Preserving Czechoslovakias socialist order

DOCUMENT No. 19: The CPCZ CC Action Program, April 1968
Source: “Akn program Komunistick strany Ceskoslovenska,” Rud prvo (Prague),
April 10, 1968, pp. 1-6.
The CentralCommittee’sadoption of an Action Program ofeconomic and political reform marked the
culmination of lengthy eforts to devise a blueprint that would preserve Czechoslovakia ‘s socialist order
yet introduce key elements of liberal democracy. The program had several significant features, among
them: a new role for the communist party as a political organization competing for popular influence
rather than holding a “monopolistic concentration of power”; allied political parties which would be
genuinepartners rather thansubservientorgans ofthe CPCz; the enforcement of civil rights and personal
liberties routinely denied under the communist regine; equal status for the Czechs and Slovaks to create
two equal nations in a federalized state; and bold economic reforms to provide much greater scope for
private enterprise, a shift from heavy industry to consumerproduction, the liberaliation of foreign trade,
and a reduced and more clearly defined role for state planning. In a separate section on foreign policy, the
Action Program pledged to uphold Czechoslovkia’s traditional commitments in the “struggle against the
forces ofimperialist reaction.” At thesametime, the program affirmed the needfor “amore active European
policy” andurgedthatCzechoslovakia “fomulate itsownposition vis–vistheproblems ofworld politics.”
The document was not as radical assomeof its proponents portrayed it; it did not, forexample, envisage
any ircunmstances in which the communist party would be removed from power, and it rejected the
“bourgeois” notion of a formal political opposition. Nevertheless, the reforms did represent the first
tentative steps toward what the authors described as “political pluralism,” and it was intended as the
prelude to a longer-term program of sweeping reform that would be worked out by the government and
the legislature.
[Introductory sections deleted.]
The Leading Role ofthe Party: A Guarantee of Socialist Progress
At present it is most important that the party adopt a policy fully justifying its leading role in
society. We believe this is a condition for the socialist development of the country. …
| Inthepast,theleadingrole-ofthepartywas-usuallyconceivedof as amonopolistic
concentration of power in the hands of partyorgans. This conceptcorresponded with the false
hesis that the party is theinstrument of thedictatorship of the proletarat. That harmful
conception weakenedthe initiative andresponsibility of state,economic, and social institutions,
damaged the party’s authority, and prevented it from carrying out its real functions. The party’s
wgoal is not tobecomeauniversal”caretaker” of society, bind all organizations, andwatch every
Steptakeninfulfillmentof1tsdirectives Is missioninsteadis primarilytoinspiresocialist
intiative, toemonstratecommunistperspectives,theirmodes,andto winover allworkersby
systematepersuasion,andthepersonalexamplesofcommunists Thisdeterminestheconceptual
fe sideof partyactivity Partyorgansshouldnotdeal with allproblems;they shouldencourage
othersandsuggestsolutionstothemostimportantdfficulties.But at thesametimethe party
canot tur intoanorganizatienthatinfteneesseciety ty tsieasandprogramalone. It must
develop through its members and bodies the practical organizational methods of a political force
in society..
As a representative of the most progresive section of society-and therefore the representativeof theprospectiveaims of society-{he partycannotrepresentthe full range of social
interests.he NationalFront, the political face of themanifoldinterests of society,expresses
theunity ofSociatstrata,interestgroups,and ofnationsandnationalitiesin thissociety. The
wattotkeplecest soc
partydoesngtwanttoand will nottaketheplaceofsocialorganizationsonthecontrary,itmust
ensure that their initiative and political responsibility for the unity of society are revived and can
flourish) The role of the party is to find a way of satisfying the various interests without
jeopardizingtheinterests ofsocietyasawhole,and promotngthoseinterestsandcreatingnew
YrOgressIveones:fThe party’s policy mustnotleadnon-communtstSto feel that their rights and Soveoiretdom are limited by the role of the party. . . .
For the Development of Socialist Democracy and a NewSystemn
of the Political Management ofSociety
C..We mustreform thewholepoliticalsystemsothatit wll permitthe dynamicdevelopment
of social relations appropriate for socialism,combinebroaddemocracy with scientific, highly
qualified management, strengthen the social order, stabilize socialist relations, and maintain
social discipline. The basic structure of the political system must, at the same time, provide firm
guarantees against a return to the old methods of subjectivism and highhandedness. Party activity
has not been directed systematically to that end and, in fact, obstacles have frequently been put
in the way of such efforts. All thesechangesnecessarily call for the commencement of work on
a new Czechoslovak Constitution so that a draft may be thoroughly discussed by professionals
and in public and submitted to the National Assembly shortly after the party congress.
The entireNational Front,the politicalpartiesthatformit,andthesocialorganizations’will
take part in the creation of state policyThe politicalpartiesof theNationalFrontarepartners
whose potiicat work isbasedonthe joint politicalprogramof heNationalFrontandisnaturally
bound by the Consitution oftheCzechoslovakSocialistRepublic{TheNationalFrontisbased
on thesocialistcharacterofsocialrelationsin ourcountrylTheCommunistParty ofCzechoslovakia considerstheNational Front tobea politicalplatformthatdoesnotseparatepolitical parties
into governmentandoppositionfactions,[tdoesnotcreateoppositiontostate policy-the policy of theentire NationalFront or leadstrugglesforpoliticalpower.Possibledifferencesin the
viewpoints of individual components of the National Front or divergent views regarding state
policy are to be settled on the basis of the of National Front policy
by way of political agreementand the unification of allcomponentsof the National Front.
The implementation of theconstitutionalfreedomsofassemblyand associationmust be
ensured this yearSo thatthe possibility ofsettingupvoluntaryorganizations,special-interest
yassociations, societies, and othersuch bodies isguaranteedby law, and so that the present
interests and needs of various sections of our society are tended to without bureaucratic
Interference and free from a monopoly by any individual organization.Any restrictions in this
respect can be imposed only by law, and only the law can stipulatewhat is anti-social, forbidden,
or punishable. Freedoms guaranteed by law and in compliance with the constitution also apply
fully to citizens of various creeds and religious denominations.
Legal standards must also set forth a more explicit guarantee of the(freedom of speech for
minority interests and opinions (again within the framework of socialist laws and following the
principle thatdecisionsaretakeninaccordancewith the will ofthe majority) Theconstitutional
freedom ofmovement,particutartythat of ravetabroadfor ourcitizens, mustbe explicitly
guaranteed by law. In particular, this means that a citizen should have the legal right to long-term
or permanent sojourn abroad and that people should not be groundlessly placed in the position
of emigrants. At the same time it is necessary to protect by law the interests of the state, for
example, with regard to a possible drain of some specialists, etc.
Ourentirelegalcodemustgraduallycometo gripswiththeproblemof how toprotect,in a
betterandmoreconsistentway,thepersonalrightsandproperty ofcitizens,andwemust certainly
remove statutes that effectively put individual citizens at a disadvantage with the state and other
institutions. In thefuturewemustpreventvariousinstitutionsfromdisregardingpersonalrights
and the interests of individual citizens as far as personal ownership of family houses,gardens,
and other items is concerned. It will be necessary to adopt, as soon as possible, the long-drafted
law oncompensationfor anydamagecaused to any individual or to an organization byan
It is troublingthatup to nowtherehabilitation ofpeople, both communists andnon-communists, who were the victims of legal transgressions in previous years, has not always beencarried
out in full,regardingpoliticalandcivicconsequences….
In theinterestofthedevelopmentofoursocialistsociety it is absolutelyessential tostrengthen
theunity oftheCzechostovakpeopteandtheirconfidence in thepotiey of the CommunistParty
ofCzechoslovakia,toeffectacrucialchangein theconstitutionalrrangement oftherelations
betweenCzechsandStovaks,and to carty out thenecessary constitutional modifications.Itis
equallyesSsentialtorespecttheadvantage of a socialist federal arrangement as arecognizedand
well-tested form of the legal coexistence of two equal nations in a common socialist state.
Mererse Contiolee
Socialism Cannot Do without Enterprises
The democratizationprogram of the economy places special emphasis on ensuring the
independenceofenterprisesandenterprisegroupingsand their relative independence fromstate
boies;the fullimplementationoftherightof consumerstodetermine their consumptionpattens
Sad Tifestyles;therighttochoosejobs freely;andthe rightand opportunity ofvariousgroupsof
aorking peopleanddifferent socialgroupstoformulate anddefend their economicinterestsin
Decision-making about the plan and the economic policy of the state must be both a process
of mutual confrontation and harmonization of different interests, that is, the interests of
enterprises, consumers, employers, different social groups of the population, nations, and so
forth. It also must manifest asuitable combination of the long-term development of theeconomy
and its immediate prosperity. Effective measures protecting the consumer against the abuse of
monopolies and economic power of production and trading enterprises must be considered a
necessary part of the economic activity of the state.
The drafting of the national economic plan and the national economic policy must be subject
to the democratic control of the National Assembly and specialized control of academic institutions. The supreme body implernenting the economic policy of the state is the government.
The Central Committee believes it is essential to raise the authority and responsibility of
enterprises in the concrete implementation of international economic relations. Production and
trade enterprises must have the right to choose their export and import organizations. At thesame
time it is necessary to lay down conditions that would entitle enterprises to act independently
on foreign markets.
The Intermational Status and Foreign Policy
oftheCzechoslovak Socialist Republic
We will be implementing the Action Program at a time when the international situation is
complicated. The development of that situation will influence the fulfillment of certain key
aspects of the program. On the other hand, the process of socialist renewal in Czechoslovakia
will make it possible for our republic to influence this international situation more actively. We
stand resolutely on the side of progress, democracy, and socialism in the struggle by socialist
and democraticforcesagainsttheaggressiveattempts of wordmperialism. It is from this
vicwpoint that we determineour atttude toward the most acute international problems of the
presentand our role in the worldwide struggle against the forces of imperialist reaction.
Taking, as a point of departure, the existing relationship of international forces and our
awarenessthat Czechoslovakia is an active component of the revolutionary process in the world,
theSSR will formulate its own position toward the fundamental problems of world politics.
ThebasicorientationofCzechaslovakforeign policy took root at the time of the struggle for
nationalliberationand in theprocessofthe socialreconstructionof the counlry. I revolves
around allianceandcOoperationwith theSoviet Unionandthe other socialist states.
We willactivelypursueapolicy ofpeaceful coexIStencevis–visthe advancedcapitalist
countries.Ourgeographicalposition,as well astheneedsandcapacities of an industrialized
country, compel us to pursue a more active European policy aimed at the promotion of mutually
advantageous relations with all states and with international organizations, and aimed at
safeguarding the collective security of the European continent. epeescsetenee
‘.:.igi : 1:

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