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August 15, 2022



Commentary: Czech Social Democrats sink to the level of ultra-nationalists with proposal to cut funding to NGOs working with minorities

7.12.2020 8:54
Collage by František Kostlán (2020)
Collage by František Kostlán (2020)

The Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) is continuing its free-fall further and further in the direction of the extreme right. After the departure of the pro-Putin, xenophobic MP Jaroslav Foldyna from the party, it seemed the Social Democrats might be returning to their normal positions, but their lack of values is leading them further into the depths of racism and xenophobia. 

Currently the ČSSD has baldly joined the ranks of Czech MP Tomio Okamura ("Freedom and Direct Democracy - SPD"), who has been doing this kind of politics for a long time. At first the Social Democrats refused to support the Government's draft budget, but changed their mind to say they would agree to it on one condition - and then exploited the populist shouting about ending financing for those nonprofit organizations that they claim are currently unnecessary.    

During the negotiations on the budget in the Chamber of Deputies, the ČSSD is now echoing Okamura's SPD, saying it wants to take money away from all nonprofit organizations that are a) not involved with sports and b) not aiding victims of the novel coronavirus pandemic. They apparently believe these criteria would cut funding to the organizations assisting different minority groups or advocating for their interests.

Nonprofits whose experts express opposition to politicians would also be deprived of funding. Professional sports clubs in basketball, football and ice hockey, which already receive most of the Czech financing designated for NGOs in the first place, would lose none of it under the existing proposal.  

A viral pandemic of grudges against nonprofits

The accompanying resolution on the budget that was proposed in the lower house for approval by vice-chair Roman Onderka (ČSSD) asks the Government to "direct all currently available subsidy funds from the state budget of the Czech Republic for 2021 exclusively to the support of health, social and economic care for the victims of the pandemic and for vulnerable target groups." He had previously said the cuts would not affect all nonprofits, just "those not providing aid to combating the pandemic".  

Financing to support health care services, social services and sports would not change. "During the current crisis situation, we consider it incorrect for the state not to concentrate its resources on the biggest threat. During the pandemic, a significant part of the funds earmarked for non-profit organizations should be temporarily redirected to support health care and vulnerable groups. Those funds should go to combating the pandemic, aiding the economically most afflicted groups in the population, (...) to sports, culture and support for science," Onderka said during the negotiations on the budget in the Chamber of Deputies. 

The biggest nonprofit in the Czech Republic in terms of drawing income from the state budget is the Football Association of the Czech Republic. "I'd still support sports, because any doctor will tell you that you need to play sports and breathe, it's one of the preventive measures," Onderka told the national daily Deník N.  

Amateur athletes who play sports just for their own health are not the same as the members of the Slavia or Sparta professional football clubs, though. In any event, through their support for sports, the authors of the budget intend to support the privately-owned professional clubs that already make enormous amounts of money - or to be precise, the associations and societies that the professional clubs have established in order tap the state budget. 

If the ČSSD were serious about just supporting those nonprofits that are delivering aid during the pandemic, then they would not be supporting these sports subsidies, because it is exactly sports clubs that are taking the biggest slice of the common pie while doing nothing at all to assist anybody during the pandemic. Evidently this is about a different pandemic - the pandemic of grudges against nonprofits of a certain kind, a pandemic that is spreading among more than one political entity here.

Okamura and the "decent people"

The spread of this other pandemic can be seen from the fact that Onderka has airily joined in with the sentiments of Okamura and his customary populist/xenophobic ranting. Speaking ahead of Onderka during the debate in the Chamber of Deputies, Okamura proposed cutting funding to the Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU), or to People in Need

"The governing movement of ANO, the ČSSD, and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) will be paying millions next year as well to nonprofit organizations supporting immigration into the Czech Republic instead of giving that money to our decent people. The SPD disagrees with that," Okamura posted to Facebook. 

Onderka's recent moves show Okamura's allegation no longer applies with respect to the ČSSD. Addressing the lower house, Okamura reiterated what he has said a thousand times before on different occasions, such as:  "The first thing is that the Government refuses to cut unnecessary spending on matters that yield nothing for decent people during the current crisis. On the one hand, the Government pays money to political non-profit organizations supporting migration to the Czech Republic; purchases expensive foreign military equipment, thereby supporting much more advanced Western economies during the current crisis; sends Czech troops to combat missions to Central Africa and Afghanistan ... while on the other hand, the Government does not have enough money to support decent citizens. That's wrong."

Only God can tell who the "decent citizens" even are whom Okamura is calling to action here, citizens who apparently are meant to be racists and xenophobes uninterested in sufficiently defending their own country and unwilling to get their hands dirty combating terrorism in various countries, including Afghanistan. Such citizens don't seem "decent" to me - they seem incompetent. 

The Okamura and Onderka boy band

A Social Democrat, a real one professing social democratic values, would once have stayed two meters away from a xenophobic piece of lint like Okamura at all times and would have worn a respirator in his presence at the very least. Currently, the Social Democrats and Okamura are burning with desire to destroy the nonprofits commenting on policy and taking political action here because these parties believe that such voices must be pushed into the background when they criticize politicians, aid refugees and other immigrants, and even go so far as to assist Romani people, which in the eyes of these "decent people" is the height of liberal nonsense. 

The Okamura and Onderka boy band is a sign of our times, of the chaos reigning when it comes to values, of the fact that the previous rules no longer apply, and that democracy and human rights have become objects of hatred. One proxy for the domestic and foreign enemies that these parties require has become the nonprofit organizations that, through their competence and their knowledge, are able to refute these politicians' absurdities and lies and to interfere with those who favor authoritarian ways of governing over pluralistic ones.  

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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