In 1968, the world watched with wonder and disbelief developments in Czechoslovakia where many people, among them the top leadership of the Communist Party, were engaged in the fascinating experiment of transforming a rigid Communist rule into a "socialism with a human face." The experiment will go down in history as the "Czechoslovak Spring." History will also note, however, its consequences in the "winter" that followed: the Soviet invasion of the country and the capitulation of the architects of the Spring to brutal force.
The two experiences--of forging a concept of democratic socialism and of submission to outside intervention--were not new in Czechoslovak history. They only intensified my search for the answer to a question that has haunted me for many years: what can explain the puzzling phenomenon, so conspicuous in the nation's history, of a unique zeal for social advancement coupled with an equally unique record of defeat and failure?