East European Quarterly, XXXIX, No. 3 September 2005

Page created by Herman Rogers
East European Quarterly, XXXIX, No. 3
September 2005


                           Erhan BUyiikakinci
                          Galatasaray University

      The collapse of communism across the Central and Eastern Europe
was one of the final manifestations of a worldwide spread of democrati-
zation over a period of twenty years that began with South Europe in
 1974, then continued in Latin America in the 1980s and subsequently
moved on to Eastern Asia in the late 1980s and 1990s. Political scientists
devoted much effort to account for the timing and modalities of the
changes of political regimes and the structural conditions and dynamic
processes that made possible this "third wave of democratization," as it
is called by S. Huntington. Much of the research in political science is
still influenced by an almost exclusive concern with the consolidation of
basic parameters of democratic regime in the democracies of Third
Wave. The debate on the role of political regimes (parliamentarism or
presidentialism) for the development of the new democracies may estab-
lish correlations between executive-legislative institutional designs and
durability of democratic values, but our work aims here not to discuss
the typology of regimes in the new democracies, but to concentrate on
the transformation of political discourse within the post-ideological tran-
sition process. Within this aspect, the study of the change in the political
discourse of the former communist parties during the post-Cold War era
will no doubt present the empirical originality of the post-Communist
transition. For this purpose, this article focuses on identifying the adap-
tation process of the communist successor parties during the post-
communist transition and seeks to investigate the extent to which their
discourse have changed over time, particularly in accordance with the
external factors (or systemic variables).
      The new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have
avoided the rise to power of non-liberal forces and, in spite of wide-
spread cynicism and corruption, there is a growing consensus regarding

368                     EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

the desirability of markets, free media, and pluralist institutions. How-
ever the situation differs from country to country; the transitions seem to
turn out to be more difficult and problematic in the south-eastern part of
Europe, especially in Romania and Bulgaria, during the 1990s.
     As many observers of democratic transitions have noted, the suc-
cess of democratization in these countries depends on the promotion of
political moderation within the major political parties; here, the former
communist parties are playing a vital role in conditioning the scope and
the development of politics in these new democracies, with their organ-
izational assets and political discoiu-ses in the face of current socio-
economic challenges of post-commimist transition since 1989.

Linkage between the Discourses of Foreign Policy and Political Parties:
Theoretical Assumptions and Methodological Issues
      When political scientists aim to analyse the outcomes of foreign
policy within the decision-making process, they often take into account
the discourse and decisions of the political powers. Even though the
ruling bodies find their legitimacy and ideological sources within the
structures and components of their national political culture, the leaders
and the political bodies in govemment give such a direction to the for-
eign policy outputs of the State, by considering officially its environ-
mental circumstances, but from a different status. The political parties'
activities and discourse on the foreign policy themes are studied within
the framework of "societal variables" of Rosenau's scientific study of
foreign policy.!
      Rosenau and his disciples observe the role of the political parties
considered as independent agents of the political culture at the level of
societal variables.^ The political culture comprises the analysis of the
traditions, historical perspectives and expectations, perceptions at socie-
tal level; within the democratic context, the political parties as structures
emerged from the social realities and mosaics try to represent the sensi-
tivity, expectations and interests of the social strata on a legally pre-
defined basis and to develop them into a special "political rhetoric."
Even though the discourses ofthe political parties in opposition seem to
be more independent than those of the ruling parties and could contain
radical elements of criticism, Rosenau and his disciple study the struc-
tural differences between the parties in power and in opposition with
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                       369
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different levels of analysis. The correlation between the political parties
as foreign policy makers and the concept of power (govemment) influ-
ences directly the levels of analysis, because the political discourse of a
"ruling party" does not reflect only the interests of the social strata that it
represents electoral ly, but also the special interests of the public institu-
tions and the bureaucracy.
     Trying to express and to integrate the interests, expectations and
objectives of the circles of popular mass or cadre within their political
discourse, the political parties should be studied as the independent
societal agents of the process of foreign policy-making. However when
they arrive the power after elections or other legitimate means, they are
defined as governmental actors with their restrained rhetoric, which
should be suitable for the survival cause of the State logic within the
specific pre-defmed institutional norms and traditions. The niling parties
as governmental variables should perceive the foreign policy inputs in an
officially restricted environment and use specific channels of informa-
tion approved by the bureaucratic mechanisms; meanwhile they have the
responsibility to represent and to orient the State interests as full
decision-makers, by excluding the private expectations of the electorate
strata from which they have found the source of their political legiti-
macy. Within this status, all the private interests and expectations should
be left in favour of public objectives and the autonomy of the political
discourse and the radical tendencies that it could include become limited
by the general conceptions in the State language.
      In this work, we will take into consideration the political parties that
manage to become governmental actors. Within this context, our study
will focus only on the neo-communist parties that were in power. The
transformation of their political discourse will be observed in the light of
systemic variables, because our problematic concentrates on the reasons
of this change in discourse and organization during the post-communist
transition era. We ask these following questions in order to guide our
problematic: is the liberalization of the political culture influenced by the
external factors? Are all the post-communist parties independent within
this new period of transformation? What is the change in the communist
tones of their political discourses: social-democratization or radicaliza-
tion? Could the change in party organizations be considered independent
from the domestic circumstances? To answer all these questions, we
choose as our primary actor the communist successor parties in the CEE
370                     EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

geography, but at the beginning we should underline that all the commu-
nist successor parties did not adopt such "neo-communist tone" to
reform their infrastructures and to win the elections.
      During the post-communist transition, the direct links of the politi-
cal parties with their potential electorate are shaped by their ideological
sources within the economic and cultural sub-cultures. The change in
parties' discourse reflects no doubt the process of evolution within the
political culture; this trend represents the real aspects of the democrati-
zation in the country. On the other side, this change has a very important
meaning for the political elites, which find their own legitimacy on the
basis of these discourses. Perceived as the main decision-makers at top
level, the party elites and leaders define themselves how to draw the
limits of these discourses and represent the party's interests by general-
izing the expectations of their members. As the party elites take part in
an institutionalized process of decision-making, the party discourse
should unavoidably include the governmental arguments and be open to
all proposals. With the importance of systemic variables within the post-
communist transition period, the elected governments could not act
freely in their domestic and foreign policies' outputs. For the CEE
countries, the imposition of Copenhagen criteria for the EU integration
could be given as a very spectacular example to explain how the anti-
reformist parties could not be totally free in their strategies.
      The political regimes, living such process of transition, are always
open to systemic infiuences. In a model of analysis, where each level
translates its field of activity with its own means and tries to restructure
its own policy inputs and outputs, it is very understandable to accept the
interaction between the levels. However, as Rosenau suggests in his
theoretical assumptions, the autonomization of each level in its own field
of specialization is an unavoidable priority for the independent character
of the State-actor whose foreign policy acts will be the matter of analy-
sis. If the State-actor is unlikely to produce independently its own
decisions and acts, it could not be studied theoretically for empirical
purposes in Rosenau's work. With the democratization of the political
life and the administrative stabilization of the State, each level (system,
society, government, bureaucracy, and leaders) will clearly define its
own scope of legitimacy and functions and differ in its activities for the
foreign policy-making process. In Rosenau's theoretical conclusion, this
differentiation puts into agenda the "foreign policy strategies," by taking
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                     IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

into consideration the degree of infiuence and frequency of each level
during the decision process.^ As a result, the openness of the political
regimes in structural transformation necessitates that each actor should
give a relative answer to the systemic expectations, by admitting its own
restructuring. Within this aspect, the political elites and leaders in power
are confronted with the conditionality to redefine their political envi-
ronment in order to adapt the State interests into the models of alliance at
international level and not to provoke a crisis of legitimacy in domestic
     While observing the political dimension of the post-communist
transition, it is possible to consider the change of the political parties
both in theirs infrastructures and in their discourses between two poles:
liberalization or radicalization. The liberalizing parties are slipping
toward the centre during the post-ideological transformation, while the
parties representing the orthodox leanings prefer to adopt the extremist
perspectives. Within this aspect, the correlation between the change of
discourses of political parties and the systemic variables could be
explained as a model of open-closed relationship; as the centre parties
have more relaxed tones toward the external dynamics, the conservative
structures expose reactionary tendencies against the initiatives from the
international system. As a result, this model of correlation could be
better observed within the stage of transformation of the discourse of the
political parties, which assume executive responsibility in the State
apparatus after being elected to govern the country. It is very likely to
witness that many actors, efficient with their own capacities in the politi-
cal system, would not be excluded from the post-ideological transforma-
tion process. However, the desire to be included within the power
mechanism necessitates unavoidably the transformation of the political
discourse according to the systemic realities. Even afier the end of the
Cold War, the systemic variables (external factors) have showed very
well their ambitions to intervene in the transition modalities of the coun-
tries in post-socialist researches by proposing technical assistance and
financial aids; by this means, they demonstrate that they would not
authorize the proper liberalization of the former Eastern bloc's countries
out of their own control. The presentation of special economic means
(foreign aid policies, foreign investment movements, foreign trade rela-
tions, economic integration opportunities, advantages on customs union,
etc.) by the Western countries create certain advantages for the ruling
372                     EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

forces which concern directly the social tensions due to the economic
liberalization policies, but the imposition of conditionality of the eco-
nomic assistance modalities on the progress of democratization for the
CEE countries made more efficient this logic of control-infiuence
according to the perspectives of Western countries.

The Post-Communist Transition after the Velvet Revolutions
and its Implications on the Neo-Communist Parties in Central
and Eastern Europe
     As it is very likely to find in every work on the post-communist
transition in CEE, we can present such a typology of post-ideological
transformation: a) the Central European countries with successful
democratic experiments where political parties, free media, markets,
civil society formations and independent legal structures have developed
with positive results; b) the Eastern European countries with protracted
and gradualized transitions where the presence of former communists
and neo-populists, and the weakness of pluralist forces have prevented
the rapid economic, legal and political reforms; c) the quasi-democracies
with strong authoritarian potential continuous attempts to control the
freedom of information, strong neo-Communist formations and a
controlled judiciary system.'' There is a direct linkage between the
typology of democratic transition and the development of party
discourses; within the restructuring of the political regime, all the actors
of the political culture at national level are no doubt under infiuence and
need to revise their own outputs or to adopt reforms in order to adapt
themselves to the expectations of the civil society.
      Opting for semi-presidential regimes with their constitutional
amendments in the mid-1990s, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania have
differed their political and state restructuring from the other countries of
CEE from the point of view of the election of presidents by universal
suffrage. Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia have preferred to continue the
unicameral legislative system, while the remaining states have bicameral
systems. Within this diversity of constitutional organs in CEE, the
political parties have remained the main sources of the political
discourses to guide the State apparatus and the needs of civil society.
      Just after the revolutions of 1989, we witness an outbreak of
political parties in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) geography.
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                       373
                     IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

For example, about forty parties had participated to the elections of 1991
in Bulgaria, while twenty-nine parties entered in the Polish Sejm after
the 1990 elections. With the exception of the Czech Communist Party
(KSCM), all the Communist parties in CEE have decided to change their
name. The major part of communist successor parties was reasserting
themselves during the first period from 1992 until 1996, while they were
in a relative decline between 1996 and 2000. From the late 1990s, it is
possible to witness again the ascension of some of them, in parallel with
the decline of liberal or neo-conservative parties due to their failure in
socio-economic policies.
      In this work, we prefer to concentrate only the lower houses of the
legislatures, when focusing on the results of legislative elections. The
political success or the communist successor parties will be defmed
within the framework of their percentage of vote and seat shares in the
legislative elections. Focusing on lower house elections could be
justified for two purposes; first, not all of the emerging constitutional
orders in CEE are identical, and secondly, as we have just noted, some
of the CEE countries have bicameral systems. This framework of
analysis could thus facilitate the comparison of various cases. However,
we should underline that some examples have semi-presidential systems,
where a relatively powerful and directly elected executive exists like in
Poland, Romania and Bulgaria and that the executive power has sought
some accommodation with the lower house of parliament. At this point,
we should note that the presidential elections do not reflect directly the
electoral performance of the political parties, because the impact of
individual factors becomes very important from the point of view of
voters, who prefer to choose their president as an executive leader, not as
a representative ofthe political parties; here, the electorate attitudes tend
to consider mostly the weight of political character ofthe leaders within
the party, not the direct representation of the political party within the
political system.
      Before analysing the change of communist successor parties in
political discourse and structures, we should have a look on their elector-
al performance during the post-Communist transition era. The following
table helps us very well to observe the changing face of the electoral
trends towards the communist successor parties for the legislatures.
374                          EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

                  Changes in Vote for Neo-Communist Parties
  in Central and Eastern European Countries' Legislatures (Lower Chambers)*
Countries                Elections 1   Elections 2   Elections 3    Elections 4   Elections 5
Bulgaria                    1990         1991            1994          1997         2001
Bulgarian Socialist        47.15%       33.14%         43.42%          22%          17.1%
Party BSP (Bulgarska                                 (Coalition
Socialisticheska                                      of Demo-
partiia)                                             cratic Left)
Czech Republic              1992          1996           1998         2002
Czech and Moravian         14.1%         10.3%          11%           18.5%
Communist Party /
K S C M (Komunistick4
Strana £ech a Morava)
Hungary                     1990         1994          1998            2002
Hungarian Socialist        10.89%       32.99%        32.92%          42.1%
Party MSzP - Magyar
Szocialista Part
Poland (Sejm)               1991          1993          1997           2001
Coalition of Democ-        11.48%        20.4%         27.1%           41%
ratic Left Alliance /                                  + 4.7%
Union of Labour-
Koalicja Sojuszu
Lewicy Demok-
ratycznej i Unii Pracy
Polish Peasant Party -     8.67%         15.4%          7.3%            9%
Polskie Stronnietwo
Ludowe PSL
Romania                     1990          1992          1996           2000
Romanian Social            66.31%        27.72%        21.5%          36.6%
Democratic Party /
Democratiei Sociale
din Romania (National
Salvation Front in
National Salvation
Front in 1992)
Slovakia                    1992          1994          1998           2002
Communist Party of          0.8%          2.7%          2.8%           6.3%
(Komunisticka strana
Slovak Democratic          14.7%         10.4%          14.7%          1.4%
Left Party SDL (Strana
' www.electionworld.org.
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                       375
                     IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

The Communist Successor Parties Back to Power in the
Post-Communist Period: Reasons of Political Success
     Westem reports on the first pluralist elections at the beginning of
the 1990s in Central Europe were headlined as the defeat ofthe left and
the victorious centre-right wing parties also thought that the left was
basically dead and had no future in the long run. For them, this repre-
sented the end not only of communism, but also of all the left currents.
However, this perception was the product of such euphoria over the col-
lapse of communism in CEE; in reality, this assessment was contradicted
both in society and in the political life. Taken together with the other left
votes in the Hungarian 1990 legislative elections, the overall ofthe left
was well over 20%, and considering the large block of non-voters, it was
potentially stronger. In the 1994 elections, the MSzP won the majority
and held 54% of the mandates in the parliament, by forming a coalition
with the Free Democrats, together holding a 72% majority in the legis-
lature. It is possible to witness the similar trend in Poland where the
electorate has voted for the left-wing parties (SLD+PSL) over 20% in
the first post-communist elections in 1991 and the SLD-PSL coalition
obtained more than 35% ofthe votes in the 1993 legislative elections.
      In comparison with their Central European partners, the communist
successor parties in Eastem Europe have showed a different trend of
political success, by conserving their electoral popularity just after the
Velvet Revolutions and losing the popular support in the midst of 1990s.
In Romania, the neo-communists lost the power only between the 1996
and 2000 elections both at legislative and presidential levels; however
this situation seems to be different in Bulgaria where the neo-communist
kept the power until the 1997 elections and had a declining trend of
electoral support at the end ofthe 1990s.
     Most of the literature on the communist successor parties has
focused on why these parties made a political comeback in the 1990s.
For J. Ishimaya, two explanations could be put forward to answer why
the successors of the formerly dominant communist parties have
retumed to the political scene. The first one, as he labels the "intemalist
perspective," contends that the communist successor parties have suc-
ceeded because of organizational adaptations in the newly competitive
environment. Within this aspect, the nature of the previous regime
affected the ability of the communist successor parties to adapt to new
political circumstances. As stronger institutions with a longer organiza-
376                     EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

tional continuity, the successor parties are likely to have inherited at
least some of their predecessors' membership, organizational networks
and material resources together with some pre-existing levels of party
identification among particular segments of the electorate.
      The second approach, lahelied as the "externalist perspective,"
holds that the relative political success of these parties has been due to
the features of the political environment, particularly the "nostalgia fac-
tor" and the structure of competition facing the successor parties. In
Ishiyama's analysis, the intemalist perspective holds that the more
liberal and internally pluralist the previous communist regime, the more
likely that a reform leadership took the control of the party; these
reformist leaders have had to adopt the conditions of democratic compe-
tition and to impose new infrastructures within their parties.^ For some
authors, the level of tolerance within the previous regimes for the inter-
nal competition and of bureaucratic institutionalization explained the
success of the parties perceived as the model of "traditional mass party"
like the SLD in Poland and the MSzP in Hungary.^ Some authors sug-
gest that another model of communist successor parties with associations
of sympathisers run by a political elite and a professional party apparatus
as organizations providing political services to a constituted electoral
clientele; for this model. Roper gives the example of PSDR in Romania.'
      The nostalgia factor is used for explanation by some scholars of the
success of the former communist parties; the argument that the decline
of living standards during the transition period made many people yearn
for a return to a more secure past, hence increasing the degree of elec-
toral support for the communist successor parties.^ In the face of the
uncertainties generated by the rapid political and economic changes or of
the great frustration with the "failures" of the market reform efforts, the
electorate has showed some increasing nostalgia and greater political
 support for the conununist successor parties, like in Romania and Bul-
garia with the last elections.
      For some countries in this geography, the key explanation for the
political success of the communist successor parties has been the lack of
real competition facing them; from this perspective, their electoral
 success is due to their organizational characteristics than to the lack of
effective competition posed by parties that occupied the same ideologi-
 cal space and many of them constitute such a structural monopoly within
the left wing of the political systems in CEE. As the other party struc-
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                     3 77
                     IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

tures emerge in the same ideological space, the chance of the communist
successor parties to justify the legitimacy of their political discourse
decreases, as seen in the case of the K S C M vis-i-vis the CSSD in Czech

TTie Organizational Changes in the Communist Successor Parties
     The organizations built by the CEE political parties in the early
years of the post-communist rule appear to have been shaped far more
by the needs of political elites than by the popular interests. On the other
side, the end of the communist system has forced the elite forms of party
organization on the new structures of political party. Party infrastruc-
tures tend to be very lean by Western European standards and do not
approach the expectations of all the social models. Within this context, it
is possible to witness the moving of the CEE political parties toward
small party organizations that favour elite interests over social ones. As
the experience of the post-communist rule, where party membership was
often a pre-requisite for occupational advantages, was not still forgotten
by citizens, this level of political participation became a symbol of
political manipulation. As a result, many communist successor parties
have lost many members since 1989.
      Many researchers have argued that the political formations in CEE
are likely to develop as centralized bodies with a low membership base
and elite leadership groups that play a predominant role. For example, P.
Kopecky notes that the new parties in this geography are likely to
develop as formations with loose electoral constituencies, in which a
relatively unimportant role is played by the party membership and the
dominant role by the party leaders.^ At the same time, there is such a
distinction between the newly established post-transitional parties built
up following the collapse of communism in 1989 and the successor par-
ties that are descended from those permitted under communism and have
a longer organizational continuity. The latter have much chance to be
retained in the political system and are more likely to display a closer
resemblance to the mass party model than the new formations.
      On the other side, the ability to convert communist party resources
into the post-communist ones differs with the organizational advantages
in each CEE countries. Some ex-communist parties were well positioned
378                      EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

to transform their infrastructure with legitimate opportunities by inher-
iting organizational assets.
     Unlike the other current political parties in CEE, the post-commu-
nist parties are not simply the groups of notables of political clubs; they
have a long political tradition and an organizational past, as well as an
infrastructure that sets them apart from most other political parties on the
scene. The success of these parties, especially those in Bulgaria and
Romania, is due to the organizational weakness and incoherence of the
competitors that the communist successor parties face. Here, the exis-
tence of weak competitors explains well why these successor parties
have been successful in post-communist transition. On the other hand,
the internal organization could become a very great advantage for the
success of the former communist parties, as it is the case in Poland and
Hungary; strong organizational resources inherited from the past
undoubtedly contributed to the success of these parties. For the KSCM
as a party with one of the least clientelistic tendency, it is possible to
observe such limited political success in the face of strong left-wing
      Within the framework of many works on different types of party
organizations in the post-communist transition area, one of the main dis-
tinctions is made by Kistchelt: "programmatic" and "clientelistic" par-
ties." As Van Biezen analyses in her article, post-communist parties
have in general resembled the clientelistic party model more than the
programmatic model. "2 She argues that, since the early period of new
democracies, the parties focus on organizing the parliamentary and
governmental institutions and that this initiative leads the parties to con-
centrate their activities around the party office, and so they become less
sensitive to the societal needs.
      When we analyse deeply all the communist successor parties in
CEE, we can observe three categories of development in party dis-
courses and infrastructure:'3

      a) the successor parties with dogmatic (leftist-retreat) strategies
         which embrace the Marxist traditions in orthodox meanings, by
         repudiating the westem-capitalist influence and adopting the
         discourse of anti-system values and anti-market critics (as it is
         the case in Czech Republic);
      b) the successor parties with strategies of "pragmatic reform," at-
         tempting to distance itself critically from the dogmatic Marxism
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                        379

       and trying to define itself as a "European social democratic
       party," but full of technocrats, pragmatists and experts (the
       Polish and Hungarian examples);
    c) The successor parties with a mixture of strategies combining the
       purpose of social democratization and the political nostalgia to
       mobilise the electoral support (such as the Bulgarian and Roma-
       nian neo-communist parties).

      The change in political discourse has taken shape between two
angles: moving progressively towards social democracy or retreating
backwards to communism. This fragmentation could be also analysed
with the differentiation of political approaches on economic measures
(pro-market and anti-market initiatives). For Ishimaya and Bozoki, the
pro-reform and anti-reform discourses include different references,
which have progressively developed within the post-communist transi-
tion. The pro-reform index is constituted with the references to social
democracy, democratic socialism, market economy structures (capital-
ism, privatization, etc.), while the anti-reform index refers to the con-
trolled economy model, socialist values and communism.
      In addition to the reformist indices, Ishimaya and Bozoki develop
another source of index, by taking into account the extent to which the
parties made reference to national and patriotic themes. For these
authors, these themes include any reference to the glorification of the
national values, patriotism, protection of the national culture and tradi-
tions and national unity (idea of integrity). They also develop a
"humanist index," in which they emphasize the appeal on human rights,
intemational cooperation, the respect and adaptation of the European
values; here, it seems that the patriotic vision versus the humanist index
symbolizes the divide between the particularism and the universalism.'*

What is Neo-Communism as Ideology?
The Interpretation for Social-Democratization in Political Discourse
      For a great number of authors, the relative transformation of com-
munist successor parties into the modem social democratic ones could
be identified by the historical features of the social democratic move-
ments in CEE. However we should underline that social democracy in
post-communist Europe occupies a prominent position in some coun-
tries, but there is about a quantite negligeable in most others, because
380                        EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

the social democratic discourses are limited historiographically to West-
em Europe and to the German-speaking countries of Central Europe. In
1948, with the beginning of the Cold War period, the East European
social democracy has ceased to exist and its organizations had been
forced to merge with the ruling communist parties and trade unions.
Especially in the Central European countries, the social democratic
arguments remained present as a set of ideas that foimd expression in
various political currents, from communist revisionism and reformism to
anti-communist opposition.'5 For Gerrits, they bridge the pre-communist
and post-conununist eras; in his work, Gerrits supposed that social
democracy has emerged in CEE countries from three different sources:
      a) the re-founded historical parties of the interwar period;
      b) the reformist currents in the communist parties;
      c) the left-wing of opposition and citizens' movements.
     After 1989, pre-communist party formations have failed to become
major political actors; it is possible to see the only example of a histori-
cal social democratic party, which made a successful reappearance on
the political scene in Czech Republic with the CSSD. However, only the
reformed communist parties became notable political forces after the
Velvet Revolutions, as it is the case in Poland's SLD and PSL and Hun-
gary's MSzP. Even though they lost elections after ruling for one term at
the mid-1990s, they maintained their electoral popularity. The MSzP
won 32.6% of the vote in 1994, 32.9% in 1998 and 42.1% in 2002,
however it loss in parliamentary seats was largely due to the country's
complicated electoral system. The SDL received 20.4% of the popular
vote in 1993, 27.1% in 1997 and 41% in 2001, while the PSL has
showed a changing trend in obtaining the electoral support: 15.4% in
 1993, 7.3% in 1997 and 9% in 2001.
     While observing the changes of the infrastmctures within the com-
munist successor parties, it is possible to argue that the social democratic
tendencies were developed from two perspectives: revisionism and
reformism; these phenomena include in themselves the influences of the
idea of democratic socialism in CEE. For many ex-communists,
"revisionism" was a product of "destalinization" and this represents a
radical change within the party's political discourse, by rejecting the
universal pretensions of Marxism-Leninism after stressing the ethical
and moralistic dimensions of communism. The existence of revisionist
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                      381
                     IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

tendencies could be studied within the Hungarian case in 1956; the grad-
ual changes by the govemments since the late 1960s reinforced with the
Kadar reforms opened up the way to economic decentralization, limited
market orientation, Westem contacts, increased living standards and
reduced political tensions.•* Within the communist successor parties,
there are many discussions on the revision of communist ideas and prac-
tices; by accepting the unreformability of the old communist system,
most revisionists moved beyond the notion of many West European
social democrats that "communism was able to reform: change through
     When revisionism remained largely limited to the sphere of ideas,
reformism was presented as a political action. In terns of ideology and
political cadres, reformism seemed the most obvious element of conti-
nuity between the former communist rule and the post-communist cur-
rents. More technocratic in their approach, the reformists focused on the
modernization of conununism through rationalization of its political and
economic fiinctioning. For Gerrits, the reformism remained practically
limited to the countries of Central Europe.
      In their work, Ishiyama and Bozoki categorize the MSzP, the SDL,
the PSDR and the SLD with their programs concentrated on reform
themes and the KSCM and the BSP which have showed anti-reform
themes appearing in their programs. On the other hand, although both
the PDSR and the MSzP emphasize the reform themes most frequently,
the former refers the national themes far more than does the latter. The
authors add that the PSDR has pursued nationalist, socialist and populist
strategies and the MSzP has adopted a modemizationist and contempo-
rary social democratic understandings, while the K S C M has still the
orthodox communist strategy
      The political image of the party insists that, since its foundation in
 1989, it has been basically "social democratic," but that there were
deficiencies in organization and decision-making which had not disap-
peared entirely by 1998, and that now is the time to finalize the transi-
tion to a "modem left party." There are differences among the European
social democratic parties and it seems that the MSzP leadership aimed to
benefit from the European left parties' experiences. In fact, the MSzP
could not be called a "new party," but under the pressure of the right-
conservative politicians, new strategies should replace the old arguments
to break out the direction. The key objective is here the broad integration
382                      EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

of the often conflicting interests of most social classes: the intelligentsia,
the blue-collar strata, the young people and women. 18
      The success of the redefinition of the left depends on the intemal
procedures and the infrastructure of the party organization. As for many
left parties, the real problem for the MSzP seems to be the "vertical hier-
archical subordination," meaning as the decision-making process im-
plemented by the party leadership excluding the lower levels. However
this reasoning of restriction seems to be understandable because the
ground rules need to be reformed during the post-Communist transition
era and the political cadre should be adapted to the real objectives of the
market economy rules. Within this context, according to Racz's critics,
the socialist reform aspirations in the MSzP are empirically limited by
two restraining factors: resistance by intemal reactionary forces and eco-
nomic policies, which totally depend on extemal factors. The different
factions within the MSzP agree that a new oppositional status should be
adopted as a new political rhetoric with substantial reforms and a new
political image. With these steps, the MSzP won the largest single party
votes in 1998 and in 2002, but it remains weaker than the combined right
forces. For Racz, the socialist renaissance with social democratic tons in
Hungary would depend in long run not only on the intemal development
of the party, but equally on extemal circumstances, especially on the
Fidesz-CP-led coalition's performance and public acceptance.
      In the late 1990s, the dominant world trend is a centrist approach by
both the right and left parties, and the divisions are becoming blurred.
On the Hungarian political stage, some characteristics stand out as being
in sharp contrast. On the basis of empirical data, the MSzP is the real
modernization party, better suited for European integration policy;
ideologically the party is rooted in the internationalist principles of the
Socialist Intemational and the Stockholm declaration. Like in the Euro-
pean ones, the Hungarian socialists seem to include the tolerance of
different views; they are more free from anti-Semitism, less nationalistic,
have a democratic party structure and represent the policy of historical
reconciliation toward the neighbouring countries with Hungarian
      Similarly to other social democratic parties in Westem Europe, one
of the key objectives is to win the support of the young generations.
 Since the founding of the party in 1989, the bulk of membership was
middle aged and older and new members included only a minority of
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                      383
                     IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

younger people.'' At the electorate level, higher age and higher income
in themselves correlate with choosing the MSzP, which means that the
generations that have made career under Communism are behind the
MSzP.2o Apart from the generational question, the "left cause" needs to
be reconstructed within the context of social expectations and discussed
in a wide context with the trade unions and civil society associations; the
centre-right parties could succeed in giving from themselves a new
image closer to civil society and capture voters, who deserted the left
cause, by campaigning on populist platforms.

The Case Study for Pro-Reform Party Structure in Post-Communist
Transition: Hungary's MSzP and the Legacy from the Otd Regime
      Founded in October 1989 as the successor to the MSzMP (Hungar-
ian Socialist Workers Party), the MSzP has proven to be one of the most
electorally successful among the communist successor parties in the
geography of post-Communist transition; it became the governing party
in 1994, by sharing the power with the liberals, although it obtained the
majority within the Parliament. Even with the electoral defeat in 1998
and in 2002, the MSzP received the largest proportion of the popular
vote and remained the largest single party in the Hungarian legislature.
The key to MSzP success has been its ability to adapt itself to the
changing political circumstances and the demands of electoral competi-
      For many analysts, the psychological shock of neo-Iiberal transfor-
mation from reform communism to market economy played an impor-
tant role for the electoral triumph of the left; it is very understandable
that the political pendulum swung back to the left in anticipation of a
slower gradual transition. Even though the victory was very certain for
the socialists, the party president G. Horn called the social reconciliation
and rapprochement, by inviting the Free Democrats to form a coalition
as a political alliance to carry out the bitter task of economic stabiliza-
tion and to strengthen the legitimation of its power.^'
      However the socialists had to pay highly the price of the economic
policies by losing the 1998 elections to the new centre-right coalition.
They have lost the power, but they remained the strongest party and
found themselves in the paradoxical situation of "victory in defeat." For
some authors, the failure in the 1998 elections resulted from the
3 84                    EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

disagreements between the MSzP and its challenger Fidesz (AYD-CP)
on economic issues; this gave advantages to the right wing parties that
combined their powers to form a coalition govemment.22
      It is possible the same electoral image after the 2002 legislative
elections with the MSzP increasing its vote at popular level, but with the
same destiny of "victory in defeat" due to the obtaining of majority by
the right wing parties within the parliament because of the electoral sys-
tem. As a consequence, it is possible to suggest the three-way division of
society between the liberals, the conservative and the left parties. After
the 1998 elections, the shifting of liberal parties toward the conservative
category necessitated the projection of a "new centre forces organiza-
tion," but the Hungarian politics seem to be categorically withdrawn
towards the right and left poles with the accentuation of political
discourse on national elements.
      Its separation from the former MSzMP's philosophical base was not
complete, but the new party has had an experienced leadership and a
nationwide organization. The MSzP claimed to be the heir to progressive
thinking and reform communism with the objective of democratic
socialism; by seeking integration into the westem parties' organizations,
especially with its application for membership status in the Socialist
Intemational, the party leadership aimed to adopt the Westem social
democracy discourse in order to increase its popularity in the society.
After the 1990 elections, the socialists held their second congress, which
settled the identity of the party by distancing itself from the old MSzMP
ideology. From now on, the focus was on a "social democratic orienta-
tion," which opened the way later to potential cooperation with the
liberal parties. With this change in its own political discourse, the MSzP
managed to present itself as the only viable counterweight to the right
wing parties.
      For many authors, the success in ability to adapt itself to post-
Communist process is derived in part from the legacy of the previous
regime, especially the Kadarist period. As A. Agh indicates, the MSzP
was unique in the communist world in that it emerged "before the
collapse of the state socialism" and not after it, unlike all the other ones
renamed and afterwards "reformed parties" of the post-Communist
world.23 The party has benefited from this advantage, because the nature
of the system in Hungary prior to the collapse of state socialism gave
rise to the emergence of a large "Europeanized reform intelligentsia" as
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                    385

well as a mass base within the old MSzMP. As a result, the successor
MSzP found itself well-stocked with individual leaders at both the
national level and in the regions who were endowed with organizational
skills and political expertise. As a result of this early organizational
transformation, the MSzP was also the first of the communist parties to
transform itself into a party of the modem European left wing.24
      It is not only the organizational legacy of the past communist
regime that explains the success of the MSzP. At this point, it would be
reasonable to quote that the nature of the past regime has produced a
relatively stable and moderately fragmented post-communist part sys-
tem; however it does not produce a social democratic alternatives within
the political system. It is very understandable why the MSzP has already
become a social democratic party, and hence monopolized the left wing
of the party spectrum very early on. Without great competition within
the party and with the organizational and personal advantages
bequeathed by the most liberal of the CEE communist systems, it is little
wonder that the MSzP has proved to be the one of the most successful of
the communist successor parties with its well-established intra-party
democratic procedures.25
      It is possible to quote the links between the MSzP and the trade
unions which underline the weight of the party interests on the sensitiv-
ity towards the socio-economic themes. The decentralized structure of
the party has given a very important advantage for the dynamic evolu-
tion of the political rhetorics based on regional realities.26
      At the September 1998 congress, Horn had to confront many critics
against the economic strategy of his government and renounced all his
functions, by saving his parliamentary mandate; the congress elected the
former foreign minister L. Kovacs to the party presidency. The critics
were concentrated on the failure of the economic program (known as
Bokros plan) to deliver fair and socially acceptable results, the attacks
against the ideal of "welfare state" by subservience to the new paradigms
to reduce the welfare programs and the stabilization-modernization bur-
dens; the abandonment of social democratic principles and the failure of
the Horn leadership to successfully interact with the citizen and to
explain the severity of the economic crisis.
    The 1998 party congress undertook the first steps to put a new team
to manage the party reform under L. Kovacs' leadership; other new and
younger people were elected to the sub-division leaderships. In the
386                     BAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

process of transition, the social-democratic platform appears to be the
more influential within the party and they severely criticized the Hom
period and prepared proposals for the re-invention of the MSzP.
Similarly to other social democratic parties in Europe, one of the main
objectives was to win the support of the younger generation.^? To
succeed in re-obtaining the trust of young generation, middle strata and
the improvised classes in society, closer alliances to the trade unions and
civil society were also proposed. On the other side, the use of populist
campaigns by the Fidesz and its allies has also limited the socialists to
explain their cause.
      Different in some respects from other countries, the Hungarian
party structure during the 1990s was characterized by a relative stability.
There is no doubt that the party structures closely mirror the main trends
in the political culture. In the broader perspective, the degree of intra-
party democracy is of very important significance. The full membership
of the MSzP in the Socialist International in 1996 has also proved the
largely positive image of the party on the international scene. For some
authors, the MSzP is a somewhat loose alliance of different views; the
existence of many factions such as the social democratic alliance, the
socialist and leftist factions seemed to reinforce the democratic struc-
tures of the party with the appearance of new generations of political
      On the other side, it is possible to compare the infrastructure types
of the Hungarian parties; for some analysts, the Fidesz is shown to have
an elite infrastructure, while the MSzP has a bureaucratic one. This
quality of MSzP is in many ways a legacy of its communist past; here, it
is very important to indicate the role of the "late Kadar technocracy."
Having exercised a forty year monopoly over party politics in Hungary,
the MSzMP, predecessor of the MSzP, entered the transition period with
a very sophisticated infrastructure that included both a well-developed
office network and a very large membership, which were released after
the formal dissolution in 1989.29 in 1994, the composition of the party
elites was changed with the departures of the former communist
members to the other small parties in opposition. The older nomen-
klatura members began to fade away gradually and were replaced by a
younger reform generation who were largely educated under the party-
state; however the late Kadar elite was more career-oriented technocratic
than ideologically zealous.
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                     387
                     IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

Neo-Communist Parties and Electoral Success in Poland:
The SLD and the PSL
     In Poland, a stable, democratic, multi-party political system has
evolved during the last half-decade and major improvements have been
made in the development of democratic political and legal institutional
structures. The comeback of the communist successor parties in power
did not create any popular shock, because they both have profited by
their legacy and their good image from the old regime, which led to the
nostalgia factor for the people whose standards of living were deterio-
rated under the shock therapy reforms. The Polish communist successor
parties comprise the organizational heirs of the former communist party
and its erstwhile agrarian ally: the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz
Lewichy Demokratycnznej - SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party (Polskie
Stronnietwo Ludowe - PSL). Both successor parties were direct benefi-
ciaries of a substantial organizational inheritance. The PSL was the only
party with a significant rural base and the SLD, while mainly urban in
character, also had an organizational network in towns. This relative
superiority was rooted in organizational legacies that they inherited from
their predecessors, the PZPR and its satellite ZSL.^o
      The political left was voted into power in free national elections in
Poland in September 1993. In Poland, the Democratic Left Alliance
(SLD), dominated by the Social Democratic Party (SdRP), the successor
of the Communist Party, won a plurality in the elections, gamering
20.4% ofthe popular vote, compared with 11.9% in 199L The SLD
forged a parliamentary and governmental partnership with the left-
centrist Polish Peasant Party (PSL), a former commimist satellite party
that won 15% ofthe votes. The SLD's coalition with the PSL was not a
harmonious one and it was beset by presidential obstructionism under L.

      In the 1995 presidential elections, A. Kwa^niewski was the leader
and unchallenged candidate of the SLD and considered as the leading
strategist behind the transformation of the neo-communists into the
social democrats, but the other political parties revealed their basic
weakness throughout the campaign and Walesa's unpopularity left no
figure around which the Solidarity-led parties could unite. On the other
side, there was little difference between the main candidates' program-
matic aims of continuing the reforms and accession to NATO and the
EU. Kwasniewski associated with secular humanistic values in his
388                     EAST EUROPEAN QUARTERLY

speeches and also benefited from the welfare-orientation of SLD-PSL
coalition, by convincing the electorate that he could reject the old-style
communist authoritarian practices. In November 1995 elections,
Kwasniewski could win the majority at the second ballot with 51.7% of
the votes. He repeated his electoral success in the 2000 elections with a
decisive victory on the first ballot, but being nominally a non-party can-
didate and benefiting greatly from the full support ofthe SLD leadership
and party apparatus.
      Between these neo-communist parties, the PSL seems to be the
largest Polish party in pure numerical terms, claiming nearly 200.000
members in 2000.32 For Szczerbiak, the PSL and the SLD bore a closer
resemblance to "mass party model" in terms of relatively higher levels of
membership. It was formed in May 1990 as the organizational successor
to the former communist satellite IJnited Peasant Party (ZSL). The party
leaders attempt to draw on the historical traditions of the Polish (pre-
war) agrarian-populist movement which dated from the end of the nine-
teenth century and had provided the main political opposition to the
Communists during the post-war years. The PSL won the second largest
number of seats and was the junior coalition partner in the 1993-1997
parliament. In this coalition govemment, the PSL leader W. Pawlak was
awarded as Prime minister between October 1993 and March 1995.
After the September elections in 1997, it was reduced to being the fourth
largest grouping in the Sejm with its share of the vote halved to 7.3%,
while it took back its electorate in the 2001 elections by obtaining 9% of
the votes. The party remained the key player and strong contender for
the mantle of the third force in the Polish politics with its neo-agrarian
ideology. During the first half of the 1990s, the PSL was criticized to be
a centralized and leader-dominated party under Pawlak's direction; this
criticism was replaced with many discussions to re-orient the party's
political discourse under the leadership of J. Kalinowski within the
adaptation process.^^ in spite of the church's strong influence in Polish
rural communities, it is not surprising that religion does not play a more
central role in the PSL's party programs, however this lack could be
explained by the close relationship between the Catholic Church and the
larger landowners, while the peasant movement has supported left-wing
tendencies, which have rejected the neo-liberal visions and defended for
increasing the role of the State.34 With this vision, the PSL is defined as
one ofthe most state-oriented parties in post-communist Poland.
NEO-COMMUNIST PARTIES AND POWER                     389
                     IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

      From the point of view of membership, the second largest party is
the SLD with 90.000 members by the beginning of 2000. Until is trans-
formed itself into a single political party in April 1999, the SLD could be
considered as an electoral coalition comprising around 30 parties, trade
unions and social organizations that had enjoyed patronage during the
communist era. However, it was dominated by the Social Democracy of
the Republic of Poland (SdRP) that was formed as the direct organiza-
tional successor to the communist Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR)
at its congress in January 1990. The SLD also included the All-Poland
Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ) that had been closely linked to the
previous regime. A large proportion of SdRP-SLD members, strongly
identified with the pre-1989 regime, had a clear personal interest in
opposing "decommunization" in its widest sense and supported some
aspects of the communist rule; this gave the party a relatively well-
defined pool of potential recruits. It is estimated that approximately half
ofthe SdRP members were formerly in the PZPR.35 The SLD's leaders
mostly come from the youngest generation of elites who began their
careers within the old communist party; thanks to their past positions,
the ex-communist elites often had an edge over their non-communist
counterparts in terms of knowledge, skills, and personal contacts.
      The SLD was the largest grouping and senior govemment coalition
partner during the 1993-1997 parliament, although it was reduced to
second place in September 1997 in spite of increasing its share of vote.
In June 1999, the SdRP was absorbed into the SLD providing most of
the leadership ofthe new party.36 In the September 2001 elections, the
 SLD has triumphed by obtaining the 41% ofthe popular vote, although
the populists and the ultra-conservative parties have become a worry-
ingly large minority within the Sejm. An ex-apparatchik, the current
Prime minister and ieader ofthe SLD, L. Miller has exposed pro-market,
pro-EU and pro-NATO statements during his electoral campaigns.37

The Backward Transformation ofNeo-Communism
 in Romania and Bulgaria
     Studies of the relations which have developed between the extemal
factors and CEE since 1989 often pay only limited attention to Romania
and Bulgaria, this can be explained by the fact that these two countries
have never been among the front runners for post-communist transition
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