On November 17, Tuesday, communists in the Czech capital, Prague, protested against the deteriorating housing crisis in the city and demanded affordable housing for all city dwellers. The protest was organized on the 31st anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which marks the beginning of the protests of 1989 that led to the transition of Czechoslovakia away from communism.
Cadres of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) posted banners in front of several unoccupied buildings in decay across the city, calling for their expropriation or revival to solve the acute housing crisis. The campaign also highlighted the plight of the country after 31 years of transition away from communist rule.
Luboš Petříček, deputy chairman of the regional committee of KSČM-Prague, stated, “Prague has long been plagued by the housing crisis. Overpriced rents, lack of social flats, empty investment flats of development predators, hundreds of Prague buildings gaping with emptiness and the incompetent City Hall mean only one thing – inaccessible housing for small families, workers, students …”.
“The solution is directly offered. Buildings in the hands of private owners and companies that have not been interested in their management for many years could be expropriated. Buildings that are already owned by the city and are empty – because the city can not take care of them with the care of a proper manager – must be converted into affordable housing, social or cultural centers,” he added.
November 17 is a national holiday in the Czech Republic, also observed as the International Students’ Day to commemorate the Prague students’ protest of 1939. In late 1939, Nazi authorities in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia had suppressed an Independence Day rally in Prague held by the students of the Medical Faculty of Charles University. During this demonstration, a worker, Václav Sedláček, was killed and a medical student, Jan Opletal, was shot, who also later died from his injuries on November 11. Opletal’s funeral procession on November 15, 1939, turned into a massive anti-Nazi demonstration, In response, the Nazis closed down all Czech higher education institutions, arresting more than 1,200 students who were then sent to concentration camps. Nine students and professors were executed without trial on November 17 that year. Since then, the International Students Day is observed on November 17 to commemorate these victims of Nazi terror.
Regarding the International Students Day, the KSČM leadership stated, “eighty-one years ago, the resistance of Czech students, especially university students, was brutally suppressed by the Nazi occupation. For the permanent preservation of the students’ memories and as a still valid warning against the danger of fascism, November 17 was declared as International Student Day. This is a legacy not only for our society but also the world, when the ideas of fascism and neo-Nazism are becoming increasingly important. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia fully claims it and honors the memory of its victims. However, on 17 November, our society will also commemorate thirty-one years from the beginning of the modern capitalist history of the Czech Republic. It is a reason to think and evaluate this period full of broken wishes, hopes and false promises.”
On November 17 this year, communist groups in Slovakia also denounced the betrayal of the post-communist governments in the country following the Velvet Revolution, and condemned the ongoing neo-liberal onslaughts which have impoverished the people.