Communism in Czechoslovakia, 1948-1960

By Edward Taborsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE COMMUNIST PARTY AS AN INSTRUMENT OF POWER COMPOSITION AND MEMBERSHIP

HAVING YIELDED to Gottwald's ultimatum Beneš, broken and dying, left Hradčany Castle, the ancient seat of the Kings of Bohemia and, since 1918 quarters of the Presidents of Czechoslovakia--never to return. Although Beneš remained nominally the Head of State until he resigned in June 1948, the February coup rendered him powerless and the actual exercise of authority devolved on Gottwald and his communist associates. The Party's life-long ambition to overthrow capitalism and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in Czechoslovakia was brought to fruition. The KSČ was transformed from a weapon of revolution into an instrument of power.

The circumstances by which Gottwald was carried to the pinnacle of power were vastly different from those confronting Lenin in 1917. The KSČ's. leadership enjoyed in 1948 several important advantages which the Bolsheviks had not had thirty years before. Unlike their Soviet comrades of 1917, the Czechoslovak Communists had gained government experience through three years of active participation in all phases of administration prior to their seizure of power. From precommunist days, they had at their disposal an ample supply of welltrained civil servants, most of whom, for reasons of opportunism or necessity, were ready to serve the new masters. Having managed to partially adapt the governmental apparatus to their needs in 1945- 1948, Czechoslovak Communists could disregard Lenin's contention that "the working class cannot simply seize the available ready machinery of the State and set it going for its own ends."1 On the contrary, they could utilize it forthwith for the pursuit of their goals with little or no change. They did not even have to disband the Constituent Assembly but used it, after having purged the non-communist leaders, to pass the communist-drafted Constitution. Since an experiment in Marxian socialist had been in operation for over thirty years in the

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1
Quoted after V. I. Lenin, Sochinenia, 3rd ed., Moscow, 1935, XXL, p. 394.

-22-

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