A Czech dictator in the wings? Well, you’re the expert
Today’s daily Final Word commentary from Prague-based Fleet Sheet English news briefing service for the Czech Republic offers a vision of the political future, which is either darkly paranoid or very tongue-in-cheek:
” For at least 40years, the West has been on a path to self-destruction, and politicians and business leaders have proven that they are unwilling or unable to take reasonable steps to reverse the trend. … in time of crisis.. [p]eople will take to the streets in increasing numbers, but the result will not be less theft by the criminal elite or better use of tax money. The political and business elite will instead respond with bludgeons, guns and, if necessary, tanks. The West is headed toward some form of dictatorship…”
In the coming days we are promised, it’ll explore several possibilities for who the next Czech dictator will be. Even with a rash of urban riots up and down the UK, I don’t share that apocalyptic V for Vendetta vision, nor do I think even that the Czech Republic is a dictatorship in the making, whatever the dubious inclination of some of its political and business elites.
Still, it’ll be way to fill the ‘cucumber season’, the notorious summer hiatus in Czech political and journalistic life when nothing much goes on and overproduction of cucumbers or mushroom picking conditions force their way on to the front pages faute de mieux.
But hang on, if we’ll be hearing about the next dictator, who were the earlier ones? The Czech lands have been ruled from foreign capitals by Franz Josef II, Hitler and Stalin at various times, but do any of them qualify as Czech? The country had an communist one party regime and various communist party bosses, but power was rarely concentrated in the hands of individual ruler, more Party and nomenklatura institutions and elites.
Klement Gottwald, Czechoslovakia’s ‘First Worker President’ is probably the best candidate, but even he had to manoeuvre between party and secret police factions and Moscow and might well have got the chop during de-Stalinisation if he had not opportunely died (of natural causes aggravated by heavy drinking) in 1953.
So what does this totalitarian history have to do with supposed authoritarian tendencies in today’s CR? The answer seem to be very little. I will, as ever, read the Last Word with interest to see who is in the frame for the El Presidente role .
I suspect Václav Klaus and a rogue’s gallery of other, admittedly fairly dislikable figures, will be lined up for our delectation: you can’t really go wrong bashing Czech political and business elites, even in the most hyperbolic terms.
But whatever his moral and political limitations, Klaus ain’t no Gottwald and anchored in middle of Europe and in the EU with all the democratic basic chugging along the country is not going to slide into dictatorship, but remain marooned in grimy and dysfunctional democratic politics.
The ‘next dictator’ is thus Mr or Ms Nobody.
But, of course, all democratic systems do have authoritarian currents running through them. And, in the CR I think the most powerful of these currents is not populism, extremism or dodgy politicians with whacky right-wing figures in their entourage like President Klaus or certain government ministers.
Transplant today’s Czech Republic to the middle of Latin America or some more unstable geo-political or historical climate and you would find that the ‘next dictator’ would be some mild mannered civil servant catapulted to power, running a technocratic caretaker government that runs and runs.
Such an úřednická vláda (‘government of officials’) ran the country to great acclaim under the Head of the Czech Statistical Office for , Jan Fischer (now Vice Presidnet of the EBRD) over a year in 2009-10. Admittedly he did so at the behest of the country’s political paries. Would many people have cared if he had slipped the leash and gone on? Or gone into politics with a new party?
As the Peruvian experience with mildy mannered agricultural expert and academic Alberto Fujimori, it’s the quiet, grey technocratic ones you need to watch, not the big mouthed party-political bruisers who normally win elections.
Certainly, perhaps in the Czech Republic
“Vy jste ale odborník”, people often say. ” Well, you’re the expert”.
The real translation is “Say or do what the hell you like. I’ll accept it.”