Participants to the 19th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the International Conference on Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) on 25 April 2013. Image: dangcongsan.vn
In the process of participating in socio-political life, each political party identifies and strives to maximally implement its objectives to build up prestige and influence, mobilize and attract voters’ support.
Although the realization of objectives often limits within a national geopolitical boundary, an open world which is undergoing globalization and increasing interaction among nations has put forward greater requirements for political parties to expand relations beyond national frontiers to foreign political parties in regions and the world.
For parties representing different or even opposing ideological systems and political tendencies in the world scale, linkages and coordination among parties of the same ideological systems and political tendencies are of extremely important significance to maintain their existence and consolidation and affirm the vitality of those ideological systems and political tendencies. Besides, in the incessant and strong evolution of the modern scientific and technological revolution and the broad and deep globalization, increasing regional and global problems are emerging which have confronted countries in their development. These are also big challenges to ruling political parties as well as political parties which are fighting for and competing for power. These elements have created an objective basis for forming linkages and rallies of multilateral forces among political parties in the world. However, the closeness and cohesiveness of political parties’ multilateral forums depend also on several other factors, namely evolution of contradictions, political and ideological differences, needs for coordinated settlement of common issues, urgency of problems and convergence of ripe conditions for solving those contradictions and common issues.
The history of formation and development of political parties’ multilateral forums shows three major multilateral linkage tendencies among political parties in the world: first, forums following ideological and political tendency; second, forums by geographical regions; third, forums following common parties’ objectives. The third tendency has played an increasingly important role and proved to be superior than the two remaining ones.
Multilateral linkage following ideological and political tendency
In international relations of political parties, rally of force by ideological and political tendency is demonstrated clearly through the association of parties, having common ideas and ideological systems as well as objectives of political struggle, to jointly consolidate, safeguard, maintain and develop the common ideological and political basis. It is possible to say that this tendency is the sole model in the first stage of multilateral forum history, from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries.
With the participation of social, social democratic and labor parties, representing the workers’ movements in Europe, North America, the Second International Association of Socialist Parties - Second International (1889-1914) was the first broad international union of political parties following ideological and political tendency. After the Second International, other forums following this tendency were formed including the Second-and-a-half International (1921-1923), the Labor and Socialist International (1923-1940)… and some has existed until today.
Formed in 1951, today the Socialist International (SI) of social and social democratic parties consisting of 97 full members, 22 consultative members and 10 observer members. The Party of European Socialists formed since 1957 now boasts 32 members as social, social democratic and labor parties from 28 member countries of the European Union (EU) and Norway, 11 associate members and 10 observers.
Most noticeable in the linkage following the ideological and political tendency is the forum of communist and workers’ parties. This tendency has the highest quantity with numerous diversified and rich forms of activities. The Comintern - the Third International (1919-1943) which was formed and operated as an international organization with clear vision and missions was the forum of the first communist and workers’ parties following the ideological and political tendency and also one of the first multilateral forums of political parties in the world. The Third International had also the mandate of protecting and developing Marxism-Leninism; struggling against opportunism in international communist and workers’ movements; pushing forward the establishment and development of communist and workers’ parties in different countries; creating close and direct relations among communist parties; preparing theoretical and organizational preconditions for the proletariat revolutionary movement and national liberation revolutions in many countries in the world.
The organizational forms of forums following the ideological and political tendency were greatly varied. In the first period, the forums had relatively tight-knit structure such as the Third International and the Communist Information Bureau - Cominform (1947-1953). However, since the 1950s of the 20st century, other new rallying forms emerged on a basis of more equality in relations and self-reliance although basically they were still unified under the Soviet Union Communist Party’s “banner”, namely the Conferences of Representatives of Communist and Workers’ Parties organized in 1957, 1960, and 1969 with the participations of representatives from communist and workers’ parties in all continents. Besides, there were linkages in the form of smaller-scale and local conferences namely the Conference of Communist Parties in Latin America and the Caribbean (organized in Havana, Cuba in June 1975), the Berlin Conference of European Communist and Workers’ Parties (June 1976), the Conference of Asian Communist Parties (in Ulan Bator, Mongolia in 1988), the International Theoretical Conference on “ International Socialist Construction and Development” (in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1978) and the International Scientific Conference “Karl Marx and contemporary time - the struggle for peace and social progress” (in Berlin, Germany in 1983)…
In this period, given tight-knit structures these forums played a very important role in leading and mapping lines and orientations for parties’ struggle movements. Communist and workers’ parties of different countries operated as branches of the Communist International, obeying the latter’s centralized leadership and guidances on lines, strategies, organization and personnel. Apart from its functions as an informational organ and experience exchange among member parties, Cominform also assumed the duty of coordinating and leading activities of the international communist movement. Documents approved at the Conferences of Representatives of International Communist and Workers’ Parties (organized in 1957, 1960, and 1969) were considered platforms guiding the whole communist and works’ movement in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.
After the collapse of the socialist regime in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the end of the 1980s and early 1990s of the previous century, there is no more centralized and unified vanguard leadership and guidance of communist and workers’ parties. The rally of parties has gradually transited to new more mobile and flexible models based on the principle of respect for independence, sovereignty, self-determination and equality of parties and international class unity. That is why, periodical multilateral mechanisms have been formed. Of which, there are international forums with the participation of communist, workers’ and leftist parties from all continents in the world, namely the annual International Meetings of Communist and Worker’s Parties (IMCWP) initiated by the Greek Communist Party in 1998; the annual International Communist Seminar organized in Brussels, Belgium initiated by the Belgian Labor Party since 1992; the annual International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties organized by the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally Party of Tunisia.(1)
In regional scale, there have been meetings of communist and workers’ parties in Eastern and Southern Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf (in 2006 and 2008); meetings of European Communist and Workers’ Parties on education initiated by the Greek Communist Party (in 2006 and 2010). Communist and workers’ parties in the Balkans, despite difficulties in operation, have regularly organized joint conferences since 1990s of the previous century to discuss regional situation and exchange experiences.
Beside the above-mentioned regular mechanisms, communist and workers’ parties in the world have made efforts and initiatives to form other multilateral rallies to restore and promote links and coordinated activities among parties in regions and the world. Specialized-topic meetings, conferences and seminars have been organized. Multilateral cooperative information mechanisms like Internet-based Solid Net and Red Net of communist and workers’ parties have been put into operation; Joint bulletins of movement (Information Bulletin) has been published three issues per year (by now has been posted on Solid Net)… Another popular method is big annual party events with the participation of dozens of international delegations, typically the Portuguese Communist Party’s Festival of Avante newspaper and the French Communist Party’s Festival of L’Humanite newspaper.
Parties’ activities at forums in this period have been more flexible, diversified and open with varied and rich content. Beside discussing theoretical issues on socialism and capitalism, sharing practical experiences on building and organizing forces and unity, parties have also exchanged opinions on urgent international issues which have affected regional and international communist and workers’ movements. Prominent was the 23rd Meeting of European Communist and Workers’ Parties (March 2006) which condemned Resolution 1481 on “The necessity for an international condemnation of Communist Criminality” adopted by the European Council; the Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties of European Union member countries (March 2008) on “European Union”; the Meeting of European Communist Parties (April 2011) on European political and social process; and conferences on regional situation evolution of parties in the Balkans. World big issues like globalization, new world order, security force rally, peace, cooperation, social affairs and environment have drawn attention of regional parties.
Beside the communist, social and social democratic tendencies, several other forums have been formed on the basis of other ideological and political tendencies. New leftist parties including green parties, ecological parties and humanitarian parties… have come under some organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Green Network (EPGN) and the European Federation of Green Parties (EFGP). Far-left parties are small-scale parties and organizations with extreme, unconcessional, and anarchical points of view, namely the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI), the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), the International Workers’ League (IWL), the International Anarchist Federations (IAF) and the International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS). Parties following Christian tendency includes the International organization of Christian Democratic Parties (CDI)…
Geographical multilateral linkages
While globalization, peace, cooperation and development play a leading role, geographical linkages and rallies of force have been strongly taking placing. On the one hand, the geographical proximity creates favorable conditions for parties to contact, exchange and meet with each other even in material and environmental difficult conditions. On the other hand, parties in the same geographical region often have socio-economic similarities and are commonly affected by political, economic and social developments. These lead to the need for exchange and sharing of experiences in solving common challenges and threats.
Developments over the past more than two decades demonstrated the two major forms of the geographical multilateral coordination tendency among political parties. The first and also the most common form nowaday is parties of the same ideological and political tendency group together by region. Forums of this tendency were formed since the 1970s of the 20th century. Typical manifestation in that period was connections by regions, from continents to sub-regions and among parties of the same ideological and political tendency. These forums included the Conference of Communist Parties in Latin America and the Caribbean organized in Havana capital (Cuba in June 1975), the Berlin Conference of European Communist and Workers’ Parties organized in Germany (June 1976)…
In recent years, communist and workers’ parties in Europe have also organized meetings, workshops and conferences to share common regional issues including the Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Eastern and Southern Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf (in 2006 and 2008); Meetings of European Communist and Workers’ Parties (in 2006 and 2010); Conferences of parties in the Balkans (from the 1990s of the previous century until today)… Other ideological and political tendencies like social, social democratic and new leftist parties have also established regional forums.
It is noticeable that since the 1990s of the 20th century, a second regional form of rally has appeared and played an increasingly important role. That is the rally of political parties regardless of their ideological and political tendency in the same region. Prominent are multilateral forums of political parties in Asia and Latin America.
Founded in September 2000 as an open organization, the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) rallies many parties of different political tendencies including capitalist, communist, workers’, leftist and opposition parties… To become a member of ICAPP, applying parties should win more than 1% of their countries’ Parliamentary votes. At present, about 350 political parties in 52 countries and territories are eligible for ICAPP membership.
The Sao Paolo Forum, founded in July 1990, is an open forum which gathers together parties, leftist and progressive forces in Latin America with different ideological and political nuances, origins and development levels even if they are in one country. For example, some forces maintain that armed struggle is the only way to seize power while others choose parliamentary struggle within the current institutional and social framework; some forces set high and broad goals while others limit to struggle in the national or regional framework although these forces are imbued with Latin American identity and have always supported struggles of other nations in the world; some parties take Marxism-Leninism their ideological foundation, others base themselves on social doctrine of the church, theological liberalism, democratic radicalism, social leftist tendencies without clear ideological foundation and also parties which combine Marxism’s dialectical methodology with religious belief as their ideological foundation; some parties concentrate on exerting their influence in certain social aspects and other parties and forces give priority to other social aspects… Today, the Sao Paolo Forum boasts 84 full member political parties and organizations from 33 countries; observers and delegates from political parties in all continents and international organizations.
The Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean (COPPPAL) established in October 1979 is a multilateral and non-governmental organization with a membership of 56 full member political parties from 30 regional countries. To accede to COPPPAL, applying parties should be legally constituted political parties of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean which should win a certain number of Parliamentary votes as required by each country. Each nation can have one or more political member parties. Apart from full members, COPPPAL’s alternate members are legally constituted parties in Latin America and the Caribbean which applied for COPPPAL membership after the Osaka Declaration had been signed and the COPPPAL Statutes had been approved. Associate members are former political member parties or alternate member parties which can not retain their legal status due to insufficient number of necessary votes in the most recent elections. Delegates and special delegates are political parties or organizations of countries, regions and the world, Government officials and dignitaries which are invited to the conference.
Multilateral linkage based on interest similarity
If geological proximity is the stimulant to the formation of multilateral political party groups, the important, fundamental and decisive factor linking these parties and forces is interest similarity in settling certain urgent problems in the world and regions which confront them.
In the international relation history, the trend of force alliance, linkage and rally based on interest similarity has been existing for a long time. However, in relations among parties in the world, this trend has strongly developed since the 1990s of the 20th century which is capable of rallying forces of different ideological and political tendencies with different experiences on party building and development.
Given difficult situation, communist and workers’ parties of some regional forums in Europe have stepped up sharing experiences on existence, force consolidation, enhancement of influence and role in society. Asian political parties within the framework of ICAPP have demands for building an environment of peace and stability for prosperity of each country in particular and of the region in general hence their closer coordination for strengthening understanding and trust, promoting cooperation and raising political awareness among Asian political parties on regional problems. Similarly, for leftist and progressive parties and forces of the Sao Paolo Forum, the common problem confronting parties which needs settlement is the struggle against neo-liberalism and neo-imperialism for a replacement solution, more equal society, democracy, democratic expansion, sustainable development, and interests and happiness of working people. This is also the factor leading to expansion of regional forums beyond regional geographic boundary originally established. There have been some forums which are regularly opened for cooperation and coordination among parties and forums outside regions. Beside member parties and leftist and progressives forces in Latin America, parties and political communist and leftist organizations from Asia, Europe, North America and Africa have attended the annual Sao Paolo forum, the International Conference on “Parties and a New Society” hosted by the Mexican Labor Party and the International Conference on “Globalization and development problems” organized by the Communist Party of Cuba as observers or invited guests.
The tendency of contact and exchange among different regional rallies has appeared, forming cooperation and coordination among inter-regional political parties. For example, the Joint Meeting between the ICAPP Information Committee and the COPPPAL Coordinating Body. ICAPP has also actively expanded this cooperation mechanism to African political parties and organized the first Tripartite Conference of Asian, African and Latin American political parties.
Among the three tendencies, the ideological and political multilateral linkage tendency prevails in number of forums. However, in terms of attractiveness and influence, regional forums have increasingly proved their roles and positions. These forums’ concerns and diversified topics of discussion focusing on socio-economic issues have helped parties learn experiences, take measures and make efforts to solving and coping with common challenges, raising efficiency of the process of making strategies and policies, promoting prestige, role and influence in social life. It is possible to find that interest similarity in solving common problems will be a major decisive factor, in the long term, to political parties’ rallies and linkages in the world./.
(1) After political upheavals in Tunisia and the Middle East-Northern Africa in 2011, the Tunisian Constitutional Democratic Rally Party dissolved, this Conference stopped its activities.
This article was published on Communist Party 857 (March 2014)