The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 128: Unofficial Enunciation of the "Brezhnev
Doctrine," September 26,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: S. Kovalev, "Suverenitet i internatsional'nye obyazannosti sotsialisticheskikh stran,"
Pravda, September 26, 1968, p. 4.

This lengthy commentary, which appeared in Pravda five weeks after the invasion, constitutes the most
elaborate articulation of the "Brezhnev Doctrine." The doctrine laid out the strict "rules of the game"
for the socialist commonwealth; it linked the fate of each socialist country with the fate of all others,
stipulated that every socialist country must abide by the norms of Marxism-Leninism (as interpreted in
Moscow), and rejected "abstract sovereignty" in favor of the "laws of class struggle."

"Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries"

… It is impossible to overlook the allegations being made in certain quarters that the action of the five socialist countries violates the Marxist-Leninist principle of sovereignty and the right of nations to self-determination.

Such claims are untenable insofar as they are based on an abstract, non-class approach …

… Without question, the peoples of the socialist countries and the communist parties have and must have freedom to determine their country's path of development. Any decision they make, however, must not be harmful either to socialism in their own country or to the fundamental interests of other socialist countries… Whoever forgets this in giving exclusive emphasis to the autonomy and independence of communist parties is guilty of a one-sided approach and of shirking their internationalist duties.

… V. I. Lenin wrote that a person living in a society cannot be free of that society, and it is equally true that a socialist state in a system of other states that make up the socialist commonwealth cannot be free of the common interests of that commonwealth.

The sovereignty of individual socialist countries cannot be set against the interests of world socialism and the world revolutionary movement….

… Each communist party is free to apply the principles of Marxism-Leninism and socialism in its own country, but it is not free to deviate from these principles if it is to remain a genuine communist party….

It must be emphasized that even if a socialist country tries to adopt a position "outside the blocs," it in fact retains its national independence only because of the power of the socialist commonwealth—and above all its chief force, the Soviet Union—and the strength of its armed forces. The weakening of any of the links in the world system of socialism directly affects all the socialist countries, and they cannot look indifferently upon this…. If Czechoslovakia were to be separated from the socialist commonwealth, that not only would contravene Czechoslovakia's own vital interests, but would also be of great detriment to the other socialist countries…. To fulfill their internationalist duties to the fraternal nations of Czechoslovakia and to defend their own socialist gains, the Soviet Union and the other socialist states were forced to act and did act in decisive opposition to the anti-socialist forces in Czechoslovakia….

Those who "disapprove" of the actions of the five socialist countries ignore the crucial fact that it is precisely these countries who are protecting the interests of international socialism and the international revolutionary movement….

-502-

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