I have said all I can to the individual arguments of the prosecution during the course of the trial and the interrogation. I shall not repeat myself, therefore, but I will summarize my point of view: I believe that the charges against me of incitement and obstruction of the exercise of duty of a public official have not been proven. I consider myself to be innocent and ask to be released.
In conclusion, however, I would like to speak out on one aspect of the whole case, which has not as yet been mentioned. During the prosecution, it was claimed that I attempted to conceal the real antistate and the antisocialist nature of an organized gathering of people. This claim, which, by the way, is not and cannot be substantiated, suggests that I acted with a political goal in mind. That surely entitles me to deal for a moment with the political side of the whole case.
Firstly, I must say that the words “antistate” and “antisocialist” lost any semantic meaning long ago, since during their long years of quite wanton use, they became a pejorative label for all citizens who, for various reasons, made the government feel uncomfortable. By that, I am not referring to their political thinking. In fact, three general secretaries of the Communist party of Czechoslovakia—Slánský, Husák, and Dubcek—have at various stages in their lives been labeled with these words. Today it is Charter 77 and other independent groups that are marked by these epithets, naturally only because the government does not like the influence they wield and because it feels the need to somehow get rid of them. As has been seen, not even my indictment has avoided this purely linguistic means of political defamation.
What then is the real political significance of what we do? Charter 77 came into being and functions as an informal society that tries to monitor Czechoslovakia’s safeguarding of human rights and the government’s adherence to international treaties and the Czechoslovak constitution. For twelve years now, Charter 77 has been drawing the government’s attention to the serious discrepancies between their obligations and social practice; for twelve years we have been pointing out various unsalutary occurrences and crises, violations of constitutional rights, arbitrariness, disorder, and incompetence. The work that Charter 77 carries out corresponds to the opinions of a considerable section of our society; I am convinced of this daily. For twelve years now, we have been offering the government dialogue on these matters. For twelve years, the government has not reacted to our initiative; it has merely imprisoned and persecuted us for it. In fact, the government itself today admits to numerous problems that Charter 77 has been indicating for a number of years and that could have been solved long ago if it had paid heed to what was said. Charter 77 has always stressed its policy of nonviolence and the lawfulness of its work. Its policy has never been to organize disturbances on …
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.