The Need for a New Wende: Conflict Within AfD

The following commentary from former Czech president Václav Klaus concerns the recent differences of opinion within AfD, the new anti-EU party in Germany.

JLH, who translated the piece, includes this prefatory note:

This text appeared on Václav Klaus’ blog, in the June 16 issue of WELT and in the new journal, Politfakt. GoV readers will recall that the support of some Ossi members of AfD for PEGIDA came to light shortly before a monitory dressing-down from a Wessi member of the party for imperiling the party’s western prospects. This brought the intercession from Lucke mentioned here.

In the past, GoV has also recorded some of Klaus’s blunt assessments of the EU and its tendency to tyranny. Considering the very different personalities of Jaroslav Hasek, who cocked a snook at the Habsburg Empire, Václav Havel who slipped Czechoslovakia out of the bonds of the Soviets, and Klaus himself versus the EU, one wonders if the Czechs have acquired some kind of democracy virus that is resistant to the serum of trending authoritocracy.

The translation from Politically Incorrect:

Václav Klaus: The Ruinous AfD Split

On Monday, May 18th, the Speaker of Alternative for Germany [Alternative für Deutschland, AFD], Bernd Lucke, sent the “members and supporters of the AfD” an open letter. Co-signers were Hans-Olaf Henkel and Joachim Starbatty. I have feared such a development. A new, not yet firmly structured party — more a movement than a party — is splitting.

We have had similar experiences here in Prague. Shortly after the Wende, a similar conflict took place in the civic movement Obcanske Forum. There, too, two trends collided. On one side were those who wanted a defined political party with a clear profile. On the other, were those who hoped for an all-encompassing movement which would, however, have no clear position.

It is nothing new. It has been part of the nature of political parties since their origin in the 19th century. The Czech writer Jaroslav Hasek — author of the world-famous Good Soldier Schweyk — amused himself in the 1920s by founding the “Party of Measured Progress in the Context of the Laws.” I see something similar in the May 18th letter: caution. All dissidents will be marked as radicals, sectarians and fundamental opponents, who are allegedly working toward a coup.

I was not alone in having great hopes for the success of AfD. We all know that a successful correction of the undemocratic all-European superstate, which the EU has turned into, can only come from one of the big countries of the EU. It would come best from Germany, the lead author of the present form of European integration. It is also clear that the impulse to a new Wende must come from a new political grouping, which cannot so easily be labeled as tawdry populism.

In this, the distinguished circle of professors around Bernd Lucke succeeded brilliantly. They even won some seats in the European Parliament. With this success, however, the trouble started. Their relocation to Brussels began to distance some leading politicians of the AfD from their voters and fellow party members.

We Czechs understand this very well from our own experiences. We too had people who wanted to be on the right, without appearing to be rightists. They wanted to be able to criticize from the sidelines without formulating radical suggestions. They wanted to be in the limelight, but also feared the fate of people like Thilo Sarrazin, who has been ruthlessly shut out by the German establishment. They wanted to mix into politics without getting their hands dirty. They understood that they would have to become full-time politicians, but really didn’t like the idea.

When Bernd Lucke’s letter speaks of a dangerous “coup” in the party, he is indicating that there are people in the AfD who want to take it in a different direction, and that they want to take the party away from him. That, too, is strongly reminiscent of the Czechia of the 1990s. Václav Havel also had the feeling that we had taken the Citizens’ Forum from him. But no one took anything from him. People took the Citizens’ Forum seriously and it happened that ordinary people joined this organization. That did not fit the concept of our elitist dissidents of that time.

When I see in this letter that AfD ought to be a party that is “realistic, constructive, not just conservative but also liberal and social,” I conclude that it must be a party that simultaneously represents everything and nothing. At the end of the letter, Lucke writes that AfD is to be an “un-ideological, realistically and constructively working big-tent party (“Volkspartei”) for the middle of society.”

My comment on that is sharp:

  • wanting to be an un-ideological party is an absurdity, a contradiction in terms;
  • “working realistically and constructively” sounds good, but indicates an interest in concentrating on working within the existing system. Seen from the outside, it seems that it is still impossible not to conform to the system in Germany;
  • being an all-inclusive party is not the same as being a citizens’ party;
  • what sense does it make to orient a political party toward the “middle of society”? There is nothing in the middle. The middle of society is an abstract concept. There are no people there, no potential voters.
  • But maybe it is all different. Maybe the party will advance the solution. Maybe it’s not an end, but a chance at a new beginning.

3 thoughts on “The Need for a New Wende: Conflict Within AfD

  1. Strange that “Wessis” (West Germans) should get so worked up about the presence of Pegida… When it’s their part of Germany that’s been most exposed to the Religion of Peace. Is this some magic love affair that they’re having with that Religion’s Peaceful followers? Or is the reason something else?

    Given that the founder of pi-news, the main Counterjihad website, is from North Rhine-Westphalia, one of the most Westerly (and culturally-enriched) states, and given that it seems not many ethnic Germans are prepared to send their kids to an enriched school in Berlin-Kreuzberg, this would suggest thatt the love affair is hardly universal. So why should Pegida have such a lack of support in Western states, and elicit such shock and horror whenever they become involved in something? Would any Germans reading this have any ideas?

  2. The Czechs have had a freedom virus since Jan Hus; I daresay the democracy one is a mutation! Pity it’s not more contagious.

  3. Speaking as a descendent of Hussites (all of my great grandparents on my father’s side came from a village that became “Hussite” in 1387) I agree that the “freedom virus” had religious (Christian) origins. Those who didn’t like that development, put it all on Hus, who indeed deserves a lot of credit, but there were several revivals before his time. According to Broadbent in “The Pilgrim Church” justification by faith was initially preached in Bohemia by a group that called themselves the “Poor Men of Lyons” around 1100. Hus was invited to preach in Bethlehem Chapel (basically a large preaching hall that could seat 3000 that was dedicated to the preaching of the Bible) by the trustees, and did a very impressive job. He was a Roman Catholic priest, and also Rector of the Czech section of Charles University in Prague (which also had a German section). Note that a preaching hall dedicated to the Bible, was already in existence when Hus came along. Anyway, Hus was burned at the stake by the council of Constance, which also declared an internal crusade against Bohemia as punishment for harboring Hus. In other words, they wanted to do to Bohemia what Innocent III did to the Cathers in what is now the south of France some two hundred years earlier. A subgroup of the Hussites called the Taborites, lead by a royal bodyguard who had had the job of escorting the Queen of Bohemia when she frequently went to hear Hus’ preaching, Jan Ziska, succeeded in beating off a total of 6 internal crusades over a seven year period. The way most history books put it was that “Hus’ followers started a war.” A lot of the stuff that you will read in history books about that period, and the subsequent events sustains that level of accuracy. Anyway, the Taborite commander who succeded Ziska after he died of the plague decided to make peace. The peace accomplished what the six internal crusades couldn’t. Thereafter it was illegal to be Protestant in Bohemia (and Moravia) as well as the rest of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the Edict of Toleration in 1789. Then one could be Protestant if one agreed to be either Presbyterian or Lutheran. The Czech Protestants, (including my ancestors) opted for Presbyterian.
    In any case, the Czech Protestants although a small minority, did have a lot to do with the founding of Czechoslovakia after World War I. Enough so that the Catholic Church tended to be against that Republic, even though Czech Catholics were also heavily involved in the process. My aforementioned great grandparents were in Minnesota by 1874. They clapped and cheered and threw their Yankee dollars into the hat when the Czech Nationalists came through in 1916, but that was about the limit of their involvement.

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