“Business as usual” after the 1948 coup
In the immediate aftermath of the political coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the communists were keen to give the world the impression that it was business as usual and that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. In this respect Radio Prague as the international service of Czechoslovak Radio was expected to play its part, and so the communists asked the handful of British nationals working for one of Czechoslovakia’s biggest companies to make a statement in English for the radio. As a result one of the British staff of the shoe-making giant Baťa, which had already been nationalized more than two years earlier, addressed Radio Prague’s listeners on March 1 1948, exactly a week after the communist coup:
This was one of the strangest things about the coup of 1948. A fragile democracy was turned into a Stalinist totalitarian regime quietly and step by step, without widespread violence or civil conflict. It was to take several years and numerous show-trials and executions before the full impact of the change was to sink in. In March 1948, when this recording was made, it is very likely that the optimism of these British workers in Czechoslovakia was sincerely felt.
“In conclusion we would like to place on record our admiration of the restraint and discipline shown by members of all parties, remarkable when the gravity and magnitude of the crisis is realized, and our confidence in their ability to work together with enthusiasm to surpass all their previous achievements. They have demonstrated to the world all that solidarity can achieve. Signed: Mr and Mrs Lewis, and P. Young, Baťa National Corporation.”
The episode featured today was first broadcast on September 25, 2008.