The contemporary beginning of Czech McCarthyism

The new Czech right-wing government is not just one of the many governments that have taken power over the past 30 years. It recalls the beginnings of McCarthyism in the US in the 40s.

The new Czech government, which consists of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Mayors and Independents (STAN), the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), the Liberal Democratic Party (TOP 09), and the Czech Pirate Party, has a very broad concept of the enemy. In particular, it has a very broad concept of anti-communism, which it uses to criticise not only communists but also others on the left, as well as those in the centre of the political spectrum and even on the moderate right. In fact, it is not anti-communism but rather sectarian politics that mean the government tolerates nothing but its own version of right-wing politics. In foreign policy, it takes militant positions against socialist China and Russia in particular but does not limit itself to these targets. It considers anyone who does not criticise China and Russia to be an enemy. In public debates, members of the government and its media and professional supporters condemn any positive or neutral statements about any aspect of these countries. The allied media primitively accuses speakers of promoting totalitarianism for giving speeches about standard international relations that merely mention China and Russia.

1990s: Transition of foreign policies

In the 1990s, the Czech Republic was dominated by the neoliberal policies of Prime Minister Václav Klaus. Klaus carried out a wild privatisation of state property, with many public properties being broken up and stolen, but he was pragmatic in foreign policy and trade. He wanted to do business with all the relevant countries of the world, i.e., with European countries, with the US, and also with Russia, China and others. When the government of Social Democratic Prime Minister Miloš Zeman took office in 1998, it rejected Klaus’s shock therapy, pursued more social policies, and continued good diplomatic and trade relations with all countries, including Russia and China. Subsequent right-wing governments have also cooperated with all major countries, although there have been some occasional, extraordinary lapses. The same can be said of the last eight years of the centre-left government, when relations with China have additionally improved.

Recent radical turnaround in foreign policy

However, last autumn, after the House of Commons elections, there was a radical turnaround. The new right-wing government established, as part of its main policy, measures that had previously been exceptions at most. The militarisation, securitisation and confrontation of foreign policy towards Russia and China are currently visible in two cases in particular. Firstly, in the case of the Ukraine, the Czech government is taking the toughest stance towards Russia and sending military material to support the Kiev government. Secondly, it is politically boycotting the Winter Olympics in Beijing and is sharply criticising China for numerous reasons. These are just examples; the government is taking a hard ideological stance towards China and Russia in general. Representatives of the ruling parties also harshly criticise various politicians and governments that do not promote their McCarthyist version of capitalism.

The government is following Trump’s anti-China policy, looking for excuses and trying to stir up controversy at every opportunity. Hostile ideology comes first. Diplomatic relations, trade, tourism, research, education and culture are undermined and the government is ready to restrict them. The Trumpist chaos is supported by the fact that the five parties in the governing coalition include the Pirate Party (with influential posts, albeit with only four MPs). The party may have supporters across the political spectrum from left to right, but its leadership is right-wing.

With the support of the intelligence services, Czech politics and institutions are being securitised and militarised. For example, further support for increased arms spending, support for strengthening US troops in Eastern Europe, confrontational politics, etc. For another year, the government will be corrected by President Zeman before the presidential elections in January 2023. Who will then replace Zeman in his policy of multiple azimuths, i.e., in cooperation not only with Western countries, but also with Russia, China and many others? No such strong personality is on the horizon. In contrast, the new right-wing government is practicing a one-sided West-centric policy, and more precisely a policy of fawning adherence to the US. But often this strained right-wing policy is very different from that of Western countries. Such a policy is damaging to Czech national interests and the international policies of many countries. Such ridiculous fawning over the US is not even beneficial to the superpower themselves.

Change in institutions and personnel purge

The self-confidence and lust for power of the politicians of the five parties and their supporters after winning the elections caused an extraordinary personnel purge to begin even before the official appointment of the government. This change in the political atmosphere has permeated into other institutions and society. The pressure on the director of the Czech police, which led to the announcement of his resignation, is just one example. The head of global studies, who led extensive interdisciplinary research, was also dismissed. Then there were other personnel changes in ministries and other state institutions, such as the management of the financial directorate.

This government is setting a new approach after 30 years, prioritising a strained ideology that drowns out everything. Let us hope that some foreign politicians will contribute by example and cultivate the current Czech government at least partially. Perhaps unpopular governmental actions will soon trigger mass demonstrations and early elections that will bring an end to this government.

This article was published as part of The Barricade’s collaboration with the Transform! Network, a network of 39 European organizations from 23 countries that are active in the fields of political education and critical scientific analysis, and is the recognized political foundation corresponding to the Party of the European Left. This article was published at Transform!Europe on 16 February 2022.

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