November 17 is a national holiday in Slovakia to mark the anniversary of the ‘Velvet Revolution’ of 1989 which led to the transition of Czechoslovakia away from communism. This year saw a unique phenomenon of a range of political activists, including those from the left, taking to the streets against the incumbent conservative government led by prime minister Igor Matovik of the center-right Ordinary People and Independent Personalities party.
The marches in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, were joined by activists of parties ranging from the far-left, including the communist party, to social democrats and far-right groups.
Leftist sections protested the poor living conditions of Slovakians, resulting from the continuous neoliberal onslaughts by the post-communist governments in the country. Right-wing groups who attended the protest mainly attempted to channelize people’s anger and anxiety around COVID-19 and its related restrictions against the government.
Activists of the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) also denounced the 1989 transition as a coup which betrayed the people of Slovakia and helped successive governments sell out the nation’s assets, sovereignty, and the public’s social security. The Direction-Social Democracy (SMER), a major opposition party, protested the anti-people policies of the government.
On the other hand, right-wing ultras of the SK Slovan Bratislava Football Club and the neo-Nazi People’s Party-Our Slovakia (LSNS) also came out on to the streets with a very different agenda. They were protesting the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the government.
Jozef Hrdlička, chairman of the KSS, stated, “During the events of November 1989 and shortly after, honest and dedicated communists warned the civilian public in the country about the change that was about to take place. Despite the fact that the vast majority of Czechoslovakian citizens saw a chance to improve socialism in November 1989, its liquidation took place and capitalism was restored. Today, I guess few doubt these communist warnings.”
He added that after November 1989, Slovakia’s national economy was stolen and agriculture devastated. “We lost our food self-sufficiency and safety. Slovak residents became modern slaves in multinational companies producing value that is drained from our country. The reality of today is still unemployment, low wages, low old-age pensions, rising prices of goods and services and even a way of life based on debt and unnecessary consensus. Healthcare, education and our culture are on their knees for a long time. Big systemic corruption and clientelism became part of the company’s functioning.”
“The reality of today is also huge and outstanding debt. We have become a part of the European Union which is nothing but a tool of multinational corporations and oligarchic elites for sophisticated control of Europe’s nations. We became a part of the NATO organization whose criminal essence is evident. We have lost our national and state sovereignty and our development is directly influenced from abroad,” Hrdlička asserted.
Cadres of the Socilaisti, who abstained from the rallies in Bratislava, instead organized an innovative campaign. Iskra.sk reported that Socialisti activists placed banners in several cities across the country with promises made by Václav Havel (prominent leader of the Velvet Revolution who became the president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic), which later turned out to be lies.
Socialisti stated that “they want to revive the memory of the Slovak public in such a way that they do not forget that at the turn of 1989-1990 the public wanted to democratize socialism, not to exchange social security for wild capitalism.”