In the Spring of 1968 the chairman of Communist Party of Slovakia Alexander Dubcek became the chairman of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and, thus, the most powerful man in Czechoslovakia.

Immediately, he started sweeping changes in the Communist system of government that had been destroying that country for two decades.

The first change he made was that he was the first Communist leader who, while being the chairman of the Communist Party, was not also the President of the country. By President I mean the formal head of the country (since, technically, the former Soviet Union did not have a President at all). In other words, he separated the leadership of the party from the government of the country.

What many outside observers think is that in 1968 Czechoslovakia rebelled against Communism. This is not exactly true. It is more exact to say that Czechoslovakia rebelled against the Soviet style of Communism.

Alexander Dubcek himself described the goal of his reform as socialism with a human face. Dubcek himself was a Communist and remained one even after his reform was crushed forcefully by the Soviet Army and the armies of several other Communist countries.

Please understand that all Communist countries called their system socialism, not Communism. They felt they had not yet achieved Communism as defined by Karl Marx (or their interpretation of his writings), which is: "Everyone according to his abilities, to everyone according to his needs." Instead, they felt they were "still" in the period of socialism which they believed to be the stepping stone toward Communism. Their definition of socialism was "Everyone according to his abilities, to everyone according to his effort."

In other words, they viewed socialism as similar to capitalism in its rewarding people for what they do, but different from it in that everyone was giving it his best shot. In the ideal society they were trying to build, everyone would give it his best shot totally unmotivated by economic advantage.

Anyway, the reality was somewhere in between. People were certainly not motivated by economic advantage, so, I guess, they were getting pretty close to their ideal.

Alas, Communism, at least the Soviet model of it, had a very dark side which had nothing to do with economy: It was an oppressive political system, it was an absolute dictatorship, where the Communist Party tried to control what you think: They oppressed all religion and imposed "scientific atheism". They also restricted travel: You were fairly free to travel anywhere within the Soviet bloc, but it was very hard to get to travel outside of it. Even impossible for most people.

Most importantly, an individual did not matter: He was always expected to do what is good for the society at large even if it hurt him.

Dubcek was a firm believer in the advantages of the socialist economic system, but he did not like the dictatorship aspect of Communism.

What he managed to create was a true utopia! He also happened to become the only politician I have ever seen that people loved. I mean genuinely loved. It was beyond popularity, it was love.

Dubcek's socialism with a human face came to an abrupt end on August 21, 1968 when the armies of several Communist countries invaded Czechoslovakia, and forced two more decades of Soviet style Communism on the country.

I have to say that the brief period of socialism with a human face was the best period of my entire life. I firmly believe that had it not been ended by force, it would have become the model of the society of the future. Indeed, on the rare occasions when Star Trek: The Next Generation describes its socio-economic system, it is very much 1968 Czechoslovakia (with much more advanced technology of course, since it is happening much later).

Many people believe that the fall of Communism in the late 20th Century is the proof of the correctness of capitalism. That is not a correct assessment: The reasons Communism fell were not economic, they were political. In fact, I am convinced their economy was the reason why it took so long for the system to break apart and fall into pieces.

The problem was that of absolute dictatorship and complete lack of political freedom. Plus, the Soviets wanted to "convert" the entire planet to their ways (i.e., they wanted to conquer the planet). Because of that, they redirected most of their resources to fighting the cold war. This resulted in an economy much less prosperous than that in Czechoslovakia and other satellite countries.

They also made other economic mistakes: Such as making rigid 5-year plans and sticking to them inflexibly.

I am certainly not saying their economic system was flawless. What I am saying is that both the economic and the political atmosphere of 1968 Czechoslovakia were the best I have ever experienced.

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