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Czechoslovakia

Auxiliary Parties, Mass Oganizations, and Mass Media

The KSC is grouped together with the KSS, four other political parties, and all of Czechoslovakia's mass organizations under the political umbrella of the National Front of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Founded in 1945 to coordinate the coalition of ruling parties, the National Front became subordinate to the KSC after the 1948 coup. Since then the National Front has functioned as a conveyer of KSC policy directives to the other political parties and mass organizations. An important function of the National Front is to nominate all candidates for public office and to supervise elections. Individuals running for public office need not be communist, but all candidates must be approved by the National Front. Thus, National Front candidates typically receive more than 99 percent of the votes (voters in Czechoslovakia have the right to refrain from marking their ballots if they do not want to vote for any of the National Front candidates; however, few voters exercise that right for fear of official reprisal).

The National Front in the 1980s included two Czech noncommunist parties and two Slovak noncommunist parties. The Czechoslovak Socialist Party, which had approximately 17,000 members in 1984, drew most of its membership from the former urban middle class and white-collar workers. The Czechoslovak People's Party, which had about 66,000 members in 1984, was primarily Roman Catholic and rurally based. The two Slovak parties, the Slovak Revival Party and the Slovak Freedom Party, were very small and drew their support from the peasant population and Roman Catholics. Each party was organized along the lines of the KSC, having a party congress, central committee, presidium, and secretariat. Other than having a small number of seats in the Czech National Council, Slovak National Council, and the Federal Assembly, these parties had little input into governmental affairs. They served as auxiliaries of the KSC and in no way represented an alternative source of political power.

The National Front also grouped together a myriad of mass organizations in the workplace, at schools, and in neighborhoods. Although mass organizations permeated nearly all aspects of social organization, the most important consisted of trade unions, women's groups, and youth organizations. Whereas in noncommunist nations such organizations act partly as political interest groups to put pressure on the government, in Czechoslovakia the mass organizations have acted as support groups for the KSC and as channels for the transmission of party policy to the population at large. This is evidenced by the fact that KSC officials direct the mass organizations at virtually every level.

The Revolutionary Trade Union Movement, which claimed over 7.5 million members in 1984, combined trade unions of workers in virtually every productive capacity. In 1987 its president, Miroslav Zavadil, also chaired its governing body, the Central Council of Trade Unions. The organization of the Central Council of Trade Unions is similar to that of the KSC in that it consists of a central committee that selects a secretariat and a presidium. In addition to the chairman, the Central Council of Trade Unions has two deputy chairmen. In the spirit of federalized bureaucratic structures that permeated Czechoslovak political organization in the 1970s, the Czech Council of Trade Unions and the Slovak Council of Trade Unions were created.

The Czechoslovak Union of Women, which had about 1 million members in 1984, was chaired in 1987 by Marie Kabrhelova. Its structure includes the familiar secretariat and presidium and a central auditing and control commission. Like the trade union governing organization, the Czechoslovak Union of Women oversees the Czech Union of Women and the Slovak Union of Women. In 1986 Vasil Mohorita headed the Czechoslovak Socialist Union of Youth, which in 1983 claimed over 1.5 million members. A branch organization for youth from eight to fifteen years of age is known as the Pioneers. The aim of both groups is to indoctrinate youth in socialist values and prepare them for membership in the KSC. Other mass organizations include the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, the Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters, the Union for Cooperation with the Army, the Peace Committee, and the Physical Culture Association.

As in all East European communist countries, the mass media in Czechoslovakia is controlled by the party. Private ownership of any publication or agency of the mass media is generally forbidden, although churches and other organizations publish small periodicals and newspapers. Even with this informational monopoly in the hands of organizations under KSC control, all publications are reviewed by the government's Office for Press and Information. Censorship was lifted for three months during the 1968 Prague Spring but afterward was reimposed under the terms of the 1966 Press Law. The law states that the Czechoslovak press is to provide complete information, but it must also advance the interests of socialist society and promote the people's socialist awareness of the policy of the communist party as the leading force in society and state.

The chief newspaper of the KSC is the Prague daily, Rude Pravo, which, with a circulation of 900,000, is the most widely read and most influential newspaper in the country. Its editor in 1987 was Zdenek Horeni, a member of the Secretariat of the KSC Central Committee. Its sister publication, Bratislava's, Pravda, is the organ of the KSS. Other Prague dailies with large circulations are Lidova Demokracie, published by the Czechoslovak People's Party; Mlada Fronta, published by the Czechoslovak Socialist Union of Youth; Prace, published by the Central Council of Trade Unions; and Svobodne Slovo, published by the Czechoslovak Socialist Party.

Government concern about control of the mass media is such that it is illegal to own a duplicating machine or to reproduce more than eleven copies of any printed material. Nevertheless, a fairly wide distribution of underground publications (popularly known as samizdat throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union) that were established during the Nazi occupation continued throughout communist rule into the 1980s.

The Czechoslovak Press Agency (Ceskoslovenska tiskova kancelar--CTK) receives a state subsidy and is controlled by the federal government through its Presidium. The government also controls several domestic television and radio networks. In addition, many citizens in Czechoslovakia have been able to pick up foreign radio and television stations, both from communist Poland and Hungary and from noncommunist countries like Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation also have had sizable audiences in Czechoslovakia, and their broadcasts have been subject to only occasional jamming. Radio Free Europe broadcasts, however, were extensively jammed.

Data as of August 1987


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