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An interview with Václav Klaus

About the final victory of the Left, redefinition of the main political themes, Merkelism, and U.S. elections

An interview with the Czech ex-president was recorded by PragueTV less than two weeks ago and I found it interesting enough to translate those 23 minutes for you.

See the original "Prague Café" interview, a video in Czech.

Via klaus.cz
Moderator, Petr Žantovský:

Welcome to the Prague Café. Today, we have moved the program to slightly atypical spaces, namely those of the Institute of Václav Klaus. The reason is simple. Our guest today is the former president Václav Klaus. Good afternoon.

Klaus:

Good afternoon. Well, I just hope that you haven't brought the spirit of the Prague Café [=PC intellectual elites of Prague] into these sacred spaces of our institute.




Moderator:

Well, we certainly did. And the reason is that we are reviving and rehabilitating the spirit of the Prague Café that has been, so to say, hijacked by someone who likes to call himself the Prague Café. But when we're already in this informal setup, let me offer you a small personal memory.

In 1997, shortly after the [second] Sarajevo assassination [a betrayal of PM Klaus during his visit to Sarajevo by some coalition politicians in Prague that led to Klaus' resignation], we began to co-write your then first book of interviews, "That's What Václav Klaus Stated". And because almost 20 years separates us from those times, let me ask you the same question that I did ask you then. Do you know the difference between a left-winger and a right-winger here today?




Klaus:

I don't know. And did I give you an intelligent answer then?

Moderator:

You gave exactly the same answer as now: I don't know. And I told you: Both of them have studied Marxism-Leninism but the rightwinger has understood it.

Klaus:

Well, it's a possible small joke.

Moderator:

Your reaction is exactly the same as it was then.

Klaus:

You know, I am already a rigid, fossilized man. No one should expect anything new from me anymore.

Moderator:

But yes, he should. One may expect a review of those 20 years. What has changed about the meaning of the Left and the Right as understood then and now, assuming that the concepts still exist at all?

Klaus:

Before the discussion of the words, I would insert one thing that has absolutely changed: the mood in the society. This seems to be the fundamental change. In the 1990s, people like me had the feeling that we were going up or forward. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it started to return back. And we have the feeling that we're going backwards. And that's a fatal, fundamental transformation. And the concepts of the Left and Right are victims of this confrontation.

I think that these two words may be defined just like they could have been 20 years ago but they gradually lost their importance because the old left-right competition that was primarily a socio-economic one has faded away. It got diluted and became uninteresting, partially because the Left has achieved the ultimate victory – that's one thing. But this is no longer a defining question of our age. The arguments are about something completely different today which means that the old left-right schemes become largely inapplicable.

Moderator:

You have used the word that I didn't expect from you and believe me, I don't like hearing it, and that's "ultimate". The Left has won definitively. But you were never a fan of these definitive visions. What's your reason to think that it's definitive?

Klaus:

Well, when I say "ultimate", I am thinking about some imaginable future, not necessary the whole eternity. I wouldn't dare to go this far now. But if I speak about something that seems like an interesting, foreseeable future, then I think that the standard Left-Right conflict has been lost definitively by us. And I don't even see anyone who would continue to play this conflict in some significant way – neither in our country, nor in the world.

Moderator:

This may lead us to a question at a more general level: What has really happened to the purpose of politics? Politics as the care about the matters of the community has seemingly disappeared. And perhaps because of the trivializing statements such as "politics is like an Ltd company, we have to be good managers" – those aren't inventions of our current finance minister [populist billionaire Babiš] but a much older one. But it's not the only invention. What are the others?

Klaus:

First, there can't be any doubts about the statement that assorted leftists have been announcing the end of the Left-Right political conflict for a very long time and we have moved on. And we became rational, they said, and it's meaningless to insist on those old words. Well, the leftists have been saying it for half a century...

Moderator:

[simultaneously] ... some 50 years...

Klaus:

Already in the 1950s. So this sure thing is one aspect. But the public discourse has moved to completely different topics. These days, you see that the basic discourse is about other things. About the political correctness, multiculturalism, migration, about the taboo status of one thing or another, about the attack on the family, the nation, and all these things. The old left-right themes aren't relevant in these discussions at all.

In fact, I would say that the the fans of the old left-and-right schemes are almost standing together on one side of the barricade against all the supporters of the quasi-progressivism and quasi-modernism.

Moderator:

You began to speak about NGOism already some 10 years ago. If I remember well, you were still the chairman of the Parliament when I brought you a book titled Ecofascism and maybe you began to use that term (NGOism) because of this gift of mine. It was quite a prophetic achievement of yours because it seems to me that this prophesy is just being fulfilled nowadays.

Klaus:

That's absolutely wonderful. And thank you very much because one is producing tons of speeches and articles. Just yesterday, I was writing the text of my German speech to be delivered in Berlin in exactly 7 days and I was enumerating all of these favorite -isms of mine which I often operate with. And I must confess that I have forgotten the NGOism. So I made a note in this notebook to add the word to my Berlin speech immediately.

But what I think is true that even after those 10-15 years when we were using this term, it's still true that very many people keep on misunderstanding it.

[Klaus later wrote a report about his visit to Berlin in Czech. He isn't a fan of the city, it's too post-modern, too Cosmopolitan, too full of bicycles instead of cars, mothers with 3 kids arranged on her bike, tourist bags, Russians, Russian texts. The venue for his talk was terrorized by the left-wing activists once again so the organizers rented a fancy ship, The Comtess of the Spree, and the event took place while sailing.]

Moderator:

Even though they are already victims of this new system of governance? NGOism is a new system of governance, isn't it?

Klaus:

Of course it is. It is an alternative system of governance. And I feel that people are still not perceiving it. If I return to my speech in Germany – sorry that I keep on returning to that talk – I am going to say that the people who are sitting either in the Bavarian Bierstube [pubs] or lazily lying on the Spanish beaches [those are of a bit higher quality] – so these people are still uninterested in all these concepts, they still fail to perceive them. And unfortunately, these uninterested people are still a majority.

Moderator:

Isn't it because our part of Europe is still living in some luxury etc.? If you go to Warsaw, Poland, Hungary, let alone the more Eastern ex-Soviet satellites, Czechia is better off, I feel.

Klaus:

That's surely the case. But when I was giving my verdicts, I wasn't thinking of Czechia or Bohemia. I meant Western Europe and Germans in particular. Those are still misunderstanding this word of mine completely.

Moderator:

On the other hand, Bavaria turned out to be the German state that has displayed some survival instinct – I mean in the context of the migration crisis. The Seehofer-Merkel argument may be just an internal exchange within a party and maybe just one before the elections. But it must be placed in some context, right?

Klaus:

It's surely an argument. But it's still true that in Germany, including Bavaria, you would still be unable to publish newspaper articles that are commonly published in the Czech media. In this sense, thank God, the Western Europe is much more tightly laced up and controlled by the dictate than we are. Thankfully, after all, all of us have learned some lessons from the communism. And yes, I feel that even those whom I consider to stand on the opposite side of the political discourse than my place, have also learned this lesson and behave differently than the Germans do.

This Merkelism, if you wish, is remaining almost non-existent in Czechia.

Moderator:

You are speaking about Merkelism. But anti-Merkelism also exists in Germany. We may return to it soon...

Klaus:

A very weak one...

Moderator:

But do you feel that Germany is beginning to transform under the influence of the migration wave? Does it start to think about itself and transcend the limits of the traditional politically correct thinking that depends on the collective feeling of guilt – guilt for the Holocaust etc.?

Klaus:

This is a standard question and my standard answer is: Hopefully. More precisely, it seems like a Wunschdänken, a wishful thinking, rather than reality.

It's self-evident that Germany is moving somewhere. But when I am attending various events of AfD, the Alternative for Germany, I see something more disappointing. I was just writing a report about my visit to Schwerin where they have elections this weekend.

Over there, I lamented: In a hall with just some 250 people who have been selected because they gathered from a large territory to see my speech, I – an oldish politician – still end up being the most [youthfully] radical of all the people in the hall.

So I wouldn't trust in overly optimistic ideas about the ongoing transformation. In fact, the moderator – a member of AfD in Schwerin – was a polite professor teaching at a local high school. He was asking questions to me and I couldn't believe my ears. It seemed to me that I had to fight in a similar way as I would have to fight on Radio Plus or the Czech Public TV [PC media in Czechia].

He was telling me: But you, in the Czech Republic, seem to have one of the lowest population growth rates in the world according to some sources I have read. You will obviously need those workers, won't you?

So first I yelled at him and urged him not to tell us whether we need some workers or not. But when I am getting such a question from AfD, one may immediately see that it's utterly absurd.

Moderator:

Let me turn it around. When Chancellor Merkel is currently on a tour around the central European countries, the Visegrád member states etc., and on behalf of the EU, she is trying to put something in their heads, namely the idea of the quotas and similar matters, she is behaving as a representative of the EU. And quite frequently, people are lightly asking whether we're not seeing the birth of the Fourth Reich of some kind. What do you think about it?

Klaus:

First, these analogies. Well, yes, but do I have to call it the Fourth Reich? It may be a nice hyperbolic witticism. Well, Ms Merkel does arrive here as a representative of the European Union. The fact that the assorted footmen, lackeys, and chichmoondahs such as Mr Tusk and Mr Schulz are absolutely irrelevant – and exactly Ms Merkel is who matters – is so self-evident that everyone sees it.

Ms Merkel has no nominal EU title. But she is a top representative of the contemporary European Union. We might react jokingly and demand Ms Merkel to show us some official EU authorization. But the serious truth is that she is the actual representative of the European Union – even though someone else should be the official representative instead.

But the idea that someone such as Comrade Mogherini or what's her name – an Italian woman – is a chief of the EU is at most a joke. Yes, I don't even know her name. And I am a politician. I am convinced that some 99% of the citizens of the Czech Republic – but not only the Czech Republic, even Italy and Germany – don't know the name of this lady. So to criticize Ms Merkel that she is not a representative of the European Union seems like an uninteresting legalistic nitpicking to me.

Moderator:

Let me build on your previous words. You said that the old-style leftwingers and rightwingers are being pushed together as natural allies in a conflict with a new foe, the NGOism and other ideologies in the wave. Isn't it funny when various NGOs such as The European Values pick you and Mr Hájek and others – who were always viewed as conservative advocates of the Western values – and throw you in a bag and paint you as the ultimate pro-Kremlin folks. It almost looks like you have been given the same hat for heretics, one with a caricature of a little devil, that Master John Huss had in 1415. And they are urging the people to burn you at stake. In the bag, you find yourself along with the current president and very many other people.

Klaus:

Let me postpone the discussion about the Kremlin. First, yes, I do feel some shared identity with the traditional left-wing parties. Earlier in the summer, I attended a traditional agricultural festival The Land The Feeder in Czech Budweis, which I consider to be a nice positive event, despite the Prague Café's efforts to mock it as a relic of the past which is silly. And at the beginning, there was a meeting in the foyer. Accidentally, I was sitting close to President Zeman and the South Bohemian governor Mr Zimola, a social democrat.

There weren't sufficiently many bottles of beer over there. So I poured one into my glass and very visibly, I also used my bottle to pour the beer to governor Zimola's pint as well. And I loudly said: "Do you see? This is the expression of my friendly attitude to the social democracy." Everyone exploded in laughter. Yes. But the men from the social democracy, Zimolas or Mr Jandák who was there [a social democratic ex-actor] are really closer to me than Pirates or Citizens for something, Citizens against something, ANOs, TOPs, not to mention the Greens. Yes, we need to say this.

Moderator:

What's the relationship of this with the Kremlin?

Klaus:

It's you who incorporated it into this discussion [so you should know].

Moderator:

Well, my impression is that from the Prague Café and similar folks' viewpoint, you are being labeled in this way because you're together and not on their frequency as they are.

Klaus:

We are labeled in this way because we don't want the NGOism, multiculturalism, false and lying Western European and American political correctness, green stupidities about the global warming, and so on, and so on. We don't want interventions into the internal affairs of individual countries, permanent exports of the revolutions and the destruction of states here and there.

And that's why we are labeled as pro-Kremlin pundits. It's childish, silly, and I don't know what to add.

Moderator:

So you got a similar label as the "traitors" [a soft communist propaganda word for a traitor paid by foreign interests is being used]. But isn't it also because you don't want sanctions against Russia? Because you dislike the plans to perturb the equilibrium among geopolitical forces in Central Europe and elsewhere?

Klaus:

No doubt about it. These manipulations that certain people in Western Europe and especially in the U.S. are doing with the world these days are vintage examples of a total irresponsibility, failure to see one's own nose. Also, it's a sign of their despair, their feeling that they're losing. And that's why they are trying to do desperate acts. People who feel hopelessness are always inclined to behave desperately.

So again, it began with Yugoslavia and its destruction which was unnecessary. The Yugoslav folks themselves would have surely never disintegrated Yugoslavia in the way in which it ultimately was disintegrated in the 1990s. It continued with the Iraqs and the Near and Middle East. [moderator says: Kosovo] Well, Kosovo is something I count as a part of the Yugoslav matters.

It continued and it recently moved to Ukraine. If the disagreements were kept as a Ukrainian-Ukrainian question, it would probably remain peaceful and it could have been basically solved by now. But the numerous players of the fake Prague Café do want some extra layer of problems. The confrontation in Ukraine is their confrontation. That's why they were going to all those Maidans.

Moderator:

It's their business, isn't it?

Klaus:

It's their job, an occupation.

Moderator:

The U.S. presidential elections are not far away. Do you believe that either Clinton's or Trump's victory will change something about the attitude of the U.S. towards Russia or Europe?

Klaus:

It's very interesting because our institute is publishing a newsletter and we usually ask a "Question of the Month". We invite 5-10 people to answer. The question for the September newsletter is exactly one you gave me. Will the Trump or Clinton victory change the world?

Well, I don't know. There's no doubt that the continuation of the current American regime which is expected after a Clinton victory is something immensely negative for us, for the world, and I think that for America, too.

Indeed, Trump is a character but he is still speaking on behalf of sane Americans and the normal America. I have never met or talked to Trump – unlike Hillary Clinton whom I met many times. I don't really know what is inside Trump's head. But I do believe that he is being interpreted here completely incorrectly.

I don't think that Trump is as stupid as some people paint him. He is just a player, a naturally political animal, that plays different roles. Just like a great actor in the National Theater sometimes stars as a gentle lover and sometimes as a villain, Trump is just starring in the role of the leader of the election campaign. He should be expected to switch into a completely different role with a very distinct arrangement, the role of a responsible leader, on the following day. That's my assumption and I believe that people are incorrectly assuming that he will be doing everything he has said during the campaign. That's not what I expect.

Moderator:

I view your words as optimistic ones. Thank you for those words and for the visit here in your Institute of Václav Klaus, in our Prague Café.

And dear viewers and TRF readers, see you next time.



Related: The idea that the Czechout is "looming" is greatly exaggerated. But otherwise I find the Aljazeera report above – which reasonably suggests that the Czech spirit of independence is analogous to the British one – much more impartial and informative than what I would expect from such a left-wing station.

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