Slovak People's Party
The Hlinka's Slovak People's Party Slovak: Hlinkova slovenská ľudová strana was a Slovak conservative right-wing political party with strong Christian and national orientation. Its members were called Ludaks.
The party arose at a time when Slovakia was still part of Austria-Hungary and fought for democratic freedoms, Slovak national rights and against liberalism. During Czechoslovakia, the party preserved its conservative character, opposed ethnic Czechoslovakism and demanded Slovak autonomy. In the second half of the 1930s, the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe and its inability to achieve long-term political objectives caused a loss of faith in democracy and turned the party toward more radical ideas. After a merger with other parties in November 1938 the resulting party became the dominant party of World War II Slovakia. In addition to adoption of totalitarian vision of the state, the party also included an openly pro-Nazi wing which dominated Slovak policy between 1940-1942.
The main newspapers of the party were Slovenské ľudové noviny (Slovak People's Newspaper, 1910–1930), Slovák (The Slovak, 1919–1945) and Slovenská pravda (The Slovak Truth, 1936–1945).
The creation process of the party took several years. At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, besides the short lived Slovak Social Democratic Party (1905–1906), there was only one party in Austria-Hungary that specifically promoted the interests of the Slovaks — the Slovak National Party (SNS). Slovak People's movement was organized in statewide Hungarian People's Party (Néppárt, founded in 1895) which was in opposition to raising liberalism and had above average popularity among religious Slovak population. The program addressed also several other problems of Slovak society such as emigration, usury, corruption and forced magyarization. Due to the gradual shift away from these values, Slovak politicians began to form a separate group in the party. Néppárt reacted by campaign against internal Slovak opposition and on November 1905, the party leadership asked its only one MP František Skyčák to sign a testimony against the national program. Skyčák refused and on December 5, 1905 he published declaration about establishment of a new political party. Further personalities, among them the Catholic priest Andrej Hlinka, joined the "party" in early 1906. The party was formally created on March 18, 1906 by F. Skyčák, Milan Hodža and A. Ráth, but based on a decision of April 1906, till 1913 it officially took part in elections as a kind of "subparty" of the Slovak National Party to prevent splitting of Slovak political bodies. The SNS and the SLS had two programs, which however were almost identical. As for the membership, the party mainly included former Slovak members of the Hungarian People's Party and former members of the SNS. The programme of the party had strong democratization and social character and included liberal reforms (freedom of speech, universal suffrage etc.), national requirements and religious (Catholic) requirements. Despite the usual election manipulations in Hungary at that time, the SLS won 6 deputies (and the SNS one) out of the 415 deputies of the Hungarian Diet in 1906. The Hungarian government immediately reacted by increased oppression to suppress raising national and political conscious of Slovaks.
In 1912, the SLS refused to support the strong Czecho-Slovak orientation of the SNS prevailing at that time and made a similar declaration as in 1905, again without formal effects. On July 29, 1913, however, the SLS was finally created in Žilina as a separate Slovak political party in Austria-Hungary. The Party's chairman was Andrej Hlinka, other leaders were Ferdiš Juriga and František Skyčák.
During World War I, the SLS (just like the SNS) stopped being politically active in order to prevent any possible pretext for accusations of activities against the Austrian-Hungarian state. In 1918, Hlinka and Juriga solidly supported idea of common Czechoslovak state and signed Martin Declaration which refused jurisdiction of the Hungarian government over Slovakia. The party participated in the creation of the (2nd) Slovak National Council that existed from October 1918 to January 1919. Its leaders helped to consolidate a situation in Czechoslovakia in the first weeks of her existence.
The First Czechoslovak Republic (1918–1938)
After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, the Slovak People's Party renewed its activities on December 19, 1918 in Žilina. On October 17, 1925 it was renamed the Hlinka Slovak People's Party (HSLS). Almost for the whole inter-war period, the HSLS was the most popular party in Slovakia. Until 1938, the HSLS acted as a standard part of democratic political spectrum. The party operated mostly in opposition but not as a destructive power and preserved loyalty to Czechoslovakia. All of its programs had religious, national, social and constitutional character. Ideology of HSLS was based on papal encyclicals Rerum novarum and Quadragesimo anno and was oriented mostly on Catholic electorate. HSLS refused political and economic liberalism but also class-struggle theory popular among socialists and communists who were (together with liberal atheists) considered to be main enemies. Constitutional part of its program was derived from the Pittsburg Agreement which promised an autonomous status of Slovakia within Czechoslovakia. HSLS opposed Prague centralism and ethnic Czechoslovakism (i. e. not considering Slovaks a separate ethnicity from the Czechs). In addition to its program, popularity of the party was supported by charismatic and temperament Hlinka's character.
In 1920, the party participated in the election together with the Czech People's Party under the name Czechoslovak People's Party. The party received 17.5% of the vote in Slovakia making it the 3rd largest party. As Hlinka put it when the Czechoslovak Social Democrats won the election: "I will work 24 hours a day till Slovakia turns from a red Slovakia into a white and Christian Slovakia ". Its main voters were Slovak farmers, mainly because the party criticized the Czechoslovak land reform of 1920–1929.
Since the county elections in 1923, the party became the biggest party in Slovakia, receiving 34.4% in the 1925. In 1923, the HSLS founded paramilitary organization Rodobrana to protect their meetings (similarly to other parties). Rodobrana was influenced and manipulated by Vojtech Tuka for his own anti-Czechoslovak intentions and later it was banned by Czechoslovak government. Rodobrana inspired by Italian fascism became a center of young dissatisfied radicals, the core of future fascist wing of HSLS. Leaders of HSLS tried to get Rodobrana under party control and succeeded when its activities were restored in 1926. Rodobrana raised several radicals like Alexander Mach or Ján Farkaš.
On January 15, 1927, the HSLS became a member of the Czechoslovak government coalition thanks to Jozef Tiso who started negotiations during Hlinka's foreign travel, get his support and later strongly advocated this decision. The party held the Ministry of Health (Jozef Tiso) and Ministry of Unification of Laws and State Administration (Marek Gažík). After a controversial trial against the HSLS member Dr. Vojtech Tuka, who was accused of high treason, the HSLS left the government on October 8, 1929.
For the purpose of the general election of 1935 the HSLS joined with mainly the SNS, thus creating the "Autonomy Block", which ceased after the election. The Block received 30.12% in the 1935 general elections in the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia. Official ideology of Czechoslovakism, long term opposition, continuous attacks of government parties and ambiguous position of SNS in question of Slovak autonomy led in the HSLS to creation of myth about its exclusivity. The HSLS considered itself to be the only one political party which vigorously defended Slovak national interests. Inability to achieve autonomy decreased prestige of the moderate wing and strengthen radicals.
After the death of the 74 years old Andrej Hlinka in August 1938, the presidium of the party decided that the chairman post will remain unoccupied. The party was led by vice-chairman Jozef Tiso until October 1939 when he became the new chairman. During Czechoslovak crisis between spring and fall of 1938, the HSLS remained on common Czechoslovak platform. The party officially supported both mobilizations and refused appeals of Sudeten German Party to radicalize its position.
The Second Czechoslovak Republic (1938–1939)
The situation dramatically changed in the fall of 1938. On October 6, 1938, after the Czech part of Czechoslovakia had lost frontier regions to Germany through the Munich Agreement, the executive committee of the HSLS together with most other Slovak parties declared the autonomy of Slovakia within Czechoslovakia. Prague accepted this and appointed Jozef Tiso the Prime Minister of Autonomous Slovakia on the same day. HSLS became the dominant party in the subsequent Slovak governments. After the declaration of autonomy, internal tension between conservative and radical wing continued to grow. The conservative wing led by Tiso preserved majority in the presidium of the party, but radicals compensated it by higher activity and held important positions in new organizations like Hlinka Guard (Hlinkova garda) and Slovak national committees (slovenské národné výbory).
On November 8, 1938, after the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia had lost some 1/3 of its territory to Hungary through the First Vienna Award (Vienna Arbitration), the Slovak branches of all parties except the Communists and Social Democrats merged with the HSLS and formed the Hlinka Slovak People's Party - Party of Slovak National Unity (HSLS-SSNJ). The Slovak National Party joined the HSLS-SSNJ on December 15.
This new party quickly developed clear authoritarian characteristics. It immediately subjected the leftist and Jewish parties to considerable harassment. In the December 1938 Slovak general election this new party won 97.3% (out of which 72% went to candidates of the original HSLS). The Social Democrats and Communists were shut out because the HSLS-SSNJ government didn't publish new election procedures until it was too late for those parties to select candidates. As of January 31, 1939 all parties except for the HSLS-SSNJ, the Deutsche Partei (party of the German minority) and the Unified Magyar Party (party of the Hungarian minority) were prohibited. For all intents and purposes, Slovakia was now a one-party state.
The First Slovak Republic (1939–1945)
In a last-ditch attempt to save the country, the Prague government deposed Tiso as Slovak premier, replacing him with Karel Sidor. A few days later, amid massive German provocations, Hitler invited Tiso to Berlin and urged him to proclaim Slovakia's independence. Hitler added that if Tiso didn't do so, he would have no interest in Slovakia's fate. During the meeting, Joachim von Ribbentrop passed on a (false) report saying that Hungarian troops were approaching Slovak borders. Tiso refused to make such a decision himself, after which he was allowed by Hitler to organize a meeting of the Slovak parliament which would approve Slovakia's independence.
On 14 March, the Slovak parliament convened and heard Tiso's report on his discussion with Hitler as well as a declaration of independence. Some of the deputies were skeptical of making such a move, but the debate was quickly quashed when Franz Karmasin, leader of the German minority in Slovakia, said that any delay in declaring independence would result in Slovakia being divided between Hungary and Germany. Under these circumstances, Parliament unanimously declared Slovak independence. Jozef Tiso was appointed the first Prime Minister of the new republic. The next day, Tiso sent a telegram (which had actually been composed the previous day in Berlin) asking the Reich to take over the protection of the newly minted state. The request was readily accepted.
The HSLS-SSNJ was the leading force in the country (the parliamentary elections scheduled for 1943 did not take place) and it was supposed to represent the interests of all Slovaks.
Some historians describe the party as a "fascist and clerical nationalist group". After 1939, the conflict between two wings of the party continued and reached a new dimension. The conservative wing led by the Catholic priest Jozef Tiso, the president of Slovakia and chairman of the party, wanted to create a separate authoritarian and religious state of Estates. The conservative wing had no doubts about the need to build totalitarian state but wished to do so gradually, preserving legal and personal continuity with previous regime. The radicals preferred methods and theory of National Socialism, were strong antisemites, wanted to remove all Czechs and to create a radically nationalistic state. Their main organization was the Hlinka Guard, which was controlled by the HSLS-SSNJ. The main representatives were Vojtech Tuka and Alexander Mach.
In the spring if 1940, the conservative wing was close to victory over the radicals, when Tiso pacified Hlinka Guard by organizational changes and bound it stronger to the party leadership. However, in July 1940 Germany decided about personal changes in the Slovak government and reinforced the radicals. The radical wing then held the most important positions of executive power. The Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka became also the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Alexander Mach became again the leader of Hlinka Guard and also the Minister of the Interior. Tiso changed tactic and verbally adopted idea of national socialism, but manoeuvred and stated that it had to be implemented in "folk and Christian spirit". In the fall of 1940, the conservative wing began taking the initiative. Tiso eliminated trial to reduce already weak competencies of the parliament and strongly refused a proposal to replace four conservative ministers by radical national socialists. In early 1941 his group silently liquidated trial for pro-fascist coup. On the other hand, Tiso left the radicals an initiative in the solution of the "Jewish question", wrongly assuming that he can leave them also all responsibility and later he publicly advocated deportations.
The struggle between wings ended in the summer 1942 by victory of conservatives. A part of radicals withdrew from public life, another lost its political influence or switched to the winning side (Alexander Mach). Due to pragmatic reasons HSLS then adopted the "Führer"-principle, however with a completely different purpose than in Germany - preventive elimination of radicals without causing concern of Germany. Germany naturally sympathized with the radicals but allowed to win their opponents. The reason was purely rational - Nazi foreign policy was more interested in consolidated Slovakia as a model of satellite state and the conservative wing was more popular among population and more qualified to manage the state. Germany never stopped to support the radicals and used them to raise pressure.
After German occupation in 1944 and the outbreak of the Slovak National Uprising, the insurgent Slovak National Council (Slovenská národná rada, SNR) declared restoration of Czechoslovakia. On 1 September 1944, SNR banned the HSLS and all of its organisations like Hlinka Guard and Hlinka Youth and confiscated their property. Although the uprising was violently suppressed, HSLS never fully restored its position. The party ceased to exist with the liberation of Slovakia by Czechoslovak troops and by the Soviet Army in April–May 1945. Many of the party's members were persecuted during the Communist regime.
- 1905–1925: Slovak People's Party (Slovenská ľudová strana, short SĽS)
- 1925–1938: Hlinka's Slovak People's Party (Hlinkova slovenská ľudová strana, short HSĽS)
- 1938–1945: Hlinka's Slovak People's Party – Party of Slovak National Unity (Hlinkova slovenská ľudová strana – Strana slovenskej národnej jednoty, short HSĽS-SSNJ)
|Election||% in Slovakia||Notes|
||Czechoslovak People's Party (together with Czech People's Party)|
||Autonomous Block (together with Slovak National Party, Autonomous Agrarian Union (Ruthenian party) and Polish People's Party)|
||United List (manipulated undemocratic elections)|
- Andrej Hlinka
- Jozef Tiso
- Slovaks in Czechoslovakia (1918–1938)
- History of Czechoslovakia
- History of Slovakia
- Hlinka Guard - The armed wing of the party
- Baka 2010.
- Letz 2006, p. 20.
- Letz 2006, p. 22.
- Ferenčuhová & Zemko 2012, p. 275.
- Ferenčuhová & Zemko 2012, p. 277.
- Yehuda Bauer, American Jewry and the Holocaust: the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1939—1945, Wayne State University Press, 1981, p. 356. 
- Peter Davies, Derek Lynch, The Routledge companion to the far right, Routledge, 2002, p. 216 
- Kamenec 2013, p. 101.
- Kamenec 2013, p. 107.
- Letz 2006, p. 94.
- Kamenec 2013, p. 113.
- Letz 2006, p. 105.
- Letz 2006, p. 374.
- Suppan, Arnold (2004). Catholic People's Parties in East Central Europe: The Bohemian Lands and Slovakia. Political Catholicism in Europe 1918-1945 1 (Routledge). pp. 178–192.
- Baka, Igor (2010). Politický systém a režim Slovenskej republiky v rokoch 1939 – 1940 [The political system and regime of the Slovak Republic in the years 1939 – 1940]. Bratislava: Vojenský historický ústav. ISBN 978-80-969375-9-2.
- Letz, Róbert (2006). "Hlinkova slovenská ľudová strana (Pokus o syntetický pohľad)" [Hlinka's Slovak People's Party (A Try to Present a Synthetic View)]. In Letz, Róbert; Mulík, Peter; Bartlová, Alena. Slovenská ľudová strana v dejinách 1905 – 1945 (in Slovak). Martin: Matica slovenská. ISBN 80-7090-827-0.
- Ferenčuhová, Bohumila; Zemko, Milan (2012). V medzivojnovom Československu 1918–1939 [In inter-war Czechoslovakia 1918–1939] (in Slovak). Veda. ISBN 978-80-224-1199-8.
- Kamenec, Ivan (2013). Tragédia politika, kňaza a človeka (Dr. Jozef Tiso 1887-1947) [The Tragedy of a Politician, Priest and a Human (Dr. Jozef Tiso 1887-1947)] (in Slovak). Premedia. ISBN 978-80-89594-61-0.