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    Історичні особистості



    The Politics of Eastern Europe



    Jonas Daniliauskas

    T.P. McNeill

    March 17, 1995

    The Introduction.

    The aim of this essay is to answer the question: "How significant was
    Alexander Dubcek in the development of reformist communism? "This questionraises the other questions. Was Dubcek the inspirer of all the reformswhich took place in Czechoslovakia in 1967-1969? How much did he himselfinfluence all the reformist processes? How much he had achieved inimplementing his ideas?

    Dubcek became famous only in 1967. Before that he was almost unknownin the international politics. He was known only in the Czechoslovak
    Communist Party (CPCS), where he had almost no influence on the majordecisions (until 1967, of course). His promotion after the returning fromthe Moscow where he was studying for three years in the advanced Partyschool attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the
    Soviet Union (CPSU), was quite rapid. In 1960 he was elected to the
    Secretariat of the CPCS; in 1962 to the Presidium of the CPCS; in 1963 hebecame the First Secretary of the Slovak Communist Party; finally, on
    January 5, 1968 he replaced Antonin Novotny as the First Secretary of the
    CPCS. He was the youngest leader of ruling Communist Party (after Fidel
    Castro), and the first Slovak in such a high position. Though he stayed inthis post relatively short - until April 17, 1969, when he was replaced by
    Gustav Husak, his name became known world-wide.

    Why did the reforms begin?

    The Czechoslovak crisis deepened in 1967, and showed itself in fourspheres: [1]

    1. Slovakia;

    2. The economy;

    3. The legal system;

    4. Party and ideology.

    Since the 1962 the Czechoslovak economy suddenly began to show signsof a critical decline. That happened inevitably, because in the Stalinyears the expansion of heavy industry was pushed at the expense ofdevelopment of all other productive sectors of the economy. The result ofthis was growing inefficiency of production, failure to moderniseproduction technology, a decline in the quality of exports, a loss ofmarkets, and a drop in the effectiveness of foreign trade. [2] In August
    1962 the Third-Five-Year Plan had to be abandoned before completion. [3] Inthis situation the Slovaks began to act. Many of them realised thatspecific Slovak interests might best be served by destalinization and evenliberalisation. [4] The problem also was the rehabilitation of the victimsof the purge trials of 1949-1954. Novotny himself and other leading membersof his regime had personally participated in the preparation and conduct ofthe purge trials. So, the rehabilitation was perceived as the direct threatto the security and the survival of the regime. [5] All these factors onlydecreased the level of CPCS's legitimacy.

    The Development of Reforms.

    The startpoint of the reforms was the session of the Central
    Committee of the CPCS on October 30-31, 1967. Dubcek raised an objectionagainst Novotny and produced statistics suggesting that Slovakia was beingcontinuously cheated in economic matters. [6] This speech inspireddiscussion what was the unprecedented thing in the Central Committee.

    The next session of the Central Committee started on December 19.
    Josef Smrkovsky proposed the separation of the posts of President and First
    Secretary: "It is unsatisfactory that an excessive number of duties shouldbe piled upon one pair of shoulders. "[7]

    In both sessions the three issues were at stake. First, theimplementation of the economic reforms, secondly, freedom of expressionand, finally, effective autonomy for Slovakia.

    Finally, at the Central Committee Plenum on January 5, 1968, Novotnywas replaced at the post of the First Secretary by Dubcek. Also four new
    Presidium members were elected to strengthen Dubcek's position - J. Spacek,
    J. Boruvka, E. Rigo, and J. Piller.

    So, the Prague Spring started at the top levels of the CPCS. Butsoon, as we would see, the Party will loose its ability to control thedevelopments. At the same time, the hot political debate started in thepress, on radio and television. The main issues were the Communist Party,democracy, the autonomy of Slovakia, the collapsing economy, and theproblem of justice and legality. [8] On February 14, the first publicpolitical discussion took place in Prague.

    The next changes in the leadership were Novotny's resignation fromthe Presidency on March 22 and General Ludvik Svoboda's election on thispost on March 30, Oldrich Ciernik's appointment on the post of Prime
    Minister and the formation of the new cabinet on April 8, the election ofthe new Presidium of the CPCS, and the election of Josef Smrkovsky on thepost of the Chairman of the National Assembly.

    On April 9, the CPCS announced its 'Action Programme', officiallyknown as 'Czechoslovakia's Road to Socialism', as a basis for reformingcommunism in the country. In this document the CPCS promised: (1) newguarantees of freedom of speech, press, assembly and religious observance;
    (2) electoral laws to provide a broader choice of candidates, greaterfreedom for the four non-communist parties within the National Front; (3)upgrading of the parliament and the government with regard to the power ofthe CPCS apparatus; (4) broad economic reforms to give enterprises greaterindependence, to achieve a convertible currency, to revive a limited amountof private enterprise and to increase trade with Western countries; (5) anindependent judiciary; (6) federal status for Slovakia on an independentbasis and a new constitution to be drafted by the end of 1969. [9] The
    Central Committee also pledged a "full and just rehabilitation of allpersons "who had been unjustly persecuted during 1949 -1954.

    But this programme promised less than the people actually wanted. The
    'Action Programme' remained outside the mainstream of the powerful socialprocess which had been set in motion in January. [10] The people expectedmore reforms, more freedom. But Dubcek and other reformats tried to be moremoderate, to find the way for the gradual reforms. The Presidium of the
    CPCS prohibited the renovation of the Social Democratic Party and the
    Ministry of Interior announced that the formation of political partieswould be considered illegal. But at the same time this Ministry sanctionedthe activity of the Club of Engaged Non-Party Members (KAN), and recognisedthe legal statute of another big club - K-231.

    Gradually the reformats found themselves in the position which willbecome vital for them all. They found themselves between two differentforces. One force was the majority of the Czech and the Slovak nations whowanted more radical changes. The other force was represented by the
    Stalinists, by Moscow, and by the leadership of the other countries of the
    Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO).

    One of the major reforms was the law of June 26, which abolishedprepublication censorship. On the next day the famous manifesto, entitled
    '2, 000 Words to Workers, Farmers, Scientists, Artists and Everyone 'appeared in Literarni listy. The manifesto gave assurances of completesupport of Dubcek's regime, "if necessary, even with arms." [11]

    The leaders of the SU, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, and East Germanyviewed the reforms taking place in Czechoslovakia as the threat for all the
    Communist Bloc. The first clearly expressed concern was so-called Warsaw
    Letter. It was sent on July 15, 1968, and addressed to the Central
    Committee of the CPCS. It proved the clear evidence of the WTO leaders 'lack of confidence in the leadership of the CPCS, and contained criticalreferences to Czechoslovakia's foreign policy. [12] There was expressedwarning that the Czechoslovak reform policy was 'completelyunacceptable '. [13] The Presidium of the CPCS Central Committee on July 18rejected as unfounded the accusations made in the Warsaw Letter andaffirmed that the country's new policies were aimed at strengtheningsocialism. [14]

    The clear signs of crisis in relations between Prague and Moscowappeared. On July 19 Moscow issued a summons to the CPCS Presidium,demanding that it meet July 22 or 23 with the Soviet Politburo in Moscow,
    Kiev or Lvov to discuss internal Czechoslovak developments. 9 full membersof the CPSU Politburo and the entire CPCS Presidium met on July 29 in the
    Slovak village Cierna-nad-Tisou. Dubcek and the other reformats regardedthe outcome of the Cierna talks as a 'Czechoslovak victory'. It had broughtthe annulment of the Warsaw Letter; the departure of Soviet troops wasguaranteed, and the country's sovereignty had been defended. [15]

    The fact that the agreement was regarded as the 'victory' shows that
    Dubcek and the other reformers were really driven by naпvetй and idealismand hoped that they could create the socialism with the 'human face'without the interference from the Moscow side. They really underestimatedtheir own significance to the Soviets. Moscow regarded the reformatsdevelopments in the Czechoslovakia as the real threat for the future of theall Communist Bloc. A common view that the danger of a Czechoslovakdesertion from the socialist camp and a revision of foreign policy by the
    Dubcek leadership hastened the Soviet decision to occupy the countrymilitarily. [16]

    The Invasion.

    On August 16 the CPSU Politburo stated that "the CPCS was loosing itsleading role in the country. "[17] This showed that the Soviet's patiencereached the end.

    "When Moscow's nerve breaks, Soviet tanks usually start rolling." [18]
    Armed forces of the SU, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria invaded
    Czechoslovakia in a swift military action during the night of August 20-21.
    Dubcek and other Czech and Slovak leaders were arrested in the name of the
    "Revolutionary government of the workers and peasants." [19] The main forceof the initial invading units consisted of an estimated 200,000 troops. Thenumber of invaders continued to increase during the following week andultimately reached an estimated 650,000. [20] Most of the members of the CPCS
    Presidium were shocked by the invasion. This proves again that they did notunderstand how serious the situation was before the invasion. From the
    Moscow's point of view the invasion was inevitable, because the furtherdevelopment of the socialism with the 'human face' would lead only todeeper escalation of tensions between the Czechoslovakia and the other WTOcountries, and probably, to an escape of the country from the Communist

    But the reformats did not give up. On August 21, the CPCS Central
    Committee declared the statement that the invasion was taking place
    "Without the knowledge" of the Czechoslovak leaders, and that they regardedthis act "as contrary not only to the fundamental principles of relationsbetween Socialist states but also as contrary to the principles ofinternational law. "[21] Although there was no organised resistance to theoverwhelming occupation forces, Czechoslovak citizens, spearheaded bystudents, resorted to a wide variety of means to hamper the invaders, andseveral general strikes took place. [22]

    On August 23, President Svoboda flew to Moscow. His journeyrepresented an effort to find a way out of a situation: he was, in effect,trying to help the Soviets find a solution for the Czechoslovak crisisbased on mutual political compromise. [23] On August 26 the Moscow agreementwas concluded. The major outcomes were: (1) Dubcek was to carry on as the
    First Secretary; (2) the invasion forces were to be gradually withdrawn;
    (3) censorship was to be reintroduced; (4) the CPCS was to strengthen itsleading position in the state. [24] One may assume that certain personnelchanges were also assumed in Moscow, since resignations followed in duecourse. These changes included the removal of Dr. Kriegel from the CPCS
    Presidium and the chairmanship of the National Front; of Ota Sik as Deputy
    Premier; Josef Pavel as Minister of Interior; Jiri Hajek as Foreign
    Minister; Zdenek Heizar as Director of Czechoslovak Radio; Jiri Pelikan as
    Director of Czehoslovak Television. [25]

    The invasion led to the formulation of so-called Brezhnev Doctrine,first formulated in a Pravda commentary on September 26, which amounts todenying in principle the sovereignty of any "socialist" country accessibleto the SU. It asserts the region-wide right to intervention. [26]

    For both rulers and ruled, the invasion of Czechoslovakia proved onceagain that the Soviets would use force to prevent developments they definedas contrary to their vital interests. The line they drew in 1968 to definetheir vital interests was the Leninist hegemony of the local Communist
    Party. [27]

    But the Soviets did not achieved what they wanted at once. Whathappened was that the invasion failed to achieve its primary purpose, whichclearly was to produce a counterregime a la Kadar. [28]

    The Situation After the Invasion.

    The Dubcek leadership made great efforts after the invasion tosatisfy the Soviets while trying not to compromise itself in the eyes ofthe population. [29]

    Probably the major reform after the invasion was the creation of the
    Slovak Socialist Republic. On October 28, the National Assembly approved aconstitutional bill transforming the hitherto unitary state into afederation of two national republics. On January 1, 1969, the Slovak
    Socialist Republic came into being.

    Another crisis emerged in January 1969. On January 7, the newmeasures were taken designed to keep the press and the other media morestrictly under control. In some cases, pre-publication censorship wasreintroduced. [30]

    The event which finally decided the fate of Dubcek is known as the
    'ice-hockey game affair.' On March 28, the Czechoslovak ice-hockey team wonover the SU team in World Ice Hockey Championship Competition. The sameevening anti-Soviet demonstrations occurred throughout Czechoslovakia.
    Aeroflot office was destroyed in Prague. On April 11 Gustav Husak declaredthat it was 'high time' to take radical steps to introduce order. [31]

    Finally, on April 17 at the plenary session of the Central Committee
    Dubcek was replaced by Gustav Husak (before that - the First Secretary ofthe Slovak Communist Party).

    At the same session the CPCS Presidium with its twenty-one membersand the Executive Committee with its eight members were replaced by aneleven members Presidium of which Dubcek (but no longer Smrkovsky) wasstill member. A few days later he was 'elected' Chairman of the Federal
    Assembly with Smrkovsky as his deputy.

    On January 28, 1970, the Central Committee plenum 'accepted theresignation 'of Dubcek from the Central Committee. And finally, on June 25,
    1970 at the session of the Central Committee he was expelled from the CPCS.
    This was the end of his political career. But only until the end of the
    Communism regime in 1989. At the end of December 1989 he was elected
    Chairman of the Czech parliament.

    Conclusion: Was the Reformist Communism Ever Possible?

    The primary goal of Dubcek's reforms was the creation of thesocialism with a 'human face'. Broadly speaking, the Czechoslovak reformerssought an adjustment of the standard Soviet model of socialism to therealities of what they considered an advanced industrialised socialistcountry enjoying a tradition of democracy and humanitarianism. [32] Thestated opinions of the reformers could be summed as follows: (1) the CPCSshould no longer maintain a monopoly of power and decision making; (2) itshould rather prove its goals through equal competition by permitting aclash of ideas and interests; (3) the abandonment of this monopoly would ineffect mean a sharing of power and permit criticism, opposition, and evencontrol on the CPCS's own exercise of power. [33] Of course, Dubcek wasagainst the creation of the opposition parties, but he was for thepluralism inside the National Front. The essence of his reform conceptionwas not the possibility of pluralism in the accepted sense but, rather, theobligation upon the CPCS to prove that its program was the only valid onefor socialism. [34]

    It was very naive to consider that Moscow will remain indifferent tosuch developments. Gradually the Soviets understood that the reformers arenot controlling the reforms, and this led to the invasion. The Sovietinterests were threatened almost exclusively by developments inside the
    Czechoslovakia. In other words, precisely by that 'human face' which Dubcekwanted to give Czechoslovak socialism. [35]

    There was one thing which Dubcek considered to be not important, butin fact, this led to the end of the reforms. He underestimated the impactof his own reforms upon Moscow. The Soviet reaction to the reforms wasquite logical and inevitable. The Communist power elite would never haveaccepted conditions which would make the free play of political forcespossible. It would never given up the power. [36]

    So, was Dubcek significant in developing the reformist communism? Inthe short term - yes, but in the long term the practical meaning of hisreforms was nil. All the things he reformed were returned back. The onlypositive impact (in the long term) of the reforms was the psychologicalimpact of the attempt to improve the improvable thing. Communism can not bereformed. The only way to change it is to overthrow it completely. There isno way in the middle. The reformist communism is simply an utopia.


    1. Ames, K., 'Reform and Reaction', in Problems of Communism, 1968, Vol.
    17, No. 6, pp.38-49
    2. Devlin, K., 'The New Crisis in European Communism', in Problems of
    Communism, 1968, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp.57-68
    3. Golan, G., 'The Road to Reform', in Problems of Communism, 1971, Vol.
    20, No. 3, pp.11-21
    4. Golan, G., 'Innovations in the Model of the Socialism: Political Reformsin Czechoslovakia, 1968 ', in Shapiro, J.P. and Potichnyj, P.J. (eds.),
    Change and Adaptation in Soviet and East European Politics (New York,
    Washington, London: Praeger Publishers, 1976), pp.77-94
    5. Lowenthal, R., 'The Sparrow in the Cage', in Problems of Communism,
    1968, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp.2-28
    6. Mastny, V., (ed.), Czechoslovakia: Crisis in World Communism (New York:
    Facts on File, Inc., 1972)
    7. Provaznik, J., 'The Politics of Retrenchment', in Problems of Communism,
    1969, Vol. 18, No. 4-5, pp.2-16
    8. Sik, O., 'The Economic Impact of Stalinism', in Problems of Communism,
    1971, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp.1-10
    9. Simons, Th.W., Eastern Europe in the Postwar World, (2nd. ed., London:
    Macmillan, 1993)
    10. Svitak, I., The Czechoslovak Experiment: 1968-1969 (New York and
    London: Columbia University Press, 1971)
    11. Tigrid, P., Why Dubcek Fell (London: Macdonald, 1971)
    12. White, St., Batt, J. and Lewis, P.J. (eds.), Developments in East
    European Politics (London: Macmillan, 1993)

    -----------------------< br>[1] Tigrid, P., Why Dubcek Fell (London: Macdonald, 1971), p.17
    [2] Sik, O., 'The Economic Impact of Stalinism', in Problems of Communism,
    1971, Vol. 20, No. 3, p.5
    [3] Golan, G., 'The Road to Reform', in Problems of Communism, 1971, Vol.
    20, No. 3, p.12
    [4] Ibid., P.13
    [5] Ibid., P.11
    [6] Tigrid, P., op.cit., P.19
    [7] Ibid., P.30
    [8] Ibid., P.43
    [9] Mastny, V., (ed.), Czechoslovakia: Crisis in World Communism (New York:
    Facts on File, Inc., 1972), p.21
    [10] Tigrid, P., op.cit., P.48
    [11] Ames, K., 'Reform and Reaction', in Problems of Communism, 1968, Vol.
    17, No. 6, p.48
    [12] Tigrid, P. op.cit., p.57
    [13] Mastny, V., op.cit., P.37
    [14] Ibid., P.40
    [15] Tigrid, P., op.cit., P.89
    [16] Ibid., P.53
    [17] Ibid., P.69
    [18] Ibid., P.53
    [19] Svitak, I., The Czechoslovak Experiment 1968-1969 (New York and London:
    Columbia University Press, 1971), p.109
    [20] Mastny, V., op.cit., P.69
    [21] Ibid., P.71
    [22] Ibid., P.76
    [23] Provaznik, J., 'The Politics of Retrenchment', in Problems of
    Communism, 1969, Vol. 18, No. 4-5, p.3
    [24] Svitak, I., op.cit., P.109
    [25] Provaznik, J., op.cit., P.4
    [26] Lowenthal, R., 'The Sparrow in the Cage', in Problems of Communism,
    1968, Vol. 17, No. 6, p.24
    [27] Simons, Th.W., Eastern Europe in the Postwar World (2nd. ed., London:
    Macmillan, 1993), p.124
    [28] Devlin, K., 'The New Crisis in European Communism', in Problems of
    Communism, 1968, Vol.17, No. 6, p.61
    [29] Tigrid, P., op.cit., P.138
    [30] Ibid., P.153
    [31] Ibid., P.164
    [32] Golan, G., 'Inovations in the Model of Socialism: Political Reforms in
    Czechoslovakia, 1968 ', in Shapiro, J.P. and Potichnyj, P.J. (eds.), Changeand Adaptation in Soviet and East European Politics (New York, Washington,
    London: Praeger Publishers, 1976), p.78
    [33] Ibid., P.81
    [34] Ibid., P.87
    [35] Tigrid, P., op.cit., P.66
    [36] Ibid., P.98

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