KSČ organization was based on the Leninist concept of democratic centralism, which provided for the election of party leaders at all levels but required that each level be fully subject to the control of the next higher unit. Accordingly, party programs and policies were directed from the top, and resolutions of higher organs were unconditionally binding on all lower organs and individual party members. In theory, policy matters were freely and openly discussed at congresses, conferences, and membership meetings and in the party press. In practice, however, these discussions merely reflected decisions made by a small contingent of top party officials.
- The supreme KSČ organ was the party congress, which normally convened every five years for a session lasting less than one week. An exception was made with respect to the Fourteenth Party Congress, which was held in August 1968 under Dubček's leadership. Held in semi-secrecy in a tractor factory in the opening days of the Soviet occupation, this congress denounced the invasion. This congress was subsequently declared illegal, its proceedings were stricken from party records, and a second, "legal" Fourteenth Party Congress was held in May 1971. The Fifteenth Party Congress was held in April 1976; the sixteenth, in April 1981; and the seventeenth, in March 1986. The party congress theoretically was responsible for making basic policy decisions; in practice, however, it was the Presidium of the Central Committee that held the decision-making and policy-making responsibilities. The congress merely endorsed the reports and directives of the top party leadership. The statutory duties assigned the party congress included determination of the party's domestic and foreign policies; approval of the party program and statutes; and election of the Central Committee and the Central Supervisory and Auditing Commission, as well as discussion and approval of their reports.
- Between congresses the Central Committee of the KSČ was responsible for directing party activities and implementing general policy decisions. Party statutes also provided that the Central Committee functioned as the primary arm of KSČ control over the organs of the federal government and the republics, the National Front, and all cultural and professional organizations. Party members who held leading positions in these bodies were responsible directly to the Central Committee for the implementation of KSČ policies. In addition, the Central Committee screened nominations for all important government and party positions and selected the editor-in-chief of Rudé právo, the principal party newspaper. The Central Committee generally met in full session at least twice a year. In 1976 (1986), the Central Committee had 115 (135) members and 45 (62) candidates, respectively. In terms of composition, the Central Committee normally included leading party and government officials, military officials, and a cross section of outstanding citizens.
- The Central Committee, like the party congress, rarely acted as more than a rubber stamp of policy decisions made by the party Presidium of the Central Committee of the KSČ. As an exception to this rule, when factional infighting developed within the Presidium in 1968, the Central Committee assumed crucial importance in resolving the dispute and ousted First Secretary Novotný in favor of Alexander Dubček. Generally, decisions on which the Central Committee voted were reached beforehand so that votes taken at the sessions were unanimous. The Presidium, which conducted the work of the party between full committee sessions, formally was elected by the Central Committee; in reality, the top party leaders determined its composition. In 1986, there were 11 full members and 6 candidate members.
- The Secretariat of the Central Committee acted as the party's highest administrative authority and as the nerve center of the party's extensive control mechanism. The Secretariat supervised the implementation of decisions made in the Presidium, controlled the movement up and down the party ladder, and directed the work within the party and government apparatus. Under Gustáv Husák, the composition of the Secretariat, like that of the Presidium, remained rather constant. Many secretaries were also members of the Presidium.
- The Central Supervisory and Auditing Commission played a dual role, overseeing party discipline and supervising party finances, but it did not control anything. As an organ for the enforcement of party standards, the Central Supervisory and Auditing Commission frequently wielded its power to suspend or expel "deviant" party members. It was this commission that directed the massive purges in party membership during the early and late 1970s. Members were elected at each party congress (45 members in 1986). These members then elected from among themselves a chairman, deputy chairmen, and a small presidium. Sub-units of the commission existed at the republic, regional, and district levels of the party structure.
- Other KSČ commissions in 1987 included the People's Supervisory Commission, Agriculture and Food Commission, the Economic Commission, the Ideological Commission, and the Youth Commission.
- In 1987 the party also had 18 departments (agitation and propaganda; agriculture, food industry, forestry, and water management; Comecon cooperation; culture; economic administration; economics; education and science; elected state organs; external economic relations; fuels and energy; industry; transportation and communications; international affairs; mass media; political organization; science and technology; social organizations and national committees; state administration; and a general department). In most instances the party departments paralleled agencies and ministries of the government and supervised their activities to ensure conformity with KSČ norms and programs.
- Also under the supervision of the Central Committee were two party training centers--the Advanced School of Politics and the Institute of Marxism-Leninism (see below).
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