Kříž, Z. (2004). Mediation of Interests of active duty soldiers in the political system of the Czech Republic. Středoevropské politické studie, 6(4). Získáno z https://journals.muni.cz/cepsr/article/view/4054/5271
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Mediation of Interests of active duty soldiers in the political system of the Czech Republic

 

Zdeněk Kříž

 

Publishing this study has been supported by „Grantová agentura Akademie věd České republiky“, project number B7607201.
 

 

Abstract

 

Military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty represent a marginal part of the whole spectrum of interest-groups operating in the political system of the Czech Republic. Activities of these organisations don’t deviate form the general theoretical frame used to describe and analyse roles of interest-organisations in democracy. Even though military interest organisations have some influence on the processes of politics in the Czech Republic, it cannot be compared to the influence of key organisations and associations. The liberal-corporate influences have been so far rather week in the analysed segment of organised interests. The system of military interest-organisations has not been consolidated as yet.                           

 

Key words: organised interests; military interest-organisations; democratic control of armed forces.

 

1. Introduction

 

The armed forces are built for the purpose of aiding the state in executing and implementing its policies and that is why they, as an institution, are supposed to be politically neutral. At the same time, the army provides a particular social environment that generates specific (i.e. connected with the existence of the armed forces) interests of the individuals serving in it. If it were not for the existence of the armed forces, there would be no specific interests of career soldiers, civil employees of the armed forces, reserve officers, military veterans, military-industrial complex, etc. In general, the bearers of those interests seek to realise them by taking part in the process of the creation of the political will of the democratic society, and that holds for the specific interests of military personnel as well. In spite of the fact that the army as an institution is required to be politically neutral, the western model of the democratic control of armed forces allows soldiers some degree of participation in the democratic political process, because, after all, every soldier is a citizen as well. Nevertheless, there are usually a number of restrictions and prohibitions that, compared to what is allowed to civilians, restrict the space in which the mediation of the interests of soldiers and their active participation in politics can take place.

Even though the application of the western model of the democratic control of the armed forces in the Czech Republic allows soldiers to participate in politics, there are also some restrictions, out of which the most important from the point of view of the participation in the political process is the ban on membership in political parties, combined with the prohibition of military trade unions and strike.[1] These prohibitions restrict considerably the possibilities of soldiers to mediate their interests within the democratic political process. Out of all political institutions that civilians can use to mediate their interests and to participate in the political process, Czech soldiers in active duty can only use interest-organisations. In this text I shall use the term „military interest-organisation“ to refer to all interest-organisations that can be characterised by interests generated either directly within the military, or against the background of its existence. One of the implications of this broad definition is that a military interest-organisation does not necessarily have to be an organisation that only defends interests of military personnel. Within military interest-organisations I shall distinguish the specific subset of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty, whose main (even though not necessarily the only one) area of activity is the defence of the interests of soldiers in active service.

In the 1990s, the legislative anchoring the right of soldiers to participate in the political process through military interest-organisations, together with other factors, led to the creation of a relatively dense net of these institutions. Naturally, there are many different criteria that can be used for the typology of military interest-organisations. But, given the topic of this paper, not all organisations are part of the subject matter of our analysis, because most of them do not have it as their priority to defend the interests of soldiers in active duty. The interests of soldiers in active duty are mediated especially by the Career Soldiers League - CSL (Svaz vojáků z povolání), Officers and WOs League - OWL (Svaz důstojníků a praporčíků), and The Czech Republic Veterans Association - CRVA (Sdružení veteránů), even though, one should note that none of these organisations associates exclusively soldiers in active service. Nevertheless, their activities are mainly aimed at the satisfaction of the needs and the defence of the interests of this particular social group. That is also why this paper focuses on these organisations.

Interest-organisations of soldiers (including those in active service) are among those specific interest-organisations acting within the political system of The Czech Republic that are rather difficult to classify from the point of view of political theory. In general, the classification of the above given military-interest organisations in the category of profession-oriented associations can only be acceptable, if we allow for the above given specific features of these organisations, and if the categorisation is taken with a grain of salt. If we use as our criterion the kind of interest, we can subdivide organised interests into organised interests of material nature and organised interests of immaterial nature. From this point of view, all the three military interest organisations fall, as far as their demands are concerned, within the category of organised interests defending material interests of their members. But like the categorisations we mentioned before, this one too should only be taken as relatively valid, because, in the interest-organisations in question, one can also find some (even though not many) demands oriented to the satisfaction of interests of immaterial nature. We can further distinguish between organisations defending general interests on the one hand, and organisations defending special interests on the other hand. In this respect, it is quite clear that military interest-organisations should be classified as organisations defending special interests the interests of a small profession group, i.e. soldiers.

The paper will give special attention to the question of whether there are some specific features of their activities that distinguish them from other interest-groups features that would need a special explanation within the frame of current political theory, or, as the case might be, would call for a revision of that part of the theory that deals with the analysis and explanation of organised interests.

 

2. Functions of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active service within the political system of the Czech Republic

 

Even though military interest-organisations are rather difficult to classify from the typological point of view, research results indicate that they fulfil most of the functions, that, according to political theory, such political actors should fulfil. These organisations integrate similar interests of citizens, even though we must keep in mind the already mentioned fact that the interests in question are not interests of the whole society, but only special interests generated by the membership of their bearers in the military. Any citizen of the Czech Republic can become a member of CSL, because this organisation opens its membership potentially to all ACR sympathisers who do not have to be either current or past soldiers in active service.[2] The situation is similar in the case of the ACR Officers and WOs League, which, like The Career Soldiers League, is not an exclusive interest-organisation of soldiers in active service, but opens its membership also to reserve and retired soldiers, on the condition that they identify themselves with the aims of the organisation.[3] Note that this definition of OWL membership makes it a slightly less inclusive organisation than CSL, because, in the case of civilians, the individual OWL membership is limited to persons with military past. The League also allows a collective membership of citizens associations registered by the OWL Central Council. The above mentioned membership criteria of the two organisations may be taken as being indicative of the motive to address as many citizens as possible and, thus, to recruit the largest possible membership. The Czech Republic Veterans Association pursues a completely different membership recruitment strategy. The Association is only open to some soldiers in reserve, retirement or active service. According to the statute rules of this organisation „a CRVA member can only be a physical person who is older than 18, accepts the CRVA statutes, and took part in a war, combat of other dangerous operation in the interest of the country for at least 30 days without interruption."[4] This makes CRVA into an exclusive military interest-organisation that integrates citizens with even more specific interests than CSL or OWL.  Nevertheless, not even this organisation is limited exclusively to soldiers in active service, because it is also open to soldiers in reserve and retirement.

A significant fact should be mentioned in this connection, namely that the recruitment potential of military interest organisations in the Czech Republic has so far been rather limited and its tendency is still decreasing.  This must be seen against the background of the process of the ACR reduction: according to the latest plans, the ACR should only have 26,200 soldiers. The available data indicate that the rates of success of the recruitment of soldiers in active service by military interest-organisations are not very encouraging. One methodological problem connected with the research into recruitment success rates should be mentioned here. As we have shown above, although the researched organisations defend primarily the interests of soldiers in active service, their statutes allow the membership of persons who are not in active service, or, as is the case with CSL, even never served in the army, provided they are army sympathisers. This rather lax approach to membership increases recruitment potential of the organisations in question, which holds especially for CSL and to some extent also for OWL. On the contrary, the recruitment potential of The Czech Republic Veterans Association is severely limited by the condition of active participation in combat or crisis operations. Nevertheless, according to the available data, all military interest-organisations, except The Czech Republic Veterans Association, have problems with decreasing membership, which tendency is, rather paradoxically, most pronounced in the organisation with the most liberal membership criteria and ambition to become a mass organisation, the Career Soldiers League. According to the estimates of the officials of the League, it had about 4,000 members in 2000.  This must be compared to the approximately 20,000 members reported by the officials of the organisation in 1993, the year when it was founded. If we count as potential members only soldiers in active service, then, in view of the fact that in 2000 the ACR had 55,000 soldiers in active service, we obtain approximately 7 % recruitment success rate for ASV in 2000, while the same method of calculation leads to the conclusion that the recruitment success rate of the same organisation was approximately 20 % in 1993. If our calculations take account of the fact that membership of CSL is open not only to soldiers in active service, but also to its sympathisers, the actual recruitment success rate of CSL is even less. But the accurate estimates of recruitment success rates are only possible in the case of The Czech Republic Veterans Association, because this is the only organisation that states the criteria that its potential members must meet in a clear and unambiguous way (see above). By 1st May 2003 the organisation had 364 regular members compared to about 5 500 potentials members.  The recruitment success rate of The Czech Republic Veterans Association is approximately 7 %, but according to the materials prepared by the organisation itself, the rate is growing a little. From this one can infer that there is a certain demand for the interest-organisation of this type, and that war veterans are (whether justly or unjustly is another question) dissatisfied with the way they have been treated by the Czech society. If the two other military interest-organisations were equally successful in recruiting their members, then, given their liberal membership criteria (!), the numbers of their member’s would have to be tens of thousands. Thus, the Veterans Association with its narrow recruitment criteria, an organisation that does not have the ambition of becoming a mass organisation, is relatively more successful in integrating citizens with similar interests than CSL with its very liberal recruitment criteria. Another important factor that may contribute to further growth of the Veterans Association in the future is the relatively intensive engagement of the Czech Republic in various crisis resolving operations, because with the growing numbers of CR citizens who take part in these operations grows the numbers of those who meet the strict membership criteria of the Veterans Association. This factor, combined with the assumption that the current trend of the decreasing CSL membership can be extrapolated, leads to the conclusion that in the future the Veterans Association will become the biggest military interest-organisation of soldiers in active service in absolute terms, and not just in terms of its relative rates of growth.[5]

The relatively low rates of recruitment success of the CSL should probably be understood against the background of the disappointed expectations of its potential members in confrontation with the poor practical results and general chaos in the army institution during the 1990s. As far as the numbers of members of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty are concerned, one can argue, as I believe, non only that these organisations cannot claim to have mass membership at present, but that, in view of the changed position of armed forces in the modern society in general, they will not be able to achieve mass membership in near future. One obstacle standing in the way of the membership growth of these organisations is the already above mentioned limited recruitment potential, another one is their disability to make full use of the little recruitment potential they have, aggravated by the disparity between the exaggerated expectations of the potential members of these organisations on the one hand, and the poor practical results of the army as an institution on the other hand. Thus, the integrative function of these military interest-organisations is relatively weak, and does not bear comparison with the integrative function of analogous military interest organisations in Germany, Austria or France. (More Gertz 1994)

As far as the activation function is concerned, the above mentioned organisations fulfil it up to an extent, but there was a noticeable tendency towards its weakening during the 1990s. The only exception out of this tendency is The Veterans Association that somehow managed to activate both its regular and potential members, especially against the background of the health complaints of the 1991 Iraqi War veterans.

A research has shown that all the three analysed military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty fulfil the articulation function. The articulated interests of military interest-organisations have a relatively wide range and exhibit several common features. The Career Soldiers League declares itself to be an independent, voluntary, profession-oriented and social organisation of the CR. The general aim of the League is to „articulate and push through legitimate interests of its members. The League defends legitimate rights of its members and aims at the satisfaction of their rightful demands. CSL ACR wants every career soldier to be recognised as a citizen in uniform together with all the rights and the specificity of this profession." [6]  In its program declaration, CSL sets up a number of specific goals. To give a full picture of the program orientation of this organisation, here is the list of these goals: respect for human rights, elimination of the abuse of power by military commanders, better cooperation with commanders, impartial evaluation of work results achieved by soldiers, increase in the prestige of the army within the society at large, maintaining existential security and improving social security of soldiers, dealing with housing problems of soldiers, organising social and social events,  providing opportunities for education of the organisation members. This articulation of the SVP interests suggests big ambitions of those organisations, especially in the social area.

The program of The ACR Officers and WOs League is in many respects similar.  Among the main goals of this organisation are: defending social, cultural and humanitarian interests of the League’s members, promoting positive perception of the army by the public in large, contribute to the formation of positive attitudes and respect of the League’s members towards Czechoslovak and Czech military traditions, promotion of patriotism among the League’s members, assisting them in their efforts to find jobs after leaving the army.[7] These goals do not need any special comment, because they can be regarded as quite standard uncontroversial goals of similar organisations. But, what needs commenting is the formulation that the League „as a non-profit and nongovernmental organisation, will try to preserve and fight for the politically right development and basic human rights." [8] The second part of this formulation is quite uncontroversial and understandable. After all, basic human rights are clearly defined in many documents, including „The Charter of Basic Human Rights and Liberties“, which has also been incorporated into the legal system of the Czech Republic. But, what the League mean by the phrase „politically right development“ is far from clear and can’t even be reconstructed from the available materials (that is, available at the time of writing this paper).  Besides, after reading the text of the OWL program, one is left wondering whether its authors really understand the difference between what is political and what is not, because, on the one hand their proclamations rule out a priori any engagement of their organisation in political activities while, on the other hand, by the proposed demands and the methods of achieving their satisfaction they undoubtedly enter the area delimited by the three-dimensional model of politics.

The main program goals of The Czech Republic Veterans Association are the care for the health and social needs of war veterans, and the representation of their interests vis-a-vis government organs. In this connection, the key items on the organisation’s agenda were and still are the health problems of its members caused by their deployment in the Persian Gulf at the beginning of the 1990s, and ensuring social benefits for veterans. Among the secondary goals are the dissemination of the knowledge of the successes of Czech and Czechoslovak soldiers among the population at large, and cooperation with similarly oriented associations.[9]

It should be apparent from the above description that the articulated interests and demands of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active service concern mainly (even though not exclusively) the social area, in particular social benefits of soldiers. To understand this orientation, it must be seen in the context of the changed perception of the army institution in democratic societies in the phase of the transition from the industrial era to the post-industrial one. The army as an institution is no longer perceived by the society primarily as a defender of the country, or individual soldiers as fighters for the country. Instead, there is a tendency to perceive them simply in terms of the employer-employees relationship. Political systems in basically all developed democratic societies must come to terms with the interests and demands of their soldiers seeking social security and benefits above the standard levels (which, of course, is always relative to the situation of the country in question). Thus, the demands of the military interest-organisations of active soldiers in the Czech Republic are not an exception from the general trends we find in consolidated democratic regimes.

In mediating their articulated interests within the political system of the Czech Republic, military interest-organisations make predominantly use of the method of negotiating with the politico-bureaucratic apparatus of the MoD or of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. The mediating efforts of these organisations are only secondarily directed to the political elites of the country, whom they seek to influence both through official negotiations about specific problems and through informal links to some of their members specialising in matters of security policy or military affairs in general. This primary orientation on influencing the politico-bureaucratic apparatus of the MoD is more convenient, because many members of military interest-organisations are themselves members of various bodies or agencies of the MoD politico-bureaucratic apparatus. That provides them with an excellent opportunity to exert a potentially very powerful - and still very difficult to identify – influence on the final shape of an expertise or proposal sent subsequently to political elites for discussion and relating to the interests of the military interest-organisation they are members of.  Admittedly, even these organisations tried to use the method of exerting direct influence on political elites in the political decision-making system at the initial stages of their existence, especially at the beginning of the 1990s, but these attempts were mostly unsuccessful.

The only exception from the general trend to try to influence the politico-bureaucratic apparatus, which, by the way, is the dominant strategy of non-military interest-organisations in stable democratic regimes, seems to be The Veterans Association that managed to influence successfully the Parliament discussing the draft of the law on military veterans. The Veterans Association actively influenced the parliamentary process of giving final shape to a draft of law on veterans (in fact, on war veterans, in its final formulation) that entitles veterans to certain social benefits.[10] Here, in connection with our analysis of the methods used by military interest-organisations, it is necessary to keep in mind an important fact that we have already mentioned before, namely that some methods of exerting pressure are a priori inaccessible to those organisations. Not only that soldiers do not have the right to strike, but the existence of any military interest-organisation requires prior MoD consent. At this stage it is difficult to predict whether the method of trying directly to influence political elites, as it was successfully used by the Veterans Association in the above-mentioned case, will become a rule or remain an exception, even though the evidence available so far suggests the latter. There are many other cases documented in which the Veterans Association behaves quite in conformity with the theoretical assumption of the primary orientation of interest organisations and interest groups on methods of exerting influence on politico-bureaucratic apparatus.

In literature dealing with civil-military relations, the interest organisations of soldiers in active service are regarded as an important element in the process of the democratic control of armed forces. What is particularly emphasised in this context is their information function and their contribution to the creation of the public opinion, which is one of the functions of interest-organisations in general.  (For more on this see Balabán 1997 and Balabán 1999) With respect to the former function, the importance of military interest-organisations in the system of democratic control consists in their functioning as specific information channels through which the public at large might obtain information, relatively independently, what is provided by military elites, or what is going on in the army institution. Nevertheless, as the author of this paper believes, this role of the Czech military interest-organisations within the system of democratic control has not so far been very significant, because, with the exception of the Veterans Association, these organisations have not been able to make any of the internal matters of the army institution a topic of public discussion. A similar conclusion can also be made with respect to the public opinion function. To influence the public opinion is among the goals of all the above-described military interest-organisations of active soldiers, and all of them have made a number of practical steps directed towards achieving that goal.  The author of this paper does not believe that with the source materials and methods of sociological research available today, it is possible to measure the success of these organisations in influencing the public opinion.  Nevertheless, it is possible to conclude that, even though the available sociological research suggests that the trust of the Czech society in the army as an institution increased significantly in the 1990s, the key role in this positive shift in the public perception of the armed forces was probably played by the successful activities of the army in various types of operations and in providing assistance in the aftermath of floods that afflicted the Czech Republic. (see. Jandová – Pavlíková 2003) On the whole, out of the three military interest-organisations of active soldiers analysed by us, only The Veterans Associations has so far been able to make the themes of its interests the topics of the mass media discussion, and thus, of public discussion. This is especially true of the so-called „Gulf syndrome“ case.

During the period under analysis, the above-analysed military interest-organisations also fulfilled, up to an extent, educational functions within the frame of their informative functions.  It is especially the activities of the OWL that excel in this area. In the second half of the 1990s, The ACR Officers and WOs League implemented an important project with educational objectives in the area of civil-military relations and democratic control of the armed forces. The project was named „Civil Control of the Army, and Officers in Democratic Societies“ and was realised as part of an EU Phare Program. In its work on the project The ACR Officers and WOs League cooperated with the League of Bundeswehr Reserves Officers, Hungarian League of Military Reserves, Slovak League of Military Reserves, and Zentrum Innere Führung in Koblenz. As part of the project, many study-stays, working seminars, round tables, and other educational activities were realised (Balabán 1999).           

As regards the function of participation in political power structures, not only that the above described military interest-organisations do not directly participate in political-power structures, their activities are even irrelevant in the process of selecting political elites. This is probably the only function that is completely absent in the military interest-organisations in the Czech Republic. But at the theoretical level it is far from clear that interest-groups should have such a function at all.

 

3. Liberal-corporate or pluralistic features?

 

A lot has been written by political scientists on the problem of liberal corporatism (for more on this se e.g. Nohlen 1996: s. 365 – 370), and this holds for the Czech political science community as well (e.g. Brokl 1997: 46 – 49). Some authors believe that in the Czech Republic (liberal) corporatism has been growing in recent years (Klaus 2001:1). Other authors assume that in the Czech Republic the system of interest organisations exists in a space delimited by liberal corporatism on the one hand, and pluralism on the other hand. They argue that this is a mixed system with predominance of pluralistic features (Fiala - Kříž 1997), and that the conditions in the environment of Czech Republic do not favour the formation of a model of interest-mediation dominated by liberal-corporate features (Fiala 2001). If we accept the notion that corporatism is a system of „mediation, interconnection and coordination of interests between the state and a limited number of obligatory, non-competing, hierarchically ordered and well organised institutions and associations“ (Klaus 2001: 1), we can see the indicators of the corporate ordering of relationships between interest-organisations and the state in the existence of profession-oriented, government-licensed and government-recognised associations and organisations with the monopoly on a particular part of  the political space, who, in exchange for these privileges, fulfil some of the functions of the state (Adamová - Křížkovský - Šouša – Šoušová: 106). 

Given the fact that military interest-groups are organisations licensed by the state in the form of a contract with the MoD, the adoption of the above point of view could lead one to the conclusion that the relationships between the state and military interest-groups are organised on (liberal) corporate principles. But such a conclusion would be hasty and, as can be, by considering other factors, even erroneous. The above analysed military interest-organisations of active duty soldiers do not have the monopoly of power on the corresponding part of political space, and, unlike such bodies as bar chambers or medical chambers, they are not organisations with obligatory membership. Finally, they do not substitute the state in any of its functions. While in modern societies such things as the concern for the awareness (on the part of the society at large) of the importance of the military, the readiness of all citizens to contribute to the defence of the country, and positive image of the army in the perception of the public, are still functions of the state, they are not universally recognised as such in post-modern societies.  Nevertheless, in the Czech Republic, military interest-organisations openly declare the above-mentioned kind of care as part of their own activities, and not just declare, they actually carry them out.  It is especially the Career Soldiers League that organises various cultural, sport and social events aiming at the propagation of the positive image of the army in the society at large, and at a positive shift in military-civil relationships.  The CSL plays an auxiliary role in assisting the state in the defence-readiness programs for the public at large. To evaluate these activities, that to a degree supply activities of the state, we can conclude that they represent an important part of the overall CSL activity, even though, as the author believes, their impact on the society is not considerable (apart from the fact that it is very difficult to measure). The Veterans Association and The ACR Officers and WOs League are engaged in similar activities. Nevertheless, it is important to note that military interest-organisations (including those of soldiers in active duty) engage in activities of this sort out of their own will, and not on the basis a „social contract“ with the state that would provide them with the monopoly on organising the corresponding part of political space. So far, Czech military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty have only been trying to influence political actors from the outside, that is, as yet they have not been incorporated into the state, even though they have been trying to achieve that status. That is also why, the author believes, their relationships with the state are characterised by the predominance of pluralistic features. Despite the existence of some personal links to the MoD politico-bureaucratic apparatus, military interest-organisations of active soldiers are not among the actors of the political system of the Czech Republic who have, so to speak, an a priory privileged relationship to the state power, no matter how much they may desire to be so privileged. The liberal-corporate influence that, in the political system of the Czech Republic, is characteristic of the relationships to the state of such organisations as bar chambers or medical chambers, have been so far rather week in the analysed segment of organised interests.                           

 

4. How successful are military-interest organisations of soldiers in active service?

 

Despite the fact that the „soldier-citizen in uniform“ approach has already been at least partially applied in the Czech Republic, Czech interest-organisations of soldiers are still a priory disadvantaged by two factors when trying to push through their interests:  1. The consent of the state is required for their existence; 2. Soldiers do not have the right of strike.  But, from the political science point of view, this should not be a big obstacle to their success, because, by the use of pressure-methods, interest groups in general only push through a minority of their demands. This theoretical assumption has not been refuted by the empirical research of the rates of success of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty in the political system of the Czech Republic. The author believes that these organisations, despite the sense of disappointment at the achieved results among many of their members, are relatively successful. One can say that military interest-organisations are, to a large extent, successful in achieving the goals they have set up for themselves in their programmes. This conclusion is particularly supported by such facts that the standards of social security of soldiers are now relatively high compared to those of the civilian population, and the final shape of the law on war veterans, being substantially different from the originally proposed draft, conforms well to the requirements of the Veterans Association. Naturally, this state can’t be accounted for exclusively the activities of military interest-organisations. An important role has obviously been played there by the decreasing ability of armed forces in present-day democracies to recruit good quality human resources that would be up to the requirements of the contemporary state of military affairs.  This situation forces the political elites to provide their militaries with benefits above the standard levels in their societies to offset the risks associated with the military profession in the post-bipolar security environment. Long gone are the times when the armies of the Euro-American civilisation circle (or, at least, of most of the countries belonging to the circle) were only preparing for fight rather than actually fighting or taking part in non-combat operations.  Present-day soldiers, who perceive the army primarily as their employer, have to face the fact that they will almost certainly have to spend part of their military careers in combat deployment in various types of crisis resolution operations. As a reward for their willingness to incur the risk they expect social security above the standard level in the society, which is what military interest-organisations seek and political elites are ready to provide.

As far as the successfulness of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active service is concerned, in the opinion of the author, the outstanding organisation among them is the Veterans Association. This organisation has gradually managed to push through several measures that give war veterans a privileged position compared to both civilians and other military persons. If we generalise the factors behind this success, we must first and foremost mention the personal links between the Association and the politico-bureaucratic apparatus, specifically the MoD apparatus. These links consists in the fact that some members of the Veterans Association work in those parts of administrative apparatus of the MoD whose agenda coincides with the focus of interests of the Association. The Report on the activity of the Veterans Association delivered in the plenary session in may 2003 says: „At present we closely cooperate with the MoD, namely with the Section for Veterans, and with the Group for Contacts with Citizens Association. In these MoD organs we have our representatives who over and above their official duties cooperate with our association."[11] Gradually, an information-exchange mechanism has been established through which most of the MoD measures bearing on war veterans are discussed with the Veterans Association prior to the final decision at the MoD, which gives the Association an opportunity to influence its final shape. Besides, The Veterans Association has managed to establish links to some politicians, namely to the CSDP MP, Milada Emmerova, who has been cooperating with the Association for a long time, and who co-authored the theory according to which the toxic gasses produced by burning oil wells in Kuwait were the main cause of the health complaint of the Gulf War veterans. Last but not least, the Veterans Association has gained access to the media. Since its last plenary session alone, the members of the Association appeared 11-times in radio broadcasts and 4-times in TV, and gave 7 daily newspaper interviews and 2 magazine interviews.[12] The Veterans Association has even been able to retain its position in the face of the fact that the name of its formal chairman, Jan Valo, occurred on the list of the communist secret police informers. The war against Iraq provided the Association with further opportunities of gaining access to the media, because its members gave many interviews on the subject of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They often made use of these interviews to draw attention to the health complaints caused by their deployment in the war. The combination of these factors together with the absence of an opposing interest-group gave gradually rise to a situation in the political system of the Czech Republic in which the Veterans Association is able to push through its demands relatively effectively, and thus, it has also managed to penetrate into the awareness of both Czech political elites and the public at large.

Since there are no interest-groups or organisations whose interests would be in direct and obvious ways challenged by military interest-groups of soldiers in active service, they, in general, find little resistance from other interest-groups when pursuing their own interests. This certainly is a welcome state of affair from the point of view of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty themselves, even though, from the perspective of other organisations, any success of military interest-organisations in pushing their interests, specifically those whose satisfaction is associated with requirements on budgetary resources, is indirectly in conflict with their own interests, because it consumes resources that might have been potentially used for their satisfaction. But the interest-area of soldiers is not characterised by the competitive binary relations of the business owners - trade unionstype, where negotiations based on the principles of zero-sum games often take place (or, at least, the actors believe that their game of this type). The absence of clearly defined opponents who would be fully aware of the fact the satisfaction of their interests is endangered if the interests of military interest-organisations of active soldiers are satisfied is analogous to the relationship between farmersinterest-groups and the state. (More Beyme 1987)  Close relations with the MoD politico-bureaucratic apparatus, often based on personal links, is one of the factors behind the success of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active service.

We consider that the success of military interest-organisations has only relative nature, because it only relates to particular interests and demands of a special, relatively small social group of soldiers.Since the success of these interest-organisations has been limited to the narrow field of their particular interests, they have not been able to address topics that would be of interest to the society as a whole in the same way that organisations like trade unions or employers associations have managed to do (they even have not been able to raise issues that would at least pretend to have such nation-wide relevance, as was the case with some of the topics raised by agricultural interest organisations).  The influence of military interest-organisations within the political system of the Czech Republic cannot be compared to that of such influential interest organisations as trade unions, bar chambers or medical chambers, business owners associations, or interest-organisations of farmers. At present, there is no evidence to suggest that this is going to change in near future.

 

5. Conclusion

 

There can be no doubt that military interest-organisations, including military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty, represent just a marginal part of the whole spectrum of interest-groups operating in the political system of the Czech Republic, and, apart from the above quoted studies, they have also been at the margin of attention of Czech Political Science. The analyses of the available sources do not suggest that the activities of these organisations deviate in any significant way form the general theoretical frame used to describe and analyse roles of interest-organisations in democratic political systems, and, therefore, the same framework should provide a satisfactory basis for the explanation of these activities. Even though military interest organisations have some influence on the processes of politics in the Czech Republic, it cannot be compared to the influence of key organisations and associations. As regards the democratic control of armed forces, we can state that the activities of military interest-organisations do not contradict its principles.  The system of military interest-organisations and its subsystem of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active duty have been created during the 1990s, even though they have not been consolidated as yet. These interest-organisations are still at a stage at which they are trying to find optimal mechanisms of political influence, and forms and methods of action outside of the three-dimensional model of politics. Distinctive internal dynamics is characteristic especially of the subsystem of military interest-organisations of soldiers in active service.  The available materials allow us to conclude that the only dynamically evolving military-interest organisation (despite some internal frictions) whose influence in the political system of the Czech Republic and membership are growing, and which is able to raise the issues of its own interest at the level the nation-wide discussion, is the Veterans Association. The CSL on the contrary, if judged by the same criteria, is currently in the regressive phase of its development, and whether it will manage to stop this regress is an open question. The extrapolation of the 1990s trends suggests that the future of the Career Soldiers League in its current form is uncertain.  On the other hand, as long as there is an army in The Czech Republic, there will be a demand and space for the activity of a wide range of military interest-organisations

 

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1

 


[1]Poznámky:

Career soldiers act n. 221/1999 in amendments n. 155/2000, 129/2002, 254/2002, 309/2002 and 254/2002, paragraphs 44 and 45. Zákon o vojácích z povolání číslo 221/1999Sb ve znění zákonů č. 155/2000 Sb., 129/2002 Sb., 254/2002 Sb., 309/2002 Sb. a 254/2002 Sb., paragraf 44 a 45.

[2] SVP ACR Statutes. Prague 2001, article 2 (Stanovy SVP AČR. Praha 2001, čl. 2.)

[3] Statutes of The ACR Officers and WOs League, article 4. (Stanovy Svazu důstojníků a praporčíků Armády České republiky, čl. 4.)

[4] Statutes of The Czech Republic Veterans Association, article 4, par. 1. (Stanovy Sdružení veteránů České republiky, čl. 4, odst. 1.)

[5] At the time of writing this study the author did not have available reliable data on the OWL membership.

[6] Basic Documents  of the ACR Career Soldiers League. Career Soldiers league Program Statement, Prague 2001, pg 5. (Základní dokumenty Svazu vojáků z povolání Armády České republiky. Programové prohlášení Svazu vojáků z povolání)

[7] Statutes of The ACR Officers and WOs League. Prague 2000, article 2 (Stanovy Svazu důstojníků a praporčíků Armády České republiky)

[8] Ibid.

[9] Veterans Association Statutes.

[10] The original governmental draft used the term „military veteran“ which reflected the intention of the proponents of the law to include all military persons and not just those soldiers who had actually risked their lives.

[11] Report on the Activity of the CR Veterans Association, May 2003, pg. 4 – 5. (Zpráva o činnosti Sdružení veteránů ČR. Květen 2003, s. 4 - 5.)

[12] Report on the Activity of the CR Veterans Association, May 2003, pg. 5. (Zpráva o činnosti Sdružení veteránů ČR, Květen 2003, s. 5.)



Copyright (c) 2004 Zdeněk Kříž

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