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PARTY CHIEF WARNS CZECH REDS TO REFORM OR LOSE

SHARE PARTY CHIEF WARNS CZECH REDS TO REFORM OR LOSE

Reformist Communist Party leader Karel Urbanek, facing the threat of removal, Wednesday branded the old leadership "indefensibly Stalinist" and warned that without radical reforms, the Communists will lose in coming free elections.

Urbanek, in a keynote speech at an emergency party congress, blamed former party leader Milos Jakes and former President Gustav Husak for leading the party astray for the past two decades."Husak and Jakes were quite familiar with how bad the Stalinist methods were, but didn't have the courage to change them," Urbanek told the 1,530 delegates in a savage attack.

As party leader for 20 years before he became president, Husak presided over the dismantling of the "Prague Spring" of reforms of Alexander Dubcek and the brutal aftermath in which hundreds of thousands of reformers were expelled from the party and stripped of their jobs.

"Rank and file Communists found themselves in the role of defending the indefensible," Urbanek said. "Those who were given confidence abused this confidence for the sake of their careers."

He noted many old party leaders took advantage of their positions to surround themselves with a "posh lifestyle" and called for a return to grass-roots politics ahead of multi-party elections next year which he admitted the Communists might lose.

"The Communists must not work in the future in velvet chairs and with secretariats," he said.

"We have to live together with the people, live on hard-earned money," he said to applause.

Urbanek noted that since Nov. 17, when a police attack on demonstrators triggered national outrage that brought down the Communist leadership, 66,290 members had left the party that once had 1.2 million members.

"As a result of the crisis pressure, many honest members of the party are leaving, but many carrion-makers are leaving too, and that is not a pity," he said.

Despite his radical speech, Urbanek, a virtual unknown before his elevation last month, seemed destined to be ousted.