Edward Goldstücker interview at his home near Prague, September 1993
Interviewer — Metta Spencer
He recommends that I interview Vaclav Slavik, who worked there. The only surviving person who worked at Problems of Peace and Socialism. Augsberg is dead. He would have been an interesting person to interview, though Goldstücker says he was a nasty piece of work, an opportunist. He was head of the ideology dept of the party secretariat. They transferred him there and he died holding that position in the journal. During ’68, Goldstücker was chairman of the writers union, and he had conversations with Soviet writers interested in what was going on here — either genuinely or to try to influence the outcome. He says that he was interrupted by one of them, who he suspected was sent to disrupt things — a well-known writer, Belyev, who said “why aren’t you satisfied with economic reform without democratization?”
Goldstücker: And then I had a various serious and long discussion with Konstantine Simonov. His wife was there; she was an intelligent art historian. We sat together for two half days and he understood and sympathized with us.
MS: Was this the Belayev who later became editor of Twentieth Century and Peace?
Goldstucker: Might have been. He was later taken out. He wrote a piece called “The Old Fortress,” which was published in many thousands of copies.
MS: What was your role at that time?
Goldstücker: I was head of the writers union. We published a literary journal that was read by up to a million readers, in a population of 10 million Czechs. I was also vice-[provost??] of Charles University at the same time. …
[Two days after invasion, when Dubcek was arrested and taken to Moscow, they took him in front of the heavy-weights and tried to persuade him that the invasion was necessary and he tried to tell them that it was a great mistake and in the protocol of that conversation was taken down and was one of the documents that Yeltsin gave Havel when he came to Czechoslovakia two years ago.]
MS: Did you flee immediately?Goldstücker: I fled immediately because I knew I was high on their hit-list.
MS: How many people did they arrest and kill?
Goldstücker: Immediately they arrested hardly anybody. They tried to maintain the brotherly help attitude. But in the process of occupation they immediately killed about 70 people. People who got in the way of the tanks.
MS: Until that point, what had been the relation between Soviets and Czechs. Had it been possible to hold conversations?
Goldstücker: In April 1968 there developed an open polemic between ________, who died not long after, and Soviet writers who attacked him. I came to his aid and told the Soviets to think about the necessity of carefully ending the psychology of the people who had to fight for its very existence, its independence, and not to proceed as a colonial power. They published that. It was translated into English. There was a journal in California published The Journal of Comparative Communism at about that time. It will be a useful thing for you because it included translations of many things of that period. … In 1967 there was a writers congress in this country where the regime was sharply criticized by the writers. As a punishment, the party decided to take away from the writers this journal and put it under the minister of culture, who was one of the worst Soviet agents here. He made a great career after the occupation. That finished the journal because after that, no self-respecting writer would submit anything to it. But in the Prague Spring we renewed that journal and published it until the occupation. It was half a year, approximately. Nobody can appreciate the tremendous feeling in the whole country at that time. After the negotiations between the Czech communist party and the Soviets. They met on the border because the Czech communist leaders decided they would not be put in the situation of being indicted, and that they would not leave the country. If anyone wanted to negotiate with us, they would have to come here. And we are going going to negotiate with a collective, we are going to negotiate with individual party leaders. The Soviet party leadership was interested and it happened for the first time in the history of the Sovet Union the politburo left the Soviet Union collectively. They chose the derelict little frontier railway station in Eastern Slovakia and there the two politburos met. To be on the safe side, the Soviet politburo retired in their special train across the border for the night. And after the negotiation there was a sort of reconciliation meeting with the leadershps in Bratislava, after which they came to the conclusion that they had gained some time. On the basis of that, I took a holiday of three weeks in the mountains of Slovakia. The occupation surprised me. I was a very well known man at that time. Wherever I went people recognized me on the street. My colleages told me I must not remain there because they expected the Soviets to do what they had done in the Baltic states — deport large numbers to Siberia. So I hid in a room a quarter the size of this with a transistor radio. There were indications they were looking for me, so I went to Vienna. That was my second exile.
MS: When was your first exile?
Goldstücker: After the second world war, the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. And in the meantime I was arrested and tried and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Czech Stalinists.
MS: What happened to the politburo when the Soviets invaded?
Goldstücker: One of the first things they did was to arrest the six leaders, Dubcek, … and deported them to somewhere unknown because they came here with the plan of installing immediately a “workers and peasants revolutionary government” which would realize the Soviet policy. But the resistance of the people in the street was tremendous and the plan could not be realized. Besides, President Svoboda refused to appoint a new government. So they had to change their tactics and try to get out of the difficult situation they had maneouvred themselves into. So they suggested that a delegation fly to Moscow to negotiate. And to this negotiation they brought the people who were destined for annihilation. Instead of shooting them they negotiated, together with another bunch of people President Svoboda brought in his plane — people who were mostly Moscow-friendly. At the end of the negotiation they signed a document, the “Moscow Protocol,” which sanctioned the occupation. They all signed it with one exception, a Jewish doctor, who was attacked in an anti-semitic way by Kosygin and others. They wanted to keep him there and not return him to Czechoslovakia, but Dubcek said that he would refuse to enter into the airplane as long as Kreger was not there. They had to yield. He was called Frantisek Kreger. He is dead.
I ask about Gorbachev’s 1969 visit but he did not know. He had come back three times to meetings of parliament, as long as he was a member, but then he and all the others who had favored the Prague Spring were chucked out so he did not come back after that.
Goldstücker: It was dangerous to come back. They kept the frontiers open for more than a year until they had all the organization togehter — a new police force, etc. In autumn ’69 we were expelled from parliament without any reason.
MS: Were you a member of the CP?
Goldstücker: Oh, yes. I was in the Czech parliament. I was preparing for the party congress, which should have opened on the 9th of September, and one of the reasons why they came in at that time was to prevent the party congress from taking place.
The campaign of purification was led by Jakes, the head of discipline in the party. Mlynar stayed here, resigned his party position by the spring of 68 and remained here until 77. I don’t know whether you know that his occupation is entomologist. Bugs. He was employed by the national museum and he was one of the organizers, together with Havel and others, of Charter 77 in 1977. He was tremendously attacked, lost his job, and left.
- He never practiced as a lawyer. He was employed by the party.
- He tells me that the St. George statue is at the castle.
- He never heard Mlynar or anyone else tell the story about Gorbachev’s taking an oath. But he says, quoting a proverb, “If it isn’t true, it is certainly well thought-out.”
- The Italians tried to allay the danger in 1968. Antonetti was not influential in 68 but later. He became the person who had connections with Dubcek as an honest broker.
- He says that the Italians (including Antonetti) have published a review of their doings on the anniversary of the Prague invasion. The citation is: l’Unità, 70 No. 196, date Sat Aug. 21, 1993.
“You will see the role the Italian communists played in Prague.”
- Goldstucker does not agree with Urban’s view that Antonetti was especially important.