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Top-Secret Telegram from Ambassador Stepan Chervonenko to Moscow Regarding the CPCz CC Presidium’s Decision Not to Attend the Warsaw Meeting, July 9, 1968
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir.
"The Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998,
Original Source: AVPRF, F. 059, Op. 58, P. 124, D. 571, Ll. 145-149.
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: Soviet Ambassador Chervonenko reports the Czechoslovak decline to the Warsaw meeting and at some length the concerns conveyed to Dubček.
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE USSR
TOPSECRET Copy No. 1
10 July 68
Today, 9 July 68, I was invited to the CPCz CC where, at Cde. Dubček’s instruction, Cde. Lenárt gave me a formal response to the proposal to convene a meeting in Warsaw of representatives from the fraternal parties.
The response is as follows:
“Based on a review of letters we have received from the fraternal countries proposing that a meeting be held to consider the situation in the ČSSR and the CPCz, the CPCz CC Presidium states:
In principle we agree to and would welcome holding meetings and negotiations with separate communist parties at the level of the Presidium or in some other acceptable format, because at present we are not ready for a joint meeting of the six communist parties that may occur on Thursday, 11 July 1968.
The CPCz CC Presidium recommends that a meeting of the six communist parties not be held at this time to consider the current situation in Czechoslovakia and the CPCz, and proposes instead that bilateral negotiations be held with representatives of the fraternal parties, so that we can mutually inform one another about the situation in our countries and parties.
In taking this position, the Presidium is upholding the generally recognized principles of socialist construction, which hold that the close alliance and cooperation of our parties is a precondition for the successful development of individual countries, while also respecting the specific features and sovereignty of every party on questions of its internal policy. For our part, we will present complete information about the situation in our country and the CPCz and about the measures we are taking. To this end, the Presidium believes it would be appropriate and beneficial if the same sort of bilateral negotiations were held with representatives of the Communist Party of Romania and the League of Communists of Yugoslavia.
The Presidium further recommends that additional joint consultations with delegations from these parties might occur during the upcoming session of the CPCz’s 14th Extraordinary Congress.
The CPCz CC Presidium has adopted a decision that a response to the letters from the presidiums of the central committees of the fraternal parties should be sent to them in written form.”
For my part, having listened to this response, I expressed regret that the CPCz CC Presidium – and Cde. Dubček personally – had not gone along with the attempt of the CPSU and other fraternal parties to provide assistance to the CPCz leadership during this complex phase of its struggle.
The refusal of the CPCz leadership to meet representatives of the fraternal parties in order to exchange opinions on problems that have emerged will not be understood by Soviet communists or, obviously, other parties.
I added that from their response it was not apparent that they even had a sincere desire to meet the CPSU or any other party, because if they were sincere they would have proposed a specific time and venue for such meetings.
I said that with this step the CPCz leadership, and above all Cde. Dubček, are bringing their relations with the CPSU into a new phase. I stressed to my interpreter that he must convey to Cde. Dubček how alarmed the leaders of the CPSU and the other parties now are so that he will fully comprehend this, and I said that the problem was not only the internal situation in Czechoslovakia, hut also whether the CPCz under his leadership would remain an internationalist component of the socialist camp and the world communist movement, or whether nationalist tendencies were becoming dominant under the guise of “specific features,” “unique circum- stances,” etc.
The Soviet leadership has often said to the Czechoslovak comrades that Czechoslovakia’s deviation from the agreed course of the countries of the socialist commonwealth will spur on the forces of counterrevolution, and that this will result in the destruction of the existing disposition of forces in Europe and could heighten international tension. At present, the working class and people of Czechoslovakia are being deluded; they are being swayed by grand promises and by the blessings they will supposedly receive from the new model of “Czechoslovak democratic socialism.” But what will ordinary people say if Šik's theory is implemented and once again hundreds of thousands of simple people are left unemployed, as has been the unfortunate byproduct of Yugoslavia's path to socialism?" The people, regrettably, will only later grasp the full extent of the mistakes being committed by the comrades from the CPCz leadership, who are deflecting the good intentions of the CPSU and the other parties.
From the conversation one could see that Cde. Lenárt, undoubtedly, does not support either the decision of the CPCz CC Presidium or the response that was just made to Cde. Brezhnev’s letter. He said that stormy discussions within the Presidium are continuing, and that some of the speeches were so extreme that Cde. Dubček had to respond that he, as first secretary, would not permit such unfounded accusations to be made about the fraternal CPSU and the other parties, and that the proposal for a meeting, and also the letters from the CPSU and the other parties regarding continuing events in the ČSSR, stemmed from the best of motivations, reflecting anxiety and eternal concern about the CPCz, Czechoslovakia, etc. Even if one or more of these letters is formulated more sharply than is warranted, that's not the point. We must explain to the comrades how we view the situation and we must persuade our opponents if we can find sufficient arguments for this purpose, and so forth…