by William Nattrass
Thursday, 29
September 2022
Dispatch
13:24

Anti-western sentiment pervades Czech protests

Fury over cost of living and involvement in Ukraine is spilling onto the streets
by William Nattrass
Protestors at Wenceslas Square

Prague

Yesterday afternoon, tens of thousands of Czechs gathered in Prague calling for the resignation of the government and a “180-degree turn” in the country’s foreign policy. 

An earlier anti-government demonstration attended by 70,000 people at the start of September shocked the region, and yesterday’s protest saw Prague’s famous Wenceslas Square fill up again. Protestors want the country to get out of the war in Ukraine, citing government policy as the main cause of a looming economic crash.  

Like last time, this protest will almost certainly be portrayed by the media as overtly “pro-Russian”. But the reality is more complex — and perhaps even more troubling for the West.

The predominant feeling expressed by people I spoke to at the protest was frustration: frustration at a government which they feel is putting international interests above their own, and frustration about the disdain with which politicians and the media treat their concerns. “We just want the government to go, because they don’t work for us and they don’t know what they’re doing,” said one man. “We want a government that cares about us.” 

Indeed, for the first hour or so Ukraine was hardly mentioned. Speakers mostly focused on the cost-of-living crisis, with one listing price increases for potatoes, eggs and other everyday items. Nonetheless, the war was ever present through a group of pro-Ukraine counter-demonstrators standing at the top of the square.  

And if there was one overriding concern, it was not support for Russia, but loathing for the western international order. Many flags and placards called for exit from the EU and NATO; others included calls to “stop censorship” and “stop green poverty.” One attendee said the goal is for the Czech Republic “to leave NATO and stop serving American interests.” 

When the war in Ukraine was mentioned, it was usually with vaguely neutral calls for peace. One speaker chanted “peace and love” while releasing a dove into the cold autumn air.  

But there was also anger. These protestors have been described by the Czech prime minister as members of a Russian “fifth column”, and it’s claimed that known pro-Russia figures were present at their previous demonstration. An organiser told the crowd that they are being called “pro-Russian cockroaches,” saying “we’re not cockroaches, we’re people, we’re Czechs”. He called for the Czech Republic to “have friends in both the West and the East” although, given proposals including a referendum on buying cheap gas from Russia, friendship with Ukraine is clearly not a priority. 

The difficulty in assessing the protest lies in the impossibility of separating scepticism of the West — a feature present in large parts of Czech society before the war — from specific attitudes to Ukraine and Russia. The protest encompassed various demographics — young and old, city-based and rural — and it clearly attracted people with a wide range of political views (one speaker shouted that the EU “supports fascists” and that “whoever supports fascists is a fascist”) too. 

But the protests also raise vital questions. Is popular discontent over the cost-of-living crisis being cynically weaponised by pro-Russia forces? And is it inherently “pro-Russia” to call for peace? The Czech establishment would likely answer “yes” to both questions. But such simplistic portrayals will only further alienate disenchanted groups who, trapped by international circumstances beyond their control, long for a retreat into national self-interest.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
36 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
chris Barton
chris Barton
2 months ago

People are rightly angry at being made poorer by their Governments choice to back one side who they have no obligation to aid in a war they have no interests in. Russia has been shown to be a paper tiger after all the years of BS propaganda of “The USSR is back and wants to take over eastern and central Europe” The Russians don’t have the manpower, money or material to conquer and hold Ukraine let alone everything east of Berlin.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 months ago

Good, balanced account. The problem, as with Brexit or Global Warming, remains: what will the consequences be of the policies you are pushing for? And do you want those consequences? If you leave NATO and the EU and ‘stop serving the interestes of the USA’, whose interests will you end up serving afterwards? And will you be happy with it?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago

Surely the Czech national interest remains where it was during the Prague Spring of 1968? To not be a nation under the yoke of another? Are the protesters not aware of their own history, and what the likelihood of success for Russia in Ukraine might mean for them in the longer term?
Or does the price of potatoes over-ride all that?
An interesting article, though, and something not being mentioned (as usual) in the MSM.

Janko M
Janko M
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

My impression is not that they forgot about Soviet occupation, but precisely that they percieve having swapped one master for another. They don’t necessarily want Russia to win, but they don’t understand why should they become poor and freezing in order to protect the US interests, i.e. they don’t identify their interests with NATO, US or EU. While I don’t agree with their arguments, I think their government is making a dangerous error to be dismissive or worse, slanderous about their concerns.

Steve Chapman
Steve Chapman
2 months ago
Reply to  Janko M

At least under the ‘American yoke’ the Czechs are still allowed to express their concerns, protest and even vote, unlike the people of Belarus and Kazakhstan, whose governments enjoy ‘fraternal assistance’ from Russia.

David Van Essen
David Van Essen
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Chapman

Then the Czechs are not yet fully under the ‘American yoke.’ Try protesting against the ruling globalists as a citizen inside the United States, and you will quickly (usually within 24 hours) get blacklisted from Facebook and Twitter and potentially have your USD impounded or stolen by Paypal or other electronic cash providers.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
2 months ago
Reply to  Janko M

The end of the Soviet occupation certainly led Czechs and others into the arms of the fledgling EU, and the newcomers were probably happy to join the European family. But now after 20 years of full EU bureaucratizing and power-grabbing, the Eastern bloc peoples see that the promise was empty.

chris Barton
chris Barton
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree with not them not wanting to be under the yoke of another country…so surely that applies to the Americans too? Europe is being decimated on the alter of the War Hawks in DC. They dont want peace they want direct war with Russia and view Ukraine as their chance.

Last edited 2 months ago by chris Barton
Aaron James
Aaron James
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

”not aware of their own history, and what the likelihood of success for Russia in Ukraine might mean for them in the longer term?”

The fighting supported by the $100 Billion from the West DOES mean the destruction of the world economy – the coming depression, and hugely increased inflation – the destruction of pensions, increased Debt, global famine, and looming WWIII.

So you say that is better than the 1/100000000000000 chance Russia would conquer Europe if it was allowed in Ukraine without Billions of Western Arms?

Better to destroy Ukraine to save it than allow Russia to go in, kill or imprison the corrupt Oligarchs in charge, and replace them with their own puppets – meanwhile people go to work – kids go to school, infrastructure and housing remains whole, farmers plant, electricity works –

Steve Chapman
Steve Chapman
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

And perhaps they should remember 1938 when Neville Chamberlain didn’t want to get involved in a “quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Chapman

Oh they do remember alright, Chamberlain gets a mention every time I’ve visited Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic.

Vít Samohýl
Vít Samohýl
2 months ago

It would be correct to say that there is a significant proportion of Czechs who can clearly see that the current direction of western civilization and culture is either self-destructive or at least very much heading in a wrong direction. Obviously they want cultural alternatives. They want a way out. However, these are in short supply: Russia seems like a natural choice for some, but – I assure you – there are many more who can clearly see the nonsense of that. Neither is “retreat into national self-interest” any sort of solution, because to quote Arnold Toynbee “You have to write history of civilizations, not countries”. Trust me, it is a lot easier to see this in Czech republic than it is in France or Britain. Of course some see in Trumpism the very alternative to current western self-destructive nihilism, hence ‘Czech republic first’.
As to the Czech government, well, they will dutifully implement the latest environmental, social misgovernance coming from Brussels or Washington. They don’t SEE any problems and neither do establishment intellectuals. To them these protests are just noise. But to be fair, there is plenty to implement ‘from the west’ in CZ, so that makes some sense too. But make no mistake, they are only ‘pro-western’ if you equate western establishment with western civilization as a whole.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
2 months ago

Nice to see that deglobalization continues apace. Almost brings a tear to the eye.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago
"Převezměte zpět kontrolu" is apparently Czech for "take back control"

Last edited 2 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Don’t know what happened with the formating there

Daiva Brr
Daiva Brr
2 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre
Don’t know what happened with the formating there

↑ That’s what </> edit tool does 🙂

Last edited 2 months ago by Daiva Brr
M. M.
M. M.
2 months ago

William Nattrass wrote, “One attendee said the goal is for the Czech Republic ‘to leave NATO and stop serving American interests.'”.

This attendee spoke truth to power.

By 2040, the United States will cease being a Western nation, due to open borders. Most Americans will reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture will dominate. Currently, in California, 40% of the residents are Hispanic. Most residents of the state already reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture dominates.

The Czech government must begin distancing its nation from the United States, and other European governments must do likewise.

As for Ukraine, the reporting on its war has omitted a key fact: the corruption and incompetence of the Ukrainians resulted in their lacking the ability to defend their own country. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of Ukraine in 2019 is lower than the GDP per capita in 1991. Consequently, lacking adequate weapons to repel the Russian invaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has begged Western governments for donations of such weapons.

When the Czech government gives military or economic assistance to Ukraine, the Czechs are basically paying the cost of Ukrainian corruption and incompetence.

This situation is unfair to the Czech people, and they are justified in being angry.

If Zelenskyy fails to provide ironclad assurances that the Ukrainians will Westernize their nation, then the Czechs and other Europeans should immediately cease providing assistance to the Ukrainians.

Get more info about this issue.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
2 months ago

What was it that von der Leyen said: “…we have tools to deal with…” people like this?

j watson
j watson
2 months ago

No surprise some sizeable sections of all western populations are expressing deep concern about the cost of living crisis. And no surprise if Russia tries to influence and weaponise that disquiet by looking to sow more division. They are running out of other strategies.

One suspects though countries like Czech republic overall will much more understand the Russian threat than perhaps we do.

Vital is that populations believe the cost of living rises and consequences are being borne fairly with the most vulnerable as protected as poss. That social solidarity is vital.

Many thought Brexit would rapidly lead to EU disintegration. Arguably the opposite happened. Ditto many thought NATO would crack, and again the opposite has happened. I’d be cautious about catastrophising the end of Western alliances. They’ve actually shown much more underlying solidity than we might have assumed but certainly no room for complacency.

Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
2 months ago
Reply to  j watson

There is so much money, power, and endless employment for the bureaucrats and politicians to let the EU or NATO disintegrate. Lesson: Always follow the money!

Eric Parker
Eric Parker
2 months ago

I know the Czech Republic very well and though I have not seen these recent demonstrations I suspect they are more anti-globalist than ‘anti-Western.’ So much of what we read these days is clickbait; ‘anti-Western’ is a more provocative, so we’ll say that.

Richard Goodman
Richard Goodman
2 months ago

error

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard Goodman
David Bell
David Bell
2 months ago

Isn’t this the same country that was invaded by Russia in 1968? Short memories, indeed.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
2 months ago

Its simple enough to me. Stay in the western camp, let them destroy your infrastructure, deprive you of energy security, then food, etc. the EU had just announced they can’t even promise to keep the cellphone towers working shortly.
Or be brave and just dump them, like the DPR/LPR are and get your reward. It’ll be hard but it’s better than dying on your knees.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

That’s Donetsk People’s Repulic / Luhansk People’s Republic, presumably? It is a clear enough choice, for a small country. You stay in the Western camp, toe the line from Brussels (where NB they at least have to listen to you before they overrule you), and bear with the consequences of collective decisions. Or you cleave to Russia, and get governed by corrupt, armed gangs, all under the watchful eye of Smersh (as the Russians themselves call it in their occupied territories these days).

I know which one I want,. Which one do you want?

Snapper AG
Snapper AG
2 months ago

This is mind-numbingly stupid. A tiny country, with no military strength to speak of, thinks NATO helping countries under attack is a bad thing? What selfish jerks. If another country attacked Czechia, they’d be crying for US troops to come save them.

Last edited 2 months ago by Snapper AG
Aaron James
Aaron James
2 months ago
Reply to  Snapper AG

Maybe not if the ‘saving’ meant the total destruction of their homeland.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaron James

And who is it that has laid waste to large areas of Ukraine? It certainly isn’t NATO

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Very good point, Billy Bob. When any analysis gets right down to the nittygritty, It is Putin and his armies who are destroying everything in their errant paths.
Politics is better than destruction!

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I hope you get to realism before your moralism gets us all to nuclear war.
If NATO had not insisted on fighting in a non-NATO country Ukraine would have surrendered long ago (at the peace talks in April).

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

NATO is not fighting in Ukraine.
Some NATO countries (shame on you Germany and France) provide assistance to the Ukraine.
Lowlife scum like you wish that genocidal Russian invaders succeed.
Similar lowlife scum were appeasing Hitler in 1938.
Please tell us how successful that policy was?

Kat L
Kat L
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Why does everyone think every situation is exactly like wwii? If China or Russia put troops or anything on our borders you would be a-okay with it? This really isn’t complicated.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

NATO aren’t fighting in a non NATO country, if they were Russia would have been forced back to their own borders long ago

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 months ago
Reply to  Snapper AG

I am NOT surprised by down votes by Russian stooges on here.
But are we sure that these people represent Czech society?
Even just Prague has population of well over million.
When I was in Prague in February for a week, there were surprising number of Russians everywhere.
So who knows how many were involved in this supposed expression of Chech people views?

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Maybe those Russians were just getting out of Russia before it all exploded just as hundreds did later- to Finland, Scandi, Turkey and Greece.

Kat L
Kat L
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Looking at a situation dispassionately doesn’t warrant the moniker‘Russian stooge’. I don’t want my descendants paying this bill. I don’t want our men fighting a nuclear war especially after knowing this is simply because democrats and neocons have a hard on for Putin.