the change is being interpreted differently. I only want to point at two approaches. Anna Grymała-Busse speaks of three types of change that she calls, according to the extent of regained governmental capability (or respectively the access to the exercise of governmental power) after 1989, failed, partial or respectively full regeneration. (2003: 158 ff.). This is certainly a relatively simple scheme, given that it is one-dimensional. Somewhat more ambitious are András Bozóki and John Ishiyama, who distinguish, following other criteria, two ways of transformation of the respective parties with respectively different results (2002: chapter 1): either an accelerated programmatic modernisation in the direction of a modern social-democratic profile or, by contrast, a “left retreat”, meaning that the parties occupied themselves more with the defence of their own identity and the internal needs of their membership in the process of systemic change, and which often was also linked to a weakening of the left profile of the party. They use for the results of these different paths two terms: “reformed” or “transmuted”. The two ideal types of parties that ensued were reformed modern left parties or mutated national Communist parties (following their conceptualisation, those parties then drifted from the left to the right). In addition to these true types, there were then still mixed forms (See Table 1.2 on p.8 in their book of 2002).

I will still return to this question of the changed programmatic profile later. Now I am first concerned with the analysis of the changing organisational structure of the parties, who have generally engaged in the following common direction: away from the command structures called “democratic centralism”, in the direction of decentralised, more strongly pluralistic structures.

Bozóki and Ishiyama see the two paths of programmatic change as being linked with respectively different consequences for organisational development: the modernising parties of East Central Europe are typically more strictly led and stand under the clear influence of pragmatic and moderate reformers in the leadership of the party. The membership and the organisational structures, by contrast, are of less significance for the political orientation of the party. This new form of centralisation can be shown for the Hungarian socialists (MSzP), the Polish successor party SLD and the Slovak SDL. That can be explained in part by the fact that there had ensued a dramatic reduction in membership in these parties after the end of state socialism,   being caused by the specificity of the transition from almighty state party to normal democratic party. In all three parties, after a renaming or new foundation (MSzP, in October 1989; SLD, in January 1990; or SLD, in May 1991), all members had to get registered afresh.  Although in this way as well, a clear democratisation of the inner-party structures and a decentralisation of the decision making processes can be noted in comparison with the time of state socialism before 1989, meaning an increase in the weight of the membership and of the lower level of the party organisation, this in no way led to the domination of the membership or the local organisations vis-à-vis the central leadership of the parties. Markowski in his analysis of the Polish case, for instance, talks about a well-organised oligarchical group of party leaders (Kwasniewski, Oleksy, Miller) who conducted the party firmly after 1990 and states that the central party apparatus always exercised the control over the membership (Markowski in Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002: 59). In the Hungarian party as well, the crisis of adaptation was overcome, after the electoral defeat of 1990, by the energetic leadership of a small group of party leaders (and G. Horn) which – relatively  uninfluenced by the various stands held by the members, pushed through a social-democratic party profile in order to obtain a recognition by the SI. (Bozóki 2002: 98 f.)

Compared to that type of change, the influence of the membership and their local organisations on the programmatic development was clearly greater in what they called in the “transmuted” parties, as well as in various intermediate types. That also had its reason in that the number of members had dwindled less quickly during the crisis of 1989. Moreover, the leaderships were partly paralysed or at least not so free in their decisions as a result of the continuing confrontations between pragmatics, modernisers, conservatives and traditionalists. Moreover, the conservative leaderships forged alliances with the traditionally inclined majority in the membership. 

Handl (2002) distinguishes four groupings in the KSČM, which according to him, fought for the guidance of party polices since the beginning of the system change and the loss of power of the party: reformists (in particular around the chairman of that time, Jiří Svoboda), conservatives, neo-Communists (around the first deputy chairman Miroslav Ransdorf) and the majority of the membership with its traditionalist inclinations. The reformist leadership group had lost its influence, however, already in 1993 and had been excluded from the party. In the PDS as well, there has repeatedly emanated a restraining influence on the reformers at the top of the party from certain groups of traditionally-minded members. 

The dependency (continuity) between the former parties and those of today, thus, shows mainly in part of the membership. It exists less at the level of the leading personnel, while it must be noted that the last-named continuity is the greatest among the reform parties of late state socialism, meaning the Polish and the Hungarian successor parties.  This is paradoxical only at first sight. Looked at more closely, the change on the leading floor in these parties has taken place earlier, so that the breaking off of leading personnel in the immediately last phase of the regime had to be less pronounced than in parties that had started to move only relatively late.

This much on organisational change and on changes in the leading group or rather the membership of these parties. Now follow a few remarks on their programmatic change. The most important areas of politics, in which these parties have been successfully active since their victory in their post-socialist crisis of adaptation may be summarised as follows: confrontation over the concrete shaping of economic reforms, over the respective way into “Europe” (meaning into the EU) as well as the place of national interests in that context, the conflict over the history of the past order (mainly as far as the members of the parties in question were concerned by these themselves; meaning as reactions to purges and various forms of conflicts over the special responsibility of members of the Communist Parties for violence and breaches of law before 1989), conflicts over the shaping of the relationship between church and state or respectively the influence of religion and the churches on schools and concrete questions of ways of life such as rights to abortion rights and to homosexual partnerships etc.

The two different forms of change of the successor parties distinguish themselves of course mainly with respect to programmatic change: When the parties have been isolated for a longer period in their societies and on the defensive, or respectively not able to master their identity and existential crisis for a longer period, then questions of the confrontation with their state socialist history shift into the centre of their politics. Parties practice a kind of navel gazing, act rather as milieus rather than as actors of the political change of their societies. Their influence at elections limits itself to parts of the former membership of the state parties. They are, in these situations, too much occupied with the “search for the time lost” before 1989. (Muránsky) On this path, their membership and their voters become ever older. These parties risk degeneration into generation (pensioner) parties.

The reformed parties are politically more active. However, there surfaces in the analysis of their policy the urgent question, to what extent they can still be considered “left”? We can find various answers to that in the social science literature. I will limit myself to the characterisation that Radoslav Markowski has given with respect to the Polish SLD: On the one hand, this party in a self-evaluation of the members on a right-left scale is, in its majority, located on the left. In 1991, 77% of the members questioned considered it a left party; in 1997, they were even 82%. Among the voters of the SLD, this ascription of the party to the left camp was even somewhat more pronounced. (Markowski 2002: 71). However, the left character of a party of course follows from its policy in times when it takes over governmental responsibility. Here, the placement according to Markowski, at least for the time between 1993 and 1997, turns out somewhat less unambiguous. Of course, the SLD has conducted left policies in the socio-cultural area (with reference to such disputed questions such as the shaping of the abortion law and the position towards the Catholic Church); in the socio-economic area, by contrast, the party has moved from a more strongly socially protectionist policy in the direction of a pro-market economy orientation. (Ibid.: 67)   Such a change in policy, in the Polish case – as frequently also in other countries – is linked to the fact that the governments of the successor parties, at the end of the election period, have lost a lot of their influence on the original voters and are “voted out”. Why this is so, however, is not being considered in the analysis cited.

An interesting interpretation of that balance is found in a recent conference contribution by the US American political scientist Thomas A. Baylis (2005: 15-16). He points to the fact that during the governmental period of the successor parties in the 90s, the living standard of the population sank, unemployment frequently rose significantly (this holds at least for Poland and Slovakia), and on the whole, there developed an ever-increasing gap in between winners and losers of the economic transformation. This was, following his interpretation, however, not the result of a free political decision by the politicians of the successor parties, but resulted from the pressure of strong external actors. In the beginning, there was an effect, for instance, from the political pressure of the international creditors on the most indebted countries of Eastern Europe; later on, it was supplemented by the pressure of the EU institutions in the course of Poland’s joining to the European Union. A certain economic and budgetary policy was not only strongly suggested to the corresponding governments of the candidate countries, but it was clearly demanded from them as a condition of membership. If the post-Communist successor parties ruled, they had to make themselves advocates of this pressure. There was very little room for manoeuvre – according to Baylis.

However, when the post-Communist successor parties were not the most hands-on representatives of the loser groups of the post-socialist reforms, other parties took over this function. József Bayer points to the fact that in Hungary, there often opened up an abyss between the self-declared political identity of the parties and the real orientation of their policy; the left socialists often stood for right-wing economic demands, the right-wing Hungarian Citizens’ Union (Fidesz) in the public advocated a left-wing, protectionist economic and social policy, at least, when it did not rule at the moment.

When the successor parties do not fill the need for a left politics, other actors fill the gap. In a number of countries, populist groupings give a voice to the protest of the groups that are the poorest and the most threatened by social decline. As the last two elections in Poland show, right-wing parties profile themselves in a populist way and tie this stratum of voters to them. The party “Law and Justice” (PiS) that won the elections in September 2005 managed to do that, because it had decided to play out  the “social card” against its most important competitor, the liberal Citizens’ Platform (PO). Lang (2005: 2) characterises the politics of the PiS as “socio-patriotic traditionalism with a strongly étatistic imprint”. Aside from that, the votes of the losers of the Polish Turn were attracted by the extremist and populist movements League of the Polish Families (LPR) and Self-Defence (SO). All this became possible also because the Polish “post-Communists”, mainly the SLD, on the one hand, did not even try to represent the interests of the losers of the transformation, on the other hand, by way of the corruption affairs of some of its politicians, precisely among some of the poorer women and men citizens, had gambled away part of their previous moral credit. As a result, the party crashed in the favour of the voters, between 2001 and 2005, from 41% to 11%. The PiS rose from roughly 10 to 27&.

Also in the case of other successor parties, who were able to shape politics after 1989, meaning that they were enlisted in governments (and hence in the process of privatisation), such enrichment and corruption affairs appear ever again. Such affairs were central in the voting out of government of the Bulgarian BSP in the anticipated re-elections of 1997, they influenced the defeat of the Slovak SDL in 2002 that made the party factually disappear, and they also played a role in the replacement of the Hungarian socialists (MSzP) in the elections of 1998. For the rest of it, the last governmental crisis of the Czech social democrats in 2005 was also triggered by allegations of corruption against the prime minister and party chairman. He finally had to resign, which meant that the prime minister changed three times in a year in that country.

If these parties really want to be left, then they must sharpen their social profile more strongly in the future, because one may, with Oskar Lafontaine, very well consider as left “the defence of the socially weak” (taz survey of September 10, 2005).  The affairs mentioned show, however, how the parties concerned, at least in part and in certain periods, act as a sort of clientele relationship network for the advantage of one’s own group. In some cases, they also bridge the gap in between winners and losers of the transformation processes by social populism, without, however, pushing through a corresponding interest equilibration after the election.

To conclude, let us present an overview once more on how successful these parties are in the political competition with other parties and why they could not win against some others. Are there general reasons for that?

How successful are these parties? If one measures success by governmental participation, then the successors of the state parties since 1989 have at least been more successful than had been surmised initially. They were not all back there immediately, but – with some exceptions – repeatedly represented in governments, yes, have even dominated some of them from the point of view of contents. In Hungary, Slovenia and in a couple of other countries, they will have good chances for success also in the future. Whether, and if yes, when the SLD will be successful again in Poland, seems open to me in light of the catastrophic defeat in 2005. I guess, however, that the ten years of the rise of the successor party have brought forth enough potential for action, so as to make such a recovery finally possible. In the Czech Republic, a victory for the Left depends on whether practical political bridges can be built between ČSSD and KSČM.

This electoral result up to now (see the Table in the appendix) was based on different prerequisites (compare among other things Grzymała-Busse 2003: 162 ff.): on the one hand, they could rely on the rich organisational and cultural resources that they had brought along from state socialism and were in a position to adapt to the basically changed conditions after 1989 – in this way, they had an unambiguous advantage at the start over the new parties not yet well anchored in the population and not well equipped with organisational resources (this advantage was especially large in societies with the late start of the political opening of state socialism such as Albania, Bulgaria, and Rumania);
On the other hand, there acted the logic of the party competition, where in the next elections, the shortcomings and mistakes of the ruling parties always advantage the strongest forces of the oppositional camp (this advantage, in the second elections, acted to the benefit of those successor parties that had failed in the first elections, for instance, in Poland in 1993 and in Hungary 1994).

In all countries, there exist good general chances for left politics; mainly in the form of widespread needs for social protection, for security, for solidarity.

However, everywhere, there must, nevertheless, within the Left parties, be they in the camp of the successors of the Communist state parties or in parties with different provenance, still be determined in an intensive political debate, how today, under the current conditions of “post-Communist” capitalism (Michael Ehrke), a real and not only symbolic and nostalgic left policy could look like.

Appendix:

1) Literature:

- Thomas Baylis: Embattled Executives: Prime Ministerial Weakness in East Central Europe, paper prepared for delivery at the VIIth World Congress of the International Council for Central and East European Studies, Berlin, Germany, July 25-30, 2005 (marked as “work in progress”)
- András Bozóki: The Hungarian Socialists. Technocratic Modernization or New Social Democracy?, in: Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002: pp. 89-115.
- András Bozóki/John T. Ishiyama (eds.): The Communist Successor Parties after 1989, in: Ekiert/Hanson 2003, pp. 157-181.
- Michael Ehrke: Das neue Europa. Ökonomie, Politik und Gesellschaft des ‚post-kommunistischen Kapitalismus’ (The new Europe. Economy, politics, and society of ‚post-Communist capitalism’). FES Bonn: Internationale Politikanalyse, Europäische Politik, September 2004.   
- Grzegorz Ekiert/Stephen E. Hanson (eds.): Capitalism and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Assessing the Legacy of Communist Rule, Cambridge 2003.
- Karl-Heinz Gräfe: Was ist aus Osteuropas Staatsparteien geworden? In Polen, Ungarn und Tschechien: sehr unterschiedliche Wege und Ergebnisse (What has become of Eastern Europe’s state parties? In Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic: very different ways and results), Disput, October 1999. http://sozialisten.de/politik/publikationen/disput/View_html?zid=1986&BS=1&N=6.
- Vladmir Handl: Die Tschechische Kommunistische Partei: orthodoxes Fossil oder erfolgreiche neo-kommunistische Protestpartei? (The Czech Communist Party: orthodox fossil or successful neo-Communist protest party?) FES. Politikinformation Osteuropa, 105, Bonn 2002.
- Tamás Krausz: Aufstieg und Niedergang der Selbstverwaltung in Osteuropa (Rise and fall of self-administration in Eastern Europe), in: Rückkehr nach Europa? Die geistig-politische Dimension des ost-mitteleuropäischen Umbruchsprozesses seit 1989 (Return to Europe? The intellectual-political dimension of the East-Central European transformation process since 1989), Contributions to a conference of the Brandenburg Regional Centre for Political Education, edited by Hans Misselwitz and Dieter Segert, Potsdam 1997, pp. 88-104.
- Kai Olaf Lang: Machtwechsel in Warschau. Kurswechsel in der Außenpolitik? (Turnover in Warsaw. Change of course in foreign policy?), Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin, SWP-Aktuell 53 (December 2005).
- Csilla Machos/Dieter Seger: Überraschende politische Erfolge postkommunistischer Parteien in Deutschland und Ungarn: Parallelen und Unterschied (Surprising political results of post-Communist parties in Germany and Hungary: Parallels and Differences), in: Geplanter Wandel, ungeplante Wirkungen. Handlungslogiken und – ressourcen im Prozess der Transformation (Planned Change, Unplanned Effects. Logics of Actions and Resources in the Process of Transformation), WZB- Yearbook 1995, ed. by I. Rudolph under collaboration of D. Simon. Berlin: Edition Sigma, pp. 216-229.
- Radoslaw Markowski: The Polish SLD in the 1990s. From Opposition to Incumbents and Back, in: Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002, pp. 51-88.
- Alina Mungiu-Pippidi: The Romanian Post-communist Parties. A Story of Success, in: Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002, pp. 51-88.
- Martin Muránsky: Die Marginalisierung der Linken in der slowakischen Parteienlandschaft (The marginalisation of the Left in the Slovakian party landscape), FES. Internationale Politikanalyse, Bonn, April 2004.  
- Dieter Segert: The PDS. Regional Party or a Second Social-Democratic Party in Germany?, in: Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002, pp. 166-187.

2) Electoral results of left parties in some countries of Eastern Europe after 1989

(data in percent of the valid votes at parliamentary elections)

Country/Party1st elections2nd3rd4th5th6th
Poland/SLD1220274111
Poland/UP275(together with SLD)4
Czech Republic /KSČM1314101119
Czech Republic/ČSSD47263230

Slovakia/KSS

Slovakia/SDL

Together: 13

1

15

in KSV: 10

3

15

6

1

Slovakia/SMERn.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.14
Slovakia/ZRSn.a.n.a.7--
Slovakia/SDSS24in alliance KSV: 10in alliance SDK: 26-
Slovakia/SOPn.a.n.a.n.a.8-
Slovakia/SDAn.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.1
Hungary/MSzP11333342
Hungary/MP4342
Rumania/FSN-FSDN-PDSR-PSD6628223737
Rumania/PSM-321-
Bulgaria/BSP-KB(after 97)473344221731
Bulgaria/BE---61-
Slovenia/ZLSD171491210
Slovenia/SSS53---
Croatia/SDP356941 (with others)23 (with Partners)
Russia/KPRF12222413
Russia/APR84-4
Russia/ZR852-

Dates of parliamentary elections:
Poland: 1991, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005;
Czech Republic: 1990 and 1992 in ČSFR, 1996, 1998, 2002;
Slovakia: 1990 and 1992 in ČSFR, 1996, 1998, 2002;
Hungary: 1990; 1994, 1998, 2002;
Romania: 1990, 1992, 1996, 2002, 2004;
Bulgaria: 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2005;
Slovenia: 1990 (still as Yugoslav Republic), 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004;
Croatia: 1990 (still as Yugoslav Republic), 1992, 1995, 2000, 2003;
Russia: 1993, 1995, 1999, 2003.
Explanations of party names:
Poland: SLD: Democratic Left party (first party alliance, then party); UP: Workers’ Union
Czech Republic: KSČM: Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia; ČSSD: Social democrats
Slovakia: SMER: Direction (since December 2004: SMER-SD); ZRS: Association of the Workers’ of Slovakia; SDSS: Slovakian Social Democrats; SOP: Party of Citizens’ Understanding (1998-2003, then dissolved); SDA: Social democratic alternative (2002 to 2004, then renamed in SMER-SD)
Hungary: MSzP: Hungarian Socialists; MP: Workers’ Party (since 12/1/05: Communist Workers’ Party)
Rumania: FSN: National Salvation Front; FSDN: National Democratic Salvation Front (since 1992); PDSR: Party of Social Democracy (since 1993); PSD (since 2000): Social democracy, PSM: Socialist Party of Labour  
Bulgaria: KB: Coalition for Bulgaria (Main partner: BSP, also BSD – Bulgarian Social Democrats); BE: Bulgarian Euro-Left
Slovenia: ZLSD: United List of Social Democrats, SSS: Socialist Party of Slovenia
Croatia: SDP: Social democracy
Russia: APR: Agrarian Party; ZR: Women’s Party of Russia; NPS: Rodina (Fatherland – National-Patriotic Union).

Translated by Carla Krüger, March 16, 2006

Description of the situation and analysis after 15 years of transformation

The point of departure of its development (state socialism and its crisis) has determined the profile of the “post-Communist Left”  for the last 15 years until today: It represents both parts of the “service class” that had been closely linked with state socialism as well as groups of the population that had benefited especially from the old system (workers of the traditional industries, the “reconstruction” generation). An additional characteristics of many (not all) parties in this group is their “social democratisation” – meaning here mainly the attachment of mutated state parties to the Socialist International (and the “Party of the European Socialists”).

Today, there are among the member parties of the Socialist International (SI) from the five countries of East Central Europe (the four Visegrad states and Slovenia) four Communist successor parties. Only in the Czech Republic did the member party of the SI not emerge from the respective Communist state party. In Poland, next to the Communist successor party, also the Workers’ Union (UP) is member of the SI. Most successor parties from the other East European states (including the Socialist Party of Albania/PSSH/ and the Rumanian Social Democratic Party/PSD/ ) are also members of the former international competitor organisation to the Communist parties.

Next to these mutated social democrats, there is an additional group of successor parties linked together at the European level. The KSČM and the PDS are members of the fraction of the Confederated European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament, and the PDS, moreover, is founding member of the European Left founded in 2004 in Rome. The second Hungarian successor party, the Workers’ Party, is also a member here.

Generally, the left parties successful until today – the characteristic “left” advertises solely their self-image here – in Eastern Europe with very few exceptions   are direct successors of the former state parties. That does not mean, however, that they have remained like they were. They have changed fundamentally on the way to post socialism. They had to weather a deep crisis of adaptation  that grew from a “legitimation and credibility crisis”, from the loss of political power and members or, respectively, financial resources. Some of them had to form anew after the dissolution of the state parties, from its officials and members. Others did not dissolve, but renamed themselves. There exists not a single one of the former Communist state parties that did not change fundamentally after the end of state socialism both in its programme as well as in its organisational structures as well as in the composition of its membership. If we therefore speak of the post-Communist left here, then is meant in no way to overstate the continuity between the former state parties and its successors. It suffices to point at such facts as the former close intertwining of the state parties with the state (and its security apparatuses), their over-dimensional richness as well as the extreme inner-party centralisation (“prohibition of fractions” and party discipline) to understand this difference. Even the most “conservative” KSČM may not be confused with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia between 1970 and November 1989.

This change from all-powerful state parties to “normal” political actors in pluralistic party democracies took place in the various parties at different speeds and with a different level of consequence. In social science literature, the change is being interpreted differently. I only want to point at two approaches. Anna Grymała-Busse speaks of three types of change that she calls, according to the extent of regained governmental capability (or respectively the access to the exercise of governmental power) after 1989, failed, partial or respectively full regeneration. (2003: 158 ff.). This is certainly a relatively simple scheme, given that it is one-dimensional. Somewhat more ambitious are András Bozóki and John Ishiyama, who distinguish, following other criteria, two ways of transformation of the respective parties with respectively different results (2002: chapter 1): either an accelerated programmatic modernisation in the direction of a modern social-democratic profile or, by contrast, a “left retreat”, meaning that the parties occupied themselves more with the defence of their own identity and the internal needs of their membership in the process of systemic change, and which often was also linked to a weakening of the left profile of the party. They use for the results of these different paths two terms: “reformed” or “transmuted”. The two ideal types of parties that ensued were reformed modern left parties or mutated national Communist parties (following their conceptualisation, those parties then drifted from the left to the right). In addition to these true types, there were then still mixed forms (See Table 1.2 on p.8 in their book of 2002).

I will still return to this question of the changed programmatic profile later. Now I am first concerned with the analysis of the changing organisational structure of the parties, who have generally engaged in the following common direction: away from the command structures called “democratic centralism”, in the direction of decentralised, more strongly pluralistic structures.

Bozóki and Ishiyama see the two paths of programmatic change as being linked with respectively different consequences for organisational development: the modernising parties of East Central Europe are typically more strictly led and stand under the clear influence of pragmatic and moderate reformers in the leadership of the party. The membership and the organisational structures, by contrast, are of less significance for the political orientation of the party. This new form of centralisation can be shown for the Hungarian socialists (MSzP), the Polish successor party SLD and the Slovak SDL. That can be explained in part by the fact that there had ensued a dramatic reduction in membership in these parties after the end of state socialism,   being caused by the specificity of the transition from almighty state party to normal democratic party. In all three parties, after a renaming or new foundation (MSzP, in October 1989; SLD, in January 1990; or SLD, in May 1991), all members had to get registered afresh.  Although in this way as well, a clear democratisation of the inner-party structures and a decentralisation of the decision making processes can be noted in comparison with the time of state socialism before 1989, meaning an increase in the weight of the membership and of the lower level of the party organisation, this in no way led to the domination of the membership or the local organisations vis-à-vis the central leadership of the parties. Markowski in his analysis of the Polish case, for instance, talks about a well-organised oligarchical group of party leaders (Kwasniewski, Oleksy, Miller) who conducted the party firmly after 1990 and states that the central party apparatus always exercised the control over the membership (Markowski in Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002: 59). In the Hungarian party as well, the crisis of adaptation was overcome, after the electoral defeat of 1990, by the energetic leadership of a small group of party leaders (and G. Horn) which – relatively  uninfluenced by the various stands held by the members, pushed through a social-democratic party profile in order to obtain a recognition by the SI. (Bozóki 2002: 98 f.)

Compared to that type of change, the influence of the membership and their local organisations on the programmatic development was clearly greater in what they called in the “transmuted” parties, as well as in various intermediate types. That also had its reason in that the number of members had dwindled less quickly during the crisis of 1989. Moreover, the leaderships were partly paralysed or at least not so free in their decisions as a result of the continuing confrontations between pragmatics, modernisers, conservatives and traditionalists. Moreover, the conservative leaderships forged alliances with the traditionally inclined majority in the membership. 

Handl (2002) distinguishes four groupings in the KSČM, which according to him, fought for the guidance of party polices since the beginning of the system change and the loss of power of the party: reformists (in particular around the chairman of that time, Jiří Svoboda), conservatives, neo-Communists (around the first deputy chairman Miroslav Ransdorf) and the majority of the membership with its traditionalist inclinations. The reformist leadership group had lost its influence, however, already in 1993 and had been excluded from the party. In the PDS as well, there has repeatedly emanated a restraining influence on the reformers at the top of the party from certain groups of traditionally-minded members. 

The dependency (continuity) between the former parties and those of today, thus, shows mainly in part of the membership. It exists less at the level of the leading personnel, while it must be noted that the last-named continuity is the greatest among the reform parties of late state socialism, meaning the Polish and the Hungarian successor parties.  This is paradoxical only at first sight. Looked at more closely, the change on the leading floor in these parties has taken place earlier, so that the breaking off of leading personnel in the immediately last phase of the regime had to be less pronounced than in parties that had started to move only relatively late.

This much on organisational change and on changes in the leading group or rather the membership of these parties. Now follow a few remarks on their programmatic change. The most important areas of politics, in which these parties have been successfully active since their victory in their post-socialist crisis of adaptation may be summarised as follows: confrontation over the concrete shaping of economic reforms, over the respective way into “Europe” (meaning into the EU) as well as the place of national interests in that context, the conflict over the history of the past order (mainly as far as the members of the parties in question were concerned by these themselves; meaning as reactions to purges and various forms of conflicts over the special responsibility of members of the Communist Parties for violence and breaches of law before 1989), conflicts over the shaping of the relationship between church and state or respectively the influence of religion and the churches on schools and concrete questions of ways of life such as rights to abortion rights and to homosexual partnerships etc.

The two different forms of change of the successor parties distinguish themselves of course mainly with respect to programmatic change: When the parties have been isolated for a longer period in their societies and on the defensive, or respectively not able to master their identity and existential crisis for a longer period, then questions of the confrontation with their state socialist history shift into the centre of their politics. Parties practice a kind of navel gazing, act rather as milieus rather than as actors of the political change of their societies. Their influence at elections limits itself to parts of the former membership of the state parties. They are, in these situations, too much occupied with the “search for the time lost” before 1989. (Muránsky) On this path, their membership and their voters become ever older. These parties risk degeneration into generation (pensioner) parties.

The reformed parties are politically more active. However, there surfaces in the analysis of their policy the urgent question, to what extent they can still be considered “left”? We can find various answers to that in the social science literature. I will limit myself to the characterisation that Radoslav Markowski has given with respect to the Polish SLD: On the one hand, this party in a self-evaluation of the members on a right-left scale is, in its majority, located on the left. In 1991, 77% of the members questioned considered it a left party; in 1997, they were even 82%. Among the voters of the SLD, this ascription of the party to the left camp was even somewhat more pronounced. (Markowski 2002: 71). However, the left character of a party of course follows from its policy in times when it takes over governmental responsibility. Here, the placement according to Markowski, at least for the time between 1993 and 1997, turns out somewhat less unambiguous. Of course, the SLD has conducted left policies in the socio-cultural area (with reference to such disputed questions such as the shaping of the abortion law and the position towards the Catholic Church); in the socio-economic area, by contrast, the party has moved from a more strongly socially protectionist policy in the direction of a pro-market economy orientation. (Ibid.: 67)   Such a change in policy, in the Polish case – as frequently also in other countries – is linked to the fact that the governments of the successor parties, at the end of the election period, have lost a lot of their influence on the original voters and are “voted out”. Why this is so, however, is not being considered in the analysis cited.

An interesting interpretation of that balance is found in a recent conference contribution by the US American political scientist Thomas A. Baylis (2005: 15-16). He points to the fact that during the governmental period of the successor parties in the 90s, the living standard of the population sank, unemployment frequently rose significantly (this holds at least for Poland and Slovakia), and on the whole, there developed an ever-increasing gap in between winners and losers of the economic transformation. This was, following his interpretation, however, not the result of a free political decision by the politicians of the successor parties, but resulted from the pressure of strong external actors. In the beginning, there was an effect, for instance, from the political pressure of the international creditors on the most indebted countries of Eastern Europe; later on, it was supplemented by the pressure of the EU institutions in the course of Poland’s joining to the European Union. A certain economic and budgetary policy was not only strongly suggested to the corresponding governments of the candidate countries, but it was clearly demanded from them as a condition of membership. If the post-Communist successor parties ruled, they had to make themselves advocates of this pressure. There was very little room for manoeuvre – according to Baylis.

However, when the post-Communist successor parties were not the most hands-on representatives of the loser groups of the post-socialist reforms, other parties took over this function. József Bayer points to the fact that in Hungary, there often opened up an abyss between the self-declared political identity of the parties and the real orientation of their policy; the left socialists often stood for right-wing economic demands, the right-wing Hungarian Citizens’ Union (Fidesz) in the public advocated a left-wing, protectionist economic and social policy, at least, when it did not rule at the moment.

When the successor parties do not fill the need for a left politics, other actors fill the gap. In a number of countries, populist groupings give a voice to the protest of the groups that are the poorest and the most threatened by social decline. As the last two elections in Poland show, right-wing parties profile themselves in a populist way and tie this stratum of voters to them. The party “Law and Justice” (PiS) that won the elections in September 2005 managed to do that, because it had decided to play out  the “social card” against its most important competitor, the liberal Citizens’ Platform (PO). Lang (2005: 2) characterises the politics of the PiS as “socio-patriotic traditionalism with a strongly étatistic imprint”. Aside from that, the votes of the losers of the Polish Turn were attracted by the extremist and populist movements League of the Polish Families (LPR) and Self-Defence (SO). All this became possible also because the Polish “post-Communists”, mainly the SLD, on the one hand, did not even try to represent the interests of the losers of the transformation, on the other hand, by way of the corruption affairs of some of its politicians, precisely among some of the poorer women and men citizens, had gambled away part of their previous moral credit. As a result, the party crashed in the favour of the voters, between 2001 and 2005, from 41% to 11%. The PiS rose from roughly 10 to 27&.

Also in the case of other successor parties, who were able to shape politics after 1989, meaning that they were enlisted in governments (and hence in the process of privatisation), such enrichment and corruption affairs appear ever again. Such affairs were central in the voting out of government of the Bulgarian BSP in the anticipated re-elections of 1997, they influenced the defeat of the Slovak SDL in 2002 that made the party factually disappear, and they also played a role in the replacement of the Hungarian socialists (MSzP) in the elections of 1998. For the rest of it, the last governmental crisis of the Czech social democrats in 2005 was also triggered by allegations of corruption against the prime minister and party chairman. He finally had to resign, which meant that the prime minister changed three times in a year in that country.

If these parties really want to be left, then they must sharpen their social profile more strongly in the future, because one may, with Oskar Lafontaine, very well consider as left “the defence of the socially weak” (taz survey of September 10, 2005).  The affairs mentioned show, however, how the parties concerned, at least in part and in certain periods, act as a sort of clientele relationship network for the advantage of one’s own group. In some cases, they also bridge the gap in between winners and losers of the transformation processes by social populism, without, however, pushing through a corresponding interest equilibration after the election.

To conclude, let us present an overview once more on how successful these parties are in the political competition with other parties and why they could not win against some others. Are there general reasons for that?

How successful are these parties? If one measures success by governmental participation, then the successors of the state parties since 1989 have at least been more successful than had been surmised initially. They were not all back there immediately, but – with some exceptions – repeatedly represented in governments, yes, have even dominated some of them from the point of view of contents. In Hungary, Slovenia and in a couple of other countries, they will have good chances for success also in the future. Whether, and if yes, when the SLD will be successful again in Poland, seems open to me in light of the catastrophic defeat in 2005. I guess, however, that the ten years of the rise of the successor party have brought forth enough potential for action, so as to make such a recovery finally possible. In the Czech Republic, a victory for the Left depends on whether practical political bridges can be built between ČSSD and KSČM.

This electoral result up to now (see the Table in the appendix) was based on different prerequisites (compare among other things Grzymała-Busse 2003: 162 ff.): on the one hand, they could rely on the rich organisational and cultural resources that they had brought along from state socialism and were in a position to adapt to the basically changed conditions after 1989 – in this way, they had an unambiguous advantage at the start over the new parties not yet well anchored in the population and not well equipped with organisational resources (this advantage was especially large in societies with the late start of the political opening of state socialism such as Albania, Bulgaria, and Rumania);
On the other hand, there acted the logic of the party competition, where in the next elections, the shortcomings and mistakes of the ruling parties always advantage the strongest forces of the oppositional camp (this advantage, in the second elections, acted to the benefit of those successor parties that had failed in the first elections, for instance, in Poland in 1993 and in Hungary 1994).

In all countries, there exist good general chances for left politics; mainly in the form of widespread needs for social protection, for security, for solidarity.

However, everywhere, there must, nevertheless, within the Left parties, be they in the camp of the successors of the Communist state parties or in parties with different provenance, still be determined in an intensive political debate, how today, under the current conditions of “post-Communist” capitalism (Michael Ehrke), a real and not only symbolic and nostalgic left policy could look like.

Appendix:

1) Literature:

- Thomas Baylis: Embattled Executives: Prime Ministerial Weakness in East Central Europe, paper prepared for delivery at the VIIth World Congress of the International Council for Central and East European Studies, Berlin, Germany, July 25-30, 2005 (marked as “work in progress”)
- András Bozóki: The Hungarian Socialists. Technocratic Modernization or New Social Democracy?, in: Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002: pp. 89-115.
- András Bozóki/John T. Ishiyama (eds.): The Communist Successor Parties after 1989, in: Ekiert/Hanson 2003, pp. 157-181.
- Michael Ehrke: Das neue Europa. Ökonomie, Politik und Gesellschaft des ‚post-kommunistischen Kapitalismus’ (The new Europe. Economy, politics, and society of ‚post-Communist capitalism’). FES Bonn: Internationale Politikanalyse, Europäische Politik, September 2004.   
- Grzegorz Ekiert/Stephen E. Hanson (eds.): Capitalism and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Assessing the Legacy of Communist Rule, Cambridge 2003.
- Karl-Heinz Gräfe: Was ist aus Osteuropas Staatsparteien geworden? In Polen, Ungarn und Tschechien: sehr unterschiedliche Wege und Ergebnisse (What has become of Eastern Europe’s state parties? In Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic: very different ways and results), Disput, October 1999. http://sozialisten.de/politik/publikationen/disput/View_html?zid=1986&BS=1&N=6.
- Vladmir Handl: Die Tschechische Kommunistische Partei: orthodoxes Fossil oder erfolgreiche neo-kommunistische Protestpartei? (The Czech Communist Party: orthodox fossil or successful neo-Communist protest party?) FES. Politikinformation Osteuropa, 105, Bonn 2002.
- Tamás Krausz: Aufstieg und Niedergang der Selbstverwaltung in Osteuropa (Rise and fall of self-administration in Eastern Europe), in: Rückkehr nach Europa? Die geistig-politische Dimension des ost-mitteleuropäischen Umbruchsprozesses seit 1989 (Return to Europe? The intellectual-political dimension of the East-Central European transformation process since 1989), Contributions to a conference of the Brandenburg Regional Centre for Political Education, edited by Hans Misselwitz and Dieter Segert, Potsdam 1997, pp. 88-104.
- Kai Olaf Lang: Machtwechsel in Warschau. Kurswechsel in der Außenpolitik? (Turnover in Warsaw. Change of course in foreign policy?), Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin, SWP-Aktuell 53 (December 2005).
- Csilla Machos/Dieter Seger: Überraschende politische Erfolge postkommunistischer Parteien in Deutschland und Ungarn: Parallelen und Unterschied (Surprising political results of post-Communist parties in Germany and Hungary: Parallels and Differences), in: Geplanter Wandel, ungeplante Wirkungen. Handlungslogiken und – ressourcen im Prozess der Transformation (Planned Change, Unplanned Effects. Logics of Actions and Resources in the Process of Transformation), WZB- Yearbook 1995, ed. by I. Rudolph under collaboration of D. Simon. Berlin: Edition Sigma, pp. 216-229.
- Radoslaw Markowski: The Polish SLD in the 1990s. From Opposition to Incumbents and Back, in: Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002, pp. 51-88.
- Alina Mungiu-Pippidi: The Romanian Post-communist Parties. A Story of Success, in: Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002, pp. 51-88.
- Martin Muránsky: Die Marginalisierung der Linken in der slowakischen Parteienlandschaft (The marginalisation of the Left in the Slovakian party landscape), FES. Internationale Politikanalyse, Bonn, April 2004.  
- Dieter Segert: The PDS. Regional Party or a Second Social-Democratic Party in Germany?, in: Bozóki/Ishiyama 2002, pp. 166-187.

2) Electoral results of left parties in some countries of Eastern Europe after 1989

(data in percent of the valid votes at parliamentary elections)

Country/Party1st elections2nd3rd4th5th6th
Poland/SLD1220274111
Poland/UP275(together with SLD)4
Czech Republic /KSČM1314101119
Czech Republic/ČSSD47263230

Slovakia/KSS

Slovakia/SDL

Together: 13

1

15

in KSV: 10

3

15

6

1

Slovakia/SMERn.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.14
Slovakia/ZRSn.a.n.a.7--
Slovakia/SDSS24in alliance KSV: 10in alliance SDK: 26-
Slovakia/SOPn.a.n.a.n.a.8-
Slovakia/SDAn.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.1
Hungary/MSzP11333342
Hungary/MP4342
Rumania/FSN-FSDN-PDSR-PSD6628223737
Rumania/PSM-321-
Bulgaria/BSP-KB(after 97)473344221731
Bulgaria/BE---61-
Slovenia/ZLSD171491210
Slovenia/SSS53---
Croatia/SDP356941 (with others)23 (with Partners)
Russia/KPRF12222413
Russia/APR84-4
Russia/ZR852-

Dates of parliamentary elections:
Poland: 1991, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005;
Czech Republic: 1990 and 1992 in ČSFR, 1996, 1998, 2002;
Slovakia: 1990 and 1992 in ČSFR, 1996, 1998, 2002;
Hungary: 1990; 1994, 1998, 2002;
Romania: 1990, 1992, 1996, 2002, 2004;
Bulgaria: 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2005;
Slovenia: 1990 (still as Yugoslav Republic), 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004;
Croatia: 1990 (still as Yugoslav Republic), 1992, 1995, 2000, 2003;
Russia: 1993, 1995, 1999, 2003.
Explanations of party names:
Poland: SLD: Democratic Left party (first party alliance, then party); UP: Workers’ Union
Czech Republic: KSČM: Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia; ČSSD: Social democrats
Slovakia: SMER: Direction (since December 2004: SMER-SD); ZRS: Association of the Workers’ of Slovakia; SDSS: Slovakian Social Democrats; SOP: Party of Citizens’ Understanding (1998-2003, then dissolved); SDA: Social democratic alternative (2002 to 2004, then renamed in SMER-SD)
Hungary: MSzP: Hungarian Socialists; MP: Workers’ Party (since 12/1/05: Communist Workers’ Party)
Rumania: FSN: National Salvation Front; FSDN: National Democratic Salvation Front (since 1992); PDSR: Party of Social Democracy (since 1993); PSD (since 2000): Social democracy, PSM: Socialist Party of Labour  
Bulgaria: KB: Coalition for Bulgaria (Main partner: BSP, also BSD – Bulgarian Social Democrats); BE: Bulgarian Euro-Left
Slovenia: ZLSD: United List of Social Democrats, SSS: Socialist Party of Slovenia
Croatia: SDP: Social democracy
Russia: APR: Agrarian Party; ZR: Women’s Party of Russia; NPS: Rodina (Fatherland – National-Patriotic Union).

Translated by Carla Krüger, March 16, 2006