860F.00/10–2247: Airgram

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

secret

A–837. One of the most disappointing, and at the same time alarming, aspects of the Czechoslovak political crisis which has continued since the beginning of September has been that the Catholic Populists have figured as a cipher in the National Front, the Parliament, and the Government. This was evident in that (1) Monsignor Sramek very rarely attends Cabinet meetings; (2) when the crisis began with the dispute over the millionaires’ tax proposal, Monsignor Hala was in Paris or London; (3) when Monsignor Hala returned he supinely voted in favor of arming the partisans (which even leftist General Svoboda1 had opposed).

The Embassy learns unimpeachably that the morale within the Party, and Monsignor Hala’s policies are even worse than previously supposed. Monsignors Sramek and Hala are fantastically afraid of Gottwald. When in London, Hala categorically refused to go to see Churchill. (“What would Gottwald say?”) He could barely be persuaded to call on Bevin.2 Upon his return to Praha, Hala evidently listened to suggestions from Gottwald that the Populists “were not a bad Party,” but that they had one or two bad people—(1) Bohdan Chudoba, and (2) Pavel Tigrid. The result has been that Hala, who still controls the Party Executive, has practically ordered the above two Party members, and also Minister of Health Adolf Prochazka to desist from making public speeches. Prochazka has not, in fact, spoken in public for more than two weeks now.

Because of this situation, and Hala’s insistence on making continual retreats before the Communists (such as the order to Deputy Alois Rozchnal to resign the post of rapporteur of the Immunities Committee in the case of Drs. Bugar and Kempny), the Party is more and more becoming completely demoralized.

Furthermore, the Labor Attaché has learned reliably that in the Executive Council of the Trade Union Movement the Populist trade union representatives no longer put up fight on easy issues, even failing to support Social Democrat [revisions?] and modifications to Communist proposals.

The Party press, managed directly by Dr. Ivo Duchacek, Pavel Tigrid and Bohdan Chudoba, on the other hand, has been its saving grace, showing in general commendable courage. But if, as seems [Page 237] likely, Tigrid and Chudoba (Duchacek is still very close to Hala) are discredited within the Party, the Party itself will rapidly be discredited in the eyes of its following, which must then seek a new Party allegience or remain unaffiliated and unrepresented.

From the larger viewpoint it should be obvious that only by a firm and resolute stand of the National Socialists, Slovak Democrats and the Populists can the Communists be prevented from gradually gaining complete domination of the Government. It has been apparent that the Social Democrats cannot be surely relied upon, even on this crucial point. If the Party should swing away from the Communists after the Party Congress in November, so much to the good. But this is entirely problematical now.

Given, however, the spineless attitude of the executive of the Populists, the National Socialists and Slovak Democrats are left alone to fight the anti-Communist battle.

All in all, it appears that (1) the firm alliance of the three large moderate parties on the fundamental issues of Czechoslovak independence and democracy could probably pull the country through the present crisis, which will doubtless continue (barring severe intervention by the Soviet Union); (2) that the balance of democratic and anti-democratic forces is so even, the practical defection of the Populists tips the scales in favor of the Communists.

Steinhardt
  1. Gen. Ludvik Svoboda, Czechoslovak Minister of National Defense.
  2. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.