Communists denounce ban on far-left youth movement

The interior ministry announced it was banning a small far-left group on Wednesday, saying its manifesto violated the Czech constitution. An interior ministry spokeswoman said the group - the Communist Youth Association - was striving to replace the private ownership of the means of production with nationalisation, which, she said, was unconstitutional. So was the ban fair? Dr Josef Skala is a foreign policy adviser to the Communist Party.

"I think it's a shameful witch-hunt. Any democrat, not only a Marxist, should ask the question what sort of danger these 600 young girls and guys represent for democracy in the Czech Republic. Only for claiming what the original Christians were claiming. The question is how democratic the right-wing forces in this country can be. What is their relation to democracy?"

You say democracy, but there's also something called the constitution. The interior ministry says the movement was banned because it was trying to replace the system of private ownership of the means of production and replace it with nationalisation. And that goes against the Czech constitution.

"First of all, could you show me one civilised country where people with an alternative opinion, people without a single drop of blood on their hands, no violence, nothing similar, are banned simply for their opinions? Secondly, it's very doubtful that this is against the constitution. The constitution ensures everybody the freedom of speech, the freedom of opinion and so on. Did these youngsters make a single practical deed which would violate anything? Can anybody show me one practical deed and compare it with the right-wing rowdies who apply violence in the streets of the Czech Republic, with fascist symbols and so on? And they survive, no-one bans them. That's a very interesting comparison, isn't it?"

The Communist Youth Association was warned by the ministry last year that they were violating the constitution. Surely the fact they've been banned is no fault but their own?

"No, they provided explanations, I don't know to what extent you are informed. The youngsters paid a visit to the deputy minister of the interior, there was even quite a satisfactory preliminary reaction from the interior minister, and everyone was feeling that even the authorities somehow understood that it would be better to retreat from this shameful story."

Are you not worried that this case could be a prelude to a ban on the Communist Party itself, which many people are calling for?

"I will tell you something. Now, with the stalemate on the Czech political scene, believe me all the political parties - including the most right-wing parliamentary parties - are seeking a reasonable compromise with the Communists. So this is a double face, this is Janus. They're shouting one thing on the TV screens, and behind the scenes they're seeking our support. I know what I'm talking about, believe me."