Gustav Husak

Gustav Husak

Gustav Husak was born in Bratislava in 1913. He trained as a lawyer and in 1933 joined the Communist Party in Slovakia. During the Second World War he was a member of the Czech Resistance movement and in 1944 was elected onto the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

After the war Husak worked for the Slovak Communist Party but in 1951 was imprisoned for having dissent political views. Convicted as an opponent of Joseph Stalin Husak was imprisoned from 1954 to 1960.

Husak eventually proved his political loyalty and in 1963 was allowed to work for the Academy of Sciences. Five years later he became First Secretary of the Slovak Communist Party.

In January 1968 the Czechoslovak Party Central Committee passed a vote of no confidence in Antonin Novotny and he was replaced by Alexander Dubcek as party secretary. Husak, a Dubcek supporter, became his deputy.

During what became known as the Prague Spring, Dubcek announced a series of reforms. This included the abolition of censorship and the right of citizens to criticize the government. Newspapers began publishing revelations about corruption in high places. This included stories about Novotny and his son. On 22nd March 1968, Novotny resigned as president of Czechoslovakia. He was now replaced by a Dubcek supporter, Ludvik Svoboda.

In April 1968 the Communist Party Central Committee published a detailed attack on Novotny's government. This included its poor record concerning housing, living standards and transport. It also announced a complete change in the role of the party member. It criticized the traditional view of members being forced to provide unconditional obedience to party policy. Instead it declared that each member "has not only the right, but the duty to act according to his conscience."

The new reform programme included the creation of works councils in industry, increased rights for trade unions to bargain on behalf of its members and the right of farmers to form independent co-operatives.

Aware of what happened during the Hungarian Uprising Dubcek announced that Czechoslovakia had no intention of changing its foreign policy. On several occasions he made speeches where he stated that Czechoslovakia would not leave the Warsaw Pact or end its alliance with the Soviet Union.

In July 1968 the Soviet leadership announced that it had evidence that the Federal Republic of Germany was planning an invasion of the Sudetenland and asked permission to send in the Red Army to protect Czechoslovakia. Alexander Dubcek, aware that the Soviet forces could be used to bring an end to Prague Spring, declined the offer.

On 21st August, 1968, Czechoslovakia was invaded by members of the Warsaw Pact countries. In order to avoid bloodshed, the Czech government ordered its armed forces not to resist the invasion. Alexander Dubcek and Ludvik Svoboda were taken to Moscow and soon afterwards they announced that after "free comradely discussion" that Czechoslovakia would be abandoning its reform programme.

In April 1969 Husak was chosen to replace Dubcek as party secretary. Over the next few years he purged the government of Dubcek supporters and re-established Communist Party discipline. He also introduced moderate reforms and a new federalist constitution.

In 1987 Husak opposed the Perestroika policy of Mikhail Gorbachev. When it became clear that the overwhelming majority of people in Czechoslovakia supported Gorbachev, he resigned as general secretary.

After the collapse of communism government in November 1989, Husak was expelled from the Communist Party.

Gustav Husak died in 1991.