Czech Communist Party faces repression

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is facing a repressive campaign organized by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Petr Nečas. If the government has its way, the party will be officially dissolved and forbidden from participating in electoral and other activities. In 2006, there was a similar effort to destroy the Communist Youth Union, which, however, failed in the courts for “lack of evidence.”

In the “democratic” Czech Republic, the government argues that communism is a criminal ideology, just like Nazism. Supposed evidence for this is that communists do not respect constitutional guarantees for private property or foreswear any hypothetical resort to armed struggle. Also, the communists will not repudiate Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto. All this is alleged to violate the Czech Constitution.

The Czech regime also wants to provide compensation to people who fought against the socialist government that arose after World War II, taking the money from the pensions of communists. Forgotten is the fact that Czech and Slovak communists played a major role in fighting the Nazi regime that wiped out most of Czechoslovakia’s Jewish population and carried out other horrors, including the extermination of almost the whole town of Lidice. Communists, like other members of the Czech anti-Nazi resistance, suffered brutal repression. Equating of communists to Nazis is therefore deeply repugnant.

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia rose from the ashes of the old Czechoslovak Communist Party when that country split after the collapse of socialism. It is rooted in the working class in this most industrialized of Eastern European countries.  In the last parliamentary elections, in May of 2010, the Communist Party came in fourth, receiving 589,765 votes in this country of about 10 million, and kept its 26 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Although this was down from previous years, it is respectable support for a party that has been the target of such intensive red baiting. (The Social Democratic Party came in first with 1,155,267 votes and 74 seats, but the right had enough seats to form a coalition).

So for the Czech government to push for the abolition of the Communist Party is to wish to deny the political options of a considerable part of the working class.

But maybe that is the point.

The Czech regime is reactionary. The Prime Minister, Petr Nečas, is from the right-wing of the right-center Civic Democratic Party. The foreign minister, Prince Karl zu Schwarzenberg, from the TOP 09 party, is the head of what was formerly the most powerful Austro-German noble family in Bohemia (use of titles of nobility are forbidden in the Czech Republic, but he is widely known in Europe as “Serene Highness”). The minister of Interior until last week, Radek John, from the Public Affairs Party, is one of the main instigators of the anti-communist campaign.

Since the current world financial and economic crisis began, the Czech government has jumped on the anti-worker bandwagon. A vote is coming up soon on a program of austerity to bring the budget deficit down to the level of European Union rules. Pensions, labor rights, health care and social services face the axe.

Opposition comes from Communists, Social Democrats and others. So to attack the communists, and deprive them of their 26 seats in parliament, would weaken the resistance of the Czech working people to the attacks on their wages, working conditions and rights.

To slander the communists by equating them with the Nazis, even while authorities wink at the rise of far right and racist anti Roma (Gypsy) groups, also serves to distract people from remembering that the communists have always been a bulwark against fascism. The Czech government is, in fact, opening the door to a resurgence of fascism by repressing the communists.

In the last few weeks, the smallest coalition partner, Public Affairs, has been rocked by corruption scandals, suggesting that the coalition might collapse. Meanwhile, polls have shown the prestige of both Public Affairs and TOP 09 to be in sharp decline, while that of the Communist Party is on the ascendant. So the communists and the social democrats have called for a vote of no confidence on April 26, and new elections if the government loses it.

At the last minute, Nečas may have managed to patch up the differences. But even if the left does not manage to get a vote of no confidence, Social Democrats and Communists are going to keep agitating for new elections, including at rallies scheduled for May 1.

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, meanwhile has called on democratically minded people worldwide to contact Czech embassies and consulates to express their repudiation of the undemocratic and repressive acts of the Czech government.

Image: Picturesque Prague, Czech Republic, is the site of the anti-Communist battle. Vlastimil Ott // CC BY-SA 2.0


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.