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Prague: Actions against US base gain momentum

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When it became known last summer that the US administration was proposing to build a missile base in either the Czech Republic or Poland, the immediate result was the building of opposition campaigns in both countries. The first opinion polls showed that 83% of Czech citizens were against any US military base and there were similar results in Poland.

The “No Base!” campaign, which the Czech section of the League for the Fifth International joined, decided to concentrate its efforts on a national plebiscite which would allow a wide discussion in society on the role of the United States in international politics.

It has organised four demonstrations in Prague, each of which attracted hundreds of people, and a series of public meetings. The petitions calling for a referendum on the question of the proposed base have so far collected more than 80,000 signatures.

Since the issue became public knowledge, the government has tried to avoid confrontation by using tactics that have ranged from evasiveness to outright lies. It has even asserted that the base would protect Czech territory, even though it is designed to defend the eastern coast of the USA. They have also claimed that the base would be part of NATO’s defence system and, since the Czech Republic has joined NATO, there is an obligation to accept it. In the face of mounting public opposition, they said that all military personnel on the base would be under Czech jurisdiction and that the project would bring hundreds, or even thousands, of new jobs to the country. It soon became clear that all of these were complete lies.

Because the elections in June 2006 created a parliament which was split down the middle between the reformist left parties ( the Czech Social Democratic Party, CSSD, and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, KSCM) and the rightwing parties (the Civic Democratic Party, ODS, the main neo-Liberal party, the Christian Democrats KDU and the Green Party) no new Parliamentary government could be established until January 19 this year. Then, the ODS managed to lure two Social Democratic MPs to support their government and on the very same day the US administration made an official request for the location of a radar base, which would be part of the National Missile Defence system, the continuation of Reagan’s infamous Star Wars project.

At the same time, Washington also made clear that it wanted an ICBM missile base in Poland. After all, why have only one military base alongside Russia’s borders with the EU when you could have two?

All the parties in government support the US base, the ODS and KDU also rejected the call for a referendum and insist that all questions of “national security” must be decided by parliament. The Green Party, however, would prefer the base to be part of some future NATO system and is in favour of holding a referendum.

The Social Democrats, the strongest opposition party, are formally opposed to the base but hesitate to campaign on the issue. In fact, their chairman has declared that “if it is not too large” he would not personally oppose the base! Because 80% of his party’s membership is against it, he was obliged to add that he would, of course, subordinate himself to their wishes. The CSSD has joined with the KSCM in raising the issue at every Parliamentary session, but that is where its activity ends. Hardly surprising when you discover that the US began negotiating with the Czech Ministry of Defence as far back as 2002 when the Social Democratic Minister was proposing to exchange agreement on the location of the military base for the loan of 24 jet fighters.

The KSCM, together with the Social Democrats, has proposed a law establishing the right to call a referendum, a right which does not exist at present, but this will almost certainly be defeated. The party has also organised a demonstration of several hundred people in Jince, the town close to the intended location of the base, the week after the official US request was made.

The pretext for the missile and radar bases in Central Europe is, of course, the “war on terror” and the “threat” from Iran and North Korea. However, it is clear that US imperialism, despite the ever worsening crisis in the Middle East, is still pursuing its long-term strategic plans and doing everything in its power to secure its world hegemony. Faced with the prospect of the development of the military capacity of the EU and the building of the “Eurocorps", as well as the still gigantic military power of Russian imperialism, the US is clearly preparing for the inter-imperialist rivalries of the future.

No wonder that Berlin and Moscow were not pleased. The German government expressed its “surprise” and intends to have the question discussed inside NATO. The Kremlin’s reaction was harsher - it immediately threatened to direct its own missiles toward Czech and Polish territory.

Since the official US request, No Base! has organised three demonstrations in Prague, the largest of which attracted some 2000 people, the biggest anti-war demonstration to date. The campaign has also made contact with the organisers of the anti-base campaign in Poland and campaigners from the Hungarian region of Mescek where activists are fighting against the location of a NATO radar base.

Most importantly, on Friday February 16th, No Base! organised a demonstration in front of the Italian Embassy in solidarity with the 200,000 strong demonstration in Vicenza, at which a representative from the Czech campaign also spoke. That demonstration, which prompted the end of the centre-left government of Romano Prodi, is a model of the campaign that has to be built in the Czech Republic, link the campaigns to the trade unions and other mass workers’ organisations, organise mass demonstrations, strikes and direct actions which will not shrink from bringing down the weak rightwing government!