THERE are several interrelated aspects to the lessons of the coup. There is the question of whose fault it was that the Czechoslovak Republic, victim of the Nazis in 1938, went under again in 1948. Twice without a fight. Closely connected are the questions of how the Communists did it -- their technique in Czech internal affairs and in international power politics. Finally there is the question of whether the Communists can repeat what they did in Czechoslovakia in other parts of the Western world.
As the people of Czechoslovakia began to realize that the Communist coup had made them prisoners in an enemy camp as surely as if they had been conquered by an invading army, the old bitter questions they had asked after Munich were asked again. Whose fault? Was Benes to blame? Or the leaders of the non-Communist political parties? Were Czechoslovakia's friends in the West to blame? Were there some little- understood weaknesses in Czechoslovak democracy? In Western democracy?
The leaders of the non-Communist parties blame Benes, and Benes's partisans blame the leaders of the democratic parties.
The head of the National Socialist Party, Petr Zenkl, whom I met in Boston, Massachusetts, in November 1950, gave me the parties' explanation of why they undertook no public demonstrations against the Communists nor resistance during the crisis: "We were waiting for Benes to make a move," he said. "The people believed that as long as Benes was in office, all was well and that any demonstration, let alone violence, would be directed against the venerated chief of state. Our hands were bound as long as there was no overt gesture from him. Had he resigned demonstratively at the height of the crisis, our hands would have been freed. Or he might have appealed directly to the nation or called upon the army."
Zenkl maintained, furthermore, that the leaders of the non-Communist