Soviet troops occupy Czechoslovakia

The Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia was not only a crime; it was a blunder of historic proportions. It is still too early to strike a final balance, as one bewildering rumour succeeds another.But one thing is certain. By sending in their troops the Russian leaders confessed their political bankruptcy and revealed the weakness of the entire Soviet system. They have, at the same time, increased that weakness. By occupying Czechoslovakia they have, in effect, announced that the Soviet system is so vulnerable that it cannot allow free speech and so brittle that it dare not permit experiment.

The Soviet action demands condemnation: but just to condemn is an inadequate reaction. For this risks treating the Soviet behaviour as an aberration. But this is precisely what it is not. The Soviet invasion falls into a familiar pattern: the Pavlovian reaction of all intensely conservative and autocratic regimes faced with a challenge to their authority and a demand for change. It was in this way that Metternich’s Austria reacted to the forces of nineteenth-century nationalism; it was in this way, too, that Tsarist Russia reacted to the demands for social change.

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