Tvrdik's Offer: the coalition of the willing

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Jan 25 09:13:25 MST 2003

Lou Paulsen:
>You might not have heard much about the Czech presence in the Gulf, but the
>Post provides some interesting details:
>'The Czech Republic also already has an anti-chemical unit deployed in
>Kuwait. The Czech parliament agreed last week to let the unit stay in Kuwait
>during any hostilities with Iraq, and Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik,
>visiting the troops this week, declared that they could accompany invading
>U.S. forces if needed.

Exit Havel, to Muted Applause From Czechs

PRAGUE, Jan. 24 — Some days ago, student pranksters scaled a scaffolding at 
Prague Castle and, by covering the left half of an immense red neon heart 
hung as a kind of playful homage to President Vaclav Havel, transformed it 
into a giant and highly visible question mark.

Mr. Havel, the former dissident who led this country from Communist 
dictatorship to democracy 13 years ago, is stepping down as Czech president 
next week and, given his stature and historic role, you might think that 
Czechs would unite in a rousing, even reverential send-off.

But as the prankish question mark suggests, such is not entirely the case 
in the Czech Republic, where Mr. Havel's image abroad as a kind of living 
saint is matched by a complicated and ambivalent view of him, one that 
mixes respect and gratitude with a good deal of doubt and criticism.



Michael Parenti, "Reds and Blacks":

Must We Adore Vaclav Havel?

No figure among the capitalist restorationists in the East has won more 
adulation from U.S. officials, media pundits, and academics than Vaclav 
Havel, a playwright who became the first president of post-communist 
Czechoslovakia and later president of the Czech Republic. The many 
left-leaning people who also admire Havel seem to have overlooked some 
things about him: his reactionary religious obscurantism, his undemocratic 
suppression of leftist opponents, and his profound dedication to economic 
inequality and an unrestrained free-market capitalism.

Raised by governesses and chauffeurs in a wealthy and fervently 
anticommunist family, Havel denounced democracy's "cult of objectivity and 
statistical average" and the idea that rational, collective social efforts 
should be applied to solving the environmental crisis. He called for a new 
breed of political leader who would rely less on "rational, cognitive 
thinking," show "humility in the face of the mys-
terious order of Being," and "trust in his own subjectivity as his 
principal link with the subjectivity of the world." Apparently, this new 
breed of leader would be a superior elitist cogitator, not unlike Plato's 
philosopher king, endowed with a "sense of transcendental responsibility" 
and "archetypal wisdom." Havel never explained how this transcendent 
archetypal wisdom would translate into actual policy decisions, and for 
whose benefit at whose expense.

Havel called for efforts to preserve the Christian family in the Christian 
nation. Presenting himself as a man of peace and stating that he would 
never sell arms to oppressive regimes, he sold weapons to the Philippines 
and the fascist regime in Thailand. In June 1994, General Pinochet, the man 
who butchered Chilean democracy, was reported to be arms shopping in 
Czechoslovakia—with no audible objections from Havel.

Havel joined wholeheartedly in George Bush's Gulf War, an enterprise that 
killed over 100,000 Iraqi civilians. In 1991, along with other Eastern 
European pro-capitalist leaders, Havel voted with the United States to 
condemn human rights violations in Cuba. But he has never uttered a word of 
condemnation of rights violations in El Salvador, Colombia, Indonesia, or 
any other U.S. client state.

In 1992, while president of Czechoslovakia, Havel, the great democrat, 
demanded that parliament be suspended and he be allowed to rule by edict, 
the better to ram through free-market "reforms." That same year, he signed 
a law that made the advocacy of communism a felony with a penalty of up to 
eight years imprisonment. He claimed the Czech constitution required him to 
sign it. In fact, as he knew, the law violated the Charter of Human Rights 
which is incorporated into the Czech constitution. In any case, it did not 
require his signature to become law. In 1995, he supported and signed 
another undemocratic law barring communists and former communists from 
employment in public agencies.
7 See Havel's goofy op-ed in the New York Times (3/1/92); it caused an 
embarrassed silence among his U.S. admirers.

The propagation of anticommunism has remained a top priority for Havel. He 
led "a frantic international campaign" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/17/95) 
to keep in operation two U.S.-financed, cold war radio stations, Radio Free 
Europe and Radio Liberty, so they could continue saturating Eastern Europe 
with their anticommunist propaganda.

Under Havel's government, a law was passed making it a crime to propagate 
national, religious, and class hatred. In effect, criticisms of big moneyed 
interests were now illegal, being unjustifiably lumped with ethnic and 
religious bigotry. Havel's government warned labor unions not to involve 
themselves in politics. Some militant unions had their property taken from 
them and handed over to compliant company unions.

In 1995, Havel announced that the "revolution" against communism would not 
be complete until everything was privatized. Havel's government liquidated 
the properties of the Socialist Union of Youth—which included camp sites, 
recreation halls, and cultural and scientific facilities for 
children—putting the properties under the management of five joint stock 
companies, at the expense of the youth who were left to roam the streets.

Under Czech privatization and "restitution" programs, factories, shops, 
estates, homes, and much of the public land was sold at bargain prices to 
foreign and domestic capitalists. In the Czech and Slovak republics, former 
aristocrats or their heirs were being given back all the lands their 
families had held before 1918 under the Austro-Hungarian empire, 
dispossessing the previous occupants and sending many of them into 
destitution. Havel himself took personal ownership of public properties 
that had belonged to his family forty years before. While presenting 
himself as a man dedicated to doing good for others, he did well for 
himself. For these reasons some of us do not have warm fuzzy feelings 
toward Vaclav Havel.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

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