Saturday, 27 September 2014

1968 - you say you want a revolution

In January 1968 Alexander Dubček became leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia which led to the  Prague Spring, where Dubcek and other moderate communists tried to give socialism a human face.

Like many politicians (of all hues) before and since Dubček was walking the tightrope: trying to make the changes that he knows are necessary and right, keeping the faithful on side, but not upsetting the hardliners by doing too much too soon. Blair tried and failed, for a moment in 1997 the future was golden, that soon soured. Obama has been much the same. We know he wants a change to come, but politics happens.  Trying to keep the doves and hawks happy he ends up pleasing no-one. It must be a pain.

So it was in Prague 1968.  Dubček was still a loyal communist, he believed that the USSR would allow him to make internal changes.  But Brezhnev wasn't happy.  Over to wikipedia:

On the night of 20–21 August 1968, Warsaw Pact forces entered Czechoslovakia. The occupying armies quickly seized control of Prague and the Central Committee's building, taking Dubček and other reformers into Soviet custody. But, before they were arrested, Dubček urged the people not to resist. Later in the day, Dubček and the others were taken to Moscow on a Soviet military transport aircraft.
Despite the inspired non-violent resistance of the Czech and Slovak population, the reformers had little hope of holding out against Soviet pressure and ultimately were forced to accede to Soviet demands, signing the Moscow protocols.
Dubček and most of the reformers were returned to Prague on 27 August and Dubček retained his post as the party's first secretary for a while. Indeed, the achievements of the Prague Spring were not reversed overnight, but over a period of several months.
In January 1969, Dubček was hospitalized in Bratislava complaining of a cold and had to cancel a speech. Rumours sprang up that his illness was radiation sickness and that it was caused by radioactive strontium being placed in his soup during his stay in Moscow in an attempt to kill him. However, a U.S. intelligence report discounted this for lack of evidence.  
In the late '70s, our family headed South.  Apart from the increased greenery one of the first things I noticed in the south was some graffiti proclaiming LONG LIVE DUBCEK.  This was, at most, a decade old but seemed to be from a different time.  And now another three decades have passed.  I think this says something about the relativity of time, or at least the way we perceive the pasage of time at different ages.  The graffiti is still there, but faded and partially hidden by ivy and a small tree.  I'm tempted to borrow a white van and a high viz jacket and pretend I'm from the Council and clear away all the green.  It's history, right there.

Two top songs from 1968

I remember seeing Deaf School do a half hour version of Grapevine at Liverpool University in 1978, a version which transcended human understanding. 

technically this dates from 1967 but was a hit in 1968 following Otis' death in December '67

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