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And that got me interested in an entirely different direction, which is the constitution of social organisations, social networks, how it became possible in conditions of ‘unfreedom’ to create freedom.” Martin Tharp says the forcible “proletarization” of the Czechoslovak pro-reform intelligentsia during normalization – the writers and scholars forced to work menial jobs – has become almost a cliché, the experiences of leading individuals from the “peripheral intelligentsia” outside the capital, in places like Teplice or Chomutov, is less examined.“They’d grown up, very often, in the industrial cities of the former Sudetenland, in what was essentially a kind of tabula rasa for building the new Czechoslovak socialist society.
Translator, literary scholar and historical sociologist Martin Tharp’s current research focuses on the working-class counterculture of post-1968 Czechoslovakia.
He finds that – dissident groups such as Charter 77 aside – the “underground” social movement comprised a diffuse and generalised sentiment of an “emotive-artistic resistance to state cultural control” and censorship.
“During the 1980s, the regime did allow more of a standard, less politicised popular culture that matched what was known from the West, including increasingly greater freedom for popular music.
“And then there’s the question of what happened in 1989.
The ethnic Germans had been expelled; it was an empty landscape needing to be filled.
“The regime had also paid very little attention to popular culture up until then.First of all, there was the St B [secret police] Asanance or “slum clearance” operation, which drove a great many dissidents abroad, and in particular focused on participants in the working class Underground. Afterwards, many of its participants were basically forced to go abroad.” Before 1989, Czechoslovak dissidents used samizdat to distribute manifestos, foreign magazines, letters, literature by ostracized or banned authors, retyping them on carbon paper.More efficient means of printing were strictly controlled – until suddenly they weren’t, and publications like Vokno suddenly went from underground to an open shared office, noted Martin Tharp.It could be something as simple as a run away script or learning how to better use E-utilities, for more efficient work such that your work does not impact the ability of other researchers to also use our site.To restore access and understand how to better interact with our site to avoid this in the future, please have your system administrator contact [email protected] caught up with Martin Tharp to talk about his work on the working-class counterculture, dissolution of the Czech samizdat scene, and the growth of “fan/zine” Culture in the 1990s.“The Czech underground of the 1970s tended mostly to be working-class youth without any real exposure to higher education but with a great hunger for genuine cultural output – not what was being fed to them either through the regime’s high culture or popular culture.It was organised by members of an underground commune in north Bohemia, and distributed nationwide until its editors were arrested in November 1981.“One of Vokno’s chief organisers, František Stárek – known as “Čuňas” (piglet) – happened to see the film ‘Easy Rider’, in Budapest in around 1970, and remembered it as some kind of ideal – the American hippie, and American hippie commune, as well – and this led him and others to create their own quasi- or entirely-communal living arrangements.Almost invariably, Martin Tharp says, rock musicians, hippies, and even samizdat authors making up the “peripheral intelligentsia” outside of Prague, at least initially, were expressing aesthetic dissatisfaction with the sanctioned cultural world presented by the Czechoslovak Communist Party.Most were not challenging specific policies or actions of the regime, he says, but rather disgusted by its prefabricated and restrictive cultural production.