From New International, Vol.4 No.6, June 1938, pp.190-191.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
by Richard Freund
112 pp. New York. Oxford University Press. $1.50.
Richard Freund, a native of Austria, grew up in Germany and became a British subject some years ago. He is the author of a book published last year, Zero Hour, in which, with the factual thoroughness and colorless style of a German scholar, he gives a survey of the matters of dispute for world imperialism, chiefly from the point of view of Downing Street interests.
Freund’s latest book displays all the weaknesses of his literary method. In its condensation of facts without internal cohesion, its simplification of problems and its dry presentation of material, it is reminiscent of a high-school text which provides superficial knowledge to the point of boredom. Nevertheless, the reader who lacks elementary information about Czechoslovakia may profit from the book.
The ideology of the author, who writes mainly for the British public, pursues a middle course between collective security and “splendid isolation”, the path along which Eden, quoted in this book with deep devotion, has already broken his neck. Freund criticizes the “blunders” of the Czech bourgeoisie in handling the national problems. But all the more emphatically does he sing the customary praises to Czechoslovakian democracy, whose destruction by Hitler, for all we know, might at some point serve even British imperialism as a supplementary moral justification for entering the next war.
Against Goebbel’s propaganda, the author defends the French and Czechoslovakian alliances with Russia on the grounds of Stalin’s renunciation of communism, whereas Germany signed a treaty of amity with Russia “when Trotsky’s policy of kindling world revolution was not yet superceded by Stalin’s policy of consolidating the Soviet system in Russia alone”.
The book was written before the annexation of Austria. In the main its point of departure is the idea that Czechoslovakia will be absorbed by Hitler before Vienna. And even within this variant of a neutral Austria – already eliminated – he reckons the limits of Czech resistance against German aggression in days and weeks. “If Czechoslovakia is reduced within a week, her allies might grudgingly accept the accomplished fact. If she holds out for a month, it will be almost impossible to avoid a general European War.” After the recent Austrian experience, one cannot take issue with the time limits given by Freund, but one can seriously doubt that Czech “democracy” will really be defended by the partisans of collective security.
In Freund’s book there is not one line of analysis of the social problems in Czechoslovakia. The author mentions, in passing, that
“a visit to the German areas of Bohemia reveals a heartrending picture of poverty and distress. Everywhere one sees deserted factories, silent looms, empty pitheads, smokeless chimneys ... In their despair the people [the German workers – W.K.] firmly believe that the Czechs wish to exterminate them”.
If we add the sparse words devoted to the communist party, we have the key to the approaching catastrophe of the Czechoslovakian proletariat.
“The communist party is small and powerless; its occasional proposals for the formation of a ‘Popular Front’ have always been turned down by the socialists, who belong to the broad government coalition ... The problem of communism simply does not exist in Czechoslovakia.”
At the time of its foundation the communist party, embracing revolutionary workers and peasants of all nations within the Czechoslovakia republic, reached a membership of almost half a million, with only 2 percent of white-collar and intellectual elements. At the moment of Hitler’s rise to power the party had, according to the official figures of the Comintern, only 30,000 members – in reality, scarcely more than 10,000. The turn toward the People’s Front attracted new adherents, preponderantly from the Jewish petty bourgeoisie. At the same time this once internationalist party, whose sole ambition is now to gain recognition from the Czech bourgeoisie for its state loyalty, became a purely Czech nationalist party, pushing the workers and peasants of the other nations into the arms of fascism and reaction.
Nothing can illustrate this circumstance better than the fact that Henlein is claiming, in defiance of both the Prague government and the Stalinist party, the right of self-determination for all national groups within Czechoslovakia. In this sense the present events in Czechoslovakia are precisely a “problem of communism”, its crisis and its betrayal by the Third International.
Last updated on 4.8.2006