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June 21, 2021



František Kostlán: Neo-Nazis and the "optimists" are not equivalents, all democrats should oppose extremism

9.2.2016 3:25
The "For Our Culture and a Safe Country" movement and the extremist National Democracy movement held a protest march on 6 February 2016 in Prague against what they called the Government's "anti-national policy", "illegal immigration", and "restrictions on democratic freedoms". (PHOTO: Jana Platichová,

We have made a mistake. We have let a discussion arise in Czech society asserting that the followers of former Czech President Havel, the "optimists" or the "truth-lovers", are just one side of the same coin as the fascists, neo-Nazis and populists of this society.

This is not the case. The opposite of those extremists are democrats - all democrats, including those who do not always agree with the "truth-lovers".

The priority of the extremists is not just to attack homeless people, Jewish people, refugees and Roma. By attacking these "pretextual targets" what they really want to do is to bring down democracy by directly attacking its essence.

Hostages, fear, and the fall of democracy

Extremists like Bartoš, Okamura, Vandas, Černoch and Konvička, a populists like Czech Interior Minister Chovanec and Czech President Zeman, are figuratively taking normal people who are afraid as their hostages. Using these hostages, they are attempting to blackmail their enemies, the democrats.

Some democrats succumb to this tactic and, under the mistaken impression that these "pretextual targets" pose an even greater danger to democracy than the extremists and populists themselves do, begin to at least partially support these anti-democratic chatterboxes. Other democrats stand aside and say they want to kick-start the "discussion in society" by writing things like "Let's have this discussion without either the Nazis or the 'optimists'" (I have personally experienced this, and it involved otherwise good people).

It is precisely that approach that is the very beginning of what these facsisizing carnival barkers want:  To pit the democrats against each other, to dismember their determination, to spark chaos, fear, frustration and uncertainty. As our historical experience tells us, this is precisely how democracy begins to fall, and it always happens with the participation of some democrats.

These tactics could be prevented if the democrats would begin to speak with each other and actually listen to each other. There must exist a compromise path forward that would be acceptable to all representatives of democracy.

After all, that is where the essence of our democratic mechanisms lies. We are still just in the "if only" phase of this, though.

How can we achieve such an aim? When we are experiencing a flood of emotions, and when rationality is being relentlessly ignored, something like this seems impossible.

Questions for our fellow democrats

Maybe the ball is on our side, in the sense that we should publicly show, much more frequently than we have to date, that the extremists, populists and other advocates of violent "solutions" post a much greater threat to democracy than any alleged "refugee crisis". Of course, that is difficult, because in this hysterical atmosphere it is useless to just make rational arguments.

Let's try this:  Imagine, dear fellow democrats, that a group of Arabs had attacked the office of the Workers' Party or National Democracy the same way the neo-Nazis just attacked the Klinika in Prague. What would the media and politicians call such an attack?

Correct - they would call it terrorism! Why aren't they calling what happened on Saturday terrorism, then?

Can it be because they presume the attack was committed by "nice Czech boys who are just a bit misguided" and not a "refugee horde"? Does violence bother you only when the "wrong side" commits it?

Here's another basic question that can verify how democratic someone is:  Does it seem to you that someone who has a different perspective on a matter (an opinion, of course, that falls within the democratic spectrum) must be considered a collaborator or a traitor? (See the remarks of Messrs Konvička and Okamura).

Do you want, together with all the little Czech Hitlers, to build concentration camps for these "traitors", or just to shoot them dead - or, for the amusement of the mob, do you want to string them up for public executions? Do you like those "ideas"?

Do you actually want to stand on the side of those who express them? Here is what Adam B. Bartoš said at the National Democracy demonstration on Saturday:

"The next phase will be rioting, and during the phase after that, the aliens will get weapons and will take action against the indigenous people. It will be colored people against whites. The bell is either tolling for the white race in Europe, or the white race awaits rebirth. It's just up to us. We Czechs are able to defend ourselves. The people are armed. There are many weapons among the people... The police are on our side, the security units are on our side. When the going gets tough, the nation will rise up, unite, and win. The question is whether to keep on waiting for such a moment. The question is whether we haven't already missed such an opportunity...  We do not intend to let ourselves be massacred by professional black assassins, we will not stand by and watch as this amoral filth destroys our country. This government, however, will not defend us. They want to take our weapons and leave us defenseless to the aliens. They are doing all they can to make sure that those who have arrived to kill us will do well, and that those who are at home here, who pay for the government, will suffer... That's why before we begin to defend ourselves against the aliens, with weapons in our hands, we must thoroughly get rid of this government, the people who are to blame for this tragic situation and who are preventing it from being solved. These people have betrayed their homeland and nation. The President of the Republic, Miloš Zeman, has correctly noted that there are two ways to get rid of an inconvenient government."

This is what Bartoš is saying in a situation when there are almost no refugees here. The Czech Government has granted asylum to about 100 refugees (in words:  one hundred) from war-torn areas.

Neighboring Austria, which is comparable to us in terms of geographic size and population, accepted 80 000 refugees last year, and this year wants to receive almost 40 000 more. How do you think Bartoš and his fellow demagogues would talk if refugees in any real numbers were actually in the Czech Republic?

Another important question:  Why aren't police prosecuting Bartoš for this speech, about which there can be no doubt that it violates not just the Constitution, but many laws, promotes racism, and above all calls on people to commit violence? Another basic question:  Do you want to have a President (and a presidential spokesperson) who uses this same demagoguery and sparks hatred and fear in the same way Bartoš does, just with rhetoric that is a bit more refined?

Several examples of statements made by Zeman about Islam, before he was elected:

"I don't believe there are moderate Muslims and radical Muslims. I also don't believe there are just moderate communists and radical communists. There are just Muslims and communists." (Remarks made at the international conference called "Europe, United and Free", reported by Mladá fronta Dnes, 28 June 2011).

"The enemy is the anti-civilization that stretches from North Africa to Indonesia. Two billion people live there and are financed by the sale of oil and drugs." (Remarks made at the international conference called "Europe, United and Free", reported by Mladá fronta Dnes, 28 June 2011).

"A Muslim can be defined as a follower of the Koran, just like a Nazi is a follower of anti-Semitism and racial superiority, or a communist is a follower of class war and the dictatorship of the proletariat." (Statement made to the media explaining his remarks in June 2011, reported by the Czech News Agency, 7 July 2011).

"I do not claim that all Muslims are terrorists, I claim that all terrorists are Muslims." (Interview for Reflex magazine, 4 August 2011).

"A moderate Muslim is a contradictio in adjecto, i.e., a contradiction in terms, just like a moderate Nazi would be." (Interview for Reflex magazine, 4 August 2011).

The final question:  Do you want a President who sees things in their complexity and who is, therefore, capable of proposing democratic solutions that do not tar everyone with the same brush? Do you want solutions that do not divide society and are capable of standing up to the unleashing of hatred?  

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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demokracie, Extremism, Islamofobie, Neo-Nazism, Soužití


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