>Czech right needs Cameron style greening says commentator


The following rather interesting commentary on the future of the Czech civic right appeared in Lidové noviny on 15 May under the headline “The Civic Democrats and green class consciousness”. (The Czech original can be found here.) Bored stiff, I (freely) translated when my train broke down for 40 mins outside Redhill the other week when reading about theories of party formation just got too much. Although there is an element of cod political sociology in it, as CVVM’s latest polling on Czech environmental attitudes confirms, its basic supposition about the Czech’s left is less than post-material and the only greenest part of the Czech public is to be found in its nascent middle class -is correct, although as in Britain there’s widespead support for environmental measures that cost little or nothing or are done by someone else (‘the government’ say left-leaning and poorer Czech respondents). The article is also an interesting counterpoint to other commentaries suggest the Civic Democrats future lies in moving towards the rural, socially conservative electorate by embracing the Christian Democrats as well as a rather revealing about the Czech right.
“The British Conservative Party has been the Czech Civic Democrats’ one great European ally. But under its new leader David Cameron the party has started to go green. Anyone opening the website of the recent winner of Britain’s local elections might at first have the impression that it was an English version of the Czech Greens’ site. David Cameron is seen walking showily among people planting trees and his political vocabulary is peppered with phrases like ‘quality of life’, ‘the fight against global poverty’ and ‘getting more women into politics’. His slogan ‘Vote blue, go green’ says it all.
Cameron’s Conservative Party stresses the same issues as the Green Party or ex-President Havel in the Czech Republic. The Tory leader says that the European Union should focus on the economic challenge of globalization, the ecological challenge of climate change and on the moral and security challenges of global poverty. The Conservative Cameron would also like to lower CO2 emissions with higher taxes on air travel, a tax which would impact most on frequent flyers. In an interview with the newsmagazine Týden in early 2007 Václav Klaus declared that the ‘greening of the right’ – which is not just observable in Great Britain – was ‘unbelievably unfortunate’. According to the Czech President, who is now profiling himself as a harsh critic of the theory of global warning, the Greens stand ‘squarely on the other side of the ideological barricades’.
How can we explain the greening of the British Tories? Is it an unacceptable ideological deviation, surrender to the enemy? Or simply populist opportunism, which will lead to short terms success, but come back to haunt a conservative party in the long term? This is party true, but the main explanation lies elsewhere. The ‘greening of the right’ is the logical outcome of the development of Western societies, which sees ever great emphasis on ‘post-material’ values.

And this stress is understandably most widespread among the middle class, people with higher education and higher incomes, who are among the traditional vote of the right. In the last German parliamentary elections it emerged that the German Greens had an electorate with essentially the same social composition as the ‘bourgeois’ FDP. Moreover, the German Greens’ voters had a higher average income than those of other parties.
I am not a Marxist, but Marx is often an unusual source of inspiration. As in this case. ‘Green ideology’ is simply the current ‘class consciousnesses of the Western bourgeoisie, or definitively the greater part of it. Of course, it is an ideology we can – indeed should – intellectually polemicize with. Nevertheless, a practically minded election planner must legitimately ask themselves what social classes a right-wing party should seek the support of when its erstwhile clientele is so unattracted by free markets and flat taxation or is mainly interested in reducing greenhouse gases, wind- and solar power, healthy lifestyles and, being wealthy, is willing to pay a premium for them in green taxes. If the right loses the bourgeoisie, it will die out and the current bourgeoisie is and will probably for a long time to come be at the very least. Indeed, it will probably get greener and greener. And this is true in the Czech Republic, where the post-materialist trend is as yet not as strong as in Western Europe.
The biggest election ‘loss’ was suffered by the Civic Democrats in 2002 when [then Social Democrat leader] Vladimír Špidla managed to appeal to appeal to sections of the Czech middle class. Under Stanislav Gross and Jiří Paroubek the Social Democrats lost this catch and but for the success of the Czech Greens a Communist-Social Democrat coalition – either overt or in the form of Communist support for a minority government – would be governing the Czech Republic – the nightmare warned against in the Civic Democrat election campaign.
In my view one clear imperative for the Civic Democrats flows from this: if they want to be successful they must win over the Czech middle class, either directly or through coalitions with its representatives (or representatives of the most important and influential sections of the Czech middle class). And Czech Green Party is precisely such a representative. The Greens are in a Czech context on the right as regards their negative attitude to the communist past and especially in the social composition of their electorate, but some aspects of its programme and views put them on the left, the balance of these two trends being a position in the political centre.
The greening of the European right is a challenge for the Czech right comparable to Cameron’s ‘challenge of climate change’, one with which it will have to come to terms in a much more fundamentally and sophisticated way than it has so far. Opportunistic rebranding or parroting some of the arrant nonsense uttered by Czech and international “environmentalists” would be as unfortunate as complete dismissal of environmental issues or the problems of Africa accompanied the oft-repeated mantra that the market is panacea for us.

Josef Mlejnek jr. (

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