Teleprint from the Presidium of the CC CPCz to the Secretaries of Regional Committees of the CPCz and CPS and the Party Municipal Committees in Prague and Bratislava
Czechoslovak communist leaders reacted to the first protests after November 17 with the same uncompromising attitude towards opposition they had held for twenty years. This November 21 Central Committee directive, calling on local communists to create a uniform front against the protests, illustrates some of the leadership's initial arguments and strategies. Denying that the public outcry against the recent police brutality was justified, leaders claimed that emotions were being manipulated by provocateurs to overthrow the state. They also argued that the protesters' demands, namely a general strike, threatened the public interest and would damage the economy. This strategy left little room for compromise with the opposition, but at the time it seemed feasible. The party's traditional supporters (including workers) remained passive or hostile to the growing unrest. By isolating the protests and presenting themselves as the only possibility for stable, rational change, conservatives hoped to keep the situation under control.
The strategy had one major flaw: many people unwilling to support a revolution were nevertheless convinced that some change was necessary, and conservative leaders had notoriously stifled all previous attempts at reform. This damaged their credibility even with communist supporters. To maintain any public sympathy, the government would have to change its tactics and its leadership.
The Presidium of the CC CPCz, "To the Secretaries of Regional Committees of the CPCz and CPS and the Party Municipal Committees," teleprint, Prague and Bratislava, November 21, 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
In the last few days a disturbance of the peace and public order occurred in Prague and a list of other places in our republic. The organizers of these acts abused a segment of the public, especially the student youth. They are dramatizing the situation, influencing the feelings and opinions of young people, heightening emotions. They are misusing the cultural front for this. Strikes are being organized in a series of theaters.
The current situation demands deliberate yet principled and offensive action on the part of all party organs and organizations and individual communists, in order not to let the situation slip out of our hands.
It is urgently necessary to mobilize party organizations, communists and all citizens who care about socialism, to support the position of the CSSR government, the CSR and the SSR, made public on 21 November of this year, and to help bring about an atmosphere of peace and prudence.
The most important is mass political work among the people. The functionaries and apparatus of the party and people’s councils, the leading workers must go to the workers’ collectives to prevent efforts to call a general strike, which the forces of the opposition are planning for 27 November....
The main goal is to show convincingly that straining the situation is a threat to every citizen of our society, the safety of every family. The eventual strikes, which the opposition threatens to carry out, would significantly damage our national economy, lead our market and supplies to destruction (especially now in the winter period before the Christmas holiday).
We must pay special attention to the media. The Presidium of the CC CPCz adopted measures which ought to stifle the high passions [of the public] and ensure uniform information [being given out by] the Czechoslovak Press Agency 4 (CTK), radio and television....
The party press must influence the public.... It is necessary for them to broadcast the positions of the worker’s collectives and individuals supportive of the politics of reconstruction and democratization, a dialog in the interests of socialism. The voices condemning the efforts to disrupt our society should be heard.
In this situation it is necessary to mobilize the ideological activists of the party ... To ensure prompt information and uniformity of opinions, it is necessary to incorporate lecturers and propagandists of social organizations, including the Socialist Academy, into this group of activists.