Socialism with a human face

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Socialism with a human face (Czech: socialismus s lidskou tváří, Slovak: socializmus s ľudskou tvárou) was a political programme announced by Alexander Dubček and his colleagues agreed at the Presidium of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in April 1968,[1] after he became chairman of the Party in January 1968. The first author of this slogan was Radovan Richta. It was a process of mild democratization and political liberalization that sought to build an advanced socialist society that valued democratic Czechoslovakian tradition.[2] It would still enable the Communist Party to maintain real power. It initiated the Prague spring which, on the night of 20-21 August 1968, was stopped by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.


The programme was an attempt to overcome the disillusionment of the people of Czechoslovakia with the political and economic situation at the time. As the name suggests, the plan was to breathe new life into the ideals of socialism, which had lost popular support due to the government policies of the previous two decades.[citation needed] While it never intended to bring back market capitalism, Alexander Dubček proposed trade with both Western and Soviet powers and a ten-year transition to multiparty democratized Socialism.[2]


The programme initially called for greater participation of the people in local and country politics under the umbrella of the Communist Party, for greater freedom of the press and of culture and emphasized the need for personal initiative in economics. The most loathed representatives of the previous style of rule were left to go.[citation needed]

The programme did not envisage the existence of independent political parties or private ownership of companies. Participation in Eastern Bloc structures was not questioned.[citation needed] The events of the Prague Spring, especially their speed and escalation, outstripped the original programme, to the surprise and dismay of its authors.

Prague Spring and Soviet invasion[edit]

The subsequent developments became known as the Prague Spring, which on the night of 20–21 August 1968 was stopped by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union feared losing control over the country and invaded Czechoslovakia on 21 August with 200,000 troops and 5,000 tanks.

The liberalizing reforms were eliminated step by step and the country eventually returned to the centralized model with the Communist Party organizing every aspect of political and economic life. Most of the influential people involved in the programme lost their political power and became targets of persecution.

The only surviving change was federalization of the country (by creating the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic in 1969). The Communist Party soon labeled "socialism with a human face" as an "attempt to destroy the advantages of socialist society and bring back the old system of exploiting people" and accused Western imperialism and emigrants for starting and nurturing the programme.

When his spokesman Gennady Gerasimov was asked, during Gorbachev's visit to Prague in 1987, what the difference was between the Prague Spring and perestroika, he replied: "nineteen years".[3]


  1. ^ "The Prague Spring, 1968". Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  2. ^ a b Lazarowitz, Arlene; Bingham, Emily (2005-02-01). "Socialism With a Human Face: The Leadership and Legacy of the Prague Spring". History Teacher. 38 (2): 273. doi:10.2307/1555723. ISSN 0018-2745. JSTOR 1555723.
  3. ^ Jacques Levesque, The Enigma of 1989: The USSR and the Liberation of Eastern Europe (Berkeley-London: Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997), p. 62.