History Podcasts

Prague Spring

Prague Spring

In the early 1960s Czechoslovakia suffered an economic recession. Antonin Novotny, the president of the country, was forced to make liberal concessions and in 1965 he introduced a programme of decentralization. The main feature of the new system was that individual companies would have more freedom to decide on prices and wages.

These reforms were slow to make an impact on the Czech economy and in September 1967, Alexander Dubcek, secretary of the Slovak Communist Party, presented a long list of grievances against the government. The following month there were large demonstrations against Novotny.

In January 1968 the Czechoslovak Party Central Committee passed a vote of no confidence in Antonin Novotny and he was replaced by Alexander Dubcek as party secretary. Soon afterwards Dubcek made a speech where he stated: "We shall have to remove everything that strangles artistic and scientific creativeness."

During what became known as the Prague Spring, Dubcek announced a series of reforms. This included the abolition of censorship and the right of citizens to criticize the government. Newspapers began publishing revelations about corruption in high places. This included stories about Novotny and his son. On 22nd March 1968, Novotny resigned as president of Czechoslovakia. He was now replaced by a Dubcek supporter, Ludvik Svoboda.

In April 1968 the Communist Party Central Committee published a detailed attack on Novotny's government. This included its poor record concerning housing, living standards and transport. It also announced a complete change in the role of the party member. It criticized the traditional view of members being forced to provide unconditional obedience to party policy. Instead it declared that each member "has not only the right, but the duty to act according to his conscience."

The new reform programme included the creation of works councils in industry, increased rights for trade unions to bargain on behalf of its members and the right of farmers to form independent co-operatives.

Aware of what happened during the Hungarian Uprising Dubcek announced that Czechoslovakia had no intention of changing its foreign policy. On several occasions he made speeches where he stated that Czechoslovakia would not leave the Warsaw Pact or end its alliance with the Soviet Union.

In July 1968 the Soviet leadership announced that it had evidence that the Federal Republic of Germany was planning an invasion of the Sudetenland and asked permission to send in the Red Army to protect Czechoslovakia. Alexander Dubcek, aware that the Soviet forces could be used to bring an end to Prague Spring, declined the offer.

On 21st August, 1968, Czechoslovakia was invaded by members of the Warsaw Pact countries. In order to avoid bloodshed, the Czech government ordered its armed forces not to resist the invasion. Alexander Dubcek and Ludvik Svoboda were taken to Moscow and soon afterwards they announced that after "free comradely discussion" that Czechoslovakia would be abandoning its reform programme.

In April 1969 Dubcek was replaced as party secretary by Gustav Husak. The following year he was expelled from the party and for the next 18 years worked as a clerk in a lumber yard in Slovakia.

Two weeks after my meeting with Gomulka came the twentieth anniversary of the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia, which, under the circumstances, had to be celebrated appropriately. Representatives of all the Communist Parties of the Soviet bloc were invited. As we worked or arrangements, Brezhnev himself called me, proposing that top leaders of the whole "socialist camp" take part in the celebration.

I didn't really know what the precedents were, but I confess that welcomed his initiative. For one thing, the presence of all of these heads of state would give us an opportunity to reassure them that our reforms would not threaten their strategic interests, as well as to elicit their tacit approval of our subsequent steps.

Thus, I agreed with Brezhnev's suggestion, and he said that he would inform the other leaders, including Tito and representatives of the Yugoslav Union of Communists. Relations between the bloc and Tito were relatively good at that time. In the end, all the general secretaries came except Tito: who sent his deputy, Vlahovic.

It was customary for the speakers at such ceremonies to exchange the texts of their speeches beforehand, so, the day before the main ceremony we sent the text of my speech to Brezhnev as well as to all the other leaders. In the speech, I cited the basic tenets of my proposed reform program. I used cautious formulations and employed the habitual jargon, but the ideas were undiluted. It was important to me that they would be articulated in Brezhnevs presence, which would make them automatically more acceptable to my opponents in the Presidium.

Instead of talking about five-year plans and other perennial themes, Walter Ulbricht opened the conference by saying that at issue was the situation in Czechoslovakia. I got so angry at the knavish way Brezhnev had fooled me that I was tempted to walk out, but I forced myself to calm down and wait.

After Ulbricht's opening sermon, Brezhnev spoke, succeeded by Wladyslaw Gomulka, Janos Kadar, and Todor Zhivkov, the leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Each had a thick file of clippings from the Czech and Slovak press, which he occasionally culled for a suitable quotation to illustrate his exasperation. With varying intensity, they attacked us for "losing control" over our situation and permitting a diversity of opinion that, in their view, bordered on "counterrevolution." Mixed in were the usual references to "outside threats to the socialist camp."

I noted with regret that the harshest criticism came from Gomulka, with Ulbricht only a little less arrogant. Brezhnev put on the face of the worried parent, but he was as stinging as Gomulka or Ulbricht in what he actually said.

I noticed that Brezhnev was flanked not only by senior members of his Politburo but also by several marshals and generals of the Soviet Army. This was quite unusual at a conference that was not a formal Warsaw Pact meeting, and I realized they were instruments of none too subtle intimidation.

The Action Program did not even touch on the possibility of an independent initiative in foreign policy; for now this was a secondary issue. It focused entirely on domestic problems, political, economic, or cultural. Even in these areas, however, the Soviets had been accustomed to meddle. It was obvious that they were not happy that the program had been composed without their advice and consent.

The program declared an end to dictatorial, sectarian, and bureaucratic ways. It said that such practices had created artificial tension in society, antagonizing different social groups, nations, and nationalities. Our new policy had to be built on democratic cooperation and confidence among social groups. Narrow professional or other interests could no longer take priority. Freedom of assembly and association, guaranteed in the constitution but not respected in the past, had to be put into practice. In this sphere, there were to be no extralegal limitations.

The program proclaimed a return to freedom of the press and proposed the adoption of a press law that would clearly exclude prepublication censorship. Opinions expressed in mass communications were to be free and not be confused with official government pronouncements.

Freedom of movement was to be guaranteed, including not only citizens' right to travel abroad but their right to stay abroad at length, or even permanently, without being labeled emigrants. Special legal norms were to be established for the redress of all past injustices, judicial as well as political.

Looking toward a new relationship between the Czechs and the Slovaks, there was to be a federalization of the Republic, full renewal of Slovak national institutions, and compensatory safeguards for the minority Slovaks in staffing federal bodies.

In the economic sphere, the program demanded thorough decentralization and managerial independence of enterprises, as well as legalization of small-scale private enterprise, especially in the service sector.

This proposal, I should say, was immediately viewed by the Soviets as the beginning of a return to capitalism. Brezhnev made this accusation directly during one of our conversations in the coming months. I responded that we needed a private sector to improve the market situation and make peoples lives easier. Brezhnev immediately snapped at me, "Small craftsmen? We know about that! Your Mr. Bata used to be a little shoemaker, too, until he started up a factory!" Here was the old Leninist canon about small private production creating capitalism "every day and every hour." There was nothing one could do to change the Soviets' dogmatic paranoia.

Neither my allies nor I ever contemplated a dismantling of socialism, even as we parted company with various tenets of Leninism. We still believed in a socialism that could not be divorced from democracy, because its essential rationale was social justice. We also believed that socialism could function better in a market-oriented environment, with significant elements of private enterprise. Many legitimate forms of ownership, mainly cooperative and communal, had not been used to any effective extent mainly because of the imposition of Stalinist restrictions.

Yesterday, August 20, 1968, around 11:00 p.m., the armies of the Soviet Union, of the Polish People's Republic, of the German Democratic Republic, the Hungarian Peoples Republic, and the Bulgarian Peoples Republic crossed the borders of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. It happened without the knowledge of the President of the Republic, of the Chairman of the National Assembly, of the Prime Minister and of the First Secretary of the Central Committee of CPCz, and of all these organs.

The Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPCz was meeting in these hours and was discussing the preparations for the Fourteenth Party Congress. The Presidium appeals to all citizens of our Republic to keep calm and not to resist the armed forces moving in. Therefore neither our army, security forces or the People's Militias have been ordered to defend the country.

The Presidium believes that this act contradicts not only all principles of relations between socialist countries but also the basic norms of international law.

All leading officials of the state, of the CPCz and of the National Front remain in their functions, to which they were elected as representatives of the people and of the members of their organizations, according to the laws and other statutes valid in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

Constitutional officials convene for immediate session the National Assembly and the government of the Republic, and the Presidium of the CPCz convenes a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the CPCz to deal with the situation.

The main door flew open again and in walked some higher officers of the KGB, including a highly decorated, very short colonel and a Soviet interpreter I had met before somewhere; I think he had been in Prague a few weeks earlier with Marshal Yakubovsky. The little colonel quickly reeled off a list of all Czechoslovak Communist Party officials present and told us that he was taking us "under his protection." Indeed we were protected, sitting around that table - each of us had a tommy gun pointed at the back of his head.

I was delivered to the Kremlin around 11:00 p.m. Moscow time, on Friday, August 23. My watch had stopped somewhere in the Subcarpathians, so I had only a vague idea of what time it was. Today, however, I can reconstruct a rather accurate chronology of those days based on documents and testimony.

In the Kremlin, they gave me no time to wash away the dust and dirt of the previous three days. They led me directly to "a meeting," as one of the KGB men called it. I remember a tall door, an antechamber behind it, another door, and then a large office with a rectangular table. There I saw the four men most responsible for the criminal invasion of my country: Brezhnev, Kosygin, Podgorny, and Voronov.

How did the Soviet leaders justify their action on 21 August 1968? First of all, they argued that there was an external threat to the Warsaw Pact countries; and, secondly, they claimed that internal counter-revolution with Western backing was seeking to trample the socialist achievements of the workers. We saw, however, that the working people themselves resented this kind of defence of their interests. Was there really an external threat? The fact that, in mid-1968, articles were appearing in the Czechoslovak press hinting at the possible withdrawal of the country from the Warsaw Pact reflected the attitudes of Czechoslovak political forces. In other words, it resulted from developments inside the country.

During my visit I was informed that the Soviet leadership had originally welcomed the replacement of Novotny by Dubcek. Novotny's request for Soviet support against Dubcek had been rejected as an internal affair of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The new Czechoslovak leadership had regarded this as a sign of the CPSU's approval to carry on with the reforms which had hitherto been shelved. However, the scope and dynamic development of the reform process in Czechoslovakia had frightened our leaders into scrapping their own timid attempts at economic reform and tightening the political and ideological screws.

Leonid Brezhnev: Lets agree not to bury ourselves in the past, but to discuss calmly, proceeding from the situation that has developed, in order to find a solution that will work to the benefit of the Czechoslovak Communist Party so that it can act, normally and independently along the lines laid down by the Bratislava Declaration Let it be independent. We don't want and we're not thinking of further intervention. And let the leadership work according to the principles of the January and May plenary sessions of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. We have said this in our reports and we're prepared to affirm it again. Of course, we can't say that you re in a good mood. But your moods aren't the point. We must sensibly and soberly direct our talks toward the search for a solution. It can be stated flatly that the failure to carry out fixed obligations impelled five countries to extreme and inevitable measures. The sequence of events that has materialized confirms entirely that behind your back (by no means do we wish to say that you were at the head of it) right-wing powers (we will simply call them antisocialist) prepared both the congress and its actions. Underground stations and arms caches have now come to light. All of this has now come out. We don't want to raise claims against you personally, that you're guilty. You might not even have been aware of it; the right-wing powers are broad enough to have organized it all 'We would like to find the most acceptable solutions that will serve to stabilize the country, normalizing a workers' party without links to the right and normalizing a workers' government free from those links.

We don't need to conceal from each other that if we find the best solution we will still need time for normalization. No one should have the illusion that everything will all of a sudden become rosy. But if we do find the correct solution, then time will pass and every day will bring us successes, material talks and contacts will begin, the odor will dissipate, and propaganda and ideology will start to work normally. The working class will understand that, behind the backs of the Central Committee and the government leadership, right-wingers were preparing to transform Czechoslovakia from a socialist into a bourgeois republic. All that is clear now. Talks on economic and other matters will begin. The departure of troops, et cetera, will begin according to material principles. We have not occupied Czechoslovakia, we do not intend to keep it under "occupation," but we hope for her to be free and to undertake the socialist cooperation that was agreed upon in Bratislava. It is on that basis that we want to talk with you and find a workable solution. If need be, with Comrade Cernik as well. If we stay silent we will not improve the situation and will not spare the Czech, Slovak, and Russian peoples from tension. And with every passing day the right-wingers will fire up chauvinistic emotions against every socialist country, and first of all against the Soviet Union. Under such circumstances it would be impossible to pull out the troops; it's not to our advantage. It is on these grounds, on this basis, that we would like to conduct the talks, to see what you think, what's the best way to act. We're ready to listen. We have no diktat; let's look for another option together.

And we would be very grateful to you if you freely expressed different options, not just to be contrary, but to calmly find the proper option. We consider you an honorable communist and socialist. In Cierna you were unlucky, and there was a breakdown. Let's cast everything that happened aside. If we start asking which one of us was right, it will lead nowhere. But let's talk on the basis of what is, and under these conditions we must find a way out of the situation, what you're thinking and what we must do.

Alexander Dubcek: It's hard for me, given the trip and my bitter mood, to explain immediately my opinion about why we must reach a solution about the real situation that has arisen. Comrades Brezhnev, Kosygin, Podgorny, and Voronov, I don't know what the situation is at home. In the first day of the Soviet Army's arrival, I and the other comrades were isolated and then found ourselves here, not knowing anything. ... I can only conjecture what could have happened. In the first moments, the members of the Presidium who were with me at the Secretariat were taken to the Party Central Committee under the control of Soviet forces. Through the window I saw several hundred people gathered around the building, and you could hear what they were shouting: "We want to see Svoboda!" "We want to see the president!" "We want Dubcek!" I heard a number of slogans. After that there were shots. It was the last thing I saw. From that point on I know nothing, and can't imagine what's happening in the country and in the Party.

As a Communist who bears a great responsibility for recent events, I am sure that - not only in Czechoslovakia but in Europe, in the whole Communist movement - this action will cause us the bitterest consequences in the breakdown of, and bitter dissension within, the ranks of Communist parties in foreign countries, in capitalist countries.

Thus the matters at hand and the situation are, it seems to me very complex, although today was the first time I read the newspapers. I can only say, think of me what you will, I have worked for thirty years in the Party, and my whole family has devoted everything to the affairs of the Party, the affairs of socialism. Let whatever is going to happen to me happen. I'm expecting the worst for myself and I'm resigned to it.


History of Prague

The history of Prague covers more than a thousand years, during which time the city grew from the Vyšehrad Castle to the capital of a modern European state, the Czech Republic.


“Normalization” and political dissidence

As first secretary, Husák patiently tried to persuade Soviet leaders that Czechoslovakia was a loyal member of the Warsaw Pact. He had the constitution amended to embody the newly proclaimed Brezhnev Doctrine, which asserted the right of the Soviet Union to intervene militarily if it perceived socialism anywhere to be under threat, and in 1971 he repudiated the Prague Spring—declaring that “in 1968 socialism was in danger in Czechoslovakia, and the armed intervention helped to save it.” In 1970 Oldřich Černík was finally forced to resign the premiership he was succeeded by Husák’s Czech rival, Lubomír Štrougal. In 1975, when President Svoboda retired because of ill health, Husák once again fused the two most important offices in Czechoslovakia and became, with full Soviet approval, president himself.

Having purged the reformists during 1969–71, Husák concentrated almost exclusively on the economy. In the short term, Czechoslovakia did not suffer significantly, even from the disruption caused by the military occupation in 1968. The country undertook important infrastructure improvement projects, notably the construction of the Prague metro and a major motorway connecting Prague with Bratislava in Slovakia. Husák, however, did not permit the industrial and agricultural reforms from the Action Program to be applied and so failed to cure the country’s long-term economic problems. The achievements of the mid- to late 1970s were modest, and by the early 1980s Czechoslovakia was experiencing a serious economic downturn, caused by a decline in markets for its products, burdensome terms of trade with several of its supplier countries, and a surplus of outdated machinery and technology.

Although Husák had avoided the bloodletting of his predecessors, his party purges had damaged Czechoslovak cultural and scientific life, since positions in these two areas depended on membership in the party. Numerous writers, composers, journalists, historians, and scientists found themselves unemployed and forced to accept menial jobs to earn a living. Many of these disappointed intellectuals tried to continue the struggle against the regime, but they were indicted for committing criminal acts in pursuance of political objectives. Though these trials could not be compared to the Stalinist show trials, they kept discontent among the intellectuals simmering, even if the mass of the population was indifferent. Intellectual discontent gathered strength in January 1977, when a group of intellectuals signed a petition, known as Charter 77, in which they urged the government to observe human rights as outlined in the Helsinki Accords of 1975. Many intellectuals and activists who signed the petition subsequently were arrested and detained, but their efforts continued throughout the following decade. Among the victims of the crackdown was the philosopher Jan Patocka, who died on March 13, 1977, after a number of police interrogations.

Several mass demonstrations took place in the country during the 1980s. The largest protest gathering in Slovakia since the Prague Spring occurred on March 25, 1988: during this so-called “ Candle Demonstration” in Bratislava, thousands of Slovaks quietly held burning candles to show their support for religious freedom and human rights. Police dispersed the demonstration with water cannons and made numerous arrests.


According to historians Callum McDonald and Jan Kaplan in their book Prague in the Shadow of the Swastika: a History of the German Occupation 1939-1945 (London, 1995), "the Springer" was said to leap out from shadowy alleys and startle passers-by. [1] Oral tradition suggests that some of Pérák's leaps were of an extraordinary magnitude, including the act of jumping over train carriages, similar to England's Spring-heeled Jack.

A contemporary and possibly associated rumour concerned a "Razor Blade Man" who was said to slash at victims with razors attached to his fingers.

Researcher Mike Dash quotes George Zenaty, a noted authority on the policing of Prague during the war years, that: [2]

. in 1940-1942 none of our police precincts in Prague informed us in their daily reports of the existence of a ‘Spring Man’. This does not mean that such rumours might not have circulated however, it would have been impossible to include [them] in the reports without tangible proof.

In 2015 a social activist claiming the identity of Pérák fronted a guerilla media campaign to commemorate the former site of the Lety concentration camp.

The 2017 book Mýtus o pérákovi. Městská legenda mezi folklorem a populární kulturou by Czech folklorist Petr Janeček offers a comprehensive survey of the Perak phenomenon, tracing a history from the figure of Spring Heeled Jack in England during the early 19th century through to Czech folklore before, during and after World War 2, and then into popular culture via a succession of speculative fiction novels, comic book treatments and other works of fiction.

Film Edit

A 14-minute 1946 Czechoslovak animated cartoon Pérák a SS (Springman and the SS, also released in English-speaking markets as The Chimney Sweep) was created by the renowned Czech animator Jiří Trnka and film-maker Jiří Brdečka. It portrayed Pérák as a heroic and mischievous black-clad chimney sweep, with a mask fashioned out of a sock. He was capable of performing fantastic leaps due to having couch springs attached to his shoes. Pérák taunted German Army sentries, the Gestapo and, particularly, a Hitleresque Nazi collaborator before escaping in a surrealistic, slapstick chase across the darkened city, ultimately freeing a number of incarcerated citizens of Prague.

Trnka's postwar interpretation of Pérák as a quasi-superhero, defying the curfew and the authority of the German occupying forces, formed the basis for sporadic revivals of the character in Czech science fiction and comic book stories.

In 2013, the first short feature film Pérák (Pérák: Gott mit uns) was directed by Pavel Soukup ml. It is in the noir/mystery genre.

In 2016, Marek Berger created an animated film Pérák: Stín nad Prahou (Pérák: The Shadow over Prague). The film has won 2 awards at International Student Film Festival in Opava - for best animated film and absolute best film. [3] [4] [5]

Literature Edit

In 1948, the figure was used in a newspaper propaganda comics in Haló noviny. It was visually based on Trnka's animated film. Fifteen pages were published.

In 1961, Pérák was featured as a heroic character in the story "Pérový muž" ("The Spring-Man"), which was written by Czech science fiction writer Jan Weiss and published as part of a collection of short stories entitled Bianka Braselli, A Two-Headed Lady. In his 1997 biographical essay on Weiss, Vilém Kmuníček speculated that the inspiration for this story was in response to Nazi propaganda: [6]

In 1968, the issue of the Mladý svět magazine, published after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, included a four-strip comics titled Pérák and the USSR.

In 1986, Czech science fiction writer Ondřej Neff also portrayed Pérák as a heroic figure in Pérák – Toho dne byla mlha (Perak - There was fog that day). In 2001, he created a humorous satirical comic strip titled Pérák kontra Globeman (Pérák versus Globalman) which conflates the figures of the Springer and the Razor Blade Man and pits him against a villain called Globalman, who bears a strong resemblance to McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald. [7]

In 2002, the cartoonist Adolf Lachman, in cooperation with scriptwriters Monge and Morten, intended to produce a new series of comic strips about Pérák. But only the introductory chapter came out as part of the KomiksFest! Revue 03 magazine.

Ethnologist Petr Janeček was since 2004 dedicated to scientific research of Pérák, he collected a considerable amount of stories from witnesses. In 2017, he issued a comprehensive publication Mýtus o Pérákovi. Městská legenda mezi folklorem a populární kulturou (Myth of Pérák. Urban legend between folklore and popular culture).

The right to use the name Pérák was in 2006 ensured by Petr Stančík. First, he wrote a screenplay to movie, but in 2008 only a book with its fictionalized version was published by the author, portraying him as a World War II-era costumed superhero who battles the Gestapo with the aid of various weapons and mechanical spring-powered boots. In 2019, the book was translated into German and published as: Pérák. Der Superheld aus Prag. [8]

Since spring 2018, comics about Pérák have been published in the Czech ABC magazine, its authors are artist Petr Kopl and screenwriter Petr Macek. Their portrayal of Pérák follows the character's appearance in their comics magazine Dechberoucí Zázrak 09 (Breathtaking Miracle 09). In May 2019, the collected and extended edition of the series, originally published in ABC magazine, was released as a separate book Pérák: Oko budoucnosti (Pérák: Eye of the future). [9]

Theater Edit

Since 2011, the Vosto5 Theater in Prague has been presenting an action historical fiction called Pérák - na jméně nezáleží, rozhodují činy!. The plot is placed in the real historical context of the period from the arrival of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich to Prague, until his assassination. In this production, Vosto5 combines elements of martial arts and extreme sports with a typical theater poetics and its verbal humor.


Why wasn't the Prague Spring used as an argument against Gun Control?

I am not a regular participant in US gun-control debates, but I am familiar with the argument alluded to in this OP, ie. an armed citizenry has the power to rise against tyranny.

I do wonder how popular that argument is with politicicans, though, especially given that pro-gun politicians also tend to be law-and-order types. If you're the kind of guy whose main campaign theme is "More laws! More police!", do you really want to simultaneously be sending the message that the people have the right to shoot back?

Resurgam

Naraic

I am not a regular participant in US gun-control debates, but I am familiar with the argument alluded to in this OP, ie. an armed citizenry has the power to rise against tyranny.

I do wonder how popular that argument is with politicicans, though, especially given that pro-gun politicians also tend to be law-and-order types. If you're the kind of guy whose main campaign theme is "More laws! More police!", do you really want to simultaneously be sending the message that the people have the right to shoot back?

Exactly this. If gun control and racism wasn't so established in terms of republican democrat I would expect the black lives matter movement to encourage black people to arm themselves for self defense against the police.

At the end of the day no one wants to encourage armed rebellion even though its a purpose of the second ammendment.

Alexander the Average

Peg Leg Pom

Gannt the chartist

Dorknought

Peg Leg Pom

The English Bill of Rights merely prevents the monarch from taking away Protestants arms without consulting Parliament. It doesn't actually grant any rights to the individual. Under English Common Law unless a law is passed prohibiting something it is allowed.

In countries with a written constitution unless there is a law allowing something it is prohibited.

David T

Actually, it was, but the whole "citizens with guns can fend off an invasion" argument was a lot less common in 1968 than it would later be:

Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, 2nd Edition [3 volumes]

I think it was largely taken for granted in 1968 that the USSR would crush any armed resistance in Czechoslovakia (as it did in Hungary in 1956) and that it was understandable therefore that the Czechoslovaks did not offer any such resistance. In 1968, anti-Communist guerrilla warfare (as would later happen in Afghanistan) was not much thought of in the US guerilla warfare and the political use of guns were more associated with Communists, Black Panthers, etc. whom it would not be patriotic to praise:

"Like many of my generation, I was active in the left. From the mid to late 1960s to the late 1970s, I was affiliated with Trotskyist organizations. We considered ourselves revolutionaries and foresaw the day when the working class would rise up against capitalist oppression, overthrow the government, and establish a proletarian dictatorship. There was no doubt in our minds that this could not be accomplished without violence. When the revolutionary situation was ripe, we would need weapons. Therefore, we were opposed on principle to any laws that would interfere with our ability to acquire them. Others on the left shared this perspective. After all, it was fully consistent with the teachings of Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Che, Fanon, etc. Didn't "political power grow out of the barrel of a gun"?

"During those years of radicalism at home and revolution abroad, we were thrilled when we saw that poster of Malcolm X with his rifle and the photo of the female Viet Cong soldier with a baby on her back and a rifle in her hand. When Malcolm said “by any means necessary” we did not bother to ask for clarification and when he was murdered by the Nation of Islam, we insisted that the police and the FBI were responsible. As for the Viet Cong woman, no one questioned whether she was endangering the welfare of a minor.
Thankfully, the left did not practice what it preached, realizing that the time was not right for violent revolution here in the USA. The Weathermen were the exception to the rule. They planted a few bombs and participated in the Brinks robbery. But there was one organization at that time that really did pick up the gun—the Black Panther Party, established in Oakland, California in 1966—in response to incidents of police brutality. They openly brandished rifles at the California State House and their newspaper featured drawings of brave Black men and women toting military style weapons. The Panthers were wildly popular with the left.

"I vividly recall participating in demonstrations in support of the Black Panthers where we chanted "The Revolution Has Come, Off the Pig, Time to Pick up the Gun, Off the Pig…" over and over again. To "off a pig" was to shoot a policeman dead. No doubt about it. Although the Panthers technically advocated killing policemen only in self-defense, they glorified the use of guns in the "revolutionary struggle" and turned to violence to resolve internal disputes. In 1968, under Governor Ronald Reagan, California reacted to the tactics of the Black Panther Party by enacting a strong gun control law against openly carrying weapons in public. The National Rifle Association (NRA) supported it.

When I Was Against Gun Control. And Why I Changed My Mind - New Politics

"The Mulford Act was a 1967 California bill that repealed a law allowing public carrying of loaded firearms. Named after Republican assemblyman Don Mulford, and signed into law by then governor of California, Ronald Reagan, the bill was crafted with the goal of disarming members of the Black Panther Party who were lawfully conducting armed patrols of Oakland neighborhoods, in what would later be termed copwatching.[1][2] They garnered national attention after Black Panthers members, bearing arms, marched upon the California State Capitol to protest the bill.[3][4][5]

"Assembly Bill 1591 was introduced by Don Mulford (R) from Oakland on April 5th, 1967, and subsequently co-sponsored by John T. Knox (D) from Richmond, Walter J. Karabian (D) from Monterey Park, Frank Murphy Jr. (R) from Santa Cruz, Alan Sieroty (D) from Los Angeles, and William M. Ketchum (R) from Bakersfield,[6]. AB-1591 was made an “urgency statute” under Article IV, §8(d) of the Constitution of California after “an organized band of men armed with loaded firearms [. ] entered the Capitol” on May 2nd, 1967[7] as such, it required a 2/3 majority in each house. It passed the Assembly (controlled by Democrats 42:38) at subsequent readings, passed the Senate (controlled by Democrats, 20:19) on July 26th by 29 votes to 7[8], and was signed by Governor Ronald Reagan on July 28th, 1967. The law banned the carrying of loaded weapons in public.[9]

"Both Republicans and Democrats in California supported increased gun control, as did the National Rifle Association of America, a major supporter of the act.[9] Governor Ronald Reagan, who was coincidentally present on the capitol lawn when the protesters arrived, later commented that he saw "no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons" and that guns were a "ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will." In a later press conference, Reagan added that the Mulford Act "would work no hardship on the honest citizen."[1]

"The bill was signed by Reagan and became California penal code 25850 and 171c."

Mulford Act - Wikipedia

Gannt the chartist

All Protestants have the right to bear arms for defence. These the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed

My emphasis Its a pre existing right, of Englishmen, that shall not be infringed see also US v Cruickshank

The English bill goes way beyond preventing the monarch, its subjects the Monarch to Parliament and ofc it asserts that the rights therein are ancient rights and privileges'.

Now Under English Law Parliament can amend the law as it sees fit and the US congress cannot but thats just another bit they screwed up.

Then Such tyranny must be avoided at all costs. though I would expect most US citizens would be surprised to know they were forbidden to do things unless a law allowed for it.

New Priority bipartisan bill Bill for the promotion of recreational sexx, which will cause riots particularly over the Epstein Clauses but without it you are never getting laid again.

JamesHunter

Petike

Why wasn't the Prague Spring used as an argument against the Gun Control Act of 1968?

Why did no one challenge it as violating the Second Amendment?

No offence, but is this some sort of weird joke ?

1.) Czechoslovakia in the 1960s doesn't have a "gun culture" like the US and never had. Modern day Czechia and Slovakia have even less guns in private ownership than in the 1960s. There isn't much of a gun control debate over here, at all. When we tightened our laws about guns in 2010, no one batted an eye. This decade, some fringe political groupings tried to form armed militias and even the crap previous government finally came to their senses and banned them. The laws are now unambiguous that the only armed organizations allowed are official armed forces and official law enforcement. Forming an armed group, uniformed or non-uniformed, is considered one and the same as forming a criminal organization, a gang, or a mob. Unless you're a certified reenactor of 20th century warfare with a dummy gun, forget about playing partisan.
2.) Small arms would be worth absolute diddly against the Warsaw Pact occupation of 1968. Good luck waging a guerilla war on a nuclear-armed totalitarian superpower that barely cares about how many people it kills to keep its power, and which has a huge conventional arsenal, ready to wage another world war. Guerilla tactics in the woods with a few stashed rifles, against the Warsaw Pact, would be utter lunacy.
3.) And that brings me to my final point. The best resistance was the one that happened in OTL. People building barricades, sabotaging road signs, confusing Warsaw Pact troops, doing everything to make them look like the complete and utter buffoons they were, along with the Soviet leadership that ordered this. The best discreditation of the Soviet occupation was the fact Czechoslovak citizens did not take up arms against the aggressors, neither the armed forces nor individual citizens. The Warsaw Pact was once again abused not to defend its member states, but to put them down and enslave them. A lot of the more naive communist supporters in the West lost a lot of ammo that August 1968. Thankfully ! No one sane could argue "the Soviets were justified in mopping up unruly elements" and other claptrap that was used until then, even after the events of 1956 in Hungary. The fact that Czechoslovaks did not fight, unlike the Hungarians in the 1950s, was very intentional, because they were both convinced it's the better solution and they knew it would bring them more international sympathy.

Emil Gallo's defiant gesture in front of a Soviet tank, Bratislava, Commenius University in the background. Photo by Ladislav Bielik.

Do you think he'd be better able to take out that tank if he was running around with an assault rifle and spray-and-praying at the tank armour ?

Of course not. One salvo from the MG or one shot from the cannon and it would be all over.

I think this is a far more striking and memorable photo than if he was carrying a gun. It shows the moronic impotence and cowardice of Soviet power, going after unarmed people in armoured vehicles. (In some cases, the morons even ran over innocent people. Remind me again, soviet apologists, how those soviets were better than the nazis. Not by much.) It shows the defiant gesture of an angry man, a sincerely angry man. And it accomplishes far more than any guns and ineffective angry shooting could accomplish.

a person born in the last two years of communist Czechoslovakia


I have never understood the "badass cowboy drifter with sixshooters and a rifle" fantasy of some Americans, about grabbing a gun and suddenly becoming some nigh-unstoppable action hero, mowing down bad guys left and right, saving the day, and other pulpy nonsense. The US gun lobby should realise that even if the US government decided to wage war on its own citizens, a few gun stashes around the countryside wouldn't make much of a difference. Holding a gun, even a big one, means absolutely nothing if you can be shot by snipers, artillery, tanks from afar or strafe or bombed with aircraft. Even fifty years of technological progress don't make much of a difference. They could have bombed your plucky little insurrection as easily in the 1960s as they can nowadays, almost as precisely. It's easy to crow on about freedom and not giving up when you're not out in the open, in actual fighting, and aren't mowed down by professional armed forces in a few seconds flat. The idea that a few beer-sipping guerillas with a few rifles could defeat an entire army (especially one with post-1940s equipment, communications included) is total Hollywood fantasy. It's about as realistic as me running around in replica plate armour with a replica hand-and-a-half longsword and declaring I'm invincible against any modern military. I'd make excellent target practice.


The Prague Spring Competition and Czech music

One of the important goals of the Prague Spring Competition is to promote Czech music and to support contemporary Czech composers. Czech music has always been a part of the competition repertoire, and since 1994 it has been a tradition for Prague Spring to commission new works by renowned Czech composers. The work is premiered on the day of the semi-finals, and competitors are sent the music after the announcing of the results of the preliminary round just a few months before the competition.

In cooperation with the Foundation of the Czech Music Fund, a prize is also offered for each instrument for the best performance of the new work.

These pieces are written exclusively by Czech composers. Among them in recent years have been Petr Eben, Zdeněk Košler, Ivan Kurz, Viktor Kalabis, Milan Slavický, Karel Husa, Ilja Hurník, Luboš Fišer, Jan Klusák, Ivana Loudová, Sylvie Bodorová, Otomar Kvěch, Ondřej Kukal, and Adam Skoumal.


Why the Prague Spring was Doomed to Failure

‘Socialism with a human face’ came head to head with the realities of Soviet communism.

The writer Milan Kundera made the world interested in the fate of Czechoslovakia. Scores of westerners who did not learn about the events of the Prague Spring from school textbooks or mass media did recognise it as the historical backdrop to Kundera’s novels, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

In Kundera’s telling, the Prague Spring was ‘a brief flowering of openness behind the Iron Curtain’. After many years of slow, slogging liberalisation following the death of Stalin, Alexander Dubček, the head of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, took the country towards the much beloved and often romanticised idea of ‘socialism with a human face’.

This reformed version of state socialism had many manifestations. Censorship had been abolished, as had travel restrictions for ordinary citizens. Civil society began to flourish once again and the state began to roll out a series of political and economic reforms to accompany the societal changes. Parliament no longer voted unanimously, the Slovaks saw greater federalisation and a movement began to restore the Social Democratic Party.

While Kundera’s books reveal the hope that he and many others felt during this time, not everyone was on the same page. ‘I’m still afraid that it’ll turn out badly’, wrote the Czechoslovak New Wave film director Pavel Juráček in a diary entry from March of 1968, referring to the growing collection of popular reforms. ‘What’s happening is starting to be a revolution. A revolution of minds, a revolution of romantic rationalists … No one, however, has ever won this kind of a revolution.’ Juráček’s words sound prophetic now. They betray, however, the feeling of hope that no one had yet dashed. Even the leadership of the Prague Spring never meant to create profound political change.

While various aspects of the opening up may have piqued the interest of Dubček’s Soviet minders in Moscow, he and the others in the reform wing of the Czechoslovak leadership were, at the most fundamental level, still dedicated to the Soviet communist system. When an actual threat to the one-party system of leadership began to arise in the form of the re-banded (but not rebranded) Social Democrats, even Dubček was behind the effort to shut it down.

The party presidium held a meeting on 25 June 1968, where the situation was discussed. The Social Democrats had built up numerous organisations and members and its leadership had started making requests of the Communist Party demands that would be reasonable in a liberal democracy, but ones that would disturb the functioning of a one-party state. They wanted to start working together with the party, or example, and they wanted to join the National Front, the coalition of parties that were allowed to have candidates for the elections and which was entirely under the control of the Communist Party.

Whereas the public largely welcomed the Social Democrats’ advances, the party presidium viewed them as threatening and viewed the nascent party structure as an illegal organisation.

‘Politically, I see a danger that meeting with them could cover up the actions of this illegal organisation. We can’t just deal with this administratively’, said Zdeněk Mlynář, a member of the party’s reform wing, before recommending a course of action: ‘The basic viewpoint is that the actions of the preparational committee of the Social Democrats are illegal … we have to consider the question of how to liquidate the Social Democrats’ activity practically.’

Together, the presidium discussed the magnitude of the movement surrounding the Social Democrats and how the Communist Party might stand in its way, all the while minimising the political damage to itself. It was always a question of how the Social Democrats might be stopped, never one of whether they should be allowed to continue. When a few men tried to suggest that these new opponents did not represent a danger to the party, Dubček was quick to outline why he believed they were mistaken. It was not necessarily the people who had joined up with the Social Democrats that were the problem. It was instead the forces that backed them and the fact that they represented opposition to the Communist Party.

While the knowledge that Dubček always promised the questioning Soviet authorities that the primacy of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia would be maintained at all costs seems to contradict Kundera’s view of the Prague Spring, it was a promise he meant to fulfill.

Dubček insisted: ‘We need to exhaust all possible political forms. For maximal effectiveness, we need to involve the widest possible circle of influential communist intellectuals and organise their political performances with the maximum effort. We need to face this head on in the press. Organise it.’ Any development on the part of the Social Democrats, he said, had to be limited across the board.

In the end, the Communist Party succeeded in coming to an agreement with the Social Democrats, whereby the latter could not appear in public, develop any media campaigns, or make any major decisions without consulting party officials. The presidium announced this on 4 July 1968, a month and a half before it would become clear – a point accentuated by Soviet tanks crossing the borders into Czechoslovakia – that their promise was not enough.

Many factors stood behind Dubček’s insistence on the one-party system and the limits to his ‘socialism with a human face’: dedication to the communist system, for one, plus a fear of the Soviet reaction to democratic change. The reforms of the Prague Spring were, at their core, only cosmetic.


Czech Radio History Part V - The Prague Spring

In this week's edition of our weekly special on the history of Czech Radio - marking the station's 80th anniversary - Martin Hrobsky looks at the role radio played during the Prague Spring. It was 1968 in Czechoslovakia and optimism was in the air: students, workers, and intellectuals alike were calling for change in a political and economic system that was no longer meeting the needs of the people. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia knew this, and once a number of innocent reforms were carried out, the winds of change could not be stopped.

Within a short amount of time, Alexander Dubcek, the new General Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, began to loosen the party's grip on both the political and economic spheres in socialist Czechoslovakia. This reform movement, which became known as the Prague Spring, aimed to create "socialism with a human face" - an experimental merging of socialism and greater democracy. The reforms included increased freedom of speech and the press, the rehabilitation of political prisoners, and a movement towards a more market driven economy.

However, the Soviet Union, along with other Warsaw Pact countries, looked with dismay at what was happening in Czechoslovakia. They saw the Prague Spring as a threat and feared the winds of change would soon blow through their own countries.

Then came that unforgettable morning when the people of Czechoslovakia awoke to a world which was completely different to the one they went to sleep to the night before. Its 2am August 21st, 1968.

Czechoslovak Radio informed people to stay tuned to the radio as important news was soon to be broadcast.

This was the announcement that Warsaw Pact forces had crossed the Czechoslovak boarder just hours earlier. The Soviet Union, along with Poland, East Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria, sent about 200,000 troops across the boarder to occupy Czechoslovakia and to quash the Prague Spring reform movement. Within one week more then 650,000 foreign troops would be on Czechoslovak soil.

What followed were mass protests in Prague and throughout Czechoslovakia against the occupation. Thousands of people took to the streets, pleading with the occupiers to turn around and go home. In many parts of Prague troops opened fire on demonstrators.

On the morning of August 21st, Czechoslovak Radio broadcast a statement by the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, condemning the invasion. Prague citizens began gathering in front of the radio building on Vinohradska Street, and there were clashes which left a number of people dead. Meanwhile, Czechoslovak Radio announcers called for the continuation of free reforms and for people to remain calm. Here are the final moments of Czechoslovak Radio on that dark morning:

The radio building was occupied by Warsaw Pact troops just minutes later. For a number of days Czechoslovak Radio ceased to broadcast from its home here on Vinohradska Street, but the free radio continued to function underground. These underground broadcasts were vital for informing people about events that were taking place during the initial stages of the occupation. These secret broadcasts were often transmitted from all over the country - constantly switching broadcasting locations and frequencies - and the occupying force had a very hard time silencing these broadcasts. The broadcasts organized peaceful protests, relayed information such as where supplies and doctors were needed, and informed the world of the situation in Czechoslovakia.

Radio Prague even continued broadcasting from secret locations in Prague. Broadcasts were ten minute long news programs in five languages, and these underground programs lasted until September 9th.

What followed the Prague Spring was a complete rolling back of reforms that had been made. In the subsequent period, known as "normalization," freedom of the press was all but extinguished and Czechoslovak Radio became a controlled media tool of the Communist Party. Radio Prague mainly served propaganda purposes during this time, broadcasting the regime's socialist message for the whole world to hear.


Prague Spring - History

Soon after WWII, the power in the country went largely to the hands of the Communist Party and the first wave of nationwide nationalization of the industry and other areas of the economy took place. At the same time, some two million Germans were expelled from the country and their property was confiscated.

The Communist Party seized complete power after the coup d'etat on February 25, 1948. This event marked the start of the Communist totalitarian regime that lasted until the Velvet Revolution of 1989. A second wave of nationalization took place and 95% of all privately owned companies became the property of the state. There were a number of political trials and executions in the following several years. The economy went steadily down under the socialist regime. Basic human rights were suppressed.

The 1960s were a time of greater political and cultural freedom and changes were made in the Communist Party itself. Alexander Dubček, secretary of the Communist Party, attempted to create a more humane version of socialism, "socialism with a human face", that would guarantee people's basic rights and reduce the amount of political persecution in the country. The changes culminated in the spring of 1968 (known as "Prague Spring" ) when changes reached the government. The growing political freedoms in Czechoslovakia were seen as a threat by the Soviet Union. On August 21, 1968, five Warsaw Pact member countries invaded Czechoslovakia and Soviet troops continued to occupy the country until 1989.

The period from 1968 to mid-1980s was the period of "normalization", the purpose of which was to put things back to the way they were before the attempted Prague Spring reform. Any sign of disapproval of the regime was persecuted and opposition moved underground or became limited to isolate acts of protest, such as the suicide of Jan Palach, student of Charles University, who lit himself on fire on Prague's Wenceslas Square in January 1969.


Prague Spring - History

Over the night of August 20-21 1968, Warsaw Pact forces (with the exception of Romania, which refused to participate) invaded Czechoslovakia, beginning a 20-year period of occupation and "normalization." The Soviets insisted they had been invited to invade the country, as loyal Czechoslovak Communists had told them that they urgently required "fraternal assistance against the counter-revolution." (After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, a letter of invitation was, indeed, discovered to exist). Alexandr Dubcek and the other Prague Spring leaders were whisked off to Moscow.

Ludvik Svoboda, the President of the Republic, left for Moscow on August 23. The results of his talks there, which were not concluded until August 28, were summed up in a defeatist Moscow memorandum in which Czech and Slovak signatories agreed with the temporary presence of Soviet troops on the territory of the CSSR. Only one member of the delegation, Frantisek Kriegel, refused to sign the memorandum.


Watch the video: Operation Magistral, Afghanistan 198788 (January 2022).