749.00/3–1650: Telegram

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


377. In Embtel 317 March 11, 19491 and supplementary airgrams brief summary of most significant developments during first year completely Communist dominated government was attempted. This telegram and supplemental despatches present similar review trends and developments of second year completely Communist-Czechoslovakia.

First substantive paragraph reftel can be applied word for word to year ending February 1950. Past year witnessed completion of framework based on foundations previously laid but progress uneven with major tasks implementing program still to be done in rural areas, correlation of wages and production, and consolidation of party particularly at lower levels. Opposition not solidified in any positive way. Prevailing attitude of man-in-street is still “when will west liberate us?” and in large sectors of party and its supporters, negative disillusionment or apathy.

During past year, particularly since enunciation Cominform vigilance and “peace” lines last November, Czechoslovakia has identified itself with USSR with increasing vehemence.

However, among year’s most interesting trends are those indicating that, for the present at least the Czechoslovak Communist state is to be permitted some latitude in developing along lines which reflect basic differences between Czechoslovakia–Soviet Union on one hand and between Czechoslovakia and other people’s democracies on other. These developments which belie easy generalization that “Czechoslovakia is being remade in Soviet image” but which nevertheless do not indicate slightest deviation from Kremlin line, include: continued maintenance Czechoslovakian CP as mass party with swollen membership of some two million; visible rise in standard of living; continuance of national front; and with exception large scale roundup in [Page 539] October, displacement bourgeois class proceeding at relatively moderate tempo.

Of three significant sectors Czechoslovakian life not under complete Communist control and direction at beginning 1949, farmers, small shopkeepers, and Catholic Church, considerable progress has been made in dominating latter two. Church laws of October 1949 and other actions during year have almost destroyed Church’s ability act with any independence as integrated organ but spiritual unity and capacity for passive resistance are still far from broken. Nationalization of retail trade to present level of 80 percent was one of year’s most spectacular accomplishments but action has been limited essentially to changing shop signs and large job of consolidating change remains to be done. Further groundwork has been laid for rural collectivization through unified agricultural coops but government is proceeding in this sector slowly and cautiously and has not yet made substantial progress in “socialization of countryside”.

In its attitude toward USSR Czechoslovakia has attempted to compensate for its lack so far of a Kostov,2 Rajk, or Gomoulka,3 by vehemence of its public protestations of loyalty typified by unprecedentedly elaborate and idolatrous celebration Stalin’s 70th birthday, assiduous unearthing of “foreign inspired” anti-state plots and by energetic participation “peace” movement. With exception of Albania, mutual aid alliances have been completed with all sister satellites, while reorientation of trade to East proceeded at much faster rate than originally anticipated. Public increasingly exhorted accept East Germany as peaceful peoples democracy. Commercial relations with Yugoslavia dutifully broken.

Degree of support of and opposition to regime remains most difficult to assess. Continual “education” and reorganization in government and industry undoubtedly leave regime in stronger position re loyalty in personnel than year ago. However, price is being paid in efficiency, experience and ability of personnel. While growth of potentially effective opposition has probably been arrested, disillusion and cooling of support in previous sympathetic or ardently Communist sectors has not. Education, exhortation, and workers’ incentives have won certain support but this has been at least balanced and probably over-balanced by hardening of opposition, killing of initiative and discouragement resulting from inability make theories of “criticism and self-criticism” operate satisfactorily by coercive methods.

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Outstanding events and developments of past year include Ninth CP Congress in May which laid down 10 point program still considered valid directive; expulsion almost all resident foreigners; increasingly intense unearthing and exploitation anti-state activities; generally adequate quantitative but qualitatively spotty fulfillment industrial production plans; some rise in standard of living including improvement in food situation; reorganization of government and industry; practical elimination of private retail trade; October roundup and sentencing to labor camps of some 10,000 bourgeois, passage of Church laws.

Number one problem for coming year is “socialization of countryside”. Regime will also continue to be plagued by problems of manpower, raw materials, foreign exchange and trade with West; of increasing productivity of definitely unenthusiastic industrial workers; of making loyal and effective instrument of mass party still riddled with unreliable elements; of keeping passive resistance cowed by fear and terror; of combating apathy engendered by authoritarian methods and kept alive by trust in eventual liberation by West; of necessity for continually “sharpening class struggle”; and of continuing battle with Church.

In summary Embassy feels now, as last year that despite tremendous problems and lack of popular support, there is little reason to hope that in absence of decisive change in international situation regime will not continue to consolidate its power and maintain economy on going, if uneven basis.

Sent Department 377; pouched Moscow, Belgrade, London, Paris, Vienna, HICOG, Frankfort, Bucharest, Budapest, Warsaw.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Traicho Kostov, former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Bulgarian Communist Party Politburo member, and nine others, were tried and convicted in December 1949 of various anti-State activities. Kostov was executed the same month.
  3. Wladyslaw Gomulka was removed as Secretary General of the Polish Workers’ Party in August 1948 and resigned from his positions as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Recovered Territories in January 1949.