Prague Spring – Tanks for the Memories?

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Dr. Richard Cirulli delves further into his growing body of work regarding societal evolution, known as the “Boomerang Series,” in his most recent article: Prague Spring – Tanks for the Memories? By Dr. Richard Cirulli, Ph.D., this Friday, August 31, 2018th at 10am EDT on the Westchester On the Level Internet radio broadcast. Listen “Live” or “On Demand”. Use the following hyperlink —  to listen to this segment from 10-11am.

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Prague Spring – Tanks for the Memories? By Dr. RICHARD CIRULLI, Ph.D.

Dr. Richard Cirulli is a retired Business Professor, consultant, writer, Innocent Bystander, and Critic-at-Large.

A wooden returning boomerang is a tool, typically constructed as a flat air foil that, when thrown, is designed to spin about an axis perpendicular to the direction of its flight so as to return to the thrower.

For us Boomerangs, 2018 is the year of many jubilees’s marking the pivotal events of our era, some of which were addressed in the author’s previous articles. August 21, 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to crush the movement known as the Prague Spring. The Moscow led invasion was the result of  Alexander Dubcek, leader of Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party, who initiated a project of liberalization that he believed would offer “socialism with a human face.”  Under his project of liberalization was a rebirth of political and cultural freedoms long denied by party leaders loyal to Moscow.  Where the free press flourished, artists and writers spoke their minds, and Mr. Dubcek challenged Moscow’s hegemony by attempting to create “a free, modern and profoundly humane society.”   Dubcek’s Prague Spring was soon crushed as T-54 Soviet tanks crushed the ‘rebellion.”  The numbers vary as to how many civilians  died as the result of the invasion, with estimates ranging from 80 to several hundred.  In the months following the invasion scores of civilians were arrested, and thousands were sent for “re-education” under the “normalization program.” The result witnessed hope replaced with fear, despair, and resignation by the nation. While the Czech’s woke up to the sound of Soviet T-54 tanks, American Baby boomers, woke up to The Rascals’ hit song “People Got To Be Free” that debuted in August 1968. The Czechs did not offer any resistance, knowing too well how the Soviets had responded with brutal force when other Soviet satellite states fought back in 1953, in East Germany, and in Hungary, in 1956.

The Czech dissidents were not alone in their protests, as across the western world students on college campuses from Berkeley to Paris were in revolt, Americans experienced the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was witnessed throughout the world as tens of thousands of Vietnam War protesters battle police in the streets, the Democratic Party fell apart over an internal disagreement concerning its stance on Vietnam, and Apollo 8 was launched to name just a few of the incidents that jarred the sensibilities of 1968.

In this universal solidarity of protest-against “repressive governments” there was also a nuanced contradiction. The Czechs were protesting against a tyrannical and repressive form of Soviet Socialism that silenced free speech, free-thinkers, artists, and a political system that denied democratic say in electing its leadership. And, whenever challenged, discourse was never an option; response to dissent was simply T-54’s and re-education centers. 

Juxtaposed to America, the founding nation of modern democracy maintained its numerous freedoms.  The 60’s Radicals sought their own forms of protest in riots, sit-ins, bombings, demonstrations, some peaceful, others not, the burning of draft cards and bras, and so on. Even so, the National Guard was called to “restore order” at various times. Ironically enough, the Czechs were seeking the same freedoms that were so commonplace in America. We all chanted the mantra of freedom, though often lost sight of its being relative, that is, that one man’s freedom is another man’s bondage.  To illustrate the point, consider the playing of loud music of your choice in a public area without concern and total disregard for all within ear-shot. This is a fundamental issue inherent to free-societies. At issue is whether society would be better served if everyone was allowed to conduct themselves as such? Should governments enact laws as to what music we can listen to? Should governments be the teachers of ethics, morality, and social protocol? Or just enact decibel level laws? Can societies mature or possess the emotional knowledge to respect one’s rights without having government enacting laws of so-called maturity? When excessive rules and enacted regulations are meant to teach a society how to behave correctly, are such “laws” signaling serious societal decline?

America was in shock at the tyranny imposed by the Soviet Regime based in Moscow, with its fear and thereby “over reaction” to Czechoslovakia’s bid for freedom; whereas with America’s saber-rattling bravado, American superiority deluded itself in believing it would never happen in America, the land of democracy, the freedom.  So with little retrospection America  disguised its denials and hypocrisies of the day. Our national demeanor was comforting because of its selectivity and in that time failed to make reference to a very sad footnote in America’s history that took place in 1932,  when President Herbert Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to disperse a crowd of veterans by force from Washington, D.C.

That sad and tragic episode in American history occurred in January 1932 when destitute WWI veterans, along with their families, marched on Washington to demand bonus money for serving in the armed forces. The vote over the bonus money bill was defeated 62-18 while the veterans were still camped out in Washington. President Hoover ordered the Secretary of War to disperse the veterans and their families. By the afternoon, General Douglas MacArthur led an army of cavalry, infantry, tanks, and machine guns to clear the destitute ranks; even the police joined in to shoot and kill a number of peaceful protesters.  Washington resorted to guns and bullets to quell Americans trying to obtain their most deficient needs. Once again confirming that the “common American” is merely a tax revenue stream and cannon fodder for the elitists of the day. Tanks for the memories America.

This is no isolated event or demonstration of denying democracy to the “free”. This scenario also occurred in 1893 with Coxley’s Rebellion.  After years of economic growth the bottom fell out of the credit market resulting in record levels of unemployment, leaving many families destitute.  Jacob Coxley, a successful Ohio businessman, along with his supporters, marched on Washington to assist humanity in distress. Coxley’s goal was to present Washington with his economic plan to have Washington hire the unemployed to work on much needed public infrastructure. When he arrived in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 1893, his “army of protesters” were greeted by police who clubbed the Coxley’s Rebellion protesters, and Coxley was sent to jail.  Does the outcome of Tiananmen Square mimick Coxley’s Rebellion? Here again, Coxley was fighting for the base needs of his fellow humanity, while achieving the self- actualization phase of his life.  Adding insult to injury, it was President Franklin Roosevelt who plagiarized his idea, as history would credit the New Deal to Roosevelt.

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Dr. Richard Cirulli is a retired Professor of Business, consultant, writer, Playwright, author, Innocent Bystander, Author of “The Songs of Roland” and critic at large. He looks forward to your comments at


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