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Report by Soviet Ambassador Stepan Chervonenko to the Kremlin on His Meeting with Alexander Dubček, August 7, 1968
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir.
"The Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998, pp. 333-335
Original Source: AVPRF, F. 059, Op. 58, P. 124, D. 573, Ll. 183-185
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: Soviet Ambassador, Chervonenko, requested a meeting with Dubček and this document is the report written by Chervonenko from that meeting.
/.../ I asked Cde. Dubček to let me know what had already been done since the meetings in Čierna nad Tisou and Bratislava, and also what he personally, as CPCz CC first secretary, and the CPCz CC Presidium as a whole intended to do in the near future-that is, before the CPCz congress – to launch a struggle against the rightist and anti-socialist forces. I said I wanted to communicate all this to the CPSU CC Politburo, which had expressed confidence in him, Dubček, and in Cde. Černik and which hopes that the mutually agreed conditions needed to overcome the difficulties that have arisen between our parties will be firmly and consistently carried out by the Czechoslovak leadership. With regard to this I added that if the Czechoslovak comrades honestly and wholeheartedly wage a struggle against the rightist and anti-socialist forces, they can count on support and assistance from the CPSU and the Soviet Union.
I also emphasized that the fraternal parties that were represented at the Bratislava conference were avidly following and wanted to see what the CPCz leadership would do and what conclusions it had drawn from the Čierna negotiations and the Bratislava Declaration that it signed. They expected that the CPCz leadership would consistently abide by the provisions of the declaration, which specified the course to be followed in accordance with the internal interests of the country and the common goals of the socialist commonwealth. All those in the world communist movement and in the CPCz who realistically evaluated the situation were aware that the Čierna and Bratislava meetings had given the CPCz leadership ample leeway to act without losing face. Hence, they expected major, concrete steps and actions on the part of the CPCz leadership.
Dubček and Lenárt listened attentively and made notes of what was said. Then Dubček said that after the meeting in Čierna nad Tisou (he confirmed the profound and penetrating analysis of the situation in the ČSSR that had been offered by the Soviet leaders-hip, particularly in the speeches of Brezhnev, Kosygin, Suslov, and other comrades) and, the conference in Bratislava, the CPCz CC Presidium began to take certain measures. True, he, Dubček, had become somewhat ill and had to stay in Bratislava after the conference until Tuesday, and thus he had not yet had the chance to think through and discuss things with his comrades. Even so, at the first session of the CPCz CC Presidium, which was held on 6 August, several concrete matters were already raised, although the presidium meeting as a whole was devoted to a review of the state of preparations for the 14th CPCz Congress.
Dubček began to say that there was only a month left before the congress and the documents for the congress were still in the process of being worked out. So far, they had succeeded in publishing only the draft of the new CPCz statutes. A discussion about the congress documents lies ahead, and even now work is under way by delegates to the congress. /.../
He, Dubček, is going to be busy forming a new CPCz CC and other new party organs. The nature of the delegates and of the comrades who had been proposed for membership in the leading CPCz CC organs were the basis for hoping that the congress for the most part would avoid creating any stir with respect to the general line (the congress would reaffirm the post-January course and the Action Program) and with respect to the leading officials in the CPCz and the Czechoslovak government. He emphasized that the delegates this time had, in effect, been elected by local party organisations, and then the regional and provincial party conferences had confirmed their qualifications. The same procedure had been followed for those recommended for election to the leading CPCz CC organs. In other words, the majority of the delegates and of the officials proposed for election to the CC enjoyed the full confidence of the party rank-and-file. This would be highly advantageous for the new membership of the CC.
The preparations for the congress, Dubček continued, are being conducted in such a way that they will not permit any weakening of the leading role of the CPCz. This is the foundation of the new draft of the CPCz statutes. He, Dubček, sees difficulties ahead and believes there will be a fierce struggle over the congress and especially over the congress documents, including the adoption of the new party statutes. There will be harsh criticism at the congress, especially about the CPCz CC's activities in the pre-January period; and obviously there will be no shortage of hostile remarks aimed at the CPCz leadership that was chosen in January and after January 1968. Nevertheless, the prevailing atmosphere at the congress should be the same as the atmosphere at the regional and provincial party conferences that took place in July. /.../
Dubček then referred to the importance of the Čierna meeting and Bratislava conference, both of which he held in high regard. He said that the CPCz leadership would follow up on the conclusions and documents from those meetings, and that the spirit of the declaration and the guidelines it established would help the CPCz and would be incorporated into the basic framework of the 14th CPCz Congress.
Dubček noted that the mass media had changed their behaviour after the meetings in Čierna nad Tisou and Bratislava, although serious work in this regard still lies ahead. Apparently it will not be possible to avoid controversy and clashes with journalists in the process. He wrote down a number of points that I cited from reports in the press and on radio and television on 4, 5, 6, and 7 August. My interpreter noted that the problems of the mass media would not be so severe at the congress, since measures will be adopted before the congress to establish an orderly arrangement for the media's activities. He said that the CC Presidium had ordered the comrades responsible for the mass media to put together proposals and a definite schedule for statements in the press and on radio and television by prominent party officials, statesman, leading public figures, scholars, workers, and others. Lenárt had been instructed to devise a plan for specifying and publicly disseminating the main provisions of the Bratislava Declaration through the media. Along with this positive propaganda campaign, an effort will be made to thwart and repulse hostile, anti-communist attacks.
When asked to clarify this point, Dubček and Lenárt declared that practical steps will also be taken with respect to individual organs of the mass media, but they said nothing concrete about their intentions.
Dubček reported that on 7 August he, along with Černik and other comrades, had been busy considering measures that would have to be taken regarding the various clubs and newly formed organisations with anti-communist leanings. A draft law about the National Front was considered, as was the draft of a law that would give government organs the right to ban the activity of various clubs and organisations and the right to break up demonstrations, spontaneous meetings, and other such things. The National Assembly would be approving these laws within the next two to three weeks. Even before that, steps and measures would be adopted to prevent clubs and organisations from acting outside the National Front.
In response to my question, Dubček was not able to say exactly when the question of the separation of the State Security organs from the Interior Ministry was to be settled. He acknowledged that if such a step were adopted, Pavel would resign immediately, and this would kill two birds with one stone. But Dubček did not indicate clearly enough how and when this would be done; he told me that an appropriate law must first be adopted, and so forth.
With respect to the campaign by rightist and anti-Soviet forces against the workers from the Auto-Praha factory, Dubček said that he had ordered a group of comrades to investigate the matter and report back to the Central Committee about what had transpired. He had not yet had time to read the group's report because he had received it only a short time before I arrived. He again said that the workers' letter to their “Soviet friends” was sound and proper, and he himself saw nothing wrong with their decision to send a letter to the Soviet Union. Letters of this sort, he noted, were sent almost every day in large numbers. He condemned Císař's behaviour, although there had been reports that Císař was asked to come to the factory to mollify the workers after a threat of spontaneous action arose there. Dubček did not agree with this interpretation of the reason for Císař's appearance at the factory. He believed that Císař had played a deleterious role by addressing the Czech National Council and by identifying himself with the crackdown on the workers who signed the letter appearing in Pravda. Dubček said that the CC Presidium would take up the question of Císař's behavior.
Dubček did not mention anything concrete about personnel changes in the CC Presidium and other central organs. /.../
I did not insist that he answer the question because I suspected that he might be uncomfortable about speaking openly in Lenárt’s presence.
In closing, Dubček said that the CC Presidium would meet again on 13 August for further scrutiny of the measures and steps required of the CPCz CC in light of the conclusions and provisions of the Čierna and Bratislava meetings.
This conversation bears out the general conclusion that Dubček does not see the complexity of the political situation, or at least that he approaches it in a way very different from the approach of the healthy forces in the CPCz leadership. There is also no reason to believe that on this occasion he was sincere and fully candid with the Soviet representative. The impression emerges that he is still internally torn and that at least for the time being he is not yet ready to embark on a consistent and decisive struggle against the rightist forces both within and outside the CPCz. In these circumstances, evidently, additional steps are needed both on the part of the CPSU and on the part of the other parties to apply pressure on him, Dubček, and on Černik.
At the same time, a propitious situation has emerged-and this is precisely the greatest benefit of the meetings in Čierna nad Tisou and Bratislava – for the establishment of a front to struggle against the rightist and anti-socialist forces, using conventional political and organizational forms and methods, at least for the time being. The healthy forces in the CPCz Presidium have taken heart and consolidated themselves, and they have closed ranks so that they are now a majority. If Dubček and Černik would join forces with them and rely on them, they would receive support in this struggle from an absolute majority of party and state officials in the center, in the provinces, in the regions, and in the locales. They would receive support from the CPCz and a majority of the people.