January 5, 2018

"Czechoslovakia."



An old song, from a favorite album of mine — "Streetnoise" — which I'm thinking of today because today is the 50 year anniversary of the beginning of the Prague Spring:
The Prague Spring (Czech: Pražské jaro, Slovak: Pražská jar) was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II. It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubček was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), and continued until 21 August 1968 when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to halt the reforms....

25 comments:

Paddy O said...

Socialism with a human face.

If you have to add a clarification to make a movement more human, it's probably a bad sign that the movement isn't really about helping people to begin with.

YoungHegelian said...

One of my brother's best friends when he was doing his doctoral work at University of Toronto was a Czech guy whose family escaped when the Soviets invaded Czechslovakia in 1968. The guy's father was a Jew who had fled to the East when the Germans invaded in 1939, joined the Red Army & ended the war a decorated hero. But, by the end of the "Spring", the father felt he had to leave Czechoslovakia because he was afraid that the Soviets would make him an offer he could not refuse to be a quisling in the new government. The US was too difficult to get into, so he chose Canada for asylum.

My brother's friend arrived in Canada at about age 14, & proceeded to learn English by watching "The Newlywed Game" on TV. Needless to say, his vision of his new capitalist homeland was forever warped by the experience.

John Tuffnell said...

"My brother's friend arrived in Canada at about age 14, & proceeded to learn English by watching "The Newlywed Game" on TV. Needless to say, his vision of his new capitalist homeland was forever warped by the experience."

So did you try to pick up girls together as he asked them with his Czech accent if they "want do the whoopee?"

Humperdink said...

Future NHL hall of fame hockey player Jaromír Jágr wears uniform number 68 in honor of the year 1968. He was born in 1972 in KLadno.

YoungHegelian said...

@John T,

So did you try to pick up girls together as he asked them with his Czech accent if they "want do the whoopee?"

Needless to say, my brother's friend was not at all amused by Steve Martin & Dan Akroyd's portrayal of those Czech "wild & crazy guys", the Yortuk Brothers on SNL. If he had ever been stood up by a young Toronto woman who told him that she needed to go down to the CN Tower to pick up her birth control devices, he kept that humiliation to himself.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Leroy Tirebiter said...

Wow, Streetnoise is also one of my favorite lps, ever since its release at the end of my junior year of high school. Getting the shivers listening to Julie's voice...

Michael K said...

The first movie I saw Daniel Day Lewis in was "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." which was about the Prague Spring and the aftermath.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

Cool track. No Althouse iTunes portal?

campy said...

If you have to add a clarification to make a movement more human, it's probably a bad sign that the movement isn't really about helping people to begin with.

See also: Compassionate conservatism.

madAsHell said...

proceeded to learn English by watching "The Newlywed Game" on TV.

I have been acquainted with several Chinese. Universally, they all say they learned English watching "Friends", and sub-titled in Chinese. "Friends" as the rosetta stone.

razzbuddy said...

Streetnoise. That got me out of hibernation. Probably my first comment. Julie Driscoll (Tippetts) what a voice. Great album. Not sure if it's available digitally. Double record with many outstanding tracks. Thanks for the wake up call.

chuck said...

I was in Manhattan at the time of the Warsaw Pact invasion and went in the morning to protest at the Soviet Consulate. IIRC, it was a drizzly morning and there were about a dozen other people protesting. That was in the days of the giant anti-war protests, but it seemed no one much cared, least of all the anti-imperialists.

Tom Peckenham said...

Wow - Thanks for that. A key event and a key band from my years-ago.

Richard Dillman said...

After the soviets invaded and crushed the uprising, unreliable professors were summarily fired from their teaching positions. Many
of them ended up drving buses wherein they often delivered amusing lectures as they drove.

n.n said...

American conservatism is easy.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

and

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

A conservation of principles.

Progressivism is monotonic (unqualified).

Liberalism is divergent (generational).

Will Cate said...

Nice track... Julie Driscoll was (and I suppose still is) a great singer. The Trinity's version of Dylan's "This Wheel's On Fire" is killer, and was the theme song of the great BBC show Absolutely Fabulous.

Brian Auger's Oblivion Express was a bit more to my liking personally, being a prog-rock kid from the 70s ;-)

Mike Sylwester said...

In the summer of 1971 I spent a month in Czechoslovakia, and in the summer of 1972 I spent two months there. I spent most of the time in Brno, which is about in the middle of Czechoslovakia.

During the second summer I attended a Czech-language summer school for foreign students conducted by and at the University of Brno.

I was a Slavic-languages major, and I had been studying Czech already for a year before that first summer. By the end of that second summer I spoke Czech quite well.

I still can read Czech, but I haven't really spoken it for 40 years.

-----

My paying for the two-month summer school was amazingly cheap. As I recall, I paid something like $150 for two months of tuition, room and board. The cost for Americans was subsidized from the interest on a large amount of gold that the US Government had seized in the USA after Czechoslovakia became Communist. I never learned the details about that.

-----

The standard of living in Czechoslovakia was much better than in the Soviet Union, where I had previously spent a couple of months.

-----

I have read a lot about the history of Czechoslovakia. During the 1930s and 1940s the labor unions were very strong, and their Communist elements were very strong. After World War Two, a very large portion of the electorate voted for the Communist candidates.

There were plenty of Czech true-believer Communists when the Communists seized power in 1948.

Between 1948 and 1968, most of those true-believers became disillusioned, however, as they realized that their economy was stagnating. Czechs compared their own economy to Austria's economy. Although travel to Austria was restricted, Czechs knew that Austria's economy was growing much better than their own.

The young people also were angry that they could not travel abroad from their small country. Their parents in their young years had traveled and lived abroad.

When I was there, everyone I met was openly anti-Communist in conversations with me. In group conversations, nobody was inhibited in expressing such opinions. It was just assumed that everyone present -- even if they all did not know each other -- was anti-Communist.

narciso said...

In that interval, they midwifed this outfit:
www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_red_brigades.html

They also supported the Palestinians and ilyich ramirez band

In addition to providing a particular type of plastic explosive

Mike Sylwester said...

While I'm writing here about Czechoslovakia, I want to recommend a book that I read about a year ago. The book is titled Stalin's American Spy: Noel Field, Allen Dulles and the East European Show-Trials, and it was written by Tony Sharp. I would list this as one of the best five books I have read in my life -- and I have been a compulsive reader for my entire life.

https://www.amazon.com/Stalins-American-Spy-European-Show-Trials/dp/1849043442

The book is a masterpiece of historical research and writing.

Plus, Noel Field's life was extraordinary. He spoke several languages fluently. He worked in the US State Department for several years and then worked in a series of international organizations in Europe.

Field was a spy for the Soviet Union. He was a spy friend of Alger Hiss and of Hiss's fellow spies.

In the late 1940s, however, Joseph Stalin became convinced that Field was a double-agent working primarily for the CIA. Eventually, Field became the center-piece of a vast conspiracy theory that caused a long series of Stalinist show-trials of prominent Communists in all the East European Communist countries -- including Czechoslovakia.

The book explains how all that happened.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

The music is amazing. I've haven't heard it before. I'm 58 so it was a little before my time but I'm still surprised I haven't run across it.

Mike Sylwester said...

It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubček was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

I have read about a previous date that marked the beginning of the Prague Spring.

On some particular evening during the winter of 1967-1968, there was an electrical blackout in some dormitories at the University of Prague. This blackout had been preceded recently by a series of blackouts, caused simply by poor maintenance of the electrical system.

The students had a lot of candles handy in their dormitories, and they lit them and went outside. The students were in a rather jovial mood, and they started marching around in an impromptu demonstration and chanting "let there be light".

Although this demonstration was not blatantly political, it was suppressed brutally by the police. This incident led to the spread of various protest activities.

narciso said...

Yes he was plenty mixed up:
http://spartacus-educational.com/Noel_Field.htm

Bad Lieutenant said...

Kasabian must have been watching this with tongues out and pencils in hand when they wrote "Club Foot" https://g.co/kgs/N3Apns

James Michener wrote "The Bridge at Andau" about the fire last time, in Hungary, but I know of no videos or popular songs about it.

Phil 3:14 said...

Will this be the first of many "50 years since..." celebrations of '68 events?

All us Boomers know 1968 was THE year.