The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 29: Report on the Visit of Luigi Longo, Italian CP
General Secretary, to Czechoslovakia, May 5–7,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: ÚSD, AÚV KSČ, F. 02/1; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 227–231.

This internal memorandum of conversation records talks between Dubček and the general secretary of
the Italian Communist Party, Luigi Longo, on May 6, 1968. Longo's two-day visit to Prague reflected the
Italian communists' enthusiastic support of the Prague Spring. In his meeting with Dubček, Longo
acknowledges that the ICP hoped to "take full advantage" of the excitement created by the reforms in
Czechoslovakia to enhance its own electoral prospects and to legitimize its program of "open, democratic
socialism "for Italy.

The ICP's endorsement of Czechoslovak reforms angered Soviet officials. Within a day of Longo's
departure from Prague, Brezhnev complained that the Italian leader's positive remarks were being
"exploited by the unhealthy forces in Czechoslovakia."

The reason for the visit of Luigi Longo, general secretary of the Italian Communist Party, to Prague was the desire of the Italian side to establish contacts with the new leadership of our party, to obtain more information about the current phase of our developments and their prospects, and to exchange opinions on current problems of the international communist and workers' movement.

The centerpiece of the visit was a discussion between Cde. Longo and the first secretary of our party, Cde. Dubček. This was followed by meetings and talks with Cdes. Smrkovský, Černík, Lenárt, Císař, Šik, Husác, Kaderka, and Pudlák. During his visit Cde. Longo granted a lengthy interview to Rudé právo and met Czechoslovak and foreign journalists at a final press conference.

* * *

The meeting and talks between Cdes. Dubček and Longo took place on Monday morning, 6 May 1968, at the headquarters of the CPCz Central Committee. Those present on our side included Cdes. Lenárt and Kaderka and two comrades from the international department, and on the Italian side Cde. Boffa from L'Unitá.23

After a cordial welcome, Cde. Longo took the floor.

He pointed out that the Italian Communist Party welcomed our current internal political development because it confirmed the correctness of its own orientation toward "an open democratic socialism." The Italian CP was taking full advantage of this in its election campaign. However, political adversaries have been misusing our developments; they have exploited a variety of exposés about the negative aspects of our past, carried in the Czechoslovak media, in order to claim that there was no freedom in socialist Czechoslovakia and that human dignity had been trampled on.

In response, the Italian CP is highlighting the widespread suppression of civil rights and liberties in the capitalist world, especially in the USA. The party continues to criticize the "left of center" government and is focusing on the prospect of solving the problem of governing Italy. The party's objectives are to defeat the Christian Democratic government and to form a broader unity coalition of secular and Catholic forces.

Cde. Longo said he was convinced that the information he would obtain during his stay in Prague would be of value to their election campaign since, he stressed, the current policy of the CPCz represented a boost for the policy of the Italian CP.24

After that Cde. Dubček spoke.

23 G. Boffa's coverage of the reforms in Czechoslovakia for the Italian communist newspaper L'Unitá was highly
favorable throughout 196S.

24 After substantive gains at the polls during elections on May 19, Italian communist officials suggested that the ICP's
showing was at least partly attributable to the boost gained from Longo's visit.

-126-

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