PRAGUE, NOV. 15 -- An unusual new underground publication has been in high demand here in recent weeks -- not a manifesto or an essay but a reprint of a dense, technically worded draft law governing the activity of state-owned companies.

The draft must be printed clandestinely because it is one of the key economic measures drawn up under the leadership of reformist Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek during the "Prague Spring" of 1968. It is sought after now because of its remarkable relevance to both the economic reform law adopted in the Soviet Union in June and a new state companies law being prepared by the Czechoslovak government.

Dubcek's law, to be sure, goes further in its shakeup of the traditional centrally planned state economy than either the Soviet or Czechoslovak initiatives. But what is provocative about this text is that it makes clear that both Soviet and Czechoslovak leaders are now adopting measures that they labeled "counterrevolutionary" and suppressed with an invasion in August 1968.

"In reality, there is no basic difference between the economic reforms of '68 and today's attempts, except that they are implemented in different situations and are divorced from political change," said Venek Silhan, one of the economists who helped draw up Dubcek's reforms. "So the people who suppressed the reforms now must reintroduce them. How do they explain that? It's a big problem."

As Soviet party leader Mikhail Gorbachev prods the Eastern Bloc toward major economic and social restructuring, the specter of Dubcek's "socialism with a human face" is beginning to haunt Communist leaders in both Prague and Moscow. The Soviet party, if it is to pursue economic innovations championed by Dubcek, must face the historical question of whether the invasion was a tragic mistake.

More seriously, the Czechoslovak Communist leadership of Gustav Husak, which since 1969 has enforced the orthodox "normalization" of this country, must walk a tightrope of following Gorbachev's reforms while trying not to upset its own political foundation.

The struggle over these questions seemed to emerge briefly into the open during the Soviet Union's celebration of its 70th anniversary in early November. Georgi Smirnov, a Soviet academician, told a Moscow news conference that the Prague Spring and invasion should be "thought over". A day later, a Soviet spokesman publicly confirmed that a conference of socialist parties meeting in Moscow had received a letter from Dubcek, who now lives in retirement in Bratislava, in eastern Czechoslovakia.

Husak was quick to respond. In a speech in Prague marking the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, the 74-year-old leader restated, with only slight moderation, the standard, hard-line Czechoslovak account of 1968, adopted at a party conference 17 years ago. That version maintains that while Dubcek's leadership was initially promising, it was taken over by "rightist and antisocialist forces" that "threatened the foundations of the socialist system."

Husak also stressed that the Czechoslovak leadership supports Gorbachev's reform policies and that Gorbachev approves of Husak's leadership.

Indeed, the official Soviet attitude about Dubcek and 1968 remains unclear, diplomats here say. Smirnov's remarks have been balanced by other Soviet statements suggesting that the suppression of the Prague Spring was correct. Husak's orthodox formulation was promptly reprinted in the Soviet government newspaper Izvestia.

In describing their cautious new economic reform plan, Czechoslovak party spokesmen remain vehement in insisting that it bears no relation to Dubcek's. "We are looking to the future, to adjusting our economy to the new era of high technology," said Milan Jelinek, foreign editor of the party newspaper Rude Pravo, which censored Smirnov's remarks. Dubcek, Jelinek declared, "wanted a market economy dominated by the West."

"There is no doubt that what existed in Czechoslovakia was counterrevolution," he said. "We know better than others what was going on in 1968. We are talking about it openly. And after January 1968, for us it was counterrevolution."

In fact, Dubcek's general "action plan," introduced in April 1968, was considerably more radical than any reforms adopted since then in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe. It envisaged a broad process of democratization in which economic changes were integrally linked with political reforms such as the tolerance of noncommunist movements and the lifting of censorship.

"The main thrust of the '68 program was toward democratization, in both economic and political life, and people understood that very well," said the economist, Silhan. "At that time a great part of society supported the changes because they were understood as comprehensive changes. Now {the Husak government's reforms} are understood as merely economic, and so people are passive, even resistant."

Nevertheless, the key elements of Dubcek's economic reforms -- his legislation on state companies -- also form the basis of the new Czechoslovak and Soviet state company laws.

These common principles include the separation of companies' finances from those of the central state administration, so that each firm is "self-financing;" the limitation of central planning to broad economic goals rather than the drawing up of production quotas and raw materials rations; and "self-management," under which workers have a voice in the direction of their companies.

Some of the other Czechoslovak economic innovations, such as the loosening of controls on the foundation of new companies and the encouragement of private enterprise in the service and retail sectors, recently have been embraced by economic planners in Hungary and Poland, which have pursued economic reform for a number of years. These countries also slowly have loosened some controls on political activity and relaxed press censorship.

Just as Poland's economic reform survived the suppression of the independent trade union movement Solidarity in 1981, the Dubcek economic reform initially was not affected by the Soviet-led invasion. Work on the state company law continued until April 1969, and the draft was even approved by the federal government. Once Husak took power that month, however, the project was swiftly canceled -- a move that critics say his leadership now must answer for.

The veterans of the Dubcek era have come to view the legacy of 1968 as one of Czechoslovakia's most serious political problems. For pursuing reform here must mean a far-reaching shakeup of people as well as ideas -- a problem that goes beyond Gorbachev's battle against conservative apparatchiks.

"It's very important, of course, to review all the debates of 1968 and the decisions made at that time," said Zdenek Mlynar, a former Central Committee secretary for political affairs during the Prague Spring who now lives in exile in Vienna. "But it is equally important to look at the people, those who came to power because of the Soviet invasion and those who lost their jobs."

"About 500,000 people were purged from the party after '68," said Silhan, whose own economic institute was abolished in 1969, forcing him to take a job operating a bulldozer. "What is the party going to say to all those people and their families? This is the special problem of 1968 in Czechoslovakia, the problem that Husak has that Gorbachev does not."

For now, both Husak's government and Dubcek's old followers appear to be waiting uncertainly for clearer signs of how Moscow will resolve both the issue of 1968 and the broader reform struggle. "We are seeing many changes now in the Soviet Union and we are all nervously asking: What is going on? What will happen next?" said Rude Pravo editor Jelinek. "I think reform there will be going on for many years. It's not possible to reverse it now."