Left Foot Forward in the Czech Republic

Article published on May 7, 2005
community published
Article published on May 7, 2005

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

While most people in the Czech Republic celebrated accession to the European Union on May 1st, this was not the case for one major party: The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia.

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (CPBM) was founded on March 31st 1990 as a successor to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPCz), which ruled this country for more than forty years (1948 – 1989). Many argued that the CPBM should be banned as an unreformed and direct successor to the CPCz. Some predicted that the Communists would sooner or later die out (the CPBM’s electorate consists predominantly of older people).

However, the CPBM has not been banned and the Communists do not seem to be dying out. On the contrary, the CPBM's results in parliamentary elections (except in 1996) are evidence of gradual growth. The last elections to the Czech Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies were held in 2002 and the CPBM became the third strongest party with 18.5% of all the votes cast. Recent opinion polls suggest that the CPBM is currently the second strongest party in the Czech Republic. The Communist Party currently has over 100,000 members (more than any other party).

Free health care and ‘no’ to US imperialism

The Communists' long-term political aim is socialism, which they view as “a society which is prosperous, socially just, democratic, politically and economically pluralist and committed to using the abilities of all”. They put a lot of emphasis on a strong role for the state, which should shape and co-ordinate strategic goals for society, regulate mixed market economy, guarantee a certain standard of living or the right to work for everyone etc. The CPBM wants education and healthcare to be completely free for all citizens. Furthermore, it seeks stronger state support for young families as well as for pensioners.

As for international relations, the CPBM is highly critical of US foreign policy. Moreover, it would like to see stronger co-operation with Eastern countries and for the Czech Republic to be a non-member state of NATO.

Rejection of the EU

The CPBM is not united in its stance towards the EU. It is divided into three groups – reformists, conservatives and hardliners. While the reformists support the Czech Republic’s integration into the EU and seek greater co-operation among left-wing parties in Europe, the hardliners often dream of going back to the pre-1989 days and reject the EU mainly because it decreases the Czech Republic’s sovoreignity and it is not socialist enough. The conservatives wander somewhere between these two positions. The CPBM’s official position on the Czech Republic joining the EU used to be very negative. However, today it is seen as a reality, which cannot be changed but which can be altered.

The CPBM considers the conditions under which the Czech Republic joined the EU to be disadvantageous in many aspects. It expects that EU accession will, especially in the beginning, bring a lot of problems for ordinary people. In their view, the most instant problem will be rising prices. Moreover, they are afraid that, at least in the first years, the Czech Republic will contribute more money to the EU than it receives. Furthermore, the CPBM is critical of the “European Constitution”, the possibilities for Czech influence in the EU, and the lack of democracy in some of EU's institutions.

Despite the critics, the CPBM will stand in the European Parliament elections this year. The Communist Party would like to attract voters through the principles of its political, social and economic programme. Its basic aims in the European Parliament are to strengthen left-wing influence in Europe as well as on the international stage, to actively participate in the work and unification programme of the European left, and to create a new vision of social and political relations.