860F.00/11–347: Telegram

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

confidential   urgent

1451. Slovak political situation increasingly serious as Communists take advantage of condition created by corruption, ineptitude Democratic Party leadership. Latest incident Communist attack on above leadership launched as demand for resignation Slovak Board of Commissioners (SBC) initiated by Communist-dominated Slovak Trade Union Council (SOR) and unanimously adopted as resolution by special October 30 meeting of 1836 delegates of Slovak Workers Council (reEmbtel 1447 October 311). Rambling resolution of over 1500 words stresses danger from subversive anti-state activity, deterioration food supply, extensive black market activity which allegedly source financial support subversive activity, general sabotage Czech reconstruction program. Presented October 31 to Dr. Husak Communist Chairman Board Commissioners was used as springboard for his resignation, resignations all other Communist members SBC and resignation General Ferjencik non-party representative Slovak partisan organization who interpreted partisan support Trade Union resolution as mandate from those here presented.

Slovak National Front, called into session immediately, attended by representatives Slovak Communist Party, Freedom Party, Social Democratic Party, SOR partisans, but minus representatives Slovak Democratic Party, adopted resolution praising Ferjenčik’s handling Ministry of Interior, taking cognizance of resignation of SBC, recognizing necessity reorganize it “in interest renewing confidence people in Slovak national organs”, commissioning Husak prepare working [Page 240] program for new SBC and begin discussions creation new board. Officers Slovak Democratic Party after separate meeting October 31, failed to take public position on SOR demand but claimed that in absence resignation Slovak Democratic members board as whole cannot be considered to have resigned. Praha press November 1 unanimously carried headline “SBC Resigned”. Only National Socialist Svobodne Slovo, noting Democrats denial through whole line of Communist attack on Slovak Democratic Party, presented to Workers Council members, basic unifying factor was present serious food situation Slovakia with workers especially middle Slovakia unable obtain adequate food supply last 6 weeks. Trade Unions counseling hold-the-line wage policy because inflationary threat, under tremendous pressure from rank and file workers watching real income dwindle as they forced into black market for basic necessities. This, plus fact that Food and Agriculture Ministries in hands inefficient Slovak Democrats out of sympathy with legislation they are supposed to implement, has created perfect setup for Communists, who one week earlier had considerably flustered Democrats by threatening resignation their commissioners.

It appears that specific Communist targets are Frastacky, Fillo, Kvetko, and Josko.2 First two are in an anomalous situation because of reported resignation Fillo October 14 under Communist pressure and reported withdrawal resignation when Left-Wingers objected to his replacement by Frastacky who was Food Commissioner before May, 1946. Ability SOR supported by partisans to force Slovak Cabinet crisis marks emergence these two ostensibly “non-political” but actually Communist dominated groups as significant political forces Slovakia.

By now Slovak food situation has deteriorated so far that any food commissioner will have extremely hard task. Food commissioner acceptable to trade unions might ease tension by increasing confidence of industrial population in food distribution agency and saddling workers representatives with responsibility difficult distribution problem. Present estimates indicate if existing wheat supply distributed justly it would be adequate only until some time in December. Wheat lack due to inefficient and corrupt distribution on top of drought and to some extent under-cultivation of about 30% of best Slovak land by Hungarians who feared removal. Possibility food assistance from Praha Government to Slovakia limited by (1) food shortage Bohemia, [Page 241] Moravia; (2) resentment increasingly rationed Czechs to further cuts to provide food for unrationed Slovakia; (3) disinclination Communists in National Government to bail out Slovak Democrats.

Slovak Communist official hinted to Labor Attaché that Soviets are holding wheat shipments destined Slovakia in Ruthenia pending clarification “chaotic” food distribution in Slovakia. This may be tip-off to Communist argument in political negotiations on reconstruction SBC and possible future propaganda.

Political situation in Slovakia at most serious point since liberation. Extent to which Democrats will lose commissionerships or will be split internally is still not clear but there is no doubt that with Democrats on the run, Communists will press for a rout. If Democratic leaders hold together through this crisis Embassy still inclined believe they will not lose much popular support and may be able to consolidate their strength provided they can (1) clean house; (2) give able administration (see A–858, October 313).

Official attitude Democratic party will probably be formulated at Bratislava today and Embassy understands National Front in Praha will discuss question in Praha November 4. Although intervention Praha usually means upper hand for Communists, latest information reaching Embassy from reliable sources is that National Socialists and Catholic Populists are planning to oppose firmly Communists demand install representatives of Slovak trade unions and resistance organizations on SBC. Should Czech moderates be outvoted in National Front, their present intention is to appeal to President to dissolve government and to call general elections. In view past experience, Embassy believes some compromise will be found which will avoid sundering National Front and calling elections. However, moderates feel sure President would call elections if they left government. Constitutional provisions regarding election machinery which were observed May, 1946, apparently required 8- or 9-week preparation for balloting so election could not occur before January.4

  1. Not printed.
  2. Rudolf Frastacky was vice president of the Slovak Board of Commissioners, while Kornel Fillo, Martin Kvetko, and Matej Josko were commissioners. All, of course, were members of the Slovak Democratic Party.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Telegram 1479, November 6, from Praha, not printed, reported that the Czechoslovak Cabinet on November 5 had authorized Prime Minister Gottwald to open discussions with party leaders with regard to the establishment of a new Slovak Board of Commissioners in view of the resignation of the current board (860F.00/11–647). Gottwald began his talks in Bratislava on November 8. After his return to Praha on November 12, discussions were held with members of the National Front.