The communists emerged as the second most powerful party after the Czech regional elections. They are closing on the Social Democrats. And the Civic Democrats, occupying the third position, have turned into a party of lighter-weight category.
Following the election results there was quite an uproar both in the Czech Republic and the surrounding countries. Because of that the notion of the communist triumf needs to be put into a more realistic light.
First of all: the regional elections aren’t the Chamber of Deputies election. Considerably fewer people participate in them. Although the Czech politicians were assuring everybody that what the election was actually about was the people’s trust in the government, people, in reality, made their decisions based on the given regional situation and, at least partially, with regard to their regions’ needs. And the communists’ result doesn’t exceed the ones of the previous elections (though it does approach the highest ones).
However, they’ve been successful, which is a serious warning signal. At the same time, as our late president used to say, it is nothing we could be proud of (though he was speaking about the expulsion of Germans).
What are the reasons for this success? Above all, it is the long-term dormant dissatisfaction of the Czech society (the “bad mood”, in Václav Havel’s words). It emerged from the tension between the high-flown statements about truth and love and the fact that we’ve succeeded in the creation of a standard democratic environment and between the every-day experience of Czech people. Nowadays, it has surely been strenghtened by the social consequences of the global economic crisis, which I don’t want to underestimate.
What particularly increases the bad mood is the strange nature of the Czech political struggle, typical for the post-communist world: the local politics doesn’t consist in the competition and cooperation of political parties, but in the relentless fight between democracy and communism – or between capitalism and socialism. The difference lies only in what the participants of the fight see as positive and what they see as negative. In fact, it is the struggle between the coalition and the opposition but its traces can be seen also in the current governmental coalition. What’s particularly disturbing is that according to a stalinist principle, the class struggle is supposed to be getting more and more intense: at the time of Špidla’s government ODS (the Civic Democratic Party) massively contributed to it, while in the next period it was considerably outdone in this respect by ČSSD (the Czech Social Democratic Party).
In such a context election campaigns – in the Czech Republic at least some are always going on – acquire a hysterical character: thus was the dissatisfied public eventually convinced it is suffering unbearably, and those who are to blame should be done away with (however, when the people do suffer unbearably, the suffering tends to exhaust them completely, and they have no time to do away with anyone).
The public has a vague idea that the current state of affairs needs to be changed and something better and new, altough it’s not exactly clear what, needs to be brought into being. In the name of the better thing people have already begun to shoot at politicians, though so far only with plastic balls.
The weakness of democratic parties plays its role in the collapse as well: they don’t have many members (there are about 25 thousand souls both in ODS and ČSSD). They are actually mere political interest clubs in which the interests of local economic notables (“godfathers”) and various political go-getters combine. There are normal people as well but those must sometimes feel uncomfortable. The vital thing is that such associations cannot generate normal democratic policy.
The times are good for KSČM (the communist party). It has many members, it’s well organized, its managers have long-term experience with political manipulation and populism: they have always been able to work with the general ideas about the destruction of old things and the bulding of the new ones.
Is the Czech Republic threatened by communism? It isn’t because nothing like that exists. Let us not accept the bolshevik notions of the fight between the socialist camp and the imperialist world – not even in the reversed form.
The two main characteristics of the communist party used to be the following ones: it brutally subordinated democracy to the concerns of power and politics and it was an extension of the Russian empire. After 1917 the Russian regime was modernized, among other things, by accepting the extreme European utopia of Marxism as its state ideology. At the turn of 1980s and 1990s Russia got changed and at the same time weakened – but it remains to be a superpower with corresponding ambitions.The democratic reforms stopped at the halfway point. It is possible and necessary to get on well with Russia, but there’s no harm in being careful.
If the communists gained a considerable share of power in the Czech Republic, there would be no reestablishment of “communism” – the quality of Czech democracy would decrease and the orientation of Czech foreign policy would change. We would again enter the sphere of influence of the relatively more backward Russian environment.
Nonetheless, that’s not the only – and maybe not even the main – danger the Czech Republic is facing. The same, if not greater, danger is represented by various self-declared saviours. For example, the advocates of sovereignty, convinced the EU and the global warming ideology are our greatest enemies, so we need to balance them out by means of Eastern influence. At the same time we’ll stick to the fundamentalist ideology of “capitalism” – it won’t be in our way at all.
What’s the conclusion to all that? The Czech Republic isn’t threatened by communism. However, what it is threatened by is in no way better.
Originally published in Czech and Slovak language newspapers, SME and Lidové noviny on the 19.10.2012
published: 12. 6. 2013