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Alexander Dubček´s Speech Marking the 20th Anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s “February Revolution,” February 22, 1968
Our Source: Navratil,
Jaromir. "The Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press,
1998, pp. 51-54
Original Source: K otázkám obrodného procesu KSČ: Vybrané projevy 1. tajemníka ÚV KSČ A. Dubčeka (Bratislava, 1968), pp. 31-58
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: Celebrating 2 decades of communism in Czechoslovakia, Dubček delivers this speech.
... I know that for some time serious rumblings have been heard from the ranks of our workers and peasants. They have been saying that it is no longer good enough to fix something here and there in the party and in society as a whole. They believe, instead, that things must be thoroughly changed in the spirit of the old and tested Leninist methods and traditions of the labor movement-not by words but by decisive action. This objective corresponds to the wishes of our working people.
We have several times attempted to bring about a change in many spheres: in industry, agriculture, culture, and science. We have achieved certain successes, but we sensed that these were not commensurate with our capabilities and the effort we expended. If we look back today at all these endeavors, we come up against the real key to the solution of everything, the focal point of all our burning problems. The area in which we must start is politics, the political sphere. That very same political sphere dictates this conviction, by life itself, and by our past experience. It is no coincidence that this is where negative phenomena have recently been spreading-phenomena that we know only too well and where we are most alarmed by the growth of political apathy, passivity, and a certain type of resignation even among communists.
A series of unresolved questions have been accumulating in the political sphere. We cannot afford all this to become entangled in a web we would find hard, very hard, to disentangle. This is, therefore, the point where we must begin to tackle matters, where a turnaround is essential, and where a remedy is most needed. There are indications and signals warning us that this need has been and is being felt by the public and the whole party. The same applies to the party leadership, which also has launched a more intensive discussion about these matters since the October plenary session (in 1967-Eds.l.
These discussions did not refer to the policy or resolutions of the 13th Party Congress. After all, we know that the documents of the 13th CPCz Congress provide a sufficiently broad basis for the solution of pressing problems. The discussion centered mainly on working methods, on the course of our further progress, and on whether we could accomplish the tasks set by the 13th Congress with the old methods or whether those old habits would lead us not forward but into a blind alley.
These debates and disputes featured a confrontation of views, and their purpose was to facilitate a progressive advance. What was the result or what was the first results sofar as these are just initial steps?
I believe the correct and progressive position has triumphed, the view that we cannot preserve past values simply by defending them all the time, but by looking new problems boldly in the face, and that we shall tackle these in a new and creative manner, in a manner dictated by our present reality. I am probably not simplifying matters when I say that today more than ever the important thing is not to reduce our policy to a struggle "against" but, more importantly, to wage a struggle "for." 'Rat, in my view, is the crux of the matter....
We have analyzed and firmly rejected directive-based methods of managing the economy, which no longer correspond to the existing level of the forces of production and which are remnants of a specific period when the economy could still be developed extensively. Similar problems exist in the political sphere as well.
In this situation we have futilely racked our brains about the alarming tendency toward passivity, and we have called in vain for responsible activity and greater discipline. Appropriate and favorable conditions must still be created for the kind of activity that is vital for socialism's existence. Political directives, too, will have to be worked out with the far greater participation of those at whom they are targeted, such as the trade unions or the Youth League. In some sectors of our life responsibility for one's work has diminished. Lack of discipline and a peculiar type of passing the buck have become rife.
Naturally it will be essential and effective to promote the kind of discipline we need – a mature and voluntary discipline. In applying the Leninist principle of party organisation and party work, and in building the state, we must proceed from the principle of democratic centralism. We must take a closer look at its foundations and application in our work. Here must not be excessive centralization, which only weakens the democratic factor. This was, incidentally, one of the crucial issues discussed by the Central Committee in October and December 1967 and again in January 1968.
It was not for nothing that it was stressed time and again that conclusions must be drawn from the fact that socialism has already triumphed in our country and that new relations have been erected between classes. We must live up to this new social situation in practice, and not by words alone. That is where the key to the majority of our current political problems lies.
Therefore, the discussion must not focus on whether to enforce the leading role of the party in the advancement of society and in the implementation of policy with regard to the economy, culture, the trade unions, or the youth movement. The question, instead, is how to enforce the leading role of the party more effectively in the existing conditions of socialist construction. This flows directly from the Leninist principle that the party must constantly struggle to uphold its leading position in society.
Over the past few years the view of the party that was so prevalent in the past-regarding it as a force which, instead of exercising political leadership in society, would instead often make authoritarian decisions about even the most superfluous, marginal, and trivial matters-has again won the upper hand in this country.
We have to think seriously, about the consequences and repercussions of this mode of thought, insofar as the shortcomings are directly linked with the problem of decision-making and power, as discussed at the recent sessions of the Central Committee. There will probably be no disagreements about the fact that it was this concept of the running of society and its actual practice that have done so much to deprive the work of many state, economic, and social institutions of the essence. of their content and responsibility. This concept gave rise to a situation in which insufficient scope was given to them to apply beneficial social initiatives, and stamped many of our activities with a seal of formality.
I believe these circumstances recall the words of Klement Gottwald when, after February 1948, he warned us against administrative and command methods in relations between the party and society.
It will certainly not be easy to deal with this problem, as it contains a whole set of intricate theoretical and practical issues. Impatience and improvisation will not help, although we cannot keep postponing a proper solution. The party must formulate political objectives that are understandable to the people, together with a corresponding concept of our policy. All new concepts must be expressed in new terms, without abandoning continuity with past developments, which have molded the present situation in our society and its thinking. We must forget wishful thinking and must respect what we have and transform it fundamentally and patiently. That was the crux of the matter at the last sessions of the Central Committee, and this point is best reflected in the demand for, first, an Action Program, and then, a few years later, a long-term political program that gives all our citizens-Czechs, Slovaks and other ethnic groups-new prospects and answers to their questions, to their needs, and to everything else they expect from the forthcoming period in which a socialist society is constructed and refined in Czechoslovakia.
Suggestions for the Action Program covering the immediate period up to the preparation of the 14th CPCz Congress, which we are going to review over the next few months, are wrong the main duties that will enable us to figure out how to implement the conclusions of the January Central Committee session in a practical and positive manner.
We want to rally all the citizens of our republic to implement the progressive objectives of socialist development and strengthen confidence in the party. The only way to do this is to rectify all mistakes and shortcomings and to promote intra-party democracy, providing a guarantee for the widest possible inclusion of the party's members and officials in the formulation and implementation of the party's policy.
In the Action Program we cannot specify the practical steps of each section of society, but we can and must open political space to allow individual groups and all social institutions and organisations to formulate their most urgent practical objectives and tasks. In this way, each citizen of our state should be able to pursue their interests directly and effectively, especially at work, as part of their social activity.
I believe the Action Program should also be a starting point for the formulation of key issues in a prospective long-term program running through the year 1970. Long-term objectives and concepts of the general progress of socialism should reflect the most innate sense of the socialist revolution, the transformation of the material and intellectual conditions in society, and the genuine liberation of people.
The solution of many problems in our party will be of great - I would even say, decisive-importance in this work, based on the decisions of the 13th Congress which we shall have to elaborate further during our preparations for the 14th CPCz Congress. The recent sessions of the Central Committee have already provided substantial and valuable new ideas.
I believe we have succeeded in confronting the problems that have been worrying all of us-our entire party and all its members-for a long time. To enforce the leading role of the party under present conditions, we must create the necessary prerequisites for the promotion of initiative, greater scope for opinions to be compared and exchanged, and greater efforts to inform all communists thoroughly and objectively about events at home and abroad in a timely manner, allowing them to form opinions about the policy of the party and, above all, to participate not only in the implementation but also in the formulation of the political line and procedure of the party, especially in their work sphere. In brief, this means that at the present stage we must place the strongest emphasis on the premise that while preserving the necessary degree of centralism, democratic forms must be developed more actively and, above all, more thoroughly; this must be done not in the highest party institutions but mainly "from below", in organisations and among the membership. In intra-party life we must eliminate excessive centralism in decision-making and place greater emphasis on the role of party branches and elected bodies.
Expert studies and science must play a major role in shaping the party's policy. The party today has a large number of scientists and experienced personnel, who are capable of devising well-considered and well-founded solutions.
Recent sessions of our Central Committee have offered convincing evidence that democratic forms in party life are the most suitable method for responsibly approaching the problems of practical tasks. We want to draw all necessary conclusions from this and to anchor the result of all these deliberations in a set of well elaborated and scientifically justified measures. I already mentioned that several dozen scientific workers and experts in a variety of fields are working on the draft Action Program under the guidance of the Presidium of the CPCz CC. That is also how we are tackling other burning questions connected with party life.
The solution to these problems will surely inspire many suggestions relevant to other branches and organs of the party which, like the Central Committee, must start confronting them on their own, in keeping with the requirements of the day and the views of the majority of party members.
The work of local branches and of district and regional conferences will be decisive in determining whether we succeed in laying the foundations for activity and in fostering a creative, productive work atmosphere.
We must find ways of rapidly, objectively, and courageously solving the problems that have accumulated, but, most importantly, we must do so with circumspection. The only way to forestall the possible extremes that are naturally and logically emerging and that we must oppose is through positive action by the whole party. There is no other way of overcoming them.
Our entire effort and all our endeavors are directed toward a true invigoration and unity of all constructive and progressive forces in the republic. That is the necessary prerequisite for a new inception of socialism in our republic. The object of this development is to build an advanced socialist society based on sound economic foundations and to build a socialism that corresponds to the historical democratic traditions of Czechoslovakia, in accordance with the experience of other communist parties....