Chris Harman


Czech ‘reformers’ capitulate as resistance rises

(August 1969)

From Socialist Worker, 28 August 1969.
Reprinted in In the Heat of the Struggle, London 1993, p.41.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A year after the invasion of Czechoslovakia by half a million Russian troops, the people are still not crushed.

Last week hundreds of thousands protested in Prague and Brno against the Russian occupation. They were met with the only response their rulers – like those in Derry and Chicago – know: tear gas, baton changes and machine gun fire.

But there have been changes in the last year. Then it seemed that all sections of Czech society were opposed to the Russian invasion. The ‘reformers’ in the governing bureaucracy, like Dubcek, Svoboda and Cernik, seemed to be leading the resistance. True, they warned against ‘provocations’ and urged passivity, but many saw this as good tactics.

Today the Russians remain, although carefully hidden from view. Old Stalinists who were discredited with Novotny a year ago are back in the important positions in the bureaucracy.

But those ‘reforming’ bureaucrats like Dubcek, who seemed to lead the resistance – and were accordingly portrayed in heroic terms by the western bourgeois press – are now on the other side.

On Sunday the Czech government issues a decree increasing sentences for those ‘disturbing the peace’ (i.e. demonstrating against the Russians). It was signed by Dubcek, Svoboda and Cernik.

The reformers were prepared to partially mobilise other sections of Czech society against their opponents, but only on their own terms. When the Russians invaded they called for token strikes.

But they feared any movement of the mass of workers and students that might start to assert demands independent of any section of the bureaucracy.

Last updated on 28 February 2010