Communist Party torn between Lenin's legacy and need for reform

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While former dissidents and prisoners of conscience marked the 59th anniversary of the 1948 communist putsch with calls for the communist party to be banned, Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip urged his party to prepare for a new revolution. He said the party must meet the challenges of the present day by re-embracing the Lenin ideology. A contradiction in terms? Commentator Jiri Pehe says that the strange speech reflects the plight of the communists - they are like a dinosaur fighting for survival in the present day.

"This is typical communist speak. The party needs modernizing, even Mr. Filip knows that, but at the same time he also knows that if because of this modernization effort the party loses its old members - its hard core - it will basically disappear from the political scene. So I think that what Mr. Filip is trying to do is to soothe the feelings of the old members and at the same time he is telling them - we need to modernize otherwise we will disappear."

So despite the hard-line rhetoric you feel that the Communist Party leader is actually opening up to the need for reform?

"I think he is trying to do that. His speech also shows that the communists really do not know how to do that or what to do in the situation in which they find themselves. They realize that any real modernization would move them closer to the Social Democratic platform and they could be swallowed up by the Social Democrats, on the other hand they know that if they adhere to the neo-Stalinist line they will disappear as well, so they are looking for a middle road so to speak and that is why we are hearing this very strange language 17 years after the fall of communism which goes hand in hand with an appeal for modernization."

One of the main goals is to raise the party membership - is this at all possible when Communist Party supporters are dying out?

"I think that the party will have a very hard time trying to increase its membership under the present conditions. It is a party of old people, the average age of its members is well over 70 and the party does not have many topics that would appeal to young people. Of course, it is possible for the party to become a platform for dissatisfied young people on the issues of globalization, global capitalism and so on but other parties are also trying to move into this space such as the Social Democrats and the Greens and therefore it may not be easy for the communists to attract young people. In my opinion the Communist Party will disappear from the Czech political scene in some ten to fifteen years or its popularity will be so low that it will not play a major role in Czech politics. I really feel that there is almost no future for the Communist Party. It is an obsolete political grouping which is really not in tune with developments in the modern world."