As communists gain support, Czechs protest and reflect on the anniversary of Communist coup.
The communist coup in Czechoslovakia that was followed by four decades of authoritarian rule as a satellite of the Soviet Union took place Feb. 25, 1948. This Feb. 25, the 65th anniversary was observed with a protest in Prague’s Old Town Square warning against the increase in support for the current communists. Premysl Sobotka, the chair of the Senate, spoke at the rally.
“We must never forget this date,” he cautioned, “and we must not forget how the communists gained power. The seemingly legal reconstruction of the cabinet led to 41 years that deeply damaged the country.”
Several other events around the city commemorated the coup – but the communist party and its supporters organized one to honor the memory of Klement Gottwald, the leader of the coup and the first communist president of Czechoslovakia.
For the first time since 1989 the Communist Party came in first in one of the country’s regions in last year’s local elections. Many protests followed these results, most from students and teachers, recalling how communist councilors were put in charge of education. Because of recent high unemployment and a drop in the standard of living, support for the communists has increased with nearly 17 percent of voters expressing support for the party.
Slavena Brownova, a Czech language and culture professor at Anglo-American University, stressed the significance of the economic downturn and how it has lead to increased communist support.
“Today there is so much uncertainty, many who are older and live in small towns think that under communism they lived a better life because everything was ensured for them such as jobs and a pension. Now a days many don’t have either of those.”
As a communist party member said, “Why should I hate the communist? I never had financial problems when the communists were in power, but today I do.”
Brownova recalls being able to leave Czechoslovakia for the first time after the travel ban was lifted just before the coup.
“I remember seeing how developed and well off people were in countries like England and France. It was eye opening.”
As a student in the late 1980s, Brownova became more involved in the anti-communist movement.
“We had no printers so we made leaflets by hand and spread them around form village to village. Slowly but surely the movement grew and we were able to persuade enough people to realize how important it was to end the communist rule.”
Marketa Horazna, a student majoring in journalism at AAU, remembers the stories her mother told her about growing up under communist rule.
“My mother was from a Christian family, and everyone knows communism and religion do not mix. Her teachers would humiliate her in front of her class with questions such as ‘Why do you go to church? We all know there is no god!’”
Cyril Svoboda, former chairmen of the Christian Democratic Party and a current international relations professor at AAU, says that not only is the weak economic climate responsible for Czechs giving a second look at the communist party, but rather a severe distaste with the current form of government that has been plagued by corruption scandals in the last several years.
“It’s not that everyone supporting the communists are pro-communist, rather they are anti-status-quo.”
It remains to be seen as to whether or not the increased communist support will have any effect on the future of the Czech government. The Social Democrats, who are the current opposition party, are expected to do well in next year’s general elections and may have no choice but to form a coalition with the growing communist party.