This introductory chapter briefly examines the conception and demise of the communist party. It provides reasons for the communist party's striking record of resilience and its members' commitment to maintaining its leading role. The chapter also argues that single-party rule was, from the beginning, a compelling political idea. Even before it took organizational form, single-party rule garnered the loyalty of hopeful revolutionaries because it seemed to provide the solution to a multitude of different challenges—national liberation, economic modernization, cultural transformation—that went beyond the conventional Marxist focus on the class struggle over control of the means of production. Once in power, these parties evolved into viable organizations that, for the most part, proved up to the task of satisfying their members' political and personal desires.
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