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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 20. September 3, 1968


page 5


A month ago a Salient columnist included an 'unpublished Brecht poem' in his copy. It read:

When troop withdrawals are announced from Czechoslovakia

The plan for the conquest of Prague is already mean

Now what then seemed cynicism has turned out to be foresight. The Soviet Union has invaded Czechoslovakia.

The motivation for the Soviet action has been spelt out in the usual turgid Tass press releases: past the dubious revelations of 'Sudeten German rcvanchism' and 'coups' aimed at the restoration of capitalism', the heart of the matter turns out to be Czechoslovakia's break with "socialist constitutionalism" The Czech's wanted more than one political party. This was heresy.

Stalin argued that as only one class ruled in a socialist country, and political parlies represented social classes, only one party was needed in a socialist country. This was one legacy of Stalinism no one had repudiated. Even Yugoslavia had gaoled Cabinet ministers for demanding more than one political party in the most allegedly "liberal" Communist state Czechoslovakia was going far beyond Stalinism—and this meant, for the Soviet leadership, beyond Socialism.

Just as New Zealand's government first of all found the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front 'communist' and then decided it threatened New Zealand national security, the identification of the Czech political experimentation as pro-capitalist heresy led the Soviet Union to see Mr Dubcek as an agent of West German aggression against the Soviet Union. Fright at heresy led to political excommunication; and heretics are never legitimate dissenters because they are-necessarily agents of the enemy. As with the New Zealand adventure in Vietnam, a prejudiced and ideological judgement of events in a foreign country led directly to the taking of military, rather than political, measures.

The Declaration of Bratislava which so many hoped might end the Soviet-Czech confrontation seems now to have led to a sharper clash between Czech conservatives and liberals.

The Conservatives wanted to upset any prospect of Soviet acceptance of or long-term colaboration with the Dubcek government. The liberals wanted a purge of the hardliners in return for any moratorium on reform, and also to anticipate any reluctant crackdown on liberals by Dubcek to keep his commitments. The result was an atmosphere which gave substance to alarmist reports fed to Moscow by the conservatives, and East Germany, that a "coup" or a "capitalist restoration" was imminent. What these reports really meant was that the hard-liners positions were being threatened—a good definition, for them, of "capitalist restoration". But these people were Moscow's only reporters and the penalty of colonialism is enforced belief in the reports of the local agents of colonialism.

The Soviet Union has now made a deliberate choice to postpone international detente in order to consolidate "socialism" in Eastern Europe—as the local Embassy's first secretary put it. It is unlikely to yield the pressure from world opinion after so premeditatedly outraging it. Its action identifies Soviet-style socialism with military aggression and the single-party system, leaving those who saw Czech socialism as a form of socialism acceptable to the West with no choice but the strongest disavowal of the Soviet Union.

Czech Charge d'Affairs.

Czech Charge d'Affairs.

The agreement now reached between President Svoboda and the Soviet Government sets out formally what the last few days have revealed: that an East European Government has freedom only within limits severely circumscribed by Soviet political censors. What the Czechs get out of the agreement amounts to one thing only: that the government which will administer then freedom limited by Soviet guns is chosen by the Czechs, not by Moscow.

— O. Gager