Communist Law in Czechoslovakia – Chapters from the History of Injustice

It always takes some time. After any revolution, irrespective of whether it was a velvet one or one shedding blood in the streets, there is always a delay between the moment the previous regime collapses and the moment the society starts asking itself questions: why? How did all this come about? On which foundations was the previous system build? What were its slogans and what was its practice? What lasting effects does it have on the present society?

There is perhaps no other area of social science or humanities in the Czech Republic in which similar questions would be more pertinent and needed than law. The Czech post-1989 legal system was based on legal continuity with the previous regime: the same judges, the same legal practitioners and the same university professors carrying on with their business, to a great extent even in the same manner.

“Communist Law in Czechoslovakia” is a unique project born out of intellectual discomfort of the editors of this collective volume. The discomfort was caused by what was perceived as a lack of as good as any critical analysis of what communist law was and how it still considerably shapes the law in contemporary Czech Republic and Slovakia. The collective volume has the ambition of launching the long needed debate on this subject.

The project united some thirty authors who wrote more than thirty chapters on various topics. The volume is subdivided into four parts. The contributions in the first part address general issues and characteristic of the system of Communist law. Most of them are crosscutting contributions, which are defined rather by a philosophical or socio-legal problem than by any area of law. The second part of the volume covers various areas of law: civil, criminal, administrative etc. The area-oriented chapters deal with basic characteristics of a given area of law under Communist rule. They often track problems that are being experienced in current practice back to the communist legal codifications in 1950ies and 1960ies. The third part is concerned with legal professions and their organisation. How did judges or attorneys function in a classless society? The last, fourth part of the volume contains more personal reflections on the role of individual lawyers in the system of socialist law. It offers contribution by Czech émigré lawyers as well as by dissident lawyers in a system of law which, according to its official dogma, was soon about to die…

This website is the online companion to the book. It contains information relating to the book as well as some full-text parts of the book.


Full title:                        Communist Law in Czechoslovakia – Chapters from the History of Injustice
Editors:                         Michal Bobek, Pavel Molek, Vojtěch Šimíček
Publisher:                    International Institute of Political Science, Masaryk University
Place of publication:  Brno, Czech Republic
Year of publication:    2009                                       Language: Czech
ISBN:                            978-80-210-4844-7             Pages: 1007 p.

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Table of contents


Preface by Václav Havel
Table of contents
Biographies of the Authors

First Part: The Legal Order
Jiří Přibáň: Guarding the Unity of the World: Marxism and Legal Theory
Zdeněk Kühn: The Ideology of the Application of Law under Socialism
Radoslav Procházka: To All Limbs Equally: Materialism and Egalitarianism in Socialist Law         
Kateřina Šimáčková: A Fictitious or a Real Constitution
Tomáš Gábriš: The Growing Role of State and Public Law in Czechoslovakia between 1948 – 1989
Radim Polčák: Information Theory of Law
Barbara Havelková: Gender Equality under Socialism
Zdeněk Kühn: The Crime and the Punishment – Communist Crimes and their Judicial Reflection after 1989
David Kosař: Lustration and the Lapse of Time
Hynek Baňouch: Methods, Motives and Aims of Contemporary Communist Law Studies

Part Two: Areas of Law
Vojtěch Šimíček, Jan Kysela: Constitutional Law
Eliška Wagnerová: Basic Rights
Pavel Molek: International Public Law
Michal Bobek: Socialist Approach to Comparative Law
Petr Bělovský: Civil Law
Petr Bělovský: Family Law
Barbara Havelková: Labour Law
Zdeněk Nový: Civil Procedure
Tomáš Gřivna: Criminal Law
Petra Gřivnová, Tomáš Gřivna: Criminal Procedure
Josef Vedral: Administrative Law
Eva Kružíková: Environmental Law
Milada Tomková: Social Security
Hynek Baňouch: Economic Law
Petr Jäger: Freedom of Religion and the Legal Status of Churches and Religious Organizations

Part Three: Legal Professions
Otakar Motejl: The Judiciary and its Administration
Zdeněk Kühn: The Socialist Judiciary
Jan Lata: Public Prosecution (The Prokuratura)
Stanislav Balík: The Bar
Blanka Čechová: Public Notary

Part Four: Personal Reflections
Zdenek Krystufek: Communist Law in Czechoslovakia
Mojmír Povolný: Law in the Memory of an Émigré
Otakar Motejl: Being an Attorney in a Political Trial
Anna Šabatová: The Protection of Basic Right and Liberties in Theory and in Practice (1945–1989)

In Place of a Conclusion
Dictionary for Beginning and Less Advanced Marxists