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Paul G. Stevens

Czech Coup Intensifies “Cold War”

Stalinists Utilize Mass Pressure
to Make Deal with Czech Capitalists

(8 March 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 10, 8 March 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Under the new Gottwald government, Czechoslovakia is being swiftly and brutally integrated into Moscow’s East European bloc against the threat of the Marshall Plan in the Kremlin’s “cold war” with American imperialism. Czechoslovakia is the western-most of the Soviet “buffer zone” countries and the most highly industrialized.

The pattern of the Czech “alignment” is marked by several significant features which render it distinct from the Kremlin’s course in Hungary. Rumania and other buffer countries.

First, it has been accompanied by a call to mass action, the formation of “Action Committees,” which gives it a “revolutionary” allure. Bucked with the threat of a general strike and an insurrection led by these “Action Committees,” Stalinist Premier Gottwald forced President Eduard Benes to accept his reorganized cabinet last week.

Secondly, it has not called forth open rebellion on the part of the capitalist elements associated with London and Washington as was the case with Mickolajczyk in Poland, Nagy in Hungary, Manin in Rumania, Petkov in Bulgaria. The leaders of Czech capitalism bowed to complete Stalinist domination in the new government and all its institutions.

The businessmen, according to dispatches, remained “strangely at ease” although they “probably had not expected to be able to exist under such circumstances.” Benes and his colleague Jan Masaryk, the Foreign Minister, are said to be congratulating themselves that “the changes had brought no bloodshed and no large sacrifices.”

It thus appears that with the Stalinists in complete domination of the government and with all phases of public life now undergoing a drastic purge, the Czech capitalists have reason to believe that “all is not lost” so far as their basic profit-making privileges are concerned. Evidently another compromise – although far less advantageous than previously – has been reached behind the scenes between them and the Kremlin agents.

Thirdly, the Czech coup has been executed within the framework of parliamentary legality. Before confronting Benes with their ultimatum, the Stalinists assured themselves of the support of the Social Democrats, with whom they have a slim majority in parliament.

These three factors are interrelated, of course. The pressure of mass action was decisive in swinging the Social Democrats into line. This bloc of the two workers’ parties left the capitalists without any adequate cover in an open struggle depriving them of even a plausible appeal to constitutional legality. When the protest of USA-Britain-France against the installation of a “disguised dictatorship” arrived in Prague, Benes-Masaryk joined Gottwald in rejecting it.

One of the first measures announced by Gottwald is the establishment of a state monopoly over all foreign trade.

It is not yet clear just what character and development the “Action Committees” have taken. The “Central Action Committee” at Prague is undoubtedly an airtight bureaucratic affair. But information is still scant about the local committees and the “factory militias.”

There are indications that factory “action committees” may have been taking over industrial plants and land “action committees” seizing estates. Premier Gottwald has promised that 20 million acres of landed estates would be distributed among “those who till the soil. Previously announced was the government intention to nationalize all enterprises employing more than 50 workers. The question naturally arises: Is the government merely legalizing actions already accomplished by the masses?