"Only a united left can stand up to capitalism"


Since last year Slovakia has been a member of NATO and earlier this year the country's ruling right-wing coalition won a Yes vote in the referendum on EU membership.

At last year's parliamentary election, the Slovak Communists surprised almost everyone by winning 11 seats in the country's 150-member National Council or parliament.

The Czech communist daily Halo Noviny recently published this interview with Jozef Shevc, chairman of the Communist Party of Slovakia's Central Committee.

From the political and economic point of view and in terms of public opinion, is the present situation in Slovakia as complex as it is in the Czech Republic?

I think the position in our country is similar. Obviously the attitude of citizens varies according to the social structure of each country. But the fact is that for tactical reasons the Slovak government is deliberately concealing a series of important facts from its citizens. Above all, to hide its own incompetence and growing social poverty - not only from its own people but from the people of Europe as a whole. Also the fact that things simply won't get any better -- quite the opposite: after joining the EU our social problems can be expected to get even worse, and unemployment will rise. The EU really does not offer at present a vision of any kind of future, But the way forward is not to remain outside. Of course, entry must be made conditional on acceptable terms based on equality. Unfortunately the accession agreement which, unlike in the Czech Republic, was submitted after our EU referendum, does not guarantee this, because certain of its chapters are discriminatory. So the 11 communist deputies refused to endorse the agreement and fiercely criticised individual chapters.

Arguably, one of the most criticised chapters of the accession agreement in the Czech Republic was the one on agriculture, with agriculture long being a major problem throughout the EU. Are Slovak farmers better off in this respect?

I'm not sure that Europe will agree so quickly on the conditions which should apply to agriculture. Virtually the whole world envied what we had achieved in agriculture when our two countries were part of the common state of Czechoslovakia, but today that has been very cynically destroyed and we both have big problems. The situation of the farmers and primary producers is tragic, and it should be remembered that we are not able to subsidize them and as a result in economic terms they can't hold their own in the competitive European environment. Hence the obvious attempt to restrict agricultural production in Slovakia or, as I would say, to directly destroy it. Obviously, we can't agree to this. And there are things which we try to tell our citizens in order to hold up some kind of mirror of truth so that they won't be surprised by what lies ahead of them after they join the EU.

Do you think that countries joining the EU will have to pay for their membership with a certain loss of sovereignty?

Most emphatically yes! Decisions won't be made in Bratislava but in Brussels. Power and capital are being globalised, with eyes firmly fixed on higher profits rather than on how ordinary people will benefit. This is why, even though it is "five minutes to midnight", it's so essential to unite the left-wing forces, so that they can be a counter-balance to an ever more aggressive capitalism. Our two communist parties have not stopped working together and we have signed agreements on cooperation and our bilateral relations are constantly being strengthened. We want to create space for more discussions and benefit from the experience of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia as the more experienced party which has a longer tradition of parliamentary representation. But if the left is to be a real force, it must unite within an all-European framework. So in this sense we favour the earliest possible approach to at the very least the left-wing forces in the ten EU candidate countries. We can't afford to neglect any opportunity for discussions and for unity in defence of the social rights of peoples against the poverty which is spreading and not only throughout Europe.

This article first appeared in English in  Islip Unity Group Political Newsletter, a monthly committed to Communist and Left Unity which covers  British and international affairs. Write to for details. Translated from the Czech by Ken Biggs, former Editor of Postmark Prague