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Czechoslovakia: National Organization
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia > National Organization

NATIONAL ORGANIZATION


KSC organization is based on the Leninist concept of democratic centralism, which provides for the election of party leaders at all levels but requires that each level be fully subject to the control of the next higher unit. Party ideologues assert that democratic centralism is the most important principle in the organizational structure and activity of the party. Accordingly, party programs and policies are directed from the top, and resolutions of higher organs are unconditionally binding on all lower organs and individual party members. In theory, policy matters are freely and openly discussed at congresses, conferences, and membership meetings and in the party press. In practice, however, these discussions merely reflect decisions made by a small contingent of top party officials. According to party statutes, the supreme KSC organ is the party congress, which normally convenes every five years for a session lasting less than one week. An exception was made with respect to the Fourteenth Party Congress, which was held in August 1968 under Dubcek's leadership. This congress was subsequently declared illegal, its proceedings were stricken from party records, and a second, "legal" Fourteenth Party Congress was held in May 1971. The Fifteenth Party Congress was held in April 1976; the sixteenth, in April 1981; and the seventeenth, in March 1986.

The party congress theoretically is responsible for making basic policy decisions; in practice, however, it is the Presidium of the Central Committee that holds the decision-making and policy-making responsibilities. The congress merely endorses the reports and directives of the top party leadership. The statutory duties assigned the party congress include determination of the party's domestic and foreign policies; approval of the party program and statutes; and election of the Central Committee and the Central Control and Auditing Commission, as well as discussion and approval of their reports.

Between congresses the Central Committee is responsible for directingparty activities and implementing general policy decisions. Party statutes also provide that the Central Committee functions as the primary arm of KSC control over the organs of the federal government and the republics, the National Front, and all cultural and professional organizations. Party members who hold leading positions in these bodies are responsible directly to the Central Committee for the implementation of KSC policies. In addition, the Central Committee screens nominations for all important government and party positions and selects the editor in chief of Rude Pravo, the principal party newspaper. The Central Committee generally meets in full session at least twice a year.

Nevertheless, the Central Committee, like the party congress, has rarely acted as more than a rubber stamp of policy decisions made by the party Presidium. (As an exception to this rule, when factional infighting developed within the Presidium in 1968, the Central Committee assumed crucial importance in resolving the dispute and ousted First Secretary Novotny in favor of Dubcek.) Generally, decisions on which the Central Committee votes are reached beforehand so that votes taken at the sessions are unanimous.

Central Committee membership increased gradually from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. At the Fifteenth Party Congress in 1976, the number of full members in the Central Committee rose from 115 to 121; in 1981, from 121 to 123; and in 1986, from 123 to 135. The number of candidate members rose from forty-five to fifty-three in 1976, to fifty-five in 1981, and to sixty-two in 1986. Of the 135 full members elected in 1986, almost 26 percent were newcomers to the Central Committee, as were approximately 81 percent of the 62 candidate members selected. In terms of composition, the Central Committee normally included leading party and government officials, military officials, and a cross section of outstanding citizens.

The Presidium of the Central Committee, which conducts the work of the party between full committee sessions, formally is elected by the Central Committee; in reality, the top party leaders determine its composition. The Sixteenth Party Congress in 1981 elected twelve full members and one candidate member to the Presidium. Membership fluctuated between the sixteenth and seventeenth congresses; just before the Seventeenth Party Congress it stood at eleven full members and three candidate members. The Seventeenth Party Congress retained all the incumbents and added three new candidate members.

While the Presidium functions as the highest policy-making authority in the party hierarchy, the Secretariat of the Central Committee acts as the party's highest administrative authority and as the nerve center of the party's extensive control mechanism. The Secretariat supervises the implementation of decisions made in the Presidium, controls the movement up and down the party ladder, and directs the work within the party and government apparatus. Under Husak, the composition of the Secretariat, like that of the Presidium, has remained rather constant, although in 1987 Secretariat membership did increase with the additions of Hoffman as secretary and Miroslav Zavadil as member. The authority and function of the KSC Presidium and Secretariat continued to be interlocked in 1987 by the dual membership of Husak, Bilak, Fojtik, Hoffman, Jakes, Josef Haman, and Frantisek Pitra.

Another important organ in the party hierarchy is the Central Control and Auditing Commission. As its name implies, the commission plays a dual role, overseeing party discipline and supervising party finances. As an organ for the enforcement of party standards, the Central Control and Auditing Commission has frequently wielded its power to suspend or expel "deviant" party members. It was this commission that directed the massive purges in party membership during the early and late 1970s.

Members of the Central Control and Auditing Commission are elected at each party congress (the Seventeenth Party Congress elected fifty-four members). These members then elect from among themselves a chairman, deputy chairmen, and a small presidium. Subunits of the commission exist at the republic, regional, and district levels of the party structure. The enforcement of party discipline down to the local level also involves the People's Control Commission, which is part of the government structure. Frantisek Ondrich, the minister-chairman of the People's Control Commission in late 1986, also served on the Central Control and Auditing Commission.

Other KSC commissions in 1987 included the Agriculture and Food Commission, the Economic Commission, the Ideological Commission, and the Youth Commission. In 1987 the party also had eighteen departments: agitation and propaganda; agriculture, food industry, forestry, and water management; Comecon cooperation; culture; economic administration; economics; education and science; elected state organs; external economic relations; fuels and energy; industry; transportion and communications; international affairs; mass media; political organization; science and technology; social organizations and national committees; state administration; and a general department. In most instances the party departments paralleled agencies and ministries of the government and supervised their activities to ensure conformity with KSC norms and programs. Also under the supervision of the Central Committee were two party training centers -- the Advanced School of Politics and the Institute of Marxism-Leninism.

Data as of August 1987




Last Updated: August 1987


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Czechoslovakia was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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