The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 58: Transcript of Discussion between Alexander
Dubček and Waldeck Rochet, July 19,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: Kremlin-PCF: Conversations secrètes (Paris: Olivier Orban, 1984),
pp. 75–96; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 324–330.

This memorandum of conversation records a meeting between French Communist Party General
Secretary Waldeck Rochet and Dubček. The purpose of the meeting was for Rochet to present his proposal
for "true cooperation" between Prague and Moscow through a conference of all the communist parties
of Europe that would provide a peaceful solution to the crisis. Along with two senior officials from the
Italian Communist Party, Rochet traveled first to Moscow to argue for such a meetingSoviet officials
did not endorse his proposaland then on to Prague.

According to the meeting transcript, Dubček was equivocal on Rochet's idea and rejected a number of
his arguments. When Rochet urges Dubček to take whatever steps necessary to improve relations with
Moscow and prevent "a rupture of your alliance with the Soviet Union," Dubček responds that the
deterioration of Soviet-Czechoslovak ties "is not our fault," contending that the CPCz has "gone on the
offensive" against "rightist forces." Dubček also expresses puzzlement and irritation at Soviet charges
that Czechoslovakia's "western borders had been left exposed" to probes by NATO. He insists that, on
the contrary, the border forces were "stronger than before." Finally, Dubček tells Rochet that any genuine
improvement in Soviet-Czechoslovak relations would be difficult to sustain so long as Soviet troops
remained on Czechoslovak territory against the wishes of the Czechoslovak government and population.

Ultimately, Rochet was not able to advance the FCP initiative to prevent a violent outcome to the crisis.

W. Rochet expresses his concern about the current Czechoslovak events and the deterioration of Czechoslovak-Soviet relations….

In summing up, our party wishes to have friendly and fraternal relations with you and with the Soviet comrades, based on solidarity and the principles of proletarian internationalism.

But at this point the crucial question is not that of relations between the French Communist Party and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

The crucial question for the whole international communist movement is the improvement of relations between your party and the Comunist Party of the Soviet Union.

Without wishing in any way to interfere in the internal affairs of other parties, we note that a most serious, I would even say dangerous, situation has arisen. This is all the more so since the imperialists are watchful.

I am convinced that you are as aware of the gravity of the situation as we are.

Yet I would, nevertheless, like to emphasize this.

Communists in our country—and I believe those in all countries—are worried by the prospect that there could be a split between you and the comrades in the socialist countries, above all with the Soviet Union.

On the one hand, they maintain that if there has been a shift to the right in your country, a shift that would endanger socialism, this would be a defeat for the whole international communist movement.

On the other hand, if your relations with the Soviet comrades were to deteriorate to the point of a split, this could lead to something even worse.

It appears there is a genuine danger of that….

In any case, a rupture of your alliance with the Soviet Union would expose your country to all types of maneuvers by Germany, by Bonn, and by the United States. This would upset the whole balance of power in Europe, and European security would be in danger. It is understandable that the Soviet Union and the socialist countries cannot allow such a situation to arise.

-261-

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