860F.00/9–3047: Telegram

The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia ( Steinhardt ) to the Secretary of State

secret

1316. I have learned that prior to raid on Ursiny’s office in Praha (Embtel 13101), Gottwald endeavored persuade Pietor, one of Slovak Democratic Ministers in Cabinet, to be present but was unsuccessful. Although raid not announced to public as yet it has become known to non-Communist political leaders and has had profoundly depressing effect on them. Several of National Socialist leaders already wavering privately in spite of strong stand their party has taken up to present time in support of Slovak Democrats. There is also evidence that some of Slovak Democratic leaders are beginning to waver in face of methods being employed by police. Undoubtedly, Communists are well informed as to panic their action has caused in non-Communist official circles and will press their advantage to limit. As President’s physical incapacity prevents him from taking a continuing part in present political struggle, non-Communist Party leaders are being deprived of what would otherwise be his invaluable guidance and support. It is now quite clear that Communists have decided to make use of secret police to intimidate their political opponents, beginning with Slovak Democrats. Course they have embarked upon confirms assumption that initial acceptance by Czechoslovakia of invitation to Paris Conference came as great shock to Moscow. Unquestionably Gottwald was equally shocked by Stalin’s anger and his obvious loss of prestige in Kremlin. Result appears to be that Moscow is now taking a greater interest in Czechoslovakian affair than heretofore and may well have directed its representatives to bring the Czechoslovakian Government into complete subservience to Kremlin as rapidly as possible. I am of opinion that Gottwald and other moderate Communists who had hoped and expected to gain an absolute majority at elections next May by relatively democratic means are now being forced to proceed more rapidly by undemocratic means if necessary to bring Czechoslovakia into line. In a sense they find themselves prisoners of their political faith as well as of their more radical colleagues [Page 235] and subordinates some of whom are undoubtedly being guided by direct instructions from Moscow.

In view of foregoing, we must from now on reckon with probability that within a period of months, Czechoslovakian Government will become a subservient tool of Kremlin in internal as well as external affairs and that such degree of independence as Government has been able to exercise up to present time will rapidly diminish. It remains to be seen to what extent non-Communist party leaders will have courage to resist this trend and, assuming they exhibit a high degree of courage, which I am inclined to doubt, the extent to which they will succeed in defeating or delaying Communist program.

Steinhardt
  1. Not printed. In it, Ambassador Steinhardt reported that on the evening of September 26, the secret political police had raided the offices of Deputy Prime Minister Ján Ursiny, a leader of the Slovak Democratic Party, and had claimed to have found sufficient evidence to arrest three of his employees for the recently revealed conspiracies in Slovakia. Later it was announced that a fourth person, Ursiny’s chef de cabinet, had been arrested. According to telegram 1414, October 23, from Praha, not printed, State Security officials had brought action against Dr. Fedor Hodza, General Secretary of the Slovak Democratic Party, for allegedly concealing evidence in connection with the anti-state activities in Ursiny’s office (860F.00/9–2947, 10–2347).