DUBCEK by William Shawcross


Email this review


The image of Dubcek as an apostle of freedom, humanism and liberalization is tarnished by this political biography, probably more so than Shawcross, an East European correspondent for the London Sunday Times, intended. Shawcross maintains that Dubcek rose above the party apparatus to challenge Novotny and precipitate the 1968 thaw, but defends Dubcek's silence during the '50's Slansky purges by claiming he was only a middle-rank bureaucrat who kept clean of the affair and thus remained "innocent." While Dubcek has steadfastly maintained the correctness of his liberalization policies (largely patterned after Khrushchev's thaws), Shawcross indicates that Dubcek earlier thwarted those reforms (especially economic ones) and except on the subject of the invasion has refused to air any criticisms of the U.S.S.R. Shawcross fails to dissect the nation's industrial and agricultural travails, in which Dubcek played a significant part (the inflation-ridden collapse of Ota Sik's "Libermanism" and the dissolution of party authority on the local levels which contributed to the spring upsurge). The Czech philosopher Ivan Svitak, among others, has already pointed out that Dubcek was hardly a single-handed vanguard liberalizer. From 1969 interviews, Shawcross has, however, gathered valuable material on Dubcek's early years. Dubeck's father was an American Socialist Party member who returned to Czechoslovakia in 1921, the year of Alexander's birth, and joined the Communist Party. Dubcek spent his childhood in Russia, the war years in the Czech underground. Three additional years, 1955-58, were devoted to the Higher Party School in Moscow. Many of the details are new and they provide considerable insight into Dubcek's behavior and the bureaucratization of Communist militants in general. These are the features which will draw readers and researchers, not the book's standard Prague Spring narrative, or Shawcross's conclusion that Dubcek "continues to be a hope for the socialist future of Czechoslovakia.
Pub Date: April 1st, 1971
ISBN: 0671208411
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1971


NonfictionCOUNTING ONE'S BLESSINGS by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
NonfictionJUSTICE AND THE ENEMY by William Shawcross
by William Shawcross
NonfictionTHE QUEEN MOTHER by William Shawcross
by William Shawcross