Communist Party of Czechoslovakia

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Communist Party of Czechoslovakia


(CPC, Komunistická strana Óeskoslovenska), formed in May 1921 on the base of the Marxist left wing of the Social Democratic Party of Czechoslovakia through the amalgamation of Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, and Transcarpathian-Ukrainian communist groups and organizations. (These all had arisen in the period of revolutionary upsurge inspired by the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia.) The decision to create the CPC was made at the Congress of the Social Democratic Party of Czechoslovakia (Leftist) held in Prague, May 14–16, 1921. This congress is known today as the Founding Congress of the CPC. It adopted a resolution on the CPC’s entry into the Comintern.

At the Unity Congress (Oct. 30 to Nov. 4, 1921), German and Polish communist organizations operating in the country entered the party and the CPC’s rules were adopted. B. Smeral, A. Zápotocký, K. Kreibich, and other figures active in the Czechoslovakian workers’ movement played prominent roles in the founding of the CPC. Extremely important in establishing and strengthening the CPC was the support of V. I. Lenin, who showed great interest in the Czechoslovakian revolutionary movement, met with representatives of it on a number of occasions, and aided them in their work.

Immediately after its inception, the party organized a number of mass demonstrations in defense of the rights of the toiling people and based on the united-front tactic, in Prague, Bratislava, Moravska-Ostrava, and other Czechoslovakian cities. In the context of the temporary relative stabilization of capitalism in the 1920’s, right-wing opportunist elements came to life in the party’s ranks. A struggle to overcome opportunism and consolidate Bolshevik principles unfolded within the party. The Second Congress of the CPC (1924) adopted new party rules basing party activity on the principles of democratic centralism. Representatives of the left wing, who supported the Bolshevization of the party on the basis of the resolutions of the Fifth Congress of the Comintern, predominated in the Central Committee (CC) elected by the congress.

The Fifth Congress of the CPC (1929) was of paramount importance in the struggle against right-wing opportunists and liquidators. Marxist-Leninists led by K. Gottwald came to the forefront of the party leadership. In the early 1930’s, amid economic crisis, the CPC led many large workers’ demonstrations. (The most important was the Most strike of 1932.) Taking into account the historical situation and guided by the resolutions of the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, the Seventh Congress of the CPC, held in 1936, defined the party’s main task as the struggle against fascism in defense of democracy and of the republic against Hitler’s aggression. The congress proposed a program for the establishment of a united popular front and called on the working people of the country to strengthen the alliance between Czechoslovakia and the USSR formalized in 1935 by the Soviet-Czechoslovakian mutual aid treaty. The CPC was the only political party in Czechoslovakia that fought vigorously against the national betrayal by Czechoslovakia’s bourgeois rulers, who capitulated to the imperialist powers that imposed the Munich Pact of 1938. The CPC organized a broad patriotic movement in 1938.

In October 1938 the authorities banned CPC activity, and in December they declared the party dissolved. The party moved underground and continued the struggle. Because of the dismemberment of the country after the fascist aggressors seized Czech lands and Nazi rule was established in Slovakia, the party organizations of the Slovakian regions were separated from the CPC in May 1939 in order to ensure more effective leadership of the antifascist struggle in the so-called Slovakian state. They took the organizational form of the Communist Party of Slovakia (CPS). The work of the underground CC of the CPC and the CC of the CPS was directed by the party center in exile in Moscow.

Communists were the leading force in the antifascist Resistance Movement in Czechoslovakia. The party lost more than 25,000 Communists in the liberation struggle. Among the fallen were such prominent party figures as J. Sverma, J. Fuöik, J. Zika, and E. Urks. The CPC participated actively in the creation of Czechoslovakian military units under the command of L. Svoboda on Soviet soil. These units fought as part of the Soviet armed forces against the fascist aggressors. Defending the necessity of a close alliance with the USSR, the party made a great contribution to the preparation of the Soviet-Czechoslovakian treaty of friendship, mutual aid, and postwar cooperation signed on Dec. 12, 1943. Communists were at the forefront of the Slovakian national uprising of 1944, which initiated the national democratic revolution in the country, and of the uprising of the Czech people in May 1945.

The Communist Party initiated and worked out the Kosice Program, the program of the first National Front government of Czechs and Slovaks. The party also participated in the formation of this government (Apr. 4, 1945). After the liberation of Czechoslovakian territory from the fascist aggressors by the Soviet Army and Czechoslovakian soldiers and partisans, the CPC led the struggle of the working class for the implementation of profound socioeconomic reforms (such as the nationalization of the main branches of industry and of the banks, agrarian reform, and the purge of traitors from state institutions).

The Eighth Congress of the CPC (1946) set the party’s sights on the deepening of the national democratic revolution and its development into a socialist revolution. The political line laid down by the congress brought about the expansion and consolidation of the power of the working class; the majority of the people were won to the side of the Communist Party. The elections to the Constituent National Assembly and local national committees held in May 1946 brought victory to the CPC, which received the greatest number of votes. The National Front government was headed by K. Gottwald, chairman of the CPC. Under the leadership of the CPC, the toiling people inflicted a decisive defeat on the bourgeoisie, which attempted to carry out a counterrevolutionary coup in February 1948 (the February Events of 1948 in Czechoslovakia), and they established the dictatorship of the proletariat. A new constitution, consolidating the conquests of the working class and all toiling people, was adopted on May 9, 1948. A joint conference of representatives of the CPC and the Social Democratic Party, held in June 1948, decided on a merger of the two parties on the basis of the principles of Marxism-Leninism and the organizational base of the CPC. In September 1948 the organizational merger of the CPS and the CPC was resolved. The CPS became the territorial organization of the CPC and its activity was guided by the resolutions of the CPC congresses and the CC of the CPC.

The Ninth Congress of the CPC (1949) put forth as the party’s general line the policy of building socialism in the country. On Mar. 14, 1953, the party suffered a heavy loss in the death of K. Gottwald. In September 1953, A. Novotny was elected first secretary of the CC of the CPC. The Tenth Congress of the CPC (1954) confirmed the correctness of the party’s general line and noted that as a result of the fulfillment of the first five-year plan (1949–53) a firm foundation for socialist society had been laid in the country and the socialist sector had become decisive in the country’s economy. The congress ratified new rules for the CPC. The statewide conference of the CPC (July 1960) affirmed the triumph of socialist production relations in Czechoslovakia. The conference approved the new draft socialist constitution, which was adopted on July 11, 1960, by the National Assembly.

The working people of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, under the leadership of the CPC, made great strides in the process of socialist construction. The material and technical base of socialism was established in the country. Industrial production increased considerably, the national income grew, and the standard of living and cultural level of the people rose. Czechoslovakia’s international position was strengthened. However, numerous difficulties were encountered and certain errors committed in party activity during this period. In particular, there was an overestimation of society’s level of development, subjectivist methods in the management of the economy were tolerated, there were violations of socialist legality, and the necessary attention was not devoted to the party’s ideological work; this facilitated the spread of revisionist views and the revival of petit-bourgeois ideology.

The Thirteenth Congress of the CPC (1966) defined the main ways of overcoming difficulties and resolving pressing problems. However, the leadership of the CC of the CPC of that time did not carry out the work necessary for the realization of the congress’s resolutions and did not ensure the timely elimination of the shortcomings and errors. This resulted in the appearance of crisis phenomena in the party and in society. The January 1968 plenum of the CC of the CPC demanded the elimination of everything preventing the consistent realization of Leninist principles and the further development of socialist society, and it relieved A. Novotny of the post of first secretary of the CC. However, the leadership of the CC of the CPC elected at the January plenum (first secretary of the CC, A. Dubèek), in which right-wing opportunists got the upper hand, proved incapable of carrying out the tasks that had been proposed, and it opened the way for a broad offensive against the party and the socialist system by right-wing revisionist and antisocialist forces. Taking refuge in demagogic slogans of “democratization,” “improvement,” and creation of a “new model” of socialism, rightist and antisocialist forces unleashed attacks on the party’s Marxist-Leninist line and on the foundations of socialism, striving to undermine the amicable relations between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.

The political bloc of right-wing revisionist and antisocialist forces was formed. Being extensively supported by the imperialist countries, it sought the undermining of the leading role of the party and its ability to function and the disintegration of the socialist governmental bodies; these forces carried on preparations for a political coup in the country. By August 1968 a counterrevolutionary situation had taken shape in Czechoslovakia, and the threat to the socialist cause was growing rapidly. Under these circumstances, thousands of Communists and non-party citizens, including members of the CC of the CPC and the CC of the CPS, members of the government, and deputies of the National Assembly, began to appeal to the leading bodies of fraternal parties and to governments of the allied socialist countries to provide the Czechoslovak people with international aid in the cause of the defense of socialism. On Aug. 21, 1968, the socialist countries provided such aid. Czechoslovak Communists directed their efforts toward expanding the struggle against antisocialist forces, mobilizing the working class and all toiling people for the defense of the gains of socialism and overcoming the profound crisis in the country.

A fundamental improvement in the development of the situation in the party and the country came after the April 1969 plenum of the CC of the CPC, which elected a new leadership for the CPC. G. Husák was elected as first secretary of the CC. The CC of the CPC expanded its purposeful work in the struggle against rightists and in rallying the party around the principles of Marxism-Leninism and restoring its leading role in society. The chief representatives of right-wing opportunist forces, such as A. Dubèek, O. Černík, F. Kriegel, and J. Smrkovský, were expelled from the ranks of the party. An exchange of party cards was carried out in the CPC, in the course of which party organizations were purged of revisionists and careerists. The December 1970 plenum of the CC of the CPC, which adopted the document “Lessons of the Crisis Development in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and in Society After the Thirteenth Congress of the CPC,” represented a very important stage in normalizing the situation in the party and the country. This document provides a profound analysis of the causes of the political crisis and also notes that the international aid of the fraternal socialist countries was timely, “necessary, and the only correct solution.”

The Fourteenth Congress of the CPC (1971) graphically demonstrated the victory of Marxist-Leninist forces in the struggle to reestablish the CPC as a Leninist-type party and to consolidate its leading role in society. The congress marked the triumph of the principles of proletarian internationalism. It approved a federal structure for the Czechoslovak state based on the Leninist principles of the equal opportunity and rights of the country’s peoples. The Fourteenth Congress of the CPC confirmed the Directives for the National Economy Development Plan for 1971–75. These directives defined a policy of further economic growth for Czechoslovakia and a higher standard of living for the working people. The congress underscored the positive value of international socialist integration for the further successful development of Czechoslovakia. Noting the successes achieved by the CPC in its activity, the congress pointed out at the same time that certain complications remained in the party and the political life of the country and that all the consequences of the activity of right-wing revisionist forces had not yet been eliminated; it directed Communists to continue the struggle against the right-wing danger as the main threat today. The Fourteenth Congress of the CPC introduced changes and additions to the rules of the party, defining its main task as the further development of socialist society and the preparation of the impending transition to communism. Delegations of the CPC participated in the international Conferences of Communist and Workers’ Parties held in Moscow in 1957, 1960, and 1969. The CPC approved the documents adopted by the conferences.

Under its rules (adopted by the Twelfth Congress in 1962), the CPC is structured on the basis of the principles of democratic centralism. The highest body of the CPC is the Congress; between congresses, party activity is directed by the CC, which elects the Presidium and the Secretariat from its members. The CPS is an integral part of the CPC and its territorial organization. The membership of the CPC was over 1.3 million in January 1975. The general secretary of the CC is G. Husák. The central organ of the CC is the newspaper Rudé právo; its theoretical and political organ is the journal Nova mysl. (See Table 1 for a list of the congresses of the CPC.)

Table 1. Congresses of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Founding ...............PragueMay 14–16, 1921
Unity ...............PragueOct. 30–Nov. 4, 1921
First ...............PragueFeb. 2–5, 1923
Second ...............PragueOct. 31-Nov. 4, 1924
Third ...............PragueSept. 26–28, 1925
Fourth ...............PragueSept. 25–28, 1927
Fifth ...............PragueFeb. 18–23, 1929
Sixth ...............PragueMar. 7–11, 1931
Seventh ...............PragueApr. 11–14, 1936
Eighth ...............PragueMar. 28–31, 1946
Ninth ...............PragueMay 25–29, 1949
Tenth ...............PragueJune 11–15, 1954
Eleventh ...............PragueJune 18–21, 1958
Twelfth ...............PragueDec. 4–8, 1962
Thirteenth ...............PragueMay 31–June 4, 1966
Fourteenth ...............PragueMay 25–29, 1971


Istoriia Kommunisticheskoi partii Chekhoslovakii. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from Czech.)
Gottwald, K. Izbr. proizvedeniia, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1957–58. (Translated from Czech.)
Gottwald, K. Izbr. stat’i i rechi. Moscow, 1970.
XIII s”ezd Kommunisticheskoi partii Chekhoslovakii. Moscow, 1967. (Translated from Czech.)
Uroki krizisnogo razvitiia v Kompartii Chekhoslovakii i obshchestve posle XIII s”ezda KPCh. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from Czech.)
Husák, G. Otchetnyi doklad [Tsentral’nogo komiteta XIVs”ezdu KPCh] o deiatel’nosti partii i razvitii obshchestva posle XIII s”ezda KPCh i dal’neishie zadachi partii. Moscow, 1971. (Translated from Czech.)
Materialy XIV s”ezda Kommunisticheskoi partii Chekhoslovakii. Moscow, 1971. (Translated from Czech.)
“Půl století bojů zájmy dělnické třidy a národů Československa. Teze k 50. Výroží zalozeni KSČ.”Rudé právo, Mar. 25, 1971.

S. I. KOLESNIKOV [12–1678–2; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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