Freedom and competition are always good, which is why the two major Right organisations in Australia have brought out key European crackpots at the same time. The CIS has Thilo Sarrazin, amateur geneticist and campaigner against inter-racial s-x, at its Big Ideas gabfest, while the IPA has the wacky Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic and anti-global warming campaigner.
Klaus is prized by the Right, as a champion of freedom, promoting free-markets, etc, wherever he goes. He’s prized by the media too, for generating exciting vision. While in Chile, signing a declaration, he pocketed an expensive pen, the event captured on video, going viral on YouTube. In Australia he refused to go through parliamentary security, although that event appears to be mired in confusion.
What he’s best at though,and wheeled around for, is for labelling climate change as a fraud and Greens as the new communists. Klaus, an economist, is satisfied that any scientific arguments for climate change are “junk” and that no reputable scientist believes them, which will be news. In denouncing the Greens as the new communists, he uses the same negating rhetoric that is part of the cult of hate directed against democratic Left movements these days. Here he is quoted in a Miranda Devine story:
“Twenty years ago we still felt threatened by the remnants of communism. This is really over,” Klaus said.
“I feel threatened now, not by global warming — I don’t see any — (but) by the global warming doctrine, which I consider a new dangerous attempt to control and mastermind my life and our lives, in the name of controlling the climate or temperature …”
He said environmentalists had been arguing for decades that we should reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, using various farcical ploys from the exhaustion of natural resources to the threat of “imminent mass poverty and starvation for billions”.
Those same environmentalists shamelessly talk now about dangerous global warming.
“They don’t care about resources or poverty or pollution.
“They hate us, the humans. They consider us dangerous and sinful creatures who must be controlled by them.
“I used to live in a similar world called communism …”
Yes, indeed he did. And rather well. Klaus presents himself as a brave dissident against communism, but he made his accommodations with it and then some. He played no role in the Prague Spring — sufficient to attract the attention of authorities — and while others were going to labour camps, was permitted to go the US, to do postgraduate study at Cornell, the sure sign of a trusty.
When he returned in the early 1970s, there was a moment of apparent dissent to which Klaus will often point to — he was labelled an “anti-socialist malcontent” and barred from various academic bodies. Other dissidents similarly excluded, were consigned to factory jobs in the backblocks. Klaus wasn’t one of them — instead he went to work for the Czech state bank, eventually rising to a senior position.
Thus, for two decades, this lonely voice against the “new communism” prospered well under the old communism, serving the economic needs of a Marxist-Leninist state, and travelling abroad frequently, the privilege accorded to a loyal apparatchik. The ’70s progressed. Just as many dissidents were being allowed to return to mainstream life, charter 77 came along — the protest against the lack of democracy and free speech, sparked by the repression of a rock band. Thousands faced the agonising choice of again going up against a monolithic state. Most did it, facing a new round of prison and internal exile.
Klaus didn’t — indeed for many Czechs he’s become a positive symbol of those who didn’t dissent. As a Czech commentator explained to Radio Free Europe in 2007, on the 30th anniversary:
Frantisek Sulc, an editor for the daily Lidove noviny, says most Czechs probably don’t feel guilty for not having signed Charter 77. Instead, he says, they probably just don’t like it that a small group of dissidents — only about 2000 signed Charter 77 — seem to get all the credit for helping to bring down communism.
Also worth nothing, Sulc says, is that with Havel out of office, very few if any current political leaders signed Charter 77, including President Vaclav Klaus.
“[Klaus] really mirrors the feeling of, I would say, most Czechs,” Sulc says. “That is, ‘We didn’t do anything bad, we didn’t hurt anybody, we just tried to survive and tried to live’. And now, there’s a group of the few people, a small group, who is now taking all the benefits and the heroism for putting down the communist regime.
Could Klaus have chosen not to work so directly with a communist state? Others did. Here’s Jefim Fistein, the only non-Czech signatory of the charter:
While in Prague, Jefim worked as an independent translator, despite his training in journalism. Says Jefim, “Although I was trained in journalism, I didn’t want to work in Czechoslovakia because I didn’t want to serve the regime in any way.”
Klaus, by contrast, devoted his talents to ensuring its continued viability. Having faced a genuinely totalitarian enemy, with the capacity to harm, he largely ducked the fight; facing green parties and activists using democratic and peaceful means he won’t debate them — he simply denounces them. Purporting to be a foe of communism, he instead brings all the techniques required for getting ahead in a torpid Brezhnevite state to an open society. Simple criticism doesn’t work — your opponent must be labelled an enemy of the people, a wrecker, an anti-human, in order to be defeated.
Poetic really, that the Czechs should present us with two examples of humanity, under the name Vaclav — one, Havel, who would serve several prison terms, and suffer two decades of harassment, only to emerge into post-communist Europe as a social democrat and an early proponent of Green politics, a man renowned for his generosity, politeness, breadth of thought, and humour; and Klaus, the notoriously rude state bank loyalist who wouldn’t stick his neck out, who denounces democrats as Stalinists, but made his peace with the latter; who vowed to oppose the EU, but signed the anti-democratic Lisbon treaty without a squeak; who purported to stand for the freedom of small nations, yet supported the Russian invasion of Georgia to the hilt.
And how inevitable that the IPA would choose the latter over the former. For who can doubt that the think tank’s bright boys and girls are, above all, conformists, who, in other circumstances would slide easily into the same sort of accommodations as Klaus, the grey roosts of apparatchik culture, and do Marxian calculations of the falling rate of profit to eight decimal places as eagerly as they read Hayek and Von Mises. After all, it’s easy to pretend you believe in freedom if you arrange it so that you never meet anyone who really stood up for it.