Czechs scrap one-party rule – archive, 29 November 1989

The Czechoslovak government yesterday bowed to overwhelming people’s power and agreed to the opposition’s key demand for an end to one-party rule.

The announcement came at the end of a third round of negotiations between the Prime Minister, Mr Ladislav Adamec, and the opposition Civic Forum movement. It followed 11 days of massive demonstrations and a general strike on Monday.

“The premier of the federal government promises that by December 3, 1989, he will propose to the president of the republic the appointment of a new government,” said the Minister without Portfolio, Mr Marian Calfa, after the two-hour talks. “This government should be based on a broad coalition representing non-party members, other political parties and naturally the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.”

The government will also propose to the country’s Federal Assembly sweeping reforms of the constitution, including dropping the clause which guarantees the leading role of the Communist Party, said the announcement.

It will also urge the removal of the constitutional requirement to base the education system on Marxism-Leninism. “This concept will be replaced by a concept of education based on scientific knowledge and the principles of humanitarianism,” said Mr Calfa.

The government also announced that, less than 10 days after the Civic Forum was born, it has been officially recognised. Permanent premises would be found for it.

In its short life so far the Forum has been restricted to a variety of inadequate and obviously temporary premises, ranging from the flat of Mr Vaclav Havel, the playwright, to a magic lantern theatre.

After Mr Calfa announced Mr Adamec’s decision, the state news agency CTK reported that a hardliner, Mr Alois Indra, had resigned as chairman of the Federal Assembly.

It is expected that legislation will be brought forward as quickly as possible to allow freedom of association. Since Czechoslovaks have grown accustomed overnight to unauthorised meetings of between 500,000 and a million people, this news can only be greeted with something of a smile.

But the move could also pave the way to the formation of new political parties, something which is certain to be demanded if and when the Civic Forum ceases to exist in its present form in the new year, as some of its leaders expect.

Equally significantly, it could lead to the formation of free trade unions for workers whose aspirations have been smothered under the official Revolutionary Trade Union Council.

One of the prominent experts almost certain to be included in the new government is Mr Valtr Komarek, the head of the Institute of Forecasting.

His economic assessments were ignored by the old party leadership. But over the last few days he has become a cult figure, greeted enthusiastically when addressing workers and by the crowds on Wenceslas Square. In speeches at several rallies on Monday, Mr Komarek urged a market economy and democratic pluralism.

Representatives of Civic Forum met last night to discuss their response, and signalled their determination to extract maximum concessions. They are still concerned to achieve swifter democratisation of the media and a firm date for national multi-party elections. There was no doubt events have moved decisively their way.

After the two-hour strike on Monday, Civic Forum called a halt to the demonstrations which led to the fall of over half the 13-member party politburo, the release of at least eight political prisoners and a sudden opening up of official newspapers and television.

Yesterday’s editorial in the Communist Party newspaper Rude Pravo signalled the new readiness to compromise. It acknowledged the strength and breadth of Monday’s strike. It paid tribute to the organising ability of the students and the “intelligence of their opinions”, criticised the party for having too long “pointed the finger”, and called for dialogue.

In another concession, the paper said both Czech and Slovak Ministries of Culture had lifted 20-year-old bans on countless films, books and plays, including those by Mr Vaclav Havel and the exiled novelist, Mr Milan Kundera.

The first of those who left after the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968 are returning. Yesterday Mr Zdenek Mlynar, the youngest of the Prague Spring politburo, flew in from Vienna.


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