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Labor Action, 16 September 1946


Eugene Vaughn

The Sudeten Trek: How Benes Copies Hitler


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 37, 16 September 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In a recent pamphlet called Tragedy of a People – Racialism in Czechoslovakia, published by the American Friends of Democratic Sudetens, the undemocratic and inhuman treatment of the German and Hungarian minorities by the present “democratic” Czechoslovak government is presented in vivid detail. Forced migration of millions of innocent Germans and Hungarians from their homes in Bohemia and Moravia in which they and their ancestors have lived for hundreds of years is the latest method of the “liberated and democratic” Czechs toward the solution of minority problems. It is a leaf out of Hitler’s book.

Two destructive and annihilating wars have been fought within the lifetime of one generation. A victory of the United Nations in the war was to have been the solution of the problems of national freedom! Today capitalist society stands not one bit closer toward the solution of this chronic illness of capitalism. Freedom for nationalities is as far off as it was during the reign of Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary.

For many years Czechoslovakia was pointed to by all so-called liberals and democrats during the period between the two wars as the brightest example of a truly free nation. Thomas G. Masaryk, the first president of that country, once characterized it with the following words:

“The Czechoslovak Republic is a state where human love prevails. We extend friendship to all oppressed ... Everybody ought to know that he is safe and free within our borders.”

Judging the “Democrats”

One of the ways in which to judge the progressive character of a country is to observe the manner in which it treats its national minorities. For example, one of the first acts of the newly established workers’ state in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution was to grant real freedom to its oppressed peoples. Self-determination in practice, and not merely lip service, was on the order of the day. The Ukraine was granted self-determination; Finland was granted freedom; the Baltic states were freed from Czarist national oppression and were granted their independence. A union of autonomous Soviet Republics was established.

In the First World War, the Allies were also for self-determination of national minorities. They presented the war as a holy crusade for the democratic and national rights of Europe’s oppressed minorities. After the war was won they proceeded to implement their high sounding phrases with specific treaties and acts. Czechoslovakia was given two minorities to rule over and oppress. Rumania was given the right to oppress Magyars, Ruthenians and Ukrainians. Yugoslavia was granted the right to oppress Croatians. In capitalist Europe, the new governments won their “democratic” right to oppress Jews. Thus, who oppresses whom became an internal matter for each particular government to decide. No outside interference was tolerated.

Then came Hitler with his own exclusive method of oppressing minorities. Slave labor, mass physical annihilation, denial of political and civil rights, and sterilization of undesirable minorities were some of the scientific contributions he made. Some he copied; others were copied from him. Today, a new forced migration of vast indigenous populations is added to the arsenal of methods for treating oppressed nationalities.

Of what are these people guilty? Of being Germans and living in Bohemia, which has been assigned to the Czech state by the vote of the Council of Foreign Ministers; of being Germans and living in East Prussia and Silesia, which now becomes Polish in compensation for Polish land seized by Russia|. The all-powerful steal from the weak! The weak steal from the defenseless!

The New Barbarism

The vicious argument used in justifying the treatment of Sudeten Germans is that all Germans are equally guilty of Nazism and therefore the war victors have a right to their revenge. Yet, who is more guilty of Hitlerism, a factory worker of the Sudetenland, or Henry Ford, who spent substantial sums to support Hitler to power? Who is more guilty of Hitlerism, the several million Sudeten Germans, who were never granted equal national rights with Czechs or Slovaks, or the “democratic” governments of the world, which from 1933 to 1939 looked on or assisted while Hitler gorged himself on the small countries?

Czechoslovak President Benes, whose brand of democracy has changed from the Western capitalist style to the Stalinist brand, justifies his inhuman policy of mass deportation by the claims that all Germans are intolerable. “It has become impossible for us to continue by their side and therefore they must leave the country.” Yet from his Chicago haven, during the early days of this war. he stated: “I know that these Nazi ideas are not the principles of the whole German nation. The German nation itself is subjugated.” Today, Benes cannot tolerate Sudeten Germans. Yet in 1935 it was the support of the Sudeten German Democrats which helped him into office.

Dr. Hubert Ripka, Benes’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote in an early book published in 1939 and called Munich, Before and After:

“If it has been true that the majority of the Sudeten Germans really regarded Hitler, represented among them in the person of Heinlein, as their leader, one might have expected them to grasp eagerly at this opportunity to revolt and free themselves from the Czech yoke. In actual fact, however, it was only a minority composed mainly of inexperienced youth, who showed enthusiasm for pan-German slogans of the Nazis for the unification of all Germans ... Apart from a few isolated exceptions, the Sudeten Germans obeyed unhesitatingly their mobilization orders. The anti-Nazi Germans did so as well as the Czechoslovaks themselves.”

What about these democratic Germans who helped Benes into office? What about those Sudeten Germans who sided with the Czechoslovaks against the Nazis? What about those Sudetens who were members of the Communist and Socialist Parties? They, too, are to be deported, insists the “liberal” Benes.

The forced migration is carried on in the most brutal manner. People are herded onto trucks and trains.

They may take only a minimum of baggage. They must leave behind whatever movable property they own. Their land no longer belongs to them and there is no compensation for their losses. They wander into a strange land without any prospect of a livelihood. Industrial workers among them can find no employment as they are the last ones to be hired in a country with mass unemployment. In the meantime, the land which they have left behind is depopulated. The vacuum is not filled in by migration of Czechs and Slovaks onto the land. On a continent where every spare piece of land is needed to feed the hungry, the lands of these Sudeten Germans lie fallow.

Minority oppression is part and parcel of the world system of capitalism. It is also the weapon of Stalin’s bureaucratic collectivism. When Hitler ruled over the European continent, he monopolized the privilege of oppressing minorities. Today, Hitler’s heirs, Stalin, Benes and others, oppress minorities. Nothing has changed.

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