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Czech Social Democracy and its “cohabitation” with the Communist Party: The Story of a Neglected Affair Lubomír Kopeček, Pavel Pšeja Faculty of Social.

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Presentation on theme: "Czech Social Democracy and its “cohabitation” with the Communist Party: The Story of a Neglected Affair Lubomír Kopeček, Pavel Pšeja Faculty of Social."— Presentation transcript:

1 Czech Social Democracy and its “cohabitation” with the Communist Party: The Story of a Neglected Affair Lubomír Kopeček, Pavel Pšeja Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University Brno, Czech Republic

2 Research Scheme ČSSD as a „historical“ party following in established tradition KSČM as the second major party of the left, although remaining unreformed Major questions: How ČSSD achieved dominance? What is its relationship to KSČM?

3 Impacts of History ČSSD is the oldest Czech party with a continuous existence – established in 1878 Important part of the Czechoslovakian party system in the interwar period Surviving in exile after the communist coup d‘etat in 1948 and continuing in political activities

4 Conditions of Re-emergence ČSSD managed to successfully re-enter the Czech party system However, there were two different streams within the party, represented by Rudolf Battěk and Jiří Horák respectively, disagreeing upon the political strategy to be followed by the ČSSD Internal division resulting in a split with the exile branch continuing in its existence, and another group (Battěk) trying to pursue social-democratic politics within the Civic Forum (OF)

5 Searching for an Archimedean Point Electoral failure in 1990 parliamentary election Social democratic politics still represented in the Parliament through the Battěk‘s group Official ČSSD trying to incorporate members of some other parties of the left and centre including the Revival, group of former members of the communist party excluded after the year of 1968

6 Searching for an Archimedean Point Under the chairmanship of Jiří Horák ČSSD pursues the politics of tolerance towards government ČSSD did not achieve a real success in 1992 parliamentary election, although it did manage to get over 5% threshold Consequently, ČSSD was unable to offer a consistent and clear left-wing political alternative to the right-wing government

7 Claiming the Ground Since the moment of re-emergence ČSSD dealt with the issue whether it should admit former members of the communist party Both in 1990 and in 1992 parliamentary elections KSČM achieved significantly better results than ČSSD At that time, KSČM witnessed repeated attempts to transform the party and embark on a road towards social-democratization; however, all these attempts failed

8 Party standing in the election Votes (%)SeatsVotes (%)Seats Civic Forum (OF) Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) Movement for Autonomous Democracy – Society for Moravia and Silesia (HSD- SMS) Czechoslovak Social Democracy (ČSSD) Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Liberal Social Union (LSU) Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU-ČSL) Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) Association for the Republic – Republican Party of Czechoslovakia (SPR – RSČ) Civic Movement (OH)

9 Year of Change - ČSSD After parliamentary election in 1992 Jiří Horák decided to resign his chairmanship In February 1993 replaced by Miloš Zeman who dramatically changed the party policy towards the government and initiated the politics of fierce opposition easily distinguishable from other that of other parties Zeman refused any co-operation with the KSČM; however, ČSSD began to eagerly devour small leftist and centrist groups including many former members of KSČM, thus pushing KSČM to more extreme position

10 Year of Change - KSČM Chairman of KSČM, Jiří Svoboda, who tried to initiate reforms within the party, resigned his position in June 1993 and was replaced by Miroslav Grebeníček, hard-line oldtimer Membership of the KSČM explicitly rejected any plans to transform the party, and continued to prefer its traditional ideology

11 Changing Guards From 1993 to 1996, according to public opinion polls number of voters willing to vote for ČSSD rose from 7 to 23 % In 1996 parliamentary election ČSSD received 26.4 % of the vote and established itself as major party of the left In the period KSČM lost almost of members

12 Living in a Stabilized System Since the 1998 parliamentary election there are only five relevant parties in the Czech party system (compared to 8 in 1992 and 6 in 1996) ČSSD and KSČM are the only relevant parties of the left ČSSD repeatedly experiences serious difficulties in building a governmental coalition against the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the major party of the right Distribution of the voters‘ preferences tend to result in electoral deadlock, as KSČM is not considered by the other parties as a partner eligible for coalition negotiations

13 Party standing in the election Votes (%)SeatsVotes (%)Seats Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Czechoslovak Social Democracy (ČSSD) Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU-ČSL) Association for the Republic – Republican Party of Czechoslovakia (SPR – RSČ) Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) Union of Freedom – Democratic Union (US-DEU)

14 Possibilities and Limits of Co-operation In recent years, it is possible to observe increasing co-operation among social democratic and communist MPs in the Czech parliament However, there still persists an official ban on co-operation with KSČM, as assumed by ČSSD in 1990‘s Despite the ban there is growing tendency to see KSČM as natural ally displaying obvious programmatic proximity In ČSSD we can still differentiate two conflicting approaches towards this co-operation In any case, KSČM seems to be a logical partner for ČSSD

15 In Conclusion: What Next? ČSSD achieved dominance as a consequence of several overlapping factors: KSČM sticking to its traditional ideology and rhetorics; secession of all pro- reform groups from KSČM up to 1993; coincidental dramatic change in the party policies of ČSSD Altogether, at the same time ČSSD presented distinctly non-communist left alternative to the hegemony of the right, while the fact KSČM cannot be reformed became obvious Within ČSSD two different approaches towards the communist party are traceable: the first one based on historical experience and ideological distance, the other one resting on political pragmatism Gradually, we can witness an obvious trend in favour of the pragmatic approach, which seems to allow for easier negotiations in coalition forming Programatically, ČSSD and KSČM possess similar preferences, which can be transformed into political reality only if these parties co-operate

16 Thank you for your attention.


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