Monday, June 18, 2012

"The struggle continues"

This is a translation of a post on Britské listy. I've added explanations of acronyms in the text, with more context at the end. If it interests you, I'd suggest reading through it just for the sense of things, then looking at the explanatory notes, and finally coming back to the main text.

I thought the piece within the piece was noteworthy for the pre-1989 language and perspective.

~ Karl

The congress of the “radical leftist” party—the KSČM—has ended. [Komunistická strana Čech a Moravy, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, the successor to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia]. The second-strongest party on the Czech political spectrum, if we can believe public opinion surveys. Most journalists' broadcasts from it were “diary” entries about nothing; nobody offered a more analytical perspective. Vojtěch Filip was (again) chosen as chair, while his opponent Grospič lost all down the line. Even the already impotent Haló noviny didn’t offer an analysis of the congress in a journalistically respectable fashion. Of course, there was an analysis of the defeat of the “dinosaur wing,” personified by Grospič and Semelová, an analysis offered by the camp of the dinosaurs themselves: in the magazine Dialog, which you won’t find on newsstands.

As an aside: Allow me to point out for the narks from BIS [Bezpešnostní informační služba, the Security Information Service, something like the FBI] and the communist-baiting Senator Štětina, that the editorial board of Dialog is entirely independent of the KSČM. In terms of personnel, in terms of organization, and in economic terms. Just to be clear.

But let’s allow the “dinosaurs” to speak for themselves. It’s worth it:
The struggle continues—the non-communist line confirmed and strengthened
It’s entirely obvious with a single glance at the personnel composition of the party’s highest leadership that the Eighth Congress of the KSČM in Liberec confirmed the non-communist identity of the party and thus its non-communist political line. V. Filip was elected to another four-year term at the head of the party. He follows one basic, you could even say life mission: to complete the so-called “modernization” of the KSČM—the loss of all those attributes which make it a communist party, the political vanguard of the workers.

That’s also why it was necessary to pull off the return to the party's supreme leadership of J. Dolejš, one of the most significant guarantors of the fulfillment of this task of Filip’s. To the post of vice-chairman of the KSČM for specialist background, which he had had to leave in September, 2009 (just like another vice-chairman of that time, Č. Milota). Dolejš’s resignation was a big loss for V. Filip, because he was the one who conceptually, not just on the theoretical level, represented and represents an uncompromising backer of the founding documents of the KSČM (the constituting document and the First Olomouc Congress), in which that party signed on to the concept of the anticommunist Socialist International, the concept of “democratic socialism.”

It was and is he who also stands, along with Z. Hába, J. Heller, M. Ransdorf and others, behind the non-Marxist document “Socialism in the 21st century,” confirmed (taken note of) by the Congress. So the return of J. Dolejš to the office of vice-chairman paid off. Even more so, as the weight of his mandate was strengthened by the fact that he wasn’t elected by the Central Committee of the KSČM, but directly by the congress.

In connection with the election of J. Dolejš (together with M. Vostra, and both of them being Members of Parliament as well), and in the first round at that, when he gained 248 votes (Stanislav Grospič only got 194), we must regretfully point out that this reality is very telling about the ideological-political maturity and orientation of the majority of the delegates at the congress.

But the monopoly of the majority in the leadership of the party around V. Filip was disrupted at the congress after all. It was “disrupted” by the active stance of those delegates who presented a principled and active approach to the questions under discussion. Foremost among these speeches were those of M. Semelová, S. Grospič, and I. Hrůza. We would especially like to point out the contribution of the chairman of the SMKČ (Svaz mladých komunistů Československa—the Union of Young Communists of Czechoslovakia), L. Kollarčík. Particularly noteworthy was his statement that, were he to be elected executive vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the KSČM, he would want to bring about a “policy shift of the KSČM away from Brussels and the Party of the European Left, toward Athens and the Communist Party of Greece.” Here he proclaims what is most essential, most fundamental for our further direction:

"It is essential to continue to do everything for the reorientation of our party from the path down which we’ve already started, a reformist path, a state-creating path in its relation to capitalism, with visions of seats in government, toward a position of a party that is revolutionary, Marxist, truly communist – anti-capitalist!"
Kollarčik wasn’t elected. Not to anything. His ideological mentor Grospič lost as well. The “dinosaurs” suffered a fatal defeat. The Congress delegates themselves rejected them. But they won’t give up. Never. The struggle continues – even though the delegates elected that the party should have, if it can be put this way, a “Šmeralesque” character instead of a “Gottwaldian” one. Those who don’t know what that is can start studying the history of the workers’ movement. It has something to teach us. Even at the beginning of the 21st century.

Štěpán Kotrba

Karl again.
The KSČM is in an interesting position. It's the successor to the party that (mis)ruled Czechoslovakia for 40 years, with accomplishments ranging from economic backwardness to the jailing and even killing of dissidents. I think the vast majority of people in the country were happy to see the borders opened, the press unshackled, the political prisoners released. But there are more than a few who miss the shabby but secure economic existence of the communist era, and when you see the insider dealing and blatant corruption of contemporary Czech Republic, it's easy to become disenchanted with the new regime and nostalgic for the "good old days."

The KSČM is a major beneficiary of this feeling, and the leadership of the party is trying to be a clearly leftist alternative--comfortably to the left of the Czech Social Democratic Party--while moving beyond its Stalinist heritage. It is opposed in these efforts by the "dinosaurs" (literally "lizards," but I think in translation "dinosaur" captures the sentiment more accurately), led by Stanislav Grospič.

The "dinosaur" position is evident in some of the language, even without background knowledge. For instance, they're upset that the party is aiming for "democratic socialism" (Hint: it's the "democratic" part they object to, not the "socialism"). Some of it, though, is rooted in Czech political history and the current political constellation.

During the first Czechoslovak Republic, created in 1918 from some of the ruins of the Habsburg empire, certain parties were described as "state-forming" (the Czech is státotvorné). These were the parties that accepted the existence of the new Czechoslovak state and ran for parliament in order to serve in the government and make the state prosper. These ranged from supporters of industry, of small business, of farmers, to the Czechoslovak Democratic Socialist Party backed by many workers.

Then there were the non-state-formting parties, or non-state-supporting. These included the more hardline elements among the German-speaking population of the country. Without having changed where they lived, German speakers had gone from being part of the dominant nationality in the Habsburg empire to a minority in the newly formed Czechoslovakia. While some German parties eventually accepted the new reality and even held cabinet positions from time to time, other Germans refused to reconcile themselves to the situation. They fundamentally didn't recognize the legitimacy of Czechoslovakia--well, they recognized it enough so as to run for parliament and then try to disrupt the management of affairs from within there.

The other major non-state-forming party was the KSČ, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which grew out of a left splinter of the Czechoslovak Democratic Socialist Party. Like the unreconciled Germans, they ran for parliament so as to wreak havoc. Though of course their objection to Czechoslovakia was not that it was run by Czechs instead of by Germans, but that it was run by and for bourgeois capitalists instead of by and for the workers.

Another split developed within the Communist Party itself. One of the founders, Bohumír Šmeral, moved back in a "state-forming" direction and held back from dictatorial tendencies. As the Czech Wikipedie entry on him puts it, "It must be observed that during Šmeral's involvement in the leadership, the party was not entirely undemocratic." Other party leaders continued to oppose bourgeois Czechoslovakia on principle. Šmeral died in Moscow in 1941, and when the Communist Party won a plurality in post-war elections and then took over complete power in 1948, it was the Stalinist elements who were in charge.

First among these was Klement Gottwald, who had been the prime minister of the post-war elected communist governments, and soon became the president of communist Czechoslovakia. Under Gottwald, the country became fully a Soviet satellite, complete with forced collectivization of agriculture, show trials, suppression of dissent, centralized state control of the entire economy, and an emphasis on heavy industry. When Gottwald died in 1953, he was embalmed like Lenin had been, and put on display in the National Monument on Vítkov (though he was taken out again in 1962 and buried).
 So at the end of the article, when Kotrba contrasts a "Šmeralesque" orientation to a "Gottwaldian" one, he's talking about an openness to democratic socialism and a  unique "Czechoslovak path to socialism," as opposed to an old-school Stalinist approach.

The most telling reference to the current political constellation is the favorable attitude of the "dinosaurs" toward the SMKČ, the Union of Young Communists of Czechoslovakia. Among the posters you can download from their site are ones that say, "Klement Gottwald: Hero!" and "J.V. Stalin: A hammer against the fascists!"

The last thing to pull out about the "dinosaurs" is their comment that the outcome of the party elections "is very telling about the ideological-political maturity and orientation of the majority of the delegates at the congress." This is the classic Leninist position: the Marxist vanguard, informed by the objective truth of Marxist-Leninist thinking, is of course correct in its understanding of the historical situation and the role of the party; if the actual people who are in the party, or the actual workers who are in the unions, don't agree, it is a sign of their insufficient understanding, a sign of their ideological and political immaturity.

My sense is that the writer of this--the parts that are in non-italics and not indented--is a supporter of the non-communist leadership of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. Not merely in preference to the old hard-line communists who were apparently defeated at the recent party congress, but in preference to other parties on the Czech political scene, so he's glad to see the defeat of people hanging onto such a blatantly discredited ideology.

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