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Report by Czechoslovak Television Reporter on Soviet Reactions to the Events in the ČSSR, February 28, 1968
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir. "The
Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998, pp. 156-157
Original Source: “Manifest Klubu angažovaných nestraníků,” Svobodné slavo (Prague), July 11, 1968, p. 1.
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: KAN, an organized group with the leading intellectuals of Czechoslovakia in the front and a couple of thousands of members, released this manifesto.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Czechoslovak Republic inspires us to endorse the ideas that were present at the time our state and national independence was first achieved. We are convinced, as was the founder of this state that states are kept alive by their loyalty to the ideals under which they were born. We declare our support for these ideals in their contemporary, modern form, stressing three fundamental principles as the ideological backbone of our CLUB.
We believe that the foundations of any modern European policy lie in the idea of human and civil rights and civil equality, anchored in the revolutionary declaration of human rights, which covers both the human being and the citizen, and which is today enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights. We regard the defense of these rights against the dehumanizing forces of capitalism, fascism, and Stalinism to be the uninterrupted tradition of the democratic endeavors of the Czech and Slovak peoples, which we openly support as the reliable pillar of the Czechoslovak idea of statehood.
The second object of our political endeavor is the humanist tradition of Czechoslovak culture, which greatly inspired the advancement of our nations in the field of science, art, religion, ethics, and philosophy rather than on the battlefield or in attempts at world domination or simply in multiplying material well-being. In keeping with this international humanistic tradition of solidarity, peace, and cooperation, we do not believe the values of a nation, class, or races are decisive. Instead, we would emphasize the personality of the human being and their creation as the very meaning of human existence.
The third object is the current impressive idea of the Czechoslovak experiment, which is to combine democratic socialism with the noble program of individual freedom. The socialist system, the democratic exercise of power, and freedom of the individual are for us the points of departure in our political thinking as well as the objective for which we want to strive in the present transformation of political life.
The fact that in addition to the replacement of officials in leading posts there have been far more significant changes-a change of people's opinions and positions, a transformation of the atmosphere of fear into a climate of confidence and good will, and a change of the structure of people's political thinking-is a paradoxical yet logical outcome of the tempestuous political development in our country. We refer to hundreds of thousands of individual revolutions taking place within people who have understood that searching for a way to escape intact white hedging through the arbitrary totalitarian rule of a small group of people making undue claims to power is beneath the dignity of a human being. The internal transformations that are today taking place in every thinking citizen of this country-and that are, for the moment, the only guarantee that developments are irreversible and will not slide back into the past-motivate the need of individuals to come close to people, thinking and acting as they do. It is surprising and encouraging that this applies to thousands of non-members of the party who today claim their share of responsibility for the future progress of the political arrangement of the state. The call by non-members, which is growing stronger day by day, and therefore necessitates an organization capable of defending their interests, is the result of the abnormal situation of the past twenty years when a sharp divide was created between communists and non-communists. This discriminatory measure virtually prevented non-communists from holding any higher economic, political, and, hence, social position so that non-communists were manipulated as passive, scattered, and inferior elements in society. It is evident that this was a gross violation of fundamental human rights as set out in the UN Declaration, as well as a violation of our national traditions of humanism, democracy, and socialism.
The newly emerging structure of our political life, whose concrete shape and detailed forms we are for the moment incapable of anticipating, has certain common features, regardless of possible differences of views or political bearing, which unite non-members of the party and form the basis of the political activity of non-members of the party both within the CLUB and outside the CLUB. The political activity of our CLUB for the moment deliberately concentrates on this minimum program of common demands of non-members of the party because we expect that the further normalization of our social life will result in the establishment or transformation of political parties that are based on attributes, guided by a fundamental world outlook, and conceived with a long-term view. For the moment the CLUB has no aspirations toward such a role since it is still lacking the legal, organizational, and material prerequisites as well as the prerequisites of membership. We nevertheless see fit to draw the attention of the non-party public to key issues and to the need for adequate action to ensure that the fundamental rules of the democratic formation of political life and state power are observed and respected. All non-members of the party are today interested in such a program, irrespective of the questions that will be formulated at a later date in connection with elections, namely the content of the existing or future political parties' programs.
In accordance with fundamental human rights we consider equality of party members and non-members to be the minimum rule of the democratic game with which CLUB is launching its political activity. Without this principle it is impossible to substantially remedy the flaws in our public life. Nor can the crisis in the economy be overcome. Apart from the equality of the two sections of our political public, the crucial issues in the months to come are, in our view, democratic elections, which are conceivable solely as secret elections of separate lists of candidates from a number of political parties, and independent candidates as well. If the democratization process is not to be frozen at its inception the electoral law must fulfill these elementary demands with the citizen's free participation in forming the political bodies of the state, and it must offer genuine alternatives in political decision-making by the population. Finally, we wish to submit alternative political proposals not only on the question of elections, but on discussion of all major political issues. We want to be an independent political force of an entirely new type. We do not wish to shape our own political positions against the communist party but alongside it, working for a common objective-socialism, based on the foundations of humanism and democracy – an objective that has always been the longing of our two nations.