Czech Communists oppose the immediate Formation of a European Left Party


By Ken Biggs

One of the issues currently taxing the minds of European left politicians and activists is whether to go along with the European Commission’s establishment of so-called “European Political Parties”. Just after the EU’s expansion to 25 member states in May, elections for the European Parliament will be held throughout the enlarged Union. One of the few left parties from the new member states which is guaranteed success in these elections is the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (CPBM), the Czech CP.  Below, party member and long-time Czech resident Ken Biggs explains why his party opposes the proposals.


Contrary to various reports, the Czech Republic’s Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia does not support the immediate foundation of a so-called “Party of the European Left”. According to a report in the Czech left daily Halo Noviny on January 16, there are plans to found such a party in April. But representatives of some 20 parties attending a meeting in Berlin on January 11/12 hosted by Germany’s Party of Democratic Socialism were seriously divided over the plan, especially the new party’s statutes, which have to be approved by the EU as a condition of the party receiving funds from Brussels.


Speaking at a meeting of the CPBM’s central committee on January 25, party leader Miroslav Grebenicek said that the issue had been discussed at last October’s CC meeting and the party had adopted an unequivocal position on the formation of a European Left party. He quoted the view of the Communist Party of Greece, which refused to attend the Berlin meeting on the grounds that the new party’s statutes included an article stating that: ”The European party will develop its activities in the interest of the European Union’s institutions.”


Grebenicek reminded CC members of the statement they adopted last October, part of which said: ”Institutionalisation of the collaboration and cooperation between Left parties can be achieved as the natural result of a stage of successful united action. Bypassing this stage, and also a passive approach to achieving this aim, cannot at the present time contribute to real unity of the European Left.”


Miloslav Ransdorf, one of the party’s five vice-chairs and the vice-chair responsible for international relations, was criticised at the January CC meeting for ignoring last October’s CC resolution and creating the impression that the CPBM endorsed the founding a European Left party in April by signing a statement at the end of the Berlin meeting committing the Czech party to supporting this, even though the party had sent him there only as an observer.

The founding of a European Left party has been a controversial issue for the CPBM, which is one of Europe’s most influential communist parties, with a membership of 120,000, 41 deputies in the Czech Parliament’s legislature, the Chamber of Deputies, and over 6,000 local government councillors.


As last October’s CC statement pointed out, “Our party has always worked for cooperation and a coordinated approach by the European Left because this corresponds to the objective needs of our time. The whole European Left must confront the policies of militarisation and neoliberalism and the dangers arising from the imperialist character of globalisation as it is at present. The concept of a European Left is a broader concept embracing a wide range of political parties operating throughout Europe.


“The Left, however, is not politically or ideologically united, and this is true both inside some parties and also within the framework of individual countries and Europe as a whole. The objective conditions of economic and social development are different as a result of differences in historical development. If we want it to be successful, the organisational level of coordination and cooperation between the Left parties must take account of these different objective and subjective conditions.”


The statement continues by emphasising that the role of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left in the European Parliament  “corresponds to the objective conditions in the EU and the party structure of the European Left.” But, according to the CPBM, “it is also necessary to work towards (broader) united action by the European Left parties which is based on the principle of respect for the objective and subjective conditions and secures Left unity on fundamental European issues, and this on the basis of bilateral and multilateral activities which bring the views and attitudes of these parties closer together.”


On November 14 last year the CPBM’s executive committee issued a statement opposing the formation of a new Europe-wide Left party and criticising behind-the-scenes moves to sideline the Czech party and parties sharing its view that the forming of such a party would harm their attempts to build sustainable long-term unity on the Left. It said: “Attempts to create a European Left party without consulting a number of influential parties sharing our views are at odds with the aims of some European communist parties, including the CPBM.”


The party’s EC expressed “its disquiet at certain tendencies which have emerged around the issue of the creation of a European Left party and the damage which this could do to the necessary cooperation of the forces which, regardless of certain differences, have been working together as part of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament and in other international organisations.”


It is common knowledge that two parties were the driving force behind the Berlin meeting in January – the German Party of Democratic Socialism and the French Communist Party. They disagree with the position of the CPBM and its allies that united action by the Left in Europe based on bilateral and multilateral initiatives in the struggle against the dangers posed by militarism, neoliberalism and war is the way to build unity among the fragmented European Left rather than any precipitate move to found a Europe-wide Left party immediately and mainly as a response to the Euro-elections due to held in June of this year.


Both the PDS and the French Communists argue that the EU is reformable from within and support the founding of a European Left party funded by Brussels and geared to operate solely in the context of the European Parliament. But the new party’s statutes would have to be approved by Brussels as a condition of it receiving EU financial backing. This is unacceptable to the Czech Communists and a number of other European communist parties. *


Even though Miloslav Ransdorf topped the poll in a January CC vote to decide who would lead the CPBM’s list of candidates in next June’s elections to the European Parliament, he is a controversial figure inside the CPBM’s leadership. Some of his colleagues feel he is too close politically to the PDS and French Communist Party leaderships. Strongly pro-EU and a supporter of moves to strengthen cross-border Euro-Regions (some would say, at the expense of Czech national interests and sovereignty), he has also spoken out in favour of NATO’s enlargement.


Ken Biggs edits Postmark Prague.


* As do a number of non-Communist or “post-Communist” parties, including all Nordic parties in the European Parliament United Left Group (GUE-NGL) and the Socialist Party of the Netherlands (Spectre Ed.)