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Ron Radosh

The Continuing Appeal of Communism in the West

November 9th, 2011 - 9:04 am

Just when you thought Communism was over, and no longer is a threat or has an appeal anywhere in the modern world, comes this dispatch. According to a three day meeting of experts on Czech Communism held recently in Prague, Communism still has a great appeal:

Communism is still a significant phenomenon and people may tend to see hope in it mainly in the times of a crisis, Jiri Kocian, deputy head of the Czech Science Academy’s Institute of Contemporary History, told CTK at the end of a three-day conference on communism Saturday.

According to the participants, many Czech citizens view the Communist era as one of “social certainties.”  In other words, they may not have had freedom, but they knew what they could get in terms of the basic necessities, insufficient as it may have been. The academic experts recommend that the textbooks in their country inform students what the reality of Communism was, and how it led to repression, political murder, and persecution. The experts made the following observation:

“The Communist Party is naturally more in focus of inhabitants at the moment when the state is coping with a certain crisis phenomenon,” said historian Jan Kalous, from the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR) that organised the conference along with the Institute of Contemporary History and the Czech Radio.

Kalous cited the example of the 1930s affected by the Great Depression starting in 1929.

Historian Jiri Pernes also said at the beginning of the conference that communism is a constant threat, among others because this ideology is comprehensible even for not very educated people.

Moreover, the poor will always blame the rich for their poverty and they will be striving for a change to their situation, Pernes added.

Two weeks ago, I spoke at a seminar in Prague convened by one of the sponsors of this meeting — The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes — on the topic of the uses in both the East and the West of the Rosenberg case and the Rudolf Slansky purge trial in Czechoslovakia which occurred contemporaneously in the mid 1950s. My audience was composed of some younger scholars, but mostly older contemporaries of the Communist era in Prague, who well remembered the reality of life under the Soviet satellite. I was told that today, few younger than they even know who Slansky was, and know anything about the reality of life under Communism. The findings of this recent meeting do not surprise me, since I had heard that during the discussion.

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