Communist party celebrates May Day, resigned to EU reality

Communist party celebrates May Day in Prague's Letna park (Photo: CTK)

Most Czechs are looking to the future in the European Union with hope. But what about those linked to the past? While the country celebrates its EU accession, the Czech communist party is holding a celebration of its own: the annual Labour Day gathering in Prague's Letna park. Brian Kenety was at the event and joins me now in the studio.

Communist party celebrates May Day in Prague's Letna park  (Photo: CTK)
So Brian, what was the atmosphere like? Was there a big crowd?

"There was. I got there early — the official programme started at 9 in the morning — and already the 300 or so folding chairs were filled, mainly with pensioners. But by the afternoon, there were probably a good 3,000 people there."

And what were the speeches like? We know the communist party advised people to vote 'no' in the referendum on EU accession. Have they become resigned to the prospect now?

Communist party celebrates May Day in Prague's Letna park  (Photo: CTK)
"Yes. Several speakers mentioned that they would respect, of course, the referendum, that they are a democratic party. And that they would now focus their energy on getting the best possible deal for the Czechs, through the European Parliament."

I believe you spoke to some of the communist leaders present.

"I did. I spoke to Miloslav Ransdorf, who is heading the ticket — there are fielding, I think, 24 candidates— to the European Parliament. They have a very good chance of getting two or three seats. Aside from Mr. Ransdorf, there's also the first Czech cosmonaut, Vladimir Remek. He was also on the stage."

Well let's hear what Mr. Ransdorf had to say.

"The membership in the European Union is a reality and it is our task to be in the best possible position in the European Parliament. I have been labelled here, as a joke, by my colleagues in the Czech parliament, a 'member of the industrial lobby', and I am persuaded that the future of our economy, the future of our country, will depend on the effectiveness, the involvement of our industry in broader European plans."

Mr. Ransdorf represents the more moderate wing of the party and he is very much willing to work within the EU for change. But there were some more radical elements as well at the event today and they exchanged a few heated words with anti-communist protestors.