IV.  Social, Political and Economic Background 



Was the Czechoslovak economic reform successful? There is no simple answer to this seemingly simple question. The preceding section showed that in spite of many delays caused by opposing conservative forces, the reform movement succeeded in dismantling the command system in all important economic areas. It was also highly successful in convincing the Czechoslovak society - including the ruling elite - of the superiority of market socialism. In the years 1967-9 this idea was generally accepted and the first practical steps leading to the revival of the market were accomplished. It is, of course, possible that this process would not have continued smoothly and that the reform would have been reversed even without the invasion.



There are at least two reasons, however, for believing that such a development would have been very unlikely. First, the experience of Yugoslavia and Hungary shows that reform may continue uninterrupted in the absence of direct foreign interference. Secondly, the aversion to the Soviet-type command economy and the determination of Czechs and Slovaks to disassociate themselves from it were extremely strong. Even in the post-invasion political situation it took three years before the idea of reform was abandoned and the command system finally rebuilt. Judged purely by the internal situation, it is possible to say with a certain degree of confidence that the Czechoslovak economic reform would very likely have been successful in transforming command system into market socialism. How well the new system would have worked is another matter.



It is nevertheless true that in a broader sense both the economic and political reforms were unsuccessful. They failed because the Czechoslovak reformers went too far without recognizing the limits imposed on them by 'international realities' and consequently provoke invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies.
It is not very difficult to understand why Soviet leaders decided to crush the Czechoslovak Spring. Less obvious are the reasons which led to the internal success of the reform. They will be discussed in the following two sections.










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