MINSK, Belarus - The mood was upbeat as representatives from communist and workers' parties around the world gathered here Nov. 3-5 to exchange experiences and observe the 90th anniversary of the Great October Revolution and its relevance for today.
This was the ninth international meeting since the 1991 setbacks to socialism, and by far the biggest: 154 participants representing 72 communist and workers' parties from 59 countries.
Most parties came from Europe and the former socialist states. But eight parties were present from Asia, six from Central and South America, eight from the Middle East and two from Africa.
Finances prevented many parties from attending, but a solidarity fund has been established to change the situation. Next year's meeting will be held in Brazil.
This year's meeting included two important milestones in the continuing effort to consolidate the international movement.
First, the Communist Party of Belarus (CPB) and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation jointly hosted the meeting. In her opening remarks, the general secretary of the CPB, Tatyana Golubeva, stated, "Belarus is still on the socialist path of development. We were one of the few who never gave up."
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been vilified by the capitalist mass media as "Europe's last dictator," sent greetings. He said: "The October Revolution changed the fate of a large nation and basically defined the development path of mankind. Thanks to the success of the revolution, the dreams of many generations of Belarusians have become a reality. We are an independent nation that has expanded relationships with many countries."
Lukashenko emerged as a popular figure after the collapse of socialism when he led the fight against the wholesale looting of the country by counterrevolutionary elements. He has won consecutive presidential elections and maintains a governing coalition with the CPB, the largest party in Parliament.
The Belarus economy is still 80 percent publicly owned, and is growing at a rate of 8-9 percent a year. Unemployment is less than 2 percent.
A second factor making this meeting special was the participation of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which had only been observers at previous meetings. The representative of the CPC, which has a membership of 73 million, enthusiastically reported on the recent 17th CPC Congress and steps being taken to extend socialist democracy while adjusting policies to overcome social stratification and severe environmental problems.
Many representatives said the period of setbacks are ending, with left-center governments being elected in South America, socialist-oriented states maintaining rapid economic expansion, the collapse of U.S. imperialism's unipolar project and the emergence of powerful new global alliances as its counterweight.
As John Foster of the Communist Party of Britain said, "[This development] is a result of capitalism's own contradictions, the resistance generated by the greater levels of exploitation and the growing strength and confidence of those countries that defended their socialist systems."
Many termed the Great October Revolution the greatest event in human history because it was the first time the working class successfully attained political power and inaugurated the global transition from capitalism to socialism, a process that continues today despite the setbacks and difficulties.
In his remarks, Gennady Zyuganov, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, pointed out that 40 percent of the world's people live in countries where the Communist Party is either the governing party or part of a governing coalition.
Representatives illustrated the impact of the October Revolution on their working-class movements and the formation of many communist parties and democratic movements.
The delegate of the Communist Party of Cuba noted, "Without this, events of such importance as the defeat of the Nazi-fascist savagery, the triumph of the Chinese Revolution, the creation of the socialist bloc, the defeat of the U.S. imperialism in Vietnam, the anti-colonial movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the progressive forces within the very capitalist societies would never have been possible."
Many delegates spoke to the question of why socialism collapsed. Most said it had nothing to do with socialism as a social system, but was due to human error in the application of economic, social and political policy, the inadequate development of socialist democracy, and the growth of bureaucracy that allowed for counterrevolutionary elements to flourish, including within communist parties.
Delegates stressed that the ideas of Marx and Lenin are relevant for today's world, but must be constantly updated. Capitalism has no solutions for the massive problems it has created - war, poverty, racism and inequality, and environmental destruction. Socialism is objectively the only system that can solve global problems and is therefore more necessary than ever.
Other lessons shared included the idea there are no models for socialist construction or how to get there. The delegate of the Iraqi Communist Party stressed the path to socialism in Iraq would pass through many stages. The current stage is one of gaining national sovereignty by ending the U.S. occupation, interference of other states and terrorist violence. Once this democratic task is achieved, then the Iraqi people can move onto a new stage.
Communist parties from the former socialist countries are confronting many challenges as they recover from counterrevolution of 1991. Most have won back legal status, and some are represented in Parliament. However the leadership of the Communist Workers Party of Hungary is fighting an anti-communist witch-hunt and faces prison.
The Communist Party of Moldova has been the leading party since 2001, fighting entrenched opposition to reversing the massive privatization and looting of the economy.
Despite the many challenges, representatives left Minsk full of confidence in socialism's future.