Tvrdik's Offer: the coalition of the willing
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jan 25 09:13:25 MST 2003
>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
By RICHARD BERNSTEIN
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
Czechoslovakiawith 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 Youthwhich included camp sites,
recreation halls, and cultural and scientific facilities for
childrenputting 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: http://www.marxmail.org
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