An Interview with Czech Communist Theoretician Josef Skala – Part 1

As we begin to introduce readers to news and developments from political life in the Czech Republic, we should recount some details on the activities of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (CPBM). The party emerged during the division of Czechoslovakia in 1990 and currently boasts the largest membership base in the country with around 40,000 members. For comparison, the ruling Czech Social Democratic Party has only around 15,000. In 1992, the communists had 320,000 members, which dropped to 140,000 in 1998, and then to 67,000 members in 2010. The main electoral base of the Communist Party is concentrated in former industrial centers in the provinces which suffer from problems with guaranteeing pensions and employment. The party, moreover, is a stable left party of the European, “Eurosceptic” type. In elections to the Czech Parliament, it has won from 10% to 19% of votes and from 22 to 41 seats out of 200. Out of the 21 seats reserved for the Czech Republic in the European Parliament, the communists have occupied from 3 to as many as 6 with their deputies working in cooperation with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left faction.

The party held its most recent congress in May 2016. Josef Skala, a reformer, doctor of philosophy, theoretician, historian, publicist, and former President of the International Union of Students, became the party’s candidate for the Czech presidency, throwing down the gauntlet before the party’s leader of many years, Vojtech Filip. Having almost no administrative resources whatsoever, Skala had also never held an official post in the party by the time of elections, and his electoral campaign was built entirely on the support of old and new friends. At the congress, Skala received 150 delegates’ votes while his opponent scored 203 out of a total number of eligible votes of 353. As a result, Dr. Josef Skala became the Deputy Chairman of the Party on ideological matters and the head of the newspaper “Hello, News” (Halo noviny). Even outside the Communist Party itself, Skala is respected as a burgeoning leader of the “new-old” Left. On the largest Czech internet portal, “Parliamentary Pages,” boasting daily traffic of up to 300,000 visitors a day, the following question was put to survey: “Who is the best candidate for chairman of the CPBM?” Out of 6,293 respondents, Vojtech Filip garnered 19%, Ivan Gruza 3%, and the responses “the worst because communists don’t deserve anything good” and “communists don’t interest me” were supported by 7% and 20% respectively. Skala won the poll with a total of 51%.

Popov (P): Dr. Skala, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia has undergone profound ideological changes since the collapse of the socialist block and the peaceful “divorce” of Czechoslovakia. How would you define the essence of these ideological changes? Are we dealing with a revision of Marxist-Leninist ideology and a drift in the direction of European Social Democracy?

Skala (S): Unprecedentedly forceful pressure has been put on the CPBM for it to “social-democratize”… In the majority of other countries, and not only former socialist ones, this pressure worked and those who gave in slipped into the political abyss – even in Italy, for example, where the communists once had 30% of the vote in elections. In our country, however, plans to programmatically castrate the party and attempts to drive it into isolation as a punishment for not surrendering were shattered. Communist ideals and movements have deep roots in the Czech Republic, more so than in a number of other countries. The convincingly positive results of our development under socialist [banners] also speak in our favor.

A fundamentally modernizing program, style, and method requires time. However, the seemingly unavoidable scheme of “state-induced reformist retreat” turned out to be more questionable than anything. Capitalism is in crisis and there are no humane or long-term solutions in its playbook. The exit from crisis lies beyond capitalism’s horizon. Today, we are still enduring intrigues leading to our “social-democratization.” Hence the ever-growing necessity of genuinely modernizing as soon as possible. Global capital does not only not want to offer people a way out – it simply can’t. Hence the need for a radically democratic program in the interests of and relying on the majority. We are the heirs of a party which not only managed to achieve this, but to an extent that wasn’t achieved elsewhere. Therein lies the hope for the light at the end of the tunnel.

P: The CPBM continues to be the most numerous political party in the Czech Republic and possesses one of the largest factions in the Parliament of the Czech Republic. What role does the Communist Party play in the political and social life of the country?

S: Our role is particularly notable from a comparative international perspective. We are well represented in the Czech and European parliaments and our members are also present in more than two-thirds of the country’s “regional governments.” You won’t find another such party which has not renounced the name “communist” and achieved anything similar in any other NATO and EU country.

P: How would you define the geopolitical and international program of the CPBM? What are the basic aims and tenets of this program?

S: If I were to express this briefly, then our aim is a world in which no one can claim the role of “chief of the globe.” This is in fact the point of democracy in relations between states. Therefore, productive dialogue and cooperation between forces whose goal is essentially the same is our aim. A multipolar, democratic architecture of international relations is a key condition for the state to take up the work of social progress after 30 years of continued asocial engineering.

P: The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is, in your own words, a party of an ideological alternative and alternative worldview. How does the CPBM relate to events in the East of the former Ukraine, in Donbass?

S: Sympathy for Donbass, which dared to confront the terrorist coup in Kiev, is characteristic of all generations of Czech communists, and not only them. We are especially interested in what this bold experience will yield in political and socio-economic terms. Kiev’s ongoing “Anti-Terrorist Operation” has committed a series of war crimes against its own people. We support Donbass, especially as a source of inspiration for left forces in other regions of the world.

P: How do you see Russia’s role in European affairs in its present state and in the long term?

S: The attempt to keep Russia stuck on the bench in some kind of penalty box hurts all of Europe. This will end poorly just like all such actions in the past did. Even Charles de Gaulle came to the idea of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Vladimir Putin has actualized this idea with the project of an economic and humanitarian bloc stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific shores of the Far East. All of Eurasia benefits from this both economically and in terms of sovereignty and security for all European and Asian countries. It is only logical that the ruling oligarchy in the US does not like this. It orders its “nomenclature” in such countries as the Czech Republic to denounce anyone who openly resists Russophobia as “tools of Russian propaganda,” “paid agents of the Kremlin,” and even “Russian secret services.” This is a sort of farcical McCarthyism. No one has presented even the slightest proof of evidence for such claims to this day. And we, by the way, are not like those “dissidents” who were housed by foreign embassies and secret services. We are for friendly, constructive relations with Russia in the name of our country’s vital interests.

The “Putin-Lavrov-Shoigu” triangle draws ever-growing respect from among many of our people. Those more familiar with Russian issues would add to this list the names of Dmitry Rogozin, a colleague of mine in the international youth and student movements of my youth, or the academician Sergey Glazyev. Next to them, of course, are representatives of the intellectual elite who do not directly act in high politics, but enrich it with their ideas – Mikhail Khazin, Andrey Fursov, Valentin Katasonov, and a number of others.

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