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The Anti-authoritarianism of the Movement of Revolutionary Youth? Three Contextualisations

Matyáš Křížkovský (Charles University, Prague), Michael Polák (Charles University, Prague), and Ondřej Slačálek (Charles University, Prague)

Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought V, no. 2 (2021): 31–55

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Keywords: Movement of Revolutionary Youth, Petr Uhl, Czechoslovak student movement, post-Stalinism, Trotskyism and post-Trotskyism, global 1968

The article aims to bring about a deeper understanding of the strong emphasis placed on the anti-authoritarian dimension of radical left politics by the Movement of Revolutionary Youth (HRM), a group made up mostly of students that was active in 1968–1969 in Czechoslovakia and was harshly repressed by the normalisation regime. This emphasis is expressed not only in their demands for cultural freedoms but also through a critical dialogue with the history of revolutionary Marxism and a rethinking of the past and the future of the socialist movement in which the most important divide is seen as being between authoritarianism and libertarianism or, in another formulation, centralism and self-government. Taking into account the prevalent image of Trotskyism, this anti-authoritarian emphasis might be considered surprising. Therefore, we discuss three possible explanations for it: (1) a generational reflection of the state socialist dictatorship and the experience of the student movement; (2) the internal dynamics of the development of Trotskyist and post-Trotskyist ideas; (3) the more general development imprinted in the so-called “global 1968” and “the long 1970s.” The combination of all these three contexts opened up space for various analytical insights and political accentuations that made it possible for the group to transcend both Western Trotskyism and the Czechoslovak “socialism with a human face.”

doi: 10.46957/con.2021.2.3

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