Speech by Václav Klaus at the Collegium Intermarium University in Warsaw: The progressive self-destruction of the West and its acceleration by the Covid epidemic. Video in English, automatically generated subtitles available (28:29).
Václav Klaus, Collegium Intermarium, Warsaw, 28 May 2021
Thank you very much for the invitation. It is nice to come to Warsaw at this beautiful time of year and to have the opportunity to speak before this important assembly after a year without traveling, without conferences and without speeches abroad.
In these days of panic, confusion and artificially created chaos, preparing, organizing and holding a conference is a great achievement. I’m deliberately mentioning man-made factors and not the Covid-19 epidemic itself.
In the first of my two books on the subject, published back in April 2020, I emphasized that I am more afraid of people trying to abuse the epidemic to suppress freedom and democracy than of the virus itself. I have also dared to express my fear that “the epidemic opens the door to an enormous expansion of state intervention in our lives”.
When communism fell, we were convinced that this evil, corrupt and oppressive system was over and could never return. We wanted to seize our historic opportunity and work for the restoration of freedom, traditional values and institutions, free markets, sovereign nations, free and independent universities and academies, etc.
In our part of the world, we still remember communism. I had very friendly, productive and quite intensive contacts with my Polish colleagues, both during the time of communism and in the first years afterwards. We were very determined in our rejection of communism at the time, even though we had many productive arguments about how to proceed and how to do it. However, the goals we wanted to achieve were the same. We were not empty idealists, we believed in pragmatism and realism, not in the irresponsible promotion of wishful thinking and utopias of all kinds.
Our thinking was based on three constants, on three fundamental elements of free society, on three entities that we considered crucial for European (and Central European) civilization: man, the family, and the nation. It wasn’t long ago that I called them constants, but I became increasingly nervous that I might be wrong. They are no longer constants.
These three pillars have been brutally attacked in recent decades by the new progressive ideology that has managed to control and dominate today’s world. The proponents of this ideology aggressively try to discredit the past and the values and patterns of behavior associated with it.
Achieving this requires nothing less than a “revolution against our culture, against our history, against our countries and against ourselves,” according to John O’Sullivan (Hungarian Review, No. 4, 2020). It is up to us to prevent this.
I have discussed these issues many times in Poland. When I received an honorary doctorate from Cardinal Stefan Wyczyński University in 2012, I said that “we probably did not fully understand the profound effects of the 1960s. It was a time of radical negation of the authority of traditional values and social institutions. As a result, generations are born who do not understand the importance of our civilizational, cultural and ethical heritage and who lack the moral compass that guides their behavior.
I have also warned against the ideology of human rights, the juristocracy, NGOs, mediocracy and transnationalism and supranationalism.
When I received the Jagiellonian Prize at the Kolegium Jagiellońskie (Toruńska Szkola Wyźsza) in Toruń in 2017, I asked whether “it is possible for the Central and Eastern European states to preserve their identity in the European Union”. I have warned that we are experiencing “a slow return to a more socialist, centralist, statist, less free and less democratic society than we had wished and planned”, that we live “under the umbrella of political correctness, multiculturalism and human rights” and that we have the non-transferable task of “to become the guardians of the old European values, traditions and customs”. I feel that even more strongly today.
I know that comparing the current EU regulations with communism is a somewhat provocative statement. And that this can be misleading. However, the current level of manipulation and indoctrination reminds those of us who were adults and had our eyes open during the time of communism that it is our job to educate today’s generations about it.
This is a special task for schools and universities. Universities are – or at least should be – citadels of free discourse, free exchange of opinions and differentiated argumentation. They have to fight against prejudices, preconceived notions, politically motivated half-truths or untruths. I wish your university every success in this endeavor.
When I spoke of the Kovidien epidemic at the beginning of my speech, I meant that we should be much more concerned about Kopivism, an ideology that calls for forgetting the supposedly discredited and vilified past and promoting a radical transformation of human society.
This strongly encouraged change threatens to destroy and deconstruct our lifestyle, our traditional values and our free society. I do not underestimate the death toll from the cattle disease in all our countries, but I am not prepared to accept the strange and suspicious silence of politicians and the media about the other side of the coin, namely the ongoing social and political changes and their consequences.
All of us, and especially universities and academia, have a duty to raise our voices. We should retlessly analyse the economic and financial costs of the current closures, the consequences of the closure of educational institutions and the increasing fragmentation of our societies due to social distancing and the expansion of virtual contacts and home workplaces.
We should criticize the growing role of social engineering and technocratic expertise (as opposed to the role of democratically elected politicians). We should not accept the loss of common sense, moderation and decency, the victory of selfishness and immorality, and the defense of new forms of personal privilege. We must not become passive followers.
Our already “soft, decadent and helpless” (Anthony Daniels) society has been weakened by the artificially generated fear of the silent majority of our fellow citizens and by the aggressiveness and radical ambitions of the representatives of modern progressivism. This “ism” is the product of a mutation of old socialist ideas with the new progressive positions of fashionable environmental protection, violent genderism, climate alarmism, utopian egalitarianism, multiculturalism, globalism and Europeanism.
Anyone who has dealt with social phenomena in detail knows that these “isms” are not so new and have nothing to do with the Covid epidemic, the lockdowns last year or the mask requirement. We are witnessing a continuation and acceleration of already existing trends. In January 2020, a year and a half ago, I spoke at a conference in Vienna about the increasing social isolation of individuals and the expansion of exclusion processes and the impoverishment of personal relationships. That was before covid.
These processes have been reinforced by the digitization of our societies and their impact on democracy. China’s digital social credit system represents an extreme version of the digital society. But this development is not only to be observed in China.
Digitalization unnecessarily and dangerously centralizes a large amount of data in unknown, uncontrolled and uncontrollable hands. It also helps to create “a secondary reality that continues to displace the primary reality” of our lives. This development seems unstoppable and irreversible. We should take a closer look. It is a threat and not a positive symptom of modernity, as is often misinterpreted.
Some of us – and I am convinced that there are more of them in Poland than in the Czech Republic – are afraid of an empty world without nations and without religion. Your concrete experience shows you that these two traditional pillars of Polish society have proven to be absolutely irreplaceable for a rapid revival of Polish society after the communist era. The postmodern progressive project of supranational governments and the libertarian preaching of disorder and anarchy are a dangerous step backwards.
Let me say a few words about the progressive project of supranational governance that is being implemented so radically in Europe these days. The process of European integration – which began almost innocently after the Second World War – has developed into a process of European unification.
The Maastricht Treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon transformed the original concept of integration, which meant better and deeper cooperation between sovereign states, into something else, into a transnational unification. Both treaties have significantly strengthened the power of the central bureaucratic agency in Brussels. They have helped suppress democracy and turn it into a post-democracy (falsely referred to as liberal democracy).
As a result, Europe itself has transformed itself from a historically grown group of sovereign and independent countries into a highly authoritarian and centralist empire called the European Union. The friendly but innocent and naïve slogan from the time of the Velvet Revolution “Back to Europe” proved to be quite problematic. I was the first Czech politician to try to tell my compatriots that ‘going back to Europe is different from moving forward in the European Union’, but my vote was not enough. To my regret, many Europeans still do not understand and still do not understand this difference.
Europe’s political elites, the EU’s unconditional admirers in politics, the media and academia, and the vast and ever-growing European nomenclature regard these two terms – Europe and the European Union – as perfect substitutes. That doesn’t surprise me. They have a vested interest in making people believe that the EU and Europe are identical. They want to own Europe. They want to be recognized as the true heirs of all European historical events and achievements. All European democrats should oppose this way of thinking. You are well aware that Europe is a cultural and civilizational entity that has developed historically, while the EU is a human construction.
The EU itself is also a changing and variable entity. Every EU summit redefines its content, sometimes on the sidelines, sometimes fundamentally. But the changes are all going in the same direction. The famous ratchet effect works in this area as in many others: each treaty or summit brings Europe closer to a centralized European state.
I believe that the nation state is the only and irreplaceable terrain of democracy and its only guarantor, because the state is a political community. The European political communities are the nation states. We are Czechs, Poles and Slovaks. We speak Czech, Polish and Slovak, not European Esperanto. We do not want to abolish our borders and abolish the distinction between citizens and foreigners. Some of us do not feel that we are – in President Obama’s terminology – either citizens of the world or citizens of Europe.
Coming back to the world, I agree with Ed Feulner, the founder and longtime president of the Heritage Foundation, that we are embroiled in a new Cold War, but this time – he says – the struggle is internal.
I fear that this kind of struggle is rather harmful because it leads to a fight between ourselves. Some of our citizens seem willing to give up their individual freedoms and accept communism-like forms of government. They are preparing for the Great Reset, which will lead to the rebirth of communism under a new banner.
In summary, our current discussions are not about the coronavirus, but about human freedom and the substance of our societies. We Czechs and Poles have received our own vaccination against communist propaganda and should have developed immunity to the same virus. I wish this were the case, because it is necessary to defend oneself and to be prepared to defend oneself against the destabilisation of the fundamental values of our societies.
 Klaus V., et al, Karanténa, IVK, Prague, April 2020 (in Czech).
 Klaus, V., “Does society need digitization?”, Wiener Kongress Com.Sult 2020, 28 January 2020.