Communist (Successor) Parties in Central Europe: The Varying Roles That Modern Communist Parties Play in the Czech Republic and Central and Eastern Europe

By Kopecky, Pavel | The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Communist (Successor) Parties in Central Europe: The Varying Roles That Modern Communist Parties Play in the Czech Republic and Central and Eastern Europe


Kopecky, Pavel, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs


The TV Broadcast of "The H-Trial"

On 27 June, the Czech public commemorated the 59th anniversary of the death of Dr. Milada Horakova, a pro-democratic Czech politician who was executed by the nascent Communist government on trumped up charges of conspiracy and treason. A victim of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia as well, Horakova had been imprisoned during the war. Anniversaries such as this one remind Czech society (sometimes not for better but for worse) of the inroads the former paranoid regime made into society and its inhumane treatment of the non-Stalinist left . It is safe to say that while most of these anniversaries may generally pass unnoticed, a new trend is on the rise. This year Horakova's show-trial was neither forgotten, nor overlooked, but broadcast on Czech public service television from 31 May to 9 June.

In response to this broadcast, the Czech Republic's domestic communist party leader and the deputy chairman of the EU parliament, Vojtech Filip, gave an inappropriate speech criticizing Czech TV for broadcasting the trial just before the EU parliamentary elections. Filip opined that the broadcast would deter voters from voting for the current Czech communist party. While its battle for seats in Brussels did not end so badly, the speech and elections left a certain unpleasant aftertaste. The speech was analyzed from various angles, so much so that the recently re-elected communist MEP (member of the European parliament), Ransdorf, insisted during a TV panel session that he, as well his boss, had contributed to the memorial of the unlucky politician.

Even though this historical judicial murder is still a topic of political discussion (in waves rising before election time), it is incredibly disconcerting that the money for a memorial dedicated to a victim of two extremely oppressive regimes has not yet been collected!

The Intended (Un)settlement of the Past

The activities of the current Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) --the only successor communist party of Central and Eastern Europe to retain "communist" in its name--discredit the local left by attempting to lure leftist Social Democrats as well as aging neo-Stalinist sentimentalists. But while its rhetoric has with time seemed more and more embarrassing to the Social Democrats (CSSD), the KSCM's continued presence provides both the CSSD and the Civic Democrats (ODS) with a substitute for their own political helplessness: the chance to win votes by making anti-communist appeals on demagogic terms. Both parties are contributing to the retardation of society's reconciliation with its communist past by crudely connecting the modern communist party with its predecessor's injustices and crimes.

For instance, this year former prime minister Miroslav Topolanek invoked the memory of the Masin brothers--brothers controversially known for their armed resistance against the Czechoslovak communist regime in the fifties--in order to "warn" voters against the revival of communism in the country.

Again, again, "tolls the bell of treachery." It is hard to say whether the Social Democrats' manipulation of these memories into contemporary threats of communist "danger" will lead to a "Night of Long Knives" by the ODS, the party's rival. Since this practice is, of course, common to both parties, the result is an absurd tug-of-war and endless chain of actions and reactions. The ODS recently published a video clip which compared the events of the "fated eights" (1938 and 1968) with the recent vote of no-confidence against Topolanek's cabinet. The ODS's aim was to convey themselves as a modern "charter" fighting against the enemies of good--those who seek to subvert the building of a people's government.

It is clear that demagogy is the real reason behind these invocations of our communist legacy and not the attempt to overcome the burdens of the past. It is in essence hateful Bolshevik thinking.

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