Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Communist Name Game

J.P., commenting over at Publius Pundit on the recent election , wrote
I always have mixed feelings about elections in Third World or former Communist nations. If a candidate wins a free, fair, and democratic election, but his plan of action is something that painful experience has taught us won’t work (like socialism), is the country better off than it was before? At this point in the development of nations like Mongolia, it’d be a lot better for them to have stable leadership that was sure to follow free market policies. Have we forgotten that “the people” don’t always choose wisely, and that a majority can just as easily vote themselves into economic oblvion as they can choose wisely?
Robert Mayer responded:
I know what you mean, but it seems that these communists are just communists in name only. Judging from the platforms and situation of the country, all of the parties want to make the country better instead of serving as a vassal state to Russia or the like.
I'd like to second Robert on this one, more or less. During our recent trip to Mongolia in January, we had the opportunity to lunch and converse with a former member of the Mongolian Parliament. He was (and remains) a member of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP, the erstwhile Communist Party). During the course of our conversation, I asked him about the party and why in the age of free-markets and democracy the party hasn't changed its name to something more, well, free-market/democratic. His response was enlightening.

The MPRP is the "legacy" party of Mongolia. When Mongolia gained its independence from China and underwent its Communist Revolution in in the 1920s, the MPRP became the dominant, and eventually the sole, party. As the only party, every aspect of communism, good and bad, became associated with it. While Mongolia certainly suffered its share of the bad, things there weren't quite as horrific as some of us in the free world believed at the time. In fact, my fellow blogger, Mongol, has said that stability, security, peace, and provision were hallmarks of the latter history of Communist Mongolia. That said, people were still not happy in the thrall of communism. Peaceful and well-fed they might have been. But free they were not.

When the country became democratic in the early 1990s, the Mongolians streamed to the polls to vote for the fledgling democratic parties. The new parties held power or at least significant influence more or less through the end of the decade. While many of the laws they passed opened the country to capitalism, a free market, and further democratic reforms, the politicians themselves were poorly educated as to the true meaning and practice of democracy. Corruption became rampant as the reformers took the reins of government.

In light of the few ups and the many downs that the people on the street (and the steppe) associate with a nascent democracy, a majority of Mongolians have turned back to the party that they nostalgically remember from more stable and prosperous times. Not only so, having suffered defeat at the ballot box for a number of years, the MPRP had recast itself as a a party supportive of democratic reforms and a free market. While performing a radical ideological overhaul, they maintained some of its socialistic underpinnings the revered historic name. This has allowed the party to have the best of both worlds. On one hand, they retain a name that the older generations associate with pleasant memories and will vote for. On the other hand, they voice a number of the democratic and free market ideals that have swept the nation and in so doing have garnered the support, of many younger people.

The decision to keep the name "Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party" was thus mainly a political one. And, if the recent election is any indication, a successful one.


Blogger samraat said...

4/04/2010 10:11 PM  

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