Primary Sources

Teleprint from Jozef Lenart, Secretary of CC CPCz, to Regional Committees and Municipal Commitees in Prague and Bratislava

Description

The battle for public opinion occupied both government and opposition at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. In this November 23 communique, Central Committee member Jozef Lenart reported on the party's measures to sway the public against the opposition. His argument echoed the conservative leadership's refusal to compromise with the protesters, maintaining instead that local communists should isolate the unrest and drive a wedge between different protest groups. He acknowledged that this strategy had not yet stopped the original strikers, but for Lenart the key benchmark was workers: they had to be prevented from supporting the opposition and the general strike. However, events that same day suggested that hope of isolating the unrest was already futile. At a pro-state rally that afternoon, Prague communist boss Miroslav Stepan told local factory workers that the government would not allow students, i.e. children, to dictate how to run the country. The workers became incensed and began chanting "We are not children". Afterwards several thousand marched to the Civic Forum demonstration on Wenceslas Square, the first worker delegation to publicly support the opposition. This and other events threw into doubt the effectiveness of the conservatives' divide-and-conquer approach.

Source

Jozef Lenart, "To Regional Committees and Municipal Committees," teleprint, Prague and Bratislava, November 23, 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Teleprint from Jozef Lenart, Secretary of CC CPS, to Regional Committees and Municipal Committees in Prague and Bratislava 23 November 1989

The students are continuing their efforts to establish contacts with workers in establishments and gaining support for the general strike. In factories, no tendencies toward strikes have been exhibited so far. On the contrary, in important political-economic centers, the workers are expressing demands for peace and work.

The opposition forces are trying to unite striking students and the part of the public which is in solidarity with them in the demands of the “proclamation” of the Civic Forum, established on 19 November....

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In discussions with students and the public, it is necessary to show that the Civic Forum is misusing the original demands of the students, directed primarily at the investigation into the security force’s intervention on 17 November 1989. It broadens them to ever more momentous political demands, aimed at destroying our social order. Several flyers distributed in Prague signed by “students on strike” endorse these demands.

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The main task is to resume instruction in high schools and universities as soon as possible. In those places where it is impossible to engage in discussion with the students, it is necessary to offer them a specific program to turn their attention to a constructive outlet for their activities.

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The situation among the workers of the cultural front is basically unchanged. Other cultural institutions in the capital and in other regions of the republic are gradually joining in the protests against the intervention of the security forces on 17 November 1989. Prague sculptors and painters have [now] also joined the strike. The attempt to reverse the decision to strike has so far been unsuccessful. Some theater directors have said that their influence on the developments could be even further diminished because the strike committees are handling the decisions.

The situation in the clergy and religious groups was basically solid on 21 November, without any tendencies toward activism on the part of spiritual and religious people.

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The exception is the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Tomasek’s written statement entitled “To all the People of Czechoslovakia,” reproduced in The People’s Democracy 6 on 22 November, is of a confrontational character....

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Vaclav Havel made an appearance on Wenceslas Square on 22 November, which also was shown on the Czechoslovak television program “Contact.” He spoke about the tactical approaches of the opposition forces at the current time....

Analysis of the broadcasts of Western radio stations during the course of the last year has revealed that they are intensifying their attacks against the authorities ...

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It is possible to conclude that the attacks against the state power apparatus will have a tendency to rise. This was fully proven in the period starting 17 November.

Since the situation is changing very fast it is essential to act constructively and accurately.

Party organs at all levels must stop being on the defensive.... We are fighting for public opinion. The future of the country and its citizens is at stake. Every act, day and hour is decisive.

We must show the harmfulness of pressure tactics, which prevent real dialogue, and from which new political demands are constantly being introduced that go far beyond the boundaries of the previous spontaneous student reaction.

We must demonstrate to the workers and students on the basis of concrete facts what the losses caused by strike actions are, in relation to businesses, districts and individuals. No long words, but concrete numbers.

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Our tactical agenda must rest on plans to divide the until now united front of participants in the protest. It is essential to differentiate between those who participate in strikes and those who go to protest gatherings, and the organizers of these acts and those who go to open confrontation and take advantage of the inexperience of young people.

It is necessary to prevent the entry of emissaries from the opposing forces into factories, their demagogic influence on the workers and their inflammatory speeches against socialism and the Communist Party.

It is necessary to concentrate all of our forces on stopping the general strike.... It is necessary to make an impact on the members of strike committees. They are not united in the question of the aim of the general strike. It is necessary to take maximum advantage of each different opinion in the strike committee to ensure the main goal—preventing the general strike.

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How to Cite this Source

Jozef Lenart, "Teleprint from Jozef Lenart, Secretary of CC CPCz, to Regional Committees and Municipal Commitees in Prague and Bratislava," Making the History of 1989, Item #510, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/510 (accessed July 28 2014, 6:22 am).

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