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Andrzej Rudzienski

The Capitulations of Mr. Benes

The Road of Struggle Against Stalinism

(April 1948)

From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 4, April 1948, p. 116–118.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In 1938, at the time of the Munich Pact, Czechoslovakia’s “allies” capitulated to Hitler’s dictate and accepted the dismemberment of this small country. The representatives of the Daladier and Chamberlain governments in Prague awakened President Benes at midnight in the ancient residence of the old kings of Bohemia, Hrad, demanding his signature to the imperialist document which dismembered his country. Benes, who for several days had been under the constant pressure of his generous “allies,” signed his own capitulation and that of the Czechoslovakian republic. On the following day he called his people to “calm” and “work.” The people wept in the streets of Zlata Praha (Golden Prague) but obeyed the president. Thus ended Masaryk’s republic.

A few days later Benes resigned the presidency and went into exile. Scarcely half a year later, in March 1939, the columns of German steel entered Czechoslovakia, putting an end to the Second Republic of Munich, born with Benes’s signature, and proclaiming the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In September of that same year the Nazis invaded Poland. We recall these facts in order to familiarize our readers with political atmosphere of Czechoslovakia, and in order to indicate the historic importance of the latest events in this country.


This February, a stunned world stared with astonishment at the march of the Stalinist cohorts through Prague. As we know, since the invasion of the Russian troops, this country had been governed by a “popular democracy” of a type standard in Eastern Europe. The governmental coalition consisted of Stalinists, pro-Stalinist Social-Democrats, Catholics, Benes’s National-Socialists, and the Slovak Democratic Party. However, the key positions, such as the police and the Ministry of Interior, were in the hands of the Stalinists. The Social-Democratic Party, was “reformed” in the Stalinist manner, that is to say, a pro-Stalinist leadership was imposed, headed by Zdenek Fierlinger, Benes’s former ambassador to Moscow. The old Social-Democratic leaders disappeared from the scene. Benes’s party accepted collaboration in view of the Kosice pact, where Benes, unlike the Polish government-in-exile, accepted Stalinist “liberation.”

Back to Czarist Pan-Slavism

Czech nationalist sentiment against the Germans and a reactionary Pan-Slavic feeling, along with a nationalist sympathy for Stalin’s Russia, served to knit the coalition together. It is strange that in this very small Slav country, which until lately was quite Germanized, reactionary Pan-Slavism has very great strength. The new government nationalized the industries, effected an agrarian reform, introduced a system of state capitalism, and proceeded to the expulsion of all Germans and Hungarians from the national territory. In Czechoslovakia, Stalin’s “democratic revolution” took the form of a nationalistic and Pan-Slavic reaction, dreamed of for decades by the reactionary Right under the leadership of Karel Kramarz, leader of the National-Democracy, friend of the czars and enemies of socialism as well as of Masaryk and Benes.

The Sudetenland, annexed in 1938, was completely depopulated. The Sudeten Germans had to abandon their possessions, their homes, and their country, and depart in a few hours for Bavaria. The tragedy struck the old Social-Democratic workers, who with great sacrifice had fought against Heinlein and his Nazi Party of Sudeten Germans and against Hitler. The German Social-Democratic Party of Czechoslovakia ended up in concentration camps for loyally defending Masaryk’s republic and combating the German Nazis. Such was the cruel and bloody fate of all German anti-fascists and revolutionary secialists. The nationalist anger reached such a point that all German-speaking Jews were considered Germans and suffered the consequences. University professors were expelled from their posts, doctors and lawyers were prevented from practicing their professions, etc.

It is necessary to explain that before 1914 Czechoslovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy of the Hapsburgs, in which the German language and German culture dominated. Consequently, the whole bourgeoisie and members of the middle class spoke German, the Czechs as well as the Jews. Now the German-speaking Jews must be purged for the “crime” of having been horn in the circle of German culture. This is how Stalin’s “democratic revolution” manifested itself in the heart of old cultured Europe.

Old Hands at Capitulation

In contradistinction to Poland, neither the bourgeois nor workers’ opposition offered any resistance to the Russian invasion. The Czech bourgeoisie and middle class have a collaborationist and opportunist tradition. In 1938 Benes surrendered the power to the executed President Hacha; Hacha in turn tranquilly handed the Second Republic over to Hitler and Baron Neurath, the Fuehrer’s second lieutenant. Only the women of the people wept in the streets when the martial footsteps of the gray legions sounded in Vaclavske Namiesti (the Plaza of Wenceslas).

The Czech bourgeoisie collaborated with the Nazis, saving their fortunes and goods. Even the Social-Democrats submitted to the totalitarian pressure. The Stalinists followed the directives of the Stalin-Nazi Pact, aiding Nazism to carry out the conquest. Soon after the invasion of Russia, “Comrades” Gottwald, Slansky, Zapotocky, et al. discovered the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and began to organize the resistance.

The Czech bourgeoisie accepted collaboration willingly, because the incorporation of Czechoslovakia into the “Greater Reich” represented enormous markets for Czech industry, while the expense of occupation had to be paid for by the people. Raised in the school of Austrian and German Social-Democracy, the Czech Social-Democracy had no knowledge of revolutionary traditions and bent peacefully before the Nazi barbarism. The Stalinists, true to their master, followed the orders of the Kremlin.

After signing the capitulation, Benes collaborated tranquilly with Roosevelt and Churchill and signed agreements with them accepting the program of Central European federation with Poland. But when the Russians intimated they were opposed to such a federation, Benes facilely refrained from this program and accepted Stalinist policy. When the Russian armies occupied Eastern Europe, he hastened to dissociate himself from his allies and protectors in England and America, and signed the pact of Kosice which accepted Russian protection.

Thus the Stalinists had no need to uproot the opposition because there was no dangerous opposition. They entered Prague as triumphant “liberators.” The Stalinist government was “democratic” because it had no need for terroristic measures. In reality, from the first moment, this government was far more totalitarian than in Poland, for example, because the nation surrendered and submitted voluntarily, corrupted and demoralized by the capitulations of Benes, Hacha, and the Stalinists.

How, then, are we to explain the latest Stalinist coup and the political crisis in Czechoslovakia? By the popular disillusionment with the Stalinist regime.

Two years of Russian government in Czechoslovakia demonstrated to the Czechs the “virtues” and “advantages” of the Stalinist dictatorship. The products of Czech industry had to be delivered to Russia at a low price, thus depriving the people of their principal source of income. Even before the war the Czech worker had been cheaper than the German, without his product being inferior in any way. Now, the level of wages had to be forced even lower, as in all the eastern countries of Europe.

The discontent of the proletariat found its distant expression in the change of Social-Democratic leadership not so long ago, when the more independent elements replaced the pro-Stalinists. The middle class and the peasantry were also discontented and disillusioned with regard to the totalitarian expansion of state capitalism. The popular discontent penetrated the leaderships of the parties collaborating with the Stalinists, the former demanding that the Stalinists give them a greater measure of control.

Drive Behind the Coup

On the other hand, the international tension and the political preparations for the war against capitalism in the Kremlin do not allow the existence of a country in the Soviet zone whose proletariat receives better wages than obtain in Russia, Rumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Poland; it is necessary to lower the living standards of the Czech people and to force developed Czech industry, in the first place the war industries, to work for the Stalinist bureaucracy. The relative equilibrium between the Stalinist party and the other collaborating parties did not permit the realization of this new task. On the other hand, the ties of the bourgeois and Social-Democratic parties with the Anglo-Americans not only weakened the solidity of the Stalinist dictatorship but endangered new plans and even political and military secrets of the “Soviets.”

Thus these three factors forced the Stalinists to “consolidate” their dictatorship at any price. The discovery of the arms stored by the Stalinists in Olomuc exposed the preparations of the Stalinists for the elimination of their collaborators. The Stalinists responded with complete domination of the police apparatus, from which they excluded all their collaborators. The Stalinist Minister of the Interior, Nosek, prepared to play the part of the “bloodhound,” like the notorious Noske of Germany. The night of the long knives approached.

Seeing this situation, the Social-Democratic, National-Socialist, Catholic and Slovak ministers resigned in order to isolate the Stalinists and force them to retreat, as is the custom in parliamentary democracy. However, there was no parliamentary system in Czechoslovakia, nor had there been one since 1938. The proof of this was given by the actions of Nosek, who, while Benes was rejecting the resignations of the non-Stalinist ministers, arbitrarily raided the local headquarters of the parties of the governmental coalition and arrested the officials and leaders of these parties. Nosek, of course, carried out these actions at the express order of the Kremlin and the GPU.

The police actions were supported by a general strike and the public demonstrations of the Stalinists. The unions, previously under the leadership of the Social-Democrats, had been taken over by a Stalinist leadership after “liberation,” beginning with the omnipotent general secretary, Zapotocky. According to the press reports, the strike was of short duration and not very solid. It would seem that the “popular pressure” was in reality more of a bureaucratic device than a spontaneous movement. Nevertheless it fulfilled its function and gained the desired end.

Stalinists Held All Power

All this proves that the coalition regime was neither a parliamentary nor a democratic regime, but that all the power was held by the Stalinists, supported by the Russian Army and the GPU, who followed orders in ceding a part of the power to their collaborators. Now, when the Kremlin deemed it necessary to “consolidate” its dictatorship, the Stalinist puppets proceeded with complete and open brutality to do as they pleased.

When Benes rejected the formation of a purely Stalinist government, the political bureau of the Czech CP clearly gave him to understand that the Stalinists were going to form the government they wanted without his permission and acceptance. In the personal meeting between Gottwald and Benes, the former assumed a dictatorial pose to such a degree that even Benes, accustomed to political humiliations, dramatically exclaimed, “You speak to me just as Hitler did.” The “friendly persuasion” of Gottwald was accompanied by Stalinist street demonstrations and demonstrations of the power of the Stalinist Action Committees and police. This was “popular democracy” in Czechoslovakia.

Benes finally yielded to the Stalinist ultimatum, accepting the cabinet they proposed. For Gottwald, Kopecky, Slansky & Co., it was convenient to retain some puppets of other parties in order to keep up the appearance and farce of “parliamentary democracy.” The symbol of the arrangement was the return of Zdenek Fierlinger, pro-Stalinist Social-Democrat, to the government. Drtina, secretary to the president, friend of Benes and his party colleague, unaccustomed to the political pirouettes of his chief, tried to commit suicide. Nosek not only seized the secretaries of the collaborating parties but proceeded to arrests en masse.

Protesting the Stalinist coup, Czech students carried out an imposing demonstration. The police dispersed them with drawn arms. Many people went in the streets as in 1938–39. Perhaps Benes too wept in his bedroom. To this we can only say with the mother of the last Moorish king of Granada, who also wept when the Spaniards ended his reign: “You weep like a woman, not being able to defend what is yours like a man.”

The theoreticians of the Fourth International applauded Benes and the Czech bourgeoisie as “prudent” because they accepted collaboration with Stalinism. Now, perhaps, they will say that the “democratic revolution” in Czechoslovakia is being transformed into the “socialist revolution,” although “deformed and degenerated.” In reality, the democratic revolution was consummated in Czechoslovakia in 1918–21 with national emancipation from the German yoke, personified by the Hapsburg monarchy, and the creation of a democratic republic with the Social-Democrats playing the dominant role. The counter-revolution began with the predominance of the Agrarians, the party of the landlords, who replaced the Social-Democrats in power. The Nazi counter-revolution imposed the dictate of Munich and dismemberment; then, to carry dismemberment still further, the Nazis set up the “Protectorate.” The Protectorate was terminated by the war, but only to be replaced by Stalinist occupation; the government of Hacha gave way to the new Stalinist-Benes government.

Undoubtedly the pressure of national resistance in all of Europe compelled the Kremlin bureaucracy to engage in “democratic” maneuvers. But all the economic and social changes did not conform to the program of a socialist revolution, but served the bastard interests of a counter-revolutionary force, the Stalinist bureaucracy and its bureaucratic imperialism. The Anglo-American bourgeoisie and the Social-Democrats permitted themselves to be deceived by Stalin’s “democratic” maneuver and now cry to high heaven because of the Stalinist coup.

But the real facts of the matter are somewhat different. The Stalinist coup was accomplished with the Kosice pact of 1944, when the Stalinist Fourth Republic was created, camouflaged by Benes’s presidency and a coalition government. Now the Fourth Republic has been succeeded by a Stalinist protectorate, and events demonstrate that in 1944 Benes played the role that Hacha did in 1939, just as the latter played the role that Benes did in 1938.

The government was and continues to be Stalinist. It is only a question of the degree of Stalinization and not of the change from a democratic government to a totalitarian government. It is a question of a government that is ready for the emergency of war.

Benes – “Mädchen fur Alle”

Benes has passed through all the phases of political development of European reaction. He served the Czech bourgeoisie and the agrarian reactionaries; he capitulated before the European reaction of Munichism, calling his people to calm and peaceful submission to Nazism; after giving this counsel he escaped into exile, offering his services to Roosevelt, as he declares with cynical frankness in his memoirs. He headed the resistance against the Nazis only in order to deliver it to Stalin with the pact of Kosice. Now he has declared that the “parliamentary regime continues,” and that he has accepted the new solution “conscious of his duty.” In a short time Benes will once again be in exile, and will offer his services to Truman.

The opportunists are tenacious of life; they have seven lives while revolutionists only have one. The opportunists and capitulators have many alternatives; the revolutionaries only one: to conquer or die. Benes knows how to crawl on his belly: the Liebknechts die standing up. Such is the despicable character of our times.

Stalin’s clique governs Czechoslovakia brutally, crushing the democratic rights of the people, introducing totalitarian “monolithism,” persecuting the Social-Democratic workers, the National-Socialists, the peasants and intellectuals. All this has as its aim the enslavement of the Czech and Slovakian people in the service of Stalinist imperialism. It signifies a new advance of the Stalinist counter-revolution to the right, camouflaged as a “left turn” and accompanied by the barking of the bourgeois hired press against the new “conquest of Communism.”

In our world, reaction is concentrated at both poles of contemporary society, at the capitalist and the Stalinist poles: at Washington and Moscow. But in spite of the mortal antagonism between both imperialist blocs, the two objectively complement each other, each from its own point of view combating revolutionary Marxism.


The events in Czechoslovakia are symptomatic: in 1938 the dismemberment of the republic signified the approach of the Second World War; in 1939 the occupation of Czechoslovakia brought the world to the brink of war. Now the “totalization” of the Stalinist regime undoubtedly signifies the growing danger of the third world war. The motor force of the Stalinist coup is to be found in that danger.

Tasks of Revolutionary Socialists

The Marxists and revolutionary workers throughout the world are under the obligation of unmasking the Stalinist reaction and defending the democratic rights of the Czechoslovakian people and proletariat; of defending the Social-Democrats and Benes’s National-Socialists from the ruthless persecutions of the Stalinist “bloodhound,” Nosek. Of defending the right of the peasants and Catholics to criticize the regime; to defend the struggle of the Czech workers for free unions and against Stakhanovism and the dictatorship of the bureaucracy in the factories; to defend the right of the Czech students and intellectuals to free and democratic expression of their views; to defend our Fourth Internationalist comrades, who are fighting in the ranks of the Social-Democracy, and whose lives and freedom are undoubtedly threatened; to defend the comrades of the Alarm Group, also Fourth Internationalist in tendency, who carried on an heroic opposition to the Stalinists and Nazis from 1936 on.

The road of Benes is not the road of the Czech and Slovak people, because the people do not crawl on their bellies but struggle. The road of the Czech and Slovak people was not capitulation to Munich nor collaboration with the Nazis: it was the road of Lidice, the road of heroic and self-sacrificing struggle, the road of the Rehenes and the Yanosiks.

Though the Zapotockys now boast of the “general strike,” though they invoke the “proletarian majority,” their road is not the road of the proletariat nor of the people. The road of the people is that of the conscious minority, our road, the road of revolutionary Marxism, of the third proletarian front which bows its head neither to the tyrants of Moscow nor the gangsters of Wall Street. It is not the road of Benes, who first capitulated to Stalin and will soon crawl before Truman, but the road of the revolutionary workers who struggle always for their program, who conquer, or if it is necessary, die standing up.

It is the road of the third proletarian front, the only alternative to capitalism and Stalinism, which leads to victorious world socialism.

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