The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 37: Alexander Dubček's Speech to the CPCz CC
Plenary Session, May 29 – June 1,1968, with Discussion by Vasil Bil'ak
(Excerpts)

Source: ÚSD, AÚV KSČ, F. 01.

In his speech and other remarks to the CPCz Plenum, Dubček makes clear that he favors a gradual
approach to reform, an approach that would "transform "the existing system rather than "destroying "it
all at once. In a gesture to more conservative elements, he declares that "anti-communist forces" had
become active in Czechoslovakia, and he speaks harshly about the "excesses" and "irresponsible
behavior" of the Czechoslovak press. Nevertheless, Dubček offers no concessions to defending the reform
process per se, and he insists that "democratic means" rather than "administrative measures" (i.e., violent
repression) are the only legitimate way to counter "extremist" elements of the right or the left.

The orthodox members of the CPCz Central Committee express harshly contrasting views, as demon-
strated by the remarks of Vasil Bil'ak. The transcript records Bil'ak denouncing "right-wing," "counter-
revolutionary, "and "anti-Soviet" forces who had seized control of the party and warns, in an argument
echoing the Soviet position, that these internal matters are "not purely our own, Czechoslovak, affair. "
A failure to uphold traditional Marxism-Leninism at home, he states, would amount to an attack on the
country's "internationalist interests" and a blow against the whole "socialist commonwealth." Bil'ak
openly endorses the use of mass repression, even of violent terror, to curb the activities of "anti-communist
and anti-socialist forces."

This evident schism between the hard-line and pro-reform members of the Central Committee kept the
plenum from significant decisions, with the exception of the removal of Novotný from the party and the
vote to convene an Extraordinary Nth CPCz Congress on September 9, nearly two years ahead of schedule.
In every respect, the congress held the potential to greatly expedite the process of liberalization; for that
reason it became a marker for Soviet military action before September.

Cde. Alexander Dubček:

"In his opening remarks Dubček offers an evaluation of the current situation, a report on the activities of Central Committee bodies, the party's further tactical procedures, and preparation of the CPCz congress."

… During the eight months since the April session the social process has further accelerated. While during the period immediately after January the trend was essentially one of unity, a gradual differentiation is now under way. A variety of specific interests are emerging, and individual political tendencies are coming to the fore with increasing evidence.

The differentiation of society is also reflected within the party in the different assessments of the current situation and of its causes as well of the party's future steps. There is growing concern, as demonstrated by resolutions adopted by party bodies and organizations, as to whether the party is not yielding some of its positions, whether it is not abandoning its leading role, and whether it is not paving the way for right-wing, anti-socialist forces. On the other hand, concern is also expressed that the party should not slow down the democratization process.

If we want to arrive at a truthful picture we cannot see only extremes and speak in absolute terms about marginal phenomena.

The fundamental nature of the current situation is determined by the positive social process begun in January. Following the April plenum, which correctly characterized the essence of the situation at the time, certain factors of political consolidation have been strengthened. …

The contradictions and conflicts that are quite natural in the current process and that are at times brought to a critical head perhaps even too dramatically, are neither the product nor the consequence of the policy on which we embarked in January. They are, rather, the fruit of a long social crisis that has been maturing over the years, a crisis in which a host of unsatisfied needs and unsolved problems had accumulated without redress from the previous regime. What is

-152-

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