No. 668

749.00/3–251: Telegram

The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Briggs) to the Secretary of State 1


546. Embtel 539, February 27.2 A. Unveiling by Czechoslovak CP of Clementis and company as “traitors and conspirators” forecasts sensational Rajk or Kostov-type trial purposes of which would probably include:

Demonstration of “nationalism versus Stalinism” with latter gloriously triumphant. To extent private dreams of Czech CP leaders (including President Gottwald and Prime Minister Zapotocky) infected with this virus, we can expect heavy play possibly ending with scene labeled “interment nationalism for all time.”
Espionage charges against west. Since nationalism alone would never convict Clementis et al in eyes general Czech and Slovak public, Communists have added espionage tag as pretext penalties to be exacted and perhaps also pretext for further moves against western missions. Charges against Sling referred repeatedly to his [Page 1347] “Anglo-American imperialist masters”. Although alleged details mentioned only British, and Clementis accused French espionage that US will be accused along with British and French can probably be taken for granted, vide above and also reference to field.
Trial as propaganda display within “struggle for peace” framework.
Trial as diversionary move: red herring trick seeking take public mind from domestic difficulties, scarcity of bread, etc.

B. Considering foregoing, purpose this message to urge we forthwith mount major VOA offensive in which connection it is Embassy’s belief that present conjunction of circumstances provides excellent perhaps unique opportunity for hard-hitting, no holds barred, sustained offensive. For example:

What would really be on trial is not treason or Stalinism or even Communism but Czech patriotism. Clementis and those accused with him became anathema to Kremlin, not because they were anti-Russian but because they refused to be anti-Czech and refused subordinate welfare of Czechoslovakia to interests of Russia and Russian imperialism, all the rest—the nonsense about bourgeois deviationism, the fairy tales about espionage, and the interminable dialectical mumbo jumbo of a dozen repetitious speeches represents effort of frantic local party leadership obedient Kremlin demand to render “my country right or wrong” a crime against state (except when state is Russia). Recognize limitation on use above theme since not to our advantage represent defendants as great patriots.
Voice can imply that Gottwald himself may well have harbored heretical nationalist notions and that to save own skin he deliberately sold old friend Clementis down river. Clementis warned by western press sixteen months ago, instead he put his trust in Gottwald. Voice can hint that even with last week’s frenzied efforts close ranks and exonerate President, nevertheless Gottwald, Zapotocky and Slansky themselves may still be vulnerable and only question of time until their throats are candidates for Kremlin razor, especially if they make slightest effort defend Czech interests versus Soviet interests.
Another theme with local listener appeal is one deprecating intelligence Russian CP leadership in forcing issue: “Stupid Ivan, he thinks Czechs are as dumb as he is”. This is variation of always effective theme that interests of Russia and of captive governments not identical and that Communism (Kremlin brand) is always equivalent to swindling captives for benefit captor. In present situation however Ivan forgot that Czechoslovakia had developed intellectually and industrially far beyond Ivan’s level and hence smart enough to recognize where own interests lie. By turning heat on local CP, Ivan may have won short term advantage (represented by last week’s developments and charges) but what Russia actually demonstrated is that same Czech nationalism that survived for 300 years before independence in 1918, not likely be extinguishable in three years by Communist gangsters working for Russia.
Another theme is that fear is only fuel on which Communist apparatus can operate. Fear is powerful propellent but so corrosive that it destroys machine, unless of course incompetence at wheel has not already wrecked it. And meanwhile exhaust from motor stoked by fear is invariably terror, treachery and hate—as breathed throughout last week’s sessions by CP of Czechoslovakia.

C. Other themes and variations thereof may be equally effective. Our point is that with local party perceptibly weakened by internal strife and Russian pressure, and with Czech people unhappy, disgusted and terrified to extent not surpassed since Communist 1948 coup d’état this is time when VOA can strike impressive blows at regime even though it must continue refrain from predicting its early overthrow.

Trial not yet scheduled, date probably depending on length of time it takes to reduce defendants to malleable consistency and obtain their “voluntary confessions”.3

  1. Repeated to Moscow, London, and Paris, and pouched to Frankfurt, for HICOG, Vienna, and Warsaw.
  2. Telegram 539 reported on recent speeches by high Czechoslovak Communist Party leaders which accused former Communist leaders Šling, Švermová, and Clementis of having attempted to organize a conspiracy to overthrow the Czechoslovak regime. The telegram suggested that the stage was being set for a spectacular purge trial in Czechoslovakia. (749.00/2–2751) This was one of many messages sent by the Embassy in Praha during 1951 (and included in file 749.00) reporting on public statements and rumors on the arrest or disappearance of high Communist party functionaries and government officials. Telegram 615 from Praha, April 6, for instance, reported rumors that within the Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry the following officials had been purged: Deputy Foreign Minister Vavro Hajdů, Chief of the Western Hemisphere Department (and Clementis’ son-in-law) Jan Patek, Deputy Foreign Minister Artur London, Ambassador to the United States Outrata, Ambassador to the United Kingdom Rufolph Bystrický, Ambassador to France Adolf Hoffmeister, and Ambassador to Israel Eduard Goldstücker. (749.00/4–651)
  3. Telegram 552 from Praha, March 6, commented that recent Voice of America broadcasts had struck “effective blows in vulnerable areas suggested Embtel 546.” (511.4941/3–651) The Embassy regularly commented on the content and focus of Voice of America broadcasts and offered suggestions for new themes and evaluations of the effectiveness of current programing. These messages are principally in file 511.4941.