One of the many complaints Czech & Slovak Canadians have about the post-communist era in their old homelands is that the new governments have not been effective in dealing with the countries’ communist past.
Almost twenty years after the Velvet Revolution, many of the former ardent communists are still in their posts in the judiciary, in the police, in the military. Many have converted into the new capitalists, “tunneling” billions of Czech korunas into Swiss bank accounts or offshore jurisdictions. School history textbooks are lacking any serious description, nevermind analysis, of the communist era, and the current economic environment leaves many wondering if the communist state, with its centrally planned economy, was not a better alternative to the Eastern European version of laissez-faire capitalism. Those responsible for the worst crimes against humanity in the 1950s are either dead, very old, and it’s difficult to bring them to justice. Those responsible for the less extreme but still lawless oppression in 1970s have used their resources to successfully evade prosecution. The restitution program designed to return properties confiscated by the communist regime is considered by many as bureaucratic and ineffective.
Many expatriates also point out that Communism worldwide is responsible for more deaths and human suffering than Nazism, yet it doesn’t receive the same treatment. Now this may change.
The Czech EU Presidency has launched an initiative to create a Europe-wide platform for the study and recognition of the crimes committed by former Communist regimes. It has already sparked controversy. Naturally, the KSČM (The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, itself controversial in Czech Republic for its steadfast refusal to condemn its predecessor KSČ and the Leninist/Stalinist communism) is opposed to the idea. But even the relatively moderate leftists – the Czech Social Democrats – are not thrilled.
The initiative is going to be a litmus test of the New Europe’s ability to deal with its totalitarian past. Already, the Czech President criticized the EU as undemocratic, elitist and reminiscent of Soviet-era Communist dictatorships. However, with economy being the No. 1 issue in Brussels these days and the Czech EU Presidency half way through its mandate, the proposal’s fate within the EU bureaucracy is uncertain. What is certain is that the Czech & Slovak expatriate communities around the world will watch it quite closely.
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