Horalek, Jan, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs
For those of us who started going to school in Czechoslovakia during the 1950s, socialism meant something appropriate and desirable. As well as something Soviet--the USSR even included the term "Socialist" in its name. At a very young age we were told that Russia and the Soviet Republics had already achieved socialism and were heading towards communism. We Czechoslovaks, on the other hand, had a "people's democracy;" socialism was still under construction.
But all of a sudden socialism took root here in 1960 as the communist leadership added an extra "S" to the official name of the country (the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ESSR)), as the state lion obtained a star instead of a crown, and as his heraldic shield was replaced by a Hussite pavise.
Nonetheless, normal life (aside from the new symbols) continued just like before. But when our democracy was discussed, for example during civic education classes, it wasn't simply described as a people's democracy, but also a socialist one. We learned that we used to live in a "bourgeois" democracy, which our unfortunate Western neighbors were currently trapped in. We began to notice that socialism's labels meant more to us than the concepts themselves.
When it comes to political terminology, the year 1968 was filled with labels. The communists, whose leading role was not threatened (at least not out loud), were differentiated by such labels as reformist, centrist, and progressive, as opposed to conservative or dogmatic. The terms socialism and democracy were even at odds in a grammatical sense--social democracy versus democratic socialism.
Leading a coalition of moderates, centrists, and conservatives, the communist reformer Alexander Dubcek instituted reforms which liberalized the regime. But some feared that the Prague Spring reforms had gone too far; thus on 20 August, Warsaw troops entered the country in order to squash the supposed counterrevolution.
After the occupation and gradual takeover by the anti-reformists, the so-called normalization period began. …