Miloš Jakeš (born August 12, 1922) is a retired Czech communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia from 1987 until 1989. He resigned from his position in late November 1989, amid the Velvet Revolution.
Jakeš was born in České Chalupy near České Budějovice. He grew up in a poor village family in the Šumava borderlands before working in Bata Shoes factory in Zlín between 1937 and 1950. He joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia soon after World War II, triggering his steady rise within the party ranks. In 1955 he began his studies at Moscow's Party's Higher College and, after obtaining his degree in 1958, his career continued without interruption, undisturbed even during the 1968 Prague Spring period. After the Soviet invasion, Jakeš became one of the main initiators of the political purges carried out in the name of "normalization".
Following the ouster of Gustáv Husák at a dramatic party meeting in December 1987, Jakeš was nominated for the position of General Secretary by the competing factions within the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Following his rise to power, Jakeš began to promote himself as a reformer by paying lip service to glasnost and perestroika. Yet, despite the Communist Party's attempt to appease the public's demands for reform, Jakeš remained staunchly opposed to any dialogue with the growing opposition movement in the country. Even when the Velvet Revolution broke out, Jakeš refused to consider any serious talks with the opposition. Events soon overtook him, and on November 24 he resigned along with the party's entire Presidum. The Communists officially abandoned power four days later.
As General Secretary Jakeš used the firstname Miloš. During the trial it was revealed that his actual name is Milouš. It is not known why he chose to use a different name. Some speculate that the reason was Zdeněk Jirotka's well known humoristic novel Saturnin where the biggest buffoon is called Milouš.
Target of jokes
Jakeš was a target of many jokes and much humiliation due to his clumsy verbal style. He gained unwanted fame through his famous speech addressed to local party workers in Červený Hrádek close to Plzeň. When speaking about the necessity of Gorbachev-inspired "perestroika", he presented himself and the party as a lonely fence-post being allegedly left alone to overcome the hardships. On the same occasion he mistook the word broiler (type of chicken) for boiler and spoke in an embarrassingly familiar way about some official Czech pop music singers when pointing to their allegedly super-high incomes (None of us earns so much!). His speech had been recorded by a journalist from the Czech television who managed to secretly make a copy of the tape. The record was frequently transmitted among the people in the summer of 1989 and afterwards. It was also remixed and released as a dance-song.
A widespread feeling that Czechoslovakia's ruling Communist elite was suffering not only moral but intellectual decay was given impetus by this speech. It is not surprising that the slogan Jakeše do koše (hey Jakeš! to the trash!) became one of the rallying cries of the "Velvet Revolution."
In 2003 Jakeš and two other party notables stood trial for their role in the events of August 1968. Allegedly, it was at that time that Jakeš took part in a failed attempt to establish a pro-Soviet "workers-peasants' government" that would have served the interests of the Soviet occupiers and given credence to the official line that Czech hardliners requested the invasion. Facing a possible lengthy prison sentence, Jakeš was nevertheless acquitted of the charge of treason. He lives in Prague as an ordinary pensioner and used to be a frequent guest at the present-day Communists' rallies. He wrote a book Dva roky generálním tajemníkem (Two years as the General Secretary), in which he compared the forty-year-long Communist rule of Czechoslovakia to the famous Hussite period in the nation's history.