and Cultural Figures to the CPCz Central Committee, March 25,1968
Source: "Otevřený dopis 134 čs. spisovatelů a kulturních pracovníců ÚV KSČ," Literární listy (Prague), No. 5 (March 28, 1968), p. 1.
Published in the immediate aftermath of the Dresden meeting, this open letter dramatizes the extent of
support that the reform process had generated among the intelligentsia and cultural elite in Czechoslo-
vakia. Signed by many of the country's most celebrated artists and writers, including Jaroslav Seifert (later
a Nobel Prize winner), the letter urges the CPCz Central Committee to preserve and build on the reforms
that had begun with the January 1968 plenum. The signatories referred directly to the Dresden commu-
nique when they exhorted the CPCz leadership to continue "standing up to pressure motivated by doubts
about the nature and objectives of our internal measures" and to bear in mind "that your responsibility
for this country is above all for its own people."
The pressure that CPCz leaders encountered at Dresden was one of the major factors behind the letter's
publication; another important consideration for the 134 signatories was the high-level personnel changes
that had occurred in late February and March, especially the dismissal of Novotný from the presidency.
Although most of the new appointees were of a distinctly reformist bent, the signatories of the letter wanted
to "democratize "the selection process—through public input and discussion of nominees—so that popular
support for reform would have a direct bearing on those responsible for governing the country.
25 March 1968
We are appealing to you at a time when, we believe, political developments in Czechoslovakia are entering a new phase. The resignation of Antonín Novotný as president of the republic was a sign of important change at home, while the preceding phase was marked by growing political activity among our citizens. And the reputation of communists has also improved thanks to those who have been carrying out the proposals of the December and January sessions of the CPCz Central Committee soberly, judiciously, and with determination. The great majority of the citizens of our state are confident that things will turn out for the better—by this they understand unequivocally the socialist character of our society. What is most gratifying in this process is that the project for democratic socialism has been taken up by the younger generation, who consider it exciting and remarkable.
Nevertheless, comrades, we would like to draw your attention to several points whose solution will be viewed as a litmus test of the sincerity of all statements about democratic socialism. The first point concerns international relations. We know and understand that on various occasions delegations of the CPCz are obliged to explain the nature of the democratization process in our country to other communist parties. We realize what we owe the socialist countries and our allies. However, the Dresden communique, for example, has made it clear to us that the CPCz CC must stand up to pressure motivated by doubts about the nature and objectives of our internal measures. Thus, although we want to assure you that you have our full support in all your statements, we emphasize that the need to maintain international solidarity among socialist states should not cause you to forget that your responsibility for this country is above all to its own people.
We see the current democratization process as a road that will lead to permanent democracy, and not as a process in which certain people are to be replaced by others while their thinking and working methods remain unchanged. That is why we attach major importance to the question of who will be appointed to vacated high posts in the state, and to the way this is going to be done. We believe it would not be appropriate to the situation if decisions on this matter were made exclusively after internal discussions in certain organs—in other words, decisions made