Communist’s admiration for Plastic People angers party faithful

The Plastic People of the Universe, photo: archive of Radio Prague

Communist Party deputy chairman Jiří Dolejš is perhaps not somebody one would expect to be a fan of The Plastic People of the Universe, an underground rock band persecuted in the 1970s and ‘80s by the Communist regime. Some of his followers are angry after Mr. Dolejš posted their photo on his Facebook page and have slammed the group in language reminiscent of pre-1989 propaganda.

The Plastic People of the Universe,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
The imprisonment of some members of The Plastic People of the Universe in 1976 sparked Charter 77, the most important dissident movement in four decades of Communist totalitarian rule.

Banned and harassed, the Plastics broke up in the 1980s, only to reform in the mid-1990s, since when they have been a regular fixture on the Czech music scene.

Deputy chairman Jiří Dolejš, 53, is from the moderate wing of the Communist Party. Nevertheless, many will have been surprised when he recently reposted a picture of the Plastics on his Facebook page, adding the word “legend”.

Several of his followers reacted angrily, commenting in terms like “yuck” and “defilers of music”.

One poster questioned Mr. Dolejš’s membership of the Communists, given that his “legends” had been against socialism. The politician says there is a bigger picture.

Jiří Dolejš,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“The Plastics were against the Establishment in the former regime. They weren’t just coming from the hippy scene, but were interested in revolt – many of them had anarchist, therefore left-wing, views. So it was criticism from the left.”

That is one view: The Plastic People always asserted that they were not interested in politics, only in being allowed to live and perform freely.

Furthermore, many will say that they suffered greatly under none other than Mr. Dolejš’s own, unreformed Communist Party.

“That is of course one way of looking at it, but unlike our predecessors we don’t believe we can achieve our aims through bans. We think it is monstrous when political authority interferes in freedom of culture and art. Things should definitely never be like that again.”

Music journalist Pavel Klusák says the anger sparked by Mr. Dolejš’s admiration of the long-haired rockers reflects divisions in his party.

The Plastic People of the Universe,  photo: Globus Music
“Some of them say that they have very little in common with the Communists from the totalitarian decades. But some of them follow the old bad tradition of communism with its xenophobia and restrictions.”

The terms used by some Facebook posters – such as “drunken pigs” and “junkies with unmelodic lyrics” – brings to mind the kind of anti-underground language used in Rudé Pravo. Pavel Klusák says this shows that Communist-era propaganda has left a deep impression.

“People who wanted to believe in the faith known as official Communism saw these TV series about junkie rockers who tried to hijack a plane, and so on. Although the era is over, it still lives inside many people. And it lives inside the atmosphere in part of the media, of the media world in this county, which is sad.”