Photo: ČTK

Socialist Czechoslovakia was a legally consistent state that guaranteed justice for people

 “Everyone who worked dutifully and complied with laws could freely express their opinions without being persecuted in any manner whatsoever”

according to approximately 45% of respondents participating in the April 2018 poll carried out by the FOCUS agency.

Facts and disproval of the myth ↓

During the years 1948 through 1989, Czechoslovakia was an unjust regime, which was a result of its basic feature – the state ruling party´s power over citizens based also on the totalitarian legislation framework. 

The criminal prosecution of individuals during the socialist era was conditioned not only by non-conformity of their behaviour with laws that in many cases contradicted the natural rights of citizens or allowed a broad interpretation by repressive authorities. People could get in troubles just because of their affiliation with the “bourgeois class” or because they fell out of favour of the power holders. 

Laws were often only a façade for a parallel decision-making system that was not supported by law and did not allow any legal remedies. This fact is perfectly captured in the Charter 77 declaration that reads: “The system of actual subordination of all institutions and organizations within the state to the political directives issued by the ruling party´s apparatus and decisions of individuals holding power is the tool for restriction and frequently also full suppression of a number of civic rights is.” Human rights were often violated also where the regime undertook to respect them based on domestic or international legal regulations, which fact served as an impulse for establishment of Charter 77. 

The socialist legislation was characterized by the leading role of the communist party, the principle of “socialist law and order” (instead of the rule of law principle), and creation of preconditions for collective ownership relations and a centrally planned economy. The constitution (the explicit constitution of 1960) defined the communist party as the leading power within the society and the state. Moreover, the constitution defined the centrally controlled economy. The first constitution of 1948 set out the preconditions for “nationalization” and the second constitution of 1960 defined the ownership of the means of production only as “socialist”. The constitution guaranteed several other rights to people, but in socialist Czechoslovakia, the principle of “socialist law and order” ruled – which meant that compliance with and application of legal regulations were subject to the interests of the state ruling party and the socialism development objective. However, the practice was far away from what was said in the constitution. 

The injustice and repressive nature of the regime was supported also by adopted legislation. In 1948, it was, for instance, a series of “nationalization” acts and decrees and the Forced-Labour Camp Act. Examples of the laws that enabled repressive practices of the regime against its citizens throughout the entire socialist period were the Democratic People´s Republic Protection Act of 1948 that allowed prosecution of basically anyone for anything, the State Border Protection Act of 1951 that restricted the freedom of movement, and the 1961 Criminal Code that was primarily intended to protect the regime and restrict freedoms of people (more in chapter 3.1 Law and justice).