A process that started with the Soviet NKVD’s arrival in eastern Europe in 1944-5 is now over.

Remember Klement Gottwald, asks Edward Lucas in the journal of the Center for European Policy Analysis. The Czechoslovak Communist Party leader’s grim visage adorned banknotes until 1989. Folded the right way, the Kremlin henchman could be made to look like ET. But his rule was no laughing matter, with execution and hard labor in the uranium mines awaiting those who resisted the regime’s unloving embrace.

There are many reasons to celebrate this weekend’s parliamentary election result in the Czech Republic. But from a historical perspective, the departure (probably final) from the political scene of Gottwald’s political descendants, the “Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia”, to give it its full title, is noteworthy. A process that started with the Soviet NKVD’s arrival in eastern Europe in 1944-5 is now over.

Communism is not quite dead. Communist parties survive in Greece, where the KKE polls around 5%; and in Cyprus (AKEL—22%), Spain (in assorted coalitions), Portugal (6.3%) and France (2.5%). But the leftists of Germany’s Die Linke, with 4.9% in this month’s election, are the last substantial trace of parties that once enforced Soviet rule across half the continent. To support Communist ideas, it really helps never to have experienced them in practice.

The Czech comrades’ demise has taken more than thirty years, and defied expectations. Not only was the party’s record of lies and murder revolting. Its leadership was deeply uninspiring. After 1989 it was riven with internal feuds. But it retained lingering sympathies among older voters, particularly in regions hit by the collapse of heavy industry.

 

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