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May 16, 2022



Commentary: Czech Social Democrats have to choose between democracy and racism

25.1.2019 17:25
Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna appeared on the Czech Television program
Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna appeared on the Czech Television program "You Have the Floor" (Máte slovo) on 17 January 2019. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

They are destroying our society, taking away our hope of improving the relationships among people here, destroying our democracy and our political culture. Who am I talking about?

Populists, racists, and xenophobes, some of whom are also destroying our traditional political parties, the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) first and foremost, a party where, under normal circumstances, nobody would ever expect to find racism. Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna, the vice chair of the ČSSD, is one of these destroyers.

How does he carry out his destruction? He does it by constantly baiting and categorizing others as enemies and traitors, by using hysterical shouting to raise the temperature of the societal atmosphere until it is white-hot.

Foldyna also does this by pushing the envelope on what is acceptable. What was not polite to say in public a year ago is commonly used today, because his constant presentation of bunkum as if it were the truth somehow gives him an extra bit of credibility in the eyes of his followers.

The vice-chair actually already has a lot behind him as a crusader against common sense. According to him, Romani people as a whole abuse whatever they can, above all childcare and welfare benefits.

Foldyna's role model is the authoritative Putin regime in Russia. He, too, confuses nationalism with patriotism.

The Social Democratic MP is not himself a patriot, because he never discusses pride in his country and nation - he is a nationalist, because he fanatically defines himself in opposition to others, and his enemies are minorities, Romani people above all, and those who defend their rights. Those are the main reasons he is a star of that cesspool on our media landscape, the racist "Parlamentní listy" tabloid.

Most recently, during a television debate about free lunches for primary school pupils, Foldyna decided to take the opportunity to insult Holocaust victims who are Romani. He ridiculed the planned memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma at Lety u Písku and made erroneous statements about it.

"We're buying out pig farms here so we can build mausoleums on them that cost billions," [sic: it will actually cost about CZK 40 million] Foldyna argued, adding that if the state has money for that expense, then it has the money to buy lunch for all children in primary school, including those from rich families. Moderator Michaela Jílková interrupted him: "I wouldn't mention that in particular, show some respect," she said.

The MP then retorted "What's to respect?", emphasizing that he believes it unnecessary to show any respect at all for Holocaust victims who are Romani. You can smell his sense of superiority from a mile away.

However, most of the left-wing liberals and modern socialists in his party pretend it does not bother them when their vice-chair shouts racist lies on television. These people believe that if they just keep quiet, they will prevent their party from splintering - and maybe even save it from extinction.

During the last elections, ČSSD fell very far in the ratings, and that is now meant to be redeemed by false intra-party solidarity. To outsiders, this solidarity is demonstrated by all Social Democrats doing their best to tolerate each other irrespective of what they might advocate or say.

This is a major cramp in the party's style, as it is apparent that Social Democrats traditionally are democratic as well as social - and that does not go together with racism and xenophobia. Foldyna is far from the first racist deviation for the ČSSD, but whereas previously the party leadership responded to such things from time to time at least, today they are shaking in their boots and staying quiet.

These people know that Foldyna and the party members who are like him belong, mentally speaking, next to Czech MP Tomio Okamura of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" party. The Social Democratic chair and current Interior Minister Hamáček, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Maláčová, the former Prime Minister Sobotka, former EU Commissioner Špidla, former Education Minister Valachová, etc., are absolutely incompatible with the Okamura-type "Social Democrats" (including Czech President Zeman, no longer in the party).

A normal person would be ashamed of a specimen like Foldyna, but Hamáček and Co. believe they have to grit their teeth and cover his ass. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

ČSSD lost the last elections exactly because of this ambiguity:  The party succumbed to the hysteria of the anti-refugee campaign, taking the absolutely absurd step of putting refugees from war zones into detention (i.e., prison) before deporting them to Germany, and elsewhere on the Social Democrats' watch, Czech police officers broke the law during the visit by the leader of the Chinese Communists to Prague. At the same time, the party verbally advocated human rights and introduced inclusion into the schools.

Which version of the party the voters are meant to choose between is something even Foldyna himself probably doesn't know - despite being such a know-it- all. Racism and other fatal deceptions must remain unacceptable, though, and must not cross the line into the realm of the "acceptable".

If we delete that line, then we say goodbye to democracy. The normal people in the ČSSD leadership need to realize this if they don't want to destroy not just their own party, but above all the values it used to represent here.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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