Primary Sources

Internal Organization of the Civic Forum

Description

Civic Forum suffered from an ongoing identity crisis because the movement's origins conflicted with the demands of leading popular opposition to the state. The dissident intellectuals guiding its early formation had advocated the idea of self-limiting resistance; they didn't want Civic Forum to become a top-down political organization, but rather a free, open society of citizens. After great success in the general strike and "round-table" negotiations, however, the Forum found itself the main contender for the party's power and had to revise its self-image accordingly. The November 28 statement "What we are" presented the first full elaboration on the movement's internal structure. The Prague-based Coordinating Committee became the organizational center of a horizontal network of Fora created and directed by local citizens. Their common platform was the November 26 program "What we want" (see document 513). This open system of equal organizations replicated the dissidents' ideals. It would prove harder to remain non-political, as foreshadowed in the "basic goals" of creating an environment for political pluralism and free elections. The trend towards politicization intensified a few weeks later when Forum leaders accepted governmental positions and the movement agreed to represent the democratic opposition in the founding elections for the post-communist state.

Source

The Civic Forum, "Internal Organization of the Civic Forum," 28 November 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 internal organization of Civic Forums:

1. The Civic Forum (further only CF) is a spontaneously created citizen movement, which is united by the effort to find positive outcomes from the current crisis in our society. No one is excluded from this movement who agrees with the program directives of the CF, published on 26 November 1989 and who especially refuses the further continuation of a political system consisting of one ruling party. We consider the basic goal of the CF to be the complete opening of an environment for the creation of political pluralism and for the organization of free elections in our country.

2. It is possible to create a local CF anywhere based on regions, professions or interests by citizens, and not institutions....

3. Relations between the Coordinating Center and the local CFs:

a) The CF Coordinating Center and the local CF constitute a unit joined solely by the active civic attitude of its members. The Civic Forum does not have a complicated hierarchy, only a horizontal net with every local Civic Forum, connected to one coordinating center;

b) The Coordinating Center is just an informational and organizational center ... All local Civic Forums operate completely independently on the local level;

c) The Coordinating Center represents the Civic Forum in negotiations with central state and international institutions ...

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5. The orientation of the activity of the local CF: The point of the activity of the local CF is the activation of civic behavior ...

6. We believe that the local CFs should concern themselves very soon with these areas of activity:

a) Local CFs should specify and define the opinions of citizens in the broad democratic discussion....

b) Local Civic Forums can pursue solutions to local problems ...

c) Local CFs can prepare strikes, demonstrations and other activities supporting their demands ...

d) Local CFs should support all citizens in all areas where relations with the current undemocratic structures results in violations of civic rights in the broadest sense of the word. Local CFs are therefore the means for civic self-defense.

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How to Cite this Source

The Civic Forum, "Internal Organization of the Civic Forum," Making the History of 1989, Item #515, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/515 (accessed October 30 2014, 2:13 pm).