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Introduction to the presentation of the book “Where Tomorrow Begins” in Wrocław

English Pages, 12. 12. 2011

Mr. Rector, Distinguished guests, students, ladies and gentlemen,

Many thanks for the invitation and for the possibility of being here. I have visited Poland many times, but this is my first stay in your beautiful city. I am really pleased to be here and to be able to present my book “Gdzie Zaczyna Się Jutro” which was published in Polish language by the Ossolineum Publishing House here in Wrocław. I appreciate its publishing here. Let me use this opportunity to thank the publisher, but also Julia Rozewicz who translated the book, Michal Štefl, Arkadiusz Ignasiak and Pawel Skrzywanek who all supported the Polish edition. Special thanks to Jan Sechter, the Czech Ambassador to Poland, who played a very important role in it. This is already my third book in Polish – the title of the first one was “Czym Jest Europeizm?”[1] and of the second one “Błękitna planeta w zielonych okowach”[2].

The book which I came to introduce here today was written and published in Czech language two years ago as my contribution to the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism. My intention was to put both the fall of communism and the current era into a broader perspective, into the continuity of time. There is no doubt that the end of communism did not appear out of nowhere. It was not an accident.

I tried to look at these issues from a rather special perspective – as an economist turned politician who had a unique chance to actively participate in many important events of that time. The object of my interest was principally the Czech Republic, but I do believe the book contains more general ideas, relevant for other countries as well.

The structure of the book is simple. It starts with the chapter called “The Day before yesterday” (Przedwczoraj), which contains my discussion of what was before, what we left behind, what we abandoned, what we got rid of. It seemed to me too easy, simplistic and intellectually uninspiring to say that it was communism. It is a very superficial judgement. To my great regret, I don’t see serious books about communism. In the communist era, people like me were dreaming about writing political, economic, sociological books about communism when there would be chance to publish them, but unexpectedly, practically overnight, we became politicians and did not have the time to do it. These books are still missing and I feel it as a problem.

What we have at our disposal are more or less passive, non-theoretical historic descriptions plus, undoubtedly more than justified, ideological rejections of communism, of this very oppressive, destructive, undemocratic, inefficient and unproductive system, but there is not enough of serious analysis. In Chapter 1 of my book, I tried to put forward some of my arguments about it. My starting point is that we have to differentiate between the normative model of communism which the students learned at universities in Prague and Wrocław (and perhaps in New York City and Boston as well) in the past and the real system in which we lived. Some of its elements are discussed in my book. It is frustrating that not only the communist propaganda was based on the concept of this nonexistent, hypothetical model. Today’s superficial and simplified discussions of communism are based on a similar distorted picture. I guess you may have the same experience in your country.

The second chapter of the book is called “Yesterday” (Wczoraj). My ambition was to discuss the process how we went from one system to another, from communism to capitalism, to conceptually describe the era of transition, or transformation, as we used to call it. There are many differences in how the transforming countries in Central and Eastern Europe proceeded, but I do believe there are more similarities than we are willing to admit.

The role of individuals, of political leaders, was important, but the possible trajectory was relatively narrow. It was possible to make bigger or smaller mistakes, to be more or less activistic, to make the transition more or less costly (in terms of GDP, inflation, unemployment), but the movement of all the countries was in the same direction. We all wanted to build a free, democratic system based on a parliamentary democracy and market economy. I am known for saying that I don’t want to attach any disqualifying adjectives to these terms which was not the case of many of my political colleagues in the post-communist countries.

Chapter 3 is called “Today” (Dzisiaj). I asked myself where we are now. I wanted to answer the question whether we have already arrived at the destination where we wanted to be – capitalism, parliamentary democracy, market economy. My answer was and is mixed. Nominally, we are there, but the reality – and I don’t mean just the Czech or Polish, but the European reality – is not a full-fledged parliamentary democracy and/or market economy without adjectives. We have less democracy because of the post-democratic nature of the European Union and less of a market economy because of the paternalistic, demotivating, redistributive welfare state, called “die soziale Marktwirtschaft”.

We, the Czechs (and I dare say the Poles too), have our own tasks or “homeworks” for the future to make our political and economic markets more efficient (which means better functioning), but the other, not less important task is to change both the model of the European integration process and the European socio-economic model – both dominantly influencing our life. However, we can’t do this alone. I am disappointed that the ex-communist countries as a group, with the advantage of their past experience, do not feel it the same way. Maybe they feel it, but they prefer to be “good guys” and to please their West European colleagues.

Chapter 4 is called “Tomorrow” (Jutro). This is, inevitably, the shortest chapter. I am not a forecaster and it is not a forecast. It is a speculation based on the hypothesis that the current trends will continue. I am not a utopian dreamer, my heroes were always the authors of „anti-utopias“ – George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Yevgeny Zamyatin and perhaps Stanislaw Lem. I am afraid of post-democracy. I am afraid of the extensively defined „human rights“ (and would prefer to stay with civil rights), I am afraid of the growing role of NGOs, of juristocracy, of multiculturalism, of global governance.

This is not scepticism. I am a permanent optimist, but optimism asks for our activity and our involvement. No one would do it instead of us. We should know that tomorrow will be formed by our today’s behaviour.

This is a short invitation for you to read my book. Thank you for your attention.

Václav Klaus, the University of Wrocław, Poland, 12 December 2011

[1] Czym Jest Europeizm, Wydawnictwo Prohibita, Warsaw, 2008

[2] Błękitna planeta w zielonych okowach, Rzeczpospolita, Warsaw, 2008


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