Communist Successors and Narratives of the Past
This chapter deals with historical memories of the state socialist past in the arena of party politics by comparing factional historical narratives within two communist successor parties, the German Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). It contributes to the debate between “externalist” and “internalist” approaches to the identity and strategy of (post-)communist successor parties in Eastern and Central Europe. “Internalist” analyses have pointed to the agency of party elites in choosing the direction of party development. “Externalist” approaches, by contrast, have emphasized the role of legacies and the “external” sociopolitical context. Unsatisfied with the methodology and assumptions of both schools, this chapter will test these hypotheses by comparing the different national contexts and the ways the different CPRF and PDS factions responded to external circumstances and expectations. It arrives at a mixed conclusion: Different national contexts did not, by themselves, determine successor party strategies and identity. At the end of the day, this was a matter of internal political choice of concrete actors, and neither the PDS nor the CPRF responded homogeneously; various factions within each party produced divergent narratives. At the same time, the comparison shows that “external” contexts do matter—not in determining a given historical narrative that a party adopted, but in setting up the discursive framework within whose parameters all party factions operated.