Background INFORMATION on the DEMOCRATIC CLUB
Published by the Executive Board of the Democratic Club in May 2014.
I. This Information summarizes and complements the tenth summary information about the Democratic Club (Dk) dated May 2014. While sent to all current members of Dk, the Executive Board decided to disseminate it more widely primarily for new members and others interested in the work and mission the Democratic Club.
II. Establishment. The Democratic Club (Dk) was established as a resistance organization on 28 September 1948 at Horní Počernice, Czech Republic. It was founded in reaction to the communist coup d’état the preceding February. Three founding members formed the Dk Historical Committee and Bureau (HC Bureau) to direct all activities aimed at promoting the aims and purposes of the organization. It sought to have direct contact with the people of Czechoslovakia while preserving the anonymity of the Club. The Bureau analyzed current issues and the general status of democracy. After 1953 the publishing of written materials, especially that directed abroad, was controlled by the communist regime. A short-lived activation of the Club occurred in 1968. Thereafter the HC Bureau functioned incognito until the regime collapsed in 1989. That underground period was devoted to analyzing and clarifying ideas, action and organizational issues of the Club’s future. Original members were contacted and kept informed of Club activities. In October 1989, Club members formulated as a governing principle the phrase, “Democratism – from Ideas to Program.” Later this developed into a Club project titled “Democrats of Today and Tomorrow.” (“Democratism” is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “the theory, system, or principles of democracy.”)
The project developed by the HC Bureau was initiated by Dk members in December 1989 to assess whether the concept of the Democratic Club in the new political environment was viable and whether its aims would help to recover and restore democracy in the Czech Republic. Founding Club members met separately and developed their assessment. The HC Bureau met 13 January 1990 to assess the positive results of the Dk Project. It also took action to transition Dk into a legally functioning civic association. The Club was legalized by the State and ratified at the 23 March 1990 meeting of the Preparatory Committee at Prague-Smíchov. The Czechoslovak Federal Ministry of the Interior approved the Statutes of the Democratic Club 23 April 1990.
III. The existing General Meetings
The Preparatory Committee made preparations for the First General Meeting (GM) held on November 21, 1992. A report was published in full in the Club’s periodical, Dk-Dialog, in its September-October 1992 issue. A report of the Second GM 7 December 1996 appeared in Dk-Dialog October 1996 and its English version in April 1997. The January 2001 Dk-Dialog published decisions reached at the Third GM 26 November 2000. Revised Statues of the Democratic Club were approved and published as an attachment Dk-Dialog in May-June 2001. A few changes in the Statutes were made 7 March 2001 by the Ministry of Interior to Articles of the Club. Reports of the Fourth GM 22 November 2003 appeared in Dk-Dialog September/October 2003 and in the English version of November 2004/1. Dk-Dialog for September/October 2006 and January/February 2007 included reports of the Fifth GM 25 November 2006. The first English version appeared in Dk-Dialog December 2007/1. Proceedings of the Sixth GM 21 November 2009 were reported in Dk-Dialog January 2010 and in English July 2010 /1. Deliberations of the Seventh (and most recent) GM 8 December 2012 were published in Dk-Dialog January 2013 and in the English version dated November 2013/1.
IV. The Idea of the Democratic Club
Since it was founded, the Club has avoided being negative in its approach. Instead, its aim has been to be positive and to address a spectrum of views and issues. In this way, Dk seeks to justify its existence and the specific forms of activity. This was expressed in substance at its inception in 1948. Later in its history, members gave consideration to these issues and constantly subjected them to careful and detailed scrutiny in its confrontation with the grim realities of living under 41 years of communist rule from 1948 to 1989. The democratic essence of the Club’s concept is expressed as follows:
An individual human being is the primary political actor. He/she has an innate ability to develop and understand political power in the context of the real world while aware of the need to react either positively or negatively. Consequently, manifesting an active reaction to public authorities is a natural human right. As the primary political actors, people are equal in their interactions with all others and in relation to governing authorities and autonomous components of state or local governmental administration. Therefore, they are equal in the same sense as social groups are regarding birthplace (nationality, race, etc.) and organizations such as churches, political parties, trade unions and civic associations. The Club deems it unacceptable to advance a political position that elevates some individuals over others on the basis of gender, race, language, nationality, geographical origin, religion, occupation, wealth or education. Equally improper is highlighting the political status of certain social groups, e.g., a nation, class or the position of a political party, church or organization. Any political official who excludes or limits or denies political equality of members is likewise inadmissible. The autonomy of the human society based on implementing these principles is democracy, i.e., the governance of the people as politically equal individuals. Political actors are individuals who aspire through organizational and institutional means to influence the decision-making process through attaining political power in government or constitutional assemblies through which preferred policies can be implemented.
Political democracy. It is crucial to insist on the right of people to vote freely in secret elections or referenda. This is political democracy. It includes the principle of separation of powers, independent courts, protection of human and civil rights and freedoms, the application of the rule of law and the diversity of civil society (composed of political actors). Political democracy differs from material democracy (in whose favor it governs). In addition, the level of political democracy is determined by whether and to what extent material democracy will succeed and whether this results in a positive testing of economic, social, cultural and environmental issues from a perspective view, namely, whether the desired results will be achieved reliably, rationally and progressively.
Democracy is not exactly the same as democratism. Democratism is the sum of individual elements or features to a sufficient degree as a prerequisite for democracy. Elements of democratism can be and usually are present even in non-democratic systems, especially in those that are pre-democratic. Democratism is applied in democracies in a decisive manner. However, the rate (range, composition and intensity of domination) varies. It can grow and manifest itself by strengthening democracy and development but it may also become a threat to its very existence or even when discussing democracy is impeded or prohibited. Summary components of democratism are an integral indicator of the level of development in a democratic society.
The human person who accepts the affirmative democratic principles also adheres to principles that constitute the political and moral convictions of democratism. It is a profession of values that are considered desirable in individuals, organizations and institutions, to one another and in relation to society as a whole. The following principles of political and moral convictions of democratism should be considered by Club members:
♣ Equality of human beings and consequent equality before the law, equality of nations, races and cultures. Persons governing a state, region or town must comply with well-defined limitations of association and the time determined by elections.
♣ Freedom of the individual, freedom of political and other civic organizations, the nation and state is essential to individual political freedom. It cannot be permanently or indefinitely given up and is limited only by the freedom of all persons. Freedom is indivisible and therefore the limitation of one must be perceived as a limitation of all.
♣ Citizens have free access to all information on the political, social and economic life of the country (except for that subject to reasonable confidentiality).
♣ Rule of law is the fair application of the law to people, nations and states and the enforcement of rights.
♣ Tolerance and respect for differences of ethnic, religious bodies and cultures is fundamental.
♣ Club members respect the creative endeavors of new members that further democratic principles.
♣ Acceptable level of morality, the political culture and its entities is standard.
♣ Permission for a lower unit to hold its own affairs is respected.
♣ Belief in democracy as a superior form of governance is shared by a substantial majority of the citizenry who are willing to resolve all conflicts in a democratic and constitutional manner.
Typical questions of democratism which the Democratic Club focuses on involve the role of citizens in society and the state as the primary political entity ensuring the rights of citizens to equality, freedom of conscience and speech and democratic rights. Specifically, 1) the active and passive right to vote and the right to participate in a referendum; 2) the right of assembly and association and to jointly petition legislative, executive and judicial powers; 3) the right to form a civil society; 4) equality in the role of informal political components of the same type; 5) equal status of similar organizations, in particular the plurality and equality of political parties; 6) non-interference of the democratic function of the media; 7) the rule of law as a system of guarantees of constitutionality and legality; 8) an independent judiciary; 9) functioning of legislative assemblies and the electoral system; 10) relationship of nations and nationalities in the state; 11) defense of the independence and integrity of the state and democratic principles in foreign policy (sovereignty, cooperation and peaceful coexistence).
Democracies based on democratism present the highest values of how society is/should be organized. These values, if left to spontaneous development, inevitably threaten the existence and degree of democratism and of democracy itself. The protection of democracy and augmentation of the extent of democratism is an absolute necessity.
The guarantee of systemic features is the primary responsibility of democratism in the education of citizens and institutions of the democratic state. In the broadest sense, the most dynamic role in ensure these features is performed by political organizations. However, political parties, movements and organizations focused on environmental, economic, social, cultural and ethnic factors are sometimes used by special interest groups to achieve their exclusive interests. The questions of democratism bear on these issues. To achieve control, political parties operate in a similar way. Therefore, democratic political systems and organizations should aim only to support democratism in society. Being a non-partisan, political organization with this type of guarantee justifies the existence of the Democratic Club.
V. The mission of the Democratic Club
Creating and implementing points of view, proposals, etc. on specific issues in a typical social setting is the purpose of the Democratic Club. It studies the problems of democratism, popularizes and promotes the values of democracy and opposes and repudiates all anti-democratic activities in society. Available resources include publishing Club positions, reminders and petitions as well as co-operating with other bodies. In these ways it encourages continued and widespread dialogue among Club members to assess relevant contingencies of and prospects for the advancement of democratism.
The Statutes characterize the Democratic Club as a civic association whose mission is to promote democratism most efficiently in the lives of people (§1).
Membership in the Club begins when a member’s registration is approved by the Club’s leadership. Anyone 15 years or older is eligible upon his or her written agreement with the Club’s principles (§2).
The ideological basis is a condensed expression of the Democratic Club’s fundamental principles. The full text appears both in the Statutes and the Membership Application. It is summarized as follows:
Democracy is the government of, for and by the people without regard for gender, race, language, nationality, origin, occupation, property, social status, level of education, religious belief or political orientation or membership in democratic political parties, trade unions and civic associations. In a democracy, individuals are all equal as persons and to public authorities. Consequently, they are entitled to both equal rights and equal obligations.
According to §5 regarding membership, Dk members are eligible to elect or be elected to Club’s leadership, to participate in decision-making bodies of the Club, to submit proposals, suggestions, comments, etc., and to participate in all events and enjoy the benefits of membership. Dk members are expected to comply with the Statutes and Resolutions of Club’s leadership, conscientiously perform assigned tasks and pay membership dues promptly.
Organizational structure includes the Club’s basic units and the leadership (§ 9-14). The General Assembly (Central Conference) is the supreme body of Dk. Meeting are held at least once every three years. Other central bodies are the Central Committee, Executive Board, Historical Committee and Bureau, and the Central Auditing Commission. Basic units can be established with at least 10 members after consultation with Club officials (§ 8, par. 1). They can be founded on territorial/country or professional basis.
VI. Central, and Central Auditing Committees and Dk Executive Board
The VII. General Assembly elected the Central Committee. Current members are: Pavel Černý, Jan Friedlaender, Sonia Chalupová, Petr Jirásek, Zdeněk Kalvach, Jiřina Kocourková, Miroslava Mašková, Edvard Outrata, Miroslav Novák, Zdeněk Pavlík, Leona Stašová, Alena Šubrtová, Ivan Turnovec, Ivan Vávra, Lucie Vítková and Ondřej Wagner. Alternate members elected are Milan Aleš, Branislav Bleha, Petr Hlaváček, Helena Jankovská and František Povolný. The General Meeting also elects the Dk Central Auditing Commission of which currently include: František Filaun, Hubert Maxa, Magdalena Mikesková, Jan Müller and Eva Švandová. Alternates are Břetislav Fajkus and Eduard Souček.
At its first meeting on February 26, 2013, the following were elected: Chairman of the Central Committee Miroslav Novák and Vice-Presidents Pavel Černý and Zdeněk Kalvach. In 2014, Alena Šubrtová resigned from the Committee for health reasons. The Executive Board as of May 2014 consists of Miroslav Novák (Chairman), Philip Hainz (Head of Secretariat), Anja Burlica, Valentine Plzák and Milan Zapletal. The Political Committee is comprised of Jan Friedlaender (chairman), Jana Matesová, Miroslav Novák, Zdeněk Pavlík, Ivan Turnovec and Ondřej Wagner. The moderator of regular meetings is Ondřej Wagner and Zdeněk Pavlík is political advisor to the Executive Board.
The number of members increased gradually to 35 after it was organized, four of whom died before Dk was legalized in1990. Ten have not maintained contact. On September 30, 2004, the Club had 626 members, of whom 430 had permanent residence in Czechia and 29 in Slovakia. The remaining members resided in 36 different nations. The membership in 2013 totaled 248 women and 378 men, of whom 308 are younger than 60 years. As of May 2014, the Club has more than 600 members. During Dk’s 56 years of existence, a number of members died, some left Czechia and others have lost contact with the Club. A total of 764 persons have been members during the Club’s existence. Members receive a membership card which includes a permanent membership number.
Members and friends of the Democratic Club are encouraged to be involved in the aims and programs based on their interests and abilities, such as in expert and working groups. These groups concentrate their main focus on the nature and efforts of Dk. Included are general issues of democracy (e.g., a democratic seminar); forming Dk opinions; promoting and welcoming new members, editing and administrating Dk-Dialog and its English version. Other aims include the preparation of regular membership meetings and events, lectures by invited speakers, education for democracy in educational institutions at various levels, financial security and the management of the Club, contact with foreign members, legal issues relating to the Club’s activities, students and other young members of the Club, etc. The composition, coordination and the work of the individual groups are reported in Dk-Dialog.
VIII. Membership fees
The Dk Statutes expect Club members to remit membership fees once annually. Donations and membership fees are the Club’s sole source of income. The amount is decided by the member. The Executive Board recommends the following minimum based on their means. For members on limited means (students, housewives), for non-working pensioners members the fee is 100 CZK ($5 US) per year. Working pensioners and self-employed members are urged to consider a minimum of 500 CZK ($25 US) annually. This level represents approximately 3 per mile of the average annual income. (The European Salary System 2014 ranks the Czech Republic the seventh highest white-collar employees among the 28 member states of the European Union.) Fees are voluntary for Club members over the age 80. Economic activities of the Club obviously cannot be foreseen in advance.
IX. Communication of members with Dk officials
A. Personal contact at regular meetings. All meetings afford opportunities for intensive discussion and debate. Attending meetings enable members to become aware of political issues pertinent to the Club’s mission. All members are free to ask questions, express views and opinions and suggest recommendations to the Club membership. Topics of meetings are generally are included in the opening speech, but a discussion on current political topics is not precluded.
B. The Club’s newsletter, Dk-Dialog, disseminates Club concerns to members and supporters in the Czech Republic and abroad. Essays by members and from outside sources provide detailed commentary on Club’s issues, proposals on the current political milieu and approved positions Dk, exchanges of opinions by Club members and reports of upcoming events. Consequently, it contains news articles, reports of regular meetings, at times rejoinders between essayists and in general the newsletter is a medium of dialog between members and friends of Dk. The first issue of Dk-Dialog was published in January 1991. Ten issues each year were printed during post-Revolution years containing four to eight pages. From 2001 to 2009, some issues contained 12 pages. Since 2009, the newsletter has been published four times a year, with a few issues totaling 16 pages. Since 1994, an English edition of Dk-Dialog has been published irregularly containing selected contributions from the Czech version. Upon request, members can obtain past issues before becoming members of the Club, including the English edition. An Index of articles is available by name of author and subject and is sent to members upon request.
C. Written and personal contact with Dk officials. Members are invited to contact Club by written correspondence, phone or e-mail to the address on the first page. Personal meetings with the Club Secretariat, officials or members of the Executive Board can be also arranged, including members outside of Prague or abroad.
X. Efforts of Dk externally
A. The Democratic Club issues official positions to Czech governing authorities, with 56 position statements submitted to date. Members are invited to submit proposals for position statements. A few examples include these: Castigation of Czech Radio for unbalanced comments (February 2013); Personnel changes at the Institute for Study of Totalitarian Regimes (May 2013); and Constitutional order in the Czech Republic (August 2013). Position statements were sent to respective authorities and institutions and published in Dk-Dialog. The Political Committee prepares statements which are discussed at regular Dk meetings, with input by the Executive Board and published in Dk-Dialog. All members of the Political Committee approve the final texts.
B. Dk acts externally and with other forums. Discussion meetings, round tables, lectures and other Dk events are open to invited persons and the general public. Commentaries by some Club members have appeared in other periodicals on topics related to the Club’s concerns. The Democratic Club is in continuous contact with other civil and social organizations having similar aims for the Czech Republic here and abroad.
XI. Materials available to members of Dk
The following materials may be requested by regular post, e-mail or telephone:
— “What is the Democratic Club,” a leaflet available in English, Bulgarian, Esperanto, Estonian, French, Italian, Mongolian, German, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukrainian.
— “What is and what does the Democratic Club seek?” This and the previous leaflet were published in 1990 and appeared as a supplement to Dk-Dialog of November 2013. These items can assist members to gain a greater understanding of the Club’s ideological perspective and for dissemination to prospective Club members.
— “Democratic Club is …” a brief elaboration of the 11 keynote statements encapsulating the core program of the Club. It is also available in several of the cited languages.
— Membership Application (Form A4), available as well in several languages.
– “Introduction” and “Dk-Current” is a brief description of the Club’s concept. Both items are available in Czech and English. These are primarily for prospective members.
— “10th Summary Information about the Democratic Club” Ten issues were published at present, only in Czech.
— “Background Information about the Democratic Club” The Czech 10th Summary Information was published in English for the first time.
Club members have access to assorted Club books, journals and other documents at the CEVRO Institute Library. Dk deposited these materials as a permanent loan with this library. These materials can be borrowed by members with a valid membership card. They are also authorized to borrow books from the Library’s general collection. The Institute, a private School of Political Studies, is located at Jungmannova 17, Prague 1 (phone 221 506 733; please leave a message.
XII. Members’ accountability
Members are encouraged to communicate their recommendations to the Executive Board regarding participation, creation, adoption and implementation of Dk positions on current political issues. These can be helpful in assisting Club activities in professional political work, in administrative and technical assistance, such as in the newsroom, filing, shipping, corrections, etc., and participating in a working group, e.g., initiate or help establish territorial or professional groups of the Club.
A significant contribution would be contacting editorial offices of newspapers, magazines and other mass media to inform them of Dk’s mission and its position statements on political issues. Consider providing them copies of Background Information on the Democratic Club. Additional copies are available by mail. Others might have contact with printers, reproduction workshops, etc., to publicize Dk activities. Members having contact with persons and organizations here or abroad could also invite them to become members of the Club.
The Democratic Club will become a stronger, more effective organization as members invite their friends and associates to join. This would increase its influence on the governance particularly of the Czech Republic but elsewhere as well. The future of the Club is dependent on increasing the membership on a regular basis. Long-time members are encouraged to mentor new members concerning the Club’s aims and purposes and how they can be involved based on their interests and professional background. The current membership is composed of a spectrum of persons in a variety of the professions, including prominent educators, administrators and writers.
That said, it should be noted that Dk is an open organization which welcomes persons who genuinely seek to promote a true democracy in this nation and abroad. The Democratic Club supports the precept of the first President of Czechoslovakia, Thomas G. Masaryk, that politics is a “rational and honest endeavor”. On the tenth anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovak Independence, October 28, 1928, he said: “We must make clear what we have accomplished by our own efforts, we must draw up a balance sheet for ourselves, examine our consciences and resolve upon further”.
The Dk appreciates those who themselves found the initiative to join the Club as well as those who joined the Club on the basis of individual invitation. The invitation itself is the expression of trust towards the invited person.work.” The Club endorses these aims.
The Democratic Club acknowledges and applauds the work of all persons that have devoted countless hours over the years since its inception in 1948 to make the Club the dynamic organization it is today.