Primary Sources

Prague Embassy cable, Czechoslovak Independents Establish New Organization and List Agenda of Demands

Description

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 establishment the next day. The movement's founding members comprised the entire spectrum of independent and political activity: dissident intellectuals, youth groups, Communist Party reformers, free-market advocates, and politicians from the officially-sanctioned Social Democrats and People's Party, to name just a few. Overseeing this motley crew was Vaclav Havel, Czech playwright and de facto leader of Charter 77 who commanded great respect at home and abroad. Over the next few days, Civic Forum rose to the forefront of the popular protests and would negotiate the peaceful transfer of power from the communist regime. But on November 19 its fate remained unclear. In the midst of growing social and political turmoil, Civic Forum had not yet made a name for itself. This perhaps accounts for the embassy's terse statement, describing what in hindsight proved to be one of the most important events in the Velvet Revolution.

Source

Prague Embassy to U.S. Secretary of State, "Czechoslovak Independents Establish New Organization and List Agenda of Demands," 20 November 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

...

1(U) INDEPENDENT ELEMENTS OVER THE WEEKEND ESTABLISHED AN ORGANIZATION CALLED THE "CIVIC FORUM." THE FORUM HELD A PRESS CONFERENCE NOVEMBER 20 IN THE APARTMENT OF VACLAV HAVEL (AND IN HAVEL'S PRESENCE). IT REPORTEDLY ANNOUNCED A FOUR-POINT AGENDA, DEMANDING:

--REEVALUATION OF 1968;

--RESIGNATION OF ALL 1968 ERA FIGURES IN THE REGIME;

-- A COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE CHARGES OF POLICE BRUTALITY (NOT APPARENTLY LIMITED TO SUPPRESSION OF THE NOVEMBER 17 DEMONSTRATIONS);

-- FREEING OF ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS.

2. (U) THE FORUM CALLED FOR A GENERAL STRIKE FOR NOVEMBER 27, BUT TOOK NO POSITION ON HOLDING THREATENED DEMONSTRATIONS TODAY (NOVEMBER 20).

3. (LOU) ACCORDING TO OUR CONTACT, HAVEL SAID THAT THE FORUM HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED BY THIRTEEN SIGNATORIES, “BUT POLITICIANS ALL OVER TOWN ARE SHOVING MEMBERSHIP CARDS UP THEIR SLEEVES TO BE READY WHEN THE SITUATION CHANGES." AS AN EXAMPLE, HE REPORTEDLY SAID THAT SOCIALIST PARTY HEAD JAN SKODA, THOUGH NOT A SIGNATORY, HAD PARTICIPATED IN THE FOUNDING AND GIVEN THE GROUP HIS VERBAL APPROVAL. IN THE SAME CATEGORY WAS BOHUMIL SVOBODA OF THE REFORM GROUP WITHIN THE PEOPLE'S PARTY. HAVEL ALSO REPORTEDLY INDICATED THAT THE GROUP WAS PREPARED TO WORK WITH ANYONE, INCLUDING MEMBERS OF THE REGIME, EXCEPT THOSE INVOLVED IN THE POST-1968 “NORMALIZATION."

BLACK

How to Cite this Source

Prague Embassy, "Prague Embassy cable, Czechoslovak Independents Establish New Organization and List Agenda of Demands," Making the History of 1989, Item #497, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/497 (accessed October 22 2014, 9:51 am).

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