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Transcript of the Warsaw Meeting, July 14-15, 1968
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir.
"The Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998,
Original Source: “Protokol ze spotkania przywodkow partii I rzadow krajow socjalistycznych: Bulgarii, NRD, Polski, Weiger, I ZSRR,” Archiwum Akt Nowych, Arch. KC PZPR, P. 193, T. 24, Dok. 4; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 269-297
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: The Warsaw Meeting took place on July 14 where members from Bulgaria, the GRD, Poland, Hungary and the USSR. They discussed the situation in Czechoslovakia and composed a joint letter from the five countries to the CPCz CC (see doc. 53)
This document contains merely excerpts from the meeting.
Copy No. 5
Protocol of the Meeting of the Heads of Parties and Governments of the Socialist Countries: Bulgaria, the GDR, Poland, Hungary, and the USSR
Warsaw, 14-15 July 1968
Participants as listed in the communiqué.
The meeting was held in the Council of Ministers building.
First Session –14.VH. 10:30 A.M.-11:30 A.M.
Gomulka: I extend heartfelt greetings to all the fraternal party leaders and heads of government of the socialist countries gathered here. We are meeting to exchange views and reach a common position on matters of the utmost importance for each of our countries and for the whole socialist commonwealth. We will consider the situation in Czechoslovakia and draw appropriate conclusions. The Czechoslovak leadership did not accept our invitations and has refused to attend the meeting.
I suggest we arrange the order of our proceedings. There are two items I would recommend placing on the agenda:
1) An assessment of the situation in Czechoslovakia;
2) Conclusions and decisions.
It would be advisable to establish a uniform procedure for our deliberations. I recommend that our sessions last up to two hours. After each there will be a break of 20 minutes. Each session will be led by one of the delegations. I would recommend going in alphabetical order, using the Latin alphabet. Does anyone have any other suggestions?
Brezhnev: I think the agenda should only have one debate: “On the situation in Czechoslovakia.” This debate would link the key questions, both the assessment and the conclusions and decisions.
Gomulka: That suggestion seems acceptable to me. I recommended two debates because
I reckoned the delegations would first speak about the situation, and then others would have their turn and formulate the conclusions. I think, however, that we can all go along with Comrade Brezhnev’s suggestion.
Brezhnev: It’ll be better if each delegation formulates its conclusions and sets forth its propositions in its main presentation. Naturally this doesn't mean we can't proceed differently if there are other suggestions.
Gomulka: Are there any other suggestions? Apparently not. That means we'll go with the one debate, “On the situation in Czechoslovakia.”
There has been no specific duration set for the meeting. It will depend on what we need. Perhaps the meeting can be finished today. If necessary it can continue until tomorrow. There's no need to decide now.
Comrades, let me, in the name of the Polish delegation, offer our point of view.
This is the third time we have met to consider the questions of interest to us today. The first time was at the meeting in Dresden, along with the Czech comrades. The second time was at the discussions over the problem in Moscow, without the comrades from Czechoslovakia. And finally we are gathered here for the third time, having invited the Czech comrades to take part only to find that they rejected the invitation and said in response that they would recommend bilateral meetings. At Dresden our assessment of events in Czechoslovakia was one and the same. Together we stated then that the events in that country are of an anti-socialist and even counter-revolutionary nature. Not all the Czech comrades accepted that position, although they acknowledged that certain things had been occurring over which they had no control. /.../
/…/ There were no major differences of view, although the Czech comrades rejected the notion that the underlying process was counterrevolutionary. They wanted to disavow this assessment. At the meeting in Moscow there were divergent viewpoints, and our position was not so unified. /…/
/.../ What is the current situation in Czechoslovakia? What is the nature of events there? We believe that the country is being peacefully transformed from a socialist state into a bourgeois republic. At the current stage the process is still in its initial phase. Our second basis point might be put as follows: In Czechoslovakia a process is under way whereby the CPCz is abandoning the precepts of Marxism-Leninism and is being transformed into a social democratic party. This process is already far advanced, and its main stage will occur with the Extraordinary CPCz Congress scheduled for September. Fundamental changes in the nature and complexion of the party will be a prerequisite for the transformation of the country into a bourgeois republic. Without such changes, the transformation of the country would be impossible.
Our conclusion is that novel events are under way, with no parallel in the whole history of the socialist countries. No parallel at any rate in terms of scale. A new process has begun – a process of peaceful transition from socialism to neocapitalism. Until recently this problem hadn't even been conceived. As a result there had repeatedly been superficial approaches to the very concept of the process of counterrevolution. The whole essence of our understanding of the danger of counterrevolution was inappropriate. Today we are not talking about a return to capitalism in the classical sense, that is, in the way we understood it during the interwar period. To look at the problem in this way only would lead us down the wrong track. /.../
/.../ It would be difficult to maintain that in Czechoslovakia today the same methods could be used as were used in Hungary in 1956. The Hungarian events in the fall of 1956 were of the classical counterrevolutionary type –armed counterrevolution. When speaking about the process of counterrevolution, many people operate on the basis of old assumptions; they think that the process will develop in the same way as in the past. Those who still rely on these old assumptions will not grasp our assertion that today the process is different. The means used now are different, and so are the methods of using them. The methods are aimed at the longer term. The sort of counterrevolutions we had in the past won't occur today; they will transpire differently. This is a process that might last many years. /.../
/.../ In the socialist countries class antagonisms have been suppressed. That applies to Czechoslovakia, too. There are no social classes right now capable of restoring the old order. However, reactionary forces are present. There is a social basis for counterrevolution. This is particularly true among the intellectuals and the whole mentality of broad social circles. /.../
/.../ I think that a dominant majority of the leadership of the Czech party have become captives to revisionism. And it is always the case that when a government is taken over by revisionists, they first of all do away with all their ideological enemies. /.../
/.../ We must frankly say that what is going on in Czechoslovakia could have grave consequences. The whole system of socialism is in danger of being weakened. Today if you take account of matters not from the standpoint of one country, but from the standpoint of the whole world, a single fundamental question still looms: Who will win out over whom? We are living through very difficult times, when the international workers' movement has been beset by various negative and centrifugal tendencies: revisionism, nationalism, and even strands of anarchism. We can be a real force in the world only if there is unity among us. We must remember that those of us gathered here bear a special responsibility. Our countries are the first of the socialist system. We provide an example of socialism to the world. It is we who provide that example – and not China, Korea, Cuba, or Vietnam. We are the showpiece of socialism, and the working masses of the entire world look up to us. The greater our strength, the greater our unity.
/.../ We Poles are well aware that our borders can be safeguarded effectively only if the countries of the socialist commonwealth maintain a united stance. And this by no means applies just to our own borders; every attack on these borders is an attack on the whole of international socialism.
We therefore attentively and vigilantly watch for every possible attempt by the enemies of socialism to disrupt our unity. Such efforts are concentrated now in Prague, where we witness a variety of contacts and talks with representatives of the FRG – official, unofficial, and semi-official. /.../
/.../ All of the CPCz leadership's corrections and contradictions, and all these assertions, are not carded out in reality. We cannot take them seriously. We, after all, know what must be done. Recently we had the instructive example of the Yugoslavs. When we had a bit of trouble in March with student rioting, the Yugoslav press wrote incredible stories about it. We therefore called to the attention of their diplomatic representatives that the press was spreading false information about the events in our country. They replied to us that there is freedom of speech in their country, and that the press can write what it wants. However, when in Yugoslavia itself student groups took to the streets, the authorities immediately managed to deal with the press, which turned out to want to do what it was told.
It was not my intention to portray the situation in Czechoslovakia solely in a grave light. But I think we ought to look at the situation objectively and see things the way they really are. I say this because our conclusions will be appropriate only if our analysis is accurate. It is on this basis that we have sincerely and frankly presented our point of view. /…/
Second Session–14.VII. 12:00 P.M.-2.30 P.M.
Kádár: First of all I would like to express my satisfaction that our meeting has been convened. The problem on the agenda of our meeting affects the interests of all our countries, and therefore it is good that we are able to consider it jointly again.
To begin with some brief information. On Friday we held a Political Bureau session, at which the members were informed about the current situation in Czechoslovakia and about the proposal to convene our meeting. Among other things, we informed the Politburo that on that very same day another invitation had been extended to the Czechoslovak comrades to come to the meeting, and that the meeting would take place irrespective of whether the Czechoslovak comrades ultimately refused to attend. The session of the Political Bureau was prolonged, and the central question considered by the members was whether to hold a meeting with the Czechoslovak comrades.
After the meeting of the Political Bureau, at around 10:00 P.M., we received information from Prague that Dubček and Černik were requesting a confidential meeting with me on Hungarian territory. I was informed that they had simultaneously made a request for a meeting with Cde. Brezhnev.
We assumed that the Czechoslovak comrades wanted to communicate something to us about the proposed conference. That's why we agreed to hold the meeting with them. However, because it was late, we decided to wait until morning. We wanted to consult with the Soviet comrades. Because we didn't know who would be coming to Poland, we spoke to Cde. Suslov. Then we gave a further response to the Czechoslovaks. Cde. Fock and I met them at 5:00 P.M. on Hungarian territory. Our meeting lasted from 5:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M. I would like briefly to convey to our comrades the essence of our discussions. The first to speak was Dubček. He informed us about the situation in Czechoslovakia and about the latest developments. He spoke in great detail about the “Two Thousand Words” statement and about their response to the statement. Dubček said they wanted first to give a political response to that statement, but by its phrasing the statement does not have such visible results. The next topic of our discussion was the question of the meeting of our parties. Dubček spoke in detail about the motivations behind their response to our invitation. He explained why they proposed bilateral meetings. He said they were particularly eager to meet the CPSU. He also explained that the purpose of these meetings would be to discuss separately with each party the letters they'd received. We had the impression that the Czechoslovak comrades did not agree with the main themes of our letters. As Dubček listened I told him that the decision of the CPCz CC Presidium to refuse to participate in our session is a grave mistake. I said that this decision has created an entirely new situation. I reminded him that when a meeting of the five parties in Moscow took place, he had complained about being excluded from a meeting that discussed the situation in Czechoslovakia. I reminded them of Dubček’s statement back then that be would have been ready to take part at any time, even at night, if only be had received an invitation. Well, now they had an invitation, I said, and yet the CPCz CC Presidium had responded by refusing to take part and had proposed holding only bilateral negotiations.
Cde. Dubček said that on the way to Hungary they had heard on a radio broadcast that Cde. Brezhnev had arrived in Warsaw. He said they hadn't realized the meeting would be convened so quickly. On Friday they discussed the joint letter from the five parties and prepared a response. Dubček had brought the response with him, and be handed it to me. Dubček said they had expressed their agreement to hold a collective meeting. The letter had explained, however, that they had turned down a joint meeting. We said that to him. I told him that the refusal to take part in our meeting was the greatest mistake they had made since the January plenum.
Our party, I stated, is troubled by the development of the situation in Czechoslovakia, and it is our duty and right to have a joint discussion with them about that situation. But they had avoided taking part in this discussion. I also told him that during the previous talks and discussions about the situation in Czechoslovakia there were certain differences of opinion. However, none of our parties disagreed in their assessment of the situation. In such circumstances it is the duty of communists to meet and discuss the situation jointly.
Toward the end of the conversation, when dealing with the international aspect of the question, I asked them a question: Where and with whom do they want to proceed?
My own impression is that neither Dubček nor Černik understands the full gravity of the situation. Perhaps they are in a stupor. Not until our joint conversation did they gradually begin to ask themselves about the gravity of the situation and take account of it. This is particularly true of Dubček, who was simply unable even to speak. Both of them cried. They began to ask what might be done now.
Brezhnev: They cry all the time.
Kádár: Dubček asked: what is to be done now that all the doors are being shut in our faces? They realized that we had not waited for their response and had decided to meet without them.
That was the essence of our conversation. We told them that their response to our letter was inappropriate, and that the situation in Czechoslovakia has caused us deep alarm. And with that we parted.
Cde. Erdélyi accompanied them to the Czechoslovak border. They said that when they returned Erdelyi to Prague they would convene the CC Presidium and discuss the situation that had arisen. That was about 9:00 P.M.
The Czechoslovak comrades explained that they would like to meet each of our parties bilaterally in the near term and then meet with all of them at once. We discussed this matter with them at some length. We said that the proposal to hold bilateral meetings amounted to a refusal to take part in a collective meeting. As for their proposal to hold a bilateral meeting, we didn't reply. We said that on Tuesday we would discuss this matter in the Political Bureau and then give them a response. That was, in a nutshell, the essence of our meeting.
If you have any additional questions on this matter, I will answer them. One fundamental point emerges from all this. They received our invitation but turned it down. /.../
/.../ Now I would like to touch upon the matter of the situation in Czechoslovakia. Our Political Bureau bas discussed this question many times. During the meeting with Dubček I told him that holding discussions about the situation in Czechoslovakia is our right and our duty, and it is one of the most complicated problems we face. We have analyzed the problem many times, and have considered the matter jointly with the other parties and come to appropriate conclusions.
Comrade Gomulka recalled that during the session in Moscow there were certain differences of viewpoint. That was indeed the case. During our conversations about this with the Polish comrades in Budapest, we tried to state our different views precisely. We are troubled by the same issue. Namely, how to provide assistance so that events will develop not in a negative direction, but in a positive direction. We presented our position on this during the conferences in Dresden and Moscow.
We believe that in Czechoslovakia we are dealing with a very complicated process, a process in which antisocialist and counterrevolutionary forces are present. We see this danger in the same way that Cde. Gomulka depicted it. Only our views of this matter differ somewhat.
If you consider the matter from the standpoint of the existing situation, the basic question is whether you would call what is going on there a counterrevolution or whether it should be called something else. The crux of the matter is whether the entire process can be uniformly regarded as counterrevolutionary. /.../
/.../ In my view the whole process bas dangerous tendencies within it. I would not say, however, that the party there is being transformed into a social-democratic party. I would say that in Czechoslovakia forces that might be regarded as revisionist forces have a vast amount of influence. In our view events are now developing in such a way that the political system is beginning to resemble the Yugoslav, and that at the next stage of development events mean the restoration of the bourgeois order. No doubt, the further development of the situation will be connected with the way the CPCz’s Extraordinary Congress proceeds. Here are no guarantees that the Congress will be conducted in the way it ought to be, that is, on the basis of a Marxist-Leninist solution to the problem. Most important of all is the situation in the CPCz Presidium. /.../
/.../ Our assessment is in line with your assessment that these events will be decisive for the future development of the situation. /.../
/.../ The situation in Czechoslovakia in our view is deteriorating. The danger is greater than in the past. It is unfolding in stages. The first stage is a transition to a Yugoslav-type system, which in those circumstances poses the danger of counterrevolution. The question for us to decide is how to help the communists of Czechoslovakia. We must determine who it is we should be helping, and how we should do that. Whom should we support and how?
/.../ The Czechoslovak comrades have often told us that if the situation were in fact to become dangerous, they would then be able to resort to the use of appropriate forces – the Workers' Militia and the party organizations. Dubček has said that they have the ability to mobilize forces that could restore order within 24 hours. The situation is dangerous, even very dangerous, and yet we don't see that the CPCz has mobilized its forces. /.../
/.../ In reaching a decision we must remember the Hungarian events of 1956. We must recall the experiences of that period. The problem we are discussing, the struggle over the changing situation in Czechoslovakia, is of an international character, since that struggle has also come under scrutiny at the international level. During the struggle over Hungary in 1956 all the fraternal communist parties took part in lending us support. The question is to find what support we can provide now.
The situation in Czechoslovakia is steadily deteriorating. It is much more alarming than it was during our meetings in Dresden and in Moscow. Back then we expressed the wish that in Czechoslovakia itself forces would emerge that would be able to turn the situation around. Now this task is more urgent than ever. It is urgent to find Marxist-Leninist forces in Czechoslovakia, to whom we ought to provide full support.
Ulbricht: Our Political Bureau supported the idea of calling today's meeting. We had assumed that the CPCz CC Presidium would send its own representatives. We had hoped so because we observe that the situation in Czechoslovakia has given rise to new, negative elements. It therefore was appropriate and justifiable for us to want an exchange of views with them. However, the CPCz CC Presidium refused to take part in our meeting today and proposed bilateral meetings. /.../
/.../ With the publication of the reactionary “Two Thousand Words” Manifesto, the leadership of the Czechoslovak party is not in a position to find a solution on its own. The only way is to find a solution jointly.
Kádár recounted his discussions with Dubček, which he called different things. They want to wait for a general disruption. Dubček does not grasp the situation. I am amazed by the analysis that Cde. Kádár gave. Do you not see, Cde. Kádár, that the question is not only about Czechoslovakia. Cde. Kádár said that we are dealing with revisionist forces there. I can't agree with that. The question is about counterrevolutionary forces. The “Two Thousand Words” Manifesto expresses their goal: to destroy the party's power. If the “Two Thousand Words” Manifesto is not counterrevolutionary, then certainly there is not a counterrevolution. The reality of the situation in Czechoslovakia indicates that there is a counterrevolutionary underground. There is a gradual shift toward bringing this underground counterrevolution to the surface. /.../
/.../ The Czechs' plans for counterrevolution are obvious. There can be no further doubt about this matter. The counterrevolutionaries want to prepare the party congress in such a way that they can crush and eliminate the Marxist-Leninists. The “Two Thousand Words” is unambiguously counterrevolutionary. Their next move will be multi-party elections and they will try to get rid of the party, and then want to change the constitution.
I don't know, Comrade Kádár, why you can't grasp all this. Don't you realize that the next blow from imperialism will take place in Hungary? We can already detect that imperialist centers are concentrating their work now on the Hungarian intelligentsia.
In my view, Cde. Gomulka gave a principled and accurate assessment of the situation in Czechoslovakia. The interference by imperialism in Czechoslovakia is being carried out within the framework of a long-term global strategy, a strategy spanning at least ten years. /.../
/.../ The “Two Thousand Words” Manifesto was published within ten days of a report by the well-known American sovietologist Brzezinski, who was in Prague and delivered a public lecture. Many people attended, and there was a discussion. No one there contested Brzezinsk’is thesis. Not a single person there expressed opposition. Nor did Dubček express opposition. On the contrary, only one person had just a few doubts. Nynert was also in Prague, and be, too, delivered a lecture. And the response was the same.
I have a question for Cde. Kádár. What is going on here? Is it not a counterrevolution if an American anticommunist can speak publicly in Prague and purvey slanders about People's Poland before the members of the party, saying that this is a fascist country? And it was not only People's Poland that be attacked; be also attacked the Soviet Union. /.../
/.../ We are dealing with organized activities by Bonn and Washington; that is what we must all understand. Can we see all this as merely a trivial matter? Is it a trivial matter if they are negotiating with West German associations of compatriots in Prague? Is it a trivial matter if the negotiations on this subject involve the return of 100,000 Sudeten Germans? For us this is not an insignificant matter, since we know that those lands were once settled by Henlein. Today Henlein is dead, but they are discussing that same matter with his successors. /.../
/.../ An idea has been floated to create a trilateral alliance among Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. This is an old idea, which was first conceived during the time of Masaryk, who wanted to set up the so-called Little Entente consisting of those three countries. Back then this concept was aimed at establishing the “special authority” of Czechoslovakia in the framework of this alliance. Today the concept is intended to separate socialist Czechoslovakia from the Soviet Union and the whole commonwealth of socialist countries. Ceaucescu and Tito support it and have even given their official backing. /.../
/.../ The fundamental question that must be answered is as follows: What are the deeper reasons for and sources of the events unfolding? The answer to this question is connected with the full array of complicated and difficult problems inherent in the stages of transition from capitalism to socialism. Each country is burdened by circumstances inherited from capitalism. The same applies to traditions; marked irregularities crop up during the economic development of individual countries. Similarly, the ideological level in the socialist countries is not uniform. /.../
/.../ I come to practical conclusions. I believe we ought to send a joint open letter to the CPCz CC, to the parliament, and to the Czech working class and intelligentsia. This letter should draw a connection between the internal developments in Czechoslovakia and the general developments in the international arena. It also should provide an assessment of the activities of counterrevolutionary groups and show how they are being controlled from outside. We must also show the way out of the existing situation. This would be the first step. The next step would be jointly to travel and present both our assessment and our conclusions. We will see whether they have the courage to eliminate the counterrevolutionary and reactionary elements. This absolutely must include the elimination of hostile elements from the mass media. That is the absolute minimum of what must be done. We also should consider how to deal with Slovakia, if there is a demand to hold maneuvers there. The need for any appropriate steps, the proper system of control, and so forth. These are our suggestions.
Zhivkov: The representatives of our Central Committee and Political Bureau of our party share the view of the situation in Czechoslovakia presented by Cde. Gomulka and Cde. Ulbricht. Unfortunately we cannot agree with the view offered by Cde. Kádár, nor with his conclusions. We want to depict things accurately by calling a spade a spade. That is how we see the question.
The current situation in Czechoslovakia is conducive to the stepped-up activity of foreign and internal counterrevolutionary centers and also to the activity of revisionists. Progressive forces are being terrorized. In Czechoslovakia one can observe a broad capitulation by all the healthy forces. The party is not a guiding force. The most active forces in the party are revisionists and counterrevolutionaries. The counterrevolutionary forces in Czechoslovakia are gaining strength day by day. All the counterrevolutionary centers controlled by the American and West German imperialists have been mobilized into action. We can't cite even a single fact that would suggest the healthy forces in the party have been mobilized for a struggle against the counterrevolution.
The question arises of what to do and how to counteract it.
Our parties are faced with a historic task and historic responsibility. The whole fate of socialism in Czechoslovakia is at stake. There is a very fierce conflict involving our whole commonwealth with the entire imperialist system. The imperialists have chosen to focus their efforts on Czechoslovakia, and it has become the main link in the struggle between the two systems.
We've already run out of all the possible actions that Cde. Kádár was speaking about. We've looked for different possible ways out of the situation that has arisen in Czechoslovakia. We've tried to rely on Dubček, but we haven't detected any progress. Right now neither Dubček nor Černik is deciding the situation in Czechoslovakia. Others are deciding it. /.../
/.../There is only one appropriate way out – through resolute assistance to Czechoslovakia from our parties and the countries of the Warsaw Pact. We cannot currently rely on the internal forces in Czechoslovakia. There are no forces there that could carry out the types of tasks we wrote about in our letter. Only by relying on the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact can we change the situation.
In Czechoslovakia we must restore the dictatorship of the proletariat, which has been trampled underfoot. All the state and party organizations have been taken over by revisionists and counterrevolutionaries. The party Congress must be derailed. It is essential that we reestablish the party and restore the Marxist-Leninist content of its activity. We must prevent the social-democratization of the party. A decree must be prepared to dissolve the various counterrevolutionary and bourgeois organizations. There is no other way out.
We have not yet approached the schematic issue and been aware of the sort of activity that could also have highly negative results. A great uproar has emerged against us, and in particular against the Soviet Union. Perhaps certain adventurist forces wanted to benefit from this, even to the point of wanting violence to break out. No doubt, great difficulties may arise for the workers' movement in the capitalist countries. However, the positive results will be more valuable and more lasting if we preserve socialism in Czechoslovakia and preserve the unity of the Warsaw Pact. Besides, this will be one further lesson for the imperialists. They will see that they can't count on success. This might also have influence on the opportunists in the world communist movement. The opportunists have come out on all sides and are seriously weighing down the ranks of our movement.
Here I would like to mention the discussion I had with the member of the Political Bureau of the French Communist Party Central Committee, Cde. Garaudy, who said that the parties of the socialist countries should not undertake joint action on the question of Czechoslovakia. Any intervention would cause, in his opinion, a loss of the party's influence among the French intelligentsia. It is essential to recall, however, that joint action on this matter would have great significance for the situation in our socialist countries. The majority of our parties are for such a solution. It would be a blow to the different forces – the revisionist, counterrevolutionary, and
anti-socialist forces – that have emerged in our countries and our parties. Naturally these forces in our countries are isolated, but they still exist. They are engaged in preliminary activities in our countries.
Third Session-4:00 P.M.-5:30 P.M.
Brezhnev: Dear comrades! In the name of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union let me express my thanks for your common support of the proposal to hold this comradely meeting, Recently a large number of questions have cropped up that demand collective judgment at the highest level. The most important of these questions, which is the main reason for today's meeting, is the situation in Czechoslovakia.
Like all the other delegations present here, we understandably regret that the Czechoslovak comrades, whom we invited, are not taking part. No matter how their absence is explained by the CPCz CC Presidium, one cannot help thinking, comrades, that this is typical of the current situation whereby the Presidium does not wish to heed the advice and suggestions of its friends. It openly rejects the possibility of collectively assessing matters that not only concern Czechoslovakia itself, but also affect our common interests.
Despite refusing to take part in our meeting, the CPCz CC Presidium also does not want its new position to be examined here, at this collective forum, and given its proper evaluation. Judging from what was said by Cdes. Dubček and Černik to Cde. Kádár at bilateral talks held yesterday, the task that Czechoslovak leaders have set themselves in proposing bilateral talks with all of us seems to be an attempt once again to convince each of us that there is nothing new or dangerous in the current situation. They don't want us to call a spade a spade, or to say clearly and unequivocally that counterrevolution is on the offensive, or to consider the measures that need to be taken as a direct result of this situation.
However, we are obliged to do precisely this – whether in their presence or as now, unfortunately, without them. No matter how any of us might characterize the potential consequences of the continuing offensive by the anti-socialist forces, one thing is clear: Czechoslovakia is at a dangerous phase on the path leading out of the socialist camp. And we must take all measures and use all means to prevent that.
The delegation of the CPSU Central Committee fully endorses the assessment of the situation in Czechoslovakia presented by Cde. Gomulka at our conference. We agree that the events taking place there are dangerous not only because they are openly directed against the socialist gains of the Czechoslovak people, but also because they undermine the positions of socialism in Europe and are playing into the hands of imperialism throughout the world. This is the essence of what Cdes. Ulbricht and Zhivkov said as well.
What is happening in the ČSSR passed long ago beyond a purely national framework and is now impinging on the fundamental problems of the vitality of the entire socialist system. One might say that Czechoslovakia has become one of the focal points of the bitter ideological and political struggle between imperialism and socialism. The attempt being made by the anti-socialist and counterrevolutionary forces to bring about the downfall of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and remove it from power is essentially an attempt to strike a blow against our common ideological platform, the great Marxist-Leninist teachings, and thus to compromise the very principles of socialism.
One cannot help seeing the other side of the question as well. By jointly exploiting the events for their own purposes, the internal counterrevolutionary forces and the imperialist reactionary forces are counting on being able to turn Czechoslovakia back to the capitalist path, to weaken the strength of the Warsaw Pact, and to annihilate the unity of the socialist system and of the entire world communist and national liberation movement. It goes without saying that if the international reactionary forces succeed in carrying out their plans, there will be a direct threat to the security of our countries. That's why we agree it is essential to do everything possible to prevent such a development from arising.
In his speech Cde. Gomulka offered a quite detailed explanation of the possible future paths for the so-called “peaceful” evolution of the process in Czechoslovakia. In our opinion these are correct scenarios. In the final analysis, taking account of the enormous interest that imperialist circles have in Czechoslovakia as a state located in the center of Europe and in the very heart of the socialist camp, the possibility cannot be excluded that under the right conditions they might even resort to non-peaceful means to convert and reshape that country into a capitalist or perhaps neo-capitalist country. They will invest whatever means and resources are needed to achieve that end. This prospect, far from reducing the intensity of the question before us of the counter-evolutionary offensive in Czechoslovakia, greatly magnifies its significance.
We also understand that the development of events in Czechoslovakia has been a carefully disguised, counterrevolutionary process aimed at drastically transforming the country's social order without changing, insofar as possible, its external attributes and without even changing the form of political and state leadership of society. The particular danger that this poses is that the working people of Czechoslovakia, and even the working class, initially will be unable to comprehend where such developments might in the end lead. This is also precisely how an erroneous understanding of the situation can emerge even among communists outside Czechoslovakia. We already see signs of this in the case of the communist parties of France, Italy, and England.
The question we have gathered here to discuss has been the subject of our collective and unflagging attention for a period of several months now. We have constantly returned to it during the many meetings and talks we have had with Cde. Dubček and the other members of the CPCz CC Presidium. We should repeat – or, better yet, we should recall – that at the end of March, in Dresden, we had a comprehensive exchange of views among the leaders of the six parties, which produced a collective assessment of the situation in the ČSSR and led to agreement on several crucial measures.
Based on a sober analysis of the facts, and taking account of the experience of our own and other fraternal parties, we seriously warned the Czechoslovak comrades about the menacing course of political developments in the ČSSR and about the existence there of a certain social milieu that is conducive to the activities of anti-socialist and counterrevolutionary forces. We urged them to be aware of the danger of taking a conciliatory approach on attacks made against the party and the socialist gains of the Czechoslovak people.
Not only did we express our concerns; we gave them comradely advice about a number of measures that could be taken to improve the situation. We recommended steps that might prevent things from developing in an undesirable way. The Czechoslovak comrades agreed with these suggestions, and they spoke about their own plans and about how the CPCz leadership is determined to put an end to the activities of counterrevolutionary elements and to assert control over the course of events.
Unfortunately, these proposals and plans were not carried out. The situation in the country has deteriorated as far as it can.
If we think in terms of the tendency or orientation manifested by the events in Czechoslovakia, we find that activities by anti-socialist elements are constantly increasing and that the leading role of the communist party is being undermined. The threat to the socialist achievements of the working class and the working people of the ČSSR is growing. It is appropriate here to recapitulate the course of these events in order to derive the proper lessons from them and to take the necessary measures.
We recall, comrades, that the CPCz CC's January plenum set for itself the relatively modest task of separating the top party and state posts. This was followed by mounting criticism of A. Novotný, which rather quickly evolved into criticism of the party's entire “pre-January” course. A number of issues arose that were already of political significance: the problem of rehabilitation, the allocation of responsibility for past repression, and the demand for complete information and freedom of the press.
At a particular moment everything was concentrated on the demand for Novotny to relinquish the post of president. But then a number of other personnel changes began occurring in the CC Presidium and in the government of the ČSSR; there was a wholesale change in the composition of the top layer of leading party officials. By that time, however, it was already clear that the question at hand was not just a rotation of individuals. Demands were being heard for changes in the entire political structure of the regime under the pretext that the existing structure had retarded the development of “real socialism.”
These demands found support in the Action Program, which declared the need for changes in the political system. The leading role of the party was explained as something else; the Program reinforced de facto changes in the relationship among the partners in the National Front; the principle of "political pluralism" was included; the possibility of centralized leadership over the society was enervated; etc.
This was followed by a campaign to replace personnel from below based on the principle of “new politics –new people.” Plenary meetings of regional and district party committees were held that led to substantial changes in the middle ranks of party leaders. Simultaneously, a purge occurred on all levels of the state apparatus.
The number of political problems snowballed; earlier ways of resolving these problems were said to be unsatisfactory. When the question arose about who was to blame for the mistakes of the past, they began to respond that it was not individuals but the party as a whole, and the entire political and social system, that should be held accountable.
From there it was only a small step before they arrived at an open repudiation of Marxism and of socialism in general. Unfortunately, ii must be said that this step is being taken by some and in some ways it has already been carried out.
As events unfolded over these six months, they were inevitably accompanied by increased attacks on the socialist countries: on the GDR, Poland, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union. At first these attacks only took the form of indirect assertions, which were concealed by demands for the rejection of a single model and for the elaboration of Czechoslovakia's own “national model” of socialism. Then the attacks became more direct and soon reached the point where demands were made for an end to joint activities with the socialist countries, for a reorientation of foreign economic ties, and for a radical reassessment of foreign policy.
Everything was used that could be used – from references to the role of advisers in political trials to claims about unequal trade relations and the “vice of economic dependence,” from open insults about the unjust treatment of Czechoslovak legionnaires to offensive remarks about the Soviet troops that had liberated Czechoslovakia.
The party's relinquishment of control over the mass media has led to a situation in which proclaimed freedom of speech has acquired a one-sided character. It is “freedom” to conduct a struggle against so-called conservatives, which is how the non-communist press considers all communists. At the same time, communists who find themselves assailed by public criticism and abuse are given no chance to defend their views. Newspapers don't publish their remarks. This is no longer freedom of information: It is freedom to carry out a political massacre against people who have absolutely no means of defending themselves against attacks organized by the press.
The danger of the current situation is aggravated many times over as a result of the emergence of factional activity within the party. Everyone who studies the history of the communist movement and who is familiar with the theoretical legacy of V. I. Lenin knows only too well that a party can act only if all its organizations and members fully and constantly uphold the principle of democratic centralism. Ignoring either aspect of this principle, either the democratic or the centralism, will inevitably weaken the party and its leading role, and lead to the transformation of the party into a bureaucratic organization or a mere discussion club.
V. I. Lenin, as is known, was an advocate of broad democracy in the party. He supported the full-fledged development of criticism, but he was categorically opposed to the kind of discussion and criticism that vitiates or hampers unity of action in party matters. And yet now, in the CPCz there is endless discussion, accompanied by hostile criticism. Is this not evidence of a violation of the principles of democratic centralism? Is there also not evidence of how much the authority of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia has declined when, for example, the various district party conferences, instead of carrying out the CC's orders and directives, choose an entirely different course and adopt decisions that are deliberately contrary to the line of the party leadership? This is precisely what happened with the CPCz CC Presidium's critique of the “Two Thousand Words” appeal. The Czechoslovak comrades themselves have said that one-third of the district conferences in Czechoslovakia did not support this appeal, one-third said nothing on the matter, and one-third (please note, not individuals but one-third of all district party conferences!) came out in support of this anti-socialist manifesto, that is, in opposition to the line of the CC Presidium. This was facilitated to a large extent by the fact that even some members of the CPCz CC Presidium were themselves willing to treat the “Two Thousand Words” in a manner that contradicted the decision endorsed by the CC Presidium. This is an appropriate place for a digression on something I wish to draw to our attention. The decision of the CC Presidium about the “Two Thousand Words” was not signed by the CC first secretary. It was not even signed by a member of the CPCz CC Presidium in the name of the Presidium.
Right-wing forces are quite openly trying to undermine the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in order to transform it from a monolithic combat unit into an amorphous organization that includes a mass of fellow travelers who do not subscribe to Marxist-Leninist views. It is no coincidence that they are encouraged by Cde. Císař, who claims there is no need to worry if the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia now admits 200,000 or 300,000 young people into its ranks to give an aging party a healthy injection. Leaving aside the fact that this insulting type of comment is, in itself, aimed at undermining the authority of the CPCz, a legitimate question arises about the further intentions of Cde. Císař and those who share his views. What sort of “injection” do they have in mind, what are these 200,000 to 300,000 young people like who are to be admitted to the CPCz, and why admit young people and not true representatives of the working class? Is there not behind all this an attempt to bring into the party those who proclaim anti-socialist and anti-Soviet slogans at the “May Day” demonstrations and who march and shout slogans at mass meetings on the Old Town Square? If so, such an injection is not intended to rejuvenate but to bury the party and give it an entirely different content, leaving only the name of the earlier organization.
Can one assume that the new leadership of the party is completely unaffected by these dangerous processes, or that it thinks they arose spontaneously? Of course, the answer to this question is not straightforward. There were unexpected elements that no one could have foreseen and that no political process could have avoided.
All the same, there is no doubt, in our view, that the recent line they have pursued has led to a deterioration of the situation. Erroneous acts were committed and dangerous passivity was allowed which disarmed the party. The replacement of leading party officials at the initiative of the CPCz leadership, the change in the emerging principles for governing society, the continuing shift to the Right of its political line – all this gives one cause to ask whether there is not a conscious, gradual re-orientation of the CPCz away from its role as a political party of the working class and of all the Czechoslovak working people, and as one of the stalwarts of the world communist movement?
Unfortunately, there are serious grounds for framing the question in this way. Recently there have been more and more references to the existence of a “second center” in the CPCz.
All the same, there is no doubt, in our view, that the line they have recently followed has facilitated the deterioration of ideological and cultural policy.
Let me be frank: We are extremely worried by facts such as these. They make us think: Are not the activities of the so-called “second center” linked with some members of the CPCz CC Presidium itself? And why is the Presidium so complacent about all the warning signals regarding the existence of a “second center,” the signals that Cde. Dubček and other members of the Presidium admitted to us are justified?
As events unfold, one can truly see the organized activity of some sort of center, a center that exists in parallel with and perhaps even inside the CPCz CC. This center is conducting its activities in a well thought-out way. Clearly, the center did not come to fruition overnight; it was created gradually, but its leaders had thought out in advance what they are now doing.
At present, as some Czechoslovak communists are saying, the “second center” has worked out a new tactic, the meaning of which can be expressed in the slogan: “With Dubček without the Dubčekites.” There is an intensified process under way to compromise Dubček’s former co-workers, the people who are dedicated to the ideas of socialism and internationalism. According to reliable sources, the right-wing, anti-socialist forces have disseminated among counterrevolutionary “clubs” and organizations the names of party people whom they intend to vilify and compromise. The “Club of Committed Non-Party Members,” evidently, received an order to compromise Cdes. Kolder, Bilák, Indra, and others as “refined conservatives” before the 14th Party Congress, and all this has been proceeding successfully.
Some time ago Cde. Dubček said that everything would be settled within a month. Then this period was extended to two months. Then they began to say that everything would be solved in the course of the district conferences. And now Cde. Dubček rests all his hopes in the CPCz 14th Congress. But comrades, one must think carefully about the full gravity of the situation. In the emerging circumstances the results of the congress might be such that afterwards not a single current member of the CPCz CC Presidium will be left on that body or, in the best instance, only a few will be left and their position will be such that they are unable to have any serious influence on the development of events in the party and the country and will be forced to retreat under pressure from the right.
If we think about recent months and weeks, beginning with the Dresden meeting and ending with the past few days, we can clearly see that the situation is deteriorating and that the CPCz leadership is relinquishing control of the situation in the country.
- Performance by University student and artistic organizations on the Old Town Square with anti-socialist and anti-Soviet slogans.
- Mass campaign to remove so-called conservatives from leading posts in party branches.
- Open attacks and engagement in subversive activities by such organizations as the “Club of Committed Non-Party Members” and “Club-231.”
- Student May Day march directed against the socialist system in the ČSSR and against Soviet-Czechoslovak friendship, and for the right of opposition groups and parties to operate legally.
- Creation of the first branches of the socialist and people's parties in companies.
- Reorganization of the activities of the Interior Ministry and the security organs, as well as personnel changes in the army.
- Disruption of party unity and the actual creation of factions advocating different positions.
- Contempt for the principles of democratic centralism in the party and in its leadership. - Appearance of preparatory committees working for the revival of the Social Democratic Party.
- Statement by the National Front that socialist state power cannot be monopolized by a single party.
- Publication of the “Two Thousand Words” appeal as a political platform for anti-socialist and counterrevolutionary forces.
- In Brno and other cities the circulation of leaflets, the display of posters calling for the destruction of the CPCz and local government bodies, and for a break in relations between the ČSSR and the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries.
The danger of open attacks by counterrevolutionary forces can be seen clearly. Imperialist agents and émigré organizations that were mentioned here are working actively toward this end.
Three months ago, during the meeting in Dresden, one might still have held out the hope – to some degree or another – that the CPCz, combining severity and firm principles with flexible tactics, would be able to effect a gradual change for the better in the situation in Czechoslovakia without having to resort to decisive measures.
Today there is no doubt that this did not happen. It is necessary to act now, before it is too late.
The half-measures to which the Czechoslovak comrades resorted earlier can only encourage the anti-socialist forces to stage a counterrevolutionary coup. A failure to be decisive is incompatible with the gravity of the situation. The question now is: either the CPCz leadership finds enough courage within itself to change its views, inspire the party and the working class, and take decisive measures to defeat the reactionary forces and ensure the security of socialist positions, or the progressive forces of the party will be destroyed by our common enemies. In that case the fate of Czechoslovakia will be decided by completely different means and forces.
The open onset of counterrevolution may exact a high price from the Czechoslovak communists. The experience of the Hungarian events has shown that whoever capitulates to reactionary forces, whoever compromises with them, renders the party vulnerable to the cruel blow of counterrevolution.
We have repeatedly urged Czechoslovak leaders to make a realistic appraisal of the full extent of the danger and to draw appropriate conclusions from the fact that unrestrained reactionary forces are currently entering the political arena in Czechoslovakia. In such circumstances it is necessary to act, and to act swiftly and decisively. If they do not believe they have sufficient strength to do this, then the socialist countries have the right and even the duty to offer them their help, the help of sincere friends and allies for whom the cause of socialism in Czechoslovakia is so dear.
What concrete measures, in our view, should be adopted now to improve things?
In the first place, we must inform the Czechoslovak comrades about our collective assessment of the situation in Czechoslovakia and recommend, in a friendly way, that urgent action be taken in defense of the socialist system against counterrevolution. This could be done in a letter to the Central Committee of the CPCz in the name of our parties. If agreement in principle is reached on this matter, we are prepared to submit the first draft of such a letter for consideration by the others who are present here. This, if you will, is the first thing we believe should be done.
Perhaps it would be beneficial if representatives from, say, two or three parties met with the leadership of the CPCz and, in the name of all of us, expanded on the letter by explaining the measures that should be taken to turn things around and thereby strengthen the leading role of the communist party in the ČSSR. Presumably, we will have to consult about such measures here.
If we see that the CPCz leadership does not wish to heed our recommendations, then it will be necessary, obviously, to continue the search for healthy forces in the party and to look for ways of appealing to the forces in the party that might take the lead in initiating a struggle to restore the leading role of the CPCz and normalize the situation in the country. In that case it would be essential to organize a meeting of representatives designated by us with the members of this “initiating” group who would act on behalf of the healthy core of the CPCz CC Presidium. We would have to convey our views to them about the sort of political platform that would enable them to consolidate the party and deal a rebuff to the anti-socialist elements, and we would have to make clear our readiness to provide the necessary aid and support.
The fraternal countries will be obliged to follow the progress of events and, if the need should arise, they must respond to the first call for help by the Czechoslovak comrades. They must also respond if it becomes clear that such action is required and that the Czechoslovak comrades for one reason or another find it difficult to appeal for help.
The publishing outlets in socialist countries must develop their publications in a way that helps the Czechoslovak people understand the true essence of what is happening and the full extent of the danger looming over the socialist gains that the ČSSR has achieved in 20 years of its development.
It is necessary, in my view, to give special consideration to still another question.
Nowadays, on television and radio in Czechoslovakia, certain prominent figures refer to our recent meeting as some sort of interference in the internal affairs of the ČSSR. This issue, comrades, must be made more precise. When the plenum of the CPCz Central Committee recognized the necessity of removing Cde. Novotný from the post of first secretary and then of dismissing him from the post of president, we said nothing in regard to these changes. That was the internal affair of a fraternal party and country. When there was a change of secretaries of the Central Committee and of members of the Central Committee's Presidium, and also a change of ministers, we again, as you recall, said nothing about it (I mean we said nothing openly in the press). We believe that this is the internal affair of a lateral party, its Central Committee, and its National Assembly.
However, comrades, when the situation has developed into an open political massacre of all party cadres, when exhortations are made to change virtually the whole party leadership from top to bottom, when one bears ever louder voices calling for a reorientation of the CPCz, and when the fate of the whole party and of the socialist achievements of the Czechoslovak people is under challenge, then this is a different matter. If the threat that the political content of the CPCz will be transformed into some sort of new organization is real-in the best instance into a social democratic one or perhaps even into a petty bourgeois one-then this, I repeat, affects the interests not only of communists in Czechoslovakia and not only the people of Czechoslovakia, but the interests of the entire socialist system and of the whole world communist movement. We would be correct to regard such a turn of events as a direct threat to the world position of socialism and a direct threat to all our countries.
Any attempt to thwart such a process cannot be considered interference in internal affairs. This is an expression of our international duty to the whole communist movement and our international duty to the communists and working people of Czechoslovakia." Confronted by the growing danger that socialism will be dislodged in one of the countries of the socialist commonwealth, we cannot shut ourselves off, comrades, in our own national apartments. That would be a betrayal of the interests of communism.
Communism develops and exists only as an international movement. All its victories and all its achievements are related to this. Anyone who departs from internationalism cannot consider himself a communist. Our countries are linked to the ČSSR by treaties and agreements. These are not agreements between individual persons but mutual commitments between friends and states. They are founded on the general desire to defend socialism, in our countries and to safeguard it against all and any hazards.
No one bas the right to dissociate themselves from their international commitments or their allied obligations. It must be stressed that the demagoguery we hear about this nowadays is out of place.
We respect the right of every party and the right of every nation. We recognize the idea of specific national forms of socialist development in different countries. But we also believe in a common historical fate. The cause of defending socialism-that is our common undertaking. Our parties were united in their understanding of this at the meeting in Moscow at the beginning of May. We are certain that such unity characterizes our meeting this time as well.
There has never been a case in which socialism triumphed and was firmly entrenched, only to have a capitalist order restored. This has never happened and we are certain it never will. The guarantee of this is our common readiness to do whatever is necessary to help a fraternal party and people defeat the plans of counterrevolution and thwart imperialist plans in relation to Czechoslovakia.
Our delegation declares that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, our government, and our people are fully ready to offer Czechoslovakia all necessary assistance.
Fourth Session-14.VII. 68,6:15 P.M.-6:30 P.M.
Brezhnev: We resume our meeting. All the delegations have already spoken. Which of the comrades would like to take the floor?
Cde. Kádár. I would like to say a few words about my earlier statement. Most of the comrades criticized my remarks, arguing that my convictions were not in line with our general stance. I would like to emphasize that the HSWP CC and the Hungarian government, which we represent both during our duties and during meetings with representatives from the other fraternal parties who are taking part in today's meeting, have been busy considering the situation in Czechoslovakia. Our assessment of the situation there is the same as the views of the other parties. I would like to offer two illustrations. Our party and government have maintained a resolute position on the “Two thousand Words” statement. In our press outlets, we described this statement precisely as a platform for counterrevolution.
I also would like to draw attention to the statement by the Political Bureau of our party that the CPCz CC Presidium's rejection of our suggestion to hold a joint meeting has immensely complicated the situation and given rise to vast new problems. All of this has already been stated by our party.
I listened with great interest to the speech by Cde. Brezhnev, which contained a profound and accurate assessment of the processes under way in Czechoslovakia and which emphasized the dangerous elements in these processes. In this regard I believe it is worth saying that as far as the assessment and conclusions of the Soviet comrades are concerned, we completely agree with them and are prepared to take part in all joint actions.
Brezhnev: Which of the other comrades would like to speak? No one.
I believe further discussion of the problem on the agenda of our meeting – an assessment of the situation in Czechoslovakia can be closed. The precise position can be worked out. I believe it is essential that we turn on behalf of all of us to the letter to be sent to the CPCz CC. The substance of the letter was discussed in the earlier sessions.
I suggest we establish a working group, which will set to work on the letter. To this end, each delegation should appoint a representative. The committee must work quickly, so that we can hold a plenary session tomorrow morning.
Gomulka: We can begin the session at 9:00 A.M.
Brezhnev: Everyone wants to prepare a good letter, which must be appropriately formulated. Drafting such a letter will take a good deal of political savvy. Let's agree, then, to meet here at 9:00 tomorrow morning. At that time each delegation will receive a draft for perusal. We'll take 30-40 minutes to go over it, and will then convene a plenary session. Do all the comrades agree with this proposal?
Gomulka: Who will chair the drafting committee?
Brezhnev: I suggest that the Polish comrades be asked to chair the effort.
Gomulka: Our delegation nominates Cde. Kliszko for this function.
Brezhnev: We support the candidacy of Cde. Kliszko. We adjourn until tomorrow at 9:00 A.M.
Fifth Session-l S.VII. 68, 9:00 A.M.-9:50 A.M.
Zhivkov: The drafting committee needs roughly 30 minutes more to work out the remaining text of the letter. I suggest that in the meantime we discuss the press communiqué. Preparation of a draft was entrusted to the Polish comrades.
Brezhnev: Our delegation did not receive a draft of the communiqué. I suggest that the drafting committee also coordinate the draft of the communiqué.
Gomulka: I suggest we read out the draft of the communiqué and if there are any points to be taken up, we can refer them to the drafting committee to work out the remaining text.
[The draft of the communiqué was read out.]
Brezhnev: The question arises of whether we should repeat in the communiqué passages that are already in the letter. It’s best to keep things brief in a communiqué, without fully developing them. That's why it would be better to shorten the communiqué. We don't need to include references to the Warsaw Pact; we can simply mention allied obligations without mentioning the pact. After all, Romania isn't represented here. It would appear that we were excluding Romania from the pact.
Gomulka: You're right, I've also made these changes.
Kádár: The communiqué should say that we also examined other matters: European security, Vietnam, etc.
Zhivkov: We will refer the draft of the communiqué to the commission to take care of the necessary changes.
Gomulka: Which letter will we sign?
Zhivkov: We'll sign the original and send a copy at the behest of the Central Committees–
Brezhnev: When we publish a communiqué saying that we have sent a letter, an uproar will ensue. The text of the letter must be more polished, and it should be translated into Czech. We won't finish all that work until this evening. It would be advisable to send a special courier to Prague and instruct the ambassador to request a meeting with Dubček and deliver the letter to him. This will take some time, and therefore the letter will not be published immediately. We'll see what kind of response we get, and then after a few days go ahead and publish it.
Gomulka: I agree with this idea. The letter must also be translated into the languages of all the participants in this meeting. This, I imagine, will take around two days. The exact timeframe is still to be determined. By Tuesday or Wednesday everything should be set. How should we transmit the letter to the Czechs? We could give them the Russian text, in which case only the USSR's ambassador in Czechoslovakia should deliver it. Or each of our parties could deliver a version of the letter in its own national language, in which case the Czechs would receive five copies of the text in different languages. They themselves could translate it into Czech. Dubček – I assume we're sending the letter to him – might receive the ambassadors individually, not all at the same time. The ambassadors should indicate on Tuesday that they want jointly to deliver the letter, and if be doesn't meet with them all at once, but only individually, they can hand over the text in their own national languages. We'll give the Czechs a couple of days to familiarize the CC with the contents of the letter, which means we can publish it on Saturday. In so doing we will display good will, by not appearing to want to inform the public before the CC. We should inform Dubček that we intend to publish the letter on Saturday. Whether they themselves will publish it is for them to decide.
Ulbricht: I believe that over the next few days the counterrevolutionary forces inside and outside Czechoslovakia will be launching an offensive. Our communiqué indicating that we have sent a letter might become the impetus for this campaign. Therefore the letter must be translated by this evening, and tomorrow morning the ambassadors will deliver it in their national languages. Otherwise, the anti-socialist centers that have stepped into action – together with the centers active in the CPCz CC – will begin engaging in indiscretions and leaks, and the West will learn the contents of the letter before the CPCz members do. I recommend we publish the letter on Thursday, and this is what we should tell the Czechs. It is not any great secret that they have their “Two Thousand Words,” and we have a letter in which we lay out our position.
To be sure, Dubček said that the congress would reply to the “Two Thousand Words.” We are helping the progressive forces to devise a counter platform. It is best if the Soviet comrades provide such help, but we all ought to avail ourselves of these opportunities. The counter platform might be put forward by different centers-for example, in Bratislava and in Brno. The only thing needed is to ensure that the efforts are coordinated. I recommend that the members of the drafting committee consult right now about these matters. We can't wait passively until the next meeting in August. It might be good if we were to take up the Czechs' invitation to hold bilateral negotiations, and thereby exert additional pressure on Prague. The motivation for this is in accord with our discussion. We can urge the CPCz leadership to take part in a joint conference in August. If the Czechs don't agree to a joint meeting in August, we can still meet, saying that the enemy is active and has achieved superiority in Czechoslovakia. This week we will publish materials about the intervention of hostile external forces in Czechoslovakia and will show who it is that is intervening. We want the CC secretaries to consult as soon as possible.
Zhivkov: We need to settle this matter. We have to decide how to deliver the letter and when to publish it. It would be good to deliver it tomorrow via a special courier. Perhaps one of us could perform this function? The letter must first be delivered in Russian, and then the texts in the other national languages can be sent. The text will be published Thursday morning.
Gomulka: I will go along with this if it's what the majority wants.
Zhivkov: I therefore recommend we deliver the text in Russian with our signatures.
Gomulka: If the letter is to be signed, there's no need to send translations in the national languages.
Zhivkov: Let's settle, then, on how to deliver the letter. Perhaps via one of us? I propose that Cde. Gomulka deliver the letter.
Gomulka: I don't agree with this. If the text is in Russian, the USSR ambassador in Prague ought to deliver it.
Zhivkov: I propose, then, that the text in Russian be delivered tomorrow by Cde. Chervonenko, the USSR ambassador in Prague. Our ambassadors will work together with Cde. Chervonenko. The letter will be published this coming Thursday, and that's what we'll tell Dubček.
Ulbricht: Will the ambassadors go over there all at once tomorrow?
Gomulka: Will the letter be signed only by the First Secretaries?
Brezhnev: It would be better if everyone signed it – all the members of the delegations.
The Central Committees authorized the entire delegations to do so. If the document is to be signed, translations into the other languages are not particularly essential. We could therefore deliver the letter tomorrow and inform Dubček that we are going to publish it on Thursday.
Gomulka: In that case there's no need to deliver the text in the other languages to the Czechs.
Ulbricht: I think we absolutely should still deliver the texts in the languages of all the participants in the meeting.
Zhivkov: We, the whole delegations, will sign the text in Russian. Tomorrow the ambassadors will deliver the letter to Dubček, and on Thursday we'll publish it. With regard to what Cde. Ulbricht proposed, should we for the time being abstain from bilateral contacts? Should we wait and see what kind of reaction there is to our letter?
Brezhnev: We won't make a decision about this matter now. We'll think it over and consult. The most important matter now is the letter. It will be an indication that we have already given Dubček a response, that we went to a multilateral meeting, and that therefore we were not able to come to Prague.
Ulbricht: Please take into account that we've already corresponded about this matter with the Czechs and have agreed on a visit. They've invited the Hungarians to come there on the 2Oth of July and us on the 25th. I think we ought to go. We support having bilateral negotiations in July.
Kádár: On Saturday we were negotiating with Dubček and Černik. We discussed this matter. We received an invitation, but haven't yet decided whether to go. We're considering it. Our party can go along with the principle of having a series of bilateral meetings without having to set a specific date for the meeting. We can say the dates proposed by the Czechs are unrealistic, and we can't take them up on it. In our letter there is a proposal for a multilateral meeting. This does not mean we have to reject proposals for bilateral meetings in general, but simply can refrain from going to Prague on the dates proposed by the Czechs. Alternatively, we could insist that it would be better if they first hold a Soviet-Czechoslovak meeting.
Gomulka: I'd bear in mind what the real intentions of the Czechs are. Their invitation to hold bilateral negotiations is merely a subterfuge connected with their refusal to take part in our conference. So let's not set a visit; let's consult and coordinate matters.
Only the letters need to be given to Dubček – evidence that ho asked-and not the meetings themselves. These sorts of bilateral meetings in the current situation might be construed somehow – in principle – as an endorsement of their line. After all, at such a meeting Cde. Ulbricht would just say the same things that are in our letter. Rather than doing anything else right now, we should wait for a reaction to our letter. A positive reaction might induce the CPCz leadership to seek a collective meeting to discuss the matters raised in the letter. Dubček has placed everyone in a queue! Practically speaking, we'd do well to see what the reaction is to the letter, but what if it's very hostile? We'll come back to this question in August. At the same time, the position of the USSR is a special case. If Dubček would like to come to the USSR, that would be a different matter, the Soviet leadership could set a reasonable date. The Czech leader would then have to give a response either orally or in a letter, and we'll come back to this question later. Hájek was due to come to our country. However, to avoid creating a false situation, we said that we weren't ready and wanted to change the date. It wouldn't be wise to hold bilateral meetings now.
Ulbricht: Cde. Gomulka spoke about the Czechs' initiatives. If he's referring to us, let
me say we were the ones who proposed the meeting and Dubček the one who accepted our proposal.
Zhivkov: I propose we adjourn.
Sixth Session-15.VII. 68, 3:00 P.M.-3:20 P.M.
Ulbricht: The drafting committee has finished its work. We thank them for carrying out their task. We now come to a decision about the communiqué. Since no one has asked to take the floor, I believe that all concur with the text of the communiqué. I would suggest it be published at 6:00 P.M. Warsaw time.
We now come to the letter. A text bas been drafted by the committee. Is here any comment about the contents? No. I believe the letter is unanimously approved. I would like to thank the PZPR CC and especially Cde. Gomulka. The conference was well organized. We achieved full agreement and adopted an extremely important document. The conference facilitates further cooperation in the struggle against the influence of reaction and counterrevolution, against the so-called “new Eastern policy” of the FRG, and against American aggression. The document serves the interests of the consolidation of peace and cooperation among our countries. I thank all the participants, and particularly the PZPR delegation and Cde. Gomulka. It’s now time to sign the letter.
[Break while the letter is signed.]
Ulbricht: We're approaching the end of our meeting. The letter has been signed. In conclusion we can only hope that the Czech people and party will act in accordance with the spirit of the letter and be guided by the principles laid out there.