Purges at the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union - critics of xenophobic chair excluded, two branches closed
The Central Committee of the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union (Český svaz bojovníků za svobodu - ČSBS) closed its Jičín and Kladno district member organizations during a meeting on 18 October. Three individual members have also been excluded from the union.
Gabriela Havlůjová, the chair of the former member organization in Kladno, told the Czech News Agency that the reason for the closure was alleged defamation of the chair of the union, Jaroslav Vodička, and the leadership of the ČSBS, including an allegedly slanderous media campaign involving long-term criticism of the chair. Havlůjová herself has been excluded from the union as well.
According to Vladislav Kučik, a spokesperson for the ČSBS, the district organizations were abolished for organizational reasons and two members of the union were stripped of membership for constantly making statements to the media despite a resolution that was binding on the members not to do so. "They did so despite repeated warnings of the harmfulness of their behavior," the spokesperson said.
Another member, according to the spokesperson, was excluded for "gross defamation" of the delegates to the 10th Congress of the ČSBS. The disputes began last year when the last three living adult witnesses to the tragedy of the Nazi destruction of the village of Lidice resigned from the union's member organization in Lidice itself.
The survivors resigned because the journalist and politician Jana Bobošíková was elected head of the organization in Lidice. Havlůjová also criticized Bobošíková's election to the post and remarks she has made.
The disputes then continued when the chair of the union, Jaroslav Vodička, gave a xenophobic speech against receiving refugees in May during the commemorative ceremony at the Terezín Memorial. Vodička then ran in the recent regional elections as a candidate for the coalition of Tomio Okamura's Party of Direct Democracy and the Citizens' Rights Party.
Both parties are against refugee reception, while Okamura also attacks Romani people and disseminates hoaxes about them. According to news server Aktuálně.cz, WWII veteran Pavel Vranský has now decided to resign from the union to protest its "undemocratic approach".
Vranský is bothered by the fact that no room was made for discussion prior to voting on whether to close the member organizations and exclude the individual members. "It was unacceptable to me, because, to be brief, they arrived at that moment through an undemocratic approach. Since I had already resigned as vice-chair, I had to use the only option left to me," he told the news server.
The veteran reminded the press that the union is supposed to serve the purpose of upholding the legacy of those who fought for Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. "Now it's going so far as to exclude and remove critics from the organization. I cannot agree with that," he said.
According to Havlůjová, the members have been excluded and the branch organizations closed especially because they criticized the existing leadership. "I am of the opinion that once any association takes that kind of standpoint toward constructive criticism - that it will exclude its members who criticize things - it is heading towards a very bad end," Havlůjová said in a statement.
After closing the district committees of the ČSBS, the Kladno and Slánská branches will be directly administered by the Central Committee. Their more than 100 members do not face being stripped of their memberships.
The next moves will be addressed at the November meeting of the now-dissolved Kladno organization. Havlůjová said she is also considering establishing her own association and that she believes the entire organization in Kladno stands behind the opinions she has expressed.
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