The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 44: The "Two Thousand Words" Manifesto,
June 27,1968

Source: "Dva tisíce slov," Literární listy (Prague), 27 June 1968, p. 1.

The "Two Thousand Words" Manifesto came to symbolize the Prague Spring more than any other
document. The manifesto's author, writer Ludvík Vaculík, was joined by nearly 70 prominent individuals,
including writers, cultural figures, distinguished scientists, and Olympic athletes, as well as a number of
ordinary citizens who signed the "Two Thousand Words."

Although the "Two Thousand Words" strongly endorses the reforms that the CPCz had undertaken
since January 1968, the signatories express serious misgivings about the durability of the reforms and
warn of attempts by "retrograde" elements in the party who wanted to return to the "pre-January
situation." The statement calls on ordinary Czechs and Slovaks to undertake direct action at the district
and regional levelsthrough public criticism, demonstrations, strikes, and picketingto compel anti-re-
formist officials to step down. Once these officials are out of office, the statement adds, a more vigorous
grass-roots effort could be mounted to "improve our domestic situation," to "carry the renewal process
forward," and to "take into our own hands our common cause and give it a form more appropriate to our
once-good "national" reputation." The document concludes with a reference to "foreign forces "that might
be preparing "to intervene in our affairs." The signatories pledge that they and other Czechs and Slovaks
will "back our government, with weapons if necessary," against anyone who might interfere.

Three Czechoslovak daily newspapers (Práce, Mladá fronta, and Zemědělské noviny) as well as
Literární listy simultaneously published the "Two Thousand Words" Manifesto on June 27; Dubček and
his colleagues, who had not known of the document, were caught off-guard. They were especially dismayed
by the exhortation to resort to independent initiative and action at the local level, which they regarded as
a threat to their own measured approach. Czechoslovak leaders realized they could not allow the
publication of the statement to pass without doing something to counter it and to mollify Soviet officials.
Using a draft prepared by Čestmír Císař and Zdeněk Mlynář, the CPCz Presidium adopted a resolution
condemning the "Two Thousand Words." From Moscow's perspective, however, these criticisms were far
too moderate and no substitute for direct retribution against the author and signatories.

The Soviet embassy learned on June 26, from unnamed "friends," that a controversial document was
about to be published. Not surprisingly, the "Two Thousand Words" infuriated Soviet leaders, who
denounced it as an "anti-socialist call to counterrevolution." When Dubček refrained from taking harsh
punitive action, the Soviet Union's impatience with the CPCz leader neared the breaking point. The episode
became one of the catalysts for convening the Warsaw Meeting in mid-July, marking the point of no return
for Soviet policy on rolling back the Prague Spring,


Two Thousand Words that Belong to Workers,
Farmers, Officials, Scientists, Artists, and Everybody

The first threat to our national life was from the war. Then came other evil days and events that endangered the nation's spiritual well-being and character. Most of the nation welcomed the socialist program with high hopes. But it fell into the hands of the wrong people. It would not have mattered so much that they lacked adequate experience in affairs of state, factual knowledge, or philosophical education, if only they had had enough common prudence and decency to listen to the opinion of others and agree to being gradually replaced by more able people.

After enjoying great popular confidence immediately after the war, the communist party by degrees bartered this confidence away for office, until it had all the offices and nothing else. We feel we must say this, it is familiar to those of us who are communists and who are as disappointed as the rest at the way things turned out. The leaders' mistaken policies transformed a political party and an alliance based on ideas into an organization for exerting power, one that proved

-177-

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