Communism in Czechoslovakia, 1948-1960

By Edward Taborsky | Go to book overview
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WHAT THEN, are the main trends and characteristics of Czechoslovak communism at the completion of its first twelve years of rule? What conjectures, if any, may be ventured about its further prospects?

One of the most conspicuous trends, and one of Czechoslovak communism's chief headaches, has been a steady deterioration in the relationship between the Party's leadership and its rank and file. The Party entered the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat in February 1948 in a festive mood of triumphant unity. Although some of its members had their private doubts about some aspects of the 1948 putsch, most of the Party membership stood wholeheartedly behind their leaders and were genuinely excited about a new era where the wicked capitalists would no longer be able to sabotage comrade Gottwald's promising plans for a better future. Even the opportunistic "mayflowers," who had swelled the Party's ranks in and after May 1945 for purely selfish reasons, rallied round the Party leaders in eager expectation of the spoils.

However, as ordinary Party members came to realize more and more that, far from bringing the implementation of the rosy promises of yester-years, the Party's acquisition of the monopoly of power actually made matters worse in many respects, the initial intoxication gave way to growing disillusionment. The humiliating spectacle of the KSČ chiefs cringing before Moscow and willing to sacrifice Czechoslovak interests to those of the Kremlin badly shattered members' confidence in their Party superiors. So did the purges of high-ranking Communists, such as Slánský and Clementis, once acclaimed as the best sons of the Party and suddenly found guilty of the worst crimes against the communist cause. Nor could the situation be improved in any way by the few post-Stalin concessions which were far too obviously intended by the KSČ leaders as a temporary lengthening of the political leash until it could be shortened again.

Thus the one-time strong bonds of Party unity, born from the common struggle for the establishment of the coveted dictatorship of


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