The extremist Republican Party has long been
known in the Czech Republic for the racist and anti-democratic remarks
of its leadership and grass-root members. The party than won 18 parliament
seats in last year's elections often uses its prominent position as an
official opposition party to propagate extremist views. The official Republican
newspaper, Politické noviny Republika, regulary prints racist
articles about the country's minority Roma population as well as people
of other nationalities. Some observers have suggested that the movements
for violating the constitution by fomenting racial hatred and attacking
the democratic principles of the Czech Republic. In the following aricle,
Jan Fábry addresses this issue with a legal analysis of various
public statements and published comments by top Republican Party members.
Last year's Republican electoral program includes
a promise to "resolve the question of unadaptable ethnic groups, such as
the Gypsies, by among other things reinstituting home law and doing away
with unwarranted benefits." Describing any ethnic group as unadaptable
is a clear violation of article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights
and Freedoms, which states that it is against the law to discriminate against
someone who belongs to a "national or ethnic minority." The party program
irrefutably discriminates anyone who might be described as a member of
such an "unadaptable" ethnic group.
Another, more detailed, version of the program only seems unprejudiced
at first glance. According to this version, the Republicans consider "citizens
of Gypsy nationality who obey the law and societal rules as decent citizens."
The program then quickly adds a condemnation of those who describe any
"criticism of this entirely unadaptable ethnic group as racism." Note that
the term "unadaptability" refers to an inability to adapt - in other words,
a permanent characteristic. Therefore, according to the Republicans, Roma
in general are in essence "entirely unadaptable" and "decent" Roma are
the exception. Such a formulation implies that the "Gypsy question" cannot
be resolved in a conciliatory manner.
How do the Republicans intend to carry out their
political platform? The party has answered that question with a much-publicized
thesis that Republican Chairman Miroslav Sládek repeated at a speech
to mark the Czech national holiday on 28 October 1995. "The Gypsies have
a choice. Either they can live like us or they can leave, and it won't
be our concern how, where, or for how much." Such a statement is a violation
of the constitution and the charter, since no one can be stripped of their
citizenship or made to leave their homeland, and freedom of movement and
residence is guaranteed.
Sládek develops this idea more than once in his publications.
Last year, in his book Precisely Your Vote Will Decide, he reveals
what is hidden behind this "solution": "If it looks as if the Republicans
are going to win the elections [on 31 May-1 June], most of the Gypsies
will leave this country on 1 June, so I won't have anything to resolve
after 8 June."
Sládek comments in the book show that he ties citizenship to
the ethnic extraction of the person in question. "This is how I see it.
This completely foreign element ... is a potential fifth column that could
end up being a time bomb for our national and state organism." Sládek's
leading editorial in Republika strikes a similar note: "The governing
clique should clarify whether it wants to serve its nation or whether it
would be satisfied to govern a mass of people of undefined origin and color
that came into existence after the original population perished through
the mixture of various races."
Even though Sládek does not state that one race is superior to
another, he openly states his support for the ideal of an ethnically clean
nation, just as the Nazis did. Furthermore, he contradicts himself: even
if a Rom has not committed any crime, he or she is still considered to
be a burden as part of the "potential fifth column."
In his book, Sládek emphasizes: "It is not necessary - and we
won't do it - to pass special laws for them. ... Most Gypsies are on disability
insurance by the time they reach the age of 18. ... We'll have a look at
disability insurance. As soon as they don't have a source of money, they'll
stop liking it here and they'll leave on their own." Here, Sládek
is questioning the principle that everyone is equal before the law regardless
of their ethnic origin, and his reference to "special laws" is merely a
question of tactics rather than principles. In fact, the substance of the
statement is oriented toward ethnic cleansing, in other words toward the
creation of a de facto state of lawlessness, and it is irrelevant whether
special laws are passed or not.
The statements reveal that Sládek's view of the Roma directly
contravenes the constitutional guarantees of human rights and freedoms.
These basic rights and freedoms are "guaranteed to everyone regardless
of skin color or membership in a national or ethnic group." Furthermore,
when Sládek stood up in parliament last year to cite people who
allegedly told him that "practically the worst crime" committed by Gypsies
is being born, he was venturing into the territory of the Nazi Nuremberg
laws. Both Sládek's goals and the manner of attaining those goals
can only be accomplished through the denial of certain basic human rights
The deputies and journalists
Sládek is not alone in his views. Allusions
to the departure of the Roma often appear in the pages of Republika
under such headlines as "Will Ostrava Remain Colored?" or "Do Gypsies Go
to Heaven?" Josef Krejsa, a Republican member of parliament, boasted in
an article entitled "Running Away From a Poster or the End of the Gypsies
in Northern Bohemia" about how a Republican meeting in the region created
a panic among local Romany residents. In two 1996 issues of the newspaper,
Krejsa literally called for a pogrom. In 1993, the leader of the Republican
parliamentary faction, Jan Vik, warned against re-electing Václav
Havel as president unless "we want to turn what is left of this republic
into a garbage can into which the rest of Europe can throw its Gypsies
and similar elements ..."
Can the statements by Republican officials be considered an expression
of the party's political policies? Racism is part of the party's electoral
program, and racist statements by the party's top functionaries are not
exceptional. On the contrary, no one in this party even attempts to distance
themselves from such statements. The weekly newspaper Republika,
which publishes these opinions, is directly connected to the party. Any
attempts by Republicans to superficially reject racism can be understood
as simple cynicism. Despite the chaos of the Republican ideological system,
racism is a firm and clearly noticeable part of the party's policy platform.
It is clear that fomenting racism against Roma and other "unadaptable"
groups can be a means to secure power. The Nazis used aversion toward Jews
in a similar manner. The wave of anti-Semitism in interwar Germany was
accompanied by the use of similarly violent methods against political opponents
of the Nazi party.
Similarly, Republika editor Tomáš Kebza attacked his political
opponents in an article published last year. "These individuals are harmful
and poisonous lice crawling across the Czech scalp ... that is why they
must be swept away. Where they go is not our concern. But they must disappear."
Kebza's article was a turning point in the history of the Republican Party.
It set the standard for other authors. The day the article was published,
Sládek gave a speech at a public meeting in Ústí nad
Labem. Flanked on either side by skinheads, the Republican leader referred
to Social Democratic deputy Pavel Dostál as a "mongrel."
There is a real danger that the Republican Party
will join one of the skinhead factions. This is already evident from the
manner in which the party attempts to downplay or politicize the brutal
attacks by skinheads on innocent people. The party even refers to the skinheads
as protectors of law and order. An author of an article published in Republika
last year states that the skinheads consider themselves to be enemies of
the Republican Party. However, in another article, Krejsa writes: "In contrast
to them [the democratic parties], a skinhead would never fraternize with
a Gypsy and would never sell our nation to the Germans." Ivo Ramb expressed
similar thoughts in a 1993 article in Republika: "A skinhead can rail at
Dr. Sládek for betraying him or for not being a fascist. Under the
influence of alcohol, a skinhead might even shout, 'Long live Havel!' But
a skinhead will never, never stand up for a Gypsy."
There is also a danger that the skinheads might be used as some sort
of law-and-order force. Last year, Krejsa wrote: "In [the Gypsies'] case,
the police should entrust the skinheads with the task of keeping order."
Already in 1990, a writer in Republika argues that "the situation would
be resolved if the skinheads, who know how to deal with these criminal
elements, were turned into a disciplinary force."
Such statements bear a striking resemblance to comments by Nazi SA leader
Ernst Röhm in 1933: "The police must crack down on those who break
the law. The police are backed up by the SA and the SS, which have their
own special tasks as the third power factor of the new state." A union
of the Republican Party and the skinheads represents a security threat
for this state. As in the case of prewar Germany, racially motivated terror
has the potential to develop into political terror. If the Republicans
used the skinheads to commit violent acts against their opponents, it would
be difficult to prove that the party was directly responsible.
Into the Vltava
Nazism rejected parliamentary democracy out of
principle - the Republican Party does not. However, the possibility that
the party views elections as a tactical way of obtaining power cannot be
ruled out. On the other hand, Sládek's party does not rule out seizing
power by violent means - its members have said as much in their verbal
attacks on the parliament, judiciary, government, and president as well
as in their calls for all of the country's constitutional institutions
to be swept into the Vltava River.
On the one hand, the Republican Party claims to support the principle
of various political parties competing in elections, but on the other hand
its chairman casts doubt on the constitutional institutions because they
are the alleged results of the "illegitimate division of Czechoslovakia."
In his book What I Have in Mind Is Freedom, Sládek writes, "For
that reason, the citizens have the inalienable right to overthrow such
a government by any means necessary. ... It would easily and understandably
be in line with the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to seek the removal
of an illegitimate power using any means necessary, including violence."
Here, Sládek is referring to Article 23 of the charter, which gives
citizens "the right to stand against anyone who tries to do away with the
democratic order of human rights and basic freedoms ... if the activities
of the constitutional organs and the effective use of legal means is rendered
impossible." However, the division of the Czechoslovak federation did not
create such conditions. On the contrary, the call for violence is in contravention
of Article 5 of the charter, according to which "a political system based
on ... free competition between political parties respects the basic democratic
principle of rejecting violence as a means to asserting one's interests."
Many statements by Republican officials provide good reason to fear
that, if the party won an election, it would set up a non-democratic regime.
As Krejsa writes, "Our first task after winning the election will be to
introduce a new constitution, a new legal order, and exemplary punishments
of the current representatives of justice." Krejsa also clearly mapped
out the means the Republicans would use to carry out these plans in an
article responding to criticism that the party doesn't have enough quality
members to form a government: "What do you mean it doesn't have enough
people? My dear lady, it has me! And I have a machine gun at home. You'll
see how people will be queuing up to join the party. Just wait until we
win those elections! They'll come from all sides, mainly the political
sides! At the firing range in Kobylisy. I believe that [Prime Minister
Václav] Klaus, [President Václav] Havel, and [Chamber of
Deputies Chairman Milan] Uhde will be 'first in line.' So that there's
no chance that I would overlook them. Then we will separate the wheat from
the chaff and after that it'll be a piece of cake." Such comments cannot
be understood in any other way than as support for fascist methods and
Such excerpts and quotes provide a strong enough legal basis for the
dissolution of the Republican Party according to the law on political parties
and movements. It is up to the government or president to propose to the
Supreme Court that the party be dissolved according to the law.