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by inoljt

How North Korea Fell Behind South Korea, Part 2

12:05 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the second part of two posts examining how North Korea fell behind South Korea. The previous part can be found here.

As the previous post found, for several decades North Korea kept up with South Korea. Then, during the mid-1970s, the country started falling behind. Ever since then the gap between the two countries has widened.

This post will explore several factors behind what caused North Korea to fall behind. There seem to be three main causes: the failed ideology of juche (self-reliance), the end of Soviet aid, and Kim Jong-Il’s incompetent rule.

Juche

If one looks at Gapminder’s graphic, North Korea and South Korea are neck-and-neck until the mid-1970s:

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Then North Korea falls behind:

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What caused this? Well, in 1972 North Korea adopted the ideology of juche into the constitution. Juche stands for self-reliance. There’s a lot of fancy Marxist philosophical complexity behind the idea, but in its essence it seems to be basically a fancy form of protectionism.

Juche was very harmful to the North Korean economy. Here is North Korea before the official adaptation of juche:

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As is evident, North Korea was progressing during this period. This is not to say that juche wasn’t part of the state’s ideology in these years. Rather, it seems to have played less of a role.

A description on this website provides a good description of the progress during this time:

The 1954-56 three year plan repaired the massive damage caused by the war and brought industrial production back to prewar levels. This was followed by the five- year plan of 1957-61 and the seven year plan of 1961-67. These plans brought about further growth in industrial production and substantial development of state infrastructure. By the 1960s North Korea was the second most industrialized nation in East Asia, trailing only Japan. While a number of internal limitations appeared, such as in the production of consumer goods, the national standard of living was considered by many third-world nations as an alternative to the capitalist model of development sponsored by the United States. Building upon the ruins left by the Korean War, the North Korean economy by the late 1960s provided its people with medical care, universal education, adequate caloric intake, and livable housing.

Here is what happens after the official adoption of juche:

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The website continues with a description of North Korea’s economic decline. I will quote the discussion in full because it’s quite comprehensive:

In the 1970s the expansion of North Korea’s economy, with the accompanying rise in living standards, came to an end and a few decades later went into reverse. A huge increase in the price of oil following the oil shock of 1974 hurt the economies of countries throughout the world, North Korea among them. North Korea has no oil of its own, and it had few export commodities of interest to the west. Compounding this was a decision to borrow foreign capital and invest simultaneously in the military and mining industries. North Korea’s desire to gain as much independence as it could from China and Russia prompted the expansion of its military power. They believed such expenditures could be covered by foreign borrowing and increased sales of its minerals in the international market. North Korea invested heavily in its mining industries and purchased a large quantity of extractive machinery and tools from abroad. However, soon after making these investments, the international prices of for many of these minerals fell, leaving North Korea with large debts and an inability to pay off the debts and provide a high level of social welfare to its people.

Adding to the above, the centrally planned economy, which emphasized heavy industry, had reached the limits of its productive potential in North Korea. Juche repeated demands that North Koreans learn to build and innovate domestically had run its course as had the ability of North Koreans to keep technological pace with other industrialized nations. By the mid to late-1970s some parts of the capitalist world, including South Korea, were advancing into new phases of technology and economic development and phasing out the coal-and-steel-based economies of the earlier period.

Kim ll-sung, trapped in an ideology that had once been highly successful, was unable to respond effectively to the challenge of an increasingly prosperous and well-armed South Korea, which undermined the legitimacy of his own regime. Having failed at their earlier attempt to turn to the market and conduct market-economy reforms such as those carried out in China by Deng Xiaoping, Kim opted for continued ideological purity. The DPRK by 1980 was faced with the choice of either repaying its international loans, or continuing its support of social welfare for its people. Given the ideals of Juche, North Korea chose to default on its loans, and by late 1980s its industrial output was declining.

One should note that the images above are models of North Korea’s economic path rather than based on North Korean statistics. Since North Korea doesn’t reveal its GDP, people have to make educated guesses. The people on Gapminder put North Korea as slightly wealthier than South Korea in 1944 and then modeled equal economic growth rates until the mid-1970s. At that point they put 0% GDP per capital growth to model North Korea’s stagnation during that period. Finally, they use slightly more accurate estimates after the fall of the Soviet Union to model North Korea’s famine and its most recent years.

Nevertheless, these models are based off what happened in real life. It’s undeniable that North Korea was stagnating during the late ’70s and ’80s. It’s also undeniable that there was a famine during the late ’90s. So while the graphic isn’t perfect, it’s a decent representation of reality.

The End of Soviet Aid

Juche seems to have been the main turning point in North Korean economic history. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that there are in fact two “parts” of North Korean economic decline. The first part, during the late ’70s and 80s, is stagnation – when North Korea doesn’t go forward but doesn’t go backwards. The second part starts in the ’90s, when North Korea actually starts going backwards.

What caused this?

Well, for all of its economic history North Korea depended extensively on communist aid. The Soviets were determined to prove that their system was superior and, like the Americans, gave lots of aid to their allies. Eventually it turned out that their system was in fact not superior, and by the end the Soviet Union couldn’t really afford to give out that aid. In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and all Soviet aid withdrew.

This hit North Korea hard:

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In fact, it eventually created a famine. This graphic shows North Korea after the fall of the Soviet Union. This is the second part of the country’s economic decline, when it actually starts going backwards. Soviet aid was particularly important because the Soviet Union sold North Korea oil at low prices. North Korea’s inefficient economy and agricultural system depended badly on petroleum, but it couldn’t afford to buy petroleum at market prices. When the Soviets stopped giving North Korea oil, North Korea collapsed.

Here’s a comparison with South Korea:

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Kim Jong-Il

Kim Jong-Il’s rule was incompetent and terrible for North Korea. Let’s take a look at North Korea under his father Kim Il-sung, until his death in 1994.

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We see progress throughout most of Kim Il-sung’s rule. During his final years, however, stagnation and finally decline sets in. Nevertheless, one could say that Kim Il-sung did good for North Korea.

What happens under Kim Jong-Il?

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Decline. Indeed, there’s a startling coincidence between Kim Jong-Il’s path to power and North Korea’s economic decline. Kim Jong-Il began taking power during the 1980s. During that time North Korea is well into stagnation. He takes over the armed forces in 1991. North Korea then begins going backwards. His father dies in 1994, leaving him in absolute control. North Korea then suffers a famine from 1994 to 1998.

Here’s North Korea and South Korea during Kim Jong-Il’s rule:

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Conclusion

It seems that there were three main events that caused North Korea’s economic decline: juche, the end of Soviet aid, and the incompetence of Kim Jong-Il. Juche turned economic growth into stagnation. The end of Soviet aid turned stagnation into absolute decline. This backwards path gained momentum as Kim Jong-Il gained power and ruled incompetently.

North Korea’s tale is fairly unique. It’s the story of a country which achieved a decent standard of living and high industrialization under communism. Then the strains of the system became apparent, such as the overreliance on petroleum, and it eventually collapsed. This is why one hears of a lot of North Korean factories that used to work but now don’t. One hopes that the new leader Kim Jong-un will turn things around for his people.

by inoljt

How North Korea Fell Behind South Korea, Part 1

5:37 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the first part of two posts examining how North Korea fell behind South Korea. The second part can be found here.

The story of the two Koreas is a common American tale amongst the educated classes. As the fairy tale goes, once upon a time there was one Korea. By chance, one day this Korea was divided amongst the communists and the capitalists. The communist Korea fell into chaos and poverty. The capitalist Korea became rich and a democracy. Beware communism!

The general thrust of this tale is true. But there are some interesting complexities behind how North Korea and South Korea became the way that they are. After the Korean War, it wasn’t as if South Korea immediately began pulling ahead. For a long time it wasn’t obvious which Korea was doing better.

This is what happened:

The 1940s
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To write this analysis, I utilized the website Gapminder. Run by a Swedish professor, Gapminder shows graphics of different levels of every imaginable type of statistic amongst the world’s varying countries.

This is the most basic graph: it shows wealth and health in 1944. The y-axis is life expectancy. The left axis is income per person (in dollars adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity) put on a logarithmic scale (so that the difference between $1,000 and $2,000 is just as important as the difference between $10,000 and $20,000; this makes comparing things much easier). As one would expect, wealthier countries generally have higher life expectancies. The main exceptions, such as Germany, are busy fighting World War II.

This graph shows the state of the two Koreas in 1944. The South is relatively more populous and relatively poorer. One ought to note that at this time there were no good statistics; the figures here are estimates.

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Korea was divided in two in 1945. I started a year earlier, and this chart makes clear why. The destruction of World War II did quite a lot of damage to both countries. By 1950 they still hadn’t recovered, unlike much of Western Europe and Japan. Both countries were generally poorer than your typical country.

Then the Korean War started.
Read the rest of this entry →

by inoljt

What Flags Do Russia’s Protestors Use?

9:01 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Russia has recently had a number of protests against President Vladimir Putin. The protests constitute a challenge of urban Russians against Putin’s rule.

If you’ve ever seen pictures of these protests, one interesting thing stands out. This is the fact that the protestors don’t wave Russia’s national flag. Instead, they always wave different flags:

What are these flags? What do they represent? I’ve done a bit of digging to get at these answers.

Nationalists

One common flag in the protests is this one:

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Obviously, this flag is not the national flag that Russia uses. It looks a bit darker – dare I say more threatening – than the white, red, and blue-striped official Russian flag.

Apparently this flag was one of the two flags that represented the Russian Empire before the revolution (the other is the current official flag). It seems to have been much less popular than the other flag.

Here’s another picture with these flags:

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In the center there’s a standard of a bird with two heads. This type of standard also often appears in these protests. It seems to be a version of this flag:

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This was the imperial standard during the Russian Empire.

These types of flags are often used by Russian nationalists. They seem to be a symbol of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, a Russian nationalist party (which some describe as ultranationalist).

For a person without deep knowledge of Russia, it’s somewhat concerning to see these flags of the Tsar. It seems to imply that the Russian Empire and the Tsar were good, or imply a type of nostalgia for the Tsar.

Communists

There’s another type of flag that’s very prevalent in these protests against Putin. See if you can recognize it:

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The good old flag of the Soviet Union.

Interestingly, there are a lot of variants of communist flags. For instance, this picture there are several red flags with a red star outlined in white and two Russian phrases stamped on top of the red star. This “red star” flag seems to be very popular and has been waved in a lot of protests. Puzzlingly, this doesn’t match the standard of Russia’s official communist party.

Here’s another variant of the pro-communist flags waved in these protests.

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In this picture there are a lot of blue and white flags with a red star and sickle-and-hammer. Again, I can’t find where this flag comes from (although it’s certainly obvious what it represents).

Communism seems to be quite popular amongst Putin’s opposition.

Liberals

There’s a final type of flag in these protests. They’re the orange flags in the two pictures above.

Here’s another photo with these orange flags:

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These flags seem to represent liberals in the protest movement. The orange flag is a symbol of Solidarnost, a group of liberal Russian organizations.

In the picture there are also a number of red-and-white flags with a red-and-white sun. I have absolutely no idea what these flags would represent.

Conclusions

It’s very interesting how Putin’s opposition has very little passion for Russia’s national flag. Instead, they wave their own flags – flags representing communism, liberalism, and nationalism. This seems to be a sign that the Russian flag as a national symbol is still relatively weak. Of course, Russia isn’t the only country where this occurs.

It’s also pretty concerning when one sees just what flags Putin’s opposition likes to wave. There are a lot of flags of the Tsar and the USSR in the protests. Not quite what most people in the West are hoping for.

–inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Why Don’t Hmong-Americans Vote Republican?

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Perhaps no group in America has suffered more from Communism than the Hmong community.

The CIA first recruited the Hmong, impoverished tribes living in the hills of Southeast Asia, to help fight the Communists in Vietnam and Laos. When the Communists won in Vietnam and then Laos, the Hmong were persecuted and sent to camps for their anti-communist role. Eventually many found their way as refugees to the United States. They faced opposition from the Clinton administration, but strong support from Republicans enabled most to come to America as immigrants.

How do the Hmong vote?

It’s not always easy to pick out the voting patterns of smaller communities, like the Hmong. One has to take account of many confounding factors, ranging from participation rates to the voting patterns of other communities.

Nevertheless, it seems pretty clear that the Hmong vote Democratic.

There are several lines of evidence behind this statement. Firstly, Hmong elected officials – individuals such as former Minnesota State Representative Cy Thao and former Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua – belong to the Democratic Party. Secondly, Democratic candidates tend to attend official Hmong events. For instance, only Democratic candidate Al Franken attended this Hmong townhall meeting; Republican candidate Norm Coleman was invited but declined the invitation.

Finally, polls indicate that the Hmong vote Democratic. This poll found that 57% of Hmong identify as Democrats, while a mere 4% identify as Republicans. Done before the 2008 presidential election, it also showed Democrat Barack Obama gaining 65% of the Hmong vote, to Republican John McCain’s 4% support.

Those are some pretty stunning numbers. Even if the poll is badly flawed, or has a very leftward bias, it seems safe to say that the Hmong are a strong Democratic constituency.

There is a good reason for this; the Hmong community is quite poor. Indeed, 30.2% of Hmong-Americans receive public assistance income, more than triple the rate amongst Americans overall. Democratic economic policies tend to favor the poor more, and this is a strong draw for the Hmong.

But it’s still quite shocking that the draw of the Democratic Party’s economic policies is so strong as to produce a 57-4 registration advantage among the Hmong. One would think that the Republican Party would do better. After all, Republican lobbying is the reason why many Hmong are today in America, instead of refugee camps in Thailand.

Moreover, the Democratic Party is closer ideologically to the Communist Party which the Hmong fought for decades. This is why Cubans and Vietnamese-Americans, also refugees from Commmunist persecution, vote Republican. And the Hmong have certainly suffered from Communism; Democratic Hmong politicians Cy Thao and Mee Moua both had families who came from Thailand refugee camps.

The ultimate irony is that the very economic policies which put the Democratic Party closer on the ideological spectrum to the Communist Party are the reason why the Hmong vote Democratic.

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Why Don’t Chinese-Americans Vote Republican?

4:56 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

The Democratic Party has always been the party of immigrants. Even as everything else about the party has changed, as it has turned from a party of Southern whites to the exact opposite, immigrants continue to vote Democratic. In the 1850s the immigrants were Irish-Americans. Today they are Mexican-Americans.

Of course, not all immigrants support the Democratic Party. Many immigrants, such as Cuban-Americans and Vietnamese-Americans, vote strongly Republican. There is a very simple explanation for why this is so, an explanation that requires merely one word:

Communism.

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger provides a story that resonates with many Republican-voting immigrants:

When I was a boy, the Soviets occupied part of Austria.

I saw their tanks in the streets. I saw Communism with my own eyes. I remember the fear we had when we had to cross into the Soviet sector…I remember how scared I was that the soldiers would pull my father or my uncle out of the car and I would never see them again. My family and so many others lived in fear of the Soviet boot…

I finally arrived here in 1968…The presidential campaign was in full swing. I remember watching the Nixon-Humphrey presidential race on TV…I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which I had just left.

But then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back, lowering the taxes and strengthening the military.

Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air.

I said to my friend, I said, “What party is he?”

My friend said, “He’s a Republican.”

I said, “Then I am a Republican.”

This is a common experience with immigrants from communist countries. Many Republican-voting immigrants are refugees of communism. In the Democratic Party’s economic program they hear echoes of the communist countries which they fled. They therefore turn to the Republican Party.

Which brings us to the biggest Communist country of them all: the People’s Republic of China.

There are a lot of Chinese-Americans in the United States. Many of them constitute immigrants who suffered tremendously under communism, through the Great Leap Forward and then the Cultural Revolution.

Yet Chinese-Americans are also a highly, highly Democratic constituency. One exit poll put 73% of Chinese-Americans as voting Democratic. Why does the Schwarzenegger experience not resonate with Chinese immigrants?

One reason might be that most Chinese immigrants are not communist refugees. Many anti-communist immigrants were persecuted as a specific class or individually by communist governments. They then fled to the United States. On the other hand, a lot of Chinese immigrants came to the United States as students, workers, or via family connections. Many of them represent people who benefited from the system in China. This is especially true for those who came as students or workers.

There is also the fact that China’s Communist Party is by far the most successful of all the communist parties out there. This dilutes the potential opposition against it. For instance, the Chinese community would probably not support an American embargo on China aimed at toppling the communist government there. This is quite different from the Cuban emigrant community.

Yet there is still an element of strangeness about the Chinese community’s utter lack of anti-Communist sentiment. Does not the Democratic Party’s mantra of helping the working class recall the Maoist slogan of a proletariat paradise? Does not its support of abortion bring to mind China’s controversial one-child policy?

Apparently not, judging from the way the Chinese community votes.

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

“Liberals” in Communist Countries

11:42 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

In American parlance, the word liberal generally carries a left-wing connotation. Liberals favor an philosophy which has some fairly familiar elements: a greater role for government, lessened inequality, social “liberalism” etc. This contrasts with conservatism, which favors a lesser role for government, places more trust in the workings of the market, and believes in “family values.”

The most extreme element of liberalism is communism; in contrast, the most extreme element of conservatism is monarchy and fascism. Communism is an unabashedly left-wing philosophy, with its focus on uplifting the working class, commitment to enforcing social equality, deep distrust of capitalism, etc. This is something almost everybody agrees with.

It is interesting, however, to note that Communist leaders are almost never called “liberals” – despite a philosophy based upon an extreme form of liberalism. History books never bestow the description “liberal” on the most famous Communists, men such as Fidel Castro, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin, etc.

Instead, in relation to communist countries “liberals” are generally those who oppose the system. They are dissidents such as Andrey Sakarov. When Deng Xiaoping changed China’s economic system to follow a more market-oriented policy (i.e. to be more economically conservative), people say that he “liberalized” the system.

In these cases liberalism is not used in the sense of changing the system. After all, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, and Vladimir Lenin all “liberalized” their countries in the sense that they brought massive change to the countries they governed. Yet when historians talk about these individuals that way, they say the men were “revolutionaries” rather than liberals.

Instead, the word liberalism here reflects an older, more fundamental philosophy: classical liberalism. The people who opposed communism constituted liberals not by following left-wing ideals (what is more left-wing than communism?) or by advocating change (so did Lenin, after all). Rather they espoused a belief in the Enlightenment philosophy of human rights and liberty, which the French Revolution turned into an enduring ideology. That is the form which “liberalism” – a word with many different, even contradictory meanings – usually takes when one refers to communism.

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Communism in Italy

2:01 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the third part of a series on Communism in Western Europe; this section focuses on Italy in particular. The previous parts can be found starting here.

Communism In Italy Flag

The Italian Communist Party (PCI) formed in 1921, as a break-away faction of the socialist party. In many respects, its early years were similar to those of the PCF. Like the French Communists, the Italian Communist Party (PCI) fared poorly in national elections, winning less than five percent of the popular vote. Its time to grow, moreover, was cut short by Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship; he outlawed the party in 1926.

In another parallel to their French colleagues, the Italian Communists (PCI) fought fiercely against the Nazis during WWII and won major acclaim for their efforts. After the war, the PCI took part in the new government, playing a major role in writing the new Italian constitution. As in France, however, America’s Marshall Plan curbed their influence; to gain access to U.S. aid, the Italian government kicked out the Communists. They would never again hold power in Italy.

Here the paths of the French and Italian Communists diverge. In France the Communist story is one of steady decline, until the PCF no longer constituted a viable political force. In Italy the story is different.

Communism in France + Italy

Before getting into it, however, another tale must be told – that of the 1948 general elections. This contest was the most important election in Italian history, pitting the Italian Communist Party (the PCI, allied with the socialists) against the Christian Democrats (Democrazia Cristiana, DC). It literally determined Italy’s side on the Cold War, whether it would ally with the United States or the Soviet Union. Many feared that if the Communists won, Italy would go red, never to turn back.

The election was fiercely fought; both sides were discretely funded by their respective superpowers. The Catholic Church came out strongly against the Communists (PCI), using slogans such as, “In the secrecy of the polling booth, God sees you – Stalin doesn’t.”

Christian Democracy (DC) blew away the Communists (PCI). While the PCI won a 31.0% vote share, their second-best performance ever, the Christian Democrats took 48.5% of the vote. Italy allied with the United States.

For nearly half a century thereafter, Christian Democracy governed Italy. The PCI never managed to win more votes than the Christian Democrats, although they continued to fare respectably in general elections.

Communists in Italy v. Christian Democrats

Here a crucial distinction between the French Communists and the Italian Communists occurs: while the PCF gradually declined throughout the 50s to 70s, the PCI actually strengthened itself during this era. Unlike the French Communist Party, the PCI publicly and dramatically distanced itself from the Soviet Union. Instead, the party was the most vocal advocate of eurocommunism, a far different philosophy than that espoused by the Soviet Union.

Thus, the Italian Communist Party was perceived as more acceptable and moderate than other communist parties, and its share of the vote steadily increased. In 1976, they won 34.37% of the vote, their best performance in history and a mere 4.34% behind DC. The PCI achieved this result by doing “all they could to appear as a respectable, rather conservative party committed to sensible change by constitutional means…[and] emphasise how moderate, democratic and uncorrupt they were.”

In the end, however, the PCI was still Communist, irrevocably tied to the fate of the Soviet Union no matter how distant their ties. When the USSR fell, the Italian Communist Party was broken up – though, as in eastern Europe, many parties of Italy’s left have roots from the PCI. Within a few years, DC – its reason for existence now dead – imploded under a shroud of corruption scandals.

That was the end of the old system. Today, for better or for worse, one man – Silvio Berlusconi – dominates the political arena. Yet, even with the PCI long gone, Berlusconi still invokes anti-communism to win votes. The shadow of the PCI is long indeed.

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Communism in France

4:13 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Communism In France Flag

This is the second part of a series on Communism in Western Europe; this section focuses on France in particular. The third part can be found here.

In France, the Communist Party was founded in 1920 by revolting members of its socialist party, then called the French Section of the Workers’ International (Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO). Their new party initially did fairly poorly, only one of the numerous parties out there. In 1928, for instance, the Communists (PCF) won 11.26% of the vote.

Nevertheless, by 1936 – the depths of the Great Depression – the Communists (PCF) were making gains. Then came WWII – the best thing that ever happened to the PCF. Out of all the parties in occupied France, the Communists fought the Nazis hardest and suffered the most for it. They earned the nickname le parti des 75 000 fusillés – the party of the 75,000 executed people – and immense popularity.

Following the war, the PCF joined the new government led by Charles de Gaulle. Unfortunately for it, however, the U.S. government demanded a Communist-free government as a precondition for accepting the Marshall Plan. The French Communist Party was summarily booted out.

This did not prevent the PCF from channeling its wartime record into electoral success; from November 1946 to 1956, the Communists won a greater share of the popular vote than any other party. Their base lay amongst France’s working class, which remained a loyal and reliable constituency, and they constituted the dominant force on the French left.

Communist Party in France Performance

This state of affairs could not last forever, however. After 1956, the French Communists entered a slow decline. With the slow, gradual destruction of the Soviet Union’s credibility in the West, the PCF – tightly linked to the USSR – reached a ceiling of support. Many French voters simply would never vote communist.

Then, in 1969, the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, PS) was founded, sounding the death knell of the Communists. Led by François Mitterrand, the socialists quickly took over the mantle as the leader of the left. Communist voters abandoned the PCF in droves, seeking a party that could actually win a majority of the popular vote – which the Communists could not. Thus, by 1988, the PCF won a mere 3.43% of the popular vote in run-off legislative elections.

Communists in France Decline

Interestingly, it was not the fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Communist Party in France, but the emergence of an acceptable alternative to the PCF. That was not the case with Italy.

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Communism in Western Europe

11:25 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

A mentor once told me not to study communism, because it was a dead system, and studying something dead is worthless.

In defiance of this sensible advice, I will be presenting two dead communist movements: the communists in Italy and the communists in France.

Most Americans have never heard about these two parties. For good reason: France and Italy were staunch allies of the United States in the Cold War; it does not seem as if they were remotely communist.

But, for decades, the communists in Italy and France commanded millions of votes and a powerful political machine. Their strength remains a fascinating, little-noticed part of history.

Here are how the French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français: PCF) and the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI) performed:

Communism in France + Italy

There are several patterns here that apply to both parties, and several patterns unique to each country. (Note: The French line after 1956 indicates Communist performance in the first round of legislative elections, whereas the Italian line indicates Communist performance in elections to the Italian Chamber of Deputies. France has a two-round election system; Italy has two chambers in its Parliament. All statistics cited afterwards relate to these specific criteria.)

I will be exploring French patterns in the next post.