forty years ago this week russian tanks rolled into prague after the workers of czechoslovakia rose up against stalinism and established their own workers’ councils as organs of self-goverment. the cuban bureaucracy condemned the uprising, and its caudillo fidel castro made two speeches on august 23rd and 24th attacking the “counter-revolutionary” movement in czechoslovakia and supporting the ussr’s invasion. to the embarrassment of the “mandelite” fourth international, which to this day venerates che guevara (who died in 1967), the cuban regime put itself firmly in the camp of russian imperialism and bureaucratic power.
august 23, 1968 – a speech in defense of warsaw pact intervention in czechoslovakia. in his speech, castro criticized the soviet leadership for not giving more aid to defeat the “counter-revolution” – in other countries as well as czechoslovakia.
right here, i wish to make the first important affirmation: we considered that czechoslovakia was moving toward a counter-revolutionary situation. toward capitalism and into the arms of imperialism.
so this defines our first position in relation to the specific fact of ction taken by a group of socialist countries. that is, we consider that it was absolutely necessary, at all cost, in one way or another, to prevent this eventuality from taking place…
discussion of the form is not, in the final analysis, the most fundamental factor. the essential point to be accepted, or not accepted, is whether or not the socialist camp could allow a political situation to develop which would lead to the breaking away of a socialist country, to its falling into the arms of imperialism. and our point of view is that it is not permissible and that the socialist camp has a right to prevent this in one way or another. i would like to begin by making it clear that we look upon this fact as an essential one…
a real liberal fury was unleashed; a whole series of political slogans in favor of the formation of opposition parties began to develop, in favor of open anti-marxist and anti-leninist theses, such as the thesis that the party should cease to play the role which the party plays within socialist society and begin to play the role there of a guide, supervising some things but, above all, exerting a sort of spiritual leadership. in short, that the reins of power should cease to be in the hands of the communist party.
the revision of certain fundamental postulates to the effect that a socialist regime is a transition regime from socialism to communism, a governmental form known as the dictatorship of the proletariat. this means a government where power is wielded in behalf of one class and against the former exploiting classes by virtue of which in a revolutionary process political rights, the right to carry on political activities – whose objective is precisely to struggle against the essence and the raison d’etre of socialism – cannot be granted to the former exploiters.
a series of slogans began to be put forward and in fact certain measures were taken such as the establishment of the bourgeois “freedom” of the press. this means that the counter-revolution and the exploiters, the very enemies of socialism, were granted the right to speak and write freely against socialism.
as a matter of fact, a process of seizure of the principal information media by the reactionary elements began to develop. as regards foreign policy, a whole series of slogans of open rapprochement toward capitalist concepts and theses and of rapprochement towards the west appeared…
on many occasions the imperialists have publicly stated what their policy is in relation to the socialist countries of eastern europe. and in congress, in the press, they always talk about encouraging the liberal tendencies and even about promoting, of making available, some selective economic aid and of using every means of contributing to creating an opposition to socialism there. the imperialists are carrying out a campaign, not only in czechoslovakia, but in all the countries of eastern europe, even in the soviet union.
opinion on intervention
august 24, 1968
i wish to quickly make the first important statement that we considered czechoslovakia to be heading toward a counterrevolutionary situation, toward capitalism and into the arms of imperialism. this is the operative concept in our first position toward the specific fact of the action taken by a group of socialist countries. that is, we consider that it was unavoidable to prevent this from happening – at any cost, in one way or another.
of course, let us not become impatient, because we propose to analyze this in line with our ideas. discussing the form is not really the most fundamental thing. the essential thing, whether we accept it or not, is whether the socialist bloc could permit the development of a political situation which lead to the breakdown of a socialist country and its fall into the arms of imperialism. from our viewpoint, it is not permissible and the socialist bloc has the right to prevent it in one way or another.
we first wish to begin by establishing what our opinion is about this essential matter. now, it is not enough to explain simply that czechoslovakia was heading toward a counterevolutionary situation and that it had to be stopped. it is not enough to conclude simply that the only alternative was to prevent it and nothing more. we must analyze the causes and determine the factors which made possible and necessary such a dramatic, drastic, and painful remedy. what are the factors which required a step unquestionably involving a violation of legal principles and of international standards, which have often served as shields for peoples against injustices and are so highly regarded in the world?
what is not appropriate here is to say that the sovereignty of the czechoslovak state was not violated. that would be fiction and a lie. the violation was flagrant, and on this we are going to talk about the effect on sovereignty, and on legal and political principles. from the legal viewpoint, it cannot be justified. this is quite clear. in our judgment, the decision on czechoslovakia can be explained only from the political viewpoint and not from a legal viewpoint. frankly, it has absolutely no legality.
what are the circumstances that have permitted a remedy of this nature, a remedy which places in a difficult situation the entire world revolutionary movement, a remedy which constitutes a really traumatic situation for an entire people – as is the present case in czechoslovakia – a remedy which implies that an entire nation has to pass through the most unpleasant circumstances of seeing the country occupied by armies of other countries, although they are armies of the socialist countries. a situation in which millions of beings of a country have to see themselves today in the tragic circumstance of electing and choosing either to be passive toward these circumstances and this event – which so much brings to mind previous episodes – or to struggle in comradeship with pro-yankee agents and spies, the enemies of socialism, the agents of west germany, and all that fascist and reactionary rabble that in the heat of these circumstances will try to present itself as champions of the sovereignty, patriotism, and freedom of czechoslovakia?
logically, for the czechoslovak people this experience and this fact constitute a better and tragic situation. therefore, it is not enough simply to conclude that it has arisen as an inexorable necessity and even, if you wish, as an unquestionable obligation of the socialist countries to prevent such events from happening. [one must inquire] what are the cases, the factors, and the circumstances that brought forth – after 20 years of communism in czechoslovakia – a group of persons whose names do not even appear anywhere, and this petition directed to other countries of the socialist camp, asking them to send their armies to prevent the triumph of the counterrevolution in czechoslovakia and the triumph of the intrigues and conspiracies of the imperialist countries interested in breaking czechoslovakia from the community of socialist countries?
could it be imagined, gentlemen, that at the end of 20 years of communism in our country – of communist revolution, of socialist revolution – that under any circumstances it could happen that a group of honest revolutionaries in this country, terrified at the prospects of an advance or, better said, of a retrogression toward counterrevolutionary positions and imperialism, would see the need of asking the aid of friendly armies to prevent such a situation from occurring?
what would have remained of the communist consciousness of this people? what would have remained of the revolutionary consciousness of this people, of the dignity of this people, of the revolutionary morale of this people? what would have remained of all those things that mean for us essentially the revolution if such circumstances should one day arise?
but no circumstances of that kind will ever occur in our country. first, because we believe that it is a duty and fundamental responsibility of those who direct a revolution to prevent deformations of such a nature that might make possible such circumstances. secondly, gentlemen, for an unquestionably practical reason and not only a moral elemental reason, because we could ask if it would be worth the trouble if, after 20 years, to survive a revolution one had to resort to such procedures. And also, for a very simple practical reason: who would false personalities of this country ask to send armies? The only armies that we have in our vicinity are the yankee army and the armies of the puppets allied with the yankee imperialists, the because we are too alone in this part of the world for there ever to exist the most remote possibility of saving this revolution by asking aid of allied armies.
and it must be said that i do not know anyone capable of having enough shame to do such a thing if they had the need and opportunity to do it, because what kind of communists would we be and what kind of communist revolution would this be if at the end of 20 years we found ourselves having to do such a thing to save it?
always, when we have thought about foreign aid, we have never had the idea of foreign aid to fight against the imperialist soldiers and against the imperialist armies. i simply analyze these facts because i know that, legally, our people are concerned with an explanation of these concepts. such things are not in our idea of the revolution.
i do not think that a person can justify the appeal of high-ranking persons, because the justification can only be the political fact in itself – that czechoslovakia was marching toward a counterrevolutionary situation and this was seriously affecting the entire socialist community. and besides, there is no lack of figleaves of any kind. it is the political fact in itself, with all its consequences and all its importance. as we were saying, recognizing that and nothing else is simply enough.
or if it is obligatory, it is elementary to draw from this most bitter experience all the political conclusions. and as it is possible, we repeat: in these circumstances, an analysis must be made of all the factors. for the communist movement, there is the unavoidable duty of investigating deeply the causes leading to such a situation, a situation inconceivable for us, the cuban revolutionaries. if such action is impossible for us cuban revolutionaries – we who saw the necessity for carrying out this revolution 90 miles from imperialism – we also know that we cannot fall into these circumstances because it would mean the very end of the revolution and falling into the worst situation, provoked by our enemies, full of hatred. but this is not the reason for making or trying to make this profound analysis.