The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview
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DOCUMENT No. 41: Resolution and Letter to the Soviet People
from the National Conference of the People's Militia, June 19,1968

Source: "Rezoluce celostáního srazu přislušníků Lidových milicí," Rudé právo (Prague),
July 13, 1968, p. 1.

Approximately 10,000 to 12,000 members of the CPCz People's Militiathe paramilitary units who
were traditionally among the most orthodox, pro-Soviet elements in the Czechoslovak Communist
Partyapproved this resolution and the accompanying message to the Soviet people at a national meeting
in Prague. As adopted, the conference resolution echoed the general line of the CPCz, pledging that "the
People's Militia will never be used against the interests of the people and of socialism." Although it did
not directly criticize the reform movement of Dubček, the resolution did call for a "struggle against anti-com-
munist tendencies," and it condemned those who were "exploiting freedom of expression and freedom of the
press to assail the foundations of socialism and to engage in anti-communist and anti-Soviet attacks."

The "Letter to the Soviet people" also omits any positive allusions to the domestic reforms in
Czechoslovakia, vowing "never to allow anyone to denigrate or threaten the principles of socialist
construction and communism." The letter emphasizes that the People's Militia can provide the only
reliable "guaranteeby virtue of our constructive political work, combat readiness, and loyalty to the ideals
of Marxism-Leninism and the socialist camp "that relations between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia
would "remain firm and unshakable." Pravda published the letter with great fanfare in Moscow on June 21.
Not until almost a month later, on July 13, did the letter appear in Rudé právo in Prague.

To the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in Prague Esteemed Comrades:

The participants in the national conference of People's Militia units, gathered in Prague on 19 June 1968,75 have heard a report by the CPCz CC first secretary and commander of the People's Militia in the ČSSR.76 They have discussed the outcome of the May session of the CPCz Central Committee and the other tasks of the People's Militia, and have adopted the following resolution:

We fully and unconditionally endorse the resolution "On the Present Situation and on the Party's Future Activities," adopted by the CPCz Central Committee on 29 May-1 June 1968.

We reassure the CPCz Central Committee and the new party leadership that we will continue to offer complete support for the successful development of socialist democracy, which began with the January CPCz CC plenum. We will do everything we can to strengthen the unity of the party and its leading role and to ensure the consistent implementation of the party's Action Program.

We are satisfied with the decision to call an Extraordinary 14th Congress, and we express our belief that its proceedings and conclusions will give the party a solid base and a new central committee, and that it will lead to the consolidation of party unity as the prime condition for the party to be a leading political force in our society and to guide the future progress of our socialist society.

75 The conference, which convened in the hangar of Ruzyně airport just outside Prague, took place on the same day
that the joint Šumava maneuvers, involving tens of thousands of combat troops from the Soviet Union, Poland, East
Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, began on Czechoslovak territory. Emboldened by this show of external support,
many of the activists from the People's Militia expressed strong criticism of "right-wing forces" in Czechoslovakia, who,
they alleged, were posing a "serious danger" to the country's socialist order.

76 The conference grew out of mounting public debate over the role of the People's Militia. In response to criticism,
militia leaders demanded that they be officially designated the "armed corps of the communist party," with a provision
to that effect in the new party statutes. In support of this demand, units of the People's Militia intended to organize
assemblies in Prague and other major cities and to stage marches along public streets in their uniforms and full combat
gear—the very same tactic they used when buttressing the communist party's seizure of power in February 1948. Dubček
was able to head off this idea by proposing that the People's Militia instead hold a nationwide conference.

-163-

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