As I explained recently at a meeting of former political prisoners, most of whom were violently anti-communist, I am a Trotskyist and revolutionary Marxist and this is the driving force of my commitment. As I see it, there is no socialism without human rights. My Marxism certainly does not seem to have been seen by the authorities as an extenuating circumstance: witness all the time I have spent in prison over the past twenty years. Of course, it is always possible to treat it as an odd quirk or an aberration. But it is harder to say that for my activity—the pamphlets and agitational work among young people in the late sixties, then my involvement in Charter 77 and vons, my work defending political prisoners and fighting for wider freedom of thought. All of that is generally recognized, so people respect what motivates that kind of activity, whether it be religious belief or Marxist conviction. We Chartists are in fact very diverse. There are those like me who saw the Charter as a step in the direction of political revolution, while others saw it as a way of disseminating the word of Christ. We respected one another, indeed there was a veritable laboratory of tolerance among the differing viewpoints of people all involved actively in the struggle. Outside, things were rather different.

But that is not true! They have not made the kind of clean break you mean. On the contrary, many of them are advocates of an authoritarian system. They want to calm the revolutionary upsurge, in order to put through their economic ‘reform’. There is also a race for ministerial or parliamentary posts, with the help of anti-democratic procedures. For the moment I criticize all this politely, as it were, because the old order is not yet defeated. But is this not the proof that my Marxism is more radical than their anti-communism? There is something very important at stake here: the emancipation of the individual, the transformation of object into subject, not just on the economic but also on the political level. I do not want to discuss the words ‘socialism’ or ‘Marxism’, but human emancipation as the precondition for social emancipation.

The bureaucratization of society has never gone so far in our countryas in the ussr. From that point of view, the situation may be more like in the gdr, but it is hard to say much more than this since the big economic discussion has not really started yet. In my opinion, the market has to be able to develop further in Czechoslovakia. This may perhaps seem like a regression, in relation to the communist ideal of a classless society, but I think it is an inevitable stage today. Of course, I am in favour of a plan worked out democratically, to determine the overall balance of priorities; but we must beware of the illusion that this could govern production down to the last detail. Only a market can allow the consumer real freedom of choice so far as clothes, shoes and so on are concerned. You will tell me that the problem lies in knowing how far the market can be allowed to impose its laws, how many workers should be employed per enterprise in the private sector, and so on. It is certainly hard to codify all that. But precisely because I regard a certain development of the market as indispensable, I would say the central question is that of democratic control and the practical forms in which workers’ self management is exercised. This is all the more true when we are dealing with foreign capital investments. Poland, after all, must have received a colossal foreign contribution to have the debts it has; apparently, however, in the absence of any control by the workers or consumers this brought it little benefit.

Unfortunately, there is small sign in Czechoslovakia of any worked-out conception of economic and political self-management. So far as the opposite conception is concerned, however, which aims to privatize medium and large-scale production, although this has on more than one occasion been evoked obliquely, it has never been discussed head on. That will start during the campaign for the legislative elections and continue thereafter. All the recently established political parties will have to take up a position on this issue. As for the workers in the enterprises, I am convinced that they will oppose privatization and domination of the Czechoslovak economy by Western capitalism, if this attacks their standard of living and working conditions and produces social differentiation. I think this is where the struggle for socialism is finally going to begin.

The question of ownership of the means of production, and the power to dispose of them, is very important for me. The day after I got out of prison last time on 26 November 1989, there was a meeting of the Plenum of the Civic Forum’s Coordinating Centre in Prague (this was before the Coordinating Council existed) and a programme for Civic Forum was adopted. There were four of us who voted against it, five abstentions and sixty in favour. I opposed it mainly because of one sentence (you could have an argument about others, but they were not so important): the one stipulating that all forms of ownership of the means of production were equal. I asked myself whether the form of ownership in which the Politburo, or the Party or State leadership, decides everything and the working people have no power was equal to the form of a cooperative employing, say, twenty people deciding jointly about the product, their working conditions, etc. If these two forms are equal, then theft and crime are equal to honest work. I cannot agree with that. Of course, put that way, nobody in Czechoslovakia would agree that all forms of ownership were equal. The truth is that the formulation is there to legitimize private ownership.

Of course! And an odd thing was that it was included in the draft for the future Constitution, in an even stranger form. Just imagine, there s not a word about the political system, it could even in theory be a monarchy; not a word about the Federal Assembly, about elections or about the President of the Republic; but the phrase about the forms of ownership of the means of production being equal is there. That was not forgotten. People must have felt strongly about it. Despite this, I think the great majority is clearly against privatization of the big enterprises. There are doubts about medium enterprises, and almost everybody including me is for economic freedom for craftsmen, family firms and so on. That is almost a technical necessity. But, I repeat, the real problem does not lie in the number of workers or employees in this sector, but in the question of who controls the economy as it opens up to Western capital. That is the real danger, because in Czechoslovakia there is nobody who could buy up the enterprises.

No, the Civic Forum! Your slip is interesting because, you know, our Forum is not so democratic. It is civic and you might even say amateur, but not really democratic. Given that, two days after the debate on the programme, when I read in another Civic Forum statement that no one agreeing with the programme could be excluded from the movement, I posed the question: does this mean, vice versa, that anyone disagreeing with the programme is excluded from the movement? But in fact, though everyone knows I am against that formulation and in spite of that, I was elected yesterday to the 31-strong Coordinating Council of the Forum. Moreover, I am not the only dissident: in the collective of a hundred or so people which makes up the Civic Forum, there is a small left wing that is certainly going to oppose that thesis.