Primary Sources

Proclamation on the Establishment of Civic Forum

Description

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 independent representatives established Civic Forum. They were reacting to events already in motion. Like the government, the opposition misjudged the depth of public anger over November 17 and did not immediately exploit the opportunity it presented. Instead, students and actors took the initiative with their call for a general strike. Nevertheless, Civic Forum quickly assumed the leading role in the popular uprising. This proclamation presents its four initial demands, including the call for "round table" negotiations with the government. The "round table" formula emerged from the power-sharing talks between opposition and government in Poland and Hungary during 1988 and 1989. Rather than demanding the wholesale overthrow of the communist regime, negotiations demonstrated the opposition's commitment to a peaceful transfer of power. However, considering the accelerating pace of events in November 1989, this strategy was also strikingly moderate.

Source

The Civic Forum, "Proclamation on the Establishment of Civic Forum," 19 November 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

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At the meeting in the Prague Theater Club on 19 November at 10:00 a.m. the Civic Forum was established as the mouthpiece of that part of the Czechoslovak public which is ever more critical toward the policies of the current Czechoslovak leadership and which was recently deeply shaken by the brutal massacre of students who were peacefully demonstrating.... The Civic Forum feels itself competent to negotiate immediately with the government about the critical situation in our country, to express the actual demands of the public and to discuss the solutions.

The Civic Forum wishes to begin such negotiations, which should be the beginning of a universal discussion on the future of Czechoslovakia, by a negotiation of these urgent and ever more openly formulated demands:

1. That those members of the Presidium of the CC CPCz who are directly connected with the preparation of the intervention by the five members of the Warsaw Pact in the year 1968 and who are responsible for the years long devastation of all areas of our society, immediately step down....

2. That the First Secretary of the Municipal Committee (MC) CPCz in Prague Miroslav Stepan and the Federal Minister of the Interior, Frantisek Kincl, who are responsible for all of the measures which the police have carried out over the last few months against the peaceful demonstrations of citizens, immediately step down.

3. That a committee be set up which would concretely investigate these measures, find the culprits and propose punishments for them. Civic Forum representatives must be included in this committee.

4. That all the criminals of conscience, including those who have been detained in connection with the last demonstration, be immediately released.

The Civic Forum demands that this proclamation be published in the official Czechoslovak media.

The Civic Forum stakes its authority behind the plan for a general strike on 27 November from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m., called by Prague university students, and understands it to be an expression of support for the demands which it wants to discuss with the state leader-ship.

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How to Cite this Source

The Civic Forum, "Proclamation on the Establishment of Civic Forum," Making the History of 1989, Item #493, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/493 (accessed August 22 2014, 9:36 pm).

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