CZECHOSLOVAKIA IN TRANSITION
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence8
Czechoslovakia in Transition
Alexander Dubcek's beliefs that domesticmust cease and that the time has come forto take its place in the family of nations have ledloodless but nevertheless very real revolution in Czechoslovakia. The unbending andleadership of Antonin Novotny has been supplantedew administration dedicated tobased ondeas. These includeof the rights of the individual, the rule oforeign policy serving the genuine interests of the country, and broad eoonomic reforms. The party has promised to institutionalize such changeseasured pace.
Dubcek still ia faced with significantopposition as distinct conservative andfactions have now emerged in the party. no reason to believe that he will, orrenege on his promises for changes,probably will find it difficult in somemove ahead as directly and rapidly as he
Notc'this memorandum was produced solely by CIA. Itwas prepared by tho Office of Currentand coordinated with the Office of Economic Research, the Office of Strategic Research, theof National Estimates, and the Clandestine Services.
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The leaders of the Soviet Union appear to have conceded, though grudgingly, the Czechoslovak party's right to reform itself and toommunist "democratization." Brezhnev and Kosygin and the leaders of the Eastern European states nevertheless obviously fear the spread of such concepts to their own countries. The only limits placed on the new Czechoslovak regime by Moscow, however, arethat the Communist Party retain primacy, and that Czechoslovakia honor its commitments to the USSR, the other Communist states, and the international Communist movement. Dubcek has agreed, but thein which he and the Russians interpret these limits is certain toonstant source of
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Aftor four years as tha permissive ruler of Slovakia, Dubcek probably was not surprised by the rapidity with which his views gained acceptance in tha party and among the politically active aeg-monta of the population. Ho used thia groundawell of aupport first to sweep Novotny out of the party's top post and later from hia position as prosidont. Without previous preparation, and within months, Dubcek seems to have gainodcontrol of the leadership of tho party and government. Novotny and his closest adherents, shorn of their authoriity, are no longer In ato interfere with policymaking, but still, through their lower level supportors, can probably cauao dolaya and intorfere with the implementation of new policies.
Dubcek's position is thus not yet secure. He has strengthened his hold byjajority of reformers in the reconstituted party presidiumalanced new party secretariat to execute policy. He has pensioned off the most flagrant Stalinists, retired with honor older conservatives who helped bring him to power, and given the younger ofhance to change or bo swopt out. Dubcek announced onpril that in tho parceling out of responsibilities in the new party leadership he would retain supervision of party organizational and personnel matters aa well as security and defense, lie is thusosition to modorate tha quarrels of unsatisfied progrossivas and scandalized conservatives in tho loodership, without worrying that they could suddenly turn him out.
new Czechoslovak cabinet isof technocrats, rather than ideologues. reflects tho political state ofCzechoslovakia, and ia composed offrom former conservatives tonow premier, Oldrich Cernik, fought hard for
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Novotny's ouster, but his appointment has come unoer attack because he wasconomic planner and shares the blame for the sorry state of Czechoslovakia's economy. The performances of men such as Cernik will be carefully monitorodeinvigorated National Assembly, led by theliberal, Josef Snurkovsky, whose contested electionlear measure of the residual strength of the conservatives. Smrkovsky recoivad the voteseputies, withpposing, andbstaining or absenting themselves.
4- Dubcek's party and government appointments are designed to appeal to the broadest possible range of the party membership and of the population, and for the first time on any significant scale inears are also intended to strengthen reprosenta-
? parjicul" interest groups such as farmers, intellectuals, and the national minorities. On the unole, the new leadership is younger than itsbetter educated, and steeled in the art ofthose jailed during the Stalinist era, who in particular are determined tnat such days of terror will not return.
5. Dubcek and the reformers have made many promises, some of which have already been effected, -ne rirst of these, toutureof power in one man's hands such as Novotny had, has been achieved through the series of new appointments to key government and party positions.
?Cernika seat both in the cabinet and the party presidium, presumablyiaison capacity. The posts formerly held byparty first secretary, presidium member, president, and chief of the National Front (formerly the party transmission belt" to theheld individually by new appointees.
The Party's New Program
6. Despite inadequate time foritter behind-the-scenes struggle waged by the conservatives, Dubcek has followed through on another promise byarty
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"action program" that frankly acknowledges many past wrongs and is tha guideline for end of the most liberal reforms ovar considered by agovernment. In the word* of one of theforemost exponents, it is an attempt to "synthesize" democracy and Communism. Compromises in the original draft apparently were necessary to gain conservative approval of the document. They primarily consistlowdown in the rate of introducing economic reforms, and some changes in the tone of the document to give more stress to the primacy of the Communist Party and to Czechoslovakia's obligations to its Communist allies. Such generalities, however, arcin the program's promises to share at least some power with non-Communists and to insist that national interest take its place as an equal of Communist "solidarity"riterion of foreign policy decisions*
action program is an unabashedtoeconciliation between theCommunists and the alienated population. for institutional changesbe acted upon favorably by theand by government ministries becauseParty still is in control and inthe party's desires coincide with those of The program provides for guaranteesrights, including freedom of speech,association, religion, travel and "Certain specialists" are exemptedallowing emigration* The programan independent court system free ofand promises electoral reforms. machinery both in the party andto rectify the injustices doneictims of past politicalnot only wiping their slates cleancompensation to those still alive.
civil police will bo broughtof the local governments, andhave exclusive jurisdiction overmatters. The secret police will concentrate
eign countries. The secret police are expressly prohibited from interfering in politics.
of the most significant reformsby the action programallewocumentresultederal system ofwill give to Slovakia its long-sought Since the program's publication,in Moravia have demanded that thisthe country also be given autonomousthe end, the proposed Czech-Slovakin factederal republicBohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia, withpowers limited to foreign policy,controls, security, and national defense.
Even before the action program was adoptedi the Dubcek regime made several sharp breaks with the past. Dissident intellectuals who were punished by Hovotny last summer were fully exonerated. Those expelled from the partytheir memberships and no longer are excluded from work in their fields* An informal agreement lifting censorship was arrived at betwoon the party and news media editors. Until the National Assembly can act, the unpopular "press law" is still on the books, and the action program calls for retentionualified ex post facto similar to the "gentlemen's agreement'* now in force.
Dubcek and the reformers, probablythey approved, have not interfered in recent months as various national or special interest groups purged themselves of leaders tainted by their past associations with Novotny or earlier regimes. University students bolted the official youth organization, setting up one of their own. Trado unions, professional organizations, farmers groups, and government bodies even includingunits openly and successfully pressedleaders to resign. New groupsa wide variety of interests sprang up like
mushrooms. Their continued existence seems assured by the action program.
12. Perhaps the best summary of what has happened since Dubcek took over was given in early Aprilorrified conservative party central committee member:
Honest functionaries are going through personal tragedies* factory managers are being dismissed, demands are being voiced to return toonditions, claims are being heard that enterprises with up tomployees should be returned to private ownership, numerous policemen are joining the (Catholic) People's Party, editors of
youth newspapers are becoming members of the Socialist Party and, to me the most shocking ofest German bourgeois journalist was permitted toommunist Party conference*
A bloodthirsty vendetta has boonand skullhunters are shooting down functionaries, the youth union haseditorial boards of newspapers are emancipating themselves, judges are hanging themselves, the countryside is being swept by the slogan "national committees withoutnd there are new problemswith the elections.
Perhaps there is not yet any reason fox panic and pessimism. Perhaps, as another speaker hasold shiver need not yet go down our spines. evertheless see the situation as serious indeed*
The "bloodthirsty vendetta" and the "shooting down" of functionaries are figures of speech so far as is known. There is no evidence that anyone has been hurt or arrested although there have been spectacular suicides. There are some indications, however, that those who perpetrated the bloody purges ofill be brought to trial.
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The Second Stago of Involution
The Dubcek regime is not out of tha woods yet. Conservatives in the party central committee and in regional and local organizations aretrong rear-guard action,to retain as much as possible of the status quo* They also are still in power in government ministries and in many cases in the local national councils. egree, these functionaries can and probably will attempt to sabotageof reform measures. ard-corestillhird of the National Assembly's votes*
14* Much to the disappointment of, the conservative forces were able to delete from the party actionallarty congress before its scheduled date Only the congress is empowered to make changes in the composition of the central committee* The progressives fear that holdovers from the Hovotny regime will use the time between now and the congress to pull down the Dubcekor at least to create such chaos that reform would have to be abandoned. The issue of the congross hasublic controversy and Dubcek has been severely criticized for refusing to take an unequivocal stand on it*
15. Such remarks as Dubcek has made,indicate that he favors convocationongress sometime next spring, after he hashance to evaluate the activities of centralmembers against the background of their performanceis the action program* Dubcek has said that he will notarty to wholesale purges of the Communist Party membership, and he squelched proposals raisedpril central committee meeting for reconvening local party conferences for the purpose of rooting out conservatives.
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Dubcek and the reformers probably would have far fewer conservatives to contend with at lower levels of the party if in January they had not foolishly bowed to conservative demands to keep the background of Novotny'secret* Local party election meetings were held inunder conditions of unprecedented confusion, and the party rank-and-file voted on the basis of an interpretation of events in Prague given to them by their old leaders. esult,were frequently re-elected.
Dubcek realized his mistake too late, and the delegates to regional party conferences which began onpril were elected from among the recently returned conservatives. In most cases, reformers can be expected to press for the ouster of old regional leaders, and there are signs that regional press campaigns, similar to the massive effort which culminated in Novotny's resignation from the presidency, aro under way. Should these efforts fail,ask ina party congress will be all the harder, for the regional party organizations can greatly influence the selection of congress delegates. Furthermore, retentionegional leadership by conservatives probably would mean groatfor the action program in that particular region.
Dubcek's prospects of gaining control of the government apparatus are somewhat better. Local elections throughout the country have boon postponed from May to next fall at the earliest so that the National rront, with its newly revitalized minor political parties and public bodies such as trade unions, can prepare new lists of candidates to replace tho ones which apparently had already been drawn up under the Novotny regime. Thenew electoral law probably will provido thatandidate whoajority of the votes cast will be elected,outineunpracticed up to now in Communist
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to the National Assemblyfor November. If through thesecan put in reformist majorities onnational levels, he may be able selectively
to circumvent recalcitrant party organizations and deal with the government directly. Dubcekwould considerourseast resort, and temporary at best, but there is no reason to doubt that he would do it, especially if he was faced with failure of his program and loss of power.
is relying for success on thesupport of the free press, and ofgroups such as students,and members of national minorities,as the population in general* He has shown
a keen awareness of the problems facing the ordinary man and has promised to give first priority to the greatest of these, housing. The Czechoslovakis propared to invitefirms into the country to alleviate the drastic housing shortage as rapidly as possible, according to the new minister of construction*.
21* Conservatives have been spreading rumors that forthright implementation of the economicwill leadharp drop in the average man's standard of living. Dubcek and other leaders have been stressing that they will not allow this to happen. Even so, many workers will suffer temporary unemployment and face the prospect of relocation. These effects of the reform will be unpopular and will have to be phased carefully or Dubcek will lose what worker support he has. In his maiden speech as chairman of the National Assembly, Josef Smrkoysky stressed protection of the worker, urging adoption of legal guarantees of minimum wages and of pensions. In the past, the regime manipulated wages and pensions to exact political compliance orunishment to recalcitrants.
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Russian Reactions and East European Pears
Russians- who largely depended on Novotny and his coterie for information, underestimated the potential strength of the wave of demands for liberalization unleashed by Dubcok during the leadership crisis from7 to After Novotny's ouster, when they began to understand it more clearly, theyest it take an anti Russian or an anti-Communist turn. Dubcek hasthem on these points many times, in private and in public, and the Soviet leaders appear to have accepted them.
The Russians are nevertheless uneasy over the prospect that Dubcek may not be able to control the course of democratization in Czechoslovakia, They and the other Eastern Europeans, especially the Poles and the East Germans, are also worried that Czechoslovak ideas on democratization will spread to and arouse their populations. arch in Dresden of Russian andEuropean leaders (minus Rumania) was called primarily to discuss Czechoslovakia in these terms, as well as the impact of recent events in Eastern Europe on CEMA and the Warsaw Pact*
e uresden meeting but nevertheless gained grudging acceptance for his program and ideas, Polish leader Gomulka, who had just suppressed anti regime student riots fed by developments inwas reported to have charged that the Czechoslovak party had lost control and was facing an almost counterrevolutionary situation led by intellectuals and rightists. He fearfully added that iffalse liberalization* succeeded, it would have grave repercussions in Poland.adar seconded Gomulka'b remarks and said that6 revolution in Hungary "began in the same way,11 Brezhnev was also critical, but wrapped up the meeting by accepting Dubcek's He warned, however, that the Soviets would continue to watch and criticize if thewarranted.
ainoe the Dresdenthat the Russians and the Easterndissatisfied with the results of theremained concerned about East German spokesmen sharply attacked
the Czechoslovaks for playing into the hands of the "imperialist" West and heaped bitteron the extreme liberal Josef Smrkovsky, who waseading presidential candidate. The East Goman8 and the Poles have virtually sealed their Czechoslovak borders. Hungary hasumber of public warnings, referring to its own blood batho remind the Czechoslovaks to be careful. The recent plenum of the Soviet party central committee apparently adopted measures designed to ensure that the Prague plague did not spread to the USSR. Soviet newspaper articles haveumber of implicit warnings to the Czechoslovaks not to allow the Communist Part" to lose control, and implicit threats of economic pressures based on Czechoslovakia's economic dependence on the USSR.
seems clear that in tho newin Prague, Soviet influence on theof the Czechoslovak Party and Government has
EltlllllAliniMSVrs February the Russian officials were reducedfor information from their Czechoslovak
willariety of changes in so long as Communists continue tothe new regime honors its alliances withand tho Eastern European states and itsto the international Communistrepeatedly has said he intends tolimits but his regime's interpretationlimitations differs markedly from thatRussians and others. Onpril Rudemain party daily, underscored this by defend-
ing Czechoslovakia's "socialistnd by stating "no one can prescribe for any party what is and what is not its international duty."
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has said that he intends tothe questions of the leadership structureWarsaw Pact and the concepts underlyingexistence. Economists inbeginning to urge publicly that defensebe cut and the money saved used for The new minister of foreign tradethe economic usefulness of CEMA andthat Prague wants to loosen itsthis closed system and to reorient itsa worldwide basis. The new government isthe problems involved inonvertible currency.
Where the Czechoslovaks Go From Here
Russians and the other unhappyleaders apparently believe thathold Czechoslovakia back from what theyan anti-Communist abyss. At first glance,appear to be so. There have been nochanges in Czechoslovakia yetnew leadership includes many who used toas conservatives. The population isis skeptical, and is still waiting forimplementing the promises. The actioncould be no more than empty promises.
29* Such an analysis, however, ignores the style characteristic of the Dubcek regime, with its emphasis on due process and on participation of people of all shades of opinion in making decisions. The new appointments to key positions in both party and government reflect this, with conservatives such as Kolder retained and ultra-liberals such as Husak, who has calledultiparty system, being added. The action program calls for extensive institutional changes and there are no signs that the regime will renege. Pressures from Czechoslovakia's Communist neighbors have had their effect, but not on Czechoslovakia's basic course, only on the pace with which it will be pursued.
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30. There is no way for tho Dubcek regime to retract its promisos without reverting to apolice state system. The regime may drag its feet, refusing to accede to pressuresultiparty system orestoration of full freedom for the churches, but it has promised too much over to pull back completely without facing the prospect of revolution. There is no way for the Russians and the other Communist states to force political changes without resorting to economic boycotts or armed intervention. econcciy is so intricately interwoven with those of the USSR and other Eastern European states thatnexorable progress toward Communist "democratization" will, initially at least, be gradual and cautious *
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