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Speeches by Leonid Brezhnev, Alexander Dubček, and Aleksei Kosygin at the Čierna nad Tisou Negotiations, July 29, 1968
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir.
"The Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998,
Original Source: ÚSD, Sb. KV, Z/S–5, 6; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 2, pp. 43-82.
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: This is a bilateral meeting between Soviet and Czechoslovakia and the last opportunity to prevent the forthcoming military tragedy.
I tell you frankly, comrades, that we left Dresden with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we had the impression that the collective exchange of views had induced Czechoslovak officials to think again about the gravity of the situation and about their own responsibility, and to consider what must be done to rebuff the counterrevolution. On the other hand, we did not sense that the Czechoslovak comrades had any concrete plans or any concrete idea about what to do, in practical terms, to prevent the situation from heading in an ever more dangerous direction.
And again I regret to say that the course of events bas borne out the conclusions of the fraternal parties rather than the unjustified optimism of the CPCz leaders. The March-April plenum of the CPCz CC was unable to stabilize conditions. What is more, the CPCz Action Program which was adopted at that plenum began to be used, in a number of instances, by the right wing as some sort of legal basis for further attacks against the communist party, the foundations of socialism, and the friendship of the Czechoslovak and Soviet peoples. The right-wing forces went on the offensive, and the CPCz CC continued gradually to retreat.
Our worries increased when a broad campaign got under way aimed at discrediting all the earlier activities of the CPCz. These concerns increased still further when the large-scale replacement of party and government cadres began, and when a wave of anti-Soviet propaganda was vented in the press, on radio, and on television. Moreover, like mushrooms after a rain, all types of organizations began to sprout, placing themselves at odds with the communist party. In such a situation the CPSU CC deemed it necessary once again to take new steps to stress our fears. We expected the CPCz CC Presidium to move from words and assurances to deeds and practical resistance to the hostile forces. At the same time, it is self-evident that we understood the objective complexity of the situation and the difficult situation of the CPCz leadership itself. That is why the CPSU CC continued to refrain from any public evaluation and statements, proposing once again to hold confidential, bilateral talks.
At that meeting, held in Moscow on 4 May by mutual consent, Cdes. Dubček, Černik, Smrkovský, and Bilák spoke about the seriousness of the situation. Furthermore you declared that the negative aspects of internal political developments in Czechoslovakia “are going beyond our purely internal affairs and affect the fraternal countries, for instance, the Soviet Union and Poland.” No one could disagree with this.
You also said you were ready to undertake the necessary measures to control the situation. Back then you said, and I quote: “The enemy is active, hoping to seize upon events in the interests of counterrevolution. To thwart this, what is needed is not cultural-educational work but a firming up of the army's stability. It is essential to whip the State Security organs into good shape from top to bottom. These organs are needed by the party as an apparatus of force. Perhaps it will be necessary to approve a special law on the People’s Militia ....”
You admitted that the enemy is trying above all to discredit the communist party and weaken its influence on the masses. You also admitted that demands are growing to legalize political opposition to the CPCz, and that “if firm steps are not taken this might develop into a counter-revolutionary situation.” You said that you know the specific people, and that you believe there is evidence of their links with imperialist circles. You also said you would put an end to this.
Your evaluations of this period coincided with those of the CPSU CC.
Our fears that the process of “democratization” which you have undertaken would turn into something exactly the opposite – by that I mean counterrevolution – were also expressed by Kosygin during his trip to Karlovy Vary. We spoke about these problems again in Moscow when a delegation of the National Assembly headed by Cde. Smrkovský and a delegation of workers headed by Cde. Barbírek visited us.
At the CPCz CC's May plenum you admitted that the main danger to the cause of socialism in Czechoslovakia comes from the right. It seemed that this gave reason to hope you would move from words to deeds. You proclaimed your readiness to act decisively in defending socialist gains at conferences of the secretaries of party committees, at nationwide assemblies of the People's Militia, and at countless gatherings of party branches in factories and plants.
Unfortunately, the hopes of the healthy forces in the party and the country, as well as the hopes of all your friends, were unjustified. The decisions of the May plenum remained unfulfilled. The anti-socialist forces unleashed an attack against the line taken by the CPCz CC's May plenum. Attacks by anti-Soviet elements became even fiercer. The wave of attacks launched by anti-socialist forces became even bolder by the end of June, when the "Two Thousand Words" appeal was published. It amounted to an open summons to struggle against the CPCz and against the constitutional regime.
You remember, Cde. Dubček, in speaking to you on the phone that day we drew your attention to the danger of this document as a platform for counterrevolutionary activities. You replied that the CC Presidium would consider this question, and you would propose that the document be harshly criticized and that the most decisive measures would be adopted. But except for a weak resolution, no realistic measures were ever taken to carry out these words in practice.
All this compelled us and the other fraternal parties to consider the necessity of bolding one more meeting with you. It was with this proposal that the CPSU and the other fraternal parties appealed to the CPCz CC, but, unfortunately, you refused to attend the meeting in Warsaw.
And so, comrades, for the last seven months Soviet and Czechoslovak leaders and the leaders of the other fraternal parties have been in close contact of the most diverse ways, ranging from telephone conversations to personal meetings and negotiations. If we were to assess the substance of this contact, one cannot but conclude that the CPSU CC has unwaveringly adhered to a consistent and clear position.
What, in brief, is the essence of our position?
In the first place, from the very beginning we fully appreciated the decisions of the CPCz CC that were aimed at rectifying mistakes and shortcomings, at improving party leadership in all spheres of public life, and at developing socialist democracy. We considered, and we still consider, these decisions to be an exclusively internal affair of Czechoslovak communists and of all the working people of your country.
Second of all, we continually emphasized that the only guarantee of the successful implementation of the measures adopted could come through the leading role of the party, ensuring that full control over the course of events is in the party's hands. In this regard we drew your attention more than once to the fact that a weakening of party leadership inevitably leads to the activation of the rightist forces, and even overtly counterrevolutionary forces, which seek to discredit the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, remove it from power, tear your country out of the socialist commonwealth, and ultimately change the social system in Czechoslovakia.
Third, we supported, and still support, the notion that the fate of the socialist gains of the Czechoslovak people and the fate of Czechoslovakia as a socialist state bound by allied obligations with our country and the other fraternal countries is not purely an internal affair of the CPCz. This is the common affair of the whole commonwealth of socialist countries and of the entire communist movement. That is why the CPSU CC believes it has an international duty to see to it that all measures lead to the strengthening of the CPCz, to the protection and strengthening of socialism in the ČSSR, and to the defense of Czechoslovakia from imperialist conspiracies. This, I repeat, is our international duty, it is the international duty of all fraternal parties, and we would cease to be communists if we refused to discharge it.
This, comrades, is the principled position of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union-a position based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and on proletarian internationalism. Guided by these principles, we always considered it our duty not to hide our opinion from you and to speak the truth to you no matter how bitter and cruel our opinion might be. And that is what we intend to do today.
Let me dwell in greater detail on several aspects of the current situation in Czechoslovakia.
The first one, which is the one that causes us the greatest fear and concern, is the situation in which the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia now finds itself. We speak about this first of all because without strengthening the communist party and without securing its leading role in all spheres of social life, all references to the “improvement” of socialism are simply a deception.
In recent months in Czechoslovakia the process of discrediting the communist party has been gathering steam and a real threat bas arisen to the party's leading position in society. Of course, such a situation did not come about spontaneously. It is the result of the activation of anti-communist forces and, at the same time, the inevitable consequence of an incorrect position taken by some members of the CPCz leadership and of their deviation from Marxist-Leninist principles on a number of questions.
In particular, frequent calls by certain leading figures in the CPCz to “put an end to the monopoly of power by the communists,” to “separate the party from the state,” and to establish “equality” between the CPCz and other political parties, as well as calls to relinquish party leadership in the state, the economy, culture, and other spheres, served as the initial impulse and the basis for the development of an unbridled campaign against the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and also for the activation of forces attempting to destroy the CPCz and to deny it its leading role in society.
Attacks on the party began, as is known, under the guise of discussions about the necessity of putting an end to “obsolete” working methods and adapting them to present-day demands. Naturally, we understand that the party is a living organism, which develops along with the whole of society, and that the forms and methods of party work and of party leadership can and must change in accordance with changes in society. But in this case that is not what has been occurring. What has been occurring is that some leaders of the CPCz have effectively ended up undermining the basic principles of the very political organization – the party – which they are responsible for leading and strengthening.
Only in this way can one explain the fact that although self-criticism is essential in every party, critical assessment in Czechoslovakia of various methods quickly led to the unrestrained and dangerous discrediting of the entire party. Exploiting the indecisive and wavering position of the CPCz CC Presidium, revisionists and right-wing forces have vilified all CPCz activities over the last 20 years, rejecting the party's right to lead society and the state.
Just look, comrades, at how far things have gone.
An article by a certain Liehm, printed on 13 June of this year in the weekly Literární listy, states: “The CPCz bears responsibility for all the mistakes of the 20 years since February 1948 and for all the illnesses and crimes in society…” And he goes on to say: “The CPCz maintains its leading role even though it bas neither a moral nor a political right to do so.”
And on 9 June in the paper Mladá Fronta one of the active spokesmen of the anti-party forces, Hanzelka, wrote that 1.5 million members of the CPCz have become fanatics of a sort who are used by certain party ”despots” to further their own personal gains.
At the meeting of the “Youth Club” in Semily someone called Temieck screamed hysterically: “The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia must be seen as the criminal organization it truly is, and should be expelled from public life." And these ravings were immediately published in Literární listy.
And the journal Host do domu (No. 5, 1968) published the following insolent statement by a member of its editorial board, Bilák, and I quote: “The CPCz, which was once the party of the intellectual and cultural elite and the party of the most mature section of the working class, has been transformed into a party of the rattail and riffraff and become subordinate to this rabble.”
One could cite analogous material in tens or even hundreds of other instances. And this whole stream, which is openly hostile to the communist party and to socialist ideas, pours forth daily on the heads of the working people. It is being suggested to them that the party of communists is something in the nature of an organization of bankrupt persons and should be banned from power.
Unfortunately, comrades, you did not reach the necessary conclusions that the party is being swallowed up by a vicious anti-communist campaign. Instead of resolutely rebuffing attempts that are being made to destroy the party, you are continuing to transform the CPCz into an amorphous organization unable to act, into something in the nature of a discussion club.
Today, in the CPCz, the main Leninist principles of party organization – the principles of democratic centralism and ideological-organizational unity of the party-are being violated.
The danger in this is mainly that the party itself is on the brink of legalizing factional groups and is breaking up into “autonomous units” with weak bonds between its branches.
Everyone who has studied the history of the communist movement and anyone acquainted with the theoretical legacy of V. I. Lenin, knows full well that only a Marxist party, all branches and members of which are consistently guided by the principle of democratic centralism, is able to act. Ignoring either aspect of this principle – either democracy or centralism – inevitably leads to the weakening of the party and of its leading role, and to the transformation of the party into a bureaucratic organization or into some sort of educational association.
Reactionary elements are seeking in all ways to pulverize and weaken the communist party while, at the same time, taking all measures to close their own ranks and bolster their organization. The weakening of democratic centralism in the CPCz serves their aims very well.
From information in the press it is clear that the revisionist elements in the party are planning to impose on the CPCz some sort of statutes transforming it into an organization devoid of Leninist party standards and devoid of party discipline and responsibility, that is, into a pulverized and amorphous party. All this is evident from your press.
The central press organ of your party, Rudé právo, came up with a suggestion on 23 July 1968 to adopt some autonomous principles for party bodies and organizations, in other words, to strengthen, through the new party statutes, their right to espouse their own positions with regard to decisions of higher authorities. Furthermore, the same newspaper proposes that the separately constituted sections of the party should not be bound by party discipline; it is suggested that they be voluntarily obliged “by associational ties” to “take shape from below ... by cooperatively uniting branches.” What docs this mean, comrades? It means, in effect, than the CPCz Central Committee is making an assiduous effort to transform the party from a fighting, monolithic organization into some sort of “association” whose members act freely as they wish. By the way, this is not the first time Rudé právo has advocated this thesis, a thesis that cannot be described as anything other than a call to destroy the party.
It should be said that when the editor of Rudé právo, a member of the CPCz CC Presidium, Cde. Švestka, attempted to safeguard the party's imprint on this newspaper as the organ of the CPCz CC, be was subjected to the fiercest attacks on the pages of the Czechoslovak press and has not received the proper support from the leading party organs. Matters have reached the point where be was not even invited as a guest to the extraordinary nationwide congress of the Czechoslovak Journalists' Union that was recently held in Prague.
Attacks on the unity of the party's ranks are being waged on other fronts as well. Representatives of right-wing forces are working hard to include the “right of minority and group opinions,” in the new party statutes, in other words, the right to act against party decisions after they have already been adopted.
In the view of the CPSU CC Politburo, all these considerations are contrary to Leninist principles of party organization. Just remember, comrades, Lenin's attitude to the question of party unity. The resolution that Lenin submitted to the 10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party, which was endorsed by the Congress, states: “It is necessary that all responsible workers clearly recognize the danger of factions, no matter what type. Despite all efforts by officials from different groups to defend party unity, the formation of factions will inevitably lead to the weakening of comradely work and to intensified, repeated attempts by the party's enemies, who have penetrated the party, to deepen the party's division and to use it in furthering the aims of counterrevolution.” Unfortunately, even among members of the CPCz CC Presidium there are certain comrades who speak out openly against Leninist principles in party organization. In particular, the speech Cde. Špaček gave on these matters.
As we well know world reactionary forces are not halting their attempt to take advantage of any weakening of party unity to step up attacks on communists and on socialism. In the world today, a bitter class struggle has emerged. In such conditions, actions that undermine party unity are tantamount to helping our class enemies.
The existence in your country of a mass campaign to destroy the party's loyal personnel is helping to undermine the CPCz’s leading role. Criticism of individual leaders and the acknowledgment of certain mistakes have expanded into general demands for the sweeping removal of leading party workers. In the center and below (in local branches) many experienced, devoted party members and working class people who courageously fought against fascism in the years of Hitierite occupation, and who have taken an active part in building socialism in Czechoslovakia, have been removed. An atmosphere has been created of a genuine pogrom, “a moral execution” of cadres.
A definite political line is emerging in the form of efforts to remove from active political life all those communists most versed in ideological-political attitudes and those who are decisively speaking out against the right-wing danger. This is the point of Cde. Císař's statement who asks that the CPCz admit 200,000 to 300,000 young people in order to provide an “injection” for what he calls the “older” party, while ignoring the class aspect of this grave matter.
The line of mass destruction of leading cadres has affected not only the party apparatus. You have extended it to major bodies of the state apparatus, to the trade unions, and to the youth union. You replaced most members of the government. At the same time, comrades, among those removed are such workers whom you yourself, in talks with us after the January plenum, almost always characterized favorably as reliable and staunch communists.
If we objectively evaluate the essence of the political processes now under way in Czechoslovakia and the direction of their further development we can arrive at one conclusion, namely, that the threat of a counterrevolutionary coup in your country has become a reality. This is the main reason for the anxiety felt by the CPSU and the other fraternal parties.
On a number of occasions after our May meeting in Moscow, we proposed to hold another bilateral meeting with the CPCz leadership to consider the situation that had arisen. However, every time we suggested that idea, you objected to it, giving a number of reasons.
Being faithful to the principles of internationalism, and guided by feelings of solidarity with fraternal Czechoslovakia and a sense of responsibility for the fate of socialism on our continent, the leaders of the fraternal parties of the Warsaw Pact decided to meet you to consider, in a comradely manner, the situation that has been created and to look for a way out of it and offer help to CPCz leaders.
Unfortunately, you refused this fraternal offer and were unwilling to meet us in Warsaw. Your reasons for rejecting this proposal are unconvincing. The excuse that you didn't know the precise date of the meeting does not conform with reality. As for the exact date of the Warsaw meeting, the Soviet ambassador in Prague informed you of it in accordance with our instructions. The Hungarians also spoke to you about it. They even proposed delaying the meeting for a certain amount of time so that once again you could weigh up the situation and come to Warsaw. But you failed to do this.
I would like to speak in Slovak and the comrades will interpret, as they were unable to translate it into Russian in time.
Dear Comrade Brezhnev, esteemed friends, comrades!
First of all, I would like to thank you for coming to Czechoslovakia and to express satisfaction that this bilateral meeting of the leadership of our parties is taking place. We greatly appreciate your agreement in organizing a meeting on our territory. We will start with the fact that the traditional friendship and the many years of cooperation between the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, as well as the mutual trust that has always bound us together, all make it possible to clear up any misunderstanding and problems in our relations peacefully, without undue anxiety and without unnecessary dramatization, on the basis of mutual esteem and comradely frankness.
In the name of the entire Presidium I would like to assure you that we have come to today's meeting with a good will to try to eliminate the tension that has sprung up in recent times and to guarantee conditions for the further development of our cooperation.
All the members and candidate members of our Presidium who are taking part here, as well as the entire Central Committee of our party and our people, regard friendship, alliance, and cooperation with the Soviet Union as the natural and decisive component of the socialist development of our country, viewing it as the fundamental guarantee not only of the sovereignty and independence of our country, but also of the success of the general worldwide struggle by progressive forces against reactionary forces.
This attitude toward the Soviet Union in our country is due not only to sovereign, political, military, and economic aspects, but also to deep historical traditions.
We believe that this basic point of view must be taken into account in evaluating events in our country and our methods of solving internal matters related to the development of socialist society in Czechoslovakia.
Therefore it seems to us that it will be useful to approach matters in such a way so that our people do not feel that Czechoslovakia’s alliance with the Soviet Union limits the opportunities to solve our internal matters, and in such a way that this alliance will correspond as much as possible to the country's needs and traditions. It is precisely this alliance that creates and preserves such possibilities. The knowledge that the Soviet Union fully respects the sovereign rights of our people provides a reliable basis for the further development of our friendly relations and affords us the opportunity of acting against those who would wish to violate these relations.
We have taken into account that in the course of the post-January events various attacks have appeared in our press that affected the Soviet Union to one degree or another and contravened the opinion and line of the CPCz CC and the government of the republic. Along with these incorrect views, often inspired by hostile sources, one observes a second group of opinions that do not represent any anti-Soviet campaign. These opinions amount to criticism of phenomena linked to the personality cult and to deformations in relations between the socialist countries, which were decisively denounced by the Soviet Union itself. One of the serious mistakes committed by the previous leadership was its failure to resolve or even consider these questions. One cannot help noting the increasing resonance of certain anti-Soviet and anti-socialist voices nowadays. It is these voices that are facing resistance from our people. I mean here acts by students in March and April of this year, which soon died out. Events in our country are not moving in a direction that would result in the destruction of the gains of the revolution, much less does one observe even the slightest departure from the socialist camp or from the foundations of socialism, as the letter of the five fraternal parties claims. Therefore one cannot compare our development with what occurred in certain countries in 1956. I’ll return to these questions in greater detail in another part of my address.
The situation I am speaking of seriously affects relations between our peoples and countries, and has important international implications. That is why we attach so much importance to our meeting today, a meeting that we sought and that was rendered even more necessary as a result of the Warsaw Meeting.
Believe us, comrades, when we say it is hard for us to understand and accept why our request was not taken into consideration. It would have been appropriate for you to wait until officials from the CPCz CC Presidium had met you before you held the Warsaw Meeting. Why was it so necessary to hurry, why was it not possible for the CPCz CC Presidium's letter, which we sent you the day after the conversation on Friday, to be considered at the CC Presidium sessions of the individual fraternal parties? Practically speaking, there was no time to consider the CPCz’s letter because on Friday we deliberated on your second letter, and on Saturday we sent the answer, and the meeting was already in session in Warsaw by Sunday. In effect, this means that from the outset the meeting was expecting no answer from us.
The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, as you all know, never opposed and never will oppose general conferences of communist and workers' parties, collective consultations, or exchanges of views. On the contrary, the CPCz has always actively supported them. I would like to say that even at present we support bolding multilateral conferences. But one cannot agree that parties which enjoy normal, comradely relations should get together to consider the situation in one of the individual parties against that party's will and without preliminary, serious consideration of the existing circumstances, without a series of mutual consultations, and so forth. The holding of such conferences, as in Warsaw, does not correspond to the principles of normal relations between fraternal communist parties. After the resolution issued by the Informburo there was no multilateral conference of any sort that might have judged the situation in the individual party or country and adopted a corresponding decision. Nor was a conference of this sort held even during the period known as the October events in Poland in 1956. How is one to regard the holding of such a conference and the assessment of the situation in a single party, and how is one to understand the fact that one party is told by the others how to solve its internal problems? Can one avoid the impression that such measures were endorsed in violation of the principles governing relations between communist parties, and as an attempt to influence developments in this country, bypassing the existing leadership of the party and government? Who then will bear responsibility for the consequences of such measures? Only the participants in these conferences. If these conclusions turn out to have a negative effect on the situation in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and in the international communist movement, I think this would be an erroneous step in relation to the CPCz and to the international communist movement.
We tried to convince you and the other fraternal parties that it was undesirable to convene the Warsaw meeting before-and I repeat, before-holding bilateral talks because this would have adverse consequences.
In the letter we sent you prior to the Warsaw Meeting, we explained our conclusions and proposed that the meeting of the fraternal socialist countries should be preceded by bilateral talks. We did this in the belief that the fraternal parties, when assessing the situation in our party and country in the letters they addressed to the CPCz CC, did not take into consideration all the objective conditions and demands of our development. We therefore deemed it essential to explain, during bilateral talks, the situation that actually exists, as well as to consider questions connected with the organization of a multilateral meeting.
We also had to consider that Czechoslovak communists and working people would find it difficult to understand why their leaders always had to travel abroad to explain events taking place in our country. Up to now, all meetings between the CPCz and the CPSU – including three collective meetings and one bilateral –have been held outside our territory. Our wish to begin with bilateral meetings before another multilateral conference did not have the desired results because the Warsaw Meeting was agreed upon, apparently, without even taking account of our viewpoint. This is clear from the fact that our last letter of 12 July of this year was not dealt with by the CC Presidiums of the individual fraternal communist parties.
I must tell you frankly that we find it difficult to understand why this happened with such haste and why it was not possible to consider the letter and take it into consideration before the conference was held or at least during its proceedings.
Nor was our request that the Warsaw Meeting should make no assessment of the situation in Czechoslovakia heeded, or that the letter from the participants of that meeting should not be published in the press. What is more, the media in these countries have unleashed a campaign against our party, not against specific shortcomings that do not concern official policy, but in the form of a full-scale polemic against our entire party and its Central Committee. At the same time, the viewpoint of the CPCz CC Presidium in relation to the letter of the five fraternal parties bas not yet been printed in these countries – neither in the party press nor in any other. Consequently, the public in all the socialist countries has not yet had a chance to team about the viewpoint of the Presidium. In the People's Republic of Poland the day before yesterday (I don't remember the precise date), our reply was published in the internal party journal Život strany.
In our opinion the convocation of the Warsaw Meeting and the publication of the letter of its participants, as well as the press campaign, were not the best way to promote the development of relations among socialist countries. They also do not contribute to the resolution of the problems we are now discussing here with Cde. Brezhnev. Nor do they help consolidate the unity and trust among our peoples or add to the prestige of the socialist camp throughout the world. They merely serve as a basis for affirming that communists treat the national peculiarities of individual countries with a lack of sensitivity. Although the communists proclaim peaceful coexistence throughout the world, they are unable to solve problems in their own camp.
By way of information we must tell you that the Warsaw Meeting and its letter to the Central Committee of our party were perceived by us, the communists, and by our whole society as a means of generating external pressure on our party.
Worse still, it played into the hands of the right-wing and extreme sectarian forces. Such a step had a negative influence on the activities of the CPCz and on our internal situation, which in the wake of the CPCz CC's May plenum and the regional and district party conferences had considerably stabilized. Precisely because of this the CPCz Central Committee Presidium's viewpoint met with great support from our people.
It must also be said that the CPCz CC plenum unanimously reacted to those negative, right-wing, and other tendencies that are unacceptable to the party, the tendencies that cropped up especially in March and April of this year. The resolution of the May CPCz CC plenum was also directed against the very same tendencies.
All of this had a negative influence on a broader scale, on the situation in the international communist movement. As we prepare for the forthcoming Moscow conference, where we hope to settle controversial questions, the Warsaw Meeting did not go unnoticed by the communist and workers' parties. Many of them even spoke out in support of our activities, while underlining their significance for their own policies.
An expression of the dissatisfaction of these parties was the proposal by the French Communist Party to convene a meeting of all European communist parties. We asked the French comrades not to insist on such a meeting, particularly because many fraternal parties said their participation depended on the position adopted by our party. We did not, and do not, want to intensify the difficulties in the communist movement, which might then have a negative influence on the course of the approaching Conference of Communist and Workers' Parties in Moscow and on the activities of the fraternal communist parties. It also would not correspond to the interests of the socialist countries. We were particularly dismayed that a situation has arisen between the ČSSR and the Soviet Union that never existed before. If this policy continues, it may lead to a situation whose consequences one can scarcely foresee.
Despite the situation that has arisen, our party is fully determined and wishes to prove in practice that it wants to develop further cooperation with the socialist countries in a spirit of proletarian internationalism. We are seeking to find answers, based on cooperation, to the crucial questions of contemporary international development.
We are well aware that the complexity of the situation in Europe demands the coordination of efforts and unity of action from all socialist countries on fundamental questions.
Our policy in all these areas is based on straightforward principles and guided by clear objectives. We explain these objectives fully in our party's Action Program and will not deviate from them. We clearly stated that the basic credo of our external political orientation is unchanged and that it remains a consistent basis for all our foreign political activities. I am referring here to the strengthening of ties between the socialist countries, to our friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union, and to our loyalty to the Warsaw Pact and commitments that stem from our treaties and relations with the socialist countries.
Especially dear to us is the question of preserving and bolstering fraternal and friendly relations with the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
We are hurt by the fact that many accusations have been leveled against us, accusations that go far beyond the bounds of ordinary polemics conducted between parties and socialist countries.
The first unilateral steps to restrict our relations are also being adopted. We are sincerely interested in developing cooperation. At today's meeting we are ready to consider all aspects of our relations. We have shown an interest in the words of Cde. Kosygin, who said that even in the future the Soviet government will wish to continue developing mutual economic cooperation between our countries. We assure you that our party is also sincerely committed to this.
It is in the interest of both our parties to preserve and strengthen peace in Europe. We realize that the best guarantee of this is the existence of the Soviet Union, and that the Warsaw Pact is our common alliance. The ČSSR remains a firm link in the Warsaw Pact. It will loyally fulfill its obligations, although the situation of our government as a frontline state makes certain exceptional demands on us. This concerns the question of protecting our southwestern border. We find it hard to comprehend statements to the effect that the southwestern flank of the Warsaw Pact has been militarily weakened because these borders are said to be “open”. Such views are unfounded. We expect the USSR and our other allies to treat the ČSSR as a reliable, full-fledged member of the Warsaw Pact, the necessity of which is based on the commonality of our interests in ensuring peace and security in Europe. The aim of the Warsaw Pact concerns defense preparations and foreign policy activity. The Pact would betray its aims and be seriously weakened if it were actually being used to try to influence internal developments in our state.
Comrades, in proposing to hold talks on a bilateral basis, we wanted to explain several differences that exist in the individual letters sent to us by the parties. I speak of this not from notes, but I remember that the letter from the fraternal Bulgarian Communist Party said that in Czechoslovakia counterrevolution is already rampant. The letter from the German comrades proposes to assist us via the Warsaw Pact – in other words by military action, for it is hard to imagine what else they could have in mind.
These and other questions deserve to be clarified on a mutual basis during a multilateral meeting. It would be useful to return to problems that were raised two months ago at our initiative when speaking to Cde. Yakubovskii in regard to the activation and improvement of the activities of the Warsaw Pact, especially its Political Consultative Committee. This would seem to be the most suitable platform for judging all serious problems of common interest. There is no difference in opinion between us and the leadership of the CPSU on this matter.
In the Warsaw letter you speak about a “campaign” in connection with the military exercises in the ČSSR. In our reply we clearly explained why such concerns had arisen in our country. They arose not in connection with the maneuvers per se, but because of the frequent postponement of the withdrawal of allied troops from the ČSSR. Even now, almost a month since the last maneuvers ended on our territory, there are still two regiments left belonging to the other countries that took part in the maneuvers.
This is not such a crucial matter in itself, but if one bears in mind the tense situation in the ČSSR that was created by the letter from the five parties, it evokes conjecture and speculations that are not easy to refute.
Comrades, I sincerely wish to state that we, the communists and the majority of our working people, are not disturbed by the continued presence of Soviet troops on our territory after the maneuvers ended. But what is it that triggered certain feelings in this regard among the broader public? Before the maneuvers began, in conformity with the full agreement between you and us and the Joint Command – and Cde. Yakubovskii – it was decided that the maneuvers would end on 30 June. Many bourgeois news agencies have circulated reports that Czechoslovakia is now under threat of being occupied by Soviet troops, and so on. These stories have found their way into Czechoslovakia.
In seeking to undermine reactionary forces in Czechoslovakia on this issue, and being aware that the military maneuvers were due to end on 30 June or 1 July, we wanted to avoid the effect such news would have on the public. I took part along with the minister of national defense and Cde. Černik in a mass meeting of working people at which Cde. Chervonenko, the ambassador from your country, was present. This mass meeting was dedicated to strengthening the unity of our peoples. In my speech, not knowing that the pullout of troops would be delayed, I announced that the military maneuvers had ended those very days and that our friendly Soviet army was leaving Czechoslovakia. I said that we should send it off with our fraternal, comradely greetings. This was met by stormy applause, as Cde. Chervonenko can confirm. But later it became clear that things differed from what was written in the press. One or two days passed, and then a whole week, and so on-and people are still constantly raising questions about this. I tell you very frankly and sincerely that for us, too, these were questions to which we could not give an answer because neither the prime minister nor the president of the republic, nor even the CC first secretary of the party could explain it. It stands to reason that the whole matter has had unpleasant consequences. Again, comrades, you can believe us when we say we are not opposed to military maneuvers. On the contrary, as you well know, on the basis of mutual agreement we were prepared to hold these maneuvers and took all necessary measures for their successful conclusion. There bas been, and is, no reason to doubt that the ČSSR has always displayed and shown an interest in broad economic cooperation with the other socialist states-the members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Within the framework of this organization we always have striven, and are continuing to strive, to improve the socialist division of tabor and the adoption of progressive forms and methods of their activities. Our attitude to the CMEA derives both from an internationalist understanding of the role of this organization and from the actual needs of our economy. The Action Program of our party obliges the government to devise suitable proposals in this field.
You, Cde. Dubček and Cde. Černik, have given us your appraisal. Comrade Černik speaks in a particularly soothing tone when be analyzes the events in Czechoslovakia, saying he bas not found any counterrevolutionary forces and thinks that what is going on is merely the development of the socialist system and its further improvement and democratization. For our part, we have taken a very different view on all this and, ultimately, cannot agree with you about the processes under way in Czechoslovakia, which are being supported by all the imperialist forces and, above all by the U.S. imperialists, against whom we had to struggle throughout the 1950s in an acute conflict that sometimes verged on a direct military clash. We cannot agree that these processes in your country are democratic and not counterrevolutionary.
Your speech today did not convince us to any degree and provided no basis for saying that what is going on inside Czechoslovakia is the development of democratic roots within the framework of socialism, rather than counterrevolutionary activity. You did not convince us and I think that if you faced up to things honestly, you yourselves would not be so firmly convinced either. When you speak about this you present very unconvincing facts, and your judgments are of a general nature and are neither specific nor based on evidence. You are being carried away by chaotic events whose final result you have no way of predicting.
I want to return to the discussions we held in May during those seven days I was in Czechoslovakia at the instruction of the Politburo.
If you remember those talks, I do not believe there was anything new in what you had to say today, Cdes. Dubček and Černik, compared to what you said then. Then, too, you said it was time to take the press, radio, and television back into your hands. Cdes. Dubček, Smrkovský, and Císař all said at the time: Give us a little while – a month, say, or a month-and-a-half – and you will no longer recognize the press, radio, and television. At the time, the duties were divided up among you: Cde. Smrkovský was responsible for television, Cde. Dubček for Rudé právo, and Cde. Lenárt for radio. In other words, everything was assigned. All were responsible for carrying out this activity. When Cde. Smrkovský came to us he said: “If you wish, I’ll turn on the television set and you’ll see that everything has changed.” But in fact, the most blatant anti-Sovietism has continued. We've told you that more than once.
By the same token, everything that Cde. Kriegel told us then about these matters did not correspond to reality or to his activities in the most recent period. Therefore, it is not by accident that Brezhnev presented a correct and harsh assessment of several issues about which he spoke again today. Kriegel occupies a position that impresses all those who would like to drive a wedge between our communist party and the CPCz. I would say that most of the questions we have considered with you have not been resolved.
Take such a crucial question as the division of the State Security organs. I was in your country more than two months ago. You said at the time that you wanted to strengthen the situation in the Interior Ministry. Truly honest employees should find protection and not be left exposed to insults. You told me about a decision that, incidentally, soon became known to all-in your country the press gains access to such decisions very quickly. At the same time, one knows from the Western press that the CC Presidium and the government of the ČSSR adopted a decision to split up the security forces and that Minister Pavel does not intend to let this happen. This decision is still being discussed and it continues to threaten the organs responsible for defending Czechoslovakia against its enemies.
And the last question I would like to touch upon concerns our interstate relations.
With full responsibility you, of course, have approached the agreements we have concluded. We also approach them with full responsibility. We regard the Warsaw Treaty as a treaty that binds our parties and our peoples together in the face of imperialism. And now maneuvers are beginning. What are we to think where is your border and where is our border, and is there a difference between your and our borders? I think that you, Cde. Dubček and Cde. Černik, cannot deny that we together have only one border – the one that abuts the West and separates us from the capitalist countries.
Dubček: That was so even up to the Second World War.
Kosygin: This is a border we will never surrender to anyone. We say this quite directly, and this was envisaged in our state treaties. Does this please the imperialists in the West? Of course it doesn't. But they are not the ones to decide this question. They know only too well that we are the ones who decide it. And you, Cde. Černik, know that very well, but instead of determining how to fortify this important border, you are beginning to count how many tourists crossed it. This is a minor question-a hundred or a thousand tourists, give or take a few. But the border-that is a matter of principle for us and for the entire socialist camp. We will not permit, and indeed do not have the right to permit, anyone to violate it. That border is our common border, and if we must defend it together against the enemy, then how could a dispute arise on this question with the High Command of the Warsaw Pact Armed Forces, which ordered troops to be in a certain region for two to three weeks. It is obvious that this is necessary. And just imagine, Cde. Černik, that hostilities break out. After all, maneuvers are a way of checking on preparations for something close to a real combat situation. Should the High Command have to take a vote on the question? Do you guarantee that the NATO countries will not bring their troops up to the border tomorrow? We know how many American, British, West German, and French divisions are deployed there, and that these armies are very well armed. Why at this moment are all the forces in your country not focused on criticizing the rearmament of West German militarism? Why don't you tell your people that Soviet troops came here, and that when we liberated the Sudetenland we did not intend to surrender. Why don't you tell your people about that instead of making a fuss about the deployment of two or three of our regiments in Czechoslovakia? Why don't you tell them that instead of screeching about the deployment of troops and claiming that we are seeking to influence events in your country, when you know very well that these are just ordinary maneuvers? The whole world heeded your screeching. Why don't you draw your public's attention to the fact that West Germany produced 2,500 tanks, thousands of planes, an enormous amount of ammunition, missiles, artillery, and so on. You, Cde. Černik, were responsible for the military industry in the State Plan and you know what that means, that it is not done for fun and games. Why, at this moment, when maneuvers are going on, when all efforts are focused on a test of our military forces, why do you not mobilize mass propaganda, and why do you not show the people where the danger lies?
Why didn't you, as the bead of government, speak out against this? If anyone of us in the Soviet Union had dared to speak against the Czechoslovak armed forces, be would have been given a reply worthy of our friendship. But instead you are still preoccupied with minor, crude provocations that serve the interests of Western countries and not our own countries. You say you cannot explain to the West why the two regiments remain in your country. But you should tell them that this is a question solely between you and us; it's none of their business. We know how many NATO armed forces are on the territory bordering your country. You should ask why they have 20 divisions there armed to the teeth, including nuclear weapons, and you should say that our forces are staying here to oppose them and that you are convinced of this. You know how warmly the Czechoslovak people welcomed our troops and not only were ours greeted that way; so too were the Poles, the Hungarians, and those from the GDR. But after that a campaign got under way by the right-wing forces, who are doing everything they can to complicate our relations. What is so special about holding maneuvers? That's just a natural part of the Warsaw Pact. Or are we seizing Czechoslovakia by force? Everything has taken place normally.
Brezhnev: Last year they held exercises and are holding exercises now, too.
Kosygin: Can we really believe you, Cde. Černik? Have you become such a naive politician that when this sort of question is put to you, you seize upon it and blow it up all out of proportion, as though it's a world-shaking matter? Didn't you understand that this was just bait which you so readily snapped up? Although you have sufficient strength to offer a proper rebuff to these forces, you didn't do that.