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former political prisoners and former partisans, cultural associations, and social organizations;
d) Including in the future government representatives of some of those organizations, at least of trade unions;
e) Creation of NF Action Committees as its local executive organs and factors mobilizing the worker, peasant, and white-collar masses to direct political action;
f) Purging NF parties of reactionary and conservative elements by changing the leadership of those parties, and purging, too, the party structures and press;
g) Tightening collaboration with the ČSD, which was weakened after the Brno congress, rebuilding the practically non-existent unified front, expanding the participation of the ČSD in the new government under the condition of removing from the ČSD leadership rightist elements.
The ČSD, led by centrist-rightist elements ([Bohumil] Laušman, (Blažej] Vilín) but actually controlled by the right wing (Vilín, [Václav) Majer, Bernard), took an incredibly dangerous stance from the beginning of the crisis. Although the Social Democratic ministers did not actually resign, the party took a wait-and-see attitude and adopted a pseudo-neutral position. In reality this position really became beneficial to the right wing since it made the whole game possible. The right wing counted on such a position and was not disappointed. At that stage the position taken by ČSD meant that the party wanted to hold the balance. Maintaining this pseudo-neutral position for a while enabled the right wing to play its political game, until its success allowed the ČSD to openly support “parliamentary democracy.” Seen from the outside, ČSD tactics were not devoid of comical elements. This fact is worth mentioning since it is so characteristic of the whole picture of the situation.
To wit, just after the crisis began the ČSD pasted in the window of its headquarters a large poster with a map of Czechoslovakia and a picture of a cock-fight taking place above that map. The cock on the left, marked with a red star, symbolized the Communists (and the USSR); the cock on the right stood for the right wing parties (and the USA). The sign said “Jen Klid - Nic se ne stane,” or “Just keep cool and nothing will happen.” The line taken by the party press reflected the wisdom of this poster equally by explaining to the masses that the crisis will pass if only everybody will keep cool and entrust themselves to Beneš's protection, who in turn will take care of everything and save the NF "democracy." As a result of the PPS delegation's strong criticism of this kind of action, the whole window, with the poster, was covered up the following day.
The Social Democratic attitude toward the Communists was at this stage even more relentless, since the ČSD presented the KSČ with an ultimatum that it would not open any talks until the decision of Interior Minister (Václav] Nosek (KSČ) regarding the discharge of sixty Social Democratic policemen (illegible) was recanted.
In its simplest terms, the strategy of the ČSD could be described as playing the role of a sui generis "third power,” wanting to go back to the status quo ante using methods somewhat different than those used by the right wing.
The hopelessness of ČSD tactics and strategy was deepened even more by the actual development of the situation in the country. The crisis caused an undoubtedly revolutionary mood among the masses, who, under KSČ leadership, clearly pushed for the correct solution. Without any reservations, the working class followed the path indicated by the KSČ and accepted all of its postulates as its own. The rank-and-file of the ČSD created a unified front with the KSČ masses. The Social Democratic Party was absolutely unaware of the situation, did not perceive its revolutionary character, and consoled itself thinking that it was just an ordinary little parliamentary incident that could be dealt with through hallway negotiations. The correct attitude was not considered at all. The best proof of this was their quibbling over the sixty policemen, which took place amidst the most serious crisis Czechoslovakia experienced since the liberation.
It is very telling that at the large “manifestation” in February (Saturday, February 21) at the Old Town Market Square in Prague, when Kousová-Petranková, a Social Democratic activist, appeared next to President Gottwald, she was greeted by the crowd with a great ovation for the Social Democratic and the unified front. This was the best testimony of the real mood of the Communist and Socialist masses. The rightist ČSD leadership reacted by immediately kicking Kousova and Dr. Nonec (the leftwing Social Democratic leader in the Prague ČSD organization) out of the Party.
The pivotal character of the ČSD's political stance had to do with the fact that together with the KSČ it held a 52% majority in the parliament for the workers' parties and that [by changing] its stance it was capable of overcoming the crisis and bringing victory to the left wing. Had it taken a clear stance from the beginning, the right wing would not have dared to provoke the crisis, knowing that it had no chance even in the parliament. However, the right wing was correct in its judgment of the influence of the Brno congress on the ČSD's evolution and politics.
Having recapitulated the situation, the delegation, in agreement with Com. Fierlinger and Com. Slánský and Dolanský (KSC), decided on a plan of action.
On Sunday, February 22, Com. Rusinek, the head of the delegation, officially communicated with the leadership of the ČSD and asked for a meeting with the decision-making people in the party. Com. Laušman invited the delegation to a conference with the executive department of the ČSD in the afternoon hours.
The conference took place in the building where the offices of the ČSD General Secretariat are located. It fell in two parts with a two-hour break. During the first part Laušman, Vilin, and Bernard were present. During the
second part, Vilín, Bernard, [Ludmila) Jankovcová and a few more comrades who were members of the Central Committee, mainly from the centrist and rightist wings, were present.
Com. Rusinek was the first one to speak at the conference. He explained the purpose of the delegation's visit and stressed the common interests of the people's democracies in defending the gains of the proletariat of those countries. Com. Rusinek pointed out the danger of dollar-diplomacy pressure on the people's democracies, and drew attention to the increased offensive of American capitalism, to the danger of the war camp's intrigues and the necessity of strengthening the collaborative ties between the left-wing socialists from the people's democracies and the Socialist left in the West. He mentioned the influence of the Czech crisis on the struggle of Western European workers, particularly in Italy. Com. Rusinek also pointed out the special connection between the interests of Poland and Czechoslovakia and to the negative results of the prolonged crisis, which could only negatively influence the effectiveness of resolutions reached during the Prague conference (between] the Foreign Ministers of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Com. Arski followed by characterizing the international situation, its direct connection to the Czechoslovak crisis, and the negative repercussions of the rightist provocation. He stressed the role of the leftist Socialists in the struggle for a unified front on the
a international scale, and he also explained the goals and methods of American politics, the role of the USSR in creating a world peace front, and the necessity of overcoming the Czechoslovak crisis in the spirit of revolutionary postulates of the Socialist left and the Communists. Com. Arski conducted a detailed analysis of the flaws of the official ČSD leadership position, and particularly of the dangerous results of “sitting on the fence” and playing "the third force.” Com. Rapacki conducted a precise analysis of the current political situation in Czechoslovakia and indicated the Socialist possibilities of overcoming the crisis. During his speech, Com. Rapacki was very precise about what practical stance the ČSD should take in negotiations with the Communist Party and stressed the advantages the party might obtain in really increasing its influence in the government.
Com. Jabłonski added to the statements of other comrades from the PPS, analyzing the role of the right wing in the crisis and the danger of facilitating its games.
At that stage, the tactics of the delegation were designed to achieve the following postulates:
1. To induce the ČSD leadership to immediately start negotiations with KSČ;
2. [To induce the CSD) to give up its neutral stance and move to the left side of the barricade;
3. [To induce the ČSD] clearly to threaten Beneš and the right wing that if they continue to resist, the ČSD will unconditionally support the KSČ;
4. [To induce the ČSD) to relax repression against leftist Socialists;
5. [To induce the ČSD) to abandon its wait-and-see attitude and start actively to participate in the current conflict on the side of the mobilized working masses;
6. To induce the ČSD leadership to recognize the revolutionary character of the situation and draw the correct conclusions;
7. To undermine the self-confidence of the rightist activists of the ČSD, (illegible) them morally and threaten them with the repercussions of resisting the revolutionary wave; and
8. To put a wedge between the right wing and the center, pulling the hesitant elements over to the left.
These postulates have to a great degree since been realized:
1. During the conference Com. Jankovcová (Minister of Industry) clearly expressed support for the left;
2. Com. Vojta Erban subsequently moved to the left;
3. Com. Laušman kept his neutral attitude, not engaging himself on the side of Vilin and Bernard;
4. Some of the participants by the end of the meeting clearly separated themselves from the right and moved to the center;
5. During the meeting Vilin, Bernard and the people closest to them became clearly isolated from the rest of more or less undecided elements.
The conference was very important, as the following day the plenum of the ČSD Central Committee (CC) and the destruction of the center-right majority in its CC had a decisive influence on the further development of events at the heart of ČSD.
After the talks with the CSD Central Committee, the delegation again contacted the representatives of KSC and informed them about the situation at the heart of the ČSD. Then Com. Rusinek made personal contact with opposition elements in the heart of the ČSNS Party and was assured that they would immediately contact President Beneš and express opposition to Zenkl's directions during the internal party conference. The KSČ and the left wing of the ČSD were informed of this measure.
In the evening the delegation participated in the meeting of the leaders of the left wing ČSD faction, led by Com. Fierlinger. Com. Jankovcová, Jungvirtová, John, Evžen Erban, and [Jiří) Hájek, among others, participated in the meeting.
Tactics were established for the plenum the following day, rules for the Socialist-leftist way of overcoming the crisis were discussed, and the draft of a political declaration was discussed. The declaration was to be made by the left in case the rightist elements took control of the CC plenary meeting. After establishing this plan of action, the delegation got in touch with Warsaw and determined further guidelines for actions the following day.
On the day of the CC Plenum, Com. Rusinek conducted further talks with the National Socialists, and during the luncheon hours a meeting with a group of ČSD members took place. The meeting was initiated by Bernard. Present were representatives of the extreme
right, led by Majer and Bernard (illegible word). In spite of that fact, after a lengthy discussion two participants assured the PPS delegation of their readiness to speak at the Plenum meeting in the spirit of our [the delegation's) postulates.
Thanks to the account of the Plenum given by our leftist friends, we were able to conceive of the meeting as a gradual tilting from an extreme right stance in the morning to a more conciliatory attitude later in the day, with a great many delegates moving to a center-left position. Already at noon Laušman decided that the repression of the left wing forced by Majer was a mistake. By the evening, the left was finally able to win a majority for a very important postulate: to send a party delegation to the reorganization meeting of National Front, where decisive resolutions were to be reached about how to solve the crisis. All day long the delegation's efforts were focused on trying to win over as many CC members as possible in order to win that decision, since we considered this decision to be a breakthrough in the overall attitude of the party leadership. Our judgment turned out to be the right one, since from that moment the disintegration of the right began. In spite of the right wing's votes, a majority could still be found to support the decision. Vojta Erban's move to the left played a major role in this.
The CC plenary meeting was postponed until the following day. The development of events had gained a sudden momentum by then. In response to the appeal of the Employee Council, a one-hour general strike took place. Demonstrations of right-wing students took place in the streets, that [line missing). At the same time, National Front Action Committees began to take action all over the country, aiming at Communist as well as Social Democratic-oriented workers.
From the morning of February 24 on, decisive events took place also in the leadership of Social Democratic organizations. Around 10 A.M. a group of leftist ČSNS representatives, led by the “expelled” Com. Němec, seized the offices of the General Secretariat on Přikopý. At noon the Prague organization turned itself over to the disposal of the party left led by Com. Fierlinger. The Brno organization did the same and similar news started coming during the day from other provinces as well.
Therefore the CC plenum continued in the light of faits accomplis. At the suggestion of Com. Gottwald, the ČSD Central Committee decided to open talks on the reconstruction of the government and the National Front. However, the representatives of the ČSD took a passive stance in these talks, registering the conditions presented by the KSČ to present them to their own Central Committee. The occupation of the offices of the Central Committee made it difficult for the ČSD executive to function normally. Laušman presented Gottwald with a demand to have the building cleared out by the police, which Gottwald did not want to do, explaining that it was an internal party matter. He agreed in the end, however, and the police removed the leftists [rightists?), returning
(control over] the building to the party authorities. The CC Plenum restarted, but the balance had clearly moved to the left. In spite of that, the majority hesitated accepting the proposals of the KSČ. The proposals were aimed at: participation of ČSD as a whole in the new NF government, participation of the ČSD in Action Committees and the expanded NF, granting the ČSD an additional ministry portfolio in the government, and improving collaboration with the KSČ. However, one condition was to be the removal of Majer from the government. In light of the indecisiveness of the majority of the CC, the left departed before the meeting was over, published its political declaration, and delegated Fierlinger to talk directly to Gottwald.
An hour later, most of the CC was persuaded, and had completely isolated the right wing, including Majer and Vilim. Then it was Bernard and Laušman's turn to go to Gottwald to start negotiations on the platform suggested by the KSČ. In such a situation, Gottwald found himself
a face to face with two different ČSD factions and an actual split.
The PPS delegation spent all of Tuesday trying to influence the CC in order to save the unity of the Social Democratic Party by overthrowing the right and ensuring the acceptance of the KSČ proposals by the rest of the party. It should be noted here that at this stage a small tactical dissonance occurred between the delegation and Fierlinger's left.
Recognizing the situation and appreciating the interests of the socialist movement, the delegation wanted to lead the whole Social Democratic organization, cleared of rightist elements, onto the new political path. Therefore we wanted to keep Laušman as a symbol of party unity and organizational continuity. We realized that to overcome Beneš's obstinacy it was necessary for the Social Democratic Party under Laušman's leadership to follow hand in hand with the KSČ and Gottwald. Laušman's participation was very much needed. At the same time, Fierlinger seemed to perceive the situation somewhat differently and thought that he had gotten an opportunity to take revenge for Brno and Laušman's betrayal. He was counting on taking over the leadership of the party and on the full success of his was a clear conflict between the political interests of the left and ČSD as a whole (on the one hand), and the interests of the individual leaders of the left on the other). The PPS delegation placed the overall interests higher, hence the small tactical discrepancy, which did not have any negative results on further collaboration, except for Laušman's momentary reserve. Hearing the news about the CSD Central Committee majority resolution and the beginning of talks between Laušman and Gottwald, the delegation considered its mission to be over and decided to leave Prague.
Around 10:30 p.m., right before their departure, Com. Rusinek was asked over the telephone by the KSČ leadership if at least part of the delegation could stay for
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organization structure. In his final conversation (with the delegation), Com. Vojta Erban promised to send to the PPS Central Executive Committee the details of the reorganization action in writing and agreed to initiate steady contacts between the ČSD and PPS in the near future.
At that point the delegation ended its activities and returned to Warsaw.
another 24 hours. The initiative came from Com. Gottwald and Slánský (illegible). It was decided that Com. Rusinek and Arski would stay. The following morning both comrades were invited over, by Com. Gottwald. Even before that, Com. Slánský expressed thanks to the delegation on behalf of the KSČ Central Committee for its help during the crisis and its effective influence over the ČSD leadership.
Com. Gottwald described the situation at that stage of the crisis, the stance of the KSČ and related the course of the night talks with the Fierlinger and Laušman groups. Thanking the PPS delegation for their collaboration, he expressed the wish that the delegation make contact with both groups again and attempt to reconcile them in order to present a unified stance to the outside. Com. Gottwald
a shared the approach of the PPS delegation, which had tried to influence both ČSD groups in the same spirit. Com. Gottwald also expressed his positive opinion concerning the plan to initiate regular cooperation between the ČSD and the PPS in the future through the creation of a contact commission of both parties. Evaluating the course of the crisis, Com. Gottwald expressed the hope that on Wednesday afternoon President Beneš would sign the resignation [letters) of the former ministers and recognize the new National Front cabinet with eleven Czech and Slovak Communists, four representatives of the Social Democratic (Party), and two representatives from the National Socialist and Slovak Democratic left wings.
Com. Gottwald also expressed the opinion that under the influence of the PPS delegation, Laušman would accept the proposal of the party left to purge the party of rightist elements.
Immediately after this conversation, Com. Rusinek and Arski went to the ČSD Secretariat where they conducted talks with Coms. Němec, Laušman, and Vojta Erban in the spirit of postulates agreed upon with Com. Gottwald.
In the course of the day, the ČSD reorganized its party leadership, removing Majer, Vilim, Bernard, and other rightists, temporarily entrusting Com. Vojta Erban with the duties of the General Secretary, and announcing a purge
of the editorial staff of Pravo lidu and the whole
Recapitulating the results of the four-day action:
1. The delegation neutralized the influence of [French Socialist leader) Guy Mollet in the ČSD, who had visited Prague a week earlier and tried to dispose the party in the spirit of the "third force;"
2. [The delegation) undermined the mood of the ČSD's extreme right wing;
3. (The delegation) influenced the undecided elements to move to the left;
4. [The delegation) made it easier for the left wing to push the Party on to the correct path;
5. [The delegation] facilitated the reaching of an agreement of the CC majority to start talks with Gottwald's KSC:
6. [The delegation) contributed to preserving the party as a whole for the NF;
7. [The delegation) influenced the precipitation of the process of removing the rightists (from the party);
8. [The delegation) influenced the resumption of the unified front;
9. [The delegation) tightened collaboration with the CSD:
10. [The delegation] established close contacts with the KSČ leadership. In the end it proved the correctness of the leftist-socialist propositions in the practical situation of the political crisis, where it was possible to reach a revolutionary solution, under the condition of achieving unified action by the two factions of the worker's movement.
(Source: Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Warsaw), file 217, packet 16, pp. 1-11. Translated by Anna Elliot-Zielinska.)
CWIHP is pleased to announce the publication of
Brothers in Arms: The Rise and Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance,
Ed. by Odd Arne Westad
The collection of articles and documents is the inaugural volume in the Cold War International History Project Book Series, edited by James G. Hershberg. For ordering information call Cambridge University Press (distributor) at 800-872-7423 or the CWIHP office.
Stalin As Editor: The Soviet Dictator's Secret Changes to the Polish
Constitution of 1952
By Krzysztof Persak
talin's post war policy towards Poland and the influence of the Moscow imperial center on Polish
developments have not been hitherto satisfactorily explored by scholars. No monographic study on these questions has been written so far, and few documents have been published. The main reason for this is the lack of sources. Polish documents concerning relations between Stalin and Polish Communist authorities after 1944, as well as regarding Stalin's personal influence on the events in Poland, are unfortunately very scarce. For instance, neither official transcripts nor minutes of meetings between Stalin and Polish Communist leaders have been found in Polish archives thus far, and it is most probable that they were never drawn up by the Polish side. Thus, one of the main sources remain rare handwritten working notes taken by Polish participants of such meetings, most commonly by the leaders of the Polish Workers' Party (after 1948: Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP])— Władysław Gomułka and Bolesław Bierut.?
However, although sources which exemplify Stalin's direct personal influence on the course of events in Poland are rather rare in Polish archives, there does exist a document of a quite extraordinary nature. This is the Russian-language copy of a draft of the Polish constitution containing Stalin's handwritten amendments.
The Communist-dominated government, installed in Poland in July 1944, did not seem very eager to set up a new constitution. In fact, Poland was the last of the European “People's Democracies” to adopt a constitution which followed the pattern of the Soviet (“Stalinist”) constitution of 1936. One month after the first parliamentary elections were held in Poland, in January 1947, a provisional constitution was passed which gave the Sejm (parliament) five years to adopt a "full" constitution. Yet, two more years went by ineffectively before any preparations were started at all, and eventually, in December 1951, the Legislative Sejm was forced to prolong its own tenure for six months in order to finish its work on the constitution.
First preparations to draw up the new constitution were initiated not by the Legislative Sejm but by the leading organs of the ruling Communist party. In June 1949, the Constitutional Commission consisting of leading party ideologists and lawyers was set up by the PUWP CC Secretariat. By September 1950 the Commission produced a preliminary draft which was handed over to the Politburo for further discussion.
Bierut's notes indicate that even this very early
version of the constitution had been cleared with Stalin. In a short Russian-language note from their conversation in November 1950, Bierut put down questions he was going to ask the Soviet leader. He wrote down an acronym PSR
which probably means: Polish Socialist Republic—as the proposed name of the state. He also asked Stalin: "should we retain the old emblems?" Bierut's questions also referred to issues of a particular political significance: the separation between the Catholic church and the state, the dominant role of the Communist party and whether other political parties might exist, and finallysovereignty of the state and the alliance with the Soviet Union. An article of the draft constitution which dealt with the latter question was cited in full length in Bierut's note: “PSR is a sovereign state, a member of the family of socialist states which is led by the USSR. The inviolable alliance with the USSR, with the states of people's democracy and with all democratic forces of the world, is a condition of the development, progress and consolidation of the PSR, a condition of preservation of its lasting independence, sovereignty and security against the aggression of imperialist forces."
Unfortunately, Bierut did not record comments made by the Soviet leader. Stalin's answers, however, can be deduced from the changes which were subsequently introduced to the draft constitution. On 16 November 1950 -i.e., after Bierut's consultation with Stalin—the Politburo debated the preliminary draft of the constitution. One of the most important directives which, based on the results of this discussion, were given to the Constitutional Commission by the Politburo was to "emphasize more firmly the issue of sovereignty, in a manner that would raise no doubts" and to “take fully into account Polish national forms and progressive traditions."10 In accord with these instructions, the articles concerning the alliance with the Soviet Union and the leading role of the Communist party in the state were not included in the constitution." The traditional Polish national emblem—the White Eagle—was not altered, and the official name of the state which was eventually adopted was the Polish People's Republic (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa).'? It is more than probable that it was Stalin who decided that.
A key role in formulating and writing the constitution was played by the members of the PUWP Politburo, very notably by the First Secretary Bolesław Bierut. After the party's Constitutional Commission fulfilled its task in June 1951 by composing a second version of the draft