The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 59: Letter from the French CP to Leonid Brezhnev,
July 23,1968

Source: Kremlin-PCF: Conversations secrètes (Paris: Olivier Orban, 1984), pp. 97–104;
Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 337–339.

In response to a request from Moscow to endorse the "Warsaw Letter" on Czechoslovakia, the French
Communist Party sent this letter to Brezhnev on July 23. The FCP communique states that the French
party cannot endorse the Warsaw Letter because it "constitutes blatant public interference in the internal
affairs of a fraternal party" and thus "calls into question the fundamental principles" that should govern
relations between communist states. On a surprisingly strong note, the French communists insist that
"direct outside intervention of any sort" in Czechoslovakia would have the "most dire consequences" and
therefore "must be totally excluded."

The FCP's opposition was unexpected in the Kremlin. Waldek Rochet had not been overly supportive
of the Prague Spring in the past; indeed, during Brezhnev's speech before the CPSU Central Committee
plenum on July 17, he had claimed that FCP officials "fully agreed with the "Warsaw" Letter." After the
invasion, the FCP issued a statement of disapproval of Soviet actions.

Dear Comrade Brezhnev,

Following the reports received from your ambassadors in Paris and Prague, our party's Politburo wishes to inform you of its position on the problems arising from the situation in Czechoslovakia. This position has already been conveyed to you by comrade Waldeck Rochet during his visit to Moscow.88

You ask us to endorse the letter sent to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Meeting on behalf of the Central Committees of the communist and workers' parties of Bulgaria, Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, and the Soviet Union.

To our immense regret, it is impossible for us to comply with this request. In effect, this letter calls into question the principles that ought to be the main factor in relations between communist and workers' parties, and it starts a process that could have the most dire consequences for the cause of socialism and the international communist movement….

Because we believe that the letter sent by the Warsaw Meeting to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia calls into question the fundamental principles, and that it constitutes blatant public interference in the internal affairs of a fraternal party, we are unable to support it….

We are, therefore, fully aware that it is absolutely indispensable for the leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia to wage an effective struggle against all forces seeking to exploit the situation in order to do away with socialism in the country. Where we differ is on the method to be used to achieve this objective.

In our opinion, direct outside intervention of any sort must be excluded and the leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia must be persuaded to take action on its own, relying on the working class and on all other forces that regard socialism, and friendship and cooperation with the socialist countries, to be in their own interest as well as in the interest of Czechoslovakia. …

88 Rochet's visit took place during and just after the Warsaw Meeting, from July 14 to 16. Initially, on July 14, he met
Andrei Kirilenko, a senior member of the CPSU Politburo, and later on had talks with Brezhnev after the latter's return
from Warsaw.

-264-

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