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.