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Czechoslovakia Table of Contents


Membership and Training

Since assuming power in 1948, the KSC has had one of the largest per capita membership rolls in the communist world. Whereas the Leninist guidelines for an elitist party cadre dictate that about 5 percent of the population should be party members, in Czechoslovakia party membership in 1986 comprised approximately 11 percent of the population. The membership roll has often been alleged by party ideologues to contain a large component of inactive, opportunistic, and "counterrevolutionary" elements. These charges were used on two occasions--between 1948 and 1950 and again between 1969 and 1971--as a pretext to conduct massive purges of the membership. In the first case, the great Stalinist purges, nearly 1 million members were removed; in the wake of the Prague Spring and subsequent invasion, about half that number either resigned or were purged from the KSC.

Although party leaders did not bemoan the decrease in membership, they did express concern about the effects of the purge on the social and age distribution of the party membership. Although no official statistics were available, unofficial sources claimed that Czechs constituted as many as 90 percent of those purged in the wake of the 1968 invasion. The purges hit especially hard among youth, blue-collar workers, and the intelligentsia within the party membership. As a result, recruitment was especially strong among youth and the working class during the 1970s. lt was reported that 90 percent of those enrolled between 1971 and 1976 were under thirty-five years of age and that 62 percent of all new members were classified as workers. The party's membership efforts in the 1980s focused on recruiting politically and professionally well-qualified people willing to exercise greater activism in implementing the party's program. Party leaders at the Seventeenth Party Congress in 1986 urged the recruitment of more workers, young people, and women.

Membership in the KSC is contingent upon completion of a oneyear period as a candidate member. Candidate members may not vote or be elected to party committees. In addition to candidates for party membership, there are also candidates for party leadership groups from the local levels to the Presidium. These candidates, already party members, are considered interns training for the future assumption of particular leadership responsibilities.

The indoctrination and training of party members is one of the basic responsibilities of the regional and district organizations, and most of the party training is conducted on these levels. The regional and district units work with the local party organizations in setting up training programs and in determining which members will be enrolled in particular courses of study. On the whole, the system of party schooling has changed little since it was established in 1949. The district or city organization provides weekly classes in the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, the history of communism, socialist economics, and the current party position on domestic and international affairs.

Members training for positions as party functionaries attend seminars at the schools for Marxism-Leninism set up in local areas or at the more advanced institutes for Marxism-Leninism found in Prague, Brno, and Bratislava. The highest level of party training is offered at the Advanced School of Politics in Prague. Designed to train the top echelon of the party leadership, the three-year curriculum has the official status of a university program and is said to be one of the best programs in political science in Eastern Europe. These institutions are under the direction of the KSC Central Committee.

Data as of August 1987