Communist party

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A political party described as a communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government. The name originates from the 1848 tract Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.[1]

A communist party is, at least according to Leninist theory, the vanguard party of the working class, whether ruling or non-ruling, but when such a party is in power in a specific country, the party is said to be the highest authority of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin's theories on the role of a communist party were developed as the early 20th-century Russian social democracy divided into Bolshevik (meaning "majority") and Menshevik (meaning "minority") factions.

Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, argued that a revolutionary party should be a well-knit vanguard party with a centralized political command and a strict cadre policy; the Menshevik faction, however, argued that the party should be a broad-based mass movement. The Bolshevik party, which eventually became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, took power in Russia after the October Revolution in 1917. With the creation of the Communist International, the Leninist concept of party building was copied by emerging communist parties worldwide.

There currently exist hundreds, if not thousands, of communist parties, large and small, throughout the world. Their success rates vary widely: some are growing; others are in decline. In five countries (the People's Republic of China, Cuba, North Korea, Laos, and Vietnam) communist parties retain dominance over the state. See the List of communist parties for details on the communist parties of today.

The CPC is the world's largest political party,[2] claiming nearly 78 million members[3] at the end of 2009 which constitutes about 5.6% of the total population of mainland China.

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Mass organizations

As the membership of a communist party was to be limited to active cadres, there was a need for networks of separate organizations to mobilize mass support for the party. Typically communist parties have built up various front organizations, whose membership is often open to non-communists. In many countries the single most important front organization of the communist parties has been its youth wing. During the time of the Communist International the youth leagues were explicit communist organizations, using the name 'Young Communist League'. Later the youth league concept was broadened in many countries, and names like 'Democratic Youth League' were adopted.

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