The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 10: Alexander Dubček's Speech Marking
the 20th Anniversary of Czechoslovakia's "February Revolution,"
February 22,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: K otázkám obrodného procesu KSČ: Vybrané projevy 1. tajemníka ÚV KSČ A. Dubčeka (Bratislava, 1968), pp. 31–58.

Dubček delivered this speech at the 20th anniversary celebration of the communist seizure of power inCzechoslovakia. In it, he offers a generally favorable evaluation of the two decades of communist rule in
Czechoslovakia, suggesting that most of the "negative phenomena" and "excessive centralization" had
come about only over the previous few years. Although Dubček alludes to the disgruntlement that was
spreading in the party's ranks and pledged to take "decisive action "to remedy the country's ills, most of
his prescriptions, especially his insistence on the need to "uphold democratic centralism "and "enforce
the leading role of the party," appear cautious. He does admit, however, that "things must be thoroughly
changed," and offers a "firm rejection of the directive-based methods of managing the economy."

An earlier draft of the speech was significantly stronger. Because party and state officials from all of
Czechoslovakia's Warsaw Pact allies, including the Soviet Union, were due to attend the celebration,
Dubcek showed a draft of the speech to Brezhnev beforehand. The Soviet leader became upset and
demanded revisions. The final version of the speech was less critical of Dubček's predecessors than the
earlier draft; any innovative formulations about foreign affairs were removed; and it did not even signal
any notable departures in the CPCz's domestic policies.

… I know that for some time serious rumblings have been heard from the ranks of our workers and peasants. They have been saying that it is no longer good enough to fix something here and there in the party and in society as a whole. They believe, instead, that things must be thoroughly changed in the spirit of the old and tested Leninist methods and traditions of the labor movement—not by words but by decisive action. This objective corresponds to the wishes of our working people.

We have several times attempted to bring about a change in many spheres: in industry, agriculture, culture, and science. We have achieved certain successes, but we sensed that these were not commensurate with our capabilities and the effort we expended. If we look back today at all these endeavors, we come up against the real key to the solution of everything, the focal point of all our burning problems. The area in which we must start is politics, the political sphere. This conviction is dictated by that very same political sphere, by life itself, and by our past experience. It is no coincidence that this is where negative phenomena have recently been spreading—phenomena that we know only too well—and where we are most alarmed by the growth of political apathy, passivity, and a certain type of resignation even among communists.

A series of unresolved questions have been accumulating in the political sphere. We cannot afford all this to become entangled in a web we would find hard, very hard, to disentangle. This is, therefore, the point where we must begin to tackle matters, where a turnaround is essential, and where a remedy is most needed. There are indications and signals warning us that this need has been and is being felt by the public and the whole party. The same applies to the party leadership, which also has launched a more intensive discussion about these matters since the October plenary session "in 1967—Eds.".

These discussions did not refer to the policy or resolutions of the 13th Party Congress "in June 1966 — Eds.". After all, we know that the documents of the 13th CPCz Congress provide a sufficiently broad basis for the solution of pressing problems. The discussion centered mainly on working methods, on the course of our further progress, and on whether we could accomplish the tasks set by the 13th Congress with the old methods or whether those old habits would lead us not forward but into a blind alley.

-51-

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