The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia: A Post-Communist Socialist or a Neo-Communist Party?

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Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (CPBM) with special attention given to its identity and programmatic and policy positions in the 1990s. It argues that the CPBM represents a special type of a post-communist "radical socialist" party with neo-communist leanings. It is neither a "social-democra-tized" ex-communist party, nor an ultra-orthodox communist or genuine neo-communist party.

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The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (CPBM) is an interesting and, in some respects, unique subject of study in the context of post-communist successor parties in Central and Eastern Europe. Common wisdom has it that the CPBM embodies an unreformed, "fossilized" central European communist party operating under an unchanged name and, in the respective context of Czech political arrangements, a case of an anti-system or even "extremist" political force affected by an explicit "convention on exclusion" (conventio ad excludendum). However, this oversimplified and (potentially) misleading definition fails to reflect the CPBM's specific inner dynamism and context of development which also have to be addressed if we want to draw a well-founded and theoretically informed characteristic of the party. This article is a contribution to the study of the CPBM as a possible materialization of a neo-communist and/or post-communist "radical socialist" party. The main focus of the article is on the ideological and programmatic aspects of CPBM, and on its respective policy/programmatic positions.

The Genesis of the CPBM and its Approach Towards the Legacy of the CPC

To avoid misunderstanding, we should start by clarifying the issue of the relationship between the CPBM and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC). The CPBM was formed first as a territorial organizational unit of the CPC in March 1990 to act as the Czech counterpart to the Communist Party of Slovakia (CPS) within the federalized CPC. The CPBM was instituted as an independent political party at its 1st congress in late September-early October 1990. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (operating since the Fall of 1990 under a slightly modified name the "Communist Party of Czechoslovakia" abbreviated to CPCS) was first transformed into a federation of two parties in November 1990 and proved to be unworkable due to discord between its Czech and Slovak components. The CPCS eventually terminated its activities in April 1992. The above facts show that the evaluation of the relationship between the CPBM and the CPC requires a more sophisticated approach than usual. The CPBM was not originally formed as a successor party to the CPC in the Czech Republic. It only became the successor to the CPC in 1992 as a consequence of the disintegration of the CPCS. In terms of organization, the CPBM formed part of the CPC (CPCS). The question therefore is whether the CPBM can be considered a genuinely new party in all respects. The only argument to support such an interpretation is the numbering of its congresses. On the other hand, its continuity to the CPC in terms of organization and personnel is quite apparent. The CPBM, as a natural successor to the CPC, took over the latter's legacy but applied a discriminating approach towards the different components of this legacy. This is an extremely important point in understanding the identity of the CPBM, and as such requires a deeper analysis. First, however, a brief outline of the history of the CPC is necessary.

The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia-Section of the Communist International (CPC) was founded at a congress held May 14-16,1921. In the context of then-party arrangement in Czechoslovakia, the CPC represented an anti-system multinational (multi-nationality) party without coalition potential, characterized by markedly anti-regime attitudes and behaviour (except for the early 1920s and the period from 1936 to 1938, including a number of exceptions in the sphere of local policy). …