Monday, 12 November 2018

Reflex: KSČM is strongest communist party in Europe

ČTK |
23 July 2018

Prague, July 21 (CTK) - The Czech Communists (KSCM) not only do not face a political decline, which was predicted to them years ago, but they are even the strongest communist party in Europe, Petr Sokol has written in weekly Reflex, in an article analysing the reasons behind the KSCM's persisting strength.

The KSCM, which has been in opposition since the fall of communism in 1989, shunned by all parties on the national government level, is not a part of the new Czech cabinet of Andrej Babis (ANO) either, but as its contractual partner, it will keep control of the cabinet and massively influence its steps, Sokol writes.

Out of the 28 EU countries, communists are part of parliament in five only, elsewhere they got transformed, renamed or have politically disappeared.

Compared with this, the Czech Republic remains "a red island." Despite its historically worst result in the latest general election, the KSCM remains the strongest communist party in Europe with the word "Communist" still in its name.

In the latest elections, a bigger gain than the KSCM's was only achieved by the Communists in Portugal, where, however, they ran as a CDU coalition together with the Greens.

The Portuguese Communists have 15 seats in parliament, the same as the KSCM, but the Portuguese parliament is somewhat bigger than the Czech one, which means that the KSCM is really the strongest communist party in Europe, Sokol writes and presents seven reasons implying the KSCM's success.

First, the Communists paradoxically owe their survival to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and the following events.

The invasion was followed by normalisation, the communist hardliners' rule including deep purges in the party and the expulsion of its pro-reform members. These people were therefore missing in the party after 1989, when a debate on the party's transformation started. The party's prevailing hardliners blocked all attempts to rename it or transform into a socialist party, after the example of the communists in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Albania.

Second, the Czech post-1989 "velvet" transition to democracy was based on its protagonists' agreement with the old communist regime, which is why it included no real attempts to ban the Communists as a totalitarian party. If banned then, the communists would not have disappeared, but they would have changed the party's name at least, like their counterparts in Romania, for example.

Third, despite the widespread anti-communist rhetoric in 1989 and the KSCM's isolation, most Czech political parties soon started to open the door to it as an ally in town and regional governments. As a result, the KSCM ceased to be taboo and gained access to power. It also played a role in presidential elections.

Fourth, for a long time, the Communists were the only real party presenting an ideological alternative to the democracy installed in 1989, since the other arising protest party, Miroslav Sladek's far-right Republicans, disappeared still during the 1990s. As a result, the KSCM was a party for all opponents to the post-1989 regime to vote for.

The Communists continued collecting almost all radical protest votes until the early 2010s when Andrej Babis's ANO and Tomio Okamura's party, which is the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) now, appeared on the scene as the KSCM's successful rivals.

Fifth, the Communist tradition in Czechia dates far back before 1989 and even before the Soviet-influenced Communist coup of February 1948. The Communists (KSC) were a very strong party as early as in the interwar Czechoslovak First Republic. In the Czech Lands, the KSC even won the very first elections in which it took part in 1925. If the election results in Slovakia and the Sub-Carpathian Rus are put aside, the KSC gained the largest portion of the vote in Bohemia and Moravia, emerging even stronger than the national-winning Agrarian Party. The Communist scored this success even in an atmosphere that was very democratic in the country at the time.

Sixth, the KSCM partly owed its election success in 1925 to its birth in 1921 as a party splintering from the Social Democrats (CSSD) and joined by not only the CSSD's leftist radicals but also a number of respected workers' leaders with Bohumir Smeral, a Czech social democrat icon, at the head. It is also thanks to Smeral that the KSCM inherited a part of the CSSD's rank-and-file and organisational structures and became a strong workers' party.

Seventh, the communist ideology, which took roots in many Czechs before WWII, was confirmed by the post-war developments, with the KSC winning the elections in the Czech Lands once again in 1946. True, these elections were not fully free and democratic, since the state permitted the existence of only four Czech political parties and in fact banned all successful parties from the interwar period. Despite this, the KSC's success was bigger than in Hungary, for example, where the suppression of the opposition by the communists was much harder.

The KSC partly owed its success to people's disillusion at the Munich Agreement [between Germany, Italy, Britain and France in 1938 that bound Czechoslovakia to cede its border regions to Hitler's Germany], which many people took for a failure of traditional parties, Sokol writes.

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