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2. 11. 2007 14:42

Speech of the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic on the occasion of the International Scientific Conference "Karel Kramář (1860-1937)"

Dear ladies, dear gentlemen,

On 8th January 1919 at two o'clock in the afternoon sounds a shot in the corridor in front of the office of the Prime Minister at the Prague castle. A bullet from a pistol of eighteen-year-old communist Šťastný, who wanted in this way to murder a big business and to arouse society against huge poverty, penetrates the winter coat of the victim and fortunately lodges in a purse in the breast pocket. The Prime Minister is rather groggy but uninjured. After the incident he says the following words: "As to the action itself, I am an enemy of hard and strict measures. If there are some measures to be taken they must be taken in both direction, I mean also to improve poor conditions of people. As far as today's attack against me, I think it will have also a positive effect." Who was in fact Dr. Kramář, a man and a politician who managed to respond to a murder attack with such a cool-headed bravery?

The First-Republican and later on also the post-February historiography absolutely agree in the Kramář´s assessment. What is the reason of that? We can straight leave our communist historians; for them his fundamental refusal of eastern socialism was more than enough. Kramář used to be, as well as Masaryk, staunch advocate of the federalized Austro-Hungary and concurrently a staunch patriot, Slavophil and Russophile dreaming of the all-Slavonic federation. In 1889 he was, together with Masaryk, co-founder of the Czech People-Realistic Party, which was one of parties of the Vienna Parliament. In the course of the World War One he was engaged in anti-Austrian revolt. He is, together with A. Rašín and other members of so called "Mafia" arrested and condemned to death for high treason. Then he is amnestied and he is engaged again as a strong and erudite state-builder, an archetype of a political hero. However, for the general perception of the political climate of the First Republic, he was not very suitable for then commentators. He was a destroyer of myths on Masaryk´s political infallibility, he reproached Masaryk for preparing political space for the crown prince Edward Beneš, for building a dam between domestic and foreign revolt. Together with the senator and poet Viktor Dyk, Kramář spoke for the first time about so called castle policy. Thus a kind of "Anti-Castle" was established. Many publicists of that time agree that so called Masaryks´s opponents did less harm than "Franz Joseph Camarilla" of insinuators and exploiters of the president's authority, and above all – the president who "destroyed idols is becoming an idol himself!"

The contradiction between him and Masaryk and Beneš was demonstrated, not for the first time, in an essential issue. Czechoslovakia in the time of its establishing had a twenty-thousand army of legionnaires in Russia. Together with them Kramář appeal to Masaryk and above all to Dr. Beneš so that these troops take over initiative and overthrow the power of Bolsheviks in Russia. This expert, admirer, and fancier of Russia knew better than the others that only Russia, based on the democratic principles, would not be a fatal danger for the post-war European arrangement. He failed and he in the first place reproached Beneš for his political defeatism, which was confirmed twenty years later. The core of that sharp contradiction consisted also in Kramář´s hard refusal of dilatory attitudes of Beneš to the Czechoslovak left wing. He highlighted that a society which had not acquire democratic principles could become a socialist society instead of social society. His apprehension came true in 1927, when the first serious political crisis and penetration of the left wing to the government occurred and political consequences of this crisis were noticeable in the time of Munich Treaty and outbreak of the World War Two.

Why is the legacy of Dr. Karel Kramář so significant and above all precious up to these days? Patriotism – uncompromising and pure, unselfish and disinterested; patriotism penetrating all the personality of this politician. Patriotism is a duty towards a nation and also towards memory of those who laid down their lives for their mother country. His motto was: "Nothing, but nation!" The first one who said it was František Palacký and it is our fault that the motto was stolen by the Czech extremist nationalists. We are to blame for our panic fears of being branded as chauvinists. Furthermore, it is the political and opinion faithfulness to his name. Throughout his entire political carrier, Kramář had never budged from his political and programme principles. He preferred seeking to turning coat and to basking in the sunshine. He hated unscrupulously to adapt his programme and to flow in the main stream – he preferred to lead the Czechoslovak National Democratic Party, he was seeking ways how to implement his programme. And finally – he was not afraid of destroying myths, he was not afraid of Masaryk´s or Beneš´s inviolability and he doubted their programme infallibility and their clean political sheet, without denying their indisputable merits. Even in our times we do not have the Kramář´s courage of the critical view of so called "golden age of the First Republic"; such attempts end in drawers of "heretics" in our country.

In spring 1932, based on the advise of Šámal and Preis, T.G. Masaryk tried to re-establish contacts between the two men, which had been lost since the formation of the republic. In spite of the fact that it was a desire of both men, the meeting was not held. Why? The sources available give no information and everything else is wreathed in mist. Both great men died in 1937.

When Dr. Kramář died, it was found out that huge debts remained. Had he lived beyond his means? Was he extravagant, did not he save some money? Where did his property go? Let us listen to words of his opponent, a social-democratic deputy Rudolf Bechyně, which he said after the abortive assassination: "A bullet was aimed at the heart of a curious millionaire, who had thrown his millions away to winds, while many other people were not willing to give even worn-down heel leather of their shoes for the benefit of the republic. Gentlemen, Dr. Kramář is my political opponent, because he refuses the idea of socialism. However I do not hesitate to state that the name of Dr. Kramář is mentioned in our party with respect!"

Ladies and gentlemen, let us keep exploring historical sources on this unique man and let us mention his name with respect, as well.

Thank you for your attention.

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