President Václav Klaus on Communism

A slow day – the situation in Iraq is cooling down, while arguments over a new “constitution” for the European Union promise to heat up soon – so what caught my eye on a survey through today’s Czech papers was the article “Klaus on Communism”, written by Czech President (and former professor) Václav Klaus in today’s on-line Lidové noviny.

The article purports to be Klaus’ clarification of his stand towards Communism, a clarification that he promised to provide back at the beginning of this year when he was competing to be elected by the members of the Czech upper and lower houses of parliament to succeed Václav Havel as president of the Czech Republic. The two subjects are actually linked rather closely together. Voting for Czech president is by secret ballot (several secret ballots, as it turned out in this case), so one can’t be sure, but there seems to be a strong likelihood that Klaus gained election partly through some sort of conciliatory approach to the KSCM – that is, to the Communist Party of the Czech Lands and Moravia, the unreconstructed successor to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia which held totalitarian sway over the country from 1948 until 1989.

Although for many years the head of the Czech Republic’s largest and most-influential mainstream right-wing party, the ODS, Klaus claimed at the time that he was struggling for election to the presidency that he never was an “anti-Communist.” He repeats his claim in this article that he never advocated antikomunismus – i.e. anti-Communism – but rather always nekomunismus – that is, something called “non-Communism.”

“That I don’t subscribe to (and never have subscribed to) Communist ideology in whatever form, and that I have always been a critic of the ‘real Communist system,’ which I had to experience under my own skin for forty years, I don’t call anti-Communism,” Klaus explains. Rather, that’s something else. In fact, anti-Communism is a “superficial, negative attitude to the world,” that refuses to get very specific about what precisely was wrong about Communism and what should replace it. What is more, Klaus maintains, you’ll find that most “anti-Communists” were not actually victims of Communist regimes, but rather those who kept silent and played along, and who in fact were merely envious of the elevated position in society (socially, economically) that Communist Party members were able to attain.

Hmm . . . well, the KSCM was pretty much isolated under President Havel – he never invited its representatives to important consultations (like those having to do with the forming of new governments), and there was a tacit understanding among all the other mainstream Czech political parties not to work together with the Communists. Problem is, the KSCM just got more and more electoral support, to the point that, sooner or later, some mainstream politician was going to give in and work with them in order to reach some desired goal. It seems that Václav Klaus is that politician, and it may very well be true that he became president thanks to them, so that he “owes” them and has some sort of obligation to “repay” them somehow. And this essay smacks of an attempt to assume an authoritative professorial and presidential air (he begins it by citing two encyclopedia definitions of Communism) to justify something which to many true victims of Czech Communism – call them “anti-Communists” or “non-Communists” as you like – is unjustifiable. Indeed, the tenor of some of the comments on the article that Lidové noviny allows its on-line readers to leave shows that many see through this already.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.