CHAPTER 29 Disintegration and Expansion

NOVEMBER 1950 was a major turning point in the development of the economy of Communist Czechoslovakia. Announcement of the onerous new trade treaty with the Soviet Union coincided with a buyers' panic, apparently precipitated by rumors that the Polish currency reform would be followed by a similar one in Czechoslovakia. A spontaneous "slowdown strike" in the mines was beginning to spread to the factories. The workers were resisting official attempts to "harden the norms" and close the gap between the rise in wages and the slower rise in productivity.

Then, on January 21, the government announced a measure, in itself minor, but of major significance as an indication of what was happening to the Czechoslovak economy. It announced a rise in the prices of both bread and flour. Considering the political importance that politicians all over the world attach to the price of bread, it may be imagined with what reluctance the Communist government made this decision. The price of flour had been raised once already, on October 1, 1949, when flour and bread were taken off ration; but the price of bread had, at that time, not been changed. The progression in flour and bread prices may be seen in the following table:

CROWNS PER KILOGRAM
OldNew
Wheat flour (first quality)7.00-13.0021
Wheat flour (second quality)6.00-7.5012
Rye bread flour5.80-7.5012
Bread, ordinary coarse loaf5.00-5.008

The government explained that the increase had become necessary because the quality of flour had been improved, and because so many peasants and others were using the cheap and plentiful bread to feed animals. It also blamed hoarders. A hoarder was defined as anyone who accumu-

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