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Alexander Dubček’s Speech to the CPCz CC Plenary Session, May 29 – June 1, 1968, with discussion by Vasil Bilák
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir.
"The Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998,
Original Source: ÚSD, AÚD KSČ, F. 01
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: In this speech Dubček tries to explain to the CPCz CC Plenary Session that his aims with his reform-policies are rather to transform than to destroy the system.
Cde. A. Dubček:
/.../ During the eight months since the April session the social process has further accelerated. While during the period immediately after January the trend was essentially one of unity, a gradual differentiation is now under way. A variety of specific interests are emerging, and individual political tendencies are coming to the fore with increasing evidence.
The differentiation of society is also reflected within the party in the different assessments of the current situation and of its causes as well of the party's future steps. There is growing concern' as demonstrated by resolutions adopted by party bodies and organizations, as to whether the party is not yielding some of its positions, whether it is not abandoning its leading role, and whether it is not paving the way for right-wing, anti-socialist forces. On the other hand, concern is also expressed that the party should not slow down the democratization process.
If we want to arrive at a truthful picture we cannot see only extremes and speak in absolute terms about marginal phenomena.
The fundamental nature of the current situation is determined by the positive social process begun in January. Following the April plenum, which correctly characterized the essence of the situation at the time, certain factors of political consolidation have been strengthened. /.../
/…/ The contradictions and conflicts that are quite natural in the current process and that are at times brought to a critical head perhaps even too dramatically, are neither the product nor the consequence of the policy on which we embarked in January. They are, rather, the fruit of a long social crisis that has been maturing over the years, a crisis in which a host of unsatisfied needs and unsolved problems had accumulated without redress from the previous regime. What is more, the previous regime by its actions even deepened these problems, even though many people had drawn attention to this fact since the 12th Party Congress, and even more so after the 13th Party Congress. In January we cleared the road to their solution. This naturally does not take place without conflicts and a certain degree of spontaneity. So, the fundamental source of the current difficulties lies in the burden of social conflicts, mistakes, and deformations that reached a critical state, especially over the past few years when personal power was so concentrated. /.../
/…/ But since then the situation has changed: Anti-communist tendencies have grown stronger and certain elements are attempting to engage in more intensive forms of activity. The large majority of the party bas come to realize this danger, which is today the main threat to the further progress of the democratization process. Increasing sections of the progressive public are beginning to be aware of it as well.
The activation of right-wing forces has resulted in a certain inception of sectarian trends whereby attempts are being made to resolve the situation by largely incorrect methods that in turn might provoke undesirable tension and conflicts. /.../
/…/ In our view, the main way to struggle against right-wing, anti-communist forces is a positive approach by the party that will marshal all committed, pro-socialist forces in society to work constructively toward the progress of our society. We maintain that the fundamental path to follow is one that will have the full backing and recognition, above all, of the working masses, the working class, and cooperative farmers. The party leadership knows only too well that if anti-communist, right-wing forces emerge, the foundations of socialism cannot be safeguarded without the working class. That is what will guide the policy of the party.
Apart from fears of a right-wing danger, there are also now fears of the conservative forces in the party and of a return to the situation before January 1968. This danger stems from remnants of stereotyped thinking of the past and from the inertia of bureaucratic methods and activities.
Although the proponents of these views pay lip service to the new policy, they have not yet overcome old thinking, and instead assess social developments by fanning nervousness and mistrust in the policy of the party leadership and by readily giving the worst possible labels to each deviation from inertia or to even a slightly different socialist initiative. Some of these people are even pursuing deliberate actions against the policy of the party. I would like to mention examples, such as attempts to circulate slanderous leaflets within the party and among the public, the demagogic vilification of the party's policy, the attempts to bring about splits between the workers and the party, between party members and the leadership, and even within the party leadership itself.
It goes without saying that such views and attitudes undermine the party's capacity to act and could discredit the party in the eyes of the broad mass of the people, who are rightly coupling their hope in a new policy of the party with efforts to overcome old sectarian and dogmatic working methods. That is why firm action is necessary against this type of activity as well. All attempts to revive sectarianism, dogmatism, and pre-January conditions as such, albeit in the name of a struggle against anti-communism, would inflict great damage on the party and its policy and would, objectively, play into the hands precisely of such anti-communist tendencies. /.../
/…/ As is normal in polities, both extremes have the same objective impact in the final analysis and obstruct progressive development, which is and must be our main goal. We must and will not stop half way. That is why we are not so worried by tendencies that are obstructing the road in this direction. /.../
/…/ As demonstrated by the previous analysis, the reinforcement of the authority and influence of the party in society is the fundamental issue to be confronted. Without this, it would be naive to expect extremist tendencies not to exert pressure that might lead to attacks against the socialist system itself in our country. We have therefore concluded that without an extraordinary congress
the party will not unite at a sufficiently rapid pace and will be losing its authority. That is why the exceptional measure we are proposing-to prepare the congress during the three summer months-is a fundamental issue for the development of the entire internal political situation.
V. Bilák: Just as in the past many things were being simplified and idealized, the same is being done today. What was white is black, and what was black has suddenly become white. We would be deceiving ourselves if we were to speak about unity of action and unity of views within the party. After all, it is difficult to be at one with Comrade Novotný, but neither is it possible to be united with those who believe they will consolidate the party if they slander it as much as possible. Here, in the Central Committee, there is also no unity of views and of action, and we are more concerned with watching each other than with trusting each other. /…/
/…/ Even if we pursue our Czechoslovak policy we must hear in mind that what we are doing is not purely our own, Czechoslovak, affair. The harmfulness of failing to respect national traditions and certain specific features that have been created by historical development in individual countries is well established. It is, however, no less harmful if Marxists do not see these national peculiarities in the context of internationalist interests since respect of the latter will multiply the strength of the socialist community, thus ensuring the progressive development of all the counties within it. /…/
/…/ We cannot remain indifferent to many covert and open attacks against the socialist principles of our republic, against the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, against Marxism-Leninism as our ideology, against the leading role of the working class, and against our alliance and friendship with the Soviet Union. Nor can we be indifferent to attempts to create an opposition party and so forth. It would be possible to give many examples of things that are like poison and contaminate people’s thinking and that seek to provoke mistrust and even hatred of everything socialist. Anodyne voices urge us not to pay attention to this because these are no more than manifestations of individuals or only small groups. The Central Committee of the Slovak Communist Party bas declared that we must not be lulled to sleep, but must give serious consideration to all negative phenomena. It is enough to take a look at the open program of Ivan Sviták and some others to understand whether they are speaking only for themselves or on behalf of anti-communist and anti-socialist forces that are already beginning to form. They never imagined that after January such an opportune moment would arise for them to coalesce so quickly.
One may wonder where their roots are and where they have come from in our society. After all, in the past we declared that there were no longer any antagonistic classes in our society and that we were building an advanced socialist society. Twenty years, it appears, is not a song enough time for the disappearance in our society of all the forces against whom the working class, progressive peasants, and intellectuals bad to fight under the leadership of the CPCz. 1.7 million members of other political parties, including 320,000 members of Hlinka's Slovak People's Party and 230,000 members of the Democratic Party, of whom the great majority previously did not agree with the policy of the CPCz and were in active opposition to it, have also not disappeared into thin air from our society. /…/
/…/ Members of the bourgeois classes whose property has been nationalized, starting with bankers and factory owners and ending with kulaks, will never become reconciled to the existence of socialism, nor to the fact that their former property today serves the whole of society and its economic and cultural progress. And they are not alone. They are not the only ones who think in this way. It is more than likely that they brought up and still bring up their children and even their grandchildren to think this way. /…/
/…/ All that happened last January was inevitable. But that is not the cause of the many complex problems and complications we now face in the party and in society. /.../
/…/ We are the ones who bear responsibility for the present, for all that is happening today, and we will not be able to twist and turn in the face of history. Was it the Soviet Union that forced its advisers on us? I am not defending the advisers: There were good ones, less good ones, and evil ones. The Soviet Union knew how to deal with them eventually. But I take the liberty of quoting from a letter from Stalin which be sent to the CPCz Central Committee on 25 June 1951, through the intermediary of Čepička. It states, among other things: "If you really need an adviser in state security matters, you will have to decide this yourselves. In that case we will try to find a stronger and more experienced worker. Under all conditions and in any case we believe that our adviser must be supervised in his work and under the strict control of the CPCz Central Committee, and under no circumstances must be take the place of the minister for security." This is what Stalin wrote, and be was some authority! /…/
/.../ I am of the view that the congress should be held even though I see great danger in it unless we adopt certain inevitable measures.
In my view, these measures must ensure that the mass media do not create an anti-party atmosphere, that the choice and election of delegates at district and regional conferences does not turn into a public bidding game, and that this remains a strictly internal party affair....
At a certain period of time it was possible to believe that some people who for years bad been openly or covertly slandering, indeed attacking, our party for one reason or another, genuinely wanted the party to change its deformed working methods. They made a great show of their alleged struggle against Novotný. It is not difficult for me to remember that between the December and January plenary sessions some trembled like a leaf, wondering how it would all end. And they claimed that the main problem was the removal of Novotný. Novotný has now been removed, many positive things have been done, and our democratization process continues and yet, they find it necessary to assail the party, to strike again and try to destroy it. However, the present makes it amply clear that they are not concerned about the communist party at all. There is a well-orchestrated drive under way to create an opposition to the communist party that will suit their way of thinking. /.../