Self-Government in Late 1980s Czechoslovakia: The Slovak Philosopher Miroslav Kusý against the Communist Party

Author: Dirk Mathias Dalberg
This is the abstract of an article published in Labour History Review (2021), 86, (3), 425-452. Find out more.

Self-government is one of the most popular terms in left-wing political thought. In the second half of the twentieth century, it was used and discussed both in Western liberal democracies and in the communist bloc. The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev used this notion from the mid-1980s onwards, forming part of his wider policy of perestroika. Although the Czechoslovak leaders were not interested in political reforms and were largely sceptical about economic changes, the Soviet example resonated with the public and impacted on official discussion in Czechoslovakia. In this context, the Czechoslovak parliament adopted the Act on State Enterprise in July 1988, which was preceded by the discussion of the Proposal on the Act on State Enterprise (1987). This article draws attention to Czechoslovak dissident milieus and the response to the parliament’s proposal. It focuses on the Slovak philosopher Miroslav Kusý (1931-2019), who articulated the most substantial critique of the official plans. While accepting the principle of self-government, he argued that the proposal was subject to fundamental misinterpretations. In assessing his arguments, the article traces a particular intervention within the wider debates on state socialism in the 1980s.

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