Monday marks the 65th anniversary of the communist putsch of 1948 which for the next four decades turned Czechoslovakia into a totalitarian state and a satellite of the Soviet Union. The anniversary is being commemorated by a series of events, warning against the Communists’ growing support in the society.
On Saturday, February 25, 1948, communist leader Klement Gottwald infamously announced to his supporters in Prague’s Wenceslas Square that President Edvard Beneš had accepted all his proposals, putting a seal on the party’s takeover of the country.
One of the events marking the anniversary on Monday honoured the thousands of students who on that day marched to Prague Castle to protest against the putsch. The rally was brutally suppressed and many of its participants faced persecution. The chair of the Senate, Přemysl Sobotka of the Civic Democrats, was the keynote speaker at Monday’s commemorative event
“We must never forget this date, 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.
“But we should also remember what preceded this: the communist victory in the 1946 elections, and the fact that during the war, Soviet leaders were already planning to take over eastern Europe.”
Other rallies commemorating the anniversary are set to take place in Prague and elsewhere in the country later on Monday. One of them, however, will honour the memory of Klement Gottwald who oversaw the coup before becoming the country’s first communist president.
Organized by the Communist party and its supporters, the gathering will take place at his gravesite. David Pazdera from the Union of Young Communists, a radical group which participates in the event, argues the current regime is worse than the post-1948 dictatorship.
“If people are unable to exercise their civic rights because they are denied their social rights, then that’s something much worse, and it is something much more widespread in the current regime.
“What came after February 1948 was a democratic dictatorship – dictatorship of the majority over the minority. But today, we see a dictatorship of the minority – the owners of the means of production – over the majority. Both of them are dictatorships, and both oppress human rights.”
But for many Czechs, these issues are purely academic. Faced with prolonged economic recession, unemployment, corruption, and a drop in living standards, support for the Communists is fast increasing.
In last year’s regional elections, the party won seats in nine of the country’s regions and even came first in one of them, for the first time since 1989. This has sparked protests by students and teachers in some of the regions where communist councillors were put in charge of education. But political analyst Petr Just believes that the society no longer sees the Communist party as a threat.
“Generally, I don’t think this is a major problem for the society. But if you look into the portfolios for which communist councillors are responsible now or, communist ministers could be possibly in the future, that I think would be a bigger issue.”
The Communists might moreover soon return to power. The opposition Social Democrats are expected to win the next general elections in 2014. The Communist party now enjoys the support of some 17 percent of voters; that could make the Social Democrats reconsider their past decision not to collaborate with the party on the national level, and invite them into the next government.
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