CZECHOSLOVAKIA is a country now ruled by Communists and through them, by Soviet Russia. It is a country where at least 120,000 innocent people -- and among them the American newspaperman, William Oatis -- have been thrown into concentration camps and prisons. It is a country that is being transformed in the image of its rulers.
But Czechoslovakia is also the country of T. G. Masaryk and Eduard Benes, the model democracy which, surrounded by dictatorships, clung to its ideal between the two world wars. And although the Communists have defeated democracy in Czechoslovakia, they have not succeeded in killing the Czech ideal. Although they seized the government on February 25, 1948, they have not been able to win the people. In their hearts, the Czechs, the westernmost Slav people, remain the easternmost representatives of democracy. Theirs is a tradition of many centuries of struggle under Germanic conquest for the preservation of their nation and their culture. Now they are struggling against a new kind of conquest, ideological conquest from the East.
Most Czechs persist in thinking in Western terms. Democracy, to the Czechs, still means parliamentary democracy, the multiple party system and rule of the majority -- not dictatorship of the proletariat. Culturally and intellectually they look towards France, England, Germany and the United States -- but not towards Russia. Their standard of living, their dress, their eating and drinking habits are western, not eastern, European. They are an industrial nation in which an intelligent and highly developed working class has been living peacefully with a prosperous bourgeoisie for generations. They are, in short, people very much like us -- and the first Western people to fall victims to the Communists.
When I got to Czechoslovakia in April 1949, the Communists, who had taken power more than a year before, were just getting into full stride in their campaign to reorient the Czech people from West to East, to win them or break them.