Thursday, February 12, 2015

Klaus reviews his and his family's life in communism

Two hours ago, "Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation" posted a 20-minute interview with the Czech ex-president Václav Klaus.

He offers his memories about communism and his life in that era. His parents were grateful to the Soviet Union for the liberation. At the end of his high school studies, he began to understand the political aspects of the real world. And in the 1960s, he was literally supposed to become a scholarly expert in the non-Marxist systems.

After the Warsaw Pact occupation in 1968, he could still spend a semester at Cornell – his wife was in Amsterdam at the same time. Only after another year, the non-reformed communists were able to consolidate the power, more vigorously punish the reform communists (who were renegades and therefore worse than the full-fledged outsides i.e. non-partisans like Klaus) and he was fired and worked in a local branch of a bank. But he was still immensely interested in the right systems to organize the society which is why Czechoslovakia had ready-to-use people from his group who could become ministers after the fall of communism. His experience with the real life in Czechoslovakia was necessary for him to make things right.

He also thinks that his sons got a better education in Czechoslovakia – even during communism – than the 3+3 kids of his sister and his wife's sister who emigrated to Switzerland and Australia around 1968.

Interviews like that should be helpful for those Westerners who still have naive and romantic ideas about communism and hypothetical brutal punishments for the smallest sins. That wasn't what communism looked like in the 1970s or 1980s. It was already an old ideology, boasting no real excitement, and unwilling to fight. We learn that Klaus could teach his son to understand all the important things about capitalism, communism, and what was wrong with the latter (Klaus Jr would arrange his personal theater adaptation of Orwell's 1984).

And Klaus again tells us his favorite quote that UC Berkeley had (and still has) more true believers in Marxism than all of Czechoslovakia. ;-) He also talks about the 2014 seminar of his institute where most of the participants concluded that the indoctrination at contemporary schools is more intense than it was during communism – indoctrination by Europeism, genderism, feminism, environmentalism, global warming doctrine, political correctness, multiculturalism, transnationalism, and similar junk.

Also, they figured out that during communism, families were the main protective shields that were able to protect the children from the indoctrination; by these days, families ceased to play this role. At least Klaus is convinced that the current Czech and Californian parents fail in educating their children e.g. about the reasons why the global warming doctrine they may be intoxicated by at schools is poisonous.

Communism has made his life less wonderful than it could have been otherwise and we should never forget about it, Klaus says, but let's not play the games of the past all the time. Let's not overlook that the world history hasn't ended and there are new -isms today (perhaps new reincarnations of communism, communisms in disguise) that pose a threat. We are not attentive enough when it comes to these dangers.


  1. Modern Communists recognize the power of family and religion to stand against the state, so they are eager to break down these institutions. The push for gay marriage is so intense for this reason.

  2. The Wall St Journal just ran an article showing the law passed in the mid-60s that paid mothers to have children without a father has decimated the black family in the US. "Life at the Bottom" describes the same destruction in the UK among welfare recipients...High crime, drug abuse, violence, etc....

  3. the indoctrination at contemporary schools is more intense than it was during communism – indoctrination by Europeism, genderism, feminism, environmentalism, global warming doctrine, political correctness, multiculturalism, transnationalism, and similar junk.

    Same lefties, different labels. Still certain they know the best way for everybody else to live and still seeking the power to impose it. This is why it is important not to forget what happens when these people are in power.

  4. //hypothetical brutal punishments for the smallest sins//

    The degree of smallness where the system didn't get too excited may have varied from country to country. I don't know much about it, but East Germany does seem to have been on the less lenient side until close to its demise. ("Das Leben der Anderen" - "The Lives on Others" certainly paints a rather dark picture of East Germany.) I heard from a Croatian that his mother visited Soviet Union back in the day and found the people there rather dreary compared to her own environment. And yet, it's not like telling a political anecdote in the Soviet Union would land a person in a gulag in the 1970's, as it might in Stalin's days.

    But the smaller sins aside, an active dissident in the Soviet Union could be placed in a psychiatric clinic and forcibly medicated, presumably because only a lunatic would not see the wonders of the system. (Interestingly, googling around turned up a link claiming the practice is still alive in some countries: - I have no idea though how credible this particular source is.)

  5. the feminist/environmentalist/ ... and other isms are basically Watermelons - green on the outside and the usual Reds on the inside; the red diaper babies who 'moved on' after VietNam, or whatever "activism" they were involved in. So instead of peddling the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' rubbish, they have learned how to appeal to other alienated folks to "build a mass movemen" .
    I hear them all the time on WBAI, when i don't have anything better to do. Alternet is fairly representative of that ilk.
    It's a bit sad that none of the isms mentioned have anything to do with religion. It is fun to ask, as a card carrying athiest, whether God does BRST !
    Nothing today is as compelling as religion was a century ago, so their opposition is pretty much disorganized about what they consider really important principles worth defending. I naively expected that Americans can dig up plenty of examples from everyday life about what works, and what does not - and construct something worth defending.
    Maybe I should become a preacher.

  6. and i heard someone say that one half of one percent believe in getting "married", so one wonders what all the media fuss is all about, and why the courts shove this crap down our throats.

  7. From what I hear, in Soviet Union you couldn't travel between two cities without a permit.
    I don't know how was that in then Czechoslovakia but in then Yugoslavia everybody had a passport and was allowed to freely travel abroad (when they had enough money to be admitted in, that is).

  8. It was 1980 when I graduated from a university in the US. So, when I got back home I thought to my self I should go the USSR to experience the "other part".

    So I went to their embassy and I was met by this huge iron gate like some castle which had a small window like those you see in old movies to get into an illegal gambling place. I ring the bell and I could see a very fat lady walking at a snails pace. When she finally got to the door I asked her about the visa and some information.

    She opened that gigantic door, as I just stepped in she told me I need 16 personal pictures! and some other papers. Then, she took a brochure, a folded paper realy, from a nearby old beaten up iron table and she handed it to me. In it was a single picture, maybe 5 x5 cm showing a bear 1x1 cm! in a forest.

    I ran out of there real fast, never to think about communism again.

  9. I was in Czechoslovakia in 1979. My memories are vague now. I remember how clean and functional everything was. I remember the supermarket and the empty shelves. That was a shock to me. A teenage girl in mini skirt (about my age then) was so gorgeous, that was another shock to me. My host family invited me for a dinner. We had a cup of tea and a slice of bread (with marmelade!?) for dinner. It was so nice, yet so strange a level of austerity to me.

    Then, in 1986, I traveled to Moscow, on a business trip with Italian company, seeking to expand in the new market.

    On the plane I overheard two California gentlemen, in their thirties, dressed like wealthy businessmen, who were discussing getting a Russian bride. Apparently, that was the purpose of their trip. That was shocking to me. At the time I thought that Russian women must be ugly, on the average.

    Once in Moscow, to get a decent pizza we had to reserve the table a few days ahead. While we were munching average pizza, we were surrounded by US and other embassies diplomats. That was another shock to me.

    On our way back, landing in Milano, I remember a short, old Italian guy, with a 6' fashion model looks Russian blonde, arguing with border officers about letting her into the country because she is his girlfriend (apparently she had no papers).

  10. The hotel in Moscow where we stayed was also a trip. Everybody from the rest of the world seems to have been staying in that same hotel, a huge skyscraper.

    Have you ever been assaulted by Air Japan flight attendants seeking sex in Moscow? I was!

  11. Swine flu, I've heard about incidents involving communists and psychiatrists, too, but it is silly to believe the story that the people's disdain for communism could have been the only reason for "imprisonment" in a psychiatric clinic. Surely in Czechoslovakia, it wasn't the case.

    This is just an aspect of the information that many of the dissidents who were sometimes arrested were not "just dissidents" or "pure dissidents". Most of them did other sometimes questionable things.

    We've been more interested in the "lenient" socialist countries. Yugoslavia was in between socialism and capitalism, and a natural intermediate step for many people who emigrated. Within the Warsaw Pact, Hungary and Poland were ahead in liberalization throughout the 1980s.

    We obviously didn't have the Soviet system of propiskas etc. to complicated traveling inside the country.

    I don't remember having exposed to these things during trips around Sverdlovsk in 1988 but maybe I just misremember and cops were checking the bus when we were crossing the city borders LOL.

  12. I have trouble to reconcile your comments about a "clean Czechoslovakia in 1979" with the memories. Maybe you count the shop shelves to "clean" but certainly not houses' facades, for example, are you? All these things looked like a week after the war in 1979.

  13. They already are in power. What you are describing here is the US totalitarianism or imperialism... This is the new communism ;-)

  14. "... it is silly to believe the story that the people's disdain for communism
    could have been the only reason for "imprisonment" in a psychiatric

    From everything I've heard, it is anything but silly to believe that.

  15. Dear Swine Flu, the first article you linked to is about the Soviet Union. I was talking about Czechoslovakia.

    Psychiatry was undoubtedly abused but I am just saying that it's nonsense that a significant portion of the people who expressed disrespect towards communism were jailed into an asylum; and it's also nonsense that even among those who were put in an asylum, even in the subset that had anti-communist views, they were put there only because of their political views.

  16. I said myself in an earlier post, "in the typically stupid American way," that there were significant variations between the Eastern bloc countries. I just think that they all make interesting historical case-studies in light of Mr. Klaus' observations, even if his observations were directly only about one country.

  17. Dear Luboš,

    "... Czechs are similarly shocked that people in U.S. houses don't take their shoes off! ;-) "

    Well, it stands to reason — Americans are just not into banging tables with them, Nikita! :)

    But it's funny you should mention it. Quite a few of my friends lately request such a thing. No, not the mandatory table banging, just the "shoes off in my house, if you'd be so kind, thank you!"

    No problem. I always manage to spill my beer and tread cake into their carpets to compensate! :)

    It just means I have to change my socks when I get home.

    Maybe I should pop a few decent wooden-flooring leaflets through their letter boxes. What do you think? They could put in some under-floor trace heating at the same time.

    By the way, your Klaus is a good sort! :)

  18. Dear Swine flu, true, it's just a piece to a global picture. As you may imagine, for a Czech guy, it's still more important to understand our national history than the history of other nations.

    But there's one more point I must make concerning the differences. The differences between the different Soviet bloc countries were not just some surprising anomalies. They really mean that the nations were still affected by lots of things that couldn't be summarized as "communism".

    For this reason, I think that some clearer and more widespread abuses in the USSR can't fully be attributed to communism. The Soviet communism much like many other regimes - however "new" they look - largely "recycle" some traditions that have existed in the country or region for a long time.

    The Chinese communists didn't start from scratch, either. To a large extent, the worshiping of a large powerful paternalistic state by the Chinese people goes back several thousands years, to the very beginnings of that nation.

    Analogously, some of the Western habits Czechia would have known as a part of the Austrian Empire etc. couldn't be erased by our communists. They didn't really wanted to erase some of them. They shared some of the heritage, too. And it was them, not the Soviet communists, who was ultimately in power here (that's the point that most Americans don't understand when it comes to the relationship between USSR and other socialist countries).

  19. FWIS, I wandered across the Soviet Union -- along the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, going East to West -- in the fall of 1963, and was remarkably un-molested by police. What happened was that in Japan when I bought my ticket (at the time this was the cheapest way to get back to Europe, from which I had hitchhiked and bummed my way -- the Japanese travel agent did not sell me hotel accommodations because I didn't have the money to pay for them. So first night in Russia, I think it was Irkuts or Kabarovsk (sp?) -- when the intourist guide discovered I hadn't paid for a room, he instructed me to meet my party at the train station next morning. I took the opportunity to not show up, from which point I was free to get off and on the train wherever it stopped, wander around, take pictures with my new camera that I had bought in Hong Kong, etc.. One night in some small town in the middle of nowhere i was taking pictures of empty shelves in the window of a butcher's shop when a police van pulled up. I was invited into the back of the van and asked something in Russian which naturally I did not understand. So I just said "tourista" and handed them my American passport. They looked it over, handed it back, and told my I was free to go. Go figure.

    The train was great btw, sleeping bunks for all, play chess with every peasant on the train (I always lost), read all of Shakespeare's History plays, wrestled with female engineers betweens the cars (I hadn't seen a woman in six months, but they just laughed and pushed me away), and generally had a pleasant time.

    Moscow was clean at that time.

    As for Klaus' interview, it was of course interesting. I would mention that I got a better education in Chattanooga's public schools in the 1940's and 50's than my daughter did in a very fancy private school in the 1980's, at least in history if not math and science.

    I don't understand the ideological origins of the so-called cultural Marxism except to say that most of its adherents are not cut out to be businessmen because they are not sufficiently motivated by the dream of making a lot of money, and therefore despise the consumerism that capitalism makes possible, along with the corporations that produce it.

  20. Just a question. I have been listening to Hitlers "My Struggle", and he accuses the Czech of controlling Vienna (Austro -Hungarian), which he saw as part of the "German nation". Is that true.

  21. That was very interesting, Luke. 1963, not long after the Cuban missile crisis then and the cold war was still at its height. With you being an American an' all, it sounds to me like you were just plain lucky! Lucky Luke! :) No?

    By the way, when you said "daughter" did you mean granddaughter? If not, well good for you! :)

  22. If I might defend my country just a little bit, Lubos, I lived through the anti-communist hysteria in the US, which followed WWII. There was surely a tendency to see everything as black and white (commie and non-commie) but it was largely (but not entirely) confined to the political right. The left generally saw things in a more nuanced way.
    It is interesting that, today, the emotional, irrational attitude toward “climate change” is largely (but not entirely) confined to the political left.
    Neither communism nor climate change has ever posed a significant threat to our well being but people have to be irrational about something, don’t they?

  23. "For this reason, I think that some clearer and more widespread abuses in the USSR can't fully be attributed to communism."

    Right, they were Russian rather than merely Soviet in many ways, which is one reason why I am rather cautious about Putin's Russia. And local conditions always matter, it's not like even different Soviet Republics were all identical, so it would be insane to think that all of the Eastern bloc countries would have been the same.

    And yet, totalitarian regimes do have some things in common wherever they exist, but at the same time it is likely the case that some nations are a more natural fit for a totalitarian system than others.

  24. "it was largely (but not entirely) confined to the political right ... is largely (but not entirely) confined to the political left."

    I am just curious, from your personal observations, were the mass media and the educational institutions as skewed ideologically, in whatever direction, back in the 1950's as they are today?

  25. I hate this sissi tradition of having to remove your shoes when visiting people... common in Sweden as well. I actually hate it when people remove their shoes in my house... their socks are full of sweat and it stinks. And I find it very rude to ask me to remove my "shit crushers" (shoes). Same as you John I like to spill something on their beautiful f***g carpet. I f***g hate them.

  26. Fear of communism and climate change do sell papers and more. A good fear is very productive in a capitalist country such as the US I'd imagine.

  27. Hitler was an Austrian born imperialist so it wouldn't be surprising if he said so.

  28. Actually I was asking if the Czech did have that great influence. But he also praises the French sense of Nationalism. He also said that Germany must choose between Christianity and communism. Of course he blamed the Jews for trying to spread communism in Germany to destroy Germany. I don't know if that was true or not ,but that is what the man said( he said he read every history book his hand could lay on).

  29. Alger Hiss was one of many Communist agents at high levels of the US government.

    Henry Wallace was vice-president.

  30. When people visit our home they nearly always ask if we would prefer them to remove their shoes . This is becoming a nice tradition, at least in Northern California, and it has great benefits. It creates a warm feeling at the start of the visit and it puts to rest any concern that the hosts may have about their floors. It certainly can avoid the possibility of discomfort during the visit.
    It happens that we have four pets running around our house and thus have perpetually soiled floors, at least to a some degree, so we don’t really care either way. I do think that if someone is visiting a neatnik , who is obsessed with spotless floors, they should, above all, wear socks that are clean and dry.

  31. Things really haven’t changed. Our educational institutions are skewed to the left just as they have always been and the media blow with the wind, for the most part.
    The left accuses the media of a rightward bias and the right says just the opposite, of course.
    Somehow we manage to stumble along rather well despite these shortcomings.
    I suspect that the role of money in politics counterbalances the leftward bias of our universities. The Koch brothers, for instance, in supporting conservative causes, plan to spend $900M on the 2016 election. This will give them an influence far beyond “one man/one vote”.

  32. A lot of things help to sell papers, Shannon, and most of them are unproductive. But, so it has always been.

  33. "Somehow we manage to stumble along rather well despite these shortcomings."

    Indeed, many people forget that our system of government is meant to be deadlocked much of the time by design, with the corollary that when solutions do make it to legislation, they will often be haphazard and may take additional iterations to improve further. And yet, we've muddled through for more than two centuries, even if with one major civil war. So, when I hear of people whining how the country is ungovernable and so we need a parliamentary system, or that the electoral college is oh so undemocratic, I treat these pronouncements as white noise.

    And yet, the ever increasing bureaucratization of daily life and the increasingly arrogant government that I've observed over the last 35 years or so do make me wonder if some secular shift for the worse has been taking place that does not have parallels in our history.

    And the Democrats have plenty of rich donors these days.

  34. "I don't know if that was true or not ..."

    Just to clarify what it is that you are not sure about, is it whether the Jews were spreading communism in Germany not just because it was one of the competing ideologies of the day with some number of Jews also advocating it, but in order to deliberately destroy Germany?

  35. My understanding from listening is that he linked both.

  36. Wow, Luke, if you had posted this comment to the New York Times some 25 years ago, you could have saved the Soviet Union! ;-)

  37. Dear QsaTheory, "Czechia controls Vienna" is clearly a vastly overstated description.

    Vienna was the capital and almost all the people who controlled the empire at the federal level were German speakers. And it's only the Hungarians that were formally put on par with the Austrians. More precisely, the federation had two parts but the German and Hungarian nations were clear dominant nations in both parts.

    On the other hand, it was an empire where the German speakers didn't have a majority, or clear majority, and the Czechs have been important to some extent. In fact, the Czech lands hosted most of the industry of the empire. From some points of view, the empire was a place of a peaceful and honestly "equal" co-existence between German-speaking and non-German-speaking nations.

    A few months ago, during a reunion, I asked my basic school classmate who has always been a great historian and now he does it professionally (also) about the reason why Austria isn't viewed as a part of Germany - what it is that makes them different and separated (except for Hitler's era after Anschluss).

    The answer is really this long separation from the small kingdoms followed by the arguments about the leadership about the unified Germany. In 1871 etc., they finally decided to unify Germany but when you do so, you need to know who is in charge. The unification process was motivated by Prussia and of course that they would invite Austria as well if they could control them.

    But Austria would have probably become the largest country of this superunified Germany if it were realized, and Prussia didn't want it. So at that moment, the separation of Austria was codified for quite some extra time. And even today, the Austria-German unification movement is virtually non-existent.

    Yesterday I ran into some funny things about Austria vs Czechia and Hitler. I studied the Battle of Stalingrad. Paulus, the top German general, was ordered by Hitler to fight to the end. At the end, he rejected and said that he (Paulus) won't allow a "Bohemian corporal" (meaning Hitler) to prescribe suicide to him (Paulus).

    Why was Hitler a Bohemian corporal? Hitler had nothing to do with Bohemia, right? This label for Hitler actually goes back to Paul von Hinderburg, the last pre-Hitler president of Germany, who (perhaps deliberately, perhaps not) confused the birthplace of Hitler - Braunau, Austria - with Braunau [Czech: Broumov], Bohemia. :-)

    This region of Central Europe was rather unified for some time but due to the monarchy, the degree of synchronization between the Czech lands and Austria was even stronger than between Germany on one side and either Austria or Czechia on the other.