A mixed legacy that seemed to be heartily leveraged to the idea of repression and suffering as a source for sublime aesthetics. A pretext for the literary creation formed by the ravages of the totalitarian state. To many it was the lesser of two evils mentality that seems predominant while affording the cachet of liberal-left credibility as moral driving force. Vaclav Havel held to the core neo-liberal ideal, almost as if his life was a reclamation project of restoring family wealth, prestige and honor to its pre-war level and its return to leading satellite in the Austro-Hapsburg sphere.
Most of the real artistic talent had long fled the country; having no vested historical interest in waiting out the Communist demise. Ultimately, you have to ask whether Havel’s power to the powerless thesis was suspect and contrived from its inception; a vague set of ideas trapped in a logic that drove it to the will to power while simultaneously endeavoring to denounce it. A bit like Viktor Frank’s will to meaning being a will to power by another name. Was Havel the bi-polar politician who could go from noble consciousness to base rhetoric, from heroic dissident to preachy feel-good new age psycho-babble, from sublime poetry to ranting on the ridiculous as the desired social democracy was branded, stamped and packaged as free-market Thatcherism.Also, Was the collapse of the Soviet system a precursor of our own eventual collapse? …
from The Guardian: A kind of restoration, then? In fact, it was more complicated and more interesting than that, just as Havel’s tenancy of the Hradcany castle, as well as being a happy ending – triumph after long struggle – was also the beginning of a period when politics became far more complicated. Like his Polish comrade in arms, Adam Michnik, Havel soon registered a mood of unease with the former dissidents turned politicians acting for a public that had mostly not been particularly brave or oppositional, and wanted to forget about “all that” and get on with getting and spending.
Now, struggling with the constraints of a weak form of presidency, Havel found himself at odds with many of the political and economic views of the abrasive, new haute bourgeoisie represented by Václav Klaus and his monetarist government party which had emerged as successor to the decayed regime.
At first it had seemed that the dominant voice emerging in the post-communist era would be a kind of social democracy. Many of Havel’s allies in the Civic Forum, the umbrella organisation of opposition, were social democrats who had been among what he used to call the anti-dogmatic wing of the Czech Communist party before the events of August 1968. He himself had never joined the party, and while closer to social democracy than any other form of organised politics, his beliefs drew on a mixture of the political liberalism of Czechoslovakia’s prewar philosopher-president Thomas Masaryk and a homespun though long-pondered philosophy of his own, derived from his reading of Edmund Husserl and concerns about the dangers that late 20th-century materialism posed….
…What was striking about Havel’s life and career is that its contradictions seemed to be the very means by which his life and work hung together with great consistency. Some were more apparent than real, such as the contrasting (as if a falsity was being shrewdly detected) of the deep seriousness of his public, political utterances with the informal gaiety, even glamour, of his refurbishing of the castle above the Vltava.
Within months of his arrival, he had it spectacularly lit at night by Jan Svoboda, Prague’s great set designer, and new costumes for the guard were commissioned from the costume designer of Miloš Forman’s film Amadeus. The young president scuttled along the endless corridors, zooming on a child’s scooter from meeting to meeting, surrounded by vibrant young collaborators from artistic and intellectual life, under walls newly hung with modern paintings. (An early profile described his secretary as “a busty hippy in a skintight, purple mini-dress, with filigreed white stockings, lace-up boots and funkily mismatched earrings”. But this, after all, was Bara Stepanova, one of the heroines of the Society for a Merrier Present, a Dadaish troupe given to posing as riot police in the November demonstrations, and threatening the crowd with cucumbers and salamis. When she produced the scooter, Havel, then still secretary-less, hired her on the spot.)
Havel, of course, was staging a different kind of play. He felt instinctively the need to shake the place out of its long gloom and cheer up his depressed compatriots by celebrating with some show and style the overthrow of the dour and philistine satrapy that had preserved their isolation. And it would have been naive to suppose that the author of plays such as The
…This habit of looking at the world “from below”, from “outside”, was a key to his plays and his acute feeling for the absurd. He acknowledged his love for and debt to Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco – even more to his countryman Kafka, who, he would remind you sternly, was a comic writer, an inspirer of laughter in the dark. But he felt that his own writing was driven primarily by the experience he had described, in an attempt to grapple with that old sense of not being at home in the world….
…As to Havel’s “idealism” – if that is what one must call serious ecological concern, an abjuring of narrow nationalism and materialism, and an eye on what the market’s “hidden hand” is actually up to or capable of – he left us with some reason, in these dangerous early years of the new millennium, to think that the “realist” critique of such preoccupations was itself anachronistic. Who, after all, were the realists of 1989? Not the clever advisers and the experienced, well-intentioned politicians in Bonn, for instance, who were telling me a few months before its fall, that “for the foreseeable future” – that comforting old formulation – the Berlin Wall and other essential structures of the cold war settlement would be remaining in place…. Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/18/vaclav-havel
Once in power, Havel set about the task to dismantle Czech socialism and create a new state according to the formulas established in George Soros’s Open Society Foundation and elsewhere. A section from Michael Parenti’s “Blackshirts and Reds” has been circulating widely on the Internet, including my posting to the Marxism mailing list. Written not long after the Velvet Revolution of 1989, it knocks Havel off his pedestal rather deftly:
Havel called for efforts to preserve the Christian family in the Christian nation. Presenting himself as a man of peace and stating that he would never sell arms to oppressive regimes, he sold weapons to the Philippines and the fascist regime in Thailand. In June 1994, General Pinochet, the man who butchered Chilean democracy, was reported to be arms shopping in Czechoslovakia–with no audible objections from Havel.
Havel joined wholeheartedly in George Bush’s Gulf War, an enterprise that killed over 100,000 Iraqi civilians. In 1991, along with other Eastern European pro-capitalist leaders, Havel voted with the United States to condemn human rights violations in Cuba. But he has never uttered a word of condemnation of rights violations in El Salvador, Colombia, Indonesia, or any other U.S. client state.
In 1992, while president of Czechoslovakia, Havel, the great democrat, demanded that parliament be suspended and he be allowed to rule by edict, the better to ram through free-market “reforms.” That same year, he signed a law that made the advocacy of communism a felony with a penalty of up to eight years imprisonment. He claimed the Czech constitution required him to sign it. In fact, as he knew, the law violated the Charter of Human Rights which is incorporated into the Czech constitution. In any case, it did not require his signature to become law. In 1995, he supported and signed another undemocratic law barring communists and former communists from employment in public agencies. Read More:http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/vaclak-havel-and-the-struggle-for-socialism-in-czechoslovakia/