Primary Sources

The Declaration of the Civic Forum by Representative Vaclav Havel on Wenceslas Square

Description

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. At the third such "meeting" on November 23, over 300,000 people listened as Civic Forum leader Vaclav Havel presented this declaration on the movement's current program. The text contains familiar statements: support for the November 27 general strike, calls for non-violence, and claims to represent the whole society. There are also new elements, in particular the assertion that the Forum had obtained the necessary resources to be a credible negotiating partner with the regime. This referred to the previous day's announcement by economists at the state-sponsored Prognostic Institute, which indicated their willingness to join Civic Forum and create an economic program to replace state socialism. The declaration thus portrayed Civic Forum to the crowds as increasingly capable of representing their interests against the communist state and demonstrated the movement's growing confidence as the legitimate leader of the popular uprisings.

Source

Vaclav Havel, "The Declaration of the Civic Forum," speech, Wenceslas Square, Prague, November 23, 1989, trans. Caroline Kovtun, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

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The Declaration of Civic Forum Representative Vaclav Havel on Wenceslas Square, Prague, 23 November 1989. After twenty years Czechoslovakia once again finds itself at a historical intersection thanks to the people’s movement, to which all generations and segments of the population and the majority of the still existing social organizations are quickly adding themselves. This movement is a movement of both of our nations. Its mouthpiece has spontaneously become the Civic Forum, which today is the real representative of the will of the people.... Anyone who agrees with its demands is joining, and may join, the Civic Forum.

The Civic Forum is prepared to secure a dialogue between the public and the present leadership immediately and has at its disposal qualified forces [from] all areas of society, capable of carrying out a free and objective dialogue about real paths toward a change in the political and economic conditions in our country.

The situation is open now, there are many opportunities before us, and we have only two certainties.

The first is the certainty that there is no return to the previous totalitarian system of government, which led our country to the brink of an absolute spiritual, moral, political, economic and ecological crisis.

Our second certainty is that we want to live in a free, democratic and prosperous Czechoslovakia, which must return to Europe, and that we will never abandon this ideal, no matter what transpires in these next few days.

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We are opponents of violence; we do not want revenge; we want to live as dignified and free people, who have the right to speak for the fate of their homeland and who also think of future generations.

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How to Cite this Source

Vaclav Havel, "The Declaration of the Civic Forum by Representative Vaclav Havel on Wenceslas Square," Making the History of 1989, Item #509, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/509 (accessed April 16 2014, 8:54 pm).

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