Rudolf Slánský


Rudolf Slánský

Rudolf Slánský (July 31 1901, Nezvěstice near Blovice – December 3 1952, Prague) was a Czech Communist politician and the party's General Secretary after World War II and was one of the leading creators and organizers of communist rule in Czechoslovakia at the turn of the 1940s and '50s. Later he fell into disfavour with the regime, and was executed after a show trial.

Early life

Slánský received his formative education in Plzeň at the Commercial Academy. After the end of World War I, he went to Prague, where he founded a leftist intellectual scene in institutions such as the Marxist Club. Slánský joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia when it broke away from the Social Democratic Party in 1921. He rose within the party and became a senior lieutenant of its leader, Klement Gottwald. At the Fifth Party Congress in 1929, Slánský was named a member of the party Presidium and the Politburo, and Gottwald became General Secretary.

From 1929 to 1935, Slánský lived in hiding due to the illegal status of the Communist Party. In 1935, after the party was allowed to participate in politics, both he and Gottwald were elected to the National Assembly. Their gains were halted, however, when Czechoslovakia was carved up at the Munich Conference in 1938.

Slánský, who was Jewish, fled to the Soviet Union, along with much of the rest of the Czechoslovak communist leadership, when Germany occupied the Sudetenland in October 1938. In Moscow, Slánský worked on broadcasts to Czechoslovakia over Moscow Radio. He lived through the defense of Moscow against the Wehrmacht during the winter of 1941-42. His experience in Moscow brought him into contact with Soviet Communists and the often brutal methods they favored for maintaining party discipline.

In 1943 Slánský's little daughter Naďa (Nadia) was abducted while playing in the park with her older brother. Neither Nadia nor the perpetrators were ever found.

While in exile in the Soviet Union, Slánský also organized Czechoslovak army units, with which he returned to Czechoslovakia in 1944 to participate in the Slovak National Uprising.

Power in the postwar period

In 1945, after World War II, Slánský took part in meetings between Czechoslovaks who had been exiled in London and Moscow that led to a new National Front government under Edvard Beneš. Slánský became General Secretary of the Communist Party at the 8th Party Congress of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party in March 1946 and the second most powerful person in the country after Gottwald, who became leader of a Communist-dominated coalition government.

In 1948 the Communist Party took full control of the country in the February coup. Some historians say that Stalin desired complete obedience and threatened purges for the "national Communists". Klement Gottwald, fearing for his own safety, decided to sacrifice Slánský.

Other historians say that the rivalry between Slánský and Gottwald escalated after the 1948 coup. Slánský began consolidating his power within the party Secretariat and placing more of his party supporters in governmental positions, encroaching on Gottwald’s position as president after the death of Beneš. Stalin backed Gottwald because he was believed to have a better chance of building up the Czechoslovak economy into a position where it could start producing useful goods for the Soviet Union.

Gottwald started by accusing two close associates of Slánský, Otto Šling and Bedřich Reicin, of crimes against the Communist Party. Slánský participated in these purges because he didn’t have enough clout to fight the accusations. Slánský was also blamed for economic and industrial troubles, costing him popular support. Nevertheless, he received the Order of Socialism, a top decoration, on July 30th, 1951, and a book of his speeches in support of socialism was going to be published under the title "Towards the Victory of Socialism".

The trial

In November 1951 Slánský and 13 other people were arrested and charged with being Titoists, Party rhetoric asserted that Slánský was spying as part of an international Western capitalist conspiracy to undermine socialism, and that punishing him would avenge the Nazi murders of Czech communists Jan Šverma and Julius Fučík during World War II.

Slánský was hurt by his image as a cosmopolitan figure, which had allowed Gottwald and his ally Antonín Zápotocký, both populists, to tar him with charges of belonging to the bourgeoisie. Slánský and his allies were also opposed by old-time party members, the government, and the party’s Political Bureau.

In prison Slánský was tortured, attempted suicide, and was forced to take on an obedient demeanor in court, accusing himself of crimes against the state and asking the death penalty for himself.

The Prague Trial that followed began on November 20, 1952, in the Senate of the State Court.They were notable for their anti-Semitic overtones: Slánský and 10 of his 13 co-defendants were Jewish.The state procurator of his trial was Josef Urválek. After an eight-day trial, Slánský was found guilty of "Trotskyite-Titoist-Zionist activities in the service of American imperialism" and hanged in Pankrác Prison on December 3, 1952. His body was burned and the ash was dispersed on an icy road outside of Prague.

Posthumously

After the death of Stalin, Slánský was reviled by Antonín Novotný for having introduced Stalinist methods of interrogation into Czechoslovakia. Slánský and other victims of the purge trials were cleared under the penal code in April 1963 and fully rehabilitated and exonerated in May 1968. After the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel named Slánský’s son, also named Rudolf, as the Czech ambassador to the Soviet Union. [Stokes, Gale. "From Stalinism to Pluralism: A Documentary History of Eastern Europe Since 1945". 1996, page 66.]

Slánský was the most powerful politician executed during the rule of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. Afterwards the treatment of leaders fallen out of favour became almost civilized by comparison: they were merely stripped of power and put into retirement.

References

*cite book | author=Slánská, Josefa | title=Report On My Husband | location=London | publisher=Hutchinson | year=1969 | id=ISBN 0090973208
*cite book | author=London, Artur | title=Confession | location=USA | publisher=Ballantine Books | year=1971 | id=ISBN 0345221702
*cite book | author=Margolius, Ivan | title=Reflections of Prague: Journeys through the 20th century | location=London | publisher=Wiley | year=2006 | id=ISBN 0470022191
*cite book | author=Kaplan, Karel | title=Report on the Murder of the General Secretary | location=London | publisher=I. B. Tauris & Co | year=1990 | id=ISBN 1850432112

ee also

*Slánský trial
*Josef Urválek
*Klement Gottwald
*Rudolf Margolius
*Artur London
*Traicho Kostov
*László Rajk
*Josef Smrkovský
*History of anti-Semitism

External links

* [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0037-6779%28199921%2958%3A1%3C160%3ATRSANE%3E2.0.CO%3B2-C&size=LARGE The Rudolf Slansky Affair: New Evidence] by Igor Lukes. "Slavic Review", Vol. 58, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 160-187. doi:10.2307/2672994


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