Instructions of the Coordinating Center of the Civic Forum for the Local Forums with a Recommendation for Policy Toward the Communists
The name "Velvet Revolution" was an oxymoron: revolutions were traditionally violent overthrows wiping away the old regime in order to build a new society. The Communist Party followed this model in Eastern Europe, and opposition groups rejected it in 1989 with their strategy of non-violence. But could this strategy successfully remove power from a totalitarian regime? The problem emerged….
Civic Forum suffered from an ongoing identity crisis because the movement's origins conflicted with the demands of leading popular opposition to the state. The dissident intellectuals guiding its early formation had advocated the idea of self-limiting resistance; they didn't want Civic Forum to become a top-down political organization, but rather a free, open society of citizens. After great….
The Position of the Civic Forum and Public Against Violence Toward the Negotiations with Czechoslovak Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec
Civic Forum and Public Against Violence released this communique after their second round of negotiations with the government on November 28. The nationwide general strike had occurred the day before with resounding success; it was estimated that between one-half and three-fourths of the adult population participated in some fashion. This triumph gave the opposition a great deal of leverage in….
From the beginning, Civic Forum had to balance two objectives: leading popular protests and negotiating with the regime. In its first week, the Forum concentrated on mobilizing public support for the upcoming general strike. November 26 signified a turning point. That morning, Forum representatives appeared at the first formal round of negotiations with only their original four demands; they….
Several of the previous documents (for example doc. 492, 508 and 510) have dealt with the Czechoslovak Communist Party's attempts to control public opinion in the early days of the Velvet Revolution. The party's strategy for the first week or so consisted of isolating the opposition and using ideological arguments to convince the general public of the harmful consequences of the protesters'….
Teleprint from Jozef Lenart, Secretary of CC CPCz, to Regional Committees and Municipal Commitees in Prague and Bratislava
The battle for public opinion occupied both government and opposition at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. In this November 23 communique, Central Committee member Jozef Lenart reported on the party's measures to sway the public against the opposition. His argument echoed the conservative leadership's refusal to compromise with the protesters, maintaining instead that local communists….
Anti-state demonstrations have traditionally taken place in the heart of Prague on Wenceslas Square. After the November 17 police crackdown, it was no accident that the Square became the central point for people to get information, meet others and, from November 21 on, to attend the daily "meetings" when opposition groups addressed citizens from the balcony of the Melantrich publishing house.….
Letter from the Civic Forum to US President George Bush and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev
On November 21, Civic Forum representatives addressed the throngs of demonstrators on Wenceslas Square for the first time; this public "meeting" would soon became a daily ritual. Afterwards, Forum members wrote this letter to the U.S. and Soviet leaders, speaking as the legitimate representatives of those "hundreds of thousands" on the Square. The letter concerns one of the touchiest subjects….
The Civic Forum's Position on the Negotiations of its Representatives with Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec
Civic Forum's original demands included "round-table" negotiations between itself and the government following the model used in Poland and Hungary. Unlike the party leadership in those countries, however, the Czechoslovak communists refused to open dialogue with the opposition until their hand was forced by the explosion of protest after November 17. Despite continued conservative resistance,….
The Civic Forum's Exposition of its Position in Public Life with a Call for Nonviolence, Tolerance and Dialogue
Uncertainty pervaded the days after the November 17 crackdown as different groups struggled to gain control of events. The rumor that a student was killed during the demonstration exemplified the overall lack of reliable information. This story was fed to Western media but was later proven false; government officials sought to defuse public anger by televising an interview with the….
Prague Embassy cable, Czechoslovak Independents Establish New Organization and List Agenda of Demands
The established opposition reacted slowly to November 17; while students and actors began mobilizing on Saturday, it was Sunday before opposition leaders met to determine their next steps. That afternoon, independent activists created Civic Forum and drew up a list of four initial demands (see document 493). This U.S. embassy cable reported on the press conference announcing Civic Forum's….
For many years, opposition in Czechoslovakia was represented mainly by Charter 77, a group advocating human rights and peaceful, evolutionary change. By autumn 1989, the opposition community had grown and diversified so much that discussions were underway to unite the different groups into a common organization. This finally happened two days after the fateful November 17 demonstration, when….