The government of the Slovak Republic, a coalition of four right-wing parties (led by Prime Minister Iveta Radičová of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union-Democratic Party) has approved draconian legislation that could end up sending members of the country's Communist Party and other leftists to prison for up to three years because of their beliefs and speech.
The law would criminalize any promotion of, or professions of sympathy for, communism, as well as denial of the crimes of the previous socialist governments of the former Czechoslovakia. It seeks to equate support for communism with support for Nazism. It is scheduled to go into force Sept. 1, though constitutional challenges are being mounted and protests are planned. Besides the Communist Party of Slovakia, other democratic currents in the country are denouncing the law.
This is not the first attempt by the Slovak right to legitimize fascism by attacking communists. A 2006 law makes opponents of the former communist-led government eligible for special government financial aid and includes anti-communist actions going back to Oct. 6, 1944.
Alexander Rehák, Emeritus Professor at the University of Bratislava, explains why this is troubling. After the Munich agreement of 1938, Hitler invaded Bohemia and Moravia (the "Czech" part of Czechoslovakia) directly and set up a puppet state. The Nazis also fomented the breaking away of Slovakia, which came under the rule of a clerical fascist, Monsignor Jozef Tiso, who became a key ally for Hitler, and participated in the Holocaust by facilitating the deportation of Slovak Jews.
In 1944, communists, Slovak military personnel and others organized the Slovak National Uprising against the German occupation and the collaborationist government of Tiso.
On October 6 of that year, Czechoslovak and Soviet troops attempted to force the Dukla pass in the Carpathian Mountains, so as to move from Poland into Slovakia to link up with the Slovak National Uprising and defeat the Nazis and their Slovak collaborators. Unfortunately, the effort failed, and the uprising was crushed with many deaths.
Because of this, opponents of the 2006 law complain that people who were basically on the pro-Nazi side toward the end of the Second World War, even perhaps Tiso (who was hanged after the war), could end up being exonerated and even given material rewards.
The new anti-communist law in the Slovak Republic is one of several such attempts in former socialist bloc countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, where right-wing politicians hold power. In each country, the left attributes the eagerness to attack the communists to a need to distract attention from the current rulers' own failed policies. The Slovak Republic is a good example of this: The right-wing government is implementing a particularly fierce program of austerity.
The World Federation of Democratic Youth issued a statement on the Slovak anti-communist law, which summed this up:
"Aware that the current system is unable to provide the people of Slovakia the 'well-being, justice and democracy that was promised during the early nineties, the dominant classes need to chase and eliminate all forces that, in an organized way, can fight against the destruction of social, political and democratic rights that the capitalist restoration has meant...On this occasion, we express our solidarity with all democratic formations in Slovakia, particularly with our comrades of the SZM [Slovak Socialist Youth League]."
Progressive people everywhere are asked to raise their voices in protest against this anti-democratic measure.
Photo: Slovak communists demonstrating, via Communist Party of Slovakia website.