Saturday, October 21, 2006

Czech your alarms

POLITICAL rally around Jan Huss monument in Prague. But Czech government wants to restrict who can utilise such freedoms.

IT seems that those who boast that they have vanquished socialism aren't taking too many chances. Czech president Vaclav Klaus came to prominence as an admirer of Margaret Thatcher and her free market ideas, although he has since then benefitted from backing by remnants of Czech Stalinism.

Capitalist free for all does not mean freedom for all. The Czech Interior Ministry announced last week that it had decided to ban the country's Union of Communist Youth (KSM).

An interior ministry spokeswoman said the Communist youth movement was striving to replace the private ownership of the means of production with nationalisation, which, she said, was against the Czech constitution.
The ministry says the KSM, which claims some 600 members, is illegal anyway because it is based on Marxism and believes in workers' revolution.

The organisation has 30 days to launch an appeal, but says it has already tried negotiating with the ministry, since being warned of the ban last year, and collected thousands of signatures at home and abroad against the ban, which would prevent it holding rallies and other activities and fundraising..

"I think it is a shameful witch hunt", Dr.Josef Skala of the Czech Communist Party told a Radio Prague interviewer. " Any democrat, not only a Marxist, should ask the question what sort of danger these 600 young girls and guys represent for democracy in the Czech Republic. Only for claiming what the original Christians were claiming. The question is how democratic the right-wing forces in this country can be. What is their relation to democracy?"
Pointing out that the Czech constitution is also supposed to guarantee freedom of speech and opinion, and asking what the young Communists had done to violate the constitution., he added a pointed challenge:

"Can anybody show me one practical deed and compare it with the right-wing rowdies who apply violence in the streets of the Czech Republic, with fascist symbols and so on? And they survive, no-one bans them. That's a very interesting comparison, isn't it?"

Indeed it is. But while neo-Nazi thugs have carried out violent attacks on Roma and other minorities, besmirching their country's name and the memories of Lidice and Terezin, it may be that the Communist Youth have committed a different offence.

As part of its prize for joining "the West", the Czech Republic has been permitted to participate in the US-led occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and will be able to host US bases in its territory.

The Czech parliament's petition committee recently discussed four petitions against the proposed construction of a US missile defence base on Czech territory which nearly 40,000 Czechs have signed. Defence Minister Jiri Sedivy defended the possible location of the base in the Czech Republic by pointing to the alleged threat of a missile attack from Iran and North Korea, which he said would be able to produce weapons of mass destruction in 5 to 15 years. But many people suspect hosting US forces makes them more likely to be a target, as well as forming part of moves to encircle the former Soviet Union.

As the Prague Daily Monitor reported today, "The Communist Youth Union (KSM) has collected the largest number of signatures - more than 33,000 under its petition against the base. The KSM cooperates with the Soldiers Against War civic association and the parliamentary Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) in its petition campaign. All KSCM deputies have signed " ... gn-petitions-against-US-missile-base

The Communist Party has benefitted from disillusionment with capitalist restoration, and worries over the Czech place in a German and US-dominated Europe. With 13.9 per cent of votes in this year's elections it is the third largest party in parliament, and hopes to use this for bargaining power. Representing past bureaucratic privilege behind the "Communist" name that it has kept, it has protested the ban on the youth movement, but leaders also told the young communists to back down and alter their aims to fit in with the constitution.
(something the party itself had already done).

Whatever we think of the Stalinists' record, we cannot accept the capitalist government's right to ban the communist youth. The reasons given for the ban - and here we must be grateful for the Czech government's honesty - would apply to any of us who consider ourselves Marxist, and believe the working class must gain power to change society from one based on profit to one based on human need, a change made all the more urgent by the way global capitalism is ruining this planet. Even the British Labour Party, were it to return to the aims enshrined in the famous Clause IV, section Four - to secure for the workers the full fruits of their labour by means of public ownership and democratic control - would fall foul of the Czech Interior Ministry's ruling interpreting the constitution.

Czechoslovakia, we once learned the hard way, was not just "a faraway country of which we know so little". The Czech Republic, as an EU member, must guarantee the same human rights we demand for ourselves, lest its restrictions become a precedent for attacks on us all. Hands off the Union of Communist Youth and all other left-wing Czechs!

  • ROMA human rights campaigners have welcomed a UN report condemning the forced sterilisation of Roma women in both Hungary and the Czech Republic. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women cited cases of individuals sterilised without informed consent as recently as 2004, and criticised the Czech government's failure to "adopt legislative changes on consent to sterilisation as to provide justice for victims of such acts". It also noted continued social discrimination against Roma, and failure to act against discrimination.



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