"Non Communist" parties in Communist States

A lot of Communist countries, like China, East Germany, and Poland, while they are/were in practice single party states, have or had other, smaller parties “affiliated” with the Communist Party, whose members would regularly be elected to the legislature or hold political posts. Of course, these parties didn’t have much real autonomy; they’d go along with the Communist position on issues.

I guess I see the government rationale in allowing parties like that to exist. It lets them say, “No, this is a multi-party democracy and one party really doesn’t control everything.”, but what’s the motivation for someone to join one of these parties? Why not just join the Communists?

I don’t know what the motivation would be for actively joining an “Opposition” party, but you could only join the Communist party in many instances if you were connected or otherwise politically acceptable.

In East Germany, it seems to have been a way to get some measure of local influence and gather career brownie points if you didn’t want to join the Socialist Unity Party (SED) or if your antecedents (you had got yourself confirmed, were currently a business owner or an independent farmer, were too publicly known to have been a Nazi party member…) made the SED not accept you.

In East Germany and Poland, the multiple parties were part of the legacy of the Communist takeover.

In Eastern Germany, the Soviets originally banned the Christian Democratic Party and forced the Social Democratic Party to form a coalition party with the Communist party. This became the Socialist Unity Party. The Social Democratic Party was much larger, but the Communists were in full control of the Socialist Union Party. The Social Unity Party was the official Communist Party in East Germany.

With the two largest parties out of the election (The Christian Democrats banned and the Social Democrats merged into a Communist lead party), the Socialist Unity Party swept the 1946 elections and were able to proclaim Eastern Germany as a Communist state. However, the Socialist Unity Party (the official Communist party of Eastern Germany) didn’t win all seats. Instead, a few minor parties (like the People’s Party) won a few seats.

To handle this, the Soviets forced all parties to form a coalition unity government. This allowed the East German state to muzzle any possible political opposition since all parties were members of the government, there was no opposition.

In 1948, many of the former parties reformed under Communist scrutiny where trouble makers were tossed out, and in 1949, new elections proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Germany which would be ruled by the National Front of four parties. In reality, of course, these parties had little or no power and were merely suppose to represent parts of the East German public that was not represented by the Socialist Unity Party.

Like all Communist states, the government itself is secondary to the party. The Parliament only met a few days out of the year mainly to approve decisions that had already been decided. Each organization of the government had a parallel structure in the party, and membership between the two would coincide. Non-Communist party members rarely got any ministry seats, and when they did, they were secondary seats and with little or no actual power.

Why these parties remained is a good question. Lenin initially allowed some opposition parties, but constantly harassed, arrested, and executed their party leaders. Stalin stomped out any non-Communist party entirely. Maybe with the death of Stalin, there was no real need to completely eliminate these parties. Unlike the non-Communist political parties in the early Soviet Union, these parties were docile and manipulable. Since they had historical connections to the state, it was felt that they added a bit of legitimacy to the government.

Well, I’m reading it now and can’t find it, but I thought China’s current constitution pretty much states that the Communist party is the only party of power in China.

However, I believe that non-communist candidates can obtain local governmental power in smaller areas and so forth, though I’m not so sure how that works.

You can read their constitution below:

Constitution of China(1982)

I have a friend who is a member of one of the Chinese opposition parties.

He has no love for the Communist party, and won’t join because he doesn’t want to have to pay lip service to them.

But party affiliation is no small thing. It is probably the number one thing that will help you find jobs, get promotions, etc. It’s less about politics and more about social connections. Think of it as like the Masons than the Democrats. If you want to have a high-level career, you probably want to join. So I think my friend joined his party because, career wise, he needed to be a member of something. And joining an official party can give him a veneer of political acceptability while not compromising his principles too much.

In the long years of revolution and construction, there has been formed under the leadership of the Communist Party of China a broad patriotic united front that is composed of democratic parties and people’s organizations and embraces all socialist working people, all patriots who support socialism and all patriots who stand for reunification of the motherland. This united front will continue to be consolidated and developed. The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference is a broadly representative organization of the united front, which has played a significant historical role and will continue to do so in the political and social life of the country, in promoting friendship with the people of other countries and in the struggle for socialist modernization and for the reunification and unity of the country

As with other Communist countries, China’s minor political parties are members of the “United Front.” A united front against what? Don’t look at me. Here’s the webpage of the United Front: http://www.zytzb.cn/ There are several links under the 多党合作 (multi-party cooperation) section and several under the 党外知识分子 (intellectuals outside of the Party) section.

Take from that what you will. I really don’t understand why anyone in China would join any of those smaller parties since they’ll be saying and doing pretty much the same things members of the Communist Party would do, but they wont be held in as high esteem by officials as CCP members would. Some of them do get elected or appointed to government posts, though, so they’re not totally just window dressing.

Once again, don’t think of them as “political parties” in the sense of being about deeply held political beliefs. Think of them more like fraternal organizations- people join to make and keep social connections in order to advance their careers.

Don’t think of the minor parties as true opposition parties, but more as offshoot clubs. They appeal to people looking for a smaller group with a more specialized set of people- there tend to be “academic” parties and the like. Kind of like how you might not want to join student government in high school, but you’d join the honor society, which abides by and supports student government’s rule.

Ask any member of the federal NDP of Canada :slight_smile: (Or Bloc for that matter, but they join for different reasons)

This doesn’t even make any sense. What good would it do your career to join the, say, China Zhigong Party? Your membership in any of those minor parties would be looked on upon as nowhere near important or useful as membership in the CCP and the higher-ups in those parties with whom you could network wouldn’t have as much pull or influence or be of as much use as a CCP official would. I think most people who join a political party in order to advance their careers in China join the Communist Party, for obvious reasons.

The same reason why everyone doesn’t join student government in high school or the “best” fraternity in college- maybe they (like my friend) have genuine ideological issues with the party, maybe they just think everyone in the party is jerks, maybe their friends and family belong to minor parties, maybe they think the party has too many meetings or too high of dues, or maybe they are looking for a smaller pond to be a bigger fish.

Your other points were valid, but this doesn’t make sense, either. The different political parties are still under the “leadership” (some would say “yoke”) of the Communist Party and, thus, aren’t allowed to have any big ideological differences. That’s why they all profess to work for “Socialism” and why the Revolutionary Committee of the Guomindang reveres Sun Zhongshan and not Jiang Jieshi or Wang Jingwei (and why they’re allowed to exist in the first place). Joining a minor party to spite the larger party that sets the limit on what your minor party can do or say makes your ideological issue a moot point.

Which party does your friend belong to, IIMA?

For him, I think it is a personal and purely symbolic point. He’s not trying to change anything. He just personally feels such loathing for the party that he couldn’t bring himself to go to actual party meetings and pretend like he supports it. He knows his gesture isn’t accomplishing anything, but at least it gets him away from the pageantry of the party and the die-hard ideologues within it. Presumably he can find some like minded people in the his party, and they can share ideas even if these ideas can’t become a part of their party’s official position.

Not sure what party he is a member of- I’ll ask him next time I see him. I assume it is a permitted party, since he is pretty open about it. But he has taken a career hit because of his beliefs.

Are there still even any die-hards in the Communist Party? I know many CCP members but I don’t think I’ve met a single one who was passionate about Marxism. It’s usually a career-advancement thing, which takes me back to my original point about joining the main party instead of a smaller one for that.

But do find out which one he belongs to. I’m interested.