Svatopluk Holec

* 1933  †︎ 2018

  • “Then came the screening sessions. I knew they’d fire me, there was no doubt about that. The head of the committee and I greeted each other, we chatted, because we both knew what he had to do and what the result would be. It was completely obvious. Poor Tonda Vyšinka, to find something [to use against me - trans.], he found that in my materials I stated once that I knew Latin and the second and third time I did not mention it. I said: ‘Because I didn’t need it at all since my graduation, so why should I mention it if I don’t know it any more?’ Then there was some ruckus in a nationwide newspaper. One Comrade Káral, we called him Káral [approx. in the meaning of Reprimanding - trans.], but his name was [Josef] Šáral, a big comrade until his daughter married off to America - and he wrote in one article that Holec preached existentialism. He hadn’t a clue what it was. He’d heard it somewhere, so he [wrote it].”

  • “I arrived home at around 2 AM and at 5 AM they were already ringing the bell. I took my time eating have breakfast, dressing up. They were ringing the bell once again. I said: ‘Gentlemen, I am after a two-day shift with the postal services.‘ In the car, I fell asleep on purpose. They kept saying something. Then they asked: ‘What will you be doing tomorrow?‘ It was the 27th of October. – ‘I will go to my garden.’ – ¨’Hmm… Hmm…‘ – ‘Well, I will go to my garden, I need to finish some weeding and digging.‘ – ‘Hmm… Hmm…’ And they came up with a ban for entering the Plzeň main square, Karlovy Vary and Sušice. There were supposed to be some protests there. And I said: ‘For God’s sake, am I supposed to go to work on foot? Or am I allowed pass the square in a tram?‘ They said I could go by tram. And I said: ‘You know, it is interesting. We had no idea about the event in Sušice.‘”

  • “Of course, the madame comrades from State Security invited me over a few times. The first time it was about some leaflets before the elections, I really didn’t know anything about it. Then they started nitpicking. The last session was on 27 October 1989. I had just returned from the so-called Brno ‘twirl’, which meant roll call at four a.m., that is, getting up before three, written in Brno until two, handed over mostly without objections at half past one. And at half past three roll call again and back, ending at one in the night. So I came back from the Brno twirl, and the [State Security officers - ed.] came crashing in here at six in the morning. I said: ‘When I wake up...’ They came back a moment later - why wasn’t I coming. I said: ‘I’m sleepy...’ ‘Well, Mr Holec, what are you doing tomorrow?’ I said: ‘I guess I’ll be in the garden.’ We had a garden down in Lily Street. ‘Mmm, mmm.’ They finally admitted that there was a demonstration in the works in the square [in Pilsen - ed.] and in Sušice and [Karlovy] Vary. I said: ‘Well there you go, we didn’t even know about the one in Sušice.’ So I received a ban on entering the square. I said: ‘And can I at least take the tram to my garden?’ ‘Oh, sure, why not.’ I went around the time the gathering was supposed to be, but the London-style foggy, you really couldn’t meet up with anyone there. I was already in Revival at the time.”

  • “In the scope of my mandate, I went to the Soviet Union. It was an exchange with the then Sverdlovsk, today’s Yekaterinburg. It was very interesting. Normally, the delegation would visit at least two factories; there would be some speeches to listen to. But then was not at all the case with us. They brought us to the borderline between Europe and Asia. Us having one leg in Europe, the other in Asia – fine. They brought us to a beautiful lake – also okay. They brought us to the theater – a really nice theater. They also brought us to some strawberry farm. They were just collecting the crops so we got strawberries with cream. And those who worked there were looking at as with hungry eyes. They were looking at us with hungry eyes.”

  • “[Alexander] Dubček came on the scene. This part of history is quite well known. We had a regional conference, and I was elected as plenum candidate of the Regional Committee of the CPC. That was still okay. Except we had the plenum, and Comrade [Čestmír] Císař - he was everywhere - brought in Comrade Šimek as a candidate for the secretary for ideology. Comrade Šimek - I knew him from the regional school in [Karlovy] Vary, back then I still reckoned him [to be decent - ed.]. Except Comrade Šimek went on to do some kind of candidacy in Moscow, I don’t know if it was some Party management of agriculture or what. This was a philosophical candidacy! And he had been deputy head of the Department of Ideology of the Central Committee of the CPC for years; the heads changed every year, one time it was [Antonín] Novotný, one time [Jiří] Hendrych, but Comrade Šimek was reliably always there. So I stood up and said this was rather strange. And the theatre manager [Rudolf] Kubáček joined in, as did the chief of Pravda [The Truth, a newspaper - trans.] [Jan] Vencovský and the director of the Park of Culture; Docent [Antonín] Samek, a philospher at the Faculty of Medicine, had his say as well. And then I finished him off. And Šimek just say there without saying a word. He could have, we would have let him speak. I said: ‘Look, comrade. It’s customary in the Party that when someone is recommended somewhere, he brings with him an assessment of his previous work. Nothing of that. You said: We recommend Comrade Šimek, born so and so.’ So Císař shut up, left, and I was elected at the next plenum. Although, I must state clearly: I refused the title of secretary, I agreed to be a member of the secretariat, which is a secretarial organ, responsible for ideology. But not a pfennig for it, with the one exception that the coffee I drink and the people I invite won’t cost me a penny.”

  • “There was the meeting of the regional committee and I made a bit of research. Before that, they were asking me to draft a resolution. So I prepared a draft and I included the following phrase: ‘This regional committee will never approve of the occupation.‘ Of course, the resolution was not adopted. They were already being cautious. At the plenum, I presented my idea which was not accepted. What followed was them looking into the ‘affair Holec’ – saying Holec is a coward, Holec was hiding somewhere in Moravia and it is not clear where. So, they fired me. During Husák’s era a defamatory article was published in the newspaper. So it was clear there would be no candidacy nor studies of philosophy.“

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    Plzeň, 24.01.2017

    duration: 03:17:15
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From Marxism to mycology

Svatopluk Holec
Svatopluk Holec
photo: Eva Palivodová

Svatopluk Holec was born on 7 April 1933 in Pilsen. He grew up in the village of Korunní on the northern edge of the Doupov Mountains, where his father Emil Holec worked as a clerk at a mineral spring and where his mother Eliška Holecová served as postmistress until his birth. After the Munich Agreement, when Czechoslovakia ceded its border region to Germany, the family had to swiftly moved inland. After a brief stay in Pilsen his father found employment at a spa in Běloves near Náchod, where he was joined by the witness and his mother. Svatopluk Holec experienced World War II in Náchod; he lost his mother to a fatal illness at the age of ten. He completed elementary school in the town and then attended the local grammar school. After the war his father, his step-mother and his little brother returned to Korunní, but Svatopluk Holec stayed with his aunt in Hronov and commuted to the Náchod grammar school. He rejoined his family in late 1947, when he switched to the newly established grammar school in Kadaň. In 1948, at the mere of fifteen, he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) and was active in the Czechoslovak Youth Union. After graduating in 1951 he worked as a propagandist at the District Committee of the CPC in Kadaň. After a year’s study of philosophy at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague he continued his education at Lomonosov State University in Moscow. He completed his studies in 1959 and earned the degree of Graduate Philosopher. In the years 1960-1967 he worked at the Department of Ideology of the West Bohemian Regional Committee of the CPC in Pilsen. In 1967-1969 he functioned as an assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Education in Pilsen. At the time of the Prague Spring in May 1968, he was chosen as a candidate of the Regional Committee of the CPC in Pilsen (RC CPC) and subsequently assigned to the post of member of the Secretariat of the RC CPC in charge of ideology. He only held this post until September 1968. The occupation of Czechoslovakia by forces of the Warsaw Pact made an end to the witness’ Party and academic career. Following the 1970 purge he was expelled from the CPC and fired from his job. After a long search he found employment as a patient inspector, meaning that he checked on people on sick leave. He then worked at the railway post, where he stayed until 1990. Throughout the normalisation period he was under State Security surveillance and was listed as “Class I (later Class II and III) Hostile”. The witness found space for personal improvement in mushroom-picking. He joined the Pilsen Mycology Group and worked his way to the position of a respected expert in mycology. In 1989 he joined the opposition initiative Revival - The Club for a Socialist Reconstruction. In 1990 he received academic rehabilitation and returned to the Faculty of Education in Pilsen, where he taught philosophy and mycology until his retirement. As of 2017, the witness lives in Pilsen, where he enjoys his pension time and continues to prepare programmes on mycology and other topics for Czech Radio Pilsen.