Communism in Czechoslovakia, 1948-1960

By Edward Taborsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
SLOVAKIA--AN ODD UNIT OF PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT

IN THE LAST YEARS of the Second World War Czechoslovak Communists were among the most enthusiastic promoters of Slovak nationalism.1 Temporarily shelving the time-honored Leninist principle of proletarian internationalism, they lent their fullest support to a political program which, had it been carried out, would have changed Czechoslovakia into a loose union of two states. Whenever the Slovak nationalist spokesmen wavered and were ready to yield to Dr. Beneš's persuasiveness and to settle for less than an extremist version of autonomy during the 1945 Moscow negotiations on the formation of a new Czechoslovak Cabinet, it was the quadrumvirate of Czechoslovak communist leaders headed by Klement Gottwald which prevailed upon the Slovaks to continue to press for the most radical demands.2 The Communists attached such political importance to their Party's identification with the rights obtained for Slovakia that Gottwald, then only Deputy Premier, reserved for himself the task of proclaiming, upon the government's return to Czecho slovakiain April 1945, the "Magna Charta of the Slovak Nation" while allowing the fellow-traveling Premier, Zdeněk Fierlinger, to declare the rest of the government's program.3

This striking communist eagerness to secure a status of extreme

____________________
1
Communist spokesman in exile, both in Moscow and in London, harped incessantly on the touchy theme of Czech-Slovak relations, deliberately encouraging the most radical among the Slovak autonomists. See various articles in the main Czechoslovak communist periodicals: Československé listy, published in Moscow, and Mladé Československo, published in London. Most authoritative among them were two articles by Václav Kopecký published in Československé listy, September 15, 1943, and February 1, 1944. See also, V. ũiroký's article in Světový rozhled ( Paris), XV, 1, July 1939, reprinted in Za svobodu, 1956, pp. 44ff.; Pravda ( Báňská Bystrica), October 8, 1944.
2
I can bear testimony to this on the basis of first-hand knowledge of these negotiations which I obtained as Personal Aide to President Beneš at that time.
3
See Program prvé domácí vlády narodní fronty Čechů a Slováků ( "The Program of the First Government of the National Front of Czechs and Slovaks on Native Soil"), Košice, 1945, p. 41.

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