Gustav Husak

Gustav Husak

* January 10, 1913 Bratislava-Dubravka
† November 18, 1991 Bratislava

Slovak lawyer, Czechoslovak Communist politician and president

Gustav Husak was a talented, diligent and ambitious student while attending a Bratislava Grammar school, a functionary of the school's self-administration. His essays and speeches to mark the anniversary of October 28 or T.G. Masaryk's birthday gained him the school principal's recognition. At the age of sixteen he joined the Communist Union of Youth and in 1933, while still a student at the Faculty of Law of Bratislava University, he joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party. He contributed to the review DAV ("Crowd") which associated Slovak left-wing intellectuals. Thanks to his education, skills in gaining political friends and also his ability to react to political issues - that which the majority of intellectuals hopelessly lacked - he differed remarkably from the majority of Communist functionaries.

He belonged to the generation which joined the Communist Party with an implicit faith in the policy of the USSR and the Communist International; at a time when Gottwald's Party considered the Czechoslovak Republic to be "Versailles crap" and "the renewal of a prison of nations as in Austrian days". Obviously in those days, in the first half of the thirties, Husak implicitly cultivated phobia toward the first Czechoslovak state and an almost pathological hatred toward Dr E. Benes.

During the World War II he became an opponent of the clerofascist Slovak Republic, a member of the resistant movement which culminated in the Slovak National Uprising. He was deputy chairman of the Slovak National Council leading the revolt, in charge of the Ministry of the Interior and deputy chairman of the Slovak Communist Party. Some written records have been preserved from the Slovak Uprising dealing with Husak's views regarding the prospects for Slovakia, "It is vital for a Slovak to consider as his homeland … the territory from As right to Vladivostok," for Slovak problems to be settled by an inclusion into the union of the nations of USSR. At other times he watered down his doses of nationalism in precisely administered doses to make them more palatable. This gave rise to a specific politologic phenomenon, a kind of "red nationalism". But he actually was not a bourgeois nationalist, which was a charge brought against him in the fifties.

Six months later he relinquished the idea of offering Slovakia to Stalin. In March 1945 in Moscow, at a time when a Czechoslovak government was being established and its programme ("the Kosice Programme"), Husak held the opinion that Slovakia is an integral part of Czechoslovakia and it should have considerable autonomy in this union. Soon, however, he submitted to the interests of the Communist path to establish totalitarian power. And as if by the way he began to abandon his democratic partners from the days of the Uprising.

In the elections in May 1946 two thirds of the Slovak electorate voted for the Democratic Party. By June of that year the United Front of Czech political parties with Husak's support succeeded in forcing the Democratic Party to sign a so-called Third Prague Agreement. From that moment onwards resolutions of the Slovak National Council were subject to approval from the Czechoslovak government; the members of the Council were directly subordinate to the respective ministers in the Prague government. Husak became chairman of the Assembly of accredited Representatives. But not even that was sufficient.

In the autumn of 1947 Husak was the chief director of that "dress rehearsal for February", which was termed the Slovak political crisis. He organized political provocations against the democrats, by employing pressure campaigns he drove out non-communist representatives from their offices. He certainly also thought that he was strengthening his own position for a long time to come since he was in charge in Slovakia of both the police force and the secret police. Little did he anticipate that he himself would eventually succumb to the interest of the latter mentioned institution.

And in keeping with his concept of morals, twenty years later - in 1968 - he tried in many of his speeches to generate the impression that curtailing and abolishing the rights of Slovak national organs came about without his assiduous compliance and concurrence, perhaps even against his will.

After February 1948 when only officials and the police were required to conduct public affairs, there was no need for capable and intelligent politicians in Slovakia either. Such qualities became not only a non requirement, but for Gottwald's party outright dangerous. The erudite lackey executed his job. Before this he was already universally hated, now it was his turn to suffer.

In the spring of 1950 Husak together with V. Clementis, L. Novomesky and others were accused of being bourgeois nationalists and he was dismissed from the post of Chairman of the Assembly of Representatives. In February 1951 he was arrested and in April 1954 in a trumped up trial with so-called bourgeois nationalists he was condemned to life imprisonment. He became one of many victims of the system which he himself had created

"You don't know him," A. Novotny, commenting on Husak, speaking to fighters for justice, "When he has a chance to seize power, you'll see what sort of person he is." In the end this Czech genius of mediocrity slackened his grip and Husak was released from prison in 1960 and rehabilitated in 1963. No small credit in this was due to Czech reform historians, and one in particular, notably Milan Hubl. During the seventies Husak "rewarded" him by imprisoning him for seven years. Others were "only" fired from their jobs.

In the sixties Husak was one of the most prominent personalities among the reformists. In the course of the Prague Spring he acted as A. Dubcek's faithful supporter. In April of 1968 he was appointed government Vice Premier. He was one of the leading initiators of the Constitutional Act implementing a Federal Republic. But only two months before this Act was adopted he undertook one of his many political u-turns.

In the course of the negotiation in Moscow in August 1968 Brezhnev recognized that Husak could become a statesman which would save the USSR's reputation and assure the compliance with the aims of aggression against Czechoslovakia. In April 1969 Husak managed to head the Czechoslovak Communist Party (since May 1971 as First Secretary, as of May 1971 until December 1987 as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party). In May 1975 this former advocate of a division between the supreme party and state functions became - with the sanctioning of the Soviet Union - the President of the Republic. Surrounded by an inept gang he exerted all his efforts to maintain his position as the first of the apparatchiks as long as possible. He subscribed to all the absurdities according to Moscow's wishes. For the sake of retaining power he betrayed many of his friends and teamed up with the likes of Jakes, Indra, Kapka, Bilak etc., that is to say with those about whose qualities he could not have had the slightest illusions.

After November 17, 1989 there was no other option for him but to nominate Calfa's "government of national accord" and immediately he abdicated as President of the Republic. (nk)

Libri Publishing house: "Who was who in our 20th century history"
Quoted with the consent of the publisher.
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