Local Communities and Post-Communist Transformation: Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia

By Simon Smith | Go to book overview

2
Civil society and political parties in the Czech Republic
Martin Myant

I am for the decentralisation of power…. I am for the progressive creation of the space for a diversified civil society in which the central government will perform only those functions which nobody else can perform, or which nobody else can perform better…. The creation of a genuine civil society of the western type will take a very long time, but that does not mean that we should not be creating favourable conditions for its emergence. It is not a question only of regional autonomy or of the creation of a non-profit making sector or of the system of tax allowances. It is a question of much more, of the method of thinking which enables citizens to trust.

(Václav Havel, Právo 18 November 1995)

Our country is following a thorny path from communism to a free society and market economy so far without any real wavering…. On that path we have already passed several crossroads…. The first was the clash over economic reform, over whether we want genuine capitalism or whether we would try for a third way, socialism with a human face, perestroika…. The second was the clash over the character of the political system itself, over whether we want the standard parliamentary pluralism based on the key role of political parties or whether an all-embracing non-politics should dominate. The third was the clash over maintaining the homogeneous common Czechoslovakia or over its division, if that proved impossible. The fourth concerns the very conception of the content of our society whether we want a standard system of relations between the citizen (and community) and state, supplemented with voluntary organisations, or whether we will create a new form of collectivism, called civil society or communitarianism, where a network of 'humanising', 'altruising', morals-enhancing, more or less compulsory (and therefore by no means exclusively voluntary!) institutions, called regional self-government, professional self-government, public institutions, non-profit making organisations councils, committees and commissions are inserted between the citizen and the state.

(Václav Klaus, Lidové noviny 11 July 1994)


Introduction

These quotations illustrate the sharp conflict over the meaning and importance of 'civil society' in the Czech Republic in the mid-1990s. They also

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