English Pages, 4. 5. 2023
Dear Madame President, Distinguished Participants and Organizers of the conference, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many thanks for the invitation and for giving me the opportunity to address this distinguished audience. It is an honor for me to share the floor with one of the most outspoken and courageous representatives of – what I would dare call – the Hungarian way of coping with the current post-democratic, more or less socialist, in any case progressivist world, with President Katalin Novák.
It was certainly not a coincidence that our meeting at the beginning of January took place in Rome, where we both attended the funeral of one of the pillars of contemporary conservatism Pope Benedict XVI., one of the heroes of the current, non-heroic times. It was colder in Rome than either of us expected. Madame President was even more lightly dressed than me, but, as I see it now, she survived without consequences.
I deliberately used the term “Hungarian way”, which – I believe – is an appropriate term. Hungary is a unique phenomenon in the current world. In the 1990s, I coined the term “the Czech way” of the post-Communist transformation, but that has been already forgotten and, to my great regret, we don’t have any Czech way of dealing with the contemporary problems we – together with all of you – face. We have accepted the role of a passive object of recent developments, a passive object in the hands of those who are masterminding the current world.
Hungary is different. It dares to have its own specific way of defending both its national interests and the traditional values of human society, especially of its Western part. Hungary follows its own way regardless of hostile reactions in the commanding heights of progressivism, globalism, multiculturalism, aggressive genderism, environmentalism and other ideologies of that kind. These ideologies originate in the West, not in the East or South. I shortly discussed them in my last year’s presentation at this conference.
Given the strong Hungarian stance, the Second Conservative Political Action Conference rightfully takes place here, in Hungary. I would like to use this opportunity to express my thanks to the organizers, both to the Hungarian Center for Fundamental Rights and to our American friends from the CPAC, for making the conference possible.
This year’s conference – like last year’s one – should inspire and motivate us and should turn to a symbol of a much needed change in our spirit and resolution. Only thus we would be able to send a signal that we are here and are here to stay.
We have been on the defensive for a long time, in fact since – at least for us in Central Europe – the glorious years of the fall of communism and of the era which immediately followed. Since then, our attitude has become mostly defensive. We have tried to minimize losses by opposing the most visible irrationalities of the current progressivist era only. I am ready to accept that my position is biased by living in the Czech Republic and in the EU. When I follow the debate on the other side of the Atlantic, it is not much better there either.
As regards human freedom and freedom of speech, as regards our ability to guard traditional conservative values and our culture, as regards economic rationality and efficiency, which depends on the functioning of free markets, and last but not least as regards the very fragile geopolitical arrangements, we have been on the losing side.
Because of the strength of the American spirit, of its rich civic society, of its huge intellectual stock of talents and devoted activists, as well as of its economic and military strength, our American friends may see it differently. It was evident here last year. I returned home with a feeling that I am – perhaps – unnecessarily pessimistic. But being confronted with the European reality, I very quickly returned to my previous fears and continued to express my warnings about naivism and wishful thinking flourishing among our followers and supporters. I haven’t been to the United States for a couple of years now, but looking at it from a distance doesn’t give me much hope or joy either.
Our society has taken a wrong turn. Together with Friedrich von Hayek (and more recently with Anthony de Jasay), we should know how slippery the newly taken road is and will be. Our leading politicians, with the exception of Hungary, are either unaware of this or even actively contribute to these developments.
It is not just the fault of politicians. It has deeper roots. I recently came across a speech delivered here in Budapest four years ago by one of America’s great conservatives, Ed Feulner, and found a sentence in it, which I find relevant: “perhaps more disturbing than the rhetoric of politicians is the brainwashing of the youth by our education system” (The Hungarian Review, November, 2019). It starts there.
The conference motto “United We Stand” is a wisdom confirmed by history. It is a powerful, understandable and useful slogan. We all know its opposite: divided we fall. But one caveat should be made. We shouldn’t restrict its validity to the issues of war and we should carefully select with whom and on what topics to unite.
It is not easy. Our most important enemy is hidden in the field of ideas. Our enemy is not easily detected and exposed because this field is vast and unstructured. It was much easier in the Communist times. We face several dangerous isms and their danger is strengthened by their synergy. Together they have already reached the point of a critical mass, which threatens to destroy all what the conservatives believe in.
We should listen to each other. I myself came here to learn because I accept that most of us are on the demand side of ideas, not on the supply side.
Many thanks for your attention.
Václav Klaus, Gala Dinner, Speech at the The Conservative Political Action Conference Hungary, Hungary, Royal Riding Hall, Budapest, May 4, 2023
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