In 2021 the KSČM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia), the heir to once‑powerful KSČ (Communist Party of Czechoslovakia), failed to reach a quorum and for the first time since the Velvet Revolution will not be represented in the parliament. Many are rejoicing that the era of the party’s power is finally over and the post‑Cold War development came to its conclusion. However, the Communist Party influenced the lives of people in Czechoslovakia and then in the Czech Republic for one hundred years. The centenary of the founding of the KSČ provides an opportunity to look back at how the Communist Party was established, seized and maintained its power, and eventually lost its position. This thematic volume comes out loosely from the international conference dedicated to the centenary of the founding of KSČ held on 13 and 19–21 May 2021 in Prague (see https://100letksc.cz/en/). The conference was organized jointly by the Institute for the Research of Totalitarian Regimes and the Institute for the Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. All presentations are accessible on the YouTube channel.
Adéla Rádková, Ondřej Vojtěchovský - Editorial
Editorial for this year's first issue of Securitas Imperii: Journal for the Study of Modern Dictatorships.
Stanislav Holubec - Between anarchism and communism: Independent socialists and the attempt for a fourth power in the Bohemian left in 1923–1925
The presented study first summaries the development of Czech anarchism (independent socialism), or its nationally orientated part before World War I and its becoming mainstream in Czech politics between 1914 and 1918 culminating in a merger with national social party. It further describes the marginalisation of this stream in Bohemian politics in 1918–1923 given the calming of the post‑war situation and the radicalisation of this group, which culminated in its exclusion from the ranks of the socialist party. The main theme of the text is an analysis of the attempt by this group to build its own party entity in 1923–1925. In looking for the cause of the failure of this attempt, I argue that the Czechoslovak political landscape was stabilised, which made it difficult for new parties to form, even though they could rely on several nationally known personalities and several thousand activists. As a result of the radical left‑wing orientation of the independent socialists, they did not aim for social democracy after realizing their failure, but for the ranks of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), which was close to it mainly because of the Czech anarchists’ admiration for the Bolshevik revolution. In conclusion, I argue that the people representing this stream did not have much success in the Communist Party, because they differed from the members of this party in their rather middle‑class habitus and, as former members of the Socialist Party, they had biographies that were suspicious for the KSČ and they did not gain much respect as it was a group that had been unsuccessful in previous years and was quite small compared to the membership base of the KSČ. The failure of the Czech independent socialists does not deviate from European trends, where the political groups between the Social Democrats and the Communists did not gain a foothold even in other countries in the 1920s and 1930s, because the dilemma of going with Moscow or remaining on the platform of parliamentary democracy did not allow for compromise.
Marek Syrný - The Communist Party of Slovakia between the liberation and the gain of totalitarian power
This study deals with the tactics, means and methods by which the Communist Party of Slovakia, as a regional branch of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, politically fought for a monopoly of power after the Second World War. First, it briefly describes the development of this party and its acceptance by the Slovak society in the interwar and war period. Then, it presents a picture, analyses and compares the ways in which the Slovak Communists tried to disqualify their insurgent partners and post‑war rivals for power in the political struggle – the Slovak Democrats. It notes the relations between the Slovak and Czech Communists, the transformation of communist propaganda and tactics, conditioned by a single goal – the gain of totalitarian power, the introduction of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the replacement of capitalism by communism. Until the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the Communists used a variety of democratic, semi‑democratic and outright violent and undemocratic practices to win – from hyperbolizing the party propaganda, via the abuse of mass social organizations and the secret police, to purposeful investigation and intimidation and the threat of using a forceful solution of the political struggle.
Marta Edith Holečková - “Sukarno’s students” in Czechoslovakia: A brief contribution to Czechoslovak–Indonesian relations in the 1950s and the 1960s
In the mid-1950s, communist Czechoslovakia established diplomatic relations with several of the newly emerging states in the decolonising world and with states that were leaning towards socialism themselves. In building bilateral relations, Czechoslovak diplomacy often benefited from earlier, interwar cooperation and from traditional interests in the local knowledge of these “exotic” regions acquired during previous trade relations. Whilst the region of Southeast Asia lay largely on the periphery of these interests, the situation radically changed from the middle of the twentieth century. The ideology of “proletarian internationalism” played a key role here, and after 1956 it gave a new impetus to engagement with developing countries, signalling a shift in Soviet (and thus Czechoslovak) foreign policy. Although the Vietnamese are one of the largest national minorities in the Czech Republic today, in the late 1950s high expectations were placed on another state in the region: Indonesia. This study provides a brief reconstruction of the mutual relations between the two countries and the student communities that were formed in Czechoslovakia within this foreign policy context.
Marián Lóži - Exposing enemies in the regional leaderships of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia 1950–1951
The study examines the phenomenon of searching for internal party “enemies” at the regional level of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) in 1950–1951. It describes and compares the course of the campaign in four regional party organizations (Ústí nad Labem, Plzeň /Pilsen/, Olomouc, Prešov), in which it observes the actions of central, regional and district level actors. It monitors general trends and local specifics. It analyses which factors determined the course of the search for “enemies” in the leadership of the regions of the KSČ and its results.
Marek Jansa - Expelled members of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia: Their careers and perspectives during the beginning of the Normalisation era in South Bohemia
The following study deals with those members of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (Komunistická strana Československa, KSČ) who had to face expulsion from the Party at the beginning of the 1970s. It aims to present the perspectives of the rank‑and‑file members of the KSČ who were excluded or expelled after the military intervention of the Warsaw Pact troops in August 1968. Using the example of those expelled from two districts in South Bohemia (Český Krumlov and Prachatice), we will try to show the communist regimeʼs principled openness to redress among those affected who demonstrated their loyalty to the normalisation regime. The Party sanction, or rather the hope of improving their disadvantaged position, thus motivated some of those affected to various expressions of loyalty, manifested not only in official requests for re‑admission to the Communist Party, but above all through increased activity and public engagement. Also, many highly qualified workers were not significantly affected by the vetting due to their privileged status.
Ondřej Slačálek - How to typologize Czech anti‑communism: A reflection on three decades of memory conflicts
The paper is based on an analysis of Czech anti‑communism. It starts with a brief definition of anti‑communism. Then it presents six possible typologies of anti‑communism based on various questions: type of political mission, political background, actual political function, proposed cure, and spatial scope. There then follows a presentation of various phenomena that are framed in an anti‑communist way: the Communist Party, Social Democrats, liberals, the young generation, but also the contemporary West with its “progressivist” tendencies. In the two final sections the paper focuses on comparison in the Central European context. It shows that in the Czech context the transfer of German experience was (in)adequate for different reasons than in the Polish and Hungarian cases, namely because of the dynamics connected with the different trajectories of post‑communist political subjects.
Boris Mosković - GUŽVICA, Stefan: Before Tito: The Communist Party of Yugoslavia during the Great Purge (1936–1940)
Matěj Bílý - MILES, Simon: Engaging the Evil Empire: Washington, Moscow and the Beginning of the End of the Cold War
Vojtěch Ripka - 100 Years since the Founding of KSČ conference – a report
Jacques Rupnik - Reflections on the 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Jacques Rupnik discusses different approaches to the history of the KSČ.
Libora Oates‑Indruchová - The Limits of Thought: Academic Censorship during Normalization and its Legacy
Libora Oates‑Indruchová summarises her research on academic’s experiences of censorship and self‑censorship.
Tim Haughton - A Matter of Time? Assessing Communism’s Shadow on Czech and Slovak Politics Since 1989
Tim Haughton reflects on the shadows cast by communism on Czech and Slovak politics since 1989.