This August, we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising - one of the largest armed campaigns against fascism in Europe. About 60,000 soldiers of the regular Slovak army, 18,000 partisans and foreign resistance fighters took part. Along with domestic anti-fascists, members of 30 other nations and nationalities of the World took part, including fighters from more distant parts of the world. From a political point of view, the uprising meant the unification of all democratic political forces for the purpose of defeating German Nazism and the domestic collaborationist regime headed by the Catholic priest Jozef Tiso.

'Move out!'

The domestic fascist regime established in 1939 after the dismantling of the first Czechoslovak Republic meant the loss of civil and human rights and freedoms for tens of thousands of citizens and made Slovakia one of the participants in the largest war conflict in history up to that time. Slovak soldiers were thus forced to die in battles on the territory of the Soviet Union for German expansionist goals. The collaboration of the domestic fascist regime with Nazi Germany, ethnic and racial persecution, political repression and, in the end, the direct occupation of Slovakia by Nazi Germany – all this contributed to the decision to unite the illegal political organisations and to organise a military-political uprising.

After The Christmas Agreement between the Communist Party and the bourgeois Democratic Party of 25th December 1943, the Slovak National Council was founded as the military, logistical, administrative, political (including international) preparatory body of the Uprising.

The Uprising itself erupted on 29th August 1944 following the secret code 'Move out!' transmitted by the Free Radio, by which general Ján Golian gave the order to start the armed uprising.

Uprising in the army as well as in politics

The character of the Uprising was exceptional, for it was one of the largest and most well organised armed uprising in the history. In addition to the sovereign political power of the Slovak National Council legislative body, the free territory had functional local economy and had armoured vehicles and tanks. The workers of the railway repair shops in the city of Zvolen were able to construct three armoured trains for the army, which significantly contributed to the defence and extended the duration of the Uprising. The army also had a combined air force that successfully protected the airspace, it managed to destroy seven aircrafts and knock out dozens of pieces of combat equipment. The Soviet Union supplied both the insurgent army and the partisan units after the Uprising was pushed into the mountains.

The Uprising also had a social dimension. With its distinctly left-wing character, it sent a message to the world that social security and rights should be guaranteed by the state. The Uprising did not demand a return to pre-war conditions, but that the post-war republic to be socially just, egalitarian nationality-wise and to strengthen the role of the state in the economic field. The so-called Beneš Decrees signed after the war included the nationalization of strategic enterprises, confirming the long-term political impact of the Uprising.

Organized resistance ended after heavy fighting on October 27, 1944, followed by a period of guerrilla resistance until the liberation by the Soviet and Romanian armies. During this period, the clerofascist forces of the Slovak State (the Hlinka Guards) and the German Nazis, especially the SS units, committed war crimes, exterminating residents and burning villages. In total, about 111 villages in Slovakia were burned and looted - the final number is still the subject of research.

Slovakia on the side of victors

By the Slovak national uprising, the Slovak nation joined the side of the civilized nations who decided to face the Nazi evil within the framework of the anti-Hitler coalition. Thus, despite the collaborationist attitude of its official political representation, Slovakia stood on the right side of history, on the side of the winners, and that is how it was treated after the war.

The period of questioning and relativizing the course and legacy of the Uprising is hopefully behind us. Except for the marginal groups of neo-Nazis and orthodox folkists, almost no one doubts its contributions. On the contrary. With the ever decreasing number of living direct participants, most major historical events and figures also share this fate. Almost everyone on the domestic political scene declares sympathies towards the Uprising, even those against whom it was once targeted.

The history of interwar Europe, the history of the rise of the reactionary right teaches us that fascism has many forms, not just the one we know from Hitler's Germany. Because fascism is not about external visual attributes or what historical references these movements superficially refer to, but it is primarily the content of its politics.

In today's era of growing nationalism, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, growing insecurity, international tension, and militarisation, we will not defeat the ultra-right by taking over its topics in a populist way and turning the justified anger of the exploited classes against the minorities who have to endure double oppression. Contributing to the legitimization of fascism can backfire cruelly on us, just as it did in Europe in the 1930s. If we leave the path to fascism open, the road to regaining freedom will be long, painful, and not without sacrifices. Let's remember that.