5 January 1968

The “Prague Spring” begins in Czechoslovakia.

On the 5th January 1968, the Prague Spring began when Alexander Dub?ek became the new First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The Prague Spring lasted for just over seven months before the Soviet Union, along with other members of the Warsaw Pact, invaded Czechoslovakia to bring the reforms to a halt.

Dub?ek was a committed Communist, and had been First Secretary of the regional Communist Party of Slovakia since 1963. However he struggled to work with Antonín Novotný, the President of Czechoslovakia, under whose control the country experienced a slow and uneasy move towards destalinization while suffering a huge economic downturn. Frustrated by Novotný’s failure to effectively restructure the country, Dub?ek and other reformists challenged him at a meeting of the Central Committee in October 1967. In response Novotný secretly invited the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to visit Czechoslovakia to secure his support. However, this plan backfired when Brezhnev learned just how unpopular Novotný was and instead lent his support to remove him from power.

Consequently Dub?ek replaced Novotný as First Secretary on the 5th January 1968, and quickly began to introduce a series of political reforms. Known as “socialism with a human face” this political programme was intended to maintain Communist control of the government while allowing mild democratisation and political liberalisation. However, as the reforms took hold the government was faced with public demands to go even further. At the same time, the USSR and other Warsaw Pact countries began pressuring Dub?ek to bring the Prague Spring under control. On the 20th August they took matters in to their own hands and invaded Czechoslovakia.

5 January 1949

President Harry S. Truman announces his Fair Deal program.

On January 05, 1949, President Harry S. Truman announces, in his State of the Union address, that every American has a right to expect from our government a fair deal.

In a reference to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, Truman announced his plans for domestic policy reforms including national health insurance, public housing, civil rights legislation and federal aid to education. He advocated an increase in the minimum wage, federal assistance to farmers and an extension of Social Security, as well as urging the immediate implementation of anti-discrimination policies in employment. Truman argued for an ambitious liberal agenda based on policies first articulated by his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, the nation’s politics had shifted rightward in the years following World War II and inflation, economic conversion from wartime to peacetime industries and growing anti-communist sentiment provided major obstacles to Truman’s plan. To a growing contingency of conservatives and Southern Democrats in Congress, the Fair Deal smacked of socialism.