The Great Shift?
The most earth-shattering story on the Czech political scene at the moment is the fact that Havel has made moves to break the Communists eight-year isolation. If it is not just a feint to get Ruml to be more co-operative with CSSD, this move is easily the most important event in Czech politics since the founding of the Czech Republic.
Havel has talked about the possibility of a "pracovni schuzky" at the Hrad with the Communists, and Havel's key advisor Jiri Pehe was quoted in LN on Monday as saying that the President is a "flexibilini politik, kter} si dokaze sednout za jednaci stul i s komunisty, pokud to prispeje ke konstruktivnim reseni." This is certainly a very substantial change in thinking at the Hrad. Only a few weeks ago Pehe was refusing the notion that Havel should meet the Communists and the Republicans. It should be welcome.
However difficult it will be for some former anti-Communists to swallow, it is absolutely critical that people do not see this move in ideological terms. Modern Czech politics has nothing to do with any kind of Klausist struggle of "Right vs. Left", whatever that could possibly mean today. It doesn't represent a repeat of 1948, the Communists have 11% not approximately 40% like back in 1946 when Stalin's Soviet Union still existed. Havel's difficult yet necessary change of heart is not ideological but a key step on the Czech road to democracy.
Democracy means respecting the views of others and realising that society is composed of people with wide ranging interests and viewpoints. Democracy also means respecting the result of elections - something which the Communists for all their faults have certainly done since 1990. You don't have to believe a word of their populist political programme, and you can think, as I do, that they play on people's fears to an inappropriate degree, but to be democratic means supporting their right to freely express their opinions and take their fair part in political life in the Czech Republic.
It should be perfectly clear to all why Havel is prepared to make this move. He is finally recognising the will of the voters, 11% of whom voted for KSCM. Under no circumstances is he expressing agreement with the Communists anymore than he is expressing agreement with the programme of ODS when he meets with Klaus. Havel is simply recognising the election results. His move is 100% correct and democratic.
Of course, everything has been made a lot easier for the president's office by the fact that the Republicans did not make it into Parliament. Bringing in one group of renegades in from the cold is much more simple than two. Still, the move deserves support, no matter what hardened prejudices and painful memories must be overcome on the personal level. Let's hope that people see this for the democratic move that it is and not attack it with childish ideological rhetoric.