pei78_Feng LiGetty Images_chinacommunist Feng Li/Getty Images

The Party Is Not Forever

As the Communist Party of China prepares to mark its centennial on July 1, the poor longevity record of other dictatorial parties in modern times should give its leaders cause for worry. If the CPC is not on the right track with its neo-Maoist revival, its upcoming milestone maybe its last.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Human beings approaching 100 normally think about death. But political parties celebrating their centennial, as the Communist Party of China (CPC) will on July 1, are obsessed with immortality. Such optimism seems odd for parties that rule dictatorships, because their longevity record does not inspire confidence. The fact that no other such party in modern times has survived for a century should give China’s leaders cause for worry, not celebration.

One obvious reason for the relatively short lifespan of communist or authoritarian parties is that party-dominated modern dictatorships, unlike democracies, emerged only in the twentieth century. The Soviet Union, the first such dictatorship, was founded in 1922. The Kuomintang (KMT) in China, a quasi-Leninist party, gained nominal control of the country in 1927. The Nazis did not come to power in Germany until 1933. Nearly all of the world’s communist regimes were established after World War II.

But there is a more fundamental explanation than historical coincidence. The political environment in which dictatorial parties operate implies an existence that is far more Hobbesian – “nasty, brutish, and short” – than that of their democratic counterparts.

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