Sunday, December 27, 2009

Democratic irony in Czechoslovakia -- government could ban Communist Party

It's hard to be surprised to hear that Czechoslovakia might ban the Communist Party -- maybe, the surprise is that the Communists still exist formally in that country at all. The party is the sole surviving Communist Party in any of the former Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe, according to the New York Times. The countries were dominated politically and economically by the Soviets for decades after World War II until the Soviet Union began to implode in the 1980s. Czechoslovakia broke away in 1989, in the so-called Velvet Revolution, but the Communist Party remained intact as the country embraced democracy. But now, a group of senators are trying to ban the party unless it recants its underlying philosophy of Marxist revolution. The group, led by Sen. Jaromir Stetina, whose grandmother helped found the Communist Party, have asked Prime Minister Jan Fischer, himself a former member of the party, to petition the Supreme Administrative Court to suspend party activities, the Times said. “We believe the Communist Party should be suspended until they give up the title of ‘communist’ and denounce Marx and Lenin, who regarded violence as a legitimate means of gaining power,” Stetina said. “Not even the millions of dead bodies, which are the consequence of Lenin’s policies, have convinced the Czech Communist Party to abandon his teachings.” But many Czechs believe the new Czech democracy should not ban any parties and leave decisions about who to seat in parliament to the electorate. The new push can reportedly be traced to a Communist Party statement following celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in November, the Times said. The statement denounced the democratically elected governments since 1989 for what it called "promises and lying" and contended that Czechs did not want to give up communism in 1989. “The Communists ruined this country and oppressed freedom and yet here they are 20 years later in our Parliament,” said David Cerny, the artist who painted a Soviet tank pink in 1991 to transform a memorial to the Soviet Army. “It is a national disgrace. The Communists are endangering the country. The Czechs need to wake up.” But the Communist Party received nearly 13 percent of the vote in the 2006 parliamentary elections and is the country's third largest political party. The party's leader, Vojtech Filip, told the Times that the Communist Party did not support regime change except at the ballot box. "We are a legal party and always act according to the Constitution," Filip said. But Filip did allow that he thought Karl Marx was "the greatest thinker of the millennium."

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