Courtesy Reuters

Marxism in Action

The Seizure of Power in Czechoslovakia

THE COMMUNIST seizure of power in February 1948 in the country created by Masaryk and Beneš provoked a revulsion of feeling throughout the western world not far short of what was felt when Hitler violated Czechoslovakia a decade earlier. Even before the new Communist-dictated Government of Czechoslovakia had been sworn in, the United States, Great Britain and France declared in a joint statement that "the events which have just taken place in Czechoslovakia place in jeopardy the very existence of the principles of liberty to which all democratic nations are attached." Only a veto of the Soviet Union prevented the Security Council of the United Nations from adopting a resolution, offered by Chile, to set up a subcommittee to hear witnesses and obtain information about the coup d'état.

The impact of the coup was intensified by its unexpectedness. In the opinion of political observers with no particular axe to grind, no less than of those who favored collaboration with Communism, the Czechoslovak experiment of combining political democracy with a large degree of Socialism had seemed to be succeeding almost to the moment when it collapsed. In explanation it is sometimes now said that the country simply fell victim to deteriorating East-West relations, or that the coup was ordered by Moscow to prevent the spread of Titoism, already virulent in Jugoslavia. Neither of these contentions appears plausible. International developments might have affected the timing of the Communist seizure, but even this is doubtful.

The immediate factor which determined Communist actions was the general election scheduled in Czechoslovakia for the spring of 1948. The Communist Party had always hoped to attain a parliamentary majority, in order to proclaim a one-party rule by "democratic means." But by the beginning of 1948 it was apparent that the Party was losing ground. It could no longer count on the Social Democrats to maintain the coalition by which the Communists controlled the National Assembly and the Cabinet, and the other non-Communist parties--the National Socialist, the Slovak Democratic and the

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