To plan for the future we must understand the past and the present. Most social reformers and revolutionaries take this granted. Yet tragic mistakes are still being made in the 20th century by those who are seeking for change for reality. It is not enough for the revolutionary to understand the general trends in this changing world. The example and lessons of every revolution must be studied and analysed. Each experience contributes to the growing material on the science of revolution. The Czechoslovak Socialist revolution represents a universal and recurring weakness in all revolutions. This deficiency is in the process of being overcome and this makes a study of it of particular interest.
The heroic struggle and sacrifice of the Communist Party during the Fascist occupation ensured the popularity of its leadership and the ideals of communism in the immediate post-war years.
So that in the elections of 1946, the Communist Party gained 38 per cent of all votes, and together with the Social Democrats under a common National Front programme, controlled a majority in parliament. The determination of the communists and left-wing Social Democrats to institute fundamental economic reform – land reform and nationalisation of industries – made the coalition an uneasy affair from the very start. When in July, 1947, the communists forced through legislation for the division of large estates among the poor peasants and in the winter of the same year voted for a relief fund for the small peasants to the tune of seven milliard crowns (which sum was to be deducted from the profits of his business) matters reached a crisis.
In February, 1948, the right-wing ministers resigned en bloc. Whether they intended to create chaos in which to justify an armed takeover or whether they hoped merely to coerce the Prime Minister, Klement Gottwald, a communist, to nominate ministers more sympathetic to the bourgeois interests, remains a moot point. Their calculations failed Gottwald and the Communist Party counter manoeuvred by accepting the ministers’ resignation and simultaneously organizing the workers into people’s militia to protect the factories against sabotage and any attempt at any armed takeover by the right wine of the army. This was followed up by the appointment of radical ministers fully in support of the demands for nationalisation and land reform.
Here, then, was the beginning of the Czechoslovak Socialist revolution, achieved without a shot being fired thanks to an unusually favourable complex of factors: the proximity of the U.S.S.R.; the distance from the only virile postwar imperialist power (the U.S.A.) which for the time being, moreover, was satisfied with its achievements at infiltration in Europe by means of the Marshal Plan; the high reputation of the Communist Party and the fighting elan of the proletariat; the disrepute and unpopularity of the bourgeoisie.
What went wrong? Why did the Communist Party and its leaders instead of gaining in popularity, begin to lose support less than two years after their historic take-over? By 1967, they stood discredited before the entire nation.