The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 38: KAN's Manifesto, May 1968

Source: "Manifest Klubu angažovaných nestraníků," Svobodné slovo (Prague),
July 11, 1968, p. 1.

The Club of Committed Non-Parry Members (Klub angažovaných nestraníků)—a group of 144 leading
intellectuals and prominent social figuresreleased this manifesto on May 13, 1968 under the signature
of the founding members as well as a few other well-known individuals. The document proclaims a
commitment to "human and civil rights and civil equality," political pluralism, and the principles embodied
in the UN Declaration on Human Rights. KAN's manifesto indicates that the club would seek to foster
public debate about these principles and to enable members and supporters of KAN to take an active part
in elections to the National Assembly.

KAN's main organizers were Jiřina Mlýnková and Ludvík Rybáček, who published several early
statements of the group's aims in Literámí listy. At its height, KAN claimed a membership of nearly 15,000,
though the actual number was probably closer to 3,000. (The number would have been much higher if not
for restrictions imposed by the state, both formally and informally.) KAN was crushed by the Soviet invasion
and was then formally proscribed in September 1968.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Czechoslovak Republic inspires us to endorse the ideas that were present at the time our state and national independence was first achieved. We are convinced, as was the founder of this state, that states are kept alive by their loyalty to the ideals under which they were born. We declare our support for these ideals in their contemporary, modern form, stressing three fundamental principles as the ideological backbone of our CLUB.

We believe that the foundations of any modern European policy lie in the idea of human and civil rights and civil equality, anchored in the revolutionary declaration of human rights, which covers both the human being and the citizen, and which is today enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights. We regard the defense of these rights against the dehumanizing forces of capitalism, fascism, and Stalinism to be the uninterrupted tradition of the democratic endeavors of the Czech and Slovak peoples, which we openly support as the reliable pillar of the Czechoslovak idea of statehood.

The second object of our political endeavor is the humanist tradition of Czechoslovak culture, which greatly inspired the advancement of our nations in the field of science, art, religion, ethics, and philosophy rather than on the battlefield or in attempts at world domination or simply in multiplying material well-being. In keeping with this international humanistic tradition of solidarity, peace, and cooperation, we do not believe the values of a nation, class, or race are decisive. Instead, we would emphasize the personality of the human being and their creation as the very meaning of human existence.

The third object is the current impressive idea of the Czechoslovak experiment, which is to combine democratic socialism with the noble program of individual freedom. The socialist system, the democratic exercise of power, and freedom of the individual are for us the points of departure in our political thinking as well as the objective for which we want to strive in the present transformation of political life.

The fact that in addition to the replacement of officials in leading posts there have been far more significant changes—a change of people's opinions and positions, a transformation of the atmosphere of fear into a climate of confidence and good will, and a change of the structure of people's political thinking—is a paradoxical yet logical outcome of the tempestuous political development in our country. We refer to hundreds of thousands of individual revolutions taking place within people who have understood that searching for a way to escape intact while hedging through the arbitrary totalitarian rule of a small group of people making undue claims to power is beneath the dignity of a human being. The internal transformations that are today taking place

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