POLITICAL CRISIS IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA

Created: 12/24/1963

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LBj LIBRARY

Mandatory

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCEof /

ecember

INTELLIGENCE MEMORANDUM

SUBJECT: Political Crisis ln Czechoslovakia

Summary

The tense Czechoslovak political situation appears this week to have reached an acute stage. Recent, unusual high-level meetings have included Czechoslovak and Slovak central committeeathering of top government leaders, and,eeting of senior military officers; the press has failed to mention President Novotny in connection with any of these meetings. Growing concern over the state of pu telle order has also been in evidence during the past few days* onfrontation between Novotny and his manymay thus be in progress.

The Soviet leaders, who have become directly involved in the leadership crisis ln Czechoslovakia, may try to keep Novotny ln office with the understanding that be wouldto alter his policiesiberal direction. Wehowever, thatolution will be no more Huccess-ful than similar attempts in the past, and that, as was in Hungary the Soviets eventually will have to acquiesce ln his removal and replacement. The replacement will have to be someone more in tune with the anti-Stalinist feelings in the party and among the populace, and someone who will deal effectively with the grievances of the Slovaks.

Whether or not the Soviets decide to support Novotny's replacemente believearked if gradual change in the policy orientation of the Czech regime is likely and that its policies will become (as they already show signs of becoming) more liberal, flexible, and independentlythan ln tbe past. The economic system ls likely to evolve graduallyiberal direction. We expect thatthe regime will encourage hotter relations with the West, and make efforts to Improve the quality of its products to make them more marketable in the West.

Such developments are certain to complicate Moscow's problems of authority in the bloc.

APPROVED FOR7

1. The curious visit to Czechoslovakia of Brezhnev, the Number Two man in the Sovietduring the course of an important Sovietcommittee plenum, and so soon after Czech leader Novotny hadelegation to the USSR, Is the latesteries ofeadership crisis has comeead in Czechoslovakia, Tho unusual circumstances of Brezhnev's visit Indicate that the Soviets havedirectly involved and are seriously concerned witholution.

The Background

2. Kucb of Novotny's present problem has been of his own aaklng--cspeclally bis heavy-banded treatment of the issue of de-Stallnization. Behind this was his fear tbat if the latter were allowed to go too far. It would very likely affect him and many of his closest associates, who were deeply involved in Czechoslovakia's own Stalinist purge. Novotny's clumsy response to Khrushchev's de-Stallnl-zation speech atd Soviet Party Congress was an attempt to blame his popular predecessor, tha late Element Gottwald, for Stalinist crimes in Czechoslovakia. Tbls attempt misfired and causod much resentment among the party rank and file, who held Gottwald in high regard. This action andpurgeopular rival in the party, Rudolph Barak, together with dissatisfaction with the condition of the economy, almost cost Novotny his positionut with Soviet support he managed torucial party plenum in March.

ovotny's position again came under fireesultrain of ovents set In motion at the Czechoslovak party congress int thatarty commission was appointed tothe Stalinist trials in Czechoslovakia.*

ommission establishednder the chairmanship of. Rudolph Barak, has led to the re lease of many victims of the Slansky trials, but not their exoneration.

T

Tho result was the rehabilitation of many victims of the Slansky trials, most notably those involved in the trials of "Slovak Nationalists."

These rehabilitations added strong stimulusivoly political and Intellectual ferment which was already under way, especially in Slovakia. Much repressed nationalist resentment was released, with the rehabilitated victims were carried in the press, and Slovak publications became quite outspoken in demands for rejection of Stalinist practices, and for punishment of those responsible for Stalinist injustices, Including thoso on the highest levol in Prague. ublic attack on Premier Slroky for his role in4 trials of "Slovak Nationalists" was carried in the Slovak party organ, Bratislava Pravda, In Juno.

This revival of nationalist feeling Inand cultural ferment was accompanied bycriticism of tho leadership's economic policy and of tho economic system itself. Czechoslovakia, onceodel satellite which had sustained

a very high growth rate in an economy which wasindustrially advanced,a rapid deterioration of Its economic situation. Agricultural production and living conditions investments fell,crucial importance to thegrowth first slowed down and then,topped altogether. educed rate of growth was inevitable in any case, but the extent of tbe decline and the difficulty of tho needed readjustment wero caused by over-optlmlstlc aggressive policies of which Novotny had been the chief architect.

a result of growing economicthe regime was forced to abandon thond has been unable to devise aplan even3 alone. Recentuncertainty over economic goals, andof strong and confident guidance havemorale of economic managers, workers, and Criticism of the leadership'spolicies and of its inept handling ofeconomic problems has been widespread. has been especially strong inthe oconomic slowdown has been most marked and

tregime's Ittempts to cut inefficientmost resented. Meanwhile the failure toliving conditions and shortages of meat and dairy products have caused considerable public

the unpopular Slovak partyto the wolves in Hay was Ineffectualtho pressures from liberal andin the party. Eventually, inwas forced to remove his closestSiroky,ajor reshuffle of partyorgans, and to replace him asayear-old Slovak untarnishedor the Stalinist purges. Onlythis, Novotny had endorsed Siroky inother Slovaks were brought into partyadministration at the samo time, alongCzechs of more liberal outlook. Somemade to preserve the oldumber ofretainers kept important party and Dowover, it was especiallyone of the chief rehabilitated victims ofNationalist" trials, Lacoemberarty central committeeon cultural matters. Only four monthsbad publicly declared that although'been Juridically rehabilitated, he was stillguilty of crimes against the party. arty central committee commission

thusarticularly ignominious concession forced on Novotny, and bespoko the general antl-Novotny nature of tho September reshuffle.*

events and the Brezhnev visitthat the weakness of Novotny's position andcondition of the economy have reachedwhere tho Soviots have had to involvedirectly in an attempt to resolve thocrisis. Tho public statements concerningsuggest tbat the Soviets may be trying toin office and to seek reconciliationand his opponents. However, we believe that such

long after his release, Novomeskyublic interview in Slovakia demanded further retribution for the crimes against the Slovak Communists.

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a eolation will be no more successful than similar attempts ln the past, and that, as was necessary in Hungaryhe Soviets eventually will have to acquiesce in the removal of the top man. We believe tbat If existing problems are to be solved, it will be necessary for the Czechtolean break with thowhich cannot be done under the leadership of Novotny. olution will not be easy for the Soviets in those heady days of Leninism, sovereignty, and "equal rights for socialistnd the Soviets would doubtlessespectable period of time to elapse to avoid the appearance of blatant Interference ln Czechoslovakia's Internal affairs.

Probable Nature and Orientationtuccessor Regime

9. Inuccessor to Novotny, tbewould be concerned toan or aof men who wouldlean break with the past and would also bo reasonably acceptable to tho liberals ln tbe party, especially the Slovaks. Jirl Hondrych, who has longosition ofln the regime,op contender forposition who could be used in combination with other key appointments to provide an element of stability. On the other hand, the Soviets could choose Rudolph Barak, who was purged by Novotny early2 because he was becoming tooontender for Novotny's position. Barak had gained some popularity in the partyhen he was Instrumental in causing tho release from prison of many victims of tbe Stalinist trials, but tbe extent of his current support in the party is uncertain. Another possibility would be Party Secretary Drahomirounger man now popular ln tbe partyof bis recent role ln correcting past Stalinist abuses and his advocacy of liberal policies.

10. Whatever alternative Moscow chooses, wo be-lioveuccessor would have to break with the Stalinist past and adopt more liberal policies. Tbe fundamental nature and urgency of the economicin Czechoslovakia will force Novotny'sto search actively for effective reforms. Tbe chances are small that anything as drastic as tho introduction of partial market socialism, decollec-tivization in agriculture,arge redirection of

trade toward the West will occur in the near future. However, an evolution of the economic systemiberal direction, with increasing reliance onincentives at the expense of direct orders, is quite likely. It Is also probablo tbat strongwill be devoted to making Czechoslovak exports more salable on Western markots, as well as better suited to current Soviet needs.

11. Having come to power on an anti-Stalinist and anti-"doctrinalre" platform, Novotny'sare likely to follow more liberal practices in Internal policy. For that matter, Novotny himself already has been forced by strong presNures in tho party to liberalize his policies to some degree. As has occurred in other satellites, the powers of the police will probably be curbed. Debate in artistic and literary circles will contlnuo to beperhaps evon encouraged. Last summer the cultural thaw in Czechoslovakia was so intense that Western observers were moved to speculate on the parallels with Poland and HungarySG. The debatein the party press, especially in Slovakia, and has become so widespread in some fieldsconomics) tbat tho regime apparently no longer feels able to oppose it directly. Thus, tbe regime may still find, as did Poland and Hungaryhat spontaneous Intellectual ferment, if encouraged from above, can easily get out of band.

12. There is another force present Inwith which both the Sovietsuccessor regime will have to contend--the revival of Slovak nationalism. In the Intensity of its fervor, itin some respects the burst of Polishwhich preceded and accompanied tbe events of Both were spurred by an accumulated sense of grievance, caused by genuine injusticesin tho era of Stalin. They differ Importantly, however, in that the Polish nationalism of6 was anti-Russian in its direction, while Slovak nationalism is directed mainly against its traditionalCzechs. In this respect, the factor of Slovak nationalism, in an ethnically and historically divided country, now is unique in Eastern Europe.

13. The strong clerical nationalism andinclinations of the Slovaks have long provided

a factor susceptible to exploitation (as underagainst the Czechs, The Communist regimeto neutralize ithis factor by pretending that the country was being run Jointly by Czechs andwhen in fact it was being run, as ln the past, by Prague. In playing this game, howevor, thepermitted the creation of parallel government and party structures ln both parts of tbe country, with the resultlovakistinct and separate party organization was created. In fact, part of the present trouble started when the Prague regimeildly natlonallstically inclined administration in Slovakia. Rehabilitation of tho victims of this repression has resultede-"Slovakization" of the partyin Bratislava. Communist party members are leading the Slovak figbt for redress of wrongs to the Slovaks and for liberalization of Internal policy. Novotny has tried to deal with tho problom bymany Slovaks into tbe Joint party and government administration in Prague. Tbe problem, however, ls far from solution,uccessor regime wouldhave to placate tbe strong autonomist desire of theand non-Communistswithout causing the break-up of the country.

Implications for the Bloc

For all these reasons we believeuccessor regime in Czechoslovakia would be likely toore liberal and practical courso lnpolicy and also likely to encourage contacts and closer ties with thetendencies which Novotny bad, until recently, long resisted. egime, if it were successful ln neutralizing theproblem, probably would be more Independent of mind and less disposed to look to Moscow for Gradually, it would probably adopt internal policies somewhat akin to those of Kadar. It might even look to Yugoslavia for inspiration in solving some of its problems.

Such developments almost certainly would have an effect in Bast Germany, where the Ulbricht regime has previously shown considerable apprehension ovor the possible spread to tbe GDR of thefermont ln Czechoslovakia. The downfall of Novotny could easily cause demands among East German youth, intellectuals and party membersimilar

removal of Ulbricht. Ulbricht is vulnerable to much of the same criticism as isrigidity and unreal ism in economic policy, and Stalinist policies in thelike Novotny, he has been forced to modify his policies. Nonetheless, the presence of Soviet forces makes the position of the Pankow regime far different from that of Prague, and, as in the past, thewould be likely to support Ulbricht in any measures necessary to achieve the firm suppression of dissent and controversy in the GDR.

16. For the Soviets, the instability of the Czechoslovak regime, the continued intellectualthe strong force of revived Slovak nationalism, and the poor condition of the Czechoslovak economy already constitute serious problems. Moreover, the Soviets have other problems in Eastern Kurope, not to mention elsehwere in the Communiet movement. The most notable of these is the deterioration of their authority and control over tbe satellite regimes, as exemplified by the recent independent behavior of Rumania. The replacement of the Novotny leadership by an anti-Stalinist regime in Czechoslovakia, which perforce would be loss dependent on Moscow than its predecessor, can only complicate these problems

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