(The discussion will be held in Czech without interpretation.)
In this paper, I will examine the “national question” in the KSČ between 1921 and 1929. I will examine the KSČ as a multi-national party with Czech, German, Slovak, Jewish, Polish, and Ruthenia (Ukrainian) branches and how the unique national inclusiveness of the KSČ proved an asset and weakness during a decade that saw the rise of fascism in Europe. I study the repercussions of multi-nationalism for the party’s policy agenda, which regularly addressed autonomy for areas such as Subcarpathian Ruthenia in the eastern borderlands, language rights for national minorities, and rights to local governance in Slovakia. And I argue that this structure was a reason, apart from class or ideological considerations, that the Bolshevik model was a subject of such fascination in Czechoslovakia. After all, the USSR was an experiment in building a multi-national policy that was unique on a continent increasingly defined by nation states. This paper will look at these and other social, cultural, and intellectual issues emerging from the multi-national identity of the KSČ during its foundational decade.
This paper will study Šmeral’s conversion from Austro-Marxism to Leninism on a case study of his relationship to the communist parties of the Balkans. The goal is threefold: to critically reassess the established belief that Šmeral was an Austro-Marxist renegade within the Comintern, to understand his political transformation, and to examine his impact on Balkan communism. Šmeral had deep political connections to the region, visiting party congresses both during the Second and Third Internationals. From 1926 until 1929, he was even the head of the Balkan Land Secretariat of the Comintern, and remained active in it well into the 1930s. An examination of his activity in the BLS shows that he was one of the main Comintern figures who pursued a policy of Leninist self-determination in the Balkans, in opposition to those individuals that the Comintern had (rightfully or not) criticized as Austro-Marxists.
The contribution focuses on outlining the development and activities of the KSČ regional authority in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, which had a considerable degree of independence, unlike other regions, and gained increased attention of the governing bodies of the Communist International (Comintern). The research relied on archival documents kept by the National Archive, the State Archive of the Zakarpattia region, and the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History. The contribution will evaluate election results, increase in number, the national issue, selected actions of the Party (recruitment, promotion, information, annual, strike, etc.), and the efforts of the state apparatus aimed at suppressing the movement.
Representatives of the two Western powers closely monitored the appointment of the Communist Party officials into key power positions in liberated Czechoslovakia from the beginning. With the comprehensively supportive policy of the exile, “Košice” government and President Beneš towards the Soviet Union, the Allies considered Czechoslovakia to be a “litmus paper” of Soviet goodwill. Therefore, members of the United States’ and Great Britain’s embassies paid very close attention to the policies of the national Communist Party, its representatives and goals. Their reports and predictions were penetrated by numerous illusions influenced by non-communist parties’ views; however, there was many valuable observations and analytical conclusions that allowed us to understand better the Communist Party’s strategy for power set within the context of large-scale Soviet power-political expansion.
The contribution focuses on scholarship fellows (scholars) from third world countries at Czechoslovak universities. Students from non-European countries came to Czechoslovakia based on concluded cultural agreements, and their number significantly increased since the mid-1950s. At that time, the group of priority countries of the Czechoslovak foreign policy included newly established states and states turning to socialism. The contribution evaluates the general context (setting of the scholarship exchanges within the framework of foreign policy and reflection on their meaning); selected topics associated with this phenomenon and specific student communities are to be dealt with in more detail.
This presentation draws on the extant research on censorship in the Eastern bloc, but advances the discussion and the theory of state-socialist censorship by 1. re-focusing the inquiry from literature to social sciences and humanities; 2. attempting a more complex treatment of writing and publishing under the conditions of censorship, by bringing together multiple actors and levels at which censorship was deployed; 3. striving for a nuanced account of repression, resistance, negotiation, and complicity. It looks at all stages of the writing process from the inception of an idea to post-publication reception and at the institutional and policy context surrounding this process. What strategies did the authors and also the institutions, in which they worked and for which they wrote, use in the process of scholarly text production? It considers, in turn, a variety of actors participating in the process, while placing the greatest focus on the self-perceptions of the authors themselves, in order to examine the relationship of the author-scholar to his or her text and the reader. How do the authors now perceive how intellectual communication between authors and readers worked then? The agency and negotiations of the creative actors, rather than their instrumentalization by censoring repressions of the state institutions stand in the centre of this inquiry
Czechoslovakia and Hungary are the countries of investigation, but the project takes a broader perspective that includes the former Soviet Union and most other countries of East Central and Eastern Europe. Oral history interviews constitute the backbone of the project, complemented by contemporary science-policy documents and the archive of the Editorial Board of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.
The contribution aims to analyse the relationship between the anarchist and the emerging communist movements. At first, this movement perceived the Czechoslovak communists with distrust; they saw them too contaminated with German patriotism (Marxism) and collaboration with Austria (Šmeral). However, the anarchist sympathies for the Bolshevik revolution and resistance to a right-wing turn in the Czechoslovak post-1919 politics led them into the orbit of the KSČ. Nevertheless, their leaders tried to form the Party of Independent Socialists in 1923, combining loyalty to Czechoslovakia with anti-capitalism, admiration for the Bolshevik revolution, atheism and also the feminist agenda. Only when it was clear that such an attempt had no chance of success did most former anarchists join the KSČ.
The contribution describes the circumstances of the formation of the Independent Communist Party and its short existence. The Party, founded by Josef Bubník and other representatives of the right-wing of the KSČ, has not been appropriately evaluated yet. The contribution tries to approach it based on a systematic study of available sources. The establishment and operation of the Independent Communist Party can be connected with the development of KSČ. The contribution points out that the events connected with the formation of the new communist movement are more important for the history of the KSČ than what is attributed to them. The right-wing of the Communist Party, which opposed the Party’s Bolshevisation, dominated it, until 1924. Under pressure from Moscow, however, a predominantly left-wing Politburo took the lead, which resulted in the departure of some right-wing representatives from the Party and the gradual Bolshevisation of the KSČ.
The contribution focuses on various interpretations, recognition, and denial of the pros and cons of the interwar Czechoslovak democracy by representatives of the post-war Communist Party of Slovakia, in the Party press, parliamentary speeches or in the internal forum. Predominantly, the contribution concentrates on applying standard parliamentary methods of political struggle versus the abuse of non-parliamentary practices to gain power dominance at any cost. Moreover, the Party’s perception of non-standard or violent practices in gaining power shall be considered, either set within the contemporary context or in the later post-February reflection.
Immediately after the coup d'état in February 1948, the KSČ leadership took several measures to consolidate the acquired power. By using the AV NF, state administration bodies, universities and factories were purged, which was followed by the expulsion of inconvenient people from the army and police force. Although the defeated democratic movements of the National Front (NF) continued to exist, they became just stand-ins of communist politics. The adoption of the so-called Ninth-of-May Constitution, the parliamentary elections in 1948, and the election of Klement Gottwald as the new head of establishment represented consecutive steps to strengthen the monopoly of the KSČ’s power. Nevertheless, its leadership was criticised by the Soviet VKS/b/. The article also pays attention to the Soviet interventions in the Czechoslovak Republic’s internal affairs in the summer and autumn of 1948 and efforts to influence the policy of the KSČ.
The contribution analyses the activities of the central parliamentary institutions of socialist Czechoslovakia at several turning points – during the early years of the Communist dictatorship, in 1968 and the emerging Normalisation, and the second half of the 1980s – in terms of the role assigned to them by the Communist Party leadership to which in some cases, these institutions resisted to a greater or lesser extent. The diversity of political tasks and reactions of the representative councils is intended to illustrate the neglected dimension of the political system and the progress of the Communist leadership during crises and in creating the appearance of normality.
In the Czech academic discourse, the year 1945 is often perceived as a point of reference, which set the way for the following Communist dictatorship, as it deviated from the principles of pre-war liberal democracy. Within such an interpretive model, the Communist Party policy is described mainly as the purposeful utilisation of post-WWII Czech society’s mood. Although such an approach certainly forms part of the concept of political history, it is equally important to ask to what extent the KSČ still corresponded to the original movement from the pre-Munich Republic with a clearly declared radical opposition stance (and at the same time, the admitted sectarian practice), and to what extent, it gained the character of the so-called state-forming Party. The contribution shall determine how the KSČ became socially acceptable, i. e. how it complied with the phenomenon that formed a significant part of the overall transformation of Czech politics at the end of the Nazi occupation.
Undoubtedly, the KSČ always wanted to establish a totalitarian regime. As early as 1946, the Communists used State Security (StB) to liquidate their political opponents. However, they did not control the Ministry of Justice. At that time, they experimented “to involve an uninvolved person in an anti-state conspiracy”, as stated by J. Jablonický in connection with Prof. Kolakovič. The criminalisation of DS officials began already prior to February 1948. The staged political-judicial trials created mostly supposed enemies of the state and an atmosphere of fear. Repressions affected every social class, including Communists and members of the StB. There were several waves of political processes during the four decades of the Communist regime, and the last ended in November 1989.
The contribution focuses on the phenomenon of searching for internal Party enemies at the regional levels of the KSČ. It compares the course of action in seven regional party leaderships and organisations (Bratislava, Ústí nad Labem, Pardubice, Karlovy Vary, Plzeň, Olomouc, and Prešov) and evaluates the actions of the central, regional and local level officials. The author seeks to determine if the central party leaders acted in the same way or if their attitude was influenced by any feedback from regional party groups and meetings and to what extent (in both cases). The paper examines how the regional elites and lower-level officials acted, what was the form of their actions and what motivated them. Moreover, it evaluates which aspects were present and which were variable. It seeks to describe the factors, which determined the course of the search for enemies in the regional party leaders and its results.
In the atmosphere of the international Cold War, repressions hit even the members of the KSČ. The trials with the Communists, who joined the Party prior to May 1945, were to show that no one was untouchable. State security “convicted” them of actual or alleged crimes. Within Stalinist Czechoslovakia, the internal enemies were “searched” in the Communist ranks. The “old Communists” who often participated in the totalitarian regime’s emergence were sentenced to heavy prison terms. They spent hard years behind bars, where they met their ideological opponents and hoped that they would be released. The contribution addresses the following topics: what members of the Communist Party were involved, when and for what crimes they were imprisoned, what was the sentence, how they behaved while serving their sentences and that was their state of health, since when were they members of the Party, what was their Party history and what positions they held in the KSČ.
The contribution focuses on attempt to construct a non-religious society after 1948, when, in addition to erasing religious sentiment, a new way of thinking and behaving should emerge. The discrepancy between the success of atheising pressure of ideologues of the Communist Party and the failure to create a new positive, socialist morality forms the core of the presentation.
Even before the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) seized power in February 1948, the party was closely aligned with the Soviet Union. Over the next 41 years, the ruling KSČ staunchly supported Soviet policy during all major (and minor) crises in the Eastern bloc, with two notable exceptions — the events of 1968 and the upheavals of 1989. In August 1968 the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to dislodge the reformist leaders of the KSČ, and in 1989 the Soviet Union stayed on the sidelines when the KSČ and other hard-line Communist parties in Warsaw Pact countries were forced out of power. This lecture will review the interactions between the leaders of the KSČ and the Soviet Communist Party during the numerous intra-bloc crises from 1948 through 1989.
How did the relationship between the interwar KSČ and the left-wing avant-garde movements look like? What was the relationship between Surrealism and Communism? How was the Avant-garde rediscovered in the 1960s? The contribution focuses on the development of the left-wing cultural movements in relation to the KSČ, which reflects somewhat neglected topics, such as the generational discussion on the “crisis of criteria” in the 1920s, the discussions about Surrealism in the Left Front in the 1930s, or the way how Ladislav Štoll dealt with the contradictions of the interwar discussion concerning the left-wing cultural movements in his paper on thirty years of the Czechoslovak poetry. The concluding part of the contribution reflects the reassessment of the legacy of the Avant-garde in the 1960s.
The contribution focuses on the post-war KSČ in Zlín and its operation in a specific factory town. For example, the paper addresses the way how the local Communists tried to cope with the Baťa heritage or how the Party apparatus, mutual relationships of its membership, its regional elites, non-partisans, as well as employees of the Baťa/Svit factory, and their operation reflected certain aspects of the Modernism project that had been bound locally, such as technocratism or discipline. Finally, attention shall be paid to the post-February Party elites’ plans to build the city into the first model city of Socialism and their implementations, such as the renaming of Zlín to Gottwaldov.
One of the Communist government’s important attributes was the systematic involvement in people’s careers according to the principles of comprehensively conceived political background checks. This practice foundation was initially laid within the Communist Party (KSČ) itself - under the direct pressure of the Soviet leadership, the KSČ took over some of the Bolshevik Party practices since the 1930s. The post-war influx of members and the penetration of Communist officials into influential positions updated the traditional themes of political control, purgation and education of membership; thus, political personnel background continued to be systematised. After the February coup in 1948, Party personnel policy and control principles began to be applied throughout the entire society. The Party’s leading role in society was mainly ensured through the supervision of the operation of institutions and their employees. The question remains what specificity the Party has kept for itself and for its members in all its efforts to universalise the Communist principles of supervision and education.
The contribution presents the perspectives of ordinary members of the KSČ excluded or removed after August 1968. On the example of excluded members in the two Bohemian Forest districts, the authors illustrate the regime’s principled openness to redress those individuals who proved their loyalty to the normalisation regime. Some of the affected persons were motivated by the Party’s punishment or rather hopes to improve their disadvantaged position to corroborate their loyalty, manifested not only in their official applications for readmission to the Communist Party but also by their increased activities and public involvement. On the other hand, some highly qualified workers were also not significantly affected by the political background checks due to their privileged position. Finally, the possible stabilising role of the excluded members for the nascent normalisation regime shall be discussed.
The contribution describes the phenomenon of complaints addressed by the Czechoslovak citizens to the highest Party leadership during the so-called normalisation period. It is evident that the complaints formed a kind of soft stabiliser of the Communist dominion and represented an example of remarkable and, in a way, very intense interaction between state authorities and citizens who mastered the relatively successfully specific language and discursive competences to use official ideological promises to advance their own interests. Simultaneously, the Communist leadership emphasised the proper handling of individual complaints presented as an “instrument of permanent and immediate connection with the masses,” which fulfilled an essential signalling and informative function.
The high level of social security applied as an instrument of social stabilisation represents a vital element of remembrance of the period of state Socialism. At the same time, especially in the last decade of state Socialism, social policy was one of the key factors in economic stagnation. Simultaneously, the population began to be increasingly dissatisfied, and the confidence in the sustainability of such a model’s future decreased. The contribution focuses mainly on 1945–1989 with some partial overlaps into the First Republic and the 1990s. Compared to interwar Czechoslovakia and the post-war Western countries, the Communist State managed to achieve significant social policy successes (health care system, safety social net, employment), especially in the 1950s; however, other social aspects were significantly neglected (housing policy). In the following decades, the competitiveness of State Socialism in the field of social securities tended to decline. The contribution concentrates on systems analyses and addresses the pitfalls of reminiscing the past: praising the “social gains” often conceal or neglect their flip side in the form of their high price paid, which the witnesses often no longer admit.
In the post-war period, until about the mid-1960s, the project of a “democratic family” developed in Czechoslovakia, a family professing equality between partners and democratic principles within the family itself. It relied on the Marxist tradition and was also supported by the welfare state’s institutions and instruments. The contribution focuses on the standard contradiction between women’s emancipation and patriarchy, which characterised the post-war Czechoslovak society and formed the internal policy of the KSČ. Rather than the traditional development line of Stalinism – Reformist movement in the 1960s – Normalisation, the author concentrates on the surviving cultural and social traditions and norms that played critical role in adapting the “democratic family” in practise.
The history of Czechoslovak Communism represents a relatively closed historical phase. Interpretations of its economic development and impact on the contemporaneous population’s lives differ even more than thirty years after the regime’s fall. This is visible, for example, in the ongoing efforts to compare living standards, which were achieved in the late 1980s, with current living standards. The contribution aims to determine the various ways of evaluating the economic development that Czechoslovakia underwent during the Communist Era, including assessing the results of economic and social equalisation of Slovakia to such a level so that it would correspond to Bohemia.
Industrial workers’ strikes fulfilled a dual function in post-February Czechoslovakia. The work teams used them against corporate management as a standard part of everyday negotiating mechanisms of working and social conditions. In principle, the lower levels of the Communist Party establishment tolerated this practice as a necessary tool for maintaining stability. On the contrary, the Party leadership (as well as the remnants of the political opposition) perceived independent workers’ initiatives politically, i. e. as threats (or rather opportunities) to disrupt the existing power dominance. The wave of unrest during the monetary reform of 1953 represented the culmination of the mutual misunderstanding of these two concepts. After 1953, the Communist Party leadership significantly changed the basic principles of its social policy. Simultaneously, the industrial disputes were depoliticised, and friendly communication with employees became one of the essential duties of all subordinate units in the industry. The contribution shall focus on the consequences of the processes mentioned above on transforming the phenomenon of strikes in 1953–1968.
The contribution aims to determine changes in the perception of the Chinese Communist system from the 1970s to the 1980s at the ideological and expert level using the example of the Party internal documents and public outputs in Party media such as Obrana lidu, Tribuna or Tvorba. How was the Chinese path to “Communist capitalism” of Teng Xiaoping perceived when the PRC tried to connect the economic modernisation with the Communist Party’s power monopoly, compared to Soviet perestroika and the Czechoslovak attempts at reforms? How was the Chinese model communicated to the Czechoslovak public as far as its ideological form was concerned? Moreover, how did the perception, understanding, and communication change during 1989 connected with the Tiananmen Square protests’ suppression in June 1989? Did the specific Chinese experience play a role in the Czechoslovak leadership’s reflections in the reflection and application of perestroika models in the late 1980s? The contribution concentrates on comparing the Czechoslovak attitude towards the Chinese development in the 1980s with the reactions of other Communist Parties of the Eastern bloc.
Few would deny the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia has played a significant role in the history of the Czech and Slovak lands. For four decades it was the dominant political force in the country, but what has been the lasting legacy of the Party and its rule on politics in general and the dynamics of party politics in particular since 1989? In addition to highlighting how some institutions, practices and mental maps from the communist period have remained not just present but significant in shaping political behaviour and outcomes, in this presentation specific focus will be placed on examining the patterns of party politics since 1989. A close examination of the development of party politics indicates how exit from communism, combined with the subsequent choices made, underscores that the shadow of communism is both longer, but lighter than some expected at the time of the Velvet/Gentle Revolution.
The contribution determines the basic typology of developmental trajectories of particular Communist Parties in the post-Communist part of Europe following the fall of Communist Regimes. Attention shall be paid to the form of the transformation taking place in 1989–1992/3 and the subsequent fates of the individual parties in the next three decades. The contribution focuses not only on the de facto (or direct legal) successors of the former state Parties but also on the movements newly established in the period under review, reflecting the Communist ideology and Communist heritage of their countries. The comparison made shall corroborate the rather unique position of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia within the Post-communist world.
The contribution focuses on analysing the role of attitudes to the Communist past in structuring political identities in the Visegrad Group countries (Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland). Constructing a party system shall be widely discussed to identify the extent to which the relationship to the prior-1989-political regime influenced the formation of political cleavages (dividing lines) in terms of ideological divisions and coalition strategies of the key political representatives in the four states. Although initially, the political elites in all four states symbolically delegitimised the prior-1989 regimes, political discourses concerning them were not concluded with the adoption of any one-off political or legal acts. By applying a comparative approach, the contribution seeks to identify the relevance degree of this factor in individual V4-states and factors that influenced the growth or decline in the relationship’s importance to the Communist past in shaping the party system in various periods after 1989. The analysis relies mainly on indicators illustrating the intensity of the conflict between the anti-communist opposition and government elites before 1989, the ability of former Communist Parties to participate in political and socio-economic transformation in the following period, and the political discourse of anti-communist forces within individual V4-states.
The contribution tries to arrange the various forms of anti-communism into a coherent typology, mainly based on their role in the subsequent transformation and post-transformation period. Different forms of Czech anti-communism are to be compared with the same movements in Hungary and Poland. The contribution corroborates that in the Czech Republic, anti-communism has not merged so significantly with nationalism and conservatism to facilitate the emergence of the discursive opportunities in the form of personalities such as Orbán and Kaczynski. While in Poland and Hungary, anti-communism became the starting point for a conservatively nationalist critique of transformation, “liberal-conservative” forms of anti-communism prevailed in the Czech environment, which primarily hindered any transformations and their results.
The contribution focuses on shaping the memory of Czechoslovak Communism from the fall of the regime to the present. The aim is to present the prominent representatives of the commemoration, symbolic contents, and instrumentalisation of the Communist heritage in the memory policy. The paper compares how the common Communist past has been presented in public space in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and indicates parallels/differences in the treatment of memory in other Post-communist countries.
The 1989 events have opened up space in the Communist Party to formulate new concepts of Communist ideology that would be compatible with the established democratic order. The economic reform project, which distanced itself from the normalisation form of the centrally planned economy and the ongoing liberalisation, privatisation and restitution, formed an essential part of this discourse. In the first post-revolutionary months, the Party sought to support the government’s economic policy. However, it developed its own, the so-called “democratic economic reform” in the autumn of 1990. By doing so, the Party entered into opposition to government reform. In 1991 and 1992, its promotion was accompanied by a sharply confrontational style, which focused mainly on evoking a feeling of “national threat” to Czech and Slovak society from foreign capital.
Libora Oates-Indruchová is cultural scientist, literary scholar, English scholar and professor of gender sociology from the University of Graz, who is also a member of the scientific board of the Institute for the study of totalitarian regimes. Her research interests include gender issues in socialism and post-socialism, censorship in the former Eastern Bloc and narrative research. She did her postgraduate studies at Lancaster University and her habilitation at the University of Szeged. She is the author of Discourses of Gender in Pre- and Post-1989 Czech Republic, editor of two anthologies of Anglo-American feminist thought, and co-editor of The Politics of Gender Culture under State Socialism: an Expropriated Voice. She is the social science officer of the Scientific Council of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
Mark Kramer is Director of Cold War Studies at Harvard University, a Senior Fellow of Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and Director of Harvard’s Sakharov Program on Human Rights. Originally trained in mathematics at Stanford University, he went on to study International Relations as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and an Academy Scholar at Harvard’s Academy of International Studies. In addition to his appointments at Harvard, he has been a visiting professor at Yale University, Brown University, Aarhus University in Denmark, and American University in Bulgaria. He has published numerous books and many articles and has long been the editor of the Journal of Cold War Studies, a quarterly academic journal published by MIT Press, and editor of the Harvard Cold War Studies Book Series.
Tim Haughton is Associate Professor of European Politics at the University of Birmingham, where he served as Head of the Department of Political Science and International Studies (2016–2018). He has held Visiting Fellowships at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies and the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and he was an Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Fellow at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Dr Haughton has good links with the policymaking community, having briefed inter alia five British Ambassadors to Slovakia before they took up their posts. His research interests encompass electoral and party politics, electoral campaigning, and the domestic politics of Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. He is the co-author with Kevin Deegan-Krause of The New Party Challenge: Changing Cycles of Party Birth and Death in Central Europe and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2020), the author of Constraints and Opportunities of Leadership in Post-Communist Europe (Ashgate 2005), the editor of Party Politics in Central and Eastern Europe: Does EU Membership Matter? (Routledge, 2011) and served as the co-editor of the Journal of Common Market Studies’ Annual Review of the European Union for nine years (2008-16).