Czech President Warns Against “Europeanism”
From the desk of Paul Belien
The Brussels Journal
August 28, 2005
The most impressive speech during the recent Regional Meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society was undoubtedly Czech President Václav Klaus’s “View from a Post-Communist Country in a Predominantly Post-Democratic Europe.” Klaus has been an MPS member since 1990 and likes to attend the MPS meetings. Though his political obligations (as Prime Minister from 1992 to 1997 and President since 2002) do not always allow him to attend, he combined his presence at the MPS meeting in Reykjavik with an official visit to the Republic of Iceland.
Václav Klaus President Klaus spoke last Monday, warning for the new “substitute ideologies of socialism” such as “Europeanism” and “NGOism.” These “isms” are currently threatening Europe. “In the first decade of the 21st century we should not concentrate exclusively on socialism,” he said.
“There is a well-known saying that we should not fight the old, already non-existent battles. I find this point worth stressing even if I do not want to say that socialism is definitely over. There are, I believe, at least two arguments, which justify looking at other ideologies as well. The first is the difference between the hard and soft version of socialism and the second is the emergence of new ‘isms’ based on similar illiberal or antiliberal views.”
Václav Klaus is an indomitable defender of liberty, Europe’s only leader in the mould of the formidable Lady Thatcher. Though communism, the “hard version of socialism” is probably over this has not automatically led “to a system we would like to have and live in,” he said.
“Fifteen years after the collapse of communism. I am afraid more than at the beginning of its softer (or weaker) version, of social-democratism, which has become – under different names, e.g. the welfare state or the soziale Marktwirtschaft – the dominant model of the economic and social system of current Western civilization. It is based on big and patronizing government, on extensive regulating of human behavior, and on large-scale income redistribution.”
[See, e.g., V. I. Lenin, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, (Foreign Languages Press, Peking (c) 1965), at: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/L97p(249x312).GIF&imgrefurl=http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/TT05.html&h=312&w=249&sz=9&hl=en&start=3&tbnid=MyVOy8MeAhq96M:&tbnh=117&tbnw=93&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dsocial%2Bdemocratism%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff ].
He urged the MPS members and all freedom loving Europeans “to understand this contemporary version of world-wide socialism, because our old concepts may omit some of the crucial features of what is around us just now. We may even find out that the continuous use of the term socialism can be misleading.”
“Illiberal ideas are becoming to be formulated, spread and preached under the name of ideologies or “isms”, which have – at least formally and nominally – nothing in common with the old-style, explicit socialism. These ideas are, however, in many respects similar to it. There is always a limiting (or constraining) of human freedom, there is always ambitious social engineering, there is always an immodest ‘enforcement of a good’ by those who are anointed (T. Sowell) on others against their will, there is always the crowding out of standard democratic methods by alternative political procedures, and there is always the feeling of superiority of intellectuals and of their ambitions.”
As substitutes of socialism, Václav Klaus cited “environmentalism (with its Earth First, not Freedom First principle), radical humanrightism (based – as de Jasay precisely argues – on not distinguishing rights and rightism), the ideology of ‘civic society’ (or communitarism), which is nothing less than one version of post-Marxist collectivism which wants privileges for organized groups, and in consequence, a refeudalization of society […], multiculturalism, feminism, apolitical technocratism (based on the resentment against politics and politicians), internationalism (and especially its European variant called Europeanism) and a rapidly growing phenomenon I call NGOism.”
“These alternative ideologies […] are successful especially where there is no sufficient resistance to them, where they find a fertile soil for their flourishing, where they find a country (or the whole continent) where freedom (and free markets) have been heavily undermined by long lasting collectivistic dreams and experiences and where intellectuals have succeeded in getting and maintaining a very strong voice and social status. I have in mind, of course, rather Europe, than America.
[BUT, FOLLOWING THE NOVEMBER 2006 U.S. CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS, IT WOULD APPEAR THAT AMERICA, AS WELL, UNDER DEMOCRATIC PARTY RULE, EMBRACES 'EUROPEANISM' AND 'SOFT SOCIALISM']
It is Europe where we witness the crowding out of democracy by post democracy, where the EU dominance replaces democratic arrangements in the EU member countries, where [some people] do not see the dangers of empty Europeanism and of a deep (and ever deeper) but only bureaucratic unification of the whole European continent. They applaud the growing formal opening of the continent, but do not see that the elimination of some of the borders without actual liberalization of human activities ‘only’ shifts governments upwards, which means to the level where there is no democratic accountability and where the decisions are made by politicians appointed by politicians, not elected by citizens in free elections.
The European constitution was an attempt to set up and consolidate such a system in a legal form. It was an attempt to constitute it. It is, hence, more than important that the French and Dutch referenda made an end to it, that they interrupted the seemingly irreversible process towards an ‘ever-closer Europe’.”
Václav Klaus called for a European political system not to be “destroyed by a postmodern interpretation of human rights with its stress on positive rights, with its dominance of group rights and entitlements over individual rights and responsibilities, and with its denationalization of citizenship.” He explicitly opposed the “weakening of democratic institutions, which have irreplaceable roots exclusively on the territory of the states,” as well as “the ‘multiculturally’ caused loss of a needed coherence of various social entities” and the “continental-wide rent-seeking made possible when decision-making is done at a level which is very far from the individual citizens and where the dispersed voters are even more dispersed than in sovereign countries.”
He also opposed “excessive government regulation” and “huge subsidies to privileged or protected industries and firms.” He warned that Europe’s social system “must not be wrecked by all imaginable kinds of disincentives, by more than generous welfare payments, by large scale redistribution, by many forms of government paternalism.” Instead, Europe has to “be based on freedom, personal responsibility, individualism, natural caring for others and genuine moral conduct of life.”
“[Europe] is a system of relations and relationships of individual countries, which must not be based on false internationalism, on supranational organizations and on misunderstanding of globalization and of externalities, but which will be based on good neighborliness of free, sovereign countries and on international pacts and agreements.”
President Klaus’s speech was spot on. One rarely hears a politician outlining in such poignant and clear words the problems of our times that others dare not mention out of fear of being “politically incorrect.” It reminded us of Margaret Thatcher’s seminal “Bruges Speech” on 20 September 1988.
Mr. Klaus’s Reykjavik MPS speech of 22 August can be found in full on his website. The Brussels Journal has recorded the speech on audiotape from within the conference room. It can be downloaded here (see "attachments" at the bottom of this article).