Fifty Years after the Prague Spring

March 22 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first flowering of the Prague Spring, when Marxism in Czechoslovakia tried to end the abuses of power and to grant to the people a measure of the sort of freedom so solemnly promised in the charters of every communist regime in the world.  The Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia demonstrated to anyone who could be convinced by facts that leftism seeks only power and nothing else.

The Prague Spring did not begin with a repudiation of Marxism.  Indeed, the slogan used by the Czechs involved in the Prague Spring was that they wanted to create "Socialism with a Human Face."  These reformers were careful not to criticize communism or the Soviet Union and not to pull out of the Warsaw Pact.  Dubcek, the first secretary of the Communist Party, having ousted the prior first secretary, was actually using the Communist Party as an agent of reform.

This allowed Svoboda in late March of 1968 to become president of Czechoslovakia, which meant both the party and the government were now behind the reforms.  What sort of reforms were sought?  Reducing the power of the secret police, allowing freedom of speech and of the press, making the economy more focused on the needs of consumers rather than mass industrialization, and friendly relations with all nations.

When Svoboda became the head of state in Czechoslovakia after Dubcek was made first secretary of the Communist Party, the reformers were in control, and the reforms they sought proceeded.  Unlike the Hungarian Revolution a dozen years earlier, which was a war against the communist rulers of that unhappy nation, the Prague Spring was entirely peaceful and offered no threat to anything that ought to have mattered to the Soviets, if the Soviets actually cared about what Marxism preached.

Moreover, Czechoslovakia was the one nation in Eastern Europe that had a long history of friendly relations with the Soviet Union, dating back before Hitler's rise to power, and this attitude more or less compelled the Soviets to treat Czechoslovakia differently when the war ended, allowing other political parties, for a few years, anyway, to exist and to participate in the life of the nation. 

While Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria had declared war on the Soviet Union and while Poland constituted a real dilemma for the Soviets because of its traditional hostility to Russia and its size and population, Czechoslovakia, both as an independent state and as a vassal territory of the Third Reich, had behaved about as sympathetically to the Soviet Union as any nation in Europe.  Dubcek himself fought against Nazism as part of the Underground in Czechoslovakia. 

When the Soviets and the whipped dog nations of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia, Dubcek asked the people to offer no violent resistance, and that request was honored by the Czechs, presenting Brezhnev and the Politburo with a problem.  Dubcek was briefly taken into custody and eventually drummed out of the Communist Party, but the Soviets had him made ambassador to Turkey.  When the Soviet Empire was dismantled beginning in 1989 with the overwhelming non-Communist victory in the first free elections Poland had since the end of the war, Dubcek was not forgotten by the Czechoslovakian people, who made him chairman of the Federal Assembly in the post-communist era.

The Prague Spring was a noble experiment to test the true tolerance of leftism and the true goal of leftism.  Dubcek and his fellow Czechs simply wanted genuine liberty of mind and conscience, restraint of the brutal power of statism, and real democracy.  They failed in a way that the Solidarity Movement in Poland did not fail because Dubcek and his allies in Czechoslovakia assumed that by offering no threat to communism, they could actually humanize leftism.

But the reality is that leftism, wherever it exists, ultimately does not stand for anything at all.  It has no values, respects no principles, embraces no moral code, and represents nothing true.  When the Cold War was won, it was won by brave, noble, and hard-headed people who grasped that fact: President Reagan, Prime Minister Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. 

The Prague Spring was a glorious gesture doomed to fail.  There is no compromise with the gangsters who infest every aspect of leftism.  Good men like Dubcek should be respected for what they tried to do but not for how they tried to do it.  The only way to stop evil is to defeat it and never to compromise with it.

March 22 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first flowering of the Prague Spring, when Marxism in Czechoslovakia tried to end the abuses of power and to grant to the people a measure of the sort of freedom so solemnly promised in the charters of every communist regime in the world.  The Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia demonstrated to anyone who could be convinced by facts that leftism seeks only power and nothing else.

The Prague Spring did not begin with a repudiation of Marxism.  Indeed, the slogan used by the Czechs involved in the Prague Spring was that they wanted to create "Socialism with a Human Face."  These reformers were careful not to criticize communism or the Soviet Union and not to pull out of the Warsaw Pact.  Dubcek, the first secretary of the Communist Party, having ousted the prior first secretary, was actually using the Communist Party as an agent of reform.

This allowed Svoboda in late March of 1968 to become president of Czechoslovakia, which meant both the party and the government were now behind the reforms.  What sort of reforms were sought?  Reducing the power of the secret police, allowing freedom of speech and of the press, making the economy more focused on the needs of consumers rather than mass industrialization, and friendly relations with all nations.

When Svoboda became the head of state in Czechoslovakia after Dubcek was made first secretary of the Communist Party, the reformers were in control, and the reforms they sought proceeded.  Unlike the Hungarian Revolution a dozen years earlier, which was a war against the communist rulers of that unhappy nation, the Prague Spring was entirely peaceful and offered no threat to anything that ought to have mattered to the Soviets, if the Soviets actually cared about what Marxism preached.

Moreover, Czechoslovakia was the one nation in Eastern Europe that had a long history of friendly relations with the Soviet Union, dating back before Hitler's rise to power, and this attitude more or less compelled the Soviets to treat Czechoslovakia differently when the war ended, allowing other political parties, for a few years, anyway, to exist and to participate in the life of the nation. 

While Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria had declared war on the Soviet Union and while Poland constituted a real dilemma for the Soviets because of its traditional hostility to Russia and its size and population, Czechoslovakia, both as an independent state and as a vassal territory of the Third Reich, had behaved about as sympathetically to the Soviet Union as any nation in Europe.  Dubcek himself fought against Nazism as part of the Underground in Czechoslovakia. 

When the Soviets and the whipped dog nations of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia, Dubcek asked the people to offer no violent resistance, and that request was honored by the Czechs, presenting Brezhnev and the Politburo with a problem.  Dubcek was briefly taken into custody and eventually drummed out of the Communist Party, but the Soviets had him made ambassador to Turkey.  When the Soviet Empire was dismantled beginning in 1989 with the overwhelming non-Communist victory in the first free elections Poland had since the end of the war, Dubcek was not forgotten by the Czechoslovakian people, who made him chairman of the Federal Assembly in the post-communist era.

The Prague Spring was a noble experiment to test the true tolerance of leftism and the true goal of leftism.  Dubcek and his fellow Czechs simply wanted genuine liberty of mind and conscience, restraint of the brutal power of statism, and real democracy.  They failed in a way that the Solidarity Movement in Poland did not fail because Dubcek and his allies in Czechoslovakia assumed that by offering no threat to communism, they could actually humanize leftism.

But the reality is that leftism, wherever it exists, ultimately does not stand for anything at all.  It has no values, respects no principles, embraces no moral code, and represents nothing true.  When the Cold War was won, it was won by brave, noble, and hard-headed people who grasped that fact: President Reagan, Prime Minister Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. 

The Prague Spring was a glorious gesture doomed to fail.  There is no compromise with the gangsters who infest every aspect of leftism.  Good men like Dubcek should be respected for what they tried to do but not for how they tried to do it.  The only way to stop evil is to defeat it and never to compromise with it.