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Document No. 108: Speech by Ladislav Adamec at CC CPCz Extraordinary Session, November 24, 1989

Traduction de Todd Hammond

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1The “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia is in full swing when the CPCz’s Central Committee meets in special session to debate whether or not to repress the mass demonstrations with force. A week earlier, the forcible suppression of a student march sparked a general strike and continuing protests that filled Wenceslaus Square in the center of Prague; and dissidents from the 12-year-old Charter 77 movement already are in the process of establishing the Civic Forum as the organized opposition to the regime. This transcript of the speech by Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec to the Party’s “extraordinary session” provides perhaps the clearest expression in any Soviet bloc document of the complicated mix of reasons why most of the political elites running the regimes imposed by Stalin’s force ultimately would not use violence in 1989 to save their own power. Such a solution would only temporarily “return calm,” it would radicalize the youth, “the international support of the socialist countries [could] no longer be counted on,” and “the capitalist states” might react with a “political and economic boycott.” The view is that political methods are the only option, and the current communist leaders are hoping to utilize them to mobilize the party. But within the month, the dissident playwright Václav Havel would be on his way to the Castle at Hradčany as the next president of Czechoslovakia.

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3Making decisions is not simple. Events are developing rapidly and are not the same everywhere. I therefore regard it as my duty to express my opinion of the situation and its resolution. I am aware that we do not have much choice. The pressure of circumstances is rising day by day and possibly hour by hour. We have to deal with it. I am considering the alternatives along with everybody else. There are basically two ways to go—both have their advantages and drawbacks, merits and risks. None of them are guaranteed to fully succeed. With these thoughts, following up what Comrade Jakeš has said, I would like to contribute to finding the optimal political variant internationally and domestically. To explain the first alternative, let us assume that mass demonstrations and spreading strike movements constitute a direct attack on the socialist establishment, and that therefore there is no other way but to immediately halt all protest actions. On the basis of this evaluation, we may decide that a general strike must be prevented even at the cost of extensive use of extraordinary means, including force. This operation could be complemented by a large number of protest letters from party collectives in industrial and agricultural factories, and other workplaces. One cannot passively watch the law being violated. To allow anarchy would be the direct opposite of democracy, whereas taking extraordinary measures could, if only temporarily, return calm to the streets. But experience with administrative measures has shown a significant risk. After a certain period the situation could explode again, bringing on another crisis with still more unpredictable results.

4For all these reasons, I would clearly prefer the second alternative: a political solution. We must count on making certain acceptable concessions. I believe that we have not nearly exhausted these possibilities. I also rely on the fact that most of our people, including young people, have no reason to be against socialism. They are unsatisfied with many things, even stirred up by all kinds of disinformation, but are able and willing to repay trust with trust. To drive the young generation into the arms of the enemies of socialism would be an unforgivable mistake. This must be prevented under any circumstances.

5I also advocate political methods because the recent intervention by the forces of order has led to the radicalization of the youth, allowed various groups to unite behind its condemnation, and has not contributed to the authority of either the party or the state. Next time we must avoid things like this. It would also be a mistake to underestimate the international risks of a broad application of force. We must not labor under the illusion that various democratization, environmental, and other movements end at our borders. Also, signed international treaties dealing with human rights cannot be taken lightly. When selecting methods for managing internal political problems, the international support of the socialist countries can no longer be counted on. From the capitalist states, one must take into account the results of a political and economic boycott. This warning should not be understood as a call for concessions at any price, without regard to the loss of socialist values.

6To look truth in the eye means to realize that the loss of political trust as a result of mistakes in leadership must be paid for. There have been many in the last twenty years, and not small ones. I am convinced, however, that we need not pay too high a price if we can manage to mobilize the party. No one else has such a numerous membership, such an experienced cadre of functionaries, and close connections with each collective. […] Today it has come down to the very status of the party in society. If our meeting helps to energize all its members, it will fulfill its historic mission. If not, we shall pay dearly, and only very slowly repair the damage. I consider it especially important and sensitive to take a position on the basic demands, especially those that are most often voiced. They are extremely varied, correct and incorrect, feasible either now or only later. This must be clear. Those that we are unable to answer immediately, at least let us say when we will address them. Under no circumstances should there arise the impression that we are avoiding something, using delaying tactics, and somehow maneuvering.

7Let us choose our course so as not to give impetus to further waves of still-more-radical demands. I consider it crucial to announce the convening of another meeting of the Central Committee within a fortnight to evaluate political questions, especially the program of accelerated restructuring and expanded dialogue. We would gain time, mobilize the party, and improve its level of information on the preferred strategy. The party needs a short-term action program, a plan for the unification of the greatest possible number of communists toward a concrete goal in the coming weeks. It would then even be possible to organize a broad public discussion centered on the positions and proposals of the CC CPCz. We could also, for example, quickly submit proposals on the constitution for public discussion and publicize proposed laws on association and assembly for citizen comment. This would provide a certain framework and solid content to an exchange of views that thus far has been less than constructive. We could take the wind out of the sails of the daily proclamations, various calls and petitions. I am convinced that only an active approach can give our side the initiative, and with that we shall also turn the majority of our citizens in favor of party policy. This is the best reply to the demands of party organizations for more assistance from the CPCz Central Committee. […]

8[Source: Stenographic minutes of the Extraordinary Session of the CC CPCz, November 24, 1989, pp. 21-3, State Central Archive, Prague, CC CPCz record group, W-0154/89. Translated from the Czech by Todd Hammond]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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