If there is one book you read this year: The Party

Robert McGregor’s “The Party”, about the inner working of the Chinese Communist Party, is an absolute must for political anoraks, and not just those with an interest in Chinese politics (come on, how many blogs get to use that phrase?). The book is a concise trip, packed with great anecdotes, through the party and how it runs China. But more than that, it is a fascinating insight into the development of a political management system riddled with contradictions, where ideology is hat-tipped towards as the party abandons communism whilst denying it, and attempts to maintain a one party state whilst also greatly fearing the masses and recognising the need to deliver for them, or where the all powerful centre fears the power of local officials.

What really struck me about the book was the parallels with our own Fianna Fail, and how a party in government over a long term becomes primarily about government itself. The other interesting factor in the book is the constant challenge of corruption affecting good government whilst also being necessary to keep party officials “interested” given their petty salaries.

The flexibility of the party is summed up in a great line (one of many) where a journalist is arguing with a party official about how they have obviously abandoned communism for capitalism. The party official raises his hand to object, and replies: “We are the communist party. We will say what communism is!”  

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