Far-right group forms 'National Guards'

March against Sudeten Germans on Charles Bridge, photo: Jan Richter

Quasi-military organisations called the National Guards were established by the far-right National Party on the 28th October, the anniversary of independent Czechoslovakia. The move did not receive much attention in the Czech Republic at first, although Slovakia's President Ivan Gasparovic was quick to warn the Czech authorities of the danger of indifference. Meanwhile, top Czech politicians have condemned the idea of National Guards.

March against Sudeten Germans on Charles Bridge,  photo: Jan Richter
The far-right National Party bases its political agenda on the defence of Czech national interests. Last year, they erected a monument to Czech patriots - victims of WWII - at the site of the former Roma concentration camp in Lety, central Bohemia, and on the anniversary of Czechoslovak independence last month, they established an organisation called the National Guards whose unarmed members are to follow military discipline and undergo military training. Pavel Sedlacek is the spokesman for the National Party.

"There were three reasons: first, the abolishment by the Defence Ministry of their emergency battalions that were meant to respond to emergencies. As you know, Defence Minister Parkanova abolished them. Another reason is the almost total destruction of the Police of the Czech Republic. In small communities, the police can't even hold their offices. The third reason is the increasing wave of violence committed by unadaptable citizens" [code word for Romanies].

Political scientist Miroslav Mares from Masaryk University in Brno, who specializes in Czech far-right extremism, says that the National Guard, which is to take public oath in a year's time, on the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia, does represent a new strategy by far-right activists in the Czech Republic.

"The creation of something like a national guard is not a new idea; it was featured in the programme of the National Party before the elections in 2006. I think however that the establishment of some stable organisation with consistent activities, this is something new. This is a new element in the history of the Czech far right."

A similar group was established in Hungary at the end of August and received much attention after several hundred of its members took a public oath in Budapest. The parallel between the two movements prompted Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic on Saturday to warn the Czechs not to underestimate such nationalist movements. Marek Trubac is the spokesman for the Slovak President.

"According to President G., it would be very bad if the newly formed Czech National Guard followed the model of the Hungarian guards; official Czech institutions cannot, in the president's view, accept the founding of these organisations without adequately reacting to it."

Ivan Langer
Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer was quick to promise on Monday that Czech authorities will keep a close eye on the National Guard, and that the police will make sure Czech laws are observed under all circumstances.Moreover, Czech President Vaclav Klaus together with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Tuesday, after the session of the national security council, that the establishment of such quasi-military units is unacceptable in a democratic country.Meanwhile, political scientist Miroslav Mares says that this strategy on the part of the National Party could prove successful and eventually gain the far right group more supporters.

Vaclav Klaus and Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
"In the long-term perspective, the National Party does have some potential of winning parliamentary representation. On the other hand, Czech far right is traditionally weak; it's a tradition from the First Republic in the interwar period. In 1990s, the Republican Party of Miroslav Sladek was represented in the Parliament but since 1998, Czech far right have not had any MPs. But the National Party is the strongest party within the Czech nationalist spectrum."