Worried about Communists: II

In addition to candidates being hassled over their past in the KSČ, the communist past has come up in the Czech presidential campaign in several other ways. One of the issues that both candidates and media have paid considerable attention to is the issue of whether, if elected, candidates would ever appoint a government that included the KSČM. The KSČM, for the unitiated, is the Komunistická Strana Čech a Moravy – the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. It is the inheritor of the KSČ, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which ruled Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989. As its name suggests, it has not undergone the major ideological makeover that many of its counterparts elsewhere in Eastern Europe have gone through. The party continues to identify with the KSČ from the normalization era, the time of repression that followed after the Prague Spring ended in 1968.

At the national level, KSČM has never entered the government even though in recent years, it’s been moderately successful. At the regional level, however, KSČM won big in October’s elections, winning 182, up from 114, with 20.43 per cent of the vote just behind ČSSD, but easily beating the ODS. ČSSD and ODS are the power houses of Czech politics, with either or both always being in power nationally after 1989. Nationally, the ČSSD, the social democrats, have always refused to work with the communists, and have even adopted an internal resolution (the Bohumínské usnesení) committing itself never to work with ‘any extremist parties’ including the KSČM. As a result of this commitment, and due to external pressure from the right, ČSSD has often been relegated to the opposition when it could plausibly have governed with the KSČM.

In the regions, where KSČM won big just recently, this rule is breaking down fast, and the ČSSD is entering into coalitions with it left and right, to the utter dismay of many who reject the communists for what they see as their unrepentant stance with regard to the communist era. Not only people on the right (now entering the opposition) but also student voices within the social democratic ČSSD are protesting this development

Students protesting (source: www.tyden.cz)

Students protesting the rise of the communists, 23 years after the end of communism. Note the not-so-subtle equivocation of KSČ and KSČM.

Suspecting that what is going on at the regional level may be a situation facing the next president at the national level at some point in the near future, people have started asking the candidates whether they would appoint a government that included the KSČM. The field is torn, split right down the middle: out of the remaining eight candidates, four would, and four wouldn’t  – a remarkable choice that should not be taken lightly as it would surely result in a constitutional crisis, as it would in any parliamentary system. Amongst the refusers, we find Jan Fischer, once a communist party member himself, something that his opponents continue to remind him of (as we saw in my previous post). The video, annoyingly, seems to be accessible only through facebook.

In addition to the ongoing politicization of the communist past, which I find interesting from a theoretical point of view (and which is central in my dissertation), two things are striking about this thing. One is that the KSČM has so stubbornly refused to move away from its past in spite of (or because of?) the cordon sanitaire that they now find themselves surrounded with. Two is, that they still manage to be successful in spite of the isolated position they find themselves in (or perhaps, again, because of it?)


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