On August 16 the CPSU Politburo stated that “the CPCS was loosing its leading role in the country.” This showed that the Soviets patience reached the end.
“When Moscows nerve breaks, Soviet tanks usually start rolling.” Armed forces of the SU, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria invaded Czechoslovakia in a swift military action during the night of August 20-21. Dubcek and other Czech and Slovak leaders were arrested in the name of the “revolutionary government of the workers and peasants.” The main force of the initial invading units consisted of an estimated 200,000 troops. The number of invaders continued to increase during the following week and ultimately reached an estimated 650,000.Most of the members of the CPCS Presidium were shocked by the invasion. This proves again that they did not understand how serious the situation was before the invasion. From the Moscows point of view the invasion was inevitable, because the further development of the socialism with the human face would lead only to deeper escalation of tensions between the Czechoslovakia and the other WTO countries, and probably, to an escape of the country from the Communist Bloc.
But the reformats did not give up. On August 21, the CPCS Central Committee declared the statement that the invasion was taking place “without the knowledge” of the Czechoslovak leaders, and that they regarded this act “as contrary not only to the fundamental principles of relations between Socialist states but also as contrary to the principles of international law.”Although there was no organised resistance to the overwhelming occupation forces, Czechoslovak citizens, spearheaded by students, resorted to a wide variety of means to hamper the invaders, and several general strikes took place.
On August 23, President Svoboda flew to Moscow. His journey represented an effort to find a way out of a situation: he was, in effect, trying to help the Soviets find a solution for the Czechoslovak crisis based on mutual political compromise.On August 26 the Moscow agreement was concluded. The major outcomes were: (1) Dubcek was to carry on as the First Secretary; (2) the invasion forces were to be gradually withdrawn; (3) censorship was to be reintroduced; (4) the CPCS was to strengthen its leading position in the state.One may assume that certain personnel changes were also assumed in Moscow, since resignations followed in due course. These changes included the removal of Dr. Kriegel from the CPCS Presidium and the chairmanship of the National Front; of Ota Sik as Deputy Premier; Josef Pavel as Minister of Interior; Jiri Hajek as Foreign Minister; Zdenek Heizar as Director of Czechoslovak Radio; Jiri Pelikan as Director of Czehoslovak Television.
The invasion led to the formulation of so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, first formulated in a Pravda commentary on September 26, which amounts to denying in principle the sovereignty of any “socialist” country accessible to the SU. It asserts the region-wide right to intervention.
For both rulers and ruled, the invasion of Czechoslovakia proved once again that the Soviets would use force to prevent developments they defined as contrary to their vital interests. The line they drew in 1968 to define their vital interests was the Leninist hegemony of the local Communist Party.
But the Soviets did not achieved what they wanted at once. What happened was that the invasion failed to achieve its primary purpose, which clearly was to produce a counterregime a la Kadar.
The Situation After the Invasion.
The Dubcek leadership made great efforts after the invasion to satisfy the Soviets while trying not to compromise itself in the eyes of the population.
Probably the major reform after the invasion was the creation of the Slovak Socialist Republic. On October 28, the National Assembly approved a constitutional bill transforming the hitherto unitary state into a federation of two national republics. On January 1, 1969, the Slovak Socialist Republic came into being.
Another crisis emerged in January 1969. On January 7, the new measures were taken designed to keep the press and the other media more strictly under control. In some cases, pre-publication censorship was reintroduced.
The event which finally decided the fate of Dubcek is known as the ice-hockey game affair. On March 28, the Czechoslovak ice-hockey team won over the SU team in World Ice Hockey Championship Competition. The same evening anti-Soviet demonstrations occurred throughout Czechoslovakia. Aeroflot office was destroyed in Prague. On April 11 Gustav Husak declared that it was high time to take radical steps to introduce order.
Finally, on April 17 at the plenary session of the Central Committee Dubcek was replaced by Gustav Husak (before that - the First Secretary of the Slovak Communist Party).
At the same session the CPCS Presidium with its twenty-one members and the Executive Committee with its eight members were replaced by an eleven members Presidium of which Dubcek (but no longer Smrkovsky) was still member. A few days later he was elected Chairman of the Federal Assembly with Smrkovsky as his deputy.
On January 28, 1970, the Central Committee plenum accepted the resignation of Dubcek from the Central Committee. And finally, on June 25, 1970 at the session of the Central Committee he was expelled from the CPCS. This was the end of his political career. But only until the end of the Communism regime in 1989. At the end of December 1989 he was elected Chairman of the Czech parliament.
Conclusion: Was the Reformist Communism Ever Possible?
The primary goal of Dubceks reforms was the creation of the socialism with a human face. Broadly speaking, the Czechoslovak reformers sought an adjustment of the standard Soviet model of socialism to the realities of what they considered an advanced industrialised socialist country enjoying a tradition of democracy and humanitarianism.The stated opinions of the reformers could be summed as follows: (1) the CPCS should no longer maintain a monopoly of power and decision making; (2) it should rather prove its goals through equal competition by permitting a clash of ideas and interests; (3) the abandonment of this monopoly would in effect mean a sharing of power and permit criticism, opposition, and even control on the CPCSs own exercise of power.Of course, Dubcek was against the creation of the opposition parties, but he was for the pluralism inside the National Front. The essence of his reform conception was not the possibility of pluralism in the accepted sense but, rather, the obligation upon the CPCS to prove that its program was the only valid one for socialism.
It was very naive to consider that Moscow will remain indifferent to such developments. Gradually the Soviets understood that the reformers are not controlling the reforms, and this led to the invasion. The Soviet interests were threatened almost exclusively by developments inside the Czechoslovakia. In other words, precisely by that human face which Dubcek wanted to give Czechoslovak socialism.
There was one thing which Dubcek considered to be not important, but in fact, this led to the end of the reforms. He underestimated the impact of his own reforms upon Moscow. The Soviet reaction to the reforms was quite logical and inevitable. The Communist power elite would never have accepted conditions which would make the free play of political forces possible. It would never given up the power.
So, was Dubcek significant in developing the reformist communism? In the short term - yes, but in the long term the practical meaning of his reforms was nil. All the things he reformed were returned back. The only positive impact (in the long term) of the reforms was the psychological impact of the attempt to improve the improvable thing. Communism can not be reformed. The only way to change it is to overthrow it completely. There is no way in the middle. The reformist communism is simply an utopia.
1. Ames, K., Reform and Reaction, in Problems of Communism, 1968, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp.38-49
2. Devlin, K., The New Crisis in European Communism, in Problems of Communism, 1968, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp.57-68
3. Golan, G., The Road to Reform, in Problems of Communism, 1971, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp.11-21
4. Golan, G., Innovations in the Model of the Socialism: Political Reforms in Czechoslovakia, 1968, in Shapiro, J.P. and Potichnyj, P.J. (eds.), Change and Adaptation in Soviet and East European Politics (New York, Washington, London: Praeger Publishers, 1976), pp.77-94
5. Lowenthal, R., The Sparrow in the Cage, in Problems of Communism, 1968, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp.2-28
6. Mastny, V., (ed.), Czechoslovakia: Crisis in World Commun