Contrary to popular belief, the Communist regimes of Central Europe were not all bad, the narrator says. Most Communists weren’t innate criminals; they merely believed that their ideology would lead to paradise. It was only when it became clear that there was no paradise that Communists became criminals. Everyone blamed the Communists for the state of Czechoslovakia—the country is poor and lost its independence to Russia—but the Communists claimed they didn’t know it would all end so badly. They were innocent, the Communists said.
Kundera examines communism throughout most of the novel, and while he clearly condemns Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime, as well as the Soviet Union, he doesn’t entirely dismiss the ideology. Instead, Kundera implies that all political ideologies have the potential to be dangerous, especially if they are the sole ideology of a given region.
Tomas follows politics closely, and the general consensus is that while some Communists know their ideology is evil, the vast major of them have no idea. But to Tomas, whether or not they know makes little difference, and this is the connection that he makes to Oedipus. Tomas wonders how the Communists can look at what they have done and not put out their own eyes. He is so fond of this analogy that he writes it down and sends it to a small intellectual newspaper in Prague.
Obviously, Tomas, too, blames the Communists for the state of Czechoslovakia. Prior to the end of WWII, Czechoslovakia had been a free and politically liberal country, but that all ended with Communism. Tomas believes that those Communists who aren’t inherently evil should be deeply ashamed about what they have done to the freedom and autonomy of the Czech people, just as Oedipus is ashamed of the effect he inadvertently has on Thebes.
Sometime later, Tomas is called in to meet with the newspaper’s editor. He asks Tomas to change the order of a single sentence and thanks him for the article. Tomas’s article later appears in the paper, on the very last page, but it has been shortened, and his thesis is changed. This is in the spring of 1968, and Dubcek has just been elected, along with a bunch of Communists who actually felt bad about the state of Czechoslovakia and wanted to do something about it. Yet there were still those Communists who claim innocence, and they worried that the others would bring them to justice, so they went to the Russians for help. “See what things have come to!” the evil Communists say when they read Tomas’s article. “Now they’re telling us to publicly put our eyes out!” Within three months, Russia has occupied Czechoslovakia.
While it wasn’t specifically Tomas’s article that caused Russia to occupy Czechoslovakia, it was opinions like Tomas’s that did. Alexander Dubcek, the president of the Czechoslovakia, was a dedicated reformist, and he truly wanted to reform the Communist party into something that did not completely oppress the people, which meant ousting those who truly were evil. When the Russians occupied the country, they took Dubcek back to Moscow and forced him into a political comprise that effectively protected those who meant to use communism for evil means.