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The removal of Prime Minister Siroky of Czechoslovakia has sent waves of speculation among commentators and analysts of Eastern European affairs.

For the West, Czechoslovakia has seemed to be a country towards which its diplomacy never seems to provide an opportunity to celebrate even a modest achievement.  The “betrayal” of Munich seems to have wrapped Western powers in Czechoslovak eyes in a cloak worn at some macabre ceremony.  Cold War slogans like “winning back Eastern Europe for the free world” seemed to lack the air of authenticity because Western policy did not have an orientation which would support the most immediate and pressing issues to further the formation of an independent ideological consensus in Czechoslovakia.  The absence of Czechoslovakia as an independent unit in great-power relations, after the 1948 February events, in short, represented a vacuum in the sphere of the political transformation to a flexible and pluralistic post-war world.

The rival objectives of the Soviet Union and USA in Eastern Europe could not be resolved merely by forcing one to abandon the field to the other.  The Stalinist phase was outwardly a success in reality it created pressures which rendered Soviet presence unacceptable to the people.  The tragic events of Hungary in 1956 showed, however, the political limitations of a move to expel Russia and create a vacuum which would be filled by the West.  Once again the Polish upheaval gives rise to hopes that a meaningful form of new Eastern European polity would be created.  It seemed for sometime that Gomulka with his new gamut for a Polish way to socialism would succeed.  Soviet objectives have, however, made it impossible to continue the strategy of a “diluted confrontation” with the West for Poland.  For Washington, it is now only a matter of time to recognise that its diplomatic adventure in Poland has been a failure, for the Soviet presence in Poland is a greater fact today that in 1956-67 in spite of the substantial quantity of US economic aid.

If we look at the current Czechoslovak crisis in terms of the possibilities it has created for East West détente in Eastern Europe, there are several indications that it may provide a better path to the desired goal than either the Hungarian or Polish type of solutions.  Much will, of course depend upon how the challenge of diplomacy is met by the various countries particularly the USA and not excluding India.  In the first place the Czechoslovak new course is not connected with Cold War issues, especially as it happens to coincide with a pause in the cold war.  The main focus of the Czechoslovak ferment is on National Interest.  The present signs indicate that the younger elements in the party are moving at a slower pace but making sure that the rivalries and squabbles over “ultimate objectives” do not detach support which may enable the old guard to stage a political come back.  The main appeal of the younger elements, which is maintaining a collective identity in the interest of safety, is secure a politically advantageous readjustment of internal politics with regard to the Czech-Slovak relations and of external politics with regard to China.

The Economy

Today on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, some one seemed to say to me that I must not work on “East Europe” today, but should think about India and about Gandhiji.  I went along to the Institute with this idea in mind.  I asked the Librarian if I could meet anyone in their Asia section.  This I was told was not possible since the person concerned had left them and another person was yet to arrive.  Just in the course of conversation she mentioned that one of their members, Mr. A. Lehning had produced an edition of the sources relating to Bakunin.   Asked if I could meet Mr. Lehning.  He turned out to be a rather interesting person.  He was on the League against Imperialism which Nehru participated in and which was afterwards discredited as a Communist organisation.  He told me that Dr. Hatta of Indonesia was also a member and as a matter of fact he was right now in Amsterdam.  From there we talked about the ideas of Bakunin and Prince Kropotkin.  And then we came to Gandhiji. He got quite enthusiastic and went and brought a number of booklets and pamphlets which are in Dutch and contain the correspondence between Gandhiji and B. de Ligt, who was a well known pacifist and social thinker.  Then he told me that he (Lehning) had written a paper in the twenties giving a prophetic warning that the future would be endangered if China and India became militarised.  Lehning appeared to me to be a pre-Marxian Socialist, he can be quite useful for demolishing Marxian-Leninism, but I did not find him stimulating on current politics.  He suggested three themes for research:

1.                   The role of the League against Imperialism (including Nehru’s part in it);

2.                   The influence of the anarchist ideology in India (according to him the influence in Japan and China was considerable) – he thinks anarchism faces up to the problems which the Soviet Communism has muddled; and

3.                   Influence of Gandhiji’s thought on pacificism in Europe – he thinks Gandhiji’s influence on Ligt can be a starting point.

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