Posts Tagged ‘Czechoslovakia

10
Mar
09

On This Day, March 10: The Dalai Lama

March 10, 1959

Rebellion in Tibet

On this day in 1959, Tibetans band together in revolt, surrounding the summer palace of the Dalai Lama in defiance of Chinese occupation forces.

China’s occupation of Tibet began nearly a decade before, in October 1950, when troops from its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded the country, barely one year after the Communists gained full control of mainland China. The Tibetan government gave into Chinese pressure the following year, signing a treaty that ensured the power of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the country’s spiritual leader, over Tibet’s domestic affairs. Resistance to the Chinese occupation built steadily over the next several years, including a revolt in several areas of eastern Tibet in 1956. By December 1958, rebellion was simmering in Lhasa, the capital, and the PLA command threatened to bomb the city if order was not maintained.

The March 1959 uprising in Lhasa was triggered by fears of a plot to kidnap the Dalai Lama and take him to Beijing. When Chinese military officers invited His Holiness to visit the PLA headquarters for a theatrical performance and official tea, he was told he must come alone, and that no Tibetan military bodyguards or personnel would be allowed past the edges of the military camp. On March 10, 300,000 loyal Tibetans surrounded Norbulinka Palace, preventing the Dalai Lama from accepting the PLA’s invitation. By March 17, Chinese artillery was aimed at the palace, and the Dalai Lama was evacuated to neighboring India. Fighting broke out in Lhasa two days later, with Tibetan rebels hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. Early on March 21, the Chinese began shelling Norbulinka, slaughtering tens of thousands of men, women and children still camped outside. In the aftermath, the PLA cracked down on Tibetan resistance, executing the Dalai Lama’s guards and destroying Lhasa’s major monasteries along with thousands of their inhabitants.

China’s stranglehold on Tibet and its brutal suppression of separatist activity has continued in the decades following the unsuccessful uprising. Tens of thousands of Tibetans followed their leader to India, where the Dalai Lama has long maintained a government-in-exile in the foothills of the Himalayas. 

“Rebellion in Tibet.” 2009. The History Channel website. 10 Mar 2009, 09:40 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52437.

On This Day

0515 BC – The building of the great Jewish temple in Jerusalem was completed.

0241 BC – The Roman fleet sank 50 Carthaginian ships in the Battle of Aegusa.

0049 BC – Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and invaded Italy.

1496 – Christopher Columbus concluded his second visit to the Western Hemisphere when he left Hispaniola for Spain.

1656 – In the American colony of Virginia, suffrage was extended to all free men regardless of their religion.

1776 – “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine was published.

1785 – Thomas Jefferson was appointed minister to France. He succeeded Benjamin Franklin.

1804 – The formal ceremonies transferring the Louisiana Purchase from France to the U.S. took place in St. Louis.

1814 – In France, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by a combined Allied Army at the battle of Laon.

1848 – The U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war with Mexico.

1864 – Ulysses S. Grant became commander of the Union armies in the U.S. Civil War.

1910 – Slavery was abolished in China.

1912 – China became a republic after the overthrow of the Manchu Ch’ing Dynasty.

1927 – Prussia lifted its Nazi ban allowing Adolf Hitler to speak in public.

1944 – The Irish refused to oust all Axis envoys and denied the accusation of spying on Allied troops.

1945 – American B-29 bombers attacked Tokyo, Japan, 100,000 were killed.

1949 – Nazi wartime broadcaster Mildred E. Gillars, also known as “Axis Sally,” was convicted in Washington, DC. Gillars was convicted of treason and served 12 years in prison.

1953 – North Korean gunners at Wonsan fired upon the USS Missouri. The ship responded by firing 998 rounds at the enemy position.

1966 – The North Vietnamese captured a Green Beret camp at Ashau Valley.

1966 – France withdrew from NATO’s military command to protest U.S. dominance of the alliance and asked NATO to move its headquarters from Paris.

1969 – James Earl Ray plead guilty in Memphis, TN, to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Ray later repudiated the guilty plea and maintained his innocence until his death in April of 1998.

1971 – The U.S. Senate approved an amendment to lower the voting age to 18.

March 10, 1948

Strange death of Jan Masaryk

The communist-controlled government of Czechoslovakia reports that Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk has committed suicide. The story of the noncommunist Masaryk’s death was greeted with skepticism in the West.

Masaryk was born in 1886, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first president. After World War I, he served as foreign minister in the new Czech government. Later he served as the Czech ambassador to Great Britain. During World War II, he once again took the position of foreign minister, this time with the Czech government-in-exile in London. After the war, Masaryk returned to Czechoslovakia to serve as foreign minister under President Eduard Benes. It was a tense time in Masaryk’s native country. The Soviet Union had occupied the nation during World War II and there were fears that the Soviets would try to install a communist government in Czechoslovakia, as it had in Poland, East Germany, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Masaryk, however, was skillful in dealing with the Soviets, assuring them that a democratic Czechoslovakia posed no security threat to Russia.

In 1947, though, Masaryk made a fatal mistake. When the United States unveiled the Marshall Plan-the multimillion-dollar aid program for postwar Europe-Masaryk indicated Czechoslovakia’s interest in participating. When he informed the Soviets, they absolutely refused to give their approval. This was quickly followed, in February 1948, by a communist coup in Czechoslovakia. President Benes was forced to accept a communist-dominated government. Masaryk was one of the few non-communists left in place. On March 10, 1948, the Czech government reported that Masaryk had committed suicide by jumping out of a third-story window at the Foreign Ministry.

The reaction in the West was characterized by deep suspicion. Secretary of State George Marshall stated that Czechoslovakia was under a “reign of terror,” and that Masaryk’s “suicide” indicated “very plainly what is going on.” Despite suspicions that the communists had murdered Masaryk, nothing has been proven definitively and his death remains one of the great mysteries of the Cold War era.

“Strange death of Jan Masaryk,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2602 [accessed Mar 10, 2009]

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25
Feb
09

On This Day, February 25: Greenbacks

February 25, 1862

Legal Tender Act passed

The U.S. Congress passes the Legal Tender Act, authorizing the use of paper notes to pay the government’s bills. This ended the long-standing policy of using only gold or silver in transactions, and it allowed the government to finance the enormously costly war long after its gold and silver reserves were depleted.

Soon after the war began, the federal government began to run low on specie. Several proposals involving the use of bonds were suggested. Finally, Congress began printing money, which the Confederate government had been doing since the beginning of the war. The Legal Tender Act allowed the government to print $150 million in paper money that was not backed by a similar amount of gold and silver. Many bankers and financial experts predicted doom for the economy, as they believed that there would be little confidence in the scheme. There were also misgivings in Congress, as many legislators worried about a complete collapse of the nation’s financial infrastructure.

These notes, called “greenbacks,” worked much better than expected. It allowed the government to pay its bills and, by increasing the money in circulation, greased the wheels of northern commerce. The greenbacks were legal tender, which meant that creditors had to accept them at face value. The same year, Congress passed an income tax and steep excise taxes, both of which cooled the inflationary pressures created by the greenbacks.

Another legal tender act passed in 1863, and by war’s end nearly a half-billion dollars in greenbacks had been issued. The Legal Tender Act laid the foundation for the creation of a permanent currency in the decades after the Civil War.

“Legal Tender Act passed.” 2009. The History Channel website. 25 Feb 2009, 12:05 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2117.

On This Day

1570 – England’s Queen Elizabeth I was excommunicated by Pope Pius V.

1836 – Samuel Colt received a patent for a “revolving gun”.

1901 – The United States Steel Corp. was incorporated by J.P. Morgan.

1913 – The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It authorized a graduated income tax.

1919 – The state of Oregon became the first state to place a tax on gasoline. The tax was 1 cent per gallon.

1933 – The first aircraft carrier, Ranger, was launched.

1956 – Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev criticized the late Josef Stalin in a speech before a Communist Party congress in Moscow.

1986 – Phillippino President Ferdinand E. Marcos fled the Philippines after 20 years of rule after a tainted election.

2000 – In Albany, NY, a jury acquitted four New York City police officers of second-degree murder and lesser charges in the February 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo.

February 25, 1948

Communists take power in Czechoslovakia

Under pressure from the Czechoslovakian Communist Party, President Eduard Benes allows a communist-dominated government to be organized. Although the Soviet Union did not physically intervene (as it would in 1968), Western observers decried the virtually bloodless communist coup as an example of Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe.

The political scene in Czechoslovakia following World War II was complex, to say the least. Eduard Benes was head of the London-based Czech government-in-exile during the war, and returned to his native land in 1945 to take control of a new national government following the Soviet withdrawal in July of that year. National elections in 1946 resulted in significant representation for leftist and communist parties in the new constituent assembly. Benes formed a coalition with these parties in his administration.

Although Czechoslovakia was not formally within the Soviet orbit, American officials were concerned with the Soviet communist influence in the nation. They were particularly upset when Benes’ government strongly opposed any plans for the political rehabilitation and possible rearmament of Germany (the U.S. was beginning to view a rearmed Germany as a good line of defense against Soviet incursions into western Europe). In response, the United States terminated a large loan to Czechoslovakia. Moderate and conservative parties in Czechoslovakia were outraged, and declared that the U.S. action was driving their nation into the clutches of the communists. Indeed, the communists made huge electoral gains in the nation, particularly as the national economy spiraled out of control.

When moderate elements in the Czech government raised the possibility of the nation’s participation in the U.S. Marshall Plan (a massive economic recovery program designed to help war torn European countries rebuild), the communists organized strikes and protests, and began clamping down on opposition parties. Benes tried desperately to hold his nation together, but by February 1948 the communists had forced the other coalition parties out of the government. On February 25, Benes gave in to communist demands and handed his cabinet over to the party. Rigged elections were held in May to validate the communist victory. Benes then resigned and his former foreign minister Jan Masaryk died under very suspicious circumstances. Czechoslovakia became a single-party state.

The response from the West was quick but hardly decisive. Both the United and Great Britain denounced the communist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia, but neither took any direct action. Perhaps having put too much faith in Czechoslovakia’s democratic traditions, or possibly fearful of a Soviet reaction, neither nation offered anything beyond verbal support to the Benes government. The Communist Party, with support and aid from the Soviet Union, dominated Czechoslovakian politics until the so-called “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 brought a non-communist government to power.

“Communists take power in Czechoslovakia.” 2009. The History Channel website. 25 Feb 2009, 12:03 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2588.

22
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-22-2008: Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson becomes first African-American on U.S. tennis tour

On this day in 1950, officials of the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) accept Althea Gibson into their annual championship at Forest Hills, New York, making her the first African-American player to compete in a U.S. national tennis competition.

“Althea Gibson becomes first African-American on U.S. tennis tour.” 2008. The History Channel website. 22 Aug 2008, 08:22 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52841.

 

On This Day

1485 – The War of the Roses ended with the death of England’s King Richard III. He was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field. His successor was Henry V II.

1567 – The “Council of Blood” was established by the Duke of Alba. This was the beginning of his reign of terror in the Netherlands.

1762 – Ann Franklin became the editor of the Mercury of Newport in Rhode Island. She was the first female editor of an American newspaper.

1775 – The American colonies were proclaimed to be in a state of open rebellion by England’s King George III.

1851 – The schooner America outraced the Aurora off the English coast to win a trophy that became known as the America’s Cup.

1910 – Japan formally annexed Korea.

1951 – 75,052 people watched the Harlem Globetrotters perform. It was the largest crowd to see a basketball game.

1989 – Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panthers, was shot to death in Oakland, CA. Tyrone Robinson was later convicted and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison for the killing.

1990 – Angry smokers blocked a street in Moscow to protest the summer-long cigarette shortage.

1998 – Mark David Chapman said that he did not want any of the money that would be made from the sale of the signed “Double Fantasy” album that John Lennon signed for him the same day he was killed. Chapman was currently serving sentence for the December 8, 1980 murder.

 

 

Michael Collins assassinated

Irish revolutionary and Sinn FÉin politician Michael Collins is killed in an ambush in west County Cork, Ireland.

In the early part of the century, Collins joined Sinn FÉin, an Irish political party dedicated to achieving independence for all Ireland. From its inception, the party became the unofficial political wing of militant Irish groups in their struggle to throw off British rule. In 1911, the British Liberal government approved negotiations for Irish Home Rule, but the Conservative Party opposition in Parliament, combined with Ireland’s anti-Home Rule factions, defeated the plans. With the outbreak of World War I, the British government delayed further discussion of Irish self-determination, and Collins and other Irish nationalists responded by staging the Easter Rising of 1916.

“Michael Collins assassinated.” 2008. The History Channel website. 22 Aug 2008, 08:19 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5283.

Romania captured by the Soviet Union

On this day in 1944, Soviet forces break through to Jassy, in northeastern Romania, convincing Romania’s king to sign an armistice with the Allies and concede control of his country to the USSR.

As early as 1937, Romania had come under control of a fascist government that bore great resemblance to that of Germany’s, including similar anti-Jewish laws. Romania’s king, Carol II, dissolved the government a year later, but was unable to suppress the fascist Iron Guard paramilitary organization. In June 1940, the Soviet Union co-opted two Romanian provinces, and the king searched for an ally to help protect it and appease the far right within its own borders. So on July 5, 1940, Romania allied itself with Nazi Germany. Later that year, it would be invaded by its “ally” as part of Hitler’s strategy to create one huge eastern front against the Soviet Union.

King Carol would abdicate in September 1940, leaving the country in the control of fascist Prime Minister Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard. While Romania would recapture the territory lost to the Soviet Union when the Germans invaded Russia, it would also have to endure the Germans’ raping of its resources as part of the Nazi war effort.

As the war turned against Germany, and the Soviet Union began to run roughshod over Eastern Europe, Antonescu started looking west for allies to save it from Soviet occupation. At this stage, King Michael, son of the late King Carol, emerged from the shadows and had the pro-German Antonescu arrested, imploring Romanians, and loyal military men, to fight with, not against, the invading Soviets. The king would finally sign an armistice with the Allies and declare war against an already-dying Germany in 1944.

King Michael would, ironically, be forced to abdicate by the Soviets, who would maintain a puppet communist government in Romania until the end of the Cold War. The king had virtually destroyed his nation in order to save it.

“Romania captured by the Soviet Union.” 2008. The History Channel website. 22 Aug 2008, 08:13 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6559.

Czechs protest against Soviet invasion

In the streets of Prague and in the United Nations headquarters in New York City, Czechs protest against the Soviet invasion of their nation. The protests served to highlight the brutality of the Soviet action and to rally worldwide condemnation of the Soviet Union.

“Czechs protest against Soviet invasion.” 2008. The History Channel website. 22 Aug 2008, 08:01 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2767.

Incident at Ruby Ridge

In the second day of a standoff at Randy Weaver’s remote northern Idaho cabin, FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi wounds Randy Weaver, Kevin Harrison, and kills Weaver’s wife, Vicki.

“Incident at Ruby Ridge.” 2008. The History Channel website. 22 Aug 2008, 08:10 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5284.

20
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-20-2008: The Prague Spring

During the early part of the twentieth century Czechoslovakia stood as an example of democracy in the midst of Europe’s growing despotism.  Sold out at Munich in September 1938, to appease Hitler’s lust for power, Europe’s one true democracy died.  After world War II Czechoslovakia fell into the hands of Soviet back communists who followed Stalin’s model of hard-line communism.  Like many Eastern European nations Czechoslovakia languished under communist repression until a very brief period in the Spring of 1968, known as the Prague Spring.  Czechoslovakia experienced a brief intellectual rebirth in which the free-flow of ideas emerged above Soviet censorship and the country seemed to awaken from a long slumber.  It would not last. 

 

Soviets Invade Czechoslovakia

On the night of August 20, 1968, approximately 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring”–a brief period of liberalization in the communist country. Czechoslovakians protested the invasion with public demonstrations and other non-violent tactics, but they were no match for the Soviet tanks. The liberal reforms of First Secretary Alexander Dubcek were repealed and “normalization” began under his successor Gustav Husak.

In January 1968…Alexander Dubcek…was unanimously elected by the Czechoslovakian Central Committee. To secure his power base, Dubcek appealed to the public to voice support for his proposed reforms. The response was overwhelming, and Czech and Slovak reformers took over the communist leadership.

In April, the new leadership unveiled its “Action Program,” promising democratic elections, greater autonomy for Slovakia, freedom of speech and religion, the abolition of censorship, an end to restrictions on travel, and major industrial and agricultural reforms. Dubcek declared that he was offering “socialism with a human face.” The Czechoslovakian public greeted the reforms joyously, and Czechoslovakia’s long stagnant national culture began to bloom during what became known as the Prague Spring. In late June, a popular petition called the “Two Thousand Words” was published calling for even more rapid progress to full democracy. The Soviet Union and its satellites Poland and East Germany were alarmed by what appeared to be the imminent collapse of communism in Czechoslovakia.

However, on the night of August 20, nearly 200,000 Soviet, East German, Polish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops invaded Czechoslovakia in the largest deployment of military force in Europe since the end of World War II. Armed resistance to the invasion was negligible, but protesters immediately took to the streets, tearing down streets signs in an effort to confuse the invaders. In Prague, Warsaw Pact troops moved to seize control of television and radio stations. At Radio Prague, journalists refused to give up the station and some 20 people were killed before it was captured. Other stations went underground and succeeded in broadcasting for several days before their locations were discovered.

Dubcek and other government leaders were detained and taken to Moscow. Meanwhile, widespread demonstrations continued on the street, and more than 100 protesters were shot to death by Warsaw Pact troops. Many foreign nations, including China, Yugoslavia, and Romania, condemned the invasion, but no major international action was taken. Much of Czechoslovakia’s intellectual and business elite fled en masse to the West.

 “Soviets Invade Czechoslovakia.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Aug 2008, 09:39 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6995.

 

The “Two Thousand Words” that publicly called for political, social and economic reform in Czechoslovakia.

Two Thousand Words

Two Thousand Words that Belongs to Workers, Farmers, Officials, Scientists, Artists, and Everybody

Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir. “The Prague Spring 1968”.  Hungary: Central European Press, 1998, pp. 177-181
Original Source: “Dva Tisice Slov”, Literarny Listy (Prague), 27 June 1968 pp.1
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: The 2000 words manifesto was a document written by Ludvik Vaculik. It was furthermore signed by a numerous of other famous Czechoslovak people as writers, intellectuals and scholars. It quickly became the symbol of the Prague Spring-movement.

The first threat to our national life was from the war. Then came other evil days and events that endangered the nation’s spiritual well being and character. Most of the nation welcomed the socialist program with high hopes. But it fell into the hands of the wrong people. It would not have mattered so much that they lacked adequate experience in affairs of state, factual knowledge, or philosophical education, if only they had enough common prudence and decency to listen to the opinion of others and agree to being gradually replaced by more able people.

After enjoying great popular confidence immediately after the war, the communist party by degrees bartered this confidence away for office, until it had all the offices and nothing else. We feel we must say this, it is familiar to those of us who are communists and who are as disappointed as the rest at the way things turned out. The leaders’ mistaken policies transformed a political party and an alliance based on ideas into an organization for exerting power, one that proved highly attractive to power-hungry individuals eager to wield authority, to cowards who took the safe and easy route, and to people with bad conscience. The influx of members such as these affected the character and behavior of the party, whose internal arrangements made it impossible, short of scandalous incidents, for honest members to gain influence and adapt it continuously to modern conditions. Many communists fought against this decline, but they did not manage to prevent what ensured.

Conditions inside the communist party served as both a pattern for and a cause of the identical conditions in the state. The party’s association with the state deprived it of the asset of separation from executive power. No one criticized the activities of the state and of economic organs. Parliament forgot how to hold proper debates, the government forgot how to govern properly, and managers forgot how to manage properly. Elections lost their significance, and the law carried no weight. We could not trust our representatives on any committee or, if we could, there was no point in asking them for anything because they were powerless. Worse still, we could scarcely trust one another. Personal and collective honor decayed. Honesty was a useless virtue, assessment by merit unheard of. Most people accordingly lost interest in public affairs, worrying only about themselves and about money, a further blot on the system being the impossibility today of relying even on the value of money. Personal relations were ruined, there was no more joy in work, and the nation, in short, entered a period that endangered its spiritual well being and its character.

We all bear responsibility for the present state of affairs. But those among us who are communist’s bear more than others, and those who acted as components or instruments of unchecked power bear the greatest responsibility of all. The power they wielded was that of a self-willed group spreading out through the party apparatus into every district and community. It was this apparatus that decided what might and might not be done: It ran the cooperative farms for the cooperative farmers, the factories for the workers, and the National Committees for the public. No organizations, not even communist ones, were really controlled by their own members. The chief sin and deception of these rulers was to have explained their own whims as the “will of the workers”. Were we to accept this pretense, we would have to blame the workers today for the decline of our economy, for crimes committed against the innocent, and for the introduction of censorship to prevent anyone writing about these things. The workers would be to blame for misconceived investments, for losses suffered in foreign trade, and for the housing shortage. Obviously no sensible person will hold the working class responsible for such things. We all know, and every worker knows especially, that they had virtually no say in deciding anything. Working-class functionaries were given their voting instructions by somebody else. While many workers imagined that they were the rulers, it was a specially trained stratum of party and state officials who actually ruled in their name. In effect it was these people who stepped into the shoes of the deposed ruling class and themselves came to constitute the new authority. Let us say in fairness that some of them long ago realized the evil trick history had played. We can recognize such individuals today by the way they are redressing old wrongs, rectifying mistakes, handing back powers of decision-making to rank-and-file party members and members of the public, and establishing limits on the authority and size of the bureaucracy. They share our opposition to the retrograde views held by certain party members. But a large proportion of officials have been resistance to change and are still influential. They still wield the instruments of power, especially at district and community level, where they can employ them in secret and without fear of prosecution.

Since the beginning of this year we have been experiencing a regenerative process of democratization. It started inside the communist party, that much we must admit, even those communists among us who no longer had hopes that anything good could emerge from that quarter know this. It must also be added, of course, that the process could have started nowhere else. For after twenty years the communists were the only ones able to conduct some sort of political activity. It was only the opposition inside the communist party that had the privilege to voice antagonistic views. The effort and initiative now displayed by democratically minded communists are only then a partial repayment of the debt owed by the entire party to the non-communists whom it had kept down in an unequal position. Accordingly, thanks are due to the communist party, though perhaps it should be granted that the party is making an honest effort at the eleventh hour to save its own honor and the nation’s. ‘me regenerative process has introduced nothing particularly new into our lives. It revives ideas and topics, many of which are older than the errors of our socialism, while others, having emerged from below the surface of visible history, should long ago have found expression but were instead repressed. Let us not foster the illusion that it is the power of truth which now makes such ideas victorious. Their victory has been due rather to the weakness of the old leaders, evidently already debilitated by twenty years of unchallenged rule. All the defects hidden in the foundations and ideology of the system have clearly reached their peak. So let us not overestimate the effects of the writers’ and students’ criticisms. The source of social change is the economy. A true word makes its mark only when it is spoken under conditions that have been properly prepared—conditions that, in our context, unfortunately include the impoverishment of our whole society and the complete collapse of the old system of government, which had enabled certain types of politicians to get rich, calmly and quietly, at our expense. Truth, then, is not prevailing. Truth is merely what remains when everything else has been frittered away. So there is no reason for national jubilation, simply for fresh hope.

In this moment of hope, albeit hope still threatened, we appeal to you. It took several months before many of us believed it was safe to speak up; many of us still do not think it is safe. But speak up we did exposing ourselves to the extent that we have no choice but to complete our plan to humanize the regime. If we did not, the old forces would exact cruel revenge. We appeal above all to those who so far have waited on the sidelines. The time now approaching will decide events for years to come.

The summer holidays are approaching, a time when we are inclined to let everything slip. But we can safely say that our dear adversaries will not give themselves a summer break; they will rally everyone who is under any obligation to them and are taking steps, even now, to secure themselves a quiet Christmas! Let us watch carefully how things develop, let us try to understand them and have our answers ready. Let us forget the impossible demand that someone from on high should always provide us with a single explanation and a single, simple moral imperative. Everyone will have to draw their own conclusions. Common, agreed conclusions can only be reached in discussion that requires freedom of speech-the only democratic achievement to our credit this year.

But in the days to come we must gird ourselves with our own initiative and make our own decisions. To begin with we will oppose the view, sometimes voiced, that a democratic revival can be achieved without the communists, or even in opposition to them. This would be unjust, and foolish too. The communists already have their organizations in place, and in these we must support the progressive wing. They have their experienced officials, and they still have in their hands, after all, the crucial levers and buttons. On the other hand they have presented an Action Program to the public. This program will begin to even out the most glaring inequalities, and no one else has a program in such specific detail. We must demand that they produce local Action Programs in public in every district and community. 7hen the issue will suddenly revolve around very ordinary and long awaited acts of justice. The Czechoslovak Communist Party is preparing for its congress, where it will elect its new Central Committee. Let us demand that it be a better committee than the present one. Today the communist party says it is going to rest its position of leadership on the confidence of the public, and not on force. Let us believe them, but only as long as we can believe in the people they are now sending as delegates to the party’s district and regional conferences.

People have recently been worded that the democratization process has come to a halt. This feeling is partly a sign of fatigue after the excitement of events, but partly it reflects the truth. The season of astonishing revelations, of dismissals from high office, and of heady speeches couched in language of unaccustomed daring-all this is over. But the struggle between opposing forces has merely become somewhat less open, the fight continues over the content and formulation of the laws and over the scope of practical measures. Besides, we must give the new people time to work: the new ministers, prosecutors, chairmen and secretaries. They are entitled to time in which to prove themselves fit or unfit. This is all that can be expected at present of the central political bodies, though they have made a remarkably good showing so far in spite of themselves.

The everyday quality of our future democracy depends on what happens in the factories, and on what happens to the factories. Despite all our discussions, it is the economic managers who have us in their grasp. Good managers must be sought out and promoted. True, we are all badly paid in comparison with people in the developed countries, some of us worse than others. We can ask for more money, and more money can indeed be printed, but only if it is devalued in the process. Let us rather ask the directors and the chairmen of boards to tell us what they want to produce and at what cost, the customers they want to sell it to and at what price, the profit that will be made, and of that, how much will be reinvested in modernizing production and how much will be left over for distribution. Under dreary looking headlines, a bard battle is being covered in the press-the battle of democracy versus soft jobs. The workers, as entrepreneurs, can intervene in this battle by electing the right people to management and workers’ councils. And as employees they can help themselves best by electing, as their trade union representatives, natural leaders and able, honorable individuals without regard to party affiliation.

Although at present one cannot expect more of the central political bodies, it is vital to achieve more at district and community level. Let us demand the departure of people who abused their power, damaged public property, and acted dishonorably or brutally. Ways must be found to compel them to resign. To mention a few: public criticism, resolutions, demonstrations, demonstrative work brigades, collections to buy presents for them on their retirement, strikes, and picketing at their front doors. But we should reject any illegal, indecent, or boorish methods, which they would exploit to bring influence to bear on Alexander Dubcek. Our aversion to the writing of rude letters must be expressed so completely that the only explanation for any such missives in the future would be that their recipients had ordered them themselves. Let us revive the activity of the National Front. Let us demand public sessions of the national committees. For questions that no one else will look into, let us set up our own civic committees and commissions. There is nothing difficult about it; a few people gather together, elect a chairman, keep proper records, publish their findings, demand solutions, and refuse to be shouted down. Let us convert the district and local newspapers, which have mostly degenerated to the lever of official mouthpieces, into a platform for all the forward-looking elements in politics; let us demand that editorial boards be formed of National Front representatives, or else let us start new papers. Let us form committees for the defense of free speech. At our meetings, let us have our own staffs for ensuring order. If we hear strange reports, let us seek confirmation, let us send delegations to the proper authorities and publicize their answers, perhaps putting them up on front gates. Let us give support to the police when they are prosecuting genuine wrongdoers, for it is not our aim to create anarchy or a state of general uncertainty. Let us eschew quarrels between neighbors, and let us avoid drunkenness on political occasions. Let us expose informers.

The summer traffic throughout the republic will enhance interest in the settlement of constitutional relations between Czechs and Slovaks. Let us consider federalization as a method of solving the question of nationalities, hut let us regard it as only one of several important measures designed to democratize the system. In itself this particular measure will not necessarily give even the Slovaks a better life. Merely having separate governments in the Czech Lands and in Slovakia does not solve the problem of government. Rule by a state and party bureaucracy could still go on; indeed, in Slovakia it might even be strengthened by the claim that it had “won more freedom.

There has been great alarm recently over the possibility that foreign forces will intervene in our development. Whatever superior forces may face us, all we can do is stick to our own positions, behave decently, and initiate nothing ourselves. We can show our government that we will stand by it, with weapons if need be, if ii will do what we give it a mandate to do. And we can assure our allies that we will observe our treaties of alliance, friendship, and trade. Irritable reproaches and iii-argued suspicions on our part can only make things harder for our government, and bring no benefit to ourselves. In any case, the only way we can achieve equality is to improve our domestic situation and carry the process of renewal far enough to some day elect statesman with sufficient courage, honor, and political acumen to create such equality and keep it that way. But this is a problem that faces all governments of small countries everywhere.

This spring a great opportunity was given to us once again, as it was after the end of the war. Again we have the chance to take into our own hands our common cause, which for working purposes we call socialism, and give it a form more appropriate to our once-good reputation and to the fairly good opinion we used to have of ourselves. The spring is over and will never return. By winter we will know all.

So ends our statement addressed to workers, farmers, officials, artists, scholars, scientists, technicians, and everybody. It was written at the behest of scholars and scientists.

http://library.thinkquest.org/C001155/documents/doc26.htm




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