The Czech revolution was celebrated this weekend in a number of events in Prague, which I attended with a couple of English friends, Nick Fraser of the BBC and Everyman publisher David Campbell, who as students watched the Soviet clampdown in 1968. Campbell was there for the invasion and was dragged from the path of a Soviet tank by a young man named Oldřich Černý, who later became a noted dissident, a colleague of Havel's and head of the Czech Foreign Intelligence Service. Campbell, Fraser and Černý have been friends since '68.
Forty-one years later, Černý was our host as we sat in an audience of students at the Arts Faculty of Charles University listening to a debate, Freedom and Its Adversaries. When we entered, I noticed the memorial on the wall of the building to the student Jan Palach, who set fire to himself on January 16, 1969, not in direct protest to the Soviet invasion, as is often thought, but to stir his compatriots into action. Almost his last words as he lay dying from 85% burns were: "I wanted to express my disagreement with what is going on here and to make people wake up."
Looking round at the earnest faces of the new generation of Czech students, it stuck me that liberty will always owe youth — if I were to identify one of the real adversaries of freedom it would certainly be student indifference.
I was not in Prague to watch the student march 20 years ago, but in Berlin I watched students climb the wall and right from the start, the marches in Leipzig were fired by student activism.
Henry Porter, From Prague to Berlin, liberty will always owe youth ( The Guardian November 17 2009 )
The idea the student power in isolation can act as a force for resisting state power and promoting liberty is a myth and the most important movement in bringing down Communism in the Eastern bloc was Solidarity, a broad church which included history professors, staunch Catholics, and workers.
At the conference Freedom and Its Adversaries at Charles University in Prague, Rupnik gets it right when he pointed out,
We opted for the quickest form of a free society after '89 and that was imitation. There was no experiment. We just imitated the functioning market economy. The result is that today we have exhausted that cycle. Our political elites are exhausted.
Not a single new idea. No new people. We are burnt out. We have the institutional shell, but it is hollow.
But whilst true, people like Havel and Stoppard continue to back the packaged designer revolutions branded as "People Power" which are funded and promoted by supposed NGO's with direct links to Washington where there are geostrategic interests.
Ambitious and socially aspirational students who want a fast-track neoliberal consumer culture introduced in Eastern Europe are funded by George Soros' Open Society Foundation one NGO behind the Rose Revolution in Georgia which placed the far right and aggressive nationalist Saakashvili in power.
Globalist idealism becomes a fig leaf for corporate capitalism of the worst kind which it interested primarily in the Great Game against Russia and protecting pipeline routes, so ramping up nationalism has become one way of 'inspiring' the masses.
There has been little promotion of civil liberties in Georgia. Organisations like Kmara in Georgia are mostly advocacy groups who demand 'freedom' from state power if that state power is used by the elites to get to close to Russia. They have little problem with promoting 'reforms' that immiserate the masses.
In Belarus a close reading of the Charter97 organisation's propaganda reveals just how easy it is for the West to pay bored students to provoke the police into arresting them and posting the photos on the website in order to pretend that Lukashenko is some totalitarian Stalinist.
The photos are staged pseudo-events with students being paid so that they can get the latest Ipod or else they are the sons and daughters of far right nationalists who swagger about on BBC interviews at home in combat fatigues without even incurring the curiosity of journalists like Lucy Ash.
Rupnik expressed regret but the important thing is that the lessons of 1989 have still not been learned and Charter97 continues to skate over what kind of market reforms in seeks in such a way that large numbers of Belarussians are prepared to overlook the authoritarianism of Lukashenko.
People in Belarus are not going to buy People People and the irony is that whilst students in the West protest against corporate global capitalism, students in Minsk are demonstrating for it, though they like to dress up their hireling stunts in mock dissidence and the trappings of revolutionary kitsch.
The problem with old style authoritarianisms is the one of making people love their servitude. The decline of liberal democracy and the reduction of politics into showbusiness, the West has overcome this problem in promoting debt fuelled consumerism and a suffocating mass media culture of trivia.
Enough people are given material satisfaction not to care about diminishing liberty and when it comes down to it the erosion of liberty is a result of the terrorist threat which in turn is growing as a result of the West's overdependence upon oil and gas in lands riven with ethnic tensions.
Rupnik is correct that the old dissident generation is "exhausted" and worse than that those like Michnik ( more of a political fixer and propagandist than a dissident in my opinion ) have lent themselves to an uncritical support for George Bush's 'War on Terror' .
Michnik certainly does not think he's a spent force and goes on talking about his role in world history and how Russia is the eternal threat and how Khodorkovsky is some kind of dissident rather than a corrupt oligarch whose rapacious greed and criminal activities have alienated Russia from the West.
Liberal democracy is a good thing but it has to go beyond buzzwords about 'civil society' and 'transition' found in countless banal texts that could have beeen churned out impersonally by computers as well as smug Western platitudes about great and free 'we' are.
There is a need to broaden out dissent into civic forums that motivate people to oppose unaccountable corporate power and to repudiate fake revolutions in Eastern Europe funded to get the 'best democracy money can buy'.
New dissidents need to ask difficult questions about the dependence on oil and gas and how money power is corrupting democracy and not promoting it where 'freedom' is reduced to what brand of trainers one can buy or popular TV shows like the X Factor.
Porter is very naive here.
Bútora talked about the combination of civic indifference and civic helplessness that has paralysed politics in the new democracies, again something that we know about. There were two specific problems in this "hollowed out politics". First was the failure of imagination that says human beings have certain qualities and one of these is the belief that things can be improved. The second is the failure to join and to become active: "We need islands of positive deviance where we say, 'Please come! Please join!' Together we can achieve much." At this Havel, sitting with Madeleine Albright, clapped enthusiastically. The phrase "islands of positive deviance" sounds like a bit of managerial bullshit but Bútora makes a good point. The revolutions in eastern Europe started with small groups of people who achieved critical mass from very unpromising beginnings.
That's the thinking behind the Colour Revolutions funded by organisation like the National Endowment for Democracy which was so impressed by Butora's work for democracy that it awarded him the Democracy Service Medal. He was the Slovak Ambassador to the United States from 1999 to 2003.
The idea Butora is still a 'dissident' is not tenable and, as with others who demand Obama serve the cause of freedom by projecting US power and influence into Eurasia, he is quite candid about the necessity of having NATO be a protector of energy interests.
The threat to energy supplies can exert an immediate influence on our nations political sovereignty also as allies contributing to common decisions in NATO. That is why it must also become a transatlantic priority. Although most of the responsibility for energy security lies within the realm of the EU, the United States also has a role to play. Absent American support, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline would never have been built. Energy security must become an integral part of U.S.-European strategic cooperation. Central and Eastern European countries should lobby harder (and with more unity) inside Europe for diversification of the energy mix, suppliers, and transit routes, as well as for tough legal scrutiny of Russia's abuse of its monopoly and cartel-like power inside the EU. But American political support on this will play a crucial role. Similarly, the United States can play an important role in solidifying further its support for the Nabucco pipeline, particularly in using its security relationship with the main transit country, Turkey, as well as the North-South interconnector of Central Europe and LNG terminals in our region.
When Obama rejected the neoconservatives plan to construct missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, Butora was a signatory to the Open Declaration calling for more US involvement in investing in the military-financial complex in the former 'Eastern Europe'.
NATO needs to make the Alliance’s commitments credible and provide strategic reassurance to all members. This should include contingency planning, prepositioning of forces, equipment, and supplies for reinforcement in our region in case of crisis as originally envisioned in the NATO-Russia Founding Act.
This has nothing to do with preserving liberty but in promoting corporate ties betweeen the US and Eastern Europe client states, in making the successor states willing model pupils and advancing the cause of militarised democracy as well as uncritical support for frontline states between 'the west' and the East.
When Butora calls for 'civic participation and engagement it means forging a new elite from the current generation who will become the new hegemonic elite who will overide popular discontent and anti-American sentiments that lead large number of Czechs and Poles to reject the missile shield.
This is about managing democracy and not allowing dissenting individuals or anti-militarists to gain either popularity and power. Its about repressing democracy and liberty and reducing politics to micromanagement and political parties that offer 'choice' but reflect the same interests.
This is why we believe that we should also consider the creation of a Legacy Fellowship for young leaders. Twenty years have passed since the revolutions of 1989. That is a whole generation. We need a new generation to renew the transatlantic partnership. A new program should be launched to identify those young leaders on both sides of the Atlantic who can carry forward the transatlantic project we have spent the last two decades building in Central and Eastern Europe.
This is about creating a self perpetuating oligarchical power structure so that Poles and Czechs are given no real choice about whether their nations ought to slavishly copy the US model of democracy and neoliberal capitalism. Which under the Bush regime started to show increasingly sinister features.
There is now not a peep from those like Havel or Michnik about the use of extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay, waterboarding, torture, the lies and deceptions that were spun to invade Iraq, the napalm death rained down on Fallujah in 2005 or any desire to speak 'truth to power' whatsoever.
More on Martin Butora as a "dissident".
Martin Butora's waffle about 'islands of positive deviance' and praise of liberty has also been much in evidence in his capacity as a member and advocate of groups like FOS ( Friends of Slovakia ) which has the explicit aim of tying Slovakia together into the US military industrial complex.
On the Board of Advisors is Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski and it's funded by,
Northrop Grumman Corporation
Volkswagen of America, Inc.
One FOS newsletter from 2006 reveals,
On July 18 Friends of Slovakia sponsored a roundtable at CSIS on
Slovakia after the Elections: Domestic and Foreign Policy Implications.
The roundtable drew great interest and about 90 participants from a number of
US government agencies, Congressional staffers, diplomats including the Czech Ambassador, think tanks, VOA and RFE/Radio Liberty, international organizations, international firms, including US Steel and Lockheed Martin, members of the FOS Board of Directors and Board of Advisors and FOS supporters.
The English language newspaper The Slovak Spectator is a supporter and this uncritically pro-US propaganda is given out free on Bratislava's university campus where I lived for a while in 2007.
Brzezinski's track record on promoting liberty dates back to his backing by the Rockefellers and ever since he has acted as an erstwhile backer of the expansion of US oil interests in Central Asia, the master plan of dominance being spelt out in works like The Grand Chessboard.
Links with Raytheon-The Military-Industrial Complex.
Most Europeans have no idea about the advances of the surveillance state here: about such things as a DNA database containing the profiles of a million innocent ? often black ? people, the number recognition cameras that track our journeys, the 4.5m CCTV cameras on our streets, the CRB checks of 11 million people, the proposals to access data from all our communications and internet usage, the sinister children's databases, the 500,000 people who fell under some kind of official surveillance last year in the United Kingdom.
It's almost too embarrassing to talk about these dirty British secrets in the company of man like Michnik, who spent a total of six years in Polish jails because of his beliefs in liberty and democracy. How could we be so cavalier with our birthright when people like him made so many sacrifices? But at least the chair, Garton Ash, said this: "What is happening in my country, the oldest free country in the world, is that our civil liberties are being eroded in an extraordinary way, like the famous salami ? cut for cut. And nobody is really standing up."
Time to wake up. Time for students in Britain to grasp what is happening.
Certainly Porter needs to wake up first.
A key backer of Butora and the Friends of Slovakia is the US arms company Raytheon who apart from making Patriot Missiles are deeply involved in providing expertise in another two of its four 'Strategic Business Areas' which include,
Intelligence, Security and Reconaissance.
One ingenious new innovation being pioneered by Raytheon is the Silent Guardian in which,
....a focused radio beam that penetrates the skin creating an intolerable heating sensation. The sensation causes the targeted individuals to "instinctively flee or take cover."
Raytheon is also keenly focused on the use of biometrics to keep tabs on the population.
An End-to-End Solution Approach
To ensure customer success, Raytheon approaches biometrics solutions from all angles, evaluating new and emerging biometrics technologies including fingerprint, facial and iris capture devices, as well as back-end, large scale, biometric matching systems.
Also of interest,
Raytheon has a proven global track record as a systems integrator delivering complex systems on time and on budget.
Department of Homeland Security
Raytheon is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to modernize one of the largest civilian fingerprint systems in the world. Raytheon plays a key role developing the system by leveraging our experience with service oriented architectures to increase the department's ability to interoperate with other government agencies. The program provides the centralized biometric system for the entire department and now exceeds one hundred million records. The program also includes biometric collection and identity document scanning at hundreds of U.S. ports of entry.
Raytheon's profits have increased since the War on Terror was launched by George Bush in 2001, a crusade supported wholeheatedly by Adam Michnik who also was happy to back the Iraq War on the highly critical grounds that,
George W. Bush may not be our hero, but he is the one we will support in the war with Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein.
Michnik was critical of Bush on the domestic front but it was full of banal contradictory waffle
Do we like the internal politics of the Bush administration, its projects to spy on citizens, or the rightist rhetoric of the Christian fundamentalists of the Republican Party? No, we do not, though we do believe that the American democracy, the wiser for the lessons of McCarthyism and Watergate, will be capable of protecting itself from the self-poisoning of the "open society."
Michnik can 'believe' what he wants but without evidence he is spouting hot air of the sort that made him, in historian Tony Judt's damning verdict, nothing more than a 'useful idiot'. It is not good enough to have such uncritical support for the USA since it is believed to be some fellow Redeemer Nation.
Whilst Butora is a member of the Euro-Atlantic elite, Michnik is more of a fellow traveller having traded one belief system ( he came from the intellectual tradition of reform communism' ) for a new one with the USA as the new global liberation power.
It's odd that Michnik is paraded as some tribune of liberty as he shambles around at the self congratulatory dinner parties where the powerful meet to discuss global affairs and NATO expansion.
Reporting on a NATO Conference in 2002, Martin M Simecka, a Slovak journalist wrote,
We were jammed into a small bar with Michnik, drinking bottled beer and whiskey, when ( Bruce ) Jackson reprimanded us: "The world needs vision and visionaries, you must speak up!" I immediately felt guilty because I had no vision, but Michnik was more resistant. "I did my best work under Communism, Simecka under Meciar. We're not visionaries, we just analyze dictatorships," he said astutely.
Jackson pressed on. "So join a commission which I'm just setting up for the liberation of Iraq," he said, raising his beer in a pledge. "OK then," we replied, disarmed.
Those who protest against US military expansionism are not being 'democratic' in Michnik's outlook,
"Anti-Americanism has similar features to anti-Semitism and is more dangerous, because we still don't recognize it as a threat," said Michnik. "NATO means safety and democracy, yet here in Prague there's no feeling of euphoria. Except for the young people in the streets expressing their opposition to democracy, the city is deserted. We can't close our eyes and ignore this."
Being in jail for six years does not necessarily ensure that the person is unshakeably right nor that what he proclaims has much moral force behind it. Michnik is a windbag and a poseur, though he is not, as some maintain, interested so much in money. Vanity is a driving force too.
Michnik has lost it. He's a spent force and has discredited himself by his support for Iraq and the betrayal of his own principles in remaining silent on US crimes and the abuses of the Bush regime. For it was Michnik who himself argued on supporting the Iraq War,
Brutal power is equally repugnant whether executed under a red banner or a black one.
The belief that there was no rightist or leftist torture, no progressive or reactionary torture, was a fundamental principle we lived by. It led us to reject the hypocrisy of the Western left, which proclaimed that even bad communism was better than good capitalism because it was the former and not the latter that led to a bright future.
That hypocrisy clearly lived on in those like Michnik who applied one set of standards to Communist dictatorships and do not apply them to democracies like the USA which have eroded freedoms as a part of its War on Terror, a declaration of Endless War in which oil and gas in Eurasia are the great prize.