Slovakia: attempted assassination of Prime Minister Fico – symptom of capitalist chaos

Yesterday, outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlová, Slovakian Prime Minister Róbert Fico was shot three times in the abdomen and arm. While the assassination attempt left him in a “life-threatening condition”, following emergency surgery, he is expected to survive. The attack was met with a flood of crocodile tears from the opposition parties and European bourgeois political elite, who for months have whipped up hysteria that Fico is a ‘Russian agent’. Cutting through all the hypocritical moralising, what does this dramatic event signify?

Details on the attacker and his motives are murky. According to early reports, he is a 71-year-old former security guard named Juraj Cintula. Slovakia’s interior minister Matúš Šutaj-Eštok said initial intelligence “clearly points to a political motivation”. A video posted online shows Cintula expressing anger at the government’s policies, particularly its “liquidation of the media.”

This is likely a reference to SMER’s recent overhaul of Slovakia’s public broadcaster, RTVS, seeking to remove its Director General, and allow a council partly selected by a government ministry to appoint a replacement, in response to alleged liberal bias. While this is a potential explanation for the attempt on Fico’s life, it is not the only one. He is a polarising politician with many enemies, who by no means enjoys general support.

Fico’s record in power and Ukraine

lifted up Image fair useDetails on the attacker and his motives are murky / Image: fair use

As we reported in October, Fico was elected Prime Minister after his party, Direction – Social Democracy (SMER-SD), won the biggest vote share, based on strong support from poorer parts of the country. While much has been made in the western press of SMER’s reactionary stance on LGBT people and immigrants (positions shared by all the main Slovak parties), this does not explain the result.

Fico is a skilled demagogue, who pledged economic reforms to combat sky-high inflation (particularly acute in Slovakia compared to the rest of Europe), which he blamed on liberal economic promises and multinational corporations. He also promised financial bonuses for workers, pensioners and ordinary families.

Ultimately, despite his ‘anti-establishment’ posturing, Fico is a loyal servant of Slovakian capitalism, who previously spent 10 years as Prime Minister. SMER was kicked out following their last stint in power amidst multiple allegations of corruption and criminality. And after winning power back, Fico immediately began to disappoint his supporters.

One of the new SMER government’s first policies was laying off hundreds of public sector employees, while raising politicians’ wages. Fico is now getting more than €11,000 a month, while the average wage in Slovakia is €1,430. The living conditions of senior citizens are especially bad. Pensions are dismal, and seniors often lack the money for medicine and decent food. Given the attacker’s age, and Fico’s abandoned promises for retirees, resentment on this point might have been a factor.

In the West, Fico is best known for his position on the Ukraine War. In the 2023 elections, he won support from a significant layer by promising to end military support for Ukraine. He tapped into genuine resentment amongst Slovaks about spending billions on NATO’s inter-imperialist proxy conflict with Russia, while people are suffering at home. Fico also provoked hysteria among the European elite by (accurately) pointing out the war did not start in 2022, but “in 2014, when Ukrainian Nazis and fascists started murdering Russian citizens in the Donbas and Luhansk.”

While he has wavered back and forth on this position after winning power (such as suggesting Ukraine should be allowed to join NATO), Fico has continued to call for a negotiated end to the war, even if that would mean Ukraine surrendering territory.

For this, he has been roundly attacked by the Western European establishment for alleged “sympathy” with Putin and Russia. Last week, Fico was rebuked by Ukrainian President Zelensky when he criticised private Slovakian companies and individuals raising money to pay for ammunition for Ukraine, in light of the government halting support. Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief for the Russian international channel RT, outright accused Ukraine of responsibility for the attack.

While the Ukrainian state has shown itself quite capable of conducting sophisticated clandestine attacks abroad, including targeted killings, there is no direct evidence for this explosive allegation, which would constitute a direct attempt on the life of the elected leader of a NATO member state. However, it is doubtless that anti-Russian venom spat in Fico’s direction has contributed to the atmosphere in which this attack occurred.


shooting Image fair useRepresentatives of the ‘Western Club’ fell over themselves to express their sorrow for the attack / Image: fair use

The opposition parties in Slovakia constantly highlight Fico’s alleged ‘sympathy’ with the Kremlin. During the presidential elections in March (which were won by Peter Pellegrini of (Voice) Social Democracy, a Fico ally), former Prime Minister Eduard Heger said:

“The election will decide if Slovakia truly stays in Western club or joins Hungary or Belarus… Our new government has turned Slovakia on the Kremlin side.”

Representatives of the ‘Western Club’ fell over themselves to express their sorrow for the attack on Fico, with well-wishes flooding in from Rishi Sunak in Britain, Joe Biden in the USA, and Ursula von der Leyen from the European Commission.

Similarly, the bourgeois Liberal opposition decried the “violent divisions” in Slovak society, condemning the assassination attempt as a blow to “democracy”. They complained that this attack was a “long time coming”, and that other prominent politicians, such as outgoing president Zuzana Caputova, have also received death threats. They beg the media, and all the political parties, to turn the temperature dial down.

We can only laugh! Leaders of the main opposition parties, like Michal Šimečka of Progressive Slovakia, have been some of the loudest sources of aggressive political rhetoric, incessantly accusing Fico of being a ‘Russian agent’, which reached a fever-pitch during the presidential elections in March. If they are now watching their backs, they only have themselves to blame. Moreover, these ladies and gentlemen offer no solutions to the malaise in Slovak society, which creates the social discord that motivates such violence in the first place.

The opposition forces are all hated. Immediately after SMER’s election, the so-called Progressive Liberals joined forces with right-wing parties, including SaS (Freedom and Solidarity) and KDH (Christian-Democratic Movement), showing exactly how far their ‘progressive’ credentials extend. Heger, the Prime Minister before Fico, split off from the conservative OĽaNO to form the Democrats, which got a mere 3 percent of the vote in the Presidential elections: well deserved after his reactionary record in power and bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is, in fact, the bankruptcy of the opposition that has kept Fico’s approval rating relatively stable since the elections last year, despite his betrayals. This also explains Pellegrini’s victory in the presidential elections.

Nobody has any enthusiasm for the rogues’ gallery of opposition candidates and parties. None of them offer a road forward. For his part (should he survive) Fico will likely emerge strengthened from this incident, with increased popularity, which will assist him in pressing ahead with the cuts and austerity necessary to address the dire straits of Slovakian capitalism, justifying any repression with appeals to ‘order’ and ‘stability’.

“Mendacity and murder”

RF Image European Council FlickrFundamentally, the attack on Fico is a sign of the times / Image: European Council, Flickr

Communists oppose individual acts of terror against politicians: not for moralistic reasons, but because every dead reactionary is always replaced by another. It is the system we oppose, not merely this or that individual. Moreover, individual acts of terrorism only give the opportunity to the ruling class to rally mass support around the flag in defence of ‘democracy’ and ‘national unity’. The only way for working people to achieve their aspirations for a decent existence is through collective struggle and conscious organisation: the methods of class struggle.

That being said, we utterly reject the two-faced rhetoric of our bourgeois moralists and democrats, who are today shedding oceans of tears for violence at home, while facilitating the spilling of oceans of blood abroad. The system they defend creates endless violence, hardship and misery for millions of ordinary people.

Fundamentally, the attack on Fico is a sign of the times. Trotsky wrote that, amidst the organic crisis of capitalism in the run-up to World War II, “mendacity, slander, bribery, venality, coercion, murder grew to unprecedented dimensions.” Assassination attempts are harbingers of growing instability.

The stability of European ‘democracy’ is beginning to unravel. As the crisis of capitalism intensifies, so will the chaos and discord in society. Until revolution sweeps the world clean of all exploitation, oppression and imperialist intrigues, the tendency will be for more mayhem. Join us, and build an organisation that can lead the working class to victory and put an end to this bloody chapter in human history. 

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