Mezi sympatiemi a loajalitou. Francouzská komunistická strana a pražské jaro
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Between Sympathies and Loyalties: The French Communist Party and the Prague Spring
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The French Communists’ official reactions to the Soviet-led military intervention by five Warsaw Pact countries in Czechoslovakia in August 1968 are generally considered to mark the first time in history that the French Communist Party decided not to show public support for an international operation by the Soviet Union. As the author demonstrates with an analysis of records from the Archive of the French Communist Party and the central Czechoslovak archives, French Communist support for the Czechoslovak reform movement was not exactly straightforward; nor was subsequent French Communist condemnation of the August military intervention consistent. The French Communist Party leaders’ attitude to Alexander Dubček (1921–1992) and the Prague Spring can, according to the author, be reasonably described as limited support, which did not go beyond the limits of friendship with the Soviet Union. The diplomatic activity of the General Secretary of the French Communist Party, Waldeck Rochet (1905–1983), also stemmed from this attitude: in July 1968, he tried, unsuccessfully, to act as a broker between Prague and Moscow and thus prevent the military intervention. By contrast, amongst French Communist intellectuals, like Roger Garaudy (1913–2012) and Louis Aragon (1897–1982), sympathies for the Prague Spring were much more visible. In contrast to the enthusiasm with which these intellectuals welcomed ‘Socialism with a human face’ in Czechoslovak, however, were the impressions of the French Communist Party rank-and-file who had experienced the Prague Spring in person – they perceived it as a threat to Socialism and were unpleasantly surprised by manifestations of Czech and Slovak idealization of the West. Although the French Communist Party initially ‘condemned’ the intervention in Czechoslovakia, the next day its leaders moderated their negative response, expressing ‘disagreement’. Ultimately, this position had no real influence on the French Party’s relations with the Soviet Union. Indeed, according to the author, it would be more accurate to talk of a certain buttressing of those relations, since it turned out that they could be further developed regardless of the French Party’s not agreeing with the intervention. The attitude of the French Communist Party leadership after August 1968 was therefore of a dual nature: the Party declared that it stuck to its original position of disagreement with the intervention, but that was not really manifested in their politics in practice: in fact, they maintained friendly relations with both the Soviet Communists and the ‘normalized’ Czechoslovak Communist Party. But not all French Communists agreed with this stance. For many French Communist intellectuals, the official condemnation was insufficient, and they appealed for greater solidarity with occupied Czechoslovakia. Nor amongst the rank-and-file of the French Communist Party was opinion unanimous; probably many members agreed with the intervention in Czechoslovakia.
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