The Two Thousand Words
"The Two Thousand Words" is a manifesto written by Czech reformist writer Ludvík Vaculík in the midst of the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia that began in January 1968 with the election of Alexander Dubček and ended with a Soviet invasion in August, followed by the Czechoslovak Normalization.
After Dubcek’s election, reformist elements in the government feared a retrenchment of conservative policies. In preparation for the 14th Congress, where the Czechoslovak Communist Party (CCP) would elect its central committee, regional party conferences continued to discuss ways in which they could develop a party not based on the Soviet model, without the domination of party functionaries in every area of life. Vaculik penned the declaration (actually about 2,700 words in English and 2,008 in original Czech version) “at the behest of scientists and intellectuals,”  and it was published on June 27 in three Czech journals with sixty signatures from distinguished figures as well as ordinary workers and farmers. An editor of Literarni Listy (of which Vaculik was also an editor), a journal with a circulation of 300,000, said that the Two Thousand Words were Vaculik’s own personal statement, and that most of the other editors disagreed with its publication. Nevertheless, in the ensuing months the statement picked up thousands more signatures and generated hundreds of letters to newspapers, mostly in support.
In essence, the "Two Thousand Words" was a call for the people of Czechoslovakia to hold their party accountable to standards of openness—not open revolution. Vaculik began with an assessment of how the nation had declined under the CCP, painting a picture of moral and economic decay in which workers made no decisions for themselves.
“Most people, therefore, lost interest in public affairs; they worried only about themselves and about their money. Moreover, as a result of these bad conditions, now one cannot even rely on money. Relationships between people were harmed, and they didn’t enjoy working anymore. To sum up, the country reached a point where its spiritual health and character were both ruined.”
He gave credit to those “democratically-minded” members of the CCP who had agitated for change in a stagnant era, saying that it had been possible to air antagonistic ideas only from inside the party structure. These ideas, he says, do not gain their power from being new, but rather weak party leaders and widespread inequality and poverty, which allowed a larger slice of society to realize their position.
Rather than overturning the party, Vaculik prescribed that reformers support its progressive wing, which possessed “well-constructed organizations…experienced officials…[and] the decisive levers and buttons.” In a time of change, he said, the people should demand transparency in economic management and elect “capable and honest people” to be their representatives, as well as use legal and peaceful protests to bring down corrupt officials. He recognized the importance of a free press, and called for newspapers in the thrall of the party to be turned back into a “platform for all the positive forces.”
The statement would later be condemned by the Soviets for challenging the leading role of the Soviet Union. Vaculik mentions the USSR only obliquely, referring to “foreign forces,” and advising a gradual and moderate progression towards parity: “We can ensure equal relations only by improving our internal situation and by carrying forward the process of revival so far that one day at elections we will be able to elect statesmen who will have enough courage, honor, and political talent to establish and maintain such relations.” Overall, Vaculik called for the reinvention of socialism from within, through rigorous oversight by a newly empowered and unified population.
Although the document did energize and inspire progressives at the lower levels of the party, it also had a tremendously polarizing effect, serving as the pretext for a conservative riposte that would get Vaculik banned from the party. The presidium went into immediate emergency session, which only served to increase the statement’s support at home. Government leaders quickly denounced the statement, and even Dubcek addressed the nation on television a few days after its publication calling for national unity. Two weeks later, I. Aleksandrov condemned the "Two Thousand Words" in the Moscow journal Pravda as “a sort of platform representing the forces in Czechoslovakia and abroad that are endeavoring, under the guise of talk about ‘liberalization,’ ‘democratization,’ etc., to strike out the entire history of Czechoslovakia since 1948 and the socialist achievements of the Czechoslovak working people, to discredit the Czechoslovak Communist Party and its leading role, to undermine the friendship between the Czechoslovak people and the peoples of fraternal socialist states and to pave the way for counterrevolution.” 
The statement did not significantly instigate local action, and weakened Czech diplomats like the moderate Josef Smrkovský in his efforts to placate the Soviets, who were disturbed by the pace of reform in Czechoslovakia. Ultimately, it was one of the building blocks that led to the invasion of Czechoslovakia in mid-August. 
- Skilling, Gordon. Czechoslovakia's Interrupted Revolution. Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey, 1976. pp. 278-9.
- Stokes, Gale. From Stalinism to Pluralism. "The Prague Spring." Oxford University Press: 1996. p. 122
- Skilling p. 278
- "The Two Thousand Words," in Stokes, pp. 126-131
- Skilling p. 279
- Crampton, R.J. Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Routledge: London. 1994. p. 334
- “Attack on the Socialist Foundations of Czechoslovakia.” Pravda, July 11, 1968, quoted from CDSP, Vol. XX, No. 25 (July 31, 1968) pp. 3-7
- Crampton p. 335