Union of Communist Youth face ban for advocating workers' revolution

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The Czech Communist Party has been slowly regaining respectability in recent years. It is the third biggest force in the Chamber of Deputies, with around 15 percent voter support. But while the Communists seem to be going strong, the party's youth wing could soon find itself outlawed. What's more, the Union of Communist Youth say they are prepared to ignore any ban and continue illegally.

We have heard quite a lot over the last year or so about "zrusme komunisty", a campaign to ban the Communist Party led by a small number of right-leaning senators. And the issue of whether the party should have been outlawed immediately after the Velvet Revolution still crops up from time to time.

But now it appears the Communist Party's youth wing is going to be banned. That is because the Union of Communist Youth's policy programme calls for violent revolution. Capitalism cannot be reformed, they say, it must be overthrown by the working masses. That is language which is evidently too much for the Interior Ministry.

It is threatening to remove the party's license - effectively banning it - on the technical grounds that the Union of Communist Youth is actually registered as a civic association, not a political party.

But the young Communists, with around 500 members, say there is no way they will consider changing their policies. In fact, they are perfectly prepared to carry on illegally. The group's Zdenek Stefek said in one newspaper interview on Tuesday that there were many illegal organisations in the Czech Republic, particularly on the left.

The only real difference was that they would lose the right to apply for grants. But they don't receive any grants anyway, said Mr Stefek.

And, he asks, why did the Interior Ministry first register the Union of Communist Youth and then find fault with its statutes? Zdenek Stefek says the proposed ban is politically motivated and could be the first step towards the outlawing of the Communist Party proper.

Communist Party chairman Vojtech Filip says - surprisingly perhaps - that he is unfamiliar with the youth wing's policies, but that if they do call for violent revolution they should change their statutes.

Nevertheless there is some overlap in membership of both groups, and the mother party is making its lawyers available to defend the Union of Communist Youth. But for now it seems, legal help or not, the young Communists are likely to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.