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“What lies ahead,” by Josef Smrkovský, February 9th, 1968
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir. "The
Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998, pp. 45-50
Original Source: “Jak nyní dál: Nad závĕry lednového pléna ÚV KSČ,” Rudé právo, February 9, 1968, p.2.
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: This article, published in the paper Rudé Právo, only a month after Dubček’s election became the most important initial manifesto. It emphasizes on uniting the people everybody from workers to intellectuals. It emphasized on marking the break with the old CPCz Josef Smrkovský became next to Dubcek the most important architect of the forthcoming Prague Spring.
On the conclusions of the January Plenum of the CPCz CC
The questions that the Central Committee of the party considered and resolved in December and January have set the entire party in motion, and the public at large has been paying great attention to them. This is so even though we failed to ensure the prompt and sufficient release of information. We must put this right, and that is precisely what we are doing, since there must be no discrepancy between our statements of Leninist principles and democratic traditions, on the one hand, and our future practical activities, on the other.
We can already say that in general the last Central Committee session has met with a favorable response in politically active sections of society. As more information bas become available, discussions have been gaining momentum, and this in turn has generated greater enthusiasm for political activity. Yet even sincere persons who in the past have often been disappointed still show signs of skepticism. Old practices are still embedded in the activities of many of our organs and in the minds of people working in them. This creates doubts and insecurity. People are demanding guarantees.
It is at this point that I would like to say something about certain pressing issues, though I do not mean to impose my opinions regarding future decisions of the party on anyone.
A Common Republic
Of the entire decisions of the January session of the party's Central Committee, the one that has attracted the most attention is the resolution to divide the highest party and state posts. This has given rise to many questions: Is this not merely a rotation of individuals? What is the actual meaning of the decision? Does this not simply account to the replacement of the "Czech government" by a "Slovak government”? As a result of certain reports, the question is even being raised whether the separation will diminish the workers' Component of the party, whether it is a Concession to "all kinds" of intellectuals and so forth.
The Slovak issue was widely discussed at the last session and it is indeed one of the fundamental problems we have to solve. However, it is certainly not the only problem or the paramount one.
We failed to notice that the Slovaks have every reason to insist on the resolution of certain matters of principle concerning relations between our two nations and especially the everyday reality of our coexistence. We have become accustomed to looking at Slovakia as though all problems had been settled there and as though the task of equaling economic standards with those in the Czech Lands had been totally resolved, thanks to certain sacrifices on the Czechs. But we did not notice that the gradual narrowing of the "Košice" arrangement of Czechoslovak relations, especially the last constitutional arrangement in 1960 together with the practical reinforcement of "Prague" centralism, created a serious political problem.
"Commercial arithmetic," as practiced by some of our people, divides the population into thirds-two Czech and one Slovak-but this will no longer do. If we leave aside ethnic minorities through we must give consideration to them as well, so that they genuinely feel at home in our public), the republic is not made up of three thirds, but merely of two national entities, both equal and with equal rights. To respect this reality naturally docs not mean to give priority to Slovak interests and ignore those of the Czechs. One cannot turn things upside down. There is greater Czech national interest than the strength of this republic, which one cannot imagine without the Slovaks. The years 1938-1939 taught a lesson not only to the Slovaks but to us Czechs as well! Let us not forget that the first free voice of Czechoslovakia rang out on domestic soil at Baňská Bystrica in 1944! I meet a great many people and unfortunately I notice that a argument of the Czech public-and I am afraid it is not just a negligible segment-have still not asked the Slovak question and are unaware that the problems of Slovakia need to be addressed. Our way of looking at Slovakia is still burdened by old prejudices that have again been fueled f allegations of so-called Slovak nationalism. True, "our" Czech patriots have their counterparts Slovakia. National exaggerations are not the domain of one nation alone.
Still, the common interest in truly maintaining the republic's internal unity demands that we lye on proven traditions, stemming from the joint antifascist liberation struggle, and that we me to grips with the issue of our relations in the interest of a modern socialist community. Following some indications in the past, the CPCz CC has now realized all this, as is evident in e relevant sections of the resolution. For the first time in the history of the CPCz, a Slovak Communist has been placed at the helm of the party. Cde. Dubček has become first secretary as I honest and experienced communist. At the CPCz CC session it was not at all a question of a power seizure by the Slovaks" as we sometimes hear because of a lack of information in Czech cries.
Confidence in the Intelligentsia
By the same token, no one has threatened the working-class nature of the party. Those who spoke in the discussion could not be divided into intellectuals and workers, as is claimed erroneously in certain quarters. The open and passionate debate included intellectuals as well as workers and peasants, who were motivated by the same sincere concern for the cause of the public, the interests of the people, and the improvement and consolidation of socialism. As a workers' official, which I consider myself to be, this is something I wish to emphasize. And I so want to say that a revolutionary workers' party bas always been characterized by ties between the working class and scientific socialism. That, too, is part of the best traditions of our party. A significant number of the leading figures in Czech and Slovak science, literature, and, as well as teachers, doctors, and others, have always fought in the party's ranks and even id down their lives for it. The present era of the scientific-technical revolution-in, which, unfortunately, we are badly lagging, behind-demands more than ever that the creative forces the working class, the peasantry, and the intelligentsia combine their efforts.
To put the matter simply: If in the last century a revolutionary workers' party could never have been founded and developed without Lenin, in 1968 it is even more inconceivable that socialism could be built without science and without the intelligentsia! That is why efforts to stir up mistrust between workers and intellectuals are totally out of place and are damaging to the cause.
Even further from the truth is the suggestion that what happened at the recent sessions of the CPCz CC was no more than a personal quarrel and a rotation of individuals. Of course, no one finds it easy to set aside his personal biases, not even at sessions of the party's Central Committee. Nevertheless, the personnel changes were in fact motivated by considerations that are of far greater urgency and importance to the party: the imperative to remove the obstacles that for some time have been obstructing the party's progressive efforts, and the need to remove everything that has prevented the conclusions of the 13th Congress from being implemented and that inhibits the activation of all healthy forces in the party and among the people. I am referring to a series of tasks that should have been performed a long time ago, as well as to topical and pressing matters in the economic and social system. It is also essential to eliminate everything that has been distorting socialism, deranging people's spirits, causing pain, and depriving people of their faith and enthusiasm. This means we must do whatever is necessary to rehabilitate communists and other citizens who were unjustly sentenced in political trials so that we, as communists, can look ourselves in the face without shame. We must face the truth of history, as well as our historical legacy-especially the progressive traditions of the resistance struggle-and we must grant all our citizens whatever they are entitled to.
We should draw appropriate theoretical and practical conclusions from the fact that there are no more antagonistic classes in our country. It would be a setback for us if the current problems were to be resolved by the same methods and means that were used-albeit in a different form--during the years when a struggle was being waged to see “who would prevail over whom”.
The CC session attempted to find the cause of the passivity and indifference in our country, things which we can no longer conceal. There is a conviction growing that everything we have achieved in transforming the structure of the society will facilitate-indeed will absolutely necessitate-a basic change of course. Such a change must be aimed at the democratization of the party and the society as a whole, and must be brought about consistently and honestly; it also must be backed by realistic guarantees that are understood by the majority to ensure that it will not be undermined by hedging and reservations.
This is why the CC has decided to draw up an Action Program and start work on a project for the advancement of socialist society. The project will include all tested practices and progressive national traditions that were at the root of our victory. What, then, lies ahead? We shall find no readymade solutions. It is up to us, both Czechs and Slovaks, to launch out courageously into unexplored territory and search for a Czechoslovak road to socialism. We can even regard this as our duty to the whole international socialist movement. It means strengthening our unity with the Soviet Union and with all socialist countries on the basis of tested equal rights principles." It also enables us to establish the type of socialism that may even have something to offer to industrial countries in Europe and to their advanced revolutionary workers' movements.
These are, in my view, the main problems that have left their mark on the most recent session of the CPCz CC. The members of the CPCz CC have tried hard and sincerely to find democratic solutions to all these problems.
The Example of the Central Committee
I would say that this quest was largely successful. True, there was no "volte-face," white did not change to black, nor vice versa. In a meeting of some 150 speakers and in the subsequent unity and in the entire CC-the unity of which need not be absolute at all times-the CC plenum became what it should be: namely, the truly supreme organ of the party. It became an organ that contributed not only a democratic spirit, but also made fundamental and significant democratic steps that have not been made by the party for decades. It introduced and carried through a task that accords with the democratic sentiments of our people and with their awareness of everything our public life ought to be-straightforward, truthful, and decent-while retaining a principled and critical outlook in accordance with the sound rule of "the truth, come what may." Thus, the CC set an example to one and all, as well as to itself, of how to conduct both the practical work of the center and the everyday work of lower-echelon organs. This is an example to the present and to the future, an example that still must be thought through and taken to its logical conclusion.
The Central Committee has now demonstrated that it does not intend to be a mere rubber-stamp body any longer. It has become the real spokesman of the party and has finally given voice to issues that have long been troubling every communist who is sincere toward the movement and honest with him. The CC has now started to confront the question of the party's authority in society and, above all, its internal problems that for so long have been sidestepped or addressed sporadically. This applies also to relations and duties toward non-party members and the society as a whole.
So, what are we to do after "January"? How are we to ensure that words will be turned into deeds and translated into reality, that the program and line of the 13th Congress-as fully endorsed by the CC session-will be implemented with consistency, that hopes which are finally beginning to emerge in the party will not be dashed, and that the activity accompanying these hopes will not be squandered?
The first task is to inform the party, the whole party, of the content of the discussion at the CC session. We must reveal the spirit and methods underlying the proceedings of the most recent session to the entire party and to all its sections. Scope must be given to a sincere and frank exchange of views from top to bottom, with priority to be given to the cogency of the arguments rather than to the power of the voice or the office. Priority also will be given to action instead of to indifference and passive submission. All truly progressive and responsible trends must be given a chance, and their chance must be given boldly and judiciously, sooner rather than later.
No mistake would be greater than to start carrying out these tasks on the basis of obsolete procedures, in the form of a one-off campaign that would, as usual, pay lip-service and then wither and die a few months later. We must not gamble frivolously with the confidence shown either by the party or in the party. This can only be solved on a systematic, long-term basis. Not everything bas been solved. I would say that the first "test of statesmanship" for us will be to summon up the will and the courage to inform the party in detail about all that has happened and about the views expressed in connection with these events. We must inform the party concretely and honestly from top to bottom, and from bottom to top.
To that end, we must fully implement all provisions of the party statutes that are today on the agenda, and we must rid the party of formalism and command methods and replace them with genuine, straightforward, and ideologically sound arguments. This must be done not by the authority of rhetoric and office, but with the help of ideas, evidence, and acts. The whole process must imbue the party from top to bottom and vice versa. If the CC bas now proclaimed everything that the party wanted to hear, it also has declared that the CC itself needs to know what the party and the people are saying.
The whole set of tasks and problems that are accumulating today before us can best be characterized as a steady process of democratization within both the party and the state. This process is the main precondition for a truly mature and thus voluntary form of discipline, without which the party would lose its capacity to act. Although we must cure and revive the whole party organism. we cannot do so through some "back-door" method. Nor can we compensate by relying on even the most hard-working apparatus. The entire party and each of its members must be convinced that the party as a whole is responsible not only for the implementation of tasks, but also for their conceptualization-that is, for the formulation of party policy, in which each communist must participate so that they can then regard it as their very own.
No doubt, we must "clear the table"-a phrase one often hears among comrades nowadays-but this must be done peacefully and in a businesslike manner so that we can prudently return to our former work and can reaffirm and develop whatever has been successful in the past, while rectifying shortcomings and mistakes in a just and sincere manner. Let us give to the past what it deserves-truth, purity, and justice. Let us do this without further delay and without scandals and recriminations, and let us do it consistently so we can then fully concentrate on what has always been the main interest of all communists: the future.
What Kind of Program Do We Need?
The decision of the January CPCz CC plenum to prepare a party Action Program will move us in precisely that direction. The Action Program must express the fundamental needs-and thus also the political interests of individual groups within the population. The Central Committee intends to include principles that are clearly formulated and that will guide us when we approach various strata of society and their interests, as well as when we confront urgent economic, social, and ideological problems. The program will be a rallying point that can unite all progressive and patriotic forces and that can restore an atmosphere of trust between individual classes and groups of society as well as between the party and the people.
However, an atmosphere of trust can only be created after we succeed in overcoming certain areas of friction and tension that have emerged in the past. I have in mind especially the tension between the party leadership and the intelligentsia, and the tension between the party leadership and some of our young people, particularly students.
We also realize that we must adopt a new approach when we confront social problems that have emerged as a result of our protracted economic difficulties. Social problem number one is the need for improvement in the housing situation. An effective solution to this matter means we will have to adopt certain emergency measures to get things moving. In the Action Program the party's Central Committee should also state clearly and openly what steps it proposes to adopt regarding prices, wages, taxes, and social policy.
If a climate of mutual political confidence is to be restored, the people must be given sufficient factual information about everything that concerns their living standards. Prompt information is among the most important prerequisites of the democratization of public life; without it, political
All citizens are entitled to know how their lives are going to develop so that they can plan for the future realistically and responsibly. Frequent changes in living conditions do not promote stability. Although some changes are necessary, we can ensure that people do not feel insecure and that they do not have to live from one day to another always wondering what those “above” will think up next.
This last point is especially important. If the thesis about the party's leading role is to be more than a hollow phrase, the projected Action Program cannot be the affair of the party alone. The Party's Action Program must be addressed to our entire public. All segments and groups of the population must find in it a reflection of their aspirations, requirements, and demands. The program, which is being devised by the party's Central Committee at the instruction of the Presidium, must be a program for the whole of society, the whole of the state, and the whole population. 'The forthcoming 50th anniversary of our republic will be the most suitable occasion for the elaboration and full implementation of the Program.
The Position of the Party
What we must do now is clarify relations between party and state organs, between state organs and enterprises, between state administrative bodies and the economic sphere, and between the apparatus and elected bodies. Unless all these relationships are precisely demarcated and the jurisdiction and responsibility of individual organs are properly established, it will not be possible to improve the quality of management or to implement the demand that each of us must be accountable for our actions, work, and decisions. The public must know not only who decides at what level but also who takes full responsibility for that level.
The new Action Program must also clearly stipulate the tasks of individual social and professional organizations and the appropriate relationship between these entities and state and party organs. Because we know that progress in a socialist society takes place through the interaction of economic, social, and political interests, we must strive to establish a mechanism of political leadership that will provide for the routine settlement of all social conflicts and preclude any need for emergency administrative measures, which would give rise to new points of friction and political tensions. Naturally, the same applies to certain nationality problems.
Ultimately, the Action Program and, above all, the way it is implemented-will determine whether the expectations that the January session of the CPCz Central Committee has generated within the party and among the people will be fulfilled, and whether this session will become a landmark in our development and the beginning of a new eliminate not only in the ranks of the party, but in the society as a whole. Let us not have any illusions. Nothing will happen on its own, without a struggle, or without some effort. Nothing will fall into our laps, and no one should expect charitable donations. There must be a sense of responsibility both "at the top" and "at the bottom."
People have emerged from various quarters that talk about a shake-up and turbulence; more such people will emerge, and the talk will continue. This eventful session, where people spoke frankly, openly, courageously, critically, and self-critically, may appear turbulent to some. But there are different types of turbulence. I think it will be a good thing if the December and January plenary sessions bring a real shake-up-a shake-up that is beneficial in releasing and reviving new and fresh forces that can move our society and our socialist republic forward into a new phase. All this is fully within the power of the party and within the power of our 1.5 million communists, who can count on the total help and support of broad masses of the population who want the same things that we do.