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Czech Republic: Left organises to fight austerity and fascism

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Report of the newly founded New Anticapitalist Left in the Czech Republic

In October 2009 a conference in Prague took important steps to form a new anticapitalist organisation. Several dozen activists met to discuss what should be its basis and what methods should it use. The conference agreed a programmatic platform and outlined the process that would lead to the launch of a new organisation.

The conference was called after discussions between several revolutionary socialist groups and unorganised activists. There were three important reasons for founding a joint anticapitalist organisation.

Fight back against austerity

1) There is a desperate need to organise the fight back against the efforts by the ruling class to unload the burden of the economic crisis on the working class. And the burden is getting ever heavier – unemployment has risen to 10 percent, the budget cuts target most of the population, from 4 per cent cuts in wages in the public service to reduced social security benefits, a 4 per cent rise of the lower level of VAT (groceries, medicines, some services etc.). All this is accompanied by lowering of direct taxes for the richest.

The reformist parties have no intention of leading a fight back and so far the resistance from the trade unions has been mainly verbal. Social democrats have played a shameful role in appointing a "government of experts" which is conducting the most vicious anti-working class policies since the fall of Stalinism 20 years ago. The Communist Party has not opposed this government of technocrats. Both parties enjoy their positions in the parliamentary game and the corruption that comes with it rather than standing on the side of the workers and poor.

Rise of fascists

2) The servility of the reformist parties to the ruling class and lack of a serious anticapitalist alternative has led to a rise of the fascist movement, headed by the misnamed Workers Party. They started with marches into Roma communities, trying to scapegoat the most oppressed part of the Czech population for the misery of capitalism. Their vicious anti-Roma racism culminated in violent pogrom attempts and were the inspiration for several arson attacks, one of them very serious, and other kinds of street violence.

All of the previously existing revolutionary socialist organisations were involved in activities against the most blatant manifestations of the attacks and the rise of the far right. However despite their undoubted efforts they remained too weak to organise a serious fight back and find their way into the working class. Thus the perspective that at least one organisation could make a significant breakthrough seemed very distant. But a growing number of areas where the groups worked together showed an opportunity for a closer cooperation.

French inspiration

3) We were also inspired by the French example of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste and how it was formed. At the founding conference we decided to form a common “proto-organisation” which will gather as many anticapitalists as possible and jointly intervene in the class struggle until the “proper” founding conference in the summer of 2010. The example of the NPA mirrors itself as well in the name we chose, the New Anticapitalist Left (NAL).

We have also agreed, apart from the programmatic platform, that the new organisation should use class methods and how they should be used in approaching the working class masses. Activists at the conference also committed themselves to do their best to overcome in ongoing discussions political differences that were the reason why they were until now in different organisations. There was an agreement that the NAL needs to have the highest degree of internal democracy but at the same time the strongest unity in action. Members of international tendencies and groupings have the right to be organised in tendencies, if they wish to do so.

Who makes up the NAL?

More than half of the membership of the NAL have not been members of any organisation before, showing that the organisation is already a success. All members of the Czech section of the League for the Fifth international or independent Revo have committed themselves to building the NAL. The Czech sections of the IST and the CWI have taken a more reluctant stance and are seeing “how things will develop”, thus abstaining from having their say in building of the already biggest revolutionary organisation in the Czech Republic – apart from a few individual members of their organisations who have joined the NAL.

Our activities

The work of the NAL so far proved that it was a step forward. We have been able to spread the revolutionary message in a more coordinated way with many more voices. The NAL became the leading force in the anti-racist initiative Students Against Racism which organised several counter protests against the fascists demonstrations, public meetings and a tour as well as participating in a successful blockade of a Neonazi march in the German city of Dresden.

We have been active in many actions around the crisis in Prague's public transport, with interventions in the twice announced (and twice called off) public transport workers strike, or organising a rally against a beanfeast of a consulting company who were laughing at workers that had been sacked because of their proposed restructuring. We also too part in an action against the showing of the hypocritical and corrupt Mayor of Prague handing out soup to the poor on the Christmas Eve for an hour, whilst giving our taxes in the form of contracts to his friends the remaining 364 days.

We have held a successful meeting at the Czech social forum (or in fact we were the only group to have their own meeting!), and too part in student actions against the Bologna process in education in March. There was also a counter demo led by the NAL against the vicious reactionaries from the Pro-life movement, attacking the rights of women to have control over their own bodies. Our regular monthly magazine is used to build our actions and explain the politics behind them

In March we have also started the process of legal registration of the organisation, which requires collecting a thousand signatures. Our “legalisation” should enable us for example to use elections as another platform for arguing for our revolutionary programme.

The reactions of the public, even in form of membership applications, shows that there are working class people, disappointed by the impotence of the reformists and Stalinists, that are looking for a radical anticapitalist alternative to the capitalist crisis, racism, unemployment, wars or poverty. So far we can proudly say that we have made a good start.

Please visit the website of the NAL

The programme of the NAL is online in English here