Ryan Robert Mitchell
Anarchism in Czechoslovakia
Czech anarchism is characterized by the development of two distinct strands, independently formed in the 1880s.
The first was the anarchosyndicalism of the radical trade unionist movement of the North Bohemian miners and industry workers. Centered around editor Johann Most’s journal Die Freiheit (Freedom), these working-class anarchists believed the trade union was not simply to be used as an instrument in the greater anarchist struggle, but was to be seen as the model of a future classless society. Premised around direct action and the organization of labor, the radical labor movement was uncoordinated as a whole until 1903 with the formation of the Severoˇceská Hornická Federace (Northern Bohemian Federation of Miners).
The second strain of Czech anarchism grew out of the secret student societies and radical reading circles of the 1880s and was further articulated by the more philosophical individualist anarchism of the radical intelligentsia and artists of the 1890s. Centered upon such literary journals as Omladina (Youth) and Nový Kult (New Cult), and in lieu of an actual anarchist organization representing the educated intelligentsia, these journals were intended as vehicles for theorizing, agitating, and organizing.
By the end of the 1890s the two tendencies began to overlap with each other. One of the first attempts to align the two complementary strands of Czech anarchism was the anarchist journal Moderní Revue (Modern Review), which by the end of the 1890s expanded beyond its discussion of the manifestations of literary and artistic anarchism into a concern with the workers’ movement and broader anarchist struggles.
In 1904 these efforts culminated in the formation of the ˇCeská federace va ̨ech odbor°u (Czech Federation of All Unions, ˇCFVO) and the ˇCeská anarchistická federace (Czech Anarchist Federation, ˇCAF), which, according to Stanislav Kostka Neumann (1875–1947), editor of the Nový Kult journal, were to be the “fists” and the “brains” of the Czech anarchist movement, respectively. This alliance would not last for long, however, because in 1908 the Austro-Hungarian authorities, fearing its influence on the railway workers, outlawed the ˇCFVO – a blow the radical labor movement never recovered from. This left the ˇCAF as the main anarchist group in Czechoslovakia.
World War I and its aftermath brought radical changes to the Czech political landscape. With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire many within the ˇCAF (like S. K. Neumann, who would later hold a seat in parliament) began to support the idea of an anarchist “party” that would work with the new Czechoslovakian republic. Others, like Michal Kácha (1874–1940), opposed the idea and saw the threat of engaging in parliamentary politics. With the dilution of anarchism and the lack of a strong extra-parliamentary anarchist group as an alternative, many on the radical left placed their support behind the increasingly authoritarian Czech Communist Party. These events effectively ended the “classical” period of Czech anarchism.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Czech anarchism experienced a rebirth. Much like in the classical era, the new Czech anarchism was centered around two journals that were founded in 1991, A-Kontra and Autonomie. The new Czech anarchists found early success combating neo-Nazi skinheads and the far right in the early 1990s and then later success with the organization of counter-demonstrations at the 2000 IMF meeting in Prague.
REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS
Garver, B. M. (1978) The Young Czech Party 1874–1901 and the Emergence of a Multi-Party System. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Slaˇcálek, O. (2002) “Don’t Trust Anybody, Not Even Us!” Brief History of Czech Anarchism. Trans. Petra Horská. Available at www.csaf.cz/english.php?file=56 (accessed April 16, 2008).
Tomek, V. (1993) From the Idea of Freedom to Authoritarian Emancipation: Historic Experience of Czech Anarchism. In L. Sekelj and V. Tomek (Eds.), Anarchism: Community and Utopia. Prague: Filosofický ústav AV ˇCR.
Tomek, V. (1996) ˇCesky Anarchismus 1890–1925. Prague: Filosofia.
Tomek, V. & Sekelj, L. (Eds.) (1993) Anarchism: Community and Utopia. Prague: Filosofický ústav AV ˇCR.