How to Act Best as a Leader to Strengthen Civil Society

Rastislav Diovčoš

After the break-up of the eastern bloc in 1989 the process of transition from one type of political regime to the other - to the liberal democracy – has started. Slovakia went through this process too, in that time as a part of Czechoslovak federal republic. What caused this process and what are the objectives of the concrete actors? The rule of law in socialist countries has not differ in its relevant formal features from the rule of law in democratic countries. In spite of this the content of politics and the use of law diametrically differed. That is why the judicial system cannot be regarded as the one, that determine political regime even thou institutionalization is one of the main conditions of the ability of the political system to reflect the changes that are produced by society. Success of transition depends mainly on two factors – on a quality of leaders and on a will of people to pass the changes, inward an acceptance of changes.

Society is naturally hierarchical. That means that experimentation with the transformation of society and human beings into communist type of man, who is in society equal in all the ways with others could not be successful because the man always want to gain the power, the influence and to live in a prosperity and that is what the communist type begrudged. This regime tried to make all people equal. Activity of individuals was suppressed in the name of equality. This is a part of the inheritance of the former regime that generates the problems in Slovakia and other post-communist countries as well.

The term, but mainly content of the word ”civil society” was unknown for the people in these countries. Simultaneously with the changes of political system civil society was in the process of creation. Civil society is at least as important for system functioning as political system with its formal structures. In Slovakia, formation of the civil society is still in process, and therefore the space for opportunities for people to participate actively in the process of the formation of the conscious and responsible society. Until the civil society is not formed, the economic and political transformation is not credible.

The organizations of the civil society influence only morally in contrast to political society. Only interaction between functional civil and political society can produce effective system because political society itself cannot cover all the social activities. Civil society can be best characterized by its autonomy and horizontal relations. In the political philosophy the term civil society is not used in the same way. Difference could be seen in the extent of politics. Civil society could under some specific circumstances exist also under for example dictatorship but in long term this situation cannot last. It could result in the decline of the system or in the destruction of the civil society (independent organizations of writers or commissions of workers).

Process of political and social changes during the transition to democracy in Slovakia was gradual. Already before the collapse of the regime informal groups of intellectuals were formed which were a sort of so called ”islands of positive deviation”. Political elite realized they do not have a strong support from the population any more. That led to economical liberalization and political democratization and finally resulted in acceptance of these groups as political actors. After that these groups formed a political movement, which moved into political process. It was a strange situation. However organizations of civil society moved into political process it still remained important part of the civil society.

Differences and importance of civil society I perceive in the contrast to political sphere, which is dedicated to the issues of the society as a whole, its decisions are enforceable, activities of organizations of civil society usually focus on partial issues. Forty years of communist regime degenerated our minds and therefore the forming of civil society is in such difficult situation. The most common question when people enter the organisation that represent the civil society is: ”What can I benefit from membership in this organisation?” even though these organisations are voluntary organisations. In communist regime people entered any political organisation for advantages. They joined the Communist party because that was the only way to get a better job, the only way for their children to get to study at university; they joined the trade union because of the similar reasons. It generated a unity – or at least an illusion of a unity.

What is the function of leader in civil society? Leader is a person who should advocate for the implementation of the goals his organisation wants to achieve; he or she should be the representative of its ideas. The youth organisations, like the one I belong to, need proper system of the education for its members for they – regardless their position in the hierarchy of the organisation - could become the real opinion leaders able to spread the ideas produced from within their organisation one day. The function of such opinion leader is not to influence all the society, but to focus on some concrete part of population that is involved in the problem. There are two endways he or she should act on – into the organisation and outwardly. In the organisation he should be a sort of manager who is able to activate members, coordinate the activities, fundraising and root the members for activities. These are the things that he should be good at to be a good leader in the organisation and to strengthen the civil society this way.

Each organization can be successful itself, but for the society as a whole and its development is the most important the civil society seen as a set of all organizations of civil society even with their antagonistic goals. All these organizations generate the system that is able to control and rein executive power, propose solutions of social problems and to form an amazing system with political society that would guarantee democracy, plurality of thoughts and generate the most effective and the best possible decisions.