The Prague Spring, 1968
Dubcek carried the reform movement a step further in the
direction of liberalism. After Novotny's fall, censorship was
lifted. The media--press, radio, and television--were mobilized
for reformist propaganda purposes. The movement to democratize
socialism in Czechoslovakia, formerly confined largely to the
party intelligentsia, acquired a new, popular dynamism in the
spring of 1968. In April the KSC Presidium adopted the Action
Program that had been drafted by a coalition headed by Dubcek and
made up of reformers, moderates, centrists, and conservatives.
The program proposed a "new model of socialism," profoundly
"democratic" and "national," that is, adapted to Czechoslovak
conditions. The National Front and the electoral system were to
be democratized, and Czechoslovakia was to be federalized.
Freedom of assembly and expression would be guaranteed in
constitutional law. The New Economic Model was to be implemented.
The Action Program also reaffirmed the Czechoslovak alliance with
the Soviet Union and other socialist states. The reform movement,
which rejected Stalinism as the road to communism, remained
committed to communism as a goal.
The Action Program stipulated that reform must proceed under
KSC direction. In subsequent months, however, popular pressure
mounted to implement reforms forthwith. Radical elements found
expression: anti-Soviet polemics appeared in the press; the
Social Democrats began to form a separate party; new unaffiliated
political clubs were created. Party conservatives urged the
implementation of repressive measures, but Dubcek counseled
moderation and reemphasized KSC leadership. In May he announced
that the Fourteenth Party Congress would convene in an early
session on September 9. The congress would incorporate the Action
Program into the party statutes, draft a federalization law, and
elect a new (presumably more liberal) Central Committee.
On June 27, Ludvik Vaculik, a lifelong communist and a
candidate member of the Central Committee, published a manifesto
entitled "Two Thousand Words." The manifesto expressed concern
about conservative elements within the KSC and "foreign" forces
as well. (Warsaw Pact maneuvers were held in Czechoslovakia in
late June.) It called on the "people" to take the initiative in
implementing the reform program. Dubcek, the party Presidium, the
National Front, and the cabinet sharply denounced the manifesto.
The Soviet leadership was alarmed. In mid-July a Warsaw Pact
conference was held without Czechoslovak participation. The
Warsaw Pact nations drafted a letter to the KSC leadership
referring to the manifesto as an "organizational and political
platform of counterrevolution." Pact members demanded the
reimposition of censorship, the banning of new political parties
and clubs, and the repression of "rightist" forces within the
party. The Warsaw Pact nations declared the defense of
Czechoslovakia's socialist gains to be not only the task of
Czechoslovakia but also the mutual task of all Warsaw Pact
countries. The KSC rejected the Warsaw Pact ultimatum, and Dubcek
requested bilateral talks with the Soviet Union.
Data as of August 1987