Sunday, March 18, 2018

When people promote the one-party system and bully the opposition

On Saturday morning, I was randomly directed to a Facebook post about the need to support Babiš's ANO that was written by an FB contact of mine. It has severely increased my blood pressure and because that state of affairs lasted for another hour, I clicked at "unfollow" which returned the pressure close to the normal. ;-)

I knew that the man had some tendencies to root for Babiš (and he has met him and talked to him) but what I saw just exceeded my expectations because the post looked just like the demagogic attacks by Babiš against all of his political opponents (and against the system itself) that is apparently enough for the bottom 1.5 million of our nation. After some opposition to the anti-communist rallies 2 weeks ago that I attended (they were sparked by the appointment of a former communist street cop with a baton – who was beating anti-communist demonstrators in 1989 – as the Parliament's supervisor of GIBS, the police for policemen), we could read:
Everyone [probably in the writer's Prague environment] is saying bad things about ANO [the movement of the billionaire Babiš, the acting prime minister] but what are the real alternatives? Who is bringing a meaningful vision? The communist party that should have been banned years ago? SPD led by the Führer of the Asian appearance? ODS with Klaus Jr who would prefer his country outside the EU and is the expert in demagogy of the most brutal kind? TOP09 and STAN which will be out of the Parliament after next elections? KDU that is making so frequent U-turns that it could have a fidget spinner in its logo? Or social democrats which consider self-employed people parasites and have grandiose plans to increase the taxes? In fact, only the technocratic Pirates are left but should they have the power to lead the whole country?
And the text continues by saying that only Babiš must be supported to guarantee the rosy future with lots of investments and other great things, Babiš cannot possibly go away because of game theory, and stuff like that.

It was just too much for me, especially because it looks plausible to me that the guy was "motivated" by Babiš to write stuff like that – and he may even coordinate what he writes with Babiš's P.R. folks. These speculations are energized by my knowledge that the father of the closest collaborator of the guy was an agent of StB, the communist secret police, just like Babiš. And maybe his own parents were also in StB, I speculated.

At any rate, speculations aside, I found pretty much every single statement in that text absolutely outrageous.

The explanations of the ludicrous statement that "ANO is the only possibility for our country" are composed of short, five-word attacks against every single competing political party and some of its visible leaders. But everyone who takes these misleading, cherry-picked, irrationally flavored screams as a basis of his political thinking is an incredible dimwit and I believe that the voting rights of these easy-to-be-manipulated people will ultimately have to be abolished because these people are too numerous and they obviously threaten the basic civilized character of our nation.

Let me go through the quoted text. ANO is the only party with a vision. The claim that ANO has a vision is just insane. As he later admits (in order to contradict himself), ANO does whatever it finds profitable for its owner Mr Babiš. (So he may be turned into an obedient guy or a devil by the external pressure, the writer later wrote.) ANO has absolutely no ideology, no ideas, no vision, except for some vague habits that Babiš has learned as a communist cadre and he will never unlearn them. We came to polling stations almost five months ago. What has the acting government (which is still without the confidence of the Parliament) achieved? Most of the "work" were the efforts to fire policemen and their supervisors who are inconvenient because they investigate Babiš's own crimes. Is that a service to our country?

When it comes to decisions that affect the country, the government recently decided to make trains free for students and pensioners; and to increase the pensions of everybody in an egalitarian (i.e. not proportional) way that is claimed to be unconstitutional by some lawyers. At any rate, these are just the most hardcore, least systemic, least wise populist decisions designed to bring Babiš an even greater number of the cheapest votes of those voters who may be bought for a doughnut.

Almost every other political party in Czechia has a much more credible vision based on some ideas. About 30 parties were running in the Parliamentary elections. They include groups that want to restore the monarchy, among other very special things. You really have many options to choose from and if some problem isn't covered by these 30 parties at all, it either means that your interests are very special (well, I surely know something about it) and you won't be able to get a sufficient number of political allies to promote it; or it means that you should run in politics and establish the 31st party. And nine parties out of these 30 – the historical record – have made it to the Parliament. How can a sane person with the basic respect to democracy say or write that there's absolutely no way to choose and people should support the "single choice" (which someone else chooses) instead?

Clearly, he has a systemic and deep psychological problem with democracy as such. He wants the one-party system and the one-dictator instead. I don't. I have fought against it and I consider the people who have fought against it to be greater or smaller heroes. I still want to trust the polls that indicate that a majority of the Czechs wants democracy to continue.

Let's look at the slogans that are meant to eliminate all the other Parliamentary parties as viable candidates. The communist party should have been banned. At some moments, I agreed (and sometimes I still agree). At others, I didn't. The main problem is that there's no canonical objective criterion that would define the "communist party that should be banned". There is a fraction of voters – let's say 15% that the commies used to get in recent, democratic decades – who simply support this kind of politics. So if someone creates a proxy party that is de facto communist, perhaps with a new name, they will see it and vote for that party instead. After all, we could say that this is exactly what happened to ANO which is the actual most powerful communist party in Czechia right now.

At any rate, commies haven't been banned (and neither was ANO whose internal rules violate the laws about the democratic character of political parties) which is why people may vote for the communist party or parties. The argument that "they should have been banned" is therefore inconsequential for a voter's decision. They just haven't been banned. Babiš and other StB agents "should have been hanged" in 1989 as well but sadly, we didn't have the courage to do so. So we must deal with the world that we actually have now and not some parallel world that could have arisen.

I think that if some parties are banned, they must be banned according to rules that are equally valid for everybody, not according to ad hoc rules. And if I imagine how such meaningful rules could be written down, ANO would have to be banned along with the communist party as well.

But some question about a "possible ban in the past" isn't what the voters and opponents of the communist party actually think about or should think about. I think it was right to keep the communists in the opposition for nearly 30 years but it was never an absolute dogma for me. There have been hints that the communists – who have grown into a bunch of polished politicians who are pretty satisfied with democracy, capitalism, and the convenient lifestyle, and wages that the new system could bring them – may actually be more compatible with the market economy and the free people than even the social democrats (or ANO). In particular, their chairman Filip – another former StB agent – has praised the self-employed people as those who are not a burden for the state. That's promising – and looks better than the proclamations by some social democrats and Babiš. So of course I am much closer to banning (or even hanging) the communists than I am to voting them but it's totally plausible that they could end up as better alternatives than some others.

SPD, the nationalist party led by Tomio Okamura, is dismissed as a party against immigration led by a Führer with the Asian geometry of his eyes. That may be amusing but to take it seriously means to be a politically illiterate cretin. First of all, Okamura is half-Czech (well, half-Moravian) so his eyes aren't quite Asian. Second of all, it's not really the eyes that his voters usually care about. It's about the behavior, the habits, and the traditions. Despite his half-Asian (Japanese and Korean) ancestry, he got totally and quickly assimilated and became a Czech, a European, and a Westerner according to his behavior. And that's what actually matters. Maybe the anti-SPD writer is a racist who primarily cares about the appearance but most of the people in SPD and their voters arguably aren't.

Again, I wouldn't vote for SPD but Okamura is an unquestionable political talent who thinks clearly, who understands much of politics, and who speaks smoothly yet in a way that is understandable to everybody. His nationalist party is called the "Party of Direct Democracy" and I actually have more serious trouble with this "direct democracy" stuff than I have with his attitudes to immigration and ethnic rights. But other people may have different opinions. Clearly, I think it should be legal for people to defend Okamura's views on the direct democracy, immigration, as well as social programs although I disagree with most of these views of Okamura's SPD.

Some reasonable people may give some positive or negative points for various skills and policies to SPD but only a complete moron may make decisions after he notices that Okamura has a half-Asian appearance. And I was just shocked that the writer basically included himself into this category of complete morons because I thought he was reasonable.

Another party that was "debunked" was ODS – the center-right party founded by ex-president Klaus. Because the party was drifting to the center, he "divorced" from his party some 10-15 years ago, I don't remember the exact date, it was gradual, anyway. With a variable degree of excitement, I have voted for ODS in every single elections to the national Parliament since 1992. These days, it's a sensible moderate right-wing party with a sufficient amount of Euroskepticism, the good old free market and low tax policies, and so on. It's just OK enough with me. The current leader Prof Petr Fiala is arguably not one of the most charismatic leaders but I don't really think it's the primary thing. There are numerous politicians in ODS who are closer to being my cup of tea, e.g. the young economist Mr Jan Skopeček or the security expert Ms Jana Černochová.

One visible character in contemporary ODS is Václav Klaus Jr, the ex-president's older son. He's the guy with the innate deformation of his face. In politics, he differs from his father in some respects. He's much more folksy and less intellectual, I think. Klaus Jr represents the small "wing" of ODS that is more assertively fighting against indoctrination at schools – Klaus Jr has been a principal and a teacher of mathematics for years – which I take as a big plus relatively to the rest of ODS. He is also the only visible ODS politician who really wants a Czechout referendum – and who actually wants to leave the EU as soon as possible. I am a Euroskeptic but I have huge doubts whether it's a wise step in any foreseeable future. At any rate, it's good that ODS is thinking and talking about this important matter because the exit from the EU surely could be a good idea under some imaginable circumstances, if not now.

But Klaus Jr is also a guy in ODS who would be willing to cooperate with Babiš – which I consider a clear minus – and in similar battles, Klaus Jr has said and written several other things that I viewed clearly negatively. He's more anti-immigration than the rest of the ODS and is therefore closer to Okamura's SPD, too. And he suggested that students shouldn't be allowed to attend political rallies – something I totally disagree with, as a matter of principle, especially because it smells just like the communist policies restricting the basic freedoms (those that actually started the Velvet Revolution). As you can see, Klaus Jr is a mixed package for me and when the political issues are sorted by their relevance, I think that I am closer to the "mainstream ODS" than to Klaus Jr, after all.

OK, Klaus Jr may be described as a populist. Be my guest. But some degree of populism is desirable because populism is just an inflated "desire to serve the people". It's absolutely crazy to dismiss ODS just because one of its politicians – a clear minority according to this point – may be described as a "populist". It's doubly crazy to dismiss ODS for these reasons in a text whose purpose is to defend the rule of Babiš who is clearly a much more brutal populist than Klaus Jr – or pretty much everyone else.

Now, TOP09 and STAN – they're the center-right but politically correct, multiculturalist parties, especially in the case of TOP09 – are dismissed because they will drop from the Parliament after the next elections. So first of all, it's absolutely unclear what will be the result of the next elections and it's sick to spread the propaganda about the "unavoidable" political future. It's also possible that TOP09 and STAN (and/or KDU) will have some coalition as they had in the past and the counting will change. Second of all, the parties' being barely above 5% isn't a good reason not to vote for them. Every voter who is at least somewhat meritocratic – and who knows what she is doing – will simply choose the party he considers best even if it had just 5.1% in the recent elections – barely above the required threshold. In fact, when a party is struggling for the 5% threshold, your vote could be more important because one vote may easily make a 5% difference in the Parliament!

So people have various reasons not to vote for TOP09 – e.g. this party's potential cooperation with Merkel's and similar policies – but the parties' being one of the smallest ones in the Parliament simply isn't a sound reason not to vote for them. I have trouble with the Russophobia and Islamophilia etc. of TOP09 but I do think that they are (and the chairman Kalousek is) one of the most credible forces defending democracy and the rule of law in Czechia and they simply have my support in that.

The Christian Democrats are eliminated because they make too many U-turns. It's a slogan that is often said and I've often repeated it myself but 1) it's not really true, 2) it's not so bad that a party is flexible. At the end, KDU is a standard party based on Christianity that is about as sensible as Bavaria's CSU – because I think that it's not as politically correct etc. as Merkel's CDU (TOP09 is closer to CDU) – and there exist lots of reasons why people support that party. Two decades ago, I may have said some hostile things about KDU as well but the "bad things" they were bringing look like paradise relatively to the threats we face today because of Babiš and his government with the socialists supported by the communists that is being built.

So like in the previous cases, I am terrified by his will to write a stupid, short, hostile meme and think and pretend that this is a good reason to eliminate KDU and all the other parties from the list that a voter should consider. This behavior is clearly a step towards the one-party system. The opposition would be de facto banned if Babiš had a network of useful idiots bullying all voters of the remaining parties who can't possibly be right because of an idiotic five-word hostile meme. The similarity to the communists' treatment of the opposition forces during the totalitarian era is way too obvious. They would write that Havel drank beer and his ancestors collaborated with the Nazis – and that was supposed to end the debate. Sorry, it shouldn't have ended the debate and it didn't end the debate, and neither will the stupid pro-ANO memes.

Social democrats are dismissed because "they consider self-employed people to be parasites". This is partly true, partly false. Social democrats were born from the labor unions etc. and they're party of the employees. About two people in social democracy – not quite the top-tier officials – have said that the self-employed people are parasites of a sort (which obviously irritates me a lot). Some apologies followed. But they weren't the only ones. Babiš himself – who is being defended – has basically said the same thing. Small businesses are useless, all of them are thieves, and so on. So how can a sensible person eliminate social democrats because of this proclamation – in a text that roots for Babiš who has actually made the very same comment and, in fact, he has made it much more aggressively? The answer is that you can't, of course. You must be a plain dishonest demagogue to do such a thing.

Many social democrats are just OK with the business, with self-employed people, craftsmen, and other things. So aside from the fact that it hides that Babiš has made the same sin, in more brutal ways, the statement about the social democrats is a gross oversimplification. Also, some voters clearly agree with these hostile comments against the self-employed people, anyway. It's silly to suggest that all voters would share the same opinion about all these questions. Only a tiny fraction of the voters may agree in all these questions naturally; and if a large group of voters agrees about all of them, it's because it's a group of brainwashed manipulated sheep.

Now, the Pirates are painted as a technocratic party that is the only possibility aside from ANO. Weird. The writer has supported the Pirates financially but now we learn that Babiš could be better, after all. This seems to bring us some evidence backing the theory that the Pirates are a youth organization of ANO – perhaps artificially created by Babiš himself (well, the strong evidence against the theory is that the Pirates still refuse to support Babiš's government at this point). At any rate, the idea that ANO and the Pirates should be considered as two most promising parties in the Parliament looks absolutely nutty to me. It's a weird combination of two different enough parties without any ideological roots or broader ideas about the right way to organize the society that moreover differ from each other substantially that I believe that the person who picks ANO and Pirates as the top spots must be absolutely dumb in his political thinking. Or financially or otherwise motivated to emit similar statements.

On top of that, we learn that Babiš won't leave anywhere. Oh, really? We're a borderline banana republic just because of the fact that this criminal isn't sitting in the prison yet. But even if he weren't arrested, there are tons of reasons why his problematic business life and his embarrassing record from the totalitarian era should be enough to push him out of politics. (The writer tried to whitewash Babiš in both matters – it doesn't matter if someone were a communist secret agent [wow] and the subsidy fraud is not an issue because $2 million is a negligible amount of money. Well, it's negligible relatively to a country's GDP but it's high enough to place one scammer to the prison for 10 years and the laws clearly say that this is exactly what must happen.) And even people who have had no real scandals have left politics. Why should Babiš be here forever and never differently, if I refer to the communist slogan about the friendship with the Soviet Union? Does the writer really believe this garbage? Maybe he admires Babiš as a divine entity but for many of us, Babiš is just a pile of crap that is threatening our freedoms and the Western lifestyle.

I have voted for Zeman, an ally of Babiš's, partly because of my estimate that it would take just months before Babiš is eliminated, ideally placed in a prison. But even if he's not, I still hope – and believe – that he's just another politician who may be voted out of the office in the next elections or the elections afterwards. Fatalist sentences such as "Babiš will be here to stay" scare me. They suggest that his supporters really seem to plan a new totalitarian system where it won't be possible to change the government anymore. Thanks for your offer but I would surely prefer a civil war – people's efforts to try to do everything to cut the necks of all those who would try to establish a new totalitarian system.

Maybe the guy wasn't "motivated" by Babiš to write all these naive things. Maybe he really believes these weird things – and randomly donates money to Pirates, Drahoš, and support for Babiš because he's even more politically clueless than these three things.

At any rate, I was greatly disappointed by those statements that were just like the junk that attacks the very pillars of the democratic system (and every politician who isn't just an obedient puppet of the owner of ANO) that Babiš emits every other day. People have different opinions and they must be allowed to have different opinions. They do vote for different parties and must be allowed to keep on voting for different parties. And politicians and parties may be replaced by others after the next elections and there's no "law of Nature" that would say that the current acting prime minister has to stay. Babiš – and his fans such as the author of the text above – seem to fight against this basic axiomatic system of the Parliamentary democracy which worries me a lot. I hope that despite our differences, all of us who don't actually want to establish a new dictatorship will team up and successfully defeat the threat.

By the way, I am not really a chronic petitioner but after that Facebook shock, I was doing some searches and found a petition named One Million Moments that wants Babiš to resign due to his criminal investigation and the communist secret police past. The word "million" in the name refers to the ambition of the organizer to collect 1 million signatures (each of whom dedicates a moment to sign it). They were mostly joking but after some 2+ weeks, they already have 214,000 which is impressive and the million no longer seems like science-fiction. The most well-known anti-totalitarian petition in 1989, "Several Sentences", had only collected 40,000 signatures. Of course, it was harder during communism and before the Internet but despite these differences, 214,000 in 2+ weeks is a lot.

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