Dissent and Human Rigts Cover Image

Disent a ľudské práva
Dissent and Human Rigts

Author(s): Norbert Kmeť
Subject(s): Politics / Political Sciences
Published by: Ústav politických vied Slovenskej akadémie vied
Keywords: Czechoslovakia; dissent; Charta 77; democracy; human rights; Helsinki Final Act

Summary/Abstract: The study analyses the attitude of the Communist regime towards dissent and towards human rights. It outlines the origin, development and outcomes of the human rights movement and in this framework it evaluates the role of the members of dissent. The author points out that during the Communist Party’s rule, human rights were not observed, they were interpreted from the perspective of social classes and were subject to the power interests of the regime. The author then describes the difference in understanding of the concept of human rights between the East and the West, where the attitudes of either block have been infl uenced by the motivation to release international tension and economic cooperation. In the next part, the author clarifi es the double-faced attitude of the Czechoslovak political leadership towards the country’s obligations resulting from their signing of the Helsinki Final Act. In confl ict with this agreement, the European socialist states exercised various forms of prosecution of those individuals who advocated respect for human rights. The study emphasizes that operations aimed against Charta 77 presented a double-edged sword for the political leadership. Both in the intellectual setting and in the offi cial structures there was uproar about keeping the wording of Charta 77 secret from public in backstage communication. When Anti-Charta, orchestrated by the regime, was signed, groups of workmen and collective farmers showed discontent over the fact that the wording of Charta had not been publicized, as a result of which the general public did not know what they actually disapproved of. Most information about Charta 77 had been gathered from the western radio stations. In the period of harsh repression by the regime people associated in groups, which began to clearly and openly show their discontent with the current social order. Communist reformers were replaced by dissidents. With regard to their activities, the author considers important the fact that advocacy and respect for human rights became a matter of a group of people or of individuals without any institutionalization. Dissidents offered the political leadership a dialogue about human rights formally anchored in the Czechoslovak legislation. The closing part of the study offers a picture of growing initiatives of the population in the period following the coming of Mikhail Gorbatchev into power, and considers these initiatives the beginnings of a civic society. The author views the Helsinki process enhanced by the influence of Charta 77 and other independent activities based on the public’s participation as a movement that resulted in the transformation of the social and political order in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

  • Issue Year: I/2008
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 5-20
  • Page Count: 16
  • Language: Slovak