GOVERNMENTS and democracies fall not because their opponents are strong, but because those in power fail to do things that need doing. So wrote Harold Laski in February 1943. The axiom is not original. It dates from the days of Thucydides and has been repeated ever since by various historians. With reservations it applies to the Czechoslovak revolution of February 1948. The starting point of this revolution was Munich; the period of development the Second World War; and the mainspring of action the emergence of Russia as the strongest military power in Europe. To understand what happened we have therefore to go back to September 1939.
At that time Dr. Beneš, who had resigned in October 1938, was in exile in England. M. Gottwald, the present Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia, and a small group of Czechoslovak Communists were in Moscow. So long as the Russo-German Pact remained in force, these Czechoslovak Communists remained in the background. They had no access to the Kremlin. They were, in fact, being kept in reserve. Dr. Beneš welcomed the war, partly because he maintained with some justification that it had started with Munich, and partly because he saw in it the only opportunity of liberating his country. Even in the darkest moments he never doubted Britain's final victory. Optimism has always been his greatest virtue and overconfidence his greatest fault. Nevertheless, under the Chamberlain Government his position was uncomfortable and unpromising. The chief aim of the British Government was to keep France in the war at all costs, and France, unable to forgive the man whom she had wronged, not only opposed even informal recognition of Dr. Beneš, but actively encouraged his Czechoslovak opponents of whom the late Dr. Milan Hodža was the most embittered. The ex-President also had enemies in the State Department in Washington.
During this period his patience was exemplary. Pinning his faith on Mr. Churchill and Mr. Eden, he awaited the development of events with the confidence of prescience. He was of course
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