CZECHOSLOVAK LEADERSHIP FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Created: 11/29/1968

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LBJ LIBRARY Mandatory Rf^fV/

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OF INTELLIGENCE

Czechoslovak Leadership Faces Uncertain Future

Special Report

WEEKLY REVIEW

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SPECIAL REPORTS arc supplements to lhe CurrentWeeklies issued by the Office of Current Intelligence. The Special Reports are published separately to permit more comprehensive treatmentubject. They ire prepared by the Office or Current Intelligence, tlie Office of Economicthe Office of Strategic Research, and the Directorate of Science and Technology. Special Reports arc coordinated as appropriate among the Directorates of CIA bur. except for the normal substantive excliangc with other agencies at the working level, have not been coordinated outside CIA unless specifically indicated.

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when the Soviet Union began to apply pressure on Dubcek to modify his reform program,interest groups in the society began to unify on the basis on patriotism. As the pressures increased, anti-Soviet nationalismtrong bond between the party leaders and the people. Dubcek, President Ludvik Svoboda, and the other leaders became notional herces after standing up to theat Cierna and Bratislava. The invasion failed to split the Czechoslovak leadership, and brought the people and party

together as never before.

Russianumber ofconservatives into Dubcek's camp. Some of them, like the ousted defense minister, Bohunilhad opposed theand was pro-Soviet--be-came hostile to Moscow because of the invasion. Many whom the Russians had hoped to includeuppet government refused to participate, well-knownsuch as formerparty chief Vasil Bilak, and former presidium members Jan Piller and Emil Rigo, who were publicly branded asprotested that they had had nothing to do with the Only the Slovak hard liner, Alois Xr.dra, appeared to be availableole in an occupation regime.

Several hard liners were forewarned of the invasion,ew of them, such as then-coa-nunications-chief Karel Hoffman, attempted to pave the way. Svoboda, however, refused

tooviet-imposedregime. Hedemandingwith the Soviets andthat Dubcek and the other arrested Czechoslovak leaders participate.

During their "inquisition" in Moscowugust, Czechoslovak negotiators were subjected to enormous pressure, including physical maltreatment, prolonged negotiating sessions, threats of dismemberment or of the republic, and the establishment of angovernment. In addition, the delegation was isolated from news of events in Czechoslovakia and its members were prevented from consulting with one another.

Czechoslovak national unity and loyalty to the leadership reached unparalleled heightsthis period, and unity among tho top leaders was strengthened as well.

Soviet Tactics

The survival of the Dubcek leadership, albeit with fraying unity and slowly diminishing popular support, is mostlyto the Soviet desire for political stability. The Soviets had mistakenly assumed that Dubcek's failure toonolithic political machine, coupled with the existence of diverse elements in Czechoslovak society, would facilitate the installation of collaborationist puppets within hours after the intervention. Moscow had to change its plans, however, when it realized that if the

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Czechoslovak leadership .wereby force, the result cculd be open rebellion.

In September, the Soviets sent First Deputy ForeignVasily Kuznetsov to Prague as fact finder and troubleshoatcr. Initially, Kuznetsov's mission was to talk to as manyleaders as possible,tothe attitude of each toward the USSR, and to report on the general situation in Prague. Later, Kuznetsov tried towhich officials were worth supporting in an attcrr.pt tothe leadership, and since then has made some progress in helping to develop an opposition to Dubcek.

The Leadership

The strength of theleadership is ingSvoboda, Cer.iik. and Smrkovsky. These ir.en, with dissimilar backgrounds, and political convictions, arc pledged to stand or fall The rest of the party presidium is not nearly as united.

Party first secretary Dubcek, who headed the Slovak3 until he replaced Novotny last January, hastubborn rather thantrong leader. Afteropposition to Novotnythe final monthswas an llth-hour compromise candidate to replace him. Nohad ever before been at the head of the Czechoslovak state.

Dubcek and the progressives who supported him initiated the

Actioniberal reform that became 'their political rai-son d'etre. Dubcek is thought to be more moderate than hisallies, but he was astute enough to ride the chaotic tide of reform which by May had takenomentum of its own. his strength isfrom popular support' for the reforms as well as from the

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basic unity among the four top leaders, Moscow, however,Dubcek untrustworthy, largely because he airs to live up to his reputation as ahero, and because he has repeatedly tried to fend off Moscow's demands.

President Ludvik Svoboda had had little experience in politics when he was elected lastinimum of popularan interim, rubber-stamp president. Nevertheless,taunch Czechoslovak patriot he provided the backbone for the leadership in its later confronta tions with the Soviet leaders. He reportedly tempered Soviet demands at Cierna and extracted concessions from the Soviets scow. year-old war hero who coreaanded the Czechoslovak forces in the Soviet Union in World War II, Svoboda has long been admred by the Russians and holds the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union.*

Premier Cornik has little formal education but an extensive background in industrialent and party work. ompetent administrator and an activeof liberalization, he went to Moscow several times to try to smooth relations with the USSR. In recent weeks, however, Cernik has apparently concluded thatwith Moscow is the only practical course. He is said to believe that he night ultimately replace Dubcek. Cernik eight be tempted to regain if the others of the Big Four should resign in protest.

The fourth member of the group, National AssemblySorkovsky, represents the anti-Soviet liberals. Sorkovsky is an adamant reformer, and has been critical of the Soviet Union since he was elected president of parliament in April. Perhaps even more than Dubcek,he is to Moscow, and the Soviets presumably have tried to get rid of hia. If the unity at the top dissolves, Smrkovsky will be one of the first to be removed.

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Another leader who has.emerged in the wake of the invasion is Gustav Husak, an aggressive,individual who heads the Slovak party. Husak spent most ofn jail on charges of "bourgeoisnd after his release was politically inactive until'this year. When Dubcek took over, however, Husak was one of the first to raise his voice in support of liberalorms. In the present situation, Husak hasentrist and

has been lauded in the Soviet press for his realistic attitudes. This publicity led to thethat Husak might, with Soviet help, replace Dubcek as party first secretary. Husak has not denied this, but has said that the Russians have nothange of leaders.

The most prominentleader to emerge after the invasion is Lubomirragmatic party man without scruples. He was given four top party postsentralmeeting in November.

Strougalriend ofparty boss Novotny, but helace in the Dubcekby turning against Novotny at the last moment. Anexponent of reform, he wasby the Soviets during the roundup of Czechoslovak leaders onugust. Although hetermed the invasion illegal, he has subsequently said that it was necessitated by seriouson the part of the Dubcek

leadership. Ho has been as an energetic and able worker, butramaticfigure, which would make him useful as Moscow's nan inside the Czechoslovak leadership.

If the USSR maintains heavy pressure on the CzechoslovakStrougal may beoodto challenge Dubcek for the post of party firet secretary,at the party congress next year. In the meantime, hewill continue to have Soviet

support and beosition to bring other Czechoslovakinto positions of power and influence,

Elements of Dissension

Differences amongleaders have varied fromto issue, but center on the question of how to deal with the Soviets. Despite hismajority in the major party bodies, Dubcek has come under fire from his own supporters. Thecharge he is going too far in making concessions to Moscow. Moderates have joined the liberals who have attacked him for bowing to Soviet desires and allowing conservatives tolace in the political spectrux.

There is also increasing concern among Dubcek'sover the fate of the reform program. Conservatives areto force Dubcek to carry out all of Moscow's demands inand in spirit, even if it means the abandonment of reforms. The liberals, on the other hand, are seeking to keep intact as many reforms as possible, even though they differ on how far to go in order to satisfy the Soviets. Some ultraliberals, such as 2dcnek Mlynar, areby concessions to the In November, Mlynarfrom the party secretariat and presidium rather than be identifledcompromised" leadership.

Czechoslovak leaders have disagreed on the statua-ol-forces agreement. The presidium, for example, applauded the conduct of the Dubcek-Cernik-Husakthat went to Moscow in early October to negotiate the pact, but it never formallythe substance of theent they brought back. while Dubcekor cm agreement, Svoboda and Mlynar vere vehemently opposed to it*

There is also considerable disagreement among Czech and Slovak leaders on the issue of federalization* Hany Czechoppose the plan because it gives the Slovaks greater rights at the expense offormerly reserved to Czechs in Bohemia and Moravia. Some Slovak leaders, on the other hand, have complained that the law will not give them thethey are seeking but will instead allow the aore nunerous Czechs to continue to dominate the country on the basis of rule* in the federal

Some of the leading liberals and ultraliberals who backed's reform program now fear persecution by the Soviets and have left the country- ForJin Pclikan, the former chief of Czechoslovak television; Eduard Goldstucker, the former Writers* Union chairman, and Jan Grodsky, the president of the anti-Soviet political group called

" all fled after trie Otaiberalwho was the architect of Czechoslovakia's economic reform program, has decided to remain in the West. Thousands of less important but highly trained people, of liberal inclination, arc biding their time in the West, undecided on whether to return.

At home, popularis growing with Dubcek's seeming willingness to go along with Moscow. The intermittent, nationwide anti-Sovietsince late October have in part been protests against's cooperation with Moscow.

Emergence of Conservatives

In October, in response to Soviet pressures, thewere permitted to meet openly, and their sympathizers turned up at pro-Soviet rallies. Small groups such as theComrades'* and the "Kle-ment Gottwald Party" appear to have sprung up overnight. They totalew thousand bold hard liners, but their nur&ers could grow. Tho hard liners aro rallying aroundin power such as Hi lax. Indra, and Strougal, as well as behind some hard linersomeback, such as formerpresidium member Antonin Kapek. There is also said toroup of national assembly deputies, led by former foreign minister Vaclav David, that is trying to present itselfucleusuture government.

Nurtured by the Soviets, the conservatives have circulated their views in publications printed in other Soviet bloc countries, especially East In addition, Radio. Vltava, the unofficial voice of theoccupation forces, grinds out propaganda attacking theand boosting pro-Soviet personalities. Party leaders aro concerned because several important district partyhave announced theirof pro-Soviet conservatives, or at least have failed tothem.

The November Plenum

The resultstormy party central conmittee plenum held betweenndovember indicate that Moscow's patience and its "salami" tactics areoff. The party leadership is no longer ovorwholminglybut instead has takenentrist coloration. Thereew leadership body controlled by individuals who are willing to go far toward meeting Soviet demands. This new body--thecommittee of the consists of eight members, six of whoa seem to be middle-of-the-road "realists" while the other two, Smrkovsky and Strougal, probably serve as spokesmen for liberal and conservative factions, respectively. The executiveholds effective power, but its decisions are subject to ratification by the man party presidium, which isin composition and'domi-nated by liberals and moderates.

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conservatives madegains at the plenum. 3ilok and Strougal were elevated to the party secretariat, and the latter was made chiefewly created party bureau charged with the organizationzech Communist Party tothe existing Slovak Communist Party. Before the plenum, the liberals had hoped to make the new Czech party organizationower base, but the central committeeureauthat appears to beby conservatives and

The increase in the number of party secretaries from three to eight brings conservatives, particularly Strougal and Bilak, into positions where they canthe implementation of policy.

The central committee isin composition, andit includesf the shortrlived central committee elected secretlythe invasion, it is dominated by liberals and moderates who arc loyal to Dubcek'. There are aboutiberals and 40 .Most of theembers are moderates.

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Dubcek and the liberals are susceptibleradual erosionthe popular mandate that is the source of their power. admitted that the assumptions underlying thisas guarantees of freedom of speech assembly and the they have beento quibbling aboutand now will find it difficult to save thesuch as guarantees of individual liberties--they considerfor survival.

The USSR's special emissary, Kuznotsov, will probably continue to monitor Czechoslovak affairs for some time, as the Russians attempt to nudge, badger, and cajole the Czechoslovakinto line. The Soviets are in no hurry to force changes and have adopted an attitude ofin the face of thehostility. They will be pleased to allow the EastPoles, and Bulgarians to bear the onus of placing harsher new pressures on Prague. apparently estimates that such tactics will ultimately lead to the disillusionment of the supporters of the present leadershipeturn to the political apathy thatthe Novotny era.

As long as the Soviets do not press too hard, however,still has many cards to play. In early October hehis intention to stay on as party first secretary, that there would be no one to defend the nation should he depart. Immediately after the invasion, he characterized

concessions wrung from him by the Soviets as temporary, and although, he no longer speaks in that vein, there is no reason to suppose that ho has changed his attitude. Dubcek probably hopes that he can continue to take half steps that will satisfy Moscow and retain sympathy at home. Many ordinary citizens and even party members arc already critical of this policy, however, and the present leadership will face widespread discontent if it implements the promises it has made to the Soviets.

In private, Dubcek admits that he is being boxed in, and therereat doal of in his thinking about his personal future. Even though he is on record as saying he intends to stay on, he hastold intimates at one time that he feels his job is done, and, at another time,that he did not expect to stay in office more than two or three months. Barring abecomes less likely with each passingmay stay on, however, at least until next year's party congress.

In the meantime, hisand those of the otherwill be sapped by theneed to fend off Soviet thrusts and to control theof the party'swing. Unlike theand the moderates willing to go along with Moscow, Dubcek will have no significant foreign support. Economic and other important reforms will probably remain stillborn, adding toproblems and fueling popular dissatisfaction.

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