Primary Sources

Prague Embassy cable, Student Strike Situation Report

Description

This November 21 U.S. embassy report demonstrates the influence of the independent student strike at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. The students' power stemmed largely from their ability to organize quickly. On November 18, student leaders in Prague had announced an immediate university strike in addition to the general strike. That Monday, thousands of students refused to attend classes and instead held discussions on the political situation. Moreover, independent students were gradually linking the 20-odd university towns into a nationwide strike network, allowing them to coordinate protest actions and inform people about the November 17 events more easily. From the government's perspective, the students' (and actors') strike was creating an organizational structure that could harness the hitherto uncontrolled popular protests into a united opposition front. Therefore Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec himself was willing to negotiate with independent students to nip their strike in the bud. Union of Socialist Youth chairman Vasil Mohorita worked the student strike from another angle, promising material resources in an effort to co-opt the students' momentum for the reform socialists' cause. These attempts ultimately proved unsuccessful because the student strike had already grown strong enough to maintain its independence and the Communist regime was moving too slowly to keep pace with the popular demands.

Source

Prague Embassy to U.S. Secretary of State, "Student Strike Situation Report," 20 November 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

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3. A MEMBER OF THE COORDINATING COMMITTEE OF THE ONGOING STUDENT STRIKE IN PRAGUE TOLD EMBOFF THAT COMMITTEE MEMBERS THE EVENING OF NOVEMBER 20 HAD MET WITH VASIL MOHORITA, CHAIRMAN OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK SOCIALIST YOUTH UNION (SSM), AND THAT MOHORITA HAD PLEDGED THE SUPPORT OF THE SSM FOR THE STRIKE....

4. MOHORITA PROMISED THE COMMITTEE THAT THE SSM WOULD PROVIDE MICROPHONES AND LOUDSPEAKERS FOR A DEMONSTRATION TODAY, NOVEMBER 21. (EMBOFF NOTED THAT A BULL HORN WAS IN USE BY DEMONSTRATORS THIS NOON AT THE SQUARE). HE ALSO PROMISED THAT THE SSM WOULD SEND OUT REPRESENTATIVES THROUGHOUT CZECHOSLOVAKIA TO GET ALL UNIVERSITIES AND HIGH SCHOOLS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE STUDENT STRIKE. AS OF TODAY, WE BELIEVE VIRTUALLY ALL SCHOOLS IN PRAGUE AND BRNO ARE CLOSED, BUT THAT A GENERAL STUDENT STRIKE HAS NOT SPREAD BEYOND THESE TWO CITIES, THOUGH SELECTED FACULTIES/GYMNASIA ARE CLOSED IN CITIES LIKE BRATISLAVA AND CESKE BUDEJOVICE. GENERALLY, FACULTY MEMBERS ARE SUPPORTING STUDENTS IN THIS STRIKE.

5. A VISIT TO THE FACULTY OF MUSIC AND ARTS BY ONE EMBOFF FOUND ADMITTANCE TO THE SCHOOL LIMITED TO STUDENTS, FACULTY AND "SPECIAL GUESTS," WITH A FUNCTIONING PRESS CENTER AND STRIKE COMMITTEE HEADQUARTERS. CANDLES COMMEMORATING THE EVENTS OF NOVEMBER 17 BURNED OUTSIDE, WHILE INSIDE STUDENTS WERE WRITING PROCLAMATIONS AND PLOTTING STRATEGY TO GET WORKERS, FARMERS AND EVEN POLICE TO SUPPORT A GENERAL STRIKE ON NOVEMBER 27. A STRIKE COMMITTEE MEMBER TOLD EMBOFF THAT THEY HAD ALREADY RECEIVED SEVERAL DELEGATIONS OF REPRESENTATIVES OF FACTORY WORKERS WHO HAD PLEDGED SUPPORT ...

6. STRIKE COMMITTEE MEMBERS ALSO STATED THAT PRIME MINISTER ADAMEC HAD PLEDGED TO MEET WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STRIKE COORDINATING COMMITTEE TODAY, OUR CONTACT INDICATED THAT COMMITTEE MEMBERS WOULD APPROACH THE MEETING WITH AN OPEN MIND, BUT DOUBTED THAT ADAMEC COULD OFFER ANYTHING WHICH WOULD LEAD STUDENTS TO CANCEL THEIR STRIKE OR WITHDRAW CALLS FOR DEMONSTRATIONS AND A NOVEMBER 27 GENERAL STRIKE.

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How to Cite this Source

Prague Embassy, "Prague Embassy cable, Student Strike Situation Report," Making the History of 1989, Item #501, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/501 (accessed September 03 2014, 12:40 am).

Associated Files