Primary Sources

Instructions of the Coordinating Center of the Civic Forum for the Local Forums with a Recommendation for Policy Toward the Communists

Description

The name "Velvet Revolution" was an oxymoron: revolutions were traditionally violent overthrows wiping away the old regime in order to build a new society. The Communist Party followed this model in Eastern Europe, and opposition groups rejected it in 1989 with their strategy of non-violence. But could this strategy successfully remove power from a totalitarian regime? The problem emerged clearly in the matter of communist participation in Civic Forum, addressed in this November 29 directive from Prague's Coordination Committee. The directive specified that individuals were to be admitted to Civic Forum based upon their acceptance of its program and goals; prior political affiliation was irrelevant. Civic Forum was struggling to define the enemy: was it the communists themselves, or the methods they used? If the Forum condemned all party members because of their ideology, they would be copying the party's methods. Yet the danger of sabotage was real and it was necessary to remove communists from power. The directive posed the dilemma as a question of democracy: the communists' wholesale elimination was unacceptable because "we can only build democracy by democratic means!" Indeed, the inclusion of communists in society supported political pluralism, which the Forum considered essential to a truly democratic system.

Source

The Civic Forum, "Instructions of the Coordinating Center of the Civic Forum for the Local Forums with a Recommendation for Policy Toward the Communists," 29 November 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

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In the last two days information is coming from individual Civic Forums in the regions and especially in the factories and workplaces about communists becoming members, sometimes with intent to control them. We are democrats and therefore we can not prohibit our fellow citizens, without regard to their party affiliation, from joining and participating in the new structures of the civic movement. It is necessary, however, for all who work in them to be honest followers of our movement, the basic goal of which is ... “the complete opening of an environment for the creation of political pluralism and for the organization of free elections in our country.” A person whose actions are in blatant contradiction with efforts to create a democratic [society] while fully respecting human rights does not belong here, and it is necessary to expel him from the Civic Forum. This without regard to his party affiliation. Such an expulsion is especially urgent in those instances where there is a larger group of opponents of democracy [than honest members] in the forum. If there is a majority of them anywhere, it is necessary for the followers of the civic movement to leave the forum, found a new forum, and release a statement about their action. The opponents of democracy are in the minority, let us not let them rule and frighten us! In order to avoid such conflicts, we must be careful when accepting new Civic Forum members ... especially in those cases when CPCz members are applying for work....

The existence of various political and social groups, including communist ones, their activity and their influence over public opinion is ... very [desirable] outside of the framework of the forums and certainly should not develop into discrimination against any group ...

We can only build democracy by democratic means!

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How to Cite this Source

The Civic Forum, "Instructions of the Coordinating Center of the Civic Forum for the Local Forums with a Recommendation for Policy Toward the Communists," Making the History of 1989, Item #517, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/517 (accessed November 23 2014, 10:55 pm).

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