Memories & reflections

CBC Radio Sunday Edition

Generation Next: Czech Communist youth leader

Milan KrajcaMilan Krajca, one of the leaders of the Czech Communist Youth Union. (CBC/David Gutnick)

Milan Krajca is one of the leaders of the Czech Communist Youth Union. In the post-1989 era Czech Communists have always received more than 10 per cent of the vote. There are presently 26 Communist Party elected members in the Czech Parliament. This is an interview transcript from the CBC Radio Sunday Edition documentary "Generation Next: Young Minds, Bodies and Souls after Communism. From Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary"


How does it feel being a 26-year-old Communist when the average age of the people in the party in your district is 76?

It is not so good of course, but other parties here in the Czech Republic have similar problems. The majority of young people are apolitical and only a few of the young generation join any political party. So it is not only a problem of the Communists, but also of the Conservatives, of Greens of Social Democrats. Speaking on me I joined the party in 1999.

So the experience of socialism here — the people put in jail, or the lack of freedom of people to travel — that does not turn you off socialism?

No, no no, The socialism was positive and capitalism negative. Capitalism here in the 20th century here in Czechoslovakia symbolized the working class oppression. The killing of workers in demonstrations during strikes, during capitalism there was national oppression, Nazi occupation.

So you think life was better under socialism that it is now?

Yes it is different of course, and the socialism was better than today. For example —

But now you can travel, you can listen to any music you want…there is nothing stopping you…and under socialism you couldn’t do that.

First of all I do not think that going to McDonald's is something that we can be happy for this. In the socialism there were constitutional rights to have a free education, to have a free healthcare system, so today we see the privatization of the health care system, lot of these kinds of problems. Today we do not think we have real democracy. We do not think that communism is something bad

About the radio documentary

LeninStone cold: statue of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin looks into a democratic future for Ukraine. (CBC/Karin Wells)

On Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was smashed. That marked the beginning of the end of a dream — for communists. For many people who lived under Soviet domination, it signaled the end of a nightmare.

Almost overnight, capitalism bloomed. Whole economies were redesigned. Free speech flourished. Unemployment soared. So did interest in organized religion. Billionaires popped up. Social safety nets were shredded. Neighbours found out who had been spying on whom. Real elections were held. Here was democracy, or something like it.

Now, from the ashes of the old — still warm, still combustible — the young are building new worlds in Eastern Europe. Theirs is the first post-Soviet generation. They carry the weight of the past, its secrets and lies. And like the young everywhere, they dream about a different future.

LISTEN to Part 1 (53:14)