Courtesy Reuters

Czech Stalinists Die Hard

For the first time since the Communist take-over in Czechoslovakia, liberalizing forces are emerging and making headway. In 1963, ten years after Stalin's death, one of the last bastions of classical Stalinism began cautiously to de-Stalinize, rehabilitating the ghosts of the Slansky trial and purging from the government some of those who were most responsible for Stalinist crimes. Up to the fall of 1963 the most significant event in this evolution was the dismissal, on September 20, of the Prime Minister, Viliam Siroky, an old-time Stalinist wheel in the Slovak Communist Party, along with a number of other members of the government who had been deeply compromised by their activities during the period of the "cult of personality." But others, primarily President Antonin Novotny himself, still held the reins of power and were consequently dragging their feet in implementing a process that ultimately was bound to cause their own downfall.

How far the process would go, spurred by internal economic and political unrest, depended on the interplay of a number of national and international political factors. One was the extent of the régime's control over developments at home. Specifically, what means of pressure or coercion could Novotny and his group still employ against the opposition, which had emerged into the open and had become an acknowledged fact? Another was to what extent the demands for a serious revision of Stalinism and the liquidation of its residues were, in addition to being a conflict between the intellectuals and the party, a conflict also between the Czech and Slovak Communist Party apparatuses. If the latter, it would indicate a more serious power struggle.

It appears that Novotny had this contingency very much in mind when he appointed another Slovak, Jozef Lenart, to succeed Siroky in the post of Prime Minister. Lenart is less well known than his predecessor and held no important position during the Stalinist period. He was graduated from a Moscow Central Committee cadre school in the 1950s, after Khrushchev had come to

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