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With many thousands of others, I was arrested by the Hungarian secret police (AVO) in the summer of 1949. It was the time when Stalin and his henchmen started to kill off thousands of their followers as part of a ludicrous propaganda drive against Tito. It was also the time when, in Hungary, they started to arrest the Social Democratic leadership and the outstanding non-Muscovite Communists.
I believed then that we would be able to assert our innocence. But I soon found out that our fate was worse than if we had been guilty, because we had nothing to give away in the torture chambers. I was thrown into an icy cold cellar cubicle three yards by four. There was a wooden plank for a bed, and a bright naked electric light glared in my face day and night. Later, it was a great relief to return to this bleak place.
Now I am going to find out the secret of those rigged trials, I thought, when they took me for my first hearing. Two AVO officers questioned me in turn from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m. Then I had to type my life story till 4 a.m. The rest of the 24 hours I had to spend walking up and down in the cubicle because I was not permitted to sleep. This went on for three weeks. The only sleep I got was a few minutes when the guard was slack. The "hearings" soon became tortures. The AVO officers wanted us to invent crimes for ourselves because they knew we were innocent. I won't describe the tortures. There are so many ways to cause piercing pain to the human body. There were days when we were tossed about on a stormy ocean of pain. The torments alone did not make us "confess." Sleeplessness, hunger, utter degradation, filthy insults to human dignity, the knowledge that we were utterly at the mercy of the AVO - all this was not enough. Then they told us they would arrest our wives and children and torment them in front of us. We heard women and children screaming in adjacent rooms. Was this a put-up job for our benefit? I still don't know.
After the first period of torture we were sent back to our solitary cellars for some weeks to "rot away for a while." Now we were tormented by the intense cold, by the glaring bulb and the four walls which threatened to collapse on us. We had to be awake 18 hours a day. There were no books, no cigarettes, only thousands of empty minutes. Our fear now was insanity. Our heads were whirling, we imagined sounds and colours. Some of us had a nightmarish feeling of being drowned. Our emaciated bodies and feverish brains produced eerie visions and hallucinations. Is it a wonder that many of us had no sound judgment, no willpower to resist our tormentors? This torture made some confess. Others went insane, or were clubbed to death. A few held out. I could not bring myself to "confess" - that UNO and the World Federation of United Nations Associations was an imperialist spy and sabotage organisation; that the Hungarian UNA, of which the late Michael Karolyi was president and myself secretary-general, conspired to overthrow the "people's democracy."
After a period of "rotting," a new period of torments started. And so it went on for 13 months.
When at last I signed a ludicrous statement prepared by my tormentors, I was regularly collapsing three or four times a day and had lost more than thirty pounds. I had to confess that John F. Ennals, secretary-general of WFUNA, was my "spy chief" and that I handed him spy reports in Budapest daily from 1947 till the time of my arrest in 1949. During this period Ennals spent only three days in Budapest. He was either at the Geneva headquarters or touring the five continents. When I repeatedly pointed this out to the AVO they said: "Never mind. No word of it will leak out. Your trial will be kept secret."
The Suez crisis first boomed into view when the Americans and the British refused to finance the Aswan High Dam in Egypt in July 1956. The Egyptian president, Colonel Nasser, thereafter nationalised the Suez Canal....
With the prospect of armed intervention imminent, the Suez Emergency Committee booked Trafalgar Square for an anti-war rally on Sunday 4 November. I was in touch with Peggy Rushton, the MCF general secretary, by phone with the object of helping to mobilise support. On Thursday 1 November, when I phoned, she informed me that the Labour Party had been on the line to take over the booking actually, on behalf of the National Council of Labour, representing the TUC and the co-operative movement as well. I was delighted that she had already agreed and carried on with my plans to rally protesters. In addition, using the Epping CLP duplicator, I copied 6,000 leaflets drafted by myself and my Socialist Review colleagues, calling on workers to strike against the Suez intervention.
The Trafalgar Square rally turned out to be a seminal event in British Labour history. My 6,000 leaflets, which a crowd of dockers helped us to distribute, disappeared in a flash. All afternoon people were pouring into the square until it was impossible to move. At the height of the proceedings, a great chant went up in the north western corner of the square as a massive column of student demonstrators began to come in and went on endlessly...
In Trafalgar Square Mike Kidron, a fellow Socialist Review supporter, told me (as he had left home much later) that the Russians were apparently going in to crush the uprising in Hungary, which had occurred in the latter part of October. The British Communist Party was already in deep crisis. Ever since Nikita Krushchev, the new Soviet leader, had repudiated Soviet changes made under Stalin against Tito in Yugoslavia, which the CPGB leaders had supported, there had been widespread unease. Since then there had been Krushchev’s secret speech to the 20th Congress of the CPSU on 25 February, which the Observer had published in full on 10 June. The Hungarian prime minister, Matyas Rakosi, had confessed that the trial of Laszlo Rajk, a Hungarian Communist leader who had been executed, had been rigged. In Poland Gomulka had assumed power in defiance of Soviet wishes after riots in Poznan in June. The Hungarian revolt had been the last straw, particularly when the case of Edith Bone, a British Communist who had been tortured and ill-treated in a Hungarian prison, hit the news. A huge swathe of Communist Party members were in revolt at the unwavering support given by their leaders to Soviet policy under Stalin.
Peter Fryer, the Daily Worker correspondent in Hungary, sent in reports which the paper refused to publish. It found another journalist, Charlie Coutts, who was prepared to defend Soviet action. Peter Fryer resigned from the Communist Party, wrote a book The Hungarian Tragedy in record time and joined Gerry Healy and his group.
Edward Thompson and John Saville were publishing The Reasoner, a duplicated magazine, which they refused to close down. A third of the Daily Worker’s journalists left. Key trade unionists like John Homer, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Jack Grahl, Leo Keely, Laurence Daly (a leading Scottish miner), Les Cannon of the ETU and many others left the party. The historians Edward Thompson and John Saville quit. Christopher Hill, another historian, who with Peter Cadogan and others produced a minority report on inner party democracy, left afterwards. Besides these and other well known figures, thousands of other members were in revolt.
Look at the hell that Rákosi made of Hungary and you will see an indictment, not of Marxism, not of Communism, but of Stalinism. Hypocrisy without limit; medieval cruelty; dogmas and slogans devoid of life or meaning; national pride outraged; poverty for all but a tiny handful of leaders who lived in luxury, with mansions on Rózsadomb, Budapest's pleasant Hill of Roses (nicknamed by people 'Hill of Cadres'), special schools for their children, special well-stocked shops for their wives - even special bathing beaches at Lake Balaton, shut off from the common people by barbed wire. And to protect the power and privileges of this Communist aristocracy, the A.V.H. - and behind them the ultimate sanction, the tanks of the Soviet Army. Against this disgusting caricature of Socialism our British Stalinists would not, could not, dared not protest; nor do they now spare a word of comfort or solidarity or pity for the gallant people who rose at last to wipe out the infamy, who stretched out their yearning hands for freedom, and who paid such a heavy price.
Hungary was Stalinism incarnate. Here in one small, tormented country was the picture, complete in every detail: the abandonment of humanism, the attachment of primary importance not to living, breathing, suffering, hoping human beings but to machines, targets, statistics, tractors, steel mills, plan fulfilment figures... and, of course, tanks. Struck dumb by Stalinism, we ourselves grotesquely distorted the fine Socialist principle of international solidarity by making any criticism of present injustices or inhumanitites in a Communist-led country taboo. Stalinism crippled us by castrating our moral passion, blinding us to the wrongs done to men if those wrongs were done in the name of Communism. We Communists have been indignant about the wrongs done by imperialism: those wrongs are many and vile; but our one-sided indignation has somehow not rung true. It has left a sour taste in the mouth of the British worker, who is quick to detect and condemn hypocrisy.
My comrades frequently mentioned in the past two years that I do not visit the factories as often as I did in the past. They were right, the only thing they did not know is that this was due to the deterioration of my health. My state of health began to tell on the quality and amount of work I was able to perform, a fact that is bound to cause harm to the Party in such an important post. So much about the state of my health.
A regards the mistakes that I committed in the field of the "cult of personality" and the violation of socialist legality, I admitted them at the meetings of the Central Committee in June, 1953, and I have made the same admission repeatedly ever since. I have also exercised self-criticism publicly.
After the 20th Congress of the CPSU and Comrade Khrushchev's speech it became clear to me that the weight and effect of these mistakes were greater than I had thought and that the harm done to our Party ,through these mistakes was much more serious than I had previously believed.
These mistakes have made our Party's work more difficult, they diminished the strength of attractiveness of the Party and of the People's Democracy, they hindered the development of the Leninist norms of Party life, of collective leadership, of constructive criticism, and self- criticism, of democratism in Party and state life, and of the initiative and creative power of the wide masses of the working class.
Finally, these mistakes offered the enemy an extremely wide opportunity for attack. In their totality, the mistakes that I committed in the most important post of Party work have caused serious harm to our socialist development as a whole.
It was up to me to take the lead in repairing these mistakes. If rehabilitation has at times proceeded sluggishly and with intermittent breaks, if a certain relapse was noticed last year in the liquidation of the cult of personality, if criticism
and self-criticism together with collective leadership have developed at a slow pace, if sectarian and dogmatic views have not been combated resolutely enough - then for all this, undoubtedly, serious reponsibility weighs upon me, having occupied the post of the First Secretary of the Party.
The revolution which broke out on the 23rd October on Joseph-Bem-Square started off as a peaceful manifestation. The students' demands, summed up in sixteen points and distributed in the streets of Budapest in the form of leaflets, were those of impatient revolutionary youth.
Certain observers insist on the essentially nationalistic characteristics of the manifestations. Incontestably the presence of the Soviet Army on Hungarian territory, the visible outward signs of foreign occupation (there was no practical difference between Soviet and Hungarian uniforms), rekindled the flame of Hungarian nationalism which had never been extinguished. But it was not only a question of nationalism; the students of Budapest also wanted true socialism.
It was for free independent Socialism that young Hungarians began the struggle against the only armed fascists who on the night of the 23rd October still wished to save their government: the red fascists of the political police, appointed to safeguard the last vestiges of the Stalinist government.
Numerous eye-witnesses have affirmed that at the beginning of the revolution the insurgents had no arms. It was only after Gero's menacing and disastrous speech on his return from Belgrade that the State Police (which must not be confused with the "AVO", or political police) joined the students and distributed arms to them in front of the Hungarian radio broadcasting house in Sandor-Brody Street. Next morning the entire Budapest garrison officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers, joined the students and opened armament depots to them.
The officers responsible were nearly all of them Communists and not "fascist agents or Horthyist officers." The Army's revolt was a result of the turn of events which took place during the night on the banks of the Danube in the neo-Gothic building which overlooks Pariiament.
On the second floor an extraordinary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party, presided over by Gero, took place at 22.50. Thanks to a personal report by one of the participants, it is possible to give a detailed account of this historic meeting. Assessing the situation, Gero began by trying to convince his colleagues of the necessity of a Soviet intervention, as the "popular forces" were being overwhelmed and the government was in danger. Janos Kadar and then Gyula Kallai (another Titoist who had just been released from prison) replied that the only way to avoid catastrophe was for Gero to resign immediately. Istvan Hidas (Vice President) and Laszlo Piros (Home Secretary) violently opposed this suggestion. Piros referred to Imre Nagy and his friends as "accomplices of the fascists who are at the moment sweeping through the capital."
I have been the witness today of one of the great events of history I have seen the people of Budapest catch the fire lit in Poznan and Warsaw and come out into the streets in open rebellion against their Soviet overlords. I have marched with them and almost wept for joy with them as the Soviet emblems in the Hungarian flags were torn out by the angry and exalted crowds. And the great point about the rebellion is that it looks like being successful.
As I telephone this dispatch I can hear the roar of delirious crowds made up of student girls and boys, of Hungarian soldiers still wearing their Russian-type uniforms, and overalled factory workers marching through Budapest and shouting defiance against Russia. "Send the Red Army home," they roar. "We want free and secret elections." And then comes the ominous cry which one always seems to hear on these occasions: "Death to Rakosi." Death to the former Soviet puppet dictator - now taking a 'cure' on the Russian Black Sea Riviera - whom the crowds blame for all the ills that have befallen their country in eleven years of Soviet puppet rule.
Leaflets demanding the instant withdrawal of the Red Army and the sacking of the present Government are being showered among the street crowds from trams. The leaflets have been printed secretly by students who "managed to get access", as they put it, to a printing shop when newspapers refused to publish their political programme. On house walls all over the city primitively stencilled sheets have been pasted up listing the sixteen demands of the rebels.
But the fantastic and, to my mind, really super-ingenious feature of this national rising against the Hammer and Sickle, is that it is being carried on under the protective red mantle of pretended Communist orthodoxy. Gigantic portraits of Lenin are being carried at the head of the marchers. The purged ex-Premier Imre Nagy, who only in the last couple of weeks has been readmitted to the Hungarian Communist Party, is the rebels' chosen champion and the leader whom they demand must be given charge of a new free and independent Hungary. Indeed, the Socialism of this ex-Premier and - this is my bet - Premier-soon-to-be-again, is no doubt genuine enough. But the youths in the crowd, to my mind, were in the vast majority as anti-Communist as they were anti-Soviet - that is, if you agree with me that calling for the removal of the Red Army is anti-Soviet.
Late in the evening of October 23 underground reactionary organizations attempted to start a counter-revolutionary revolt against the people's regime in Budapest.
This enemy adventure had obviously been in preparation for some time. The forces of foreign reaction have been systematically inciting anti-democratic elements for action against the lawfulauthority.
Enemy elements made use of the student demonstration that took place on 23 October to bring out into the streets groups previously prepared by them, to form the nucleus of the revolt. They sent agitators into action who created confusion and tried to provoke mass disorder.
A number of governmental buildings and public enterprises were attacked. The fascist thugs who let themselves go began to loot shops, break windows in houses and institutions, and tried to destroy the equipment of industrial enterprises. Groups of rebels who succeeded in getting hold of arms caused bloodshed in a number of places.
The forces of revolutionary order began to repel the rebels. On orders of the reappointed Premier Imre Nagy martial law was declared in the city.
The Hungarian Government asked the USSR Government for help. In accordance with this request, Soviet military units, which are in Hungary under the terms of the Warsaw treaty, helped troops of the Hungarian Republic to restore order in Budapest. In many industrial enterprises workers offered armed resistance to the bandits who tried to damage and destroy equipment and to mount armed guards.
Workers, comrades! The demonstration of university youth, which began with the formulation of, on the whole, acceptable demands, has swiftly degenerated into a demonstration against our democratic order; and under the cover of this demonstration an armed attack has broken out. It is only with burning anger that we can speak of this attack by counter-revolutionary reactionary elements against the capital of our country, against our people's democratic order and the power of the working class. Towards the rebels who have risen with arms in their hands against the legal order of our People's Republic, the Central Committee of our Party and our Government have adopted the only correct attitude: only surrender or complete defeat can await those who stubbornly continue their murderous, and at the same time completely hopeless, fight against the order of our working people.
At the same time we are aware that the provocateurs, going into the fight surreptitiously, have been using as cover many people who went astray in the hours of chaos, and especially many young people whom we cannot regard as the conscious enemies of our regime. Accordingly, now that we have reached the stage of liquidating the hostile attack, and with a view to avoiding further bloodshed, we have offered and are offering to those misguided individuals who are willing to surrender on demand, the opportunity of saving their lives and their future, and of returning to the camp of honest people.
Dear Comrades, Beloved Friends, Working People of Hungary! Of course we want a socialist democracy and not a bourgeois democracy. In accord with our Party and our convictions, our working class and people are jealously guarding the achievements of our people's democracy, and they will not permit anyone to touch them. We shall defend these achievements under all circumstances from whichever quarter they may be threatened. Today the chief aim of the enemies of our people is to shake the power of the working class, to loosen the peasant-worker alliance, to undermine the leadership of the working class in our country and to upset their faith in its party, in the Hungarian Workers' Party. They are endeavouring to loosen the close friendly relations between our nation, the Hungarian People's Republic, and other countries building socialism, especially between our country and the socialist Soviet Union. They are trying to loosen the ties between our party and the glorious Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the party of Lenin, the party of the 20th Congress.
They slander the Soviet Union. They assert that we trade with the Soviet Union on an unequal footing, that our relations with the Soviet Union are not based on equality, and allege that our independence has to be defended, not against the imperialists, but against the Soviet Union. All this is a barefaced lie - hostile slanders which do not contain a grain of truth. The truth is that the Soviet Union has not only liberated our people from the yoke of Horthy fascism and German imperialism, but that even at the end of the war, when our country lay prostrate, she stood by us and concluded pacts with us on the basis of full equality; ever since, she has been pursuing this policy.
The 5,000 students who were meeting in front of the Petofi Monument in Budapest were joined shortly after dusk by thousands of workers and others. The great crowd then marched to the Stalin monument. Ropes were wound round the statue's neck, and, to cheers, the crowd attempted to topple the statue. But it would not budge. They finally managed to melt Stalin's knees by using welding torches.
People of Budapest, I announce that all those who cease fighting before 14.00 today, and lay down their arms in the interest of avoiding further bloodshed, will be exempted from martial law. At the same time I state that as soon as possible and by all the means at our disposal, we shall realise, on the basis of the June 1953 Government program which I expounded in Parliament at that time, the systematic democratization of our country in every sphere of Party, State, political and economic life. Heed our appeal. Cease fighting, and secure the 'restoration of calm and order in the interest of the future of our people and nation. Return to peaceful and creative work!
Hungarians, Comrades, my friends! I speak to you in a moment filled with responsibility. As you know, on the basis of the confidence of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers' Party and the Presidential Council, I have taken over the leadership of the Government as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Every possibility exists for the Government to realise my political program by relying on the Hungarian people under the leadership of the Communists. The essence of this program, as you know, is the far-reaching democratization of Hungarian public life, the realisation of a Hungarian road to socialism in accord with our own national characteristics, and the realisation of our lofty national aim: the radical improvement of the workers' living conditions.
However, in order to begin this work - together with you - the first necessity is to establish order, discipline and calm. The hostile elements that joined the ranks of peacefully demonstrating Hungarian youth, misled many well-meaning workers and turned against the people's democracy, against the power of the people. The paramount task facing everyone now is the urgent consolidation of our position. Afterwards, we shall be able to discuss every question, since the Government and the majority of the Hungarian people want the same thing. In referring to our great common responsibility for our national existence, I appeal to you, to every man, woman, youth, worker, peasant, and intellectual to stand fast and keep calm; resist provocation, help restore order, and assist our forces in maintaining order. Together we must prevent bloodshed, and we must not let this sacred national program be soiled by blood.
The troops in Budapest, as later in the provinces, were of two minds: there were those who were neutral and there were those who were prepared to join the people and fight alongside them. The neutral ones (probably the minority) were prepared to hand over their arms to the workers and students so that they could do battle against the A.V.H. with them. The others brought their arms with them when they joined the revolution. Furthermore, many sporting rifles were taken by the workers from the factory armouries of the Hungarian Voluntary Defence Organisation. The "mystery" of how the people were armed is no mystery at all. No one has yet been able to produce a single weapon manufactured in the West.
The Hungarian Stalinists, having made two calamitous mistakes, now made a third - or rather, it would be charitable to say, had it thrust on them by the Soviet Union. This was the decision to invoke a non-existent clause of the Warsaw Treaty and call in Soviet troops. This first Soviet intervention gave the people's movement exactly the impetus needed to make it united, violent and nation-wide. It seems probable, on the evidence, that Soviet troops were already in action three or four hours before the appeal, made in the name of Imre Nagy as his first act on becoming Prime Minister. That is debatable, but what is not debatable is that the appeal was in reality made by Gero and Hegedus; the evidence of this was later found and made public. Nagy became Prime Minister precisely twenty-four hours too late, and those who throw mud at him for making concessions to the Right in the ten days he held office should consider the appalling mess that was put into his hands by the Stalinists when, in desperation, they officially quit the stage.
With Nagy in office it would still have been possible to avert the ultimate tragedy if the people's two demands had been met immediately - if the Soviet troops had withdrawn without delay, and if the security police had been disbanded. But Nagy was not a free agent during the first few days of his premiership. It was known in Budapest that his first broadcast were made - metaphorically, if not literally - with a tommy-gun in his back.
Tonight Budapest is a city of mourning. Black flags hang from every window. For during the past four days thousands of its citizens fighting to throw off the yoke of Russia have been killed or wounded. Budapest is a city that is slowly dying. Its streets and once-beautiful squares are a shamble of broken glass, burnt-out cars and tanks, and rubble. Food is scarce, petrol is running out.
But still the battle rages on. For five hours this morning until a misty dawn broke over Budapest I was in the thick of one of the battles. It was between Soviet troops and insurgents trying to force a passage across the Danube.
Two of the rebels into whose ranks I literally wandered died in the battle, one of them in my arms. Several were wounded. Tonight, as I write this dispatch, heavy firing is shaking the city, which is still sealed off from the rest of the world.
To get here I drove through endless Russian check points and through fighting that has now killed thousands of civilians. Where formerly the trams ran, the insurgents have torn up the rails to use as anti-tank weapons. At least 70 tanks have been smashed so far, many with Molotov cocktails. Their burnt-out skeletons seem everywhere, spread on both sides of the Danube. Even trees have been dug out as anti-tank barricades. Burned-out cars are used by the rebels at every street corner, but still the Soviet tanks are rumbling through the city. There are at least 50 still in action, together with armoured cars and troop carriers. They fire on anything, almost at sight.
At the moment I can hear, like thunder rolling in the distance, the sound of their 85 mm. guns. They are battling for some objective which sounds about a quarter of a mile away. The Chain Bridge probably. The insurgents have plenty of ammunition, stored in a central dump, but it is all for automatic weapons and the making of Molotov Cocktails.
Travelling around the city is a nightmare, for no one knows who is friend or foe, and all shoot at everybody. There is no doubt now the revolt has been far more bloody than the official radio reports suggested. Casualties number many thousands. The Russian are just unloosing murder at every street corner.... I owe my life to a young girl insurgent who, speaking a little English, helped me to safety after the Russians had opened fire on my car.
It took me three hours to drive from the border to the outskirts of Buda, the hilly part of Budapest. Twice on the way I was stopped by Soviet troops. But each time I persuaded them to let me through. I made for the Chain Bridge that spans the Danube. In front of the bridge stood a barricade of burned out tramcars, a bus, old cars, and uprooted tramlines. It was at least the 50th barricade of its kind I had seen since I entered the city. As I drove towards it, lights full on and the Chain Bridge on my left, heavy Bring started from the centre of the bridge. Machine-gun bullets whistled past the car. Then, when some heavier stuff began falling I switched off the lights, jumped out and crawled round to the side.
It was foggy. For ten minutes the firing, in a desultory fashion, went on. Then I heard a whispered voice - a woman's. She spoke first in German, crawled round to where I was crouching, then in halting English told me to get back in my car. She herself, walking, crouched by the car, guided me into a side street. Then, together, we darted back to the road-block.
I found nine boys there, their average age about 18. Three wore Hungarian uniform, but with the hated Red Star torn off. Others wore red, green, and white armbands, the national colours of Hungary. All had sub-machine guns. Their pockets were filled with ammunition. The girl, whose name I discovered was Paula, had a gun too.
Half-way across the bridge I could see the dim outlines of two Soviet tanks. For an hour they fired at us. But never a direct hit - a shell smashed straight through the bus. One of the boys was killed instantly. I tried to help a second boy who was hurt, but he died five minutes later. The shelling went on. We crouched under cover and only splinters hit us. The rebels kept up machine-gun fire all the time. Paula was wounded in the arm, but not seriously. I helped her dress it with one of my handkerchiefs.
"Now you see what we are fighting against", said Paula. She was wearing slacks, bright blue shoes, and a green overcoat.
"We will never give in - never", she said.
"Never until the Russians are out of Hungary and the AVH (she pronounced it Avo) is dissolved".
It looked Wednesday as if the intervention of Soviet troops, who had been called in at 4.30 o'clock that morning, had quelled the revolt. The Soviet forces had eighty tanks, artillery, armored cars and other equipment of a variety normally possessed only by a complete Soviet mechanized division. The insurgent Hungarian students and workers at no time had more than small arms furnished by sympathizing soldiers of the Hungarian Army.
What revived the revolt was a massacre. Since only a few minutes earlier Soviet tank crews had been fraternizing with insurgents, it is possible that the massacre was a tragic mistake. The most credible version is that the political policemen opened fire on the demonstrators and panicked the Soviet tank crews into the belief that they were being attacked.
But in any case when the firing subsided Parliament Square was littered with dead and dying men and women. The total number of casualties has been estimated at 170. This correspondent can testify that he saw a dozen bodies.
Far from deterring the demonstration, the firing embittered and inflamed the Hungarian people. A few minutes later and only a few blocks from the scene of the massacre, the surviving demonstrators reassembled in Szabadsag (the word means liberty) Square. When trucks filled with Hungarian soldiers drove up and warned the demonstrators that they were armed, the leader of the demonstrators brandished a Hungarian flag and replied: "We are armed only with this, but it is enough".
On a balcony above appeared an elderly Hungarian clad in pyjamas and a dressing gown and clasping a huge flag. He threw it down to the demonstrators.
Another man mounted a ladder to tear down the Soviet emblem from the "Liberty" monument in "Liberty" square. It was erected in 1945 by the Russians with forced Hungarian labor.
A crowd assembled before the United States legation in the square and shouted: "The workers are being murdered, we want help." Finally Spencer Bames, Charge d'Affaires, told them that their case was one for decision by his Government and the United Nations, not for the local staff. The British Minister had received a deputation and given it the same message.
Among those watching this demonstration was a furtive figure clad in a leather coat. Suddenly someone identified him rightly or wrongly as a member of the hated AVO, the Hungarian political police. Like tigers the crowd turned on him, began to beat him and hustled him into a courtyard. A few minutes later they emerged rubbing their hands with satisfaction. The leather-coated figure was seen no more.
During all these activities and while Soviet tanks continued to race through near-by streets firing their fusillades, the crowd never ceased shouting: "Down with Gerol" Less than an hour later the radio announced that Mr. Gero had been replaced by Janos Kadar, former Interior Minister and second secretary of the party.
The Daily Worker, New York Communist newspaper, terms the use of Soviet troops in Hungary "deplorable" today and calls for the end of the fighting in that country... The editorial says, "the delay of the Hungarian Communists in developing their own path played into the hands of the counter-revolutionaries". After asserting the Soviet troops in Hungary had been used at the request of the Hungarian Government, the editorial added its only note of protest - "which does not, however, in our view, make the use of Soviet troops in Hungary any the less deplorable."
I consider it of great importance that a Government has been formed representing every shade and stratum of the Hungarian people that wants progress and socialism. It was a great mistake of the previous regime to become isolated from those creative elements with whose help the Hungarian road to socialism could have been successfully taken. The main task of the new Government is to make a most radical break with narrow-minded and petty trends, and to make use of every sound popular initiative, so that every true Hungarian can look upon the socialist fatherland as his own. The task of the Ministry of People's Culture is the realisation of these principal aims in the sphere of culture. The Hungarian people have an exceptionally rich tradition in almost every field of culture. We do not want to build socialism out of air; we do not want to bring it into Hungary as an imported article. What we want is that the Hungarian people work out, organically, and by long, glorious and successful work, a socialist culture worthy of the Hungarian people's great and ancient achievements, and which, as a socialist culture, can place Hungarian culture on even broader foundations with even deeper roots.
The Government has instructed the Minister of Education without delay to withdraw from circulation all history textbooks. In other textbooks, all passages impregnated with the spirit of the personality-cult must be rectified by teachers in the course of instruction.
Hungarian workers, soldiers, peasants and intellectuals. The constantly widening scope of the revolutionary movement in our country, the tremendous force of the democratic movement has brought our country to a cross-road. The National Government, in full agreement with the Presidium of the Hungarian Workers' Party, has decided to take a step vital for the future of the whole nation, and of which I want to inform the Hungarian working people.
In the interest of further democratization of the country's life, the cabinet abolishes the one-party system and places the country's Government on the basis of democratic cooperation between coalition parties as they existed in 1945. In accordance with this decision a new national government - with a small inner cabinet - has been established, at the moment with only limited powers.
The members of the new Cabinet are Imre Nagy, Zoltan Tildy, Bela Kovacs, Ferenc Erdei, Janos Kadar, Geza Losonczy and a person whom the Social Democratic Party will appoint later.
The government is going to submit to the Presidential Council of the People's Republic its proposition to appoint Janos Kadar and Geza Losonczy as Ministers of State.
This Provisional Government has appealed to the Soviet General Command to begin immediately with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the territory of Budapest. At the same time, we wish to inform the people of Hungary that we are going to request the Government of the Soviet Union to withdraw Soviet troops completely from the entire territory of the Hungarian Republic.
On behalf of the National Government I wish to declare that it recognizes all autonomous, democratic, local authorities which were formed by the revolution; we will rely on them and we ask for their full support.
Hungarian brothers, patriotic citizens of Hungary! Safeguard the achievements of the revolution! We have to re-establish order first of all! We have to restore peaceful conditions! No blood should be shed by fratricide in our country! Prevent all further disturbances! Assure the safety of life and property with all your might!
Hungarian brothers, workers and peasants: Rally behind the government in this fateful hour! Long live free, democratic and independent Hungary.
My fellow-workers, working brethren, dear comrades! Moved by the deep sense of responsibility to spare our nation and working masses further bloodshed, I declare that every member of the Presidium of the Hungarian Workers' Party agrees with today's decisions by the Council of Ministers. As for myself, I can add that I am in wholehearted agreement with those who spoke before me, Imre Nagy, Zoltan Tildy and Ferenc Erdei. They are my acquaintances and friends, my esteemed and respected compatriots.
I address myself to the Communists, to those Communists who were prompted to join the Party by the progressive ideas of mankind and socialism, and not by selfish personal interests - let us represent our pure and just ideas by pure and just means.
My comrades, my fellow workers! Bad leadership during the past years has cast on our Party the shadow of great and grave burdens. We must fully rid ourselves of these burdens, of all accusations against the Party. This must be done with a clear conscience, with courage and straight-forward resolution. The ranks of the Party will thin out, but I do not fear that pure, honest and well-meaning Communists will be disloyal to their ideals. Those who joined us for selfish personal reasons, for a career or other motives will be the ones to leave. But, having got rid of this ballast and the burden of past crimes by certain persons in our leadership, we will fight, even if to some extent from scratch, under more favourable and clearer conditions for the benefit of our ideas, our people, our compatriots and country.
I ask every Communist individually to set an example, by deeds and without pretense, a real example worthy of a man and a Communist, in restoring order, starting normal life, in resuming work and production, and in laying the foundations of an ordered life. Only with the honour thus acquired can we earn the respect of our other compatriots as well.
Even the children, hundreds of them, had taken part in the fighting, and I spoke to little girls who had poured petrol in the path of Soviet tanks and lit it. I heard of 14-year-olds who had jumped to their deaths on to the tanks with blazing petrol bottles in their hands. Little boys of twelve, armed to the teeth, boasted to me of the part they had played in the struggle. A city in arms, a people in arms, who had stood up and snapped the chains of bondage with one gigantic effort, who had added to the roll-call of cities militant - Paris, Petrograd, Canton, Madrid, Warsaw - another immortal name. Budapest! Her buildings might be battered and scarred, her trolley-bus and telephone wires down, her pavements littered with glass and stained with blood. But her citizens' spirit was unquenchable.
Here is an important announcement: The Hungarian National Government wishes to state that the proceedings instituted in 1948 against Jozsef Mindszenty, Cardinal Primate, lacked all legal basis and that the accusations levelled against him by the regime of that day were unjustified. In consequence the Hungarian National Government announces that the measures depriving Cardinal Primate Jozsef Mindszenty of his rights are invalid and that the Cardinal is free to exercise without restriction all his civil and ecclesiastical rights.
In their glorious uprising our people have shaken off the Rakosi regime. They have achieved freedom for the people and independence for the country. Without this there can be no socialism. We can safely say that the ideological and organisational leaders who prepared this uprising were recruited from among your ranks. Hungarian Communist writers, journalists, university students, the youth of the Petofi Circle, thousands and thousands of workers and peasants, and veteran fighters who had been imprisoned on false charges, fought in the front line against Rakosiite despotism and political hooliganism.
In these momentous hours the Communists who fought against the despotism of Rakosi have decided, in accordance with the wish of many true patriots and socialists, to form a new Party. The new Party will break away from the crimes of the past for once and for all. It will defend the honour and independence of our country against anyone. On this basis, the basis of national independence, it will build fraternal relations with any progressive socialist movement and party in the world.
In these momentous hours of our history we call on every Hungarian worker who is led by devotion to the people and the country to join our Party, the name of which is the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party. The Party counts on the support of every honest worker who declares himself in favour of the socialist objectives of the working class. The Party invites into its ranks every Hungarian worker who adopts these principles and who is not responsible for the criminal policy and mistakes of the Rakosi-clique. We expect everybody to join who, in the past, was deterred from service to socialism by the anti-national policy and criminal deeds of Rakosi and his followers.
Nowadays it is often emphasized that the speaker breaking away from the practice of the past is speaking sincerely. I cannot say this in such a way. I need not break with my past; by the grace of God I am the same as I was before my imprisonment. I stand by my conviction physically and spiritually intact, just as I was eight years ago, although imprisonment has left its mark on me. Nor can I say that now I will speak more sincerely, for I have always spoken sincerely.
Now is the first instance in history that Hungary is enjoying the sympathy of all civilized nations. We are deeply moved by this. A small nation has heartfelt joy that because of its love of liberty the other nations have taken up its cause. We see Providence in this, expressed by the solidarity of foreign nations just as it says in our national anthem: "God bless the Hungarian - reach out to him Thy protective hand." Then our national anthem continues; "when he is fighting against his enemy." But we, even in our extremely severe situation, hope that we have no enemy! For we are not enemies of anyone. We desire to live in friendship with every people and with every country.
We, the little nation, desire to live in friendship and in mutual respect with the great American United States and with the mighty Russian Empire alike, in good neighborly relationship with Prague, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Belgrade. In this regard I must mention that for the brotherly understanding in our present suffering every Hungarian has embraced Austria to his heart.
And now, our entire position is decided by what the Russian Empire of 200 millions intends to do with the military force standing within our frontiers. Radio announcements say that this military force is growing. We are neutral, we give the Russian Empire no cause for bloodshed. But has the idea not occurred to the leader of the Russian Empire that we will respect the Russian people far more if it does not oppress us. It is only an enemy people which is attacked by another country. We have not attacked Russia and sincerely hope that the withdrawal of Russian military forces from our country will soon occur.
This has been a freedom fight which was unparalleled in the world, with the young generation at the head of the nation. The fight for freedom was fought because the nation wanted to decide freely on how it should live. It wants to be free to decide about the management of its state and the use of its labor. The people themselves will not permit this fact to be distorted to the advantage of some unauthorized powers or hidden motives. We need new elections - without abuses - at which every party can nominate.
It was dawn . the day the Russians struck again. We were awakened by the roar of heavy guns. The radio was a shambles. All we got was the national anthem, played over and over again, and continual repetition of Premier Nagy's announcement that after a token resistance we must cease fighting and appeal to the free world for help.
After our ten days' war of liberty; after the pathetically short period of our 'victory', this was a terrible blow. But there was not time to sit paralysed in despair. The Russians had arrested General Maleter, head of the Central Revolutionary Armed Forces Council. The Army had received ceasefire orders. But what of the fighting groups of workers and students?
These courageous civilian units now had to be told to put up only token resistance in order to save bloodshed. They had been instructed not to start firing.
I called up the biggest group, the 'Corvin regiment.' A deputy commander answered the phone. His voice was curiously calm: "Yes, we realized we should not open fire. But the Russians did. They took up positions around our block and opened fire with everything they had. The cellars are filled with 200 wounded and dead. But we will fight to the last man. There is no choice. But inform Premier Nagy that we did not start the fight."
This was just before seven in the morning. Premier Nagy, alas, could not be informed any more. He was not to be found.
The situation was the same everywhere. Soviet tanks rolled in and started to shoot at every centre of resistance which had defied them during our first battle for freedom. This time, the Russians shot the buildings to smithereens. Freedom fighters were trapped in the various barracks, public buildings and blocks of flats. The Russians were going to kill them off to the last man. And they knew it. They fought on till death claimed them.
This senseless Russian massacre provoked the second phase of armed resistance. The installation of Radar's puppet government was only oil on the fire. After our fighting days, after our brief span of liberty and democracy. Radar's hideous slogans and stupid lies, couched in the hated Stalinite terminology, made everyone's blood boil. Although ten million witnesses knew the contrary, the puppet government brought forward the ludicrous lie that our war of liberty was a counter-revolutionary uprising inspired by a handful of Fascists.
The answer was bitter fighting and a general strike throughout the country. In the old revolutionary centres - the industrial suburbs of Csepel, Ujpest and the rest - the workers struck and fought desperately against the Russian tanks.
Posters on the walls challenged the lies of the puppet Government: "The 40,000 aristocrats antifascists of the Csepel works strike on!" said one of them.
"The general strike is a weapon which can be used only when the entire working class is unanimous - so don't call us Fascists,'" said another.
Armed resistance stopped first. The Russians bombarded to rubble every house from which a single shot was fired. The fighting groups realized that further battles would mean the annihilation of the capital. So they stopped fighting.
But the strike went on.
Late in the evening of Sunday, November 4 - a night of terror in Budapest that no one who lived through it will ever forget - I met Bela Kovacs, one of the leaders of Hungary's short-lived revolutionary government, in a cellar in the city's center.
Kovacs, as a Minister of State of the Nagy regime, had started oft for the Parliament Building early that morning, but he never reached it. Soviet tanks were there ahead of him. Now he squatted on the floor opposite me, a fugitive from Soviet search squads.
A hunched, stocky man, with a thin mustache and half-closed eyes, Bela Kovacs was only a shadow of the robust figure he once had been. Now in his early fifties, he had risen to prominence after the war as one of the top leaders of the Hungarian Independent Smallholders Party. Back in 1947, when Matyas Rakosi began taking over the government with the support of the Soviet occupation forces, Kovacs had achieved fame by being the only outstanding anti-Communist Hungarian leader to defy Rakosi and continue open opposition. His prestige had become so great among the peasantry that at first the Communists had not molested him. But then the Soviets themselves stepped in, arresting him on a trumped-up charge of plotting against the occupation forces and sentencing him to life imprisonment. After eight years in Siberia, Kovacs was returned to Hungary and transferred to a Hungarian jail, from which he was released in the spring of 1956, broken in body but not in spirit by his long ordeal. After what was called his "rehabilitation," Kovacs was visited by his old enemy Rakosi, who called to pay his respects. Rakosi was met at the door by this message from Kovacs: "I do not receive murderers in my home."
So long as Nagy's government was still under the thumb of the Communist Politburo, Kovacs refused to have anything to do with the new regime. Only in the surge of the late October uprising, when Nagy succeeded in freeing himself from his former associates and cast about to form a coalition government, did Kovacs consent to lend his name and immense popularity to it.
I asked Kovacs whether he felt the Nagy government's declaration of neutrality had aroused the Soviet leaders to action. No, he thought that the decision to crush the Hungarian revolution was taken earlier and independently of it. Obviously the Russians would not have rejoiced at a neutral Hungary, but so long as economic cooperation between the states in the area was assured the Russians and their satellites should not have been too unhappy.
In that regard, Kovacs assured me, there was never a thought in the Nagy government of interrupting the economic co-operation of the Danubian states. "It would have been suicidal for us to try tactics hostile to the bloc. What we wanted was simply the right to sell our product to the best advantage of our people and buy our necessities where we could do it most advantageously."
"Then in your estimation there was no reason why the Russians should have come again and destroyed the revolution?"
"None unless they are trying to revert to the old Stalinist days. But if that is what they really are trying - and at the moment it looks like it - they will fail, even more miserably than before. The tragedy of all this is that they are burning all the bridges which could lead to a peaceful solution."
How much truth was in the Russian assertion that the revolution had become a counter-revolution and that therefore Russian intervention was justified?
"I tell you," said Kovacs, "this was a revolution from inside, led by Communists. There is not a shred of evidence that it was otherwise. Communists outraged by their own doings prepared the ground for it and fought for it during the first few days. This enabled us former non-Communist party leaders to come forward and demand a share in Hungary's future. Subsequently this was granted by Nagy, and the Social Democratic, Independent Smallholders, and Hungarian Peasant parties were reconstituted. True, there was a small fringe of extremists in the streets and there was also evidence of a movement which seemed to have ties with the exiled Nazis and Nyilas of former days. But at no time was their strength such as to cause concern. No one in Hungary cares for those who fled to the West after their own corrupt terror regime was finished - and then got their financing from the West. Had there been an attempt to put them in power, all Hungary would haven risen instantly ..."
"What of the future?" I asked. After some hesitation Kovacs said: "All is not lost, for it is impossible for the Russians and their puppets to maintain themselves against the determined resistance of the Hungarians. The day will come when a fateful choice will have to be made: Exterminate the entire population by slow starvation and police terror or else accept the irreducible demand - the withdrawal of Soviet forces from our country."
Comrade soldiers and sailors, sergeants and petty officers! Comrade officers, generals and admirals! Working people of the Soviet Union! Our dear foreign guests I greet and congratulate you on the occasion of the 39th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution! ... Rallied closely behind the Party and the Government, which are resolutely implementing Lenin's behests, the Soviet people will spare no efforts or creative energy in the struggle for the continued flourishing of our socialist homeland.
In its foreign policy, the Soviet Union has invariably proceeded from the principle of the peaceful co-existence of countries with different social systems, from the great aim of preserving world peace.
However, the enemies of socialism, the enemies of peaceful co-existence and friendship of the peoples, proceed with their actions designed to undermine the friendly relations between the peoples of the Soviet Union and the peoples of other countries, to frustrate the noble aims of peaceful co-existence on the basis of complete sovereignty and equality. This is confirmed by the armed aggression by Britain, France and Israel against the independent Egyptian State and by the actions of the counter-revolutionary forces in Hungary aimed at overthrowing the system of people's democracy and restoring fascism in the country. The patriots of people's Hungary, together with the units of the Soviet Army called in to assist the revolutionary workers' and peasants' Government, firmly barred the road to reaction and fascism in Hungary ...
Long live our mighty Soviet Homeland! Long live the heroic Soviet people and its armed forces! Long live our Soviet Government! Glory to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the inspirer and organiser of all our visitors!
The fighting in Budapest is over. The streets are crowded. It is at once a city at peace and a city at war. The crowds in the streets, the workers of the factories, have no thought of resuming work. The people filling the city's main thoroughfares are part of a huge silent demonstration of protest. In an unending line they file past the damaged and destroyed houses, silently point to the shell holes and heaps of rubble that were once walls, and pass on.
The workers are streaming back to the factories but only to collect their pay - in most cases 50 per cent of their wages - and then go home. Sometimes they assemble for mass meetings in their factories, where resolutions are passed demanding an immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops, the formation of a Government under Imre Nagy, the admission of United Nations observers into the country, the establishment of a neutral Hungary, and free elections - though this last point is omitted in some resolutions. No work will be done except by public facilities and food services, the resolutions say, until the workers' demands have been conceded.
Leaflets, some of them printed, some cyclo-styled, spread the texts of these resolutions through the city. Government posters calling for a return to work are plastered over with these leaflets and with smaller handwritten posters calling for a continuation of the general strike.
The fighting in Budapest is over but the fight is on. And it is a grimmer fight than during the days when shells were whizzing past and boys and girls with Molotov cocktails were throwing themselves at Soviet tanks.
For, while limited supplies of food are available, the refusal of the fathers to work means starvation both for young and old and death for the weakest. Indeed, the youngest and the oldest and the infirm, deprived of the minimum food they need and of the medical attention that goes in the first place to the wounded freedom fighters, are dying in greater numbers than in more normal times. These deaths, like the deaths resulting from the actual fighting, are the logical consequences of the decision taken by the whole nation to carry on the fight.
The general strike through which this fight is now carried on is a murderous weapon both for those who use it and for those against whom it is directed. For the Kadar Government, supported only by Soviet tanks, is being killed as effectively as if each of its members were strung up from a lamp-post. The people taking part in this strike realise full well that what they are doing is madness, that they are not harming the Russians by their strike but only themselves. Yet there is method in their madness. They cannot believe that the West will stand by and witness passively the slow suicide of a whole nation.
Things had already gone rather far, further than we knew, and Gero's visit to Yugoslavia and our joint declaration could no longer help. People in Hungary were absolutely against the Stalinist elements still in power; they asked for their removal and a turn to the road of democratization. When the Hungarian delegation headed by Gero returned to their country, Gero found himself in a difficult position and again showed his previous face. He called those hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, who at that time were still demonstrating, a gang and insulted almost the whole nation. Imagine how blind he was, what kind of a leader he was! At such a critical moment, when everything boils and when the whole nation is discontented, he dares to call that nation a gang, among whom a great number, and perhaps a majority were communists and young people. This was enough to blow up the powder-keg. Conflicts took place.
The point now is not to examine who fired the farst shot. Gero called the army. It was a fatal mistake to call Soviet troops at the time when demonstrations were still going on. To call upon troops of another country to give lessons to the people of one's own country, even if shooting takes place, is a great mistake. This made the people even more furious and this is how a spontaneous uprising came about.
The experience of Yugoslavia appears to testify that national Communism is incapable of transcending the boundaries of Communism as such, that is, to institute the kind of reforms that would gradually transform and lead Communism to freedom. That experience seems to indicate that national Communism can merely break from Moscow and, in its own national tempo and way, construct essentially the identical Communist system. Nothing would be more erroneous, however, than to consider these experiences of Yugoslavia applicable to all countries of Eastern Europe.
The resistance of the leaders encouraged and stimulated the resistance of the masses. In Yugoslavia, therefore, the entire process was led and carefully controlled from above, and tendencies to go farther - to democracy - were relatively weak. If its revolutionary past was an asset to Yugoslavia while she was fighting for independence from Moscow, it became an obstacle as soon as it became necessary to move forward - to political freedom.
Yugoslavia supported this discontent as long as it was conducted by the Communist leaders, but turned against it - as in Hungary - as soon as it went further. Therefore, Yugoslavia abstained in the United Nations Security Council on the question of Soviet intervention in Hungary. This revealed that Yugoslav national Communism was unable in its foreign policy to depart from its narrow ideological and bureaucratic class interests, and that, furthermore, it was ready to yield even those principles of equality and non-interference in internal affairs on which all its successes in the struggle with Moscow had been based.
The Communist regimes of the East European countries must either begin to break away from Moscow, or else they will become even more dependent. None of the countries - not even Yugoslavia - will be able to avert this choice. In no case can the mass movement be halted, whether if follows the Yugoslav-Polish pattern, that of Hungary, or some new pattern which combines the two.
Despite the Soviet repression in Hungary, Moscow can only slow down the processes of change; it cannot stop them in the long run. The crisis is not only between the USSR and ifs neighbors, but within the Communist.
There are circumstances in political life when discreet expression becomes intolerable. One feels the need to say all one has to say, or rather to cry out one's feelings and one's thoughts. Far from feeling ashamed of the emotions that affect us, we would be angry with ourselves not to feel them. Even if, when some time has elapsed, we can look at things with a clearer head and we put the merits and blame on other shoulders, we will never regret that today's judgment was clearly defined.
In the course of the first few days of November we reached the depths of political despair. The fact that France and England were accused by all the nations of the world whilst Soviet tanks massacred the people who claimed the right to live in freedom, and that Europe's protest was half smothered and half disqualified by the landings in Egypt, represents an historical disaster, for which we shall feel remorse for a long time to come.
Let us be blunt: everything that we have since learned leaves no doubt in our minds as to the hypocrisy of the Russians when they resolved to repress the rising. The evacuation of Budapest was only a war stratagem and the tanks which left then occupied strategic positions. Russian troop movements had begun before the Franco-British ultimatum ... Yes, but Hungarians coming from Budapest told me: "When we learned of the Franco-British ultimatum, we knew that we were lost." Throughout the world, millions of people continue to ask themselves: "Would they have dared if ..." This question, even if we do not hesitate over the answer, will torture our consciences. I admire those who are not troubled by it.
The undersigned who never harbored unfriendly feelings to the U.S.S.R. and socialism, today consider themselves justified in protesting to the Soviet Government against the use of guns and tanks to suppress the uprising of the Hungarian people and its striving to independence, even taking into account the fact that some reactionary elements, which made appeals on the rebel radio, were involved.
We consider and always will consider that socialism, like freedom, cannot be carried on the point of a bayonet. We fear that a government, imposed by force, will soon be compelled, in order to stand its ground, to resort to force itself and to the injustices against its own people which ensue from this.
Khrushchev's secret speech at the XXth Party Congress caused a political and psychological shock throughout the country. At the Party krai committee I had the opportunity to read the Central Committee information bulletin, which was practically a verbatim report of Khrushchev's words. I fully supported Khrushchev's courageous step. I did not conceal my views and defended them publicly. But I noticed that the reaction of the apparatus to the report was mixed; some people even seemed confused.
I am convinced that history will never forget Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin's personality cult. It is, of course, true that his secret report to the XXth Party Congress contained scant analysis and was excessively subjective. To attribute the complex problem of totalitarianism simply to external factors and the evil character of a dictator was a simple and hard-hitting tactic - but it did not reveal the profound roots of this tragedy. Khrushchev's personal political aims were also transparent: by being the first to denounce the personality cult, he shrewdly isolated his closest rivals and antagonists, Molotov, Malenkov, Kaganovich and Voroshilov - who, together with Khrushchev, had been Stalin's closest associates.
True enough. But in terms of history and 'wider polities' the actual consequences of Khrushchev's political actions were crucial. The criticism of Stalin, who personified the regime, served not only to disclose the gravity of the situation in our society and the perverted character of the political struggle that was taking place within it - it also revealed a lack of basic legitimacy. The criticism morally discredited totalitarianism, arousing hopes for a reform of the system and serving as a strong impetus to new processes in the sphere of politics and economics as well as in the spiritual life of our country. Khrushchev and his supporters must be given full credit for this. Khrushchev must be given credit too for the rehabilitation of thousands of people, and the restoration of the good name of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens who perished in Stalimst prisons and camps.
Khrushchev had no intention of analysing systematically the roots of totalitarianism. He was probably not even capable of doing so. And for this very reason the criticism of the personality cult, though rhetorically harsh, was in essence incomplete and confined from the start to well-defined limits. The process of true democratization was nipped in the bud.
Khrushchev's foreign policy was characterized by the same inconsistencies. His active presence in the international political arena, his proposal of peaceful co-existence and his initial attempts at normalizing relations with the leading countries of the capitalist world; the newly defined relations with India, Egypt and other Third World states; and finally, his attempt to democratize ties with socialist allies - including his decision to mend matters with Yugoslavia - all this was well received both in our country and in the rest of the world and, undoubtedly, helped to improve the international situation.
But at the same time there was the brutal crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956; the adventurism that culminated in the Cuba crisis of 1962, when the world was on the brink of a nuclear disaster; and the quarrel with China, which resulted in a protracted period of antagonism and enmity.
All domestic and foreign policy decisions made at that time undoubtedly reflected not only Khrushchev's personal understanding of the problems and his moods, but also the different political forces that he had to consider. The pressure of Party and government structures was especially strong, forcing him to manoeuvre and to present this or that measure in a form acceptable to such influential groups.
The connection between Russia's decision to crush the Hungarian revolution and the Anglo-French attack in the Middle East is, and will be, keenly debated. What effect did the Anglo-French attack in Suez have on the Soviet attitude to Hungary? Would Hungary have been crushed if the Israeli attack on Egypt had come, say, a month later?
My own answer is that the Anglo-French attack did in fact play a large part in persuading Russia to intervene in Hungary and I believe that had the Anglo-French ultimatum been sent to Egypt a month later, Hungary would be a second Poland today.
World opinion has always counted for much with the Russians in spite of all appearances to the contrary. They were not keen to appear lone ruthless aggressors and flouters of the authority of the United Nations and be sermonised by the West from a high pulpit.
Former aristocrats, cardinals, generals and other supporters of the old regime, disguised as factory workers and peasants, are making propaganda against the patriotic Government and against our Russian friends.
Wanted: Premier for Hungary. Qualifications: no sincere conviction, no backbone; ability to read and write not required, but must be able to sign documents drawn up by others. Applications should be addressed to Messrs Khrushchev and Bulganin."
Ten million counter-revolutionaries are at large in the country.
Lost - the confidence of the people. Honest finder is asked to return it to Janos Kadar, Premier of Hungary, at 10,000 Soviet Tanks Street.
We do not speak of a Hungarian Revolution. We speak of the Hungarian agony. From the moment when the Communist regime in Budapest fired upon an unarmed crowd and turned its quarrel with the Hungarian people from a political quarrel which if could not win into an armed revolt which, with Soviet aid, it could not lose, the suppression of the Hungarian resistance was inevitable. The world seemed to feel that it had no choice, short of atomic war, but to sit back and watch, in horror and disgust, the brutal, methodical destruction of an angry people by overwhelming force and conscienceless treachery.
It is understandable, certainly, that we in the United States should feel shamed by our inability to act in this nightmare. Nevertheless, we should not forget, in all the suffering and pain, that we owe the people of Hungary more than our pity. We owe them also pride and praise. For their defeat has been itself a triumph. Those Hungarian students and workers and women and fighting children have done more to close the future to Communism than armies or diplomats had done before them. They have given more and done more. For what they have done has been to expose the brutal hypocrisy of Communism for all of Asia, all of Africa, all the world to see. So long as men live in any country who remember the murder of Hungary, Soviet Russia will never again be able to pose before the world as the benefactor of mankind. The Hungarian dead have torn that mask off. Their fingers hold its tatters in their graves.
One of the boys (Hungarian refugees) I talked to in Vienna, used a particularly imaginative parable: "People say we live behind the Iron Curtain," he said. "This is not quite true. We lived in a tin. As long as a tin is hermetically closed, it's all right. But then during Imre Nagy's first Premiership they pierced the tin and let in a little bit of fresh air. You know what happens to a tin when a little fresh air gets into it? ... Everything inside gets rotten." This is true. It is also the complete history of Communist indoctrination.
We, the undersigned members of the British Parliamentary Labour party, who in the past have always worked for a better understanding between our two countries, are deeply distressed at the use of Soviet armed forces in Hungary. We therefore ask for this opportunity to express our view to Soviet readers and to put certain questions to you about the events in Hungary.
First of all, your newspaper has portrayed the Hungarian uprising as "counter-revolutionary." May we ask exactly what you understand by this expression? Does it include all systems of government which permit political parties whose programmes are opposed to that of the Communist party? If, for example, the Hungarian people were to choose a parliamentary system similar to those in Finland and Sweden, would you regard that as counter-revolutionary?
Secondly, you said on November 4 that the Government of Imre Nagy "had in fact disintegrated." Did you mean by this that it resigned or that it was overthrown? If it was overthrown with the help to Soviet arms, does this not amount to Soviet interference in Hungary's internal affairs?
Thirdly, do you consider that the present Government of Janos Kadar enjoys the support of the majority of the Hungarian people? Would if make any difference to your attitude if it did not? We ask this question because on November 15, according to Budapest radio, Janos Kadar said that his Government hoped to regain the confidence of the people but that we have to take into account the possibility that we may be thoroughly beaten at the elections."
Fourthly, we recall that the Soviet Union has repeatedly, advocated the right of all countries to remain outside military blocks. Does this right to choose neutrality extend, in your view to members of the Warsaw pact?
Finally, you have said that the Hungarian uprising was planned long in advance by the West and you have in particular blamed Radio Free Europe. Are you seriously suggesting that masses of Hungarian workers and peasants were led by these means into organising mass strikes aimed at restoring the power of feudal landlords and capitalists?
Hungarian Revolution of 1848
The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 or fully Hungarian Civic Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–1849 (Hungarian: 1848–49-es polgári forradalom és szabadságharc) was one of many European Revolutions of 1848 and was closely linked to other revolutions of 1848 in the Habsburg areas. Although the revolution failed, it is one of the most significant events in Hungary's modern history, forming a cornerstone of modern Hungarian national identity.
Austro-Russian victory revolution suppressed
- Hungary placed under martial law
- Hungary placed under military dictatorship until the Austro-Hungarian compromise.
- Kossuth and many of his allies go into exile in the United States
- Austrian Empire introduces policy of Germanisation
After France (1791) and Belgium (1831), Hungary became the third country of Continental Europe to hold democratic elections (June, 1848), and thereafter, set up a representative type of parliament which replaced the feudal estates based parliamentary system.
The crucial turning point of events was the passing of the April laws which King Ferdinand I ratified, but later the new young Austrian monarch Franz Joseph I arbitrarily revoked it without any legal competence. This unconstitutional act irreversibly escalated the conflict between the Hungarian parliament and Franz Joseph. The new constrained Stadion Constitution of Austria, the revocation of the April laws, and the Austrian military campaign against the Kingdom of Hungary resulted in the fall of the pacifist Batthyány government (who sought agreement with the court) and led to the sudden emergence of Lajos Kossuth's followers in the parliament, who demanded the full independence of Hungary. The Austrian military intervention in the Kingdom of Hungary resulted in strong anti-Habsburg sentiment among Hungarians, thus the events in Hungary grew into a war for total independence from the Habsburg dynasty. Around 40% of the private soldiers in the Hungarian Revolutionary Army consisted of ethnic minorities of the country. 
After a series of serious Austrian defeats in 1849, the Austrian Empire came close to the brink of collapse. The young emperor Franz Joseph I had to call for Russian help in the name of the Holy Alliance.  Tsar Nicholas I answered, and sent a 200,000 strong army with 80,000 auxiliary forces. Finally, the joint army of Russian and Austrian forces defeated the Hungarian forces. After the restoration of Habsburg power, Hungary was placed under martial law. 
The anniversary of the Revolution's outbreak, 15 March, is one of Hungary's three national holidays.
The Hungarian Uprising of 1956
Hungary in 1956 seemed to sum up all that the Cold War stood for. The people of Hungary and the rest of Eastern Europe were ruled over with a rod of iron by Communist Russia and anybody who challenged the rule of Stalin and Russia paid the price. The death of Stalin in 1953 did not weaken the grip Moscow had on the people of Eastern Europe and Hungary, by challenging the rule of Moscow, paid such a price in 1956.
From 1945 on the Hungarians were under the control of Moscow. All wealth of whatever nature was taken from Hungary by the Russians who showed their power by putting thousands of Russian troops and hundreds of tanks in Hungary. The Hungarian leader, Rakosi, was put in power by Stalin of Russia. When Stalin died in 1953 all people in Eastern Europe were given some hope that they might be free from Soviet (Russian) rule.
In February 1956, the new Russian leader Khruschev made a bitter attack on the dead Stalin and his policies and in July 1956 in a gesture to the Hungarians, Rakosi was forced to resign. In fact, the Hungarians had expected more but they did not get it. This situation, combined with 1) a bad harvest 2) fuel shortages 3) a cold and wet autumn all created a volatile situation.
On October 23rd 1956, students and workers took to the streets of Budapest (the capital of Hungary ) and issued their Sixteen Points which included personal freedom, more food, the removal of the secret police, the removal of Russian control etc. Poland had already been granted rights in 1956 which had been gained by street protests and displays of rebellion. Hungary followed likewise.
A ruined statue of Stalin in Budapest
Imre Nagy was appointed prime minister and Janos Kadar foreign minister. They were thought to be liberal and in Moscow this was felt to be the best way to keep happy the “hooligans” as the Moscow media referred to the protesters. As a gesture, the Red Army pulled out and Nagy allowed political parties to start again. The most famous man to criticise the Russians was released from prison – Cardinal Mindszenty.
On October 31st, 1956, Nagy broadcast that Hungary would withdraw itself from the Warsaw Pact. This was pushing the Russians too far and Kadar left the government in disgust and established a rival government in eastern Hungary which was supported by Soviet tanks. On November 4th, Soviet tanks went into Budapest to restore order and they acted with immense brutality even killing wounded people. Tanks dragged round bodies through the streets of Budapest as a warning to others who were still protesting.
Russian tanks in Budapest
Hundreds of tanks went into Budapest and probably 30,000 people were killed. To flee the expected Soviet reprisals, probably 200,000 fled to the west leaving all they possessed in Hungary. Nagy was tried and executed and buried in an unmarked grave. By November 14th, order had been restored. Kadar was put in charge. Soviet rule was re-established.
President Eisenhower of USA said “I feel with the Hungarian people.” J F Dulles, American Secretary of State, said “To all those suffering under communist slavery, let us say you can count on us.” But America did nothing more.
So why did Europe and America do nothing except offer moral support and condemn Russia ?
1) Because of the geographic location of Hungary, how could you actually help without resorting to war? Both sides in the Cold War were nuclear powers and the risks were too great. Any economic boycott of the Soviet Union would have been pointless as Russia took what it needed from the countries it occupied.
2) The Suez Crisis, which took place at the same time, was considered far more important and of greater relevance to the west than the suffering of the Hungarians. Hence why Britain, France and America concentrated their resources on this crisis.
Hungarian Uprising - History
The regional frustration with Soviet domination was expressed by approximately 15,000 Polish steelworkers in Poznan when they took to the streets to demonstrate their various grievances in July 1956. The ensuing clash with Soviet troops resulted in the death of 38 workers. However, the riot also prompted a relaxation of centralized Party control in Poland the following October.
The Polish experience inspired the Hungarians to act. On the afternoon of October 23rd an estimated crowd of 50,000 gathered in central Budapest to honor an Hungarian hero. A proclamation declaring independence and demanding the withdrawal of Soviet troops was read. By 8:00 that evening the crowd had grown to over 200,000 and moved to the Parliament Building to express their demands. Rebuffed by the leader of the Communist Party, who labeled the protesters as a "reactionary mob", the crowd surrounded the headquarters of the state radio station in hopes of broadcasting their demands to the nation. The crowd was confronted by the Hungarian Secret Police who had barricaded themselves inside. Growing more angry, the crowd rushed the radio station and were immediately fired upon.
The Hungarian Revolution had begun. The Hungarian Army joined with the citizens. Fighting raged for five days culminating in the expulsion of the Soviet forces from the city. It looked as if the uprising might be successful.
The Soviet leaders in Moscow had other ideas. In the early morning hours of November 4, an infantry force accompanied by artillery and 1000 tanks smashed into the city. By November 7 the uprising had been crushed.
The Beginning: "I have been the witness today of one of the great events of history."
Reporter D. Sefton Delmer filed this eyewitness account of the beginning of the uprising with the London Daily Express:
"I have been the witness today of one of the great events of history, I have seen the people of Budapest catch the fire lit in Poznan and Warsaw and come out into the streets in open rebellion their Soviet overlords. I have marched with them and almost for joy with them as the Soviet emblems in the Hungary were torn out by the angry and exalted crowds. And the point about the rebellion is that it looks like being successful.
As I telephone this dispatch I can hear the roar of delirious crowds made up of student girls and boys, of Hungarian soldiers still wearing their Russian-type uniforms, and overalled factory workers marching through Budapest and shouting defiance against Russia. 'Send the Red Army home,' they roar. 'We want free and secret elections.' And then comes the ominous cry which one always seems to hear on these occasions: 'Death to Rakosi.' Death to the former Soviet puppet dictator - now taking a 'cure' on the Russian Black Sea Riviera - whom the crowds blame for all the ills that have befallen their country in eleven years of Soviet puppet rule.
|Soviet troops |
Leaflets demanding the instant withdrawal of the Red Army and the sacking of the present Government are being showered among the street crowds from trams. The leaflets have been printed secretly by students who 'managed to get access', as they put it, to a printing shop when newspapers refused to publish their political programme. On house walls all over the city primitively stenciled sheets have been pasted up listing the sixteen demands of the rebels.
But the fantastic and, to my mind, really super-ingenious feature of this national rising against the Hammer and Sickle, is that it is being carried on under the protective red mantle of pretended Communist orthodoxy. Gigantic portraits of Lenin are being carried at the head of the marchers. The purged ex-Premier Imre Nagy, who only in the last couple of weeks has been readmitted to the Hungarian Communist Party, is the rebels' chosen champion and the leader whom they demand must be given charge of a new free and independent Hungary. Indeed, the Socialism of this ex-Premier and - this is my bet Premier-soon-to-be-again, is no doubt genuine enough. But the youths in the crowd, to my mind, were in the vast majority as anti-Communist as they were anti-Soviet - that is, if you agree with me that calling for the removal of the Red Army is anti-Soviet.
In fact there was one tricky moment when they almost came to blows on this point. The main body of students and marchers had already assembled outside their university in front of the monument to the poet-patriot Petofi who led the 1848 rebellion against the Austrians. Suddenly a new group of students carrying red banners approached from a side street. The banners showed them to be the students of the Leninist-Marxist Institute, which trains young teachers of Communist ideology and supplies man puppet rulers' civil servants.
The immediate reaction of the main body, I noticed was to shout defiance and disapproval of the oncoming ideologists But they were quickly hushed into silence and the ideologists joined in the march with the rest of them, happily singing the Marseillaise. "
The Soviet Reaction: "They took up positions around our block and opened fire with everything they had."
Hungarian journalist George Paloczi-Horvath filed this report with the London Daily Herald:
"It was dawn . the day the Russians struck again.
We were awakened by the roar of heavy guns. The radio was a shambles. All we got was the national anthem, played over and over again, and continual repetition of Premier Nagy's announcement that after a token resistance we must cease fighting and appeal to the free world for help. . .
|The mob attacks a bust of Stalin |
After our ten days' war of liberty after the pathetically short period of our 'victory', this was a terrible blow. But there was no time to sit paralysed in despair. The Russians had arrested General Maleter, head of the Central Revolutionary Armed Forces Council The Army had received ceasefire orders. But what of the fighting groups of workers and students?
These courageous civilian units now had to be told to put td only token resistance in order to save bloodshed. They had been instructed not to start firing.
I called up the biggest group, the 'Corvin regiment.' A deputy commander answered the phone. His voice was curiously calm: 'Yes, we realized we should not open fire. But the Russians did. They took up positions around our block and opened fire with everything they had. The cellars are filled with 200 wounded and dead. But we will fight to the last man. There is no choice. But inform Premier Nagy that we did not start the fight.'
This was just before seven in the morning. Premier Nagy, alas, could not be informed any more. He was not to be found.
The situation was the same everywhere. Soviet tanks rolled in and started to shoot at every centre of resistance which had defied them during our first battle for freedom.
This time, the Russians shot the buildings to smithereens. Freedom fighters were trapped in the various barracks, public buildings and blocks of flats. The Russians were going to kill them off to the last man. And they knew it. They fought on till death claimed them.
|A family flees across|
the Hungarian border
This senseless Russian massacre provoked the second phase of armed resistance. The installation of Kadar's puppet government was only oil on the fire. After our fighting days, after our brief span of liberty and democracy, Kadar's hideous slogans and stupid lies, couched in the hated Stalinite terminology, made everyone's blood boil. Although ten million witnesses knew the contrary, the puppet government brought forward the ludicrous lie that our war of liberty was a counter-revolutionary uprising inspired by a handful of Fascists.
The answer was bitter fighting and a general strike throughout the country. In the old revolutionary centers - the industrial suburbs of Csepel, Ujpest and the rest - the workers struck and fought desperately against the Russian tanks. . .
Armed resistance stopped first. The Russians bombarded to rubble every house from which a single shot was fired. The fighting groups realized that further battles would mean the annihilation of the capital. So they stopped fighting.
The Workers' Councils, the Writers' Association and the Revolutionary Council of the Students decided at last that the general strike must be suspended if Hungary were not to commit national suicide. . ."
D. Sefton Delmer's account appears in the London Daily Express, Oct. 23, 1956 George Paloczi-Horvath's account appears in the London Daily Herald, Nov. 4, 1956 Sebestyen, Victor, Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (1996).
1956 Hungarian Uprising
The 1956 Hungarian Uprising, often referred to as the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, is considered by many as the nation's greatest tragedy. The Uprising was an almost spontaneous revolt by the Hungarian people against the ruling Communist Party of the time and the Soviet policies which were crippling post-war Hungary. It comprised of several major events, beginning with a student protest on 23rd October in Budapest and ending with a proclamation by Soviet-backed Janos Kadar on 11th November that he had crushed the Uprising. Around 2,500 Hungarians died in the course of the Revolution. 200,000 fled to the West in the aftermath of the struggle.
Post War Hungary. Sowing The Seeds of Dissent
After World War II, Russian troops still occupied Hungary and they had no plans of going anywhere as Stalin sought to extend his sphere of influence as far and wide as possible. In 1949 the Hungarians were coerced into signing a mutual assistance treaty with the Soviet Union, granting them rights to a continued military presence and thereby assuring ultimate political control. Gradually power was transferred from the freely elected Hungarian government Independent Small Holders Party to the Soviet-backed Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party led by the sinister Matyas Rakosi.
A man of Stalin's ilk, Rakosi began an authoritarian regime over Hungary and set about communising the country and purging the nation of dissidents, arresting or executing his political opponents. Meanwhile his mishandling of the economy led to drastic falls in the quality of life for virtually every Hungarian.
Things got better in 1953 with the death of Stalin, when the far more liberal Imre Nagy took over as prime minister. Unfortunately Rakosi was able to hold onto a decent slice of political power as General Secretary of the Hungarian Workers Party. As Nagy set about releasing anti-Communists from jail and removing state control of the media, Rakosi campaigned against him, eventually managing to discredit him and have him voted down from his post. Rakosi once more became the nation's leading politician only to be forced from power when Nikita Khrushchev (who had succeeded Stalin in the Kremlin in Moscow) made a speech denouncing Stalin and his followers. Before he stepped down however Rakosi secured the appointment of his close friend Erno Gero as the new General Secretary. The scene was still ripe for unrest.
It turned out that events in Poland were the trigger for the Hungarian Revolution. After workers in Poznan had staged mass protests earlier in June 1956 (which although they were violently put down by government forces, worried the Soviets in Moscow), Wladyslaw Gomulka has managed to negotiate wider autonomy and liberalization for Poland. [The year before Austria had managed to declare itself neutral and avoid joining the Warsaw Pact]. There was hope by many Hungarians that something similar could be achieved for Hungary, and when students of the Technical University (who had become a strong political voice) heard that the Hungarian Writers Union planned to lay a wreath at the statue of Polish-born General Bem to express solidarity with pro-reform movements in Poland, they decided to join them.
Protests Meet Violence
So it was that in the afternoon of 23rd October 1956 fifty thousand people gathered at the statue of General Bem. It was to those assembled that Peter Veres of the Hungarian Writers Union read out a proclamation of independence, to which the Techies added a sixteen point resolution demanding everything from the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country to the right to sell their uranium deposits on the free market. National songs and mantras were sung, and the communist coat of arms was torn from the Hungarian flag.
After this the crowd marched across the Danube to demonstrate outside the Hungarian Parliament. By 6pm, 200,000 people had gathered and the mood was spirited but peaceful. However, at 8pm Erno Gero broadcast a speech dismissing the demands of the Writers' Union and the students and labelling the crowds a 'reactionary mob'. This uncompromising stance prompted the Hungarian people to take things into their own hands and so they carried out one of their demands of the sixteen point resolution, tearing down the statue of Stalin which had been erected in 1951.
Afterwards a large portion of the crowd marched upon the Radio Budapest building in order to broadcast their demands on air to the nation. However, the AVH (Hungarian Secret Police) were guarding the radio station, and they barricaded the building. As the situation escalated the crowds grew more unruly and attempted to take the station by storm, which is when the first casualties of the Hungarian Revolution fell. The AVH opened fire on the crowd.
This cold-blooded killing provoked a full scale riot, in which Hungarian soldiers sided with the people against the AVH. Police cars were set on fire, weapons were seized and Communist symbols were torn down and vandalised. That night Erno Gero called on military intervention from the Soviet Union to suppress the uprising.
Soviet Tanks in Budapest
Around 2am on the 24th October the first Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and took up positions outside the parliament building. Meanwhile Soviet troops took up key positions in the city. They met pockets of armed resistance as revolutionaries erected barricades and sporadic violence ensued. Imre Nagy was re-appointed as prime minister in the hope that the populace would be appeased, and Nagy called an end to the violence with promises to push ahead with reforms. However, when a Soviet tank fired upon unarmed protesters in Parliament Square on the 25th October the fighting escalated. Erno Gero was forced to resign as First Secretary, with Janos Kadar replacing him.
The Soviet troops and their AVH cohorts continued to fight against the revolutionaries until the 28th October, when the Soviets retreated from the city. Nagy offered an amnesty to all involved in the violence, promised to abolish the AVH, released political prisoners and made clear his intention that Hungary had cut free from the Warsaw Pact. The mood was defiantly optimistic. For a short while it seemed that Nagy was going to be able to achieve the Hungarian people's wishes for a neutral, multi-party nation.
Hungary's Fate is Decided in Moscow
The Soviet Union's new leader Khrushchev was no Joseph Stalin, and the matter of Hungary's independence was much debated in Moscow, with much consideration given to negotiating the withdrawal of troops from the country. However, with the Cold War in full freeze there were other factors to consider: "If we depart from Hungary, it will give a great boost to the Americans, English, and French ? the imperialists." The Soviet Union couldn't afford to lose ground in the power struggle of ideologies. The order was given to invade.
The (Soviet) Empire Strikes Back
The second Soviet intervention left no one guessing their intentions. In the early hours of the morning of the 24th an estimated 1,000 tanks rolled into Budapest, destroying the fierce but uncoordinated resistance of the Hungarian Army to occupy the key positions in the city. Imre Nagy made his final broadcast to the world at 0515 in the morning, appealing for international help (however Western powers were far more concerned at the time with the Suez Crisis). Less than an hour later and Janos Kadar, in league with Moscow, proclaimed himself head of a new "Hungarian Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government". He declared that he was calling on Soviet help to put down a counter-revolution that was financed by the Imperialistic western powers, and to restore order.
This 'restoration of order' was backed up by heavy artillery and air strikes as Budapest became embroiled in a bloody battle. Civilians bore the brunt of the casualties as Soviet troops were often unable to distinguish between citizen and freedom fighter, often firing indiscriminately at people and buildings.
It was only a matter of time before the far better organised and better equipped Soviet forces crushed the revolution. By November 10th the fighting had all but ended and on the 11th Kadar declared that the uprising had been crushed. 2,500 Hungarians had died, with another 13,000 injured. Over seven hundred Soviet soldiers also gave up their lives, some being executed for refusing to fight.
Hungary's suffering didn't end with the crushing of the uprising. Recriminations followed with tens of thousands of Hungarians arrested, imprisoned and deported to the Soviet Union, often without evidence. An estimated 350 were executed, including Imre Nagy after his eventual arrest in 1958. Meanwhile 200,000 people fled Hungary, either fearing for their lives or simply to escape from the Communist regime - many of them were Hungary's best educated people.
However, despite seeming to sell out to the Soviets, Kadar proved to be a better leader for Hungary than many expected. After the excessive crackdowns of the post-revolution period, he successively eased much of the oppression felt by the people, famously declaring "who is not against us is with us". He also engineered a unique brand of Communism which incorporated elements of free market economics which was later dubbed "Goulash Communism". Indeed, Hungary was considered one of the "Happiest Barracks" of the Soviet camp right through to 1989 when the Iron Curtain finally cracked - this time irreparably.
What a great read, thank you, my father Istvan Nagy fled Hungary in 1956 at the age of 19, so brave all that fled for a better life. I wish I learnt more from him about the journey, but like others said he didn't like to talk about it. I lost him last year, miss him dearly. RIP all the Hungarians that lost there lives during the uprising.
Of those who fled some were children, and when we played on the beach in Kent one of the displaced children played with us building sandcastles. My mother would eat just one roll and give the other to the child who we were told came from Hungary. She had a brother as well but I seem to remember was older and had to go to school which I think was in Dymchurch.
Hi !Great article about the Hungarian Uprising. My father passed away in 2016, In Cambridge UK He was from Budapest and was just only 12 years old when he arrived in the UK after fleeing Hungary following 1956 Uprising. His name was Istvan Borbas. He didn't really talk much about the uprising as it was hard for him . But I understand he was very much in the thick of it dodging bullets at a young age. His grandmother remained in Budapest until she died far as we know. My Father came to UK on his own but he did have brothers (older) who may have fled too to America and or Canada I don't know for sure. One of his brothers may have been called John (Hungarian) translation) Borbas. I know its a long shot and records may have been destroyed but I would like to hear from anyone who maybe a relative. I must have cousins and 2nd cousins out there. My father did talk about his father who died during the Uprising and he was an Architect I dont know his first name but surname would have been Borbas. I would love to hear from anyone who may know more of my past family In Hungary.
United Nations report on the Hungarian uprising 1956
UN special committee report on the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Examines the revolutionary workers councils established by Hungarian workers, and analyses the dangers they posed to both the Soviet bureaucracy and capitalism.
For the actual report examining the revolutionary workers councils, please scroll to the bottom of the page. It is attached as a PDF.
This UN report presents a useful document both for refuting Stalinist lies that describe the workers uprising as a 'fascist counter-revolution' and similarly for refuting the basic propaganda of the western capitalist democracies that it represented an attempt by Hungarians to retrieve their earlier capitalist freedoms and the ownership of private property. Whilst it shows evidence of a degree of nationalist ideology present amongst the Hungarian working classes (no doubt provoked by the tight control exercised over the Hungarian regime by the Soviet Union), it also shows that in practice, they waged revolutionary war against both the Soviet Union and the Hungarian state (even when the Communist Party's Central Committee declared it's support for the Hungarian uprising), forcibly implemented workers control of production of goods and services, and their distribution.
The committee also produced many other documents on the Hungarian uprising, but this remains most of interest to libertarian communists.
Background information on the UN Special Committee on the Problem of Hungary (taken from their official digital archive)
By adopting Resolution 1132/XI. on January 10, 1957, the United Nations General Assembly established the Special Committee on the Problem of Hungary for the purpose of investigating Hungary’s 1956 Revolution, the subsequent Soviet military intervention and the circumstances and events that led to the installation of a counter-revolutionary government under János Kádár. Five countries were asked to delegate members to the Committee. Australia was represented its Ambassador to The Philippines, K.C.O. Shann, Denmark named Alsing Andersen, an MP, while Ceylon, Tunisia and Uruguay delegated their permanent UN Representatives, R.S.S Gunewardene, Mongi Slim, and Enrique Rodriguez Fabregat, respectively. Since there were five members in the Committee, commentators sometimes referred to it as the Committee of Five.
At its first session on January 17, 1957 the Committee elected Alsing Andersen as Chairman, and K.C.O. Shann as Rapporteur. UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld appointed William M. Jordan, then head of the UN Department dealing with political and Security Council matters, as principal secretary of the Committee – i.e. its operational chief – while naming the Danish diplomat Povl Bang-Jensen as Deputy Secretary. (In 1959 Bang-Jensen committed suicide under suspicious circumstances.) Claire de Héderváry became an advisor and chief assistant to the Committee, who coordinated its operations and also took part in the compilation of the Committee's Report.
Through its Resolution, the General Assembly charged the Committee with the task of “providing the Assembly and all the Members of the United Nations with the fullest and best available information regarding the situation created by the intervention of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, through its use of armed force and other means, in the internal affairs of Hungary, as well as regarding developments relating to the recommendations of the Assembly on this subject…”. Furthermore, the Resolution called upon the Soviet Union and Hungary to cooperate with the Committee in every area and, most notably, to guarantee members and officials of the Committee entrance and freedom of movement in the country. At the same time, the Resolution asked every Member State to pass on to the Committee all information relating to the subject of the inquiry, including information, eye-witness accounts and crucial evidence obtained through diplomatic channels, as well as to cooperate in obtaining such evidence.
The International Background
The Resolution about the establishment of a Special Committee was not the first instance of the “Hungarian problem” appearing on the UN General Assembly’s agenda. At the joint request of the United States, France and Great Britain, the UN Security Council had already been called into session for a discussion of the Hungarian situation on October 28, 1956, while the Revolution was still going on. As the Soviet Union had power of veto in that body, there was not much chance of coming to a decision there. To make things worse, the Hungarian government under Imre Nagy made the claim that the events taking place after October 22 fell under the country’s sovereign jurisdiction and for that reason it strongly protested against any discussions about Hungary’s internal affairs in the world organization. This statement, prompted by strong pressure from the Soviet Union, was also written in the hope that it might dispel the suspicions of the Soviet leadership and pave the way for a peaceful solution to the dire situation that had developed after the first Soviet intervention. However, in the early days of November this statement was not the only obstacle to the proper handling of the Hungarian problem within the world organization: another current development was the eruption of the Suez crisis, in which Great Britain and France were directly involved. As a result, the UN and the western powers failed to respond to either the Hungarian government’s November 1 declaration of neutrality or its subsequent plea to start substantive negotiations about the Hungarian situation. But the prime reason behind the western powers’ passive stance was the realization that they possessed neither the political nor the military means to stop the Soviets. Therefore, they stood by idly as the Soviet Army launched a full-scale attack on Budapest.
The second Soviet intervention on November 4, as well as crushing the Revolution and toppling the legitimate Hungarian government, created a new situation in the UN. At the request of the United States and other member states, the UN General Assembly added the Soviet intervention in Hungary to its agenda on the very day the invasion took place. The Soviets had the means to prevent a Security Council resolution condemning the intervention, but they had no power of veto in the question of referring the issue to an extraordinary General Assembly session. In the first weeks of November the General Assembly produced a number of resolutions with a majority vote, calling on the Soviet government to desist from any military action against the Hungarian population, to withdraw its troops and to restore the Hungarian people’s right to self-determination. The resolutions also called for free elections to be held, for the deportations to end and for UN observers to be allowed into the country.
The resolutions adopted as a result of American prompting, which usually received overwhelming support in the General Assembly in those days, had no effect at all on the actual course of events, as they were not backed by any means to enforce them. It is unlikely that the originators themselves actually believed for a moment that the Soviet troops would yield to UN demands and leave Hungary on the one hand, or that Kádár’s government would restore power to Imre Nagy on the other. Still, from the United States’ perspective, keeping the Hungarian problem on the agenda was far from being an empty gesture: the American administration wanted to exert moral and political pressure on both the Soviets and the Hungarian puppet government, somewhat obscuring the yawning gap that existed between the rhetoric of liberation it had used in the early days of the Cold War and the room for maneuver that it actually disposed of in foreign politics. The US was able to check the further expansion of Soviet influence in the geopolitical arena, and most notably in the Third World. And finally, as a result of these resolutions international recognition of the Kádár government was delayed and Hungary’s UN membership suspended for years to come. Nevertheless, it was precisely the relentless disregard for the UN resolutions that finally induced the General Assembly to establish a Special Committee to study the Hungarian problem on January 10, 1957.
We can divide the activities of the Special Committee into two distinct periods. In the first, which ran from January through June 1957, the Committee completed a report explaining the causes that had led to the outbreak of the revolution and outlining the events that had actually taken place, as well as describing the Soviet Union’s military intervention and the process by which the Kádár government took over the country. At a session on September 14, 1957 the General Assembly approved the Report with a large majority and immediately passed a resolution on enforcing the recommendations included in the report. The Committee was not dissolved it was then instructed to monitor political developments in Hungary as well as the two states’ compliance with the earlier resolutions. It paid special attention to the curtailment of political rights, to retaliation and to political prosecutions. The trial of Imre Nagy and his associates, as well as the news of the execution of the Prime Minister and two of his associates, added a dramatic twist to the events in June 1958. The Special Committee issued a statement of protest against the executions. After that, it presented to the General Assembly a second, complementary report, which reviewed the period of retaliation which followed the crushing of the Revolution.
The UN put the report, and thus the Hungarian problem, back on its agenda for its Autumn session in 1958. In a resolution adopted on December 14, 1958, the international body accepted the Committee’s second report, once again censoring Hungary and the Soviet Union for ignoring the UN resolutions, as well as for the political terror that was continuing in Hungary, the violation of human liberties and the execution of Imre Nagy and his associates.
However, the adoption of the resolution also marked the end of the Special Committee’s work, at least in the form in which it had originally been conceived in January 1957. There were several contributing factors in this decision. First and foremost, after Stalin’s death in 1953, both leading powers in the Cold War confrontation felt – for various political reasons, foreign as well as domestic – that it would be in their own interests to ease the tense relations that had developed during the Cold War. While this process of thaw, which moved ahead at a snail’s pace, certainly had a number of setbacks, such as the crushing of the 1956 Revolution or the execution of Imre Nagy and his associates, the process itself never came to a complete halt.
However, the continuing efforts to keep the Hungarian question on the agenda worked against the process of the thaw. By the end of 1958 it had also became clear that the “Hungarian problem” was losing importance in international diplomacy. After the execution of Imre Nagy and his associates, it became perfectly clear that any hopes of restoring the conditions that had existed in Hungary prior to November 4, 1956 were based on a complete fallacy. A contributing factor in this “disintegration of hopes” was the fact that the Soviets were able to persuade more and more countries – either through political pressure or by means of economic diplomacy – to disassociate themselves from the majority that firmly condemned the Soviet intervention. In the Autumn of 1958 Ceylon, in return for an economic assistance package promised by the Soviets, withdrew its representative from the Committee of Five, thus rendering it dysfunctional. Under these circumstances the UN General Assembly passed another resolution in December 1958, in which – while upholding all the judgments and demands specified in earlier resolutions – it declared the Special Committee’s work to have been successfully completed.
This, however, did not mean that the Hungarian problem was automatically taken off the agenda. The General Assembly appointed Sir Leslie Munro, New Zealand’s UN Ambassador, who had been among the most vehement critics of the Soviet Union’s intervention in Hungary, as “special representative of the United Nations” for the Hungarian question, entrusting him with the task of keeping a watchful eye on further developments in Hungary, admittedly with a much more limited mandate than the Committee’s.
The two superpowers continued to make tentative steps towards a thaw in relations throughout 1959. In this game the “Hungarian question” continued to be one, albeit increasingly ineffective, trump card in the hands of US diplomacy. The gradual consolidation of the Kádár regime – the first partial amnesty in Hungary was announced in 1960 – seemed to be a clear indication that it was only a matter of time before the lid was closed on the Hungarian question. In several of his reports published over the next two years, Sir Leslie observed that the Soviet and the Hungarian governments continued to ignore the existing UN resolutions. Meanwhile, the number of countries standing by the Hungarian cause continued to decline in the General Assembly, which was faithfully reflected by the changes in the voting figures. Also, flying in the face of the Munro reports, there were negotiations going on in the background about the conditions under which the Kádár regime could regain full membership in the international community and the world organization. By the end of 1962 a tacit agreement began to emerge whereby the Hungarian regime – at least in the diplomatic sense – might be given absolution in return for a full amnesty and the freeing of political prisoners sent to jail after the Revolution. Under the aegis of this agreement, and following an American initiative, the UN General Assembly passed another resolution on December 20, 1962, effectively abandoning the Hungarian question. The wording of the resolution would not have been out of character in an oracle uttered by one of the priests of Dodona: on the one hand it expressed dissatisfaction over the failure of the governments of the Soviet Union and Hungary to cooperate with the UN representatives and reiterated the goals of all the earlier resolutions censuring the two governments (the restoration of national self-determination, free elections, the withdrawal of Soviet troops, etc.), while on the other hand it revoked Sir Leslie’s mandate (after fully appreciating his work) and asked the UN Secretary-General to “initiate whatever measures he deemed helpful in the Hungarian problem.” In this concealed way, the General Assembly empowered Secretary-General U Thant to remove, once and for all, the Hungarian question from the UN agenda in full compliance with the background agreement. The resolution sailed through the General Assembly with 50 delegates voting in favor of it, 13 voting against and 40 abstaining. On March 21, 1963 János Kádár announced a general amnesty, which, contrary to what he had promised, did not result in the release of every prisoner convicted for 1956. Hundreds of prisoners remained behind bars for their so-called “aggravated crimes”. But nobody wanted to make a big deal out of it any more.
The Activities of the Committee
The brief account presented above should make it evident that the Committee of Five carried out its work in a controversial environment. With hindsight it is difficult to avoid the impression that the Committee was merely a pawn in the big chess game and power politics between the two superpowers. Nevertheless, this circumstance did not seem to affect the Committee’s work or the final documents it produced. From the documents and the published reports it seems clear that under the circumstances the Committee took its task very seriously and performed its job conscientiously and at a high standard. Despite the occasional factual mistakes made in the report published in the summer of 1957 – Imre Nagy was at no time a prisoner of the State Security Police during the Revolution János Kádár did not show up in the Parliament on November 2 and never conducted negotiations with representatives of the revolutionary committees, as he had already arrived in Moscow by that time – the Committee’s report provides a surprisingly accurate and detailed historical account of the events of the 1956 Revolution. Although their work had almost no effect on the power politics of the superpowers, their report, which was published in several world languages as well as in numerous Hungarian editions, thanks to the Hungarian émigré press, provided an invaluable service to the international community by informing public opinion throughout the democratic world. This was the first detailed and authentic summary of what had really happened in Hungary in 1956.
The Committee’s achievements seem especially impressive in the light of the fact that its members had less than six months to produce their first report and had no access to any authentic source of information inside Hungary. On numerous occasions the Committee requested the Kádár government to give permission for its representatives to enter the country in order to conduct inquiries, as demanded by the existing UN resolutions. They also sought permission to make contact with Imre Nagy and other leading politicians of the Revolution (by that time Imre Nagy’s group had been deported to Romania). Naturally, both the Hungarian and the Romanian government rejected these requests. Therefore, the Committee had to make do with public documents released during the Revolution (press materials, political declarations, statements) and information received by various countries through diplomatic or other channels and handed over to the Committee (in this regard, the most willing partners were the British, Dutch, Italian, French and American governments), along with the official Hungarian communiqués published after the suppression of the Revolution and the eyewitness accounts of people participating in the Revolution and forced into emigration afterwards. The international organizations of trade unions that were in close contact with the Hungarian worker's councils during and after the revolution also provided information and sources on the Hungarian situation abundantly. During the same period, the International Court of Justice in The Hague also conducted an investigation into the events of the 1956 Revolution. The results of that inquiry were presented to the Special Committee at the Geneva hearing of Hartley William Shawcross, who was a member of the Court.
The Committee’s work was helped by a small staff made up of experts on the Soviet Union and Central Europe, interpreters and emigrant Hungarian experts who were familiar with the local conditions. They collected the material, translated the written sources, eyewitness account and analyses, prepared background material for the reports and drafted the text and the structure of the final documents. The drafts and the proposed reports were discussed at various levels, until the Committee as a whole finally approved the final version and presented it to the General Assembly. The documents preserved by Claire de Héderváry offer a glimpse into the minute details of this process.
Parallel with the collection of the sources and the analysis of the materials, the Committee set out to interview witnesses as early as March, 1957. Based on various criteria – the most important being that anyone who had left the country before October 23, 1956 was disqualified – they selected 111 Hungarian witnesses. The three prominent political actors of the Hungarian Revolution – Anna Kéthly, a social-democrat cabinet minister in the Imre Nagy government, Béla Király, Commander in Chief of the National Guard and József Kővágó, the mayor of Budapest who was a member of the Small Holders’ Party – were interviewed in a public hearing, while the rest of the interviews took place behind closed doors. As Béla Király later recalled, the questions of most of the Committee members revealed their friendly disposition and feeling of solidarity towards the Hungarian cause. The only exception in this regard was Ceylon’s representative, who tried to corner the witnesses through aggressive cross-examination. Later on Ambassador Gunewardene told Király that the Ceylon representative was merely acting as the devil’s advocate, in order to make sure that the interviews and the report would seem as unbiased and as authentic as possible.
All in all, the Committee interviewed 111 witnesses at various hearings in New York, Rome, Vienna, Geneva and London. Eighty-one of them gave evidence without their names at their own request, so as to protect relatives still residing in Hungary from possible retaliation. Once the Committee’s mandate ended, the Soviets demanded to see the list of witnesses. Bang-Jensen, the chief secretary of the Committee, refused to oblige. In the eyes of many, this incident, together with the accompanying harassment, may have played a role in the mysterious death of the Danish diplomat, who is thought by some observers to have been the victim of a political assassination.
The Committee made its report on the Hungarian Revolution available to the General Assembly in July 1957. In fact, the report was a rather detailed historical account, which tried to present the findings of the Committee in the framework of international law, making political proposals accordingly. In the interest of greater objectivity, the report dedicated a separate chapter to both the official Soviet account of the 1956 events and the Kádár regime’s own assessment of the Revolution, refuting their versions of the events item by item. In this sense, the report can be regarded as the precursor of The Truth about the Nagy Affair, a book published by émigré circles after the execution of Imre Nagy and his associates.
The report regarded the Soviet intervention as a case of external military aggression against the legitimate Hungarian government, an act that was in clear violation of both the UN Charter and international law founded on the sovereignty of states. It concluded that instead of a rebellion sparked off as a result of an organized conspiracy, 1956 was “an instinctive national uprising”, brought about by the nation’s long-harbored grievances. The goal of the uprising was to restore national sovereignty and democratic human freedoms. From the very beginning, the uprising was led by students, workers, soldiers and intellectuals, rather than by the so-called “reactionary circles” and western imperialists. The Revolution was victorious, the Imre Nagy government enjoyed the trust of the people, and there was every chance of normalizing the situation. In a resolution passed on September 14, 1957, the UN General Assembly approved the assessment and proposals of the Committee.
In the next stage of the work, when it turned to analyzing the period following the crushing of the Revolution, the Committee could no longer rely on eyewitness accounts, while the collection and analysis of Hungarian and foreign news reports and articles continued unabated. As a result, it was able to document and to reconstruct the process of retaliation that went on after the Revolution, in order to prove that the Soviet invaders and the puppet regime under Kádár were guilty of continuous and severe violations of human rights and civil liberties. They published their concluding statement in the summer of 1958. After that the Commission’s mandate was terminated and its mission was taken over by Sir Leslie Munro, who continued the work right up to December 1962, when the Hungarian problem was last discussed at the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The History of the Héderváry Collection
In 1981 Claire de Héderváry retired from her position as one of the directors of the United Nations’ Department of Political Affairs, although she continued to receive assignments from both the UN and the Belgian government even as late as the 1990s: between 1990 and 1992 she was the Secretary-General’s special envoy to Japan, and for four years before that she had been a UN delegate representing the Belgian government. In 1950, straight out of Harvard and Columbia where she had studied economics, she found employment at the United Nations, working for the department specializing in technical assistance to developing countries in the Middle East. As soon as the decision was made to set up a UN Special Committee to inquire into the Hungarian problem in 1957, Claire de Héderváry, of Belgian-Hungarian descent, offered her services to the Secretariat assigned to the Committee. During the four years that the Committee was in operation, Claire took part in all the major phases of the work. Her tasks included the collection and analysis of information related to the Hungarian situation, and the evaluation of sources. She was an interpreter during the witnesses' hearings and the preliminary screening of possible witnesses, and participated in the preparation of the various chapters of the Report to be submitted to the UN General Assembly.
The UN extended the Special Committee’s mandate beyond 1957, appointing a Special Envoy in the person of Sir Leslie Munro, whose tasks were to continue monitoring the Hungarian situation and to lend support to the Committee’s work until 1962. In her capacity as Sir Leslie’s advisor, Claire de Héderváry contributed to the efforts to keep the Hungarian question on the UN’s agenda.
According to the UN’s records retention schedule, the documentation of the Special Committee should have been destroyed after three years, and the same fate would have been in store for the drafts produced in preparing the reports, the audio recordings of the witnesses’ hearings, the background material gathered, and even the secondary copies of the official UN documents. Since Claire de Héderváry continued her career at the UN after 1962, she had the opportunity to rescue a considerable portion of the documents and audio recordings, which would otherwise have been destroyed. Upon her retirement in 1981, she procured her boss’s permission to remove the collection, which filled 22 whiskey cases, from the UN. After her New York flat, where she initially stored the collection, she deposited it at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University in California for security reasons. In 1998, following Hungary’s transition to democracy, Claire de Héderváry decided to donate the collection to the Manuscript Department of the National Széchényi Library (the OSA Archives was able to provide financial assistance in bringing the documents home), because she felt that this invaluable collection belonged to the Hungarian nation.
The list of documents was compiled by the historian Mihály Zichy, who works for the Manuscript Department at Széchényi Library. Parallel with this, the Library digitized the 77 hours of audio recordings, tapes and discs, for preservation purposes. The work of archiving became a matter of urgency as the condition of the written documents began to deteriorate rapidly and the preparation of the English language catalogue required a broader cooperation. It has also been proposed that the digitized version of the complete collection be published online on the OSA Archives’ web site, as part of the 1956 Digital Archives. From 2008 through 2009 the OSA completed the digitization of the 30,000 pages of written documents and in the current phase of the archiving the online collection is gradually becoming available.
In the first stage, the public will have access to the English-language (or occasionally French) transcripts of the 111 witness hearings, along with the summaries of the accompanying tapes, held by the Special Committee. The material to be published online at the next stage will contain the Report submitted to the UN General Assembly, along with the various drafts and including the Committee’s correspondence with the governments, diplomatic bodies and non-governmental organizations.
The international and Hungarian press summaries, reports and clippings, which constituted the background material for the Committee’s work, will be published online at a later stage, although they are already accessible to researchers in the Manuscript Department of Széchényi Library and the Research Room of OSA.
1956: The Hungarian Revolution
The history of the Hungarian workers' revolution against the Communist dictatorship. A general strike was declared, and workers' councils sprung up across the country.
In cities the workers armed themselves and fraternised with the troops, but were eventually crushed by Soviet tanks.
It is not out of love for nostalgia that we are commemorating the 1956 Hungarian uprising: Hungary '56 was a prime example of the working class itself reaching for power. Doubly significant, it took place in one of the mythical 'workers' states'.
It showed for many, throughout the world, a new alternative to capitalism and Soviet communism - read state capitalism - and it galvanised movements towards genuine revolutionary politics.
When the Soviet Army swept into Eastern Europe towards the end of the Second World War, they did not in fact liberate workers and peasants. The same system as before continued to exist, with Stalin giving backing to reactionary governments.
Between 1919 and the end of the Second World War Hungarians suffered the fascist regime of Admiral Horthy, which murdered thousands and deported over 400,000 Jews to the Nazi concentration camps. In 1944 the country was 'liberated' by the Soviet army and a new Hungarian government installed, headed by Commander-in-Chief of the Hungarian Army, Bela Miklos - a man decorated with the Iron Cross by Adolf Hitler. This new government again supported Horthy as ruler of Hungary.
The Communist Party soon began to infiltrate the government, taking with it the Ministry of the Interior and control of Hungary's secret police, the AVO. The AVO was feared and hated by the Hungarian working class because of their record of torture and murder and because of the privileged position they held in Hungarian society, receiving between three and twelve times the average workers’ pay.
In the meantime the Soviet Army took an immense amount of plunder back with them from Hungary and requisitioned huge amounts of grain, meat, vegetables and dairy products. They loaded an immense reparations demand on Hungary which meant the Hungarian working class had to pay, in food shortages and low wages. The Kremlin ended up cancelling half of the reparations still due in 1948 because they feared an uprising.
Moscow continued to exploit Hungary in other ways: they sold to Hungary at above world prices and bought its exports at well below world prices. By 1950, Hungary was thoroughly integrated into the political and economic system of the USSR, with the state-decreed collectivisation of agriculture and nationalisation of industry.
But ill feeling and unrest was beginning to grow: workers reacted to the newly introduced system with go-slows, poor quality work and absenteeism. Disaffection spread rapidly. Dissent within the Communist Party also grew, and purges began. In Hungary, 483,000 Party members were expelled and hundreds executed.
Joseph Stalin died on March 6, 1953. The hopes of workers rose: they thought there was a chance of ending the dictatorship over the proletariat. Later that year, there were risings in Czechoslovakia and East Germany, which were quickly suppressed. In the USSR a strike movement began on July 20 involving 250,000 slaves in the forced labour camps. The Stalinists responded by executing 120. This upsurge among the workers of the Iron Curtain countries forced the Party bosses to take a softer line. At the 20th Congress of the Russian Communist Party in February 1956, Khruschev began to denounce Stalin. This was followed almost immediately by the Poznan revolt in Poland. Polish tanks crushed the revolt.
Similar events began to unfold in Hungary. The Petofi Circle was formed in April 1956 by Young Communists: it was named after Sander Petofi, the famous national poet who had fought for Hungarian freedom in 1848 against the Austrian Empire, and was backed by the Writers Union. Soon thousands were attending meetings of the Circle, and the articles that they wrote for their literary gazette began to circulate among workers. By July, discussions on conditions in Hungary and in particular the AVO had multiplied. Some speakers at Circle meetings even demanded the resignation of Imre Nagy, the Party head.
This critical spirit spread to the workers, who began to demand more control over 'their' factories. They wanted trade union democracy, workers participation and consultation of management with the union committee on wages and welfare. The Petofi Circle supported these demands. They were put to the government in a request to hand over the factory administration to the workers.
While Gero, First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, was meeting Tito in Belgrade, the Petofi Circle decided to call for a demonstration in solidarity with Polish workers who were on trial as a result of the Poznan revolt. The authorities, who wanted to avoid confrontation, allowed the protest. The Petofi Circle and other discussion groups met, as well as dissident student organisations including the official Communist Party youth group and decided to march on October 23 to the statue of Josef Bern in Budapest, a Pole who had fought with the Hungarians against the Austrian monarchy in the 1848-9 revolution.
The ruling party panicked. Their Minister of the Interior banned the march, but because it was already forming in parts of the city, they lifted the ban. The demonstration was mostly young people, with a small number of workers downing tools to join in. Outside the Parliament buildings they called for Imre Nagy, who had been expelled from the party for 'deviationism'. Nagy had faithfully carried out all of Stalin's policies. When, however, he was replaced by arch-Stalinist Rakosi, he had won much misplaced sympathy. By now, Gero was broadcasting over the radio and denouncing the demonstrators as counter-revolutionary.
As the day turned to evening, 100,000 people gathered. The crowd decided to march on the radio station to request their demands be broadcast, tearing down a giant statue of Stalin as they went. The radio building was heavily guarded by AVO, but eventually a delegation was let into the building. But two hours passed and still no sign of the delegation. The crowd grew extremely restless and began to demand that the delegation be released. Suddenly the crowd leapt forward. The AVO men opened fire with machine-guns on the unarmed mass. Many fell but the crowd continued to advance and overwhelmed the policemen, taking their weapons to fire at the radio buildings.
News of the events in Sandor Street spread fast. Workers returned to arms factories where they worked and with the night shift workers loaded lorries with arms. These were taken to Sandor Street and distributed. In the surrounding streets workers and students began to set up road blocks.
Various manoeuvres were meanwhile taking place inside the Government and the Party. Gero arranged that Nagy should replace the colourless Hegedus as Premier. At 8am Wednesday morning it was announced that the Government had asked for Russian Army units stationed in Hungary to help 'restore order'.
Workers and Students in Budapest set up a revolutionary council - not seen since the 1918 Revolution - early on Wednesday morning. A pitched battle swarmed around the radio building, while manoeuvring continued inside the Communist Party. Gero was replaced as First Secretary by Janos Kadar. Kadar came from the working class. He had been a 'Titoist' and had been imprisoned and tortured horribly. The bureaucrats thought this a fine move - a perfect sop to the rising discontent. Nagy broadcast at 9am calling for the laying down of arms and promising widespread democratisation.
In response the Revolutionary Council of Workers and Students issued leaflets demanding a general strike. Russian tanks rolled into the city the same day and fierce fighting broke out. Barricades were built from barrels. Later these were strengthened with railway coaches and weapons from a goods yard. The workers and students used Molotov cocktails, arms they had captured, and even a small field gun with which they bombarded the tanks.
The strike called by the Revolutionary Council of Workers and Students spread through the whole of Budapest and out into the main industrial towns - Miskolc, Gyor, Szolnoc, Pecs, Debrecen. Revolutionary committees and councils were set up throughout Hungary. Everywhere workers armed themselves and in some towns, radio stations broadcast messages against the Stalinists, telling the people not to be fooled by the Government into surrendering their arms.
Many councils quickly issued programmes calling for political and civil liberty, the withdrawal of Russian troops, workers management of the workplace and of industry, the banning of the AVO and freedom for trade unionists and parties. Some of the programmes wanted the return of 'parliamentary democracy' while others gave support to Nagy.
Peasants and farm workers organised deliveries of food to the workers in the cities. They drove out the kolkhoz (State farm) managers. In some areas they redistributed land, while in others they kept the collectives going under their own management.
The Observer said: 'Although the general strike is in being and there is no centrally organised industry, the workers are nevertheless taking it upon themselves to keep essential services going for purposes which they determine and support. Workers councils in industrial districts have undertaken the distribution of essential goods and food to the population, in order to keep them alive. It is self help in a setting of Anarchy. "
Fighting between the insurgents and the Russian Army increased in intensity. On Saturday night, Budapest prison was captured and all the political prisoners were released. The people soon heard all the stories of terrible conditions, of torture and beatings that had been inflicted. Budapest Radio continued to call for a ceasefire, promising immediate wage increases, negotiations for Russian-Hungarian political and economic equality.
Nagy attempted to calm the situation down. He promised that the AVO would be disbanded, and that the Government would be re-organised. Though several groups of insurgents had surrendered due to lack of ammo, the fighting continued around Szena Square and the Killian Barracks.
A meeting of Council delegates at Gyor reaffirmed their demands to Nagy. On Tuesday morning, Budapest Radio announced the withdrawal of the Russian troops. Nagy asked for calm from the people while this withdrawal took place, and for a return to work. The Red Army began to withdraw from Budapest that afternoon. The workers in Budapest and in other parts of the country remained armed and ready.
It was fortunate they maintained their vigilance because the Russians had only withdrawn to surround the capital with a ring of tanks. From the north east, Russian reinforcements entered the country. Local councils sent news, and Nagy was warned that unless Red Army troops withdrew, the Councils would attempt to stop them. The strike throughout industry would not end until troops were withdrawn. By November 3rd, the Red Army detachments had occupied most strategic points in the country, apart from the cities controlled by insurgents.
Members of the Nagy government assured the people that Russia would not attack again. The working class did not believe their assurances - with good reason. The Russians opened fire with tanks and artillery on all major cities the next morning. Russian tanks trundled into Budapest, firing conventional and incendiary shells.
Janos Kadar, a member of the Nagy government, now formed a 'Workers and Peasants Government.' Nagy had already sought refuge in the Yugoslav Embassy with fifteen other officials and their families. This new government asked the Russian government to help them in liquidating the ‘counter-revolutionary’ forces.
The fighting went on for over a week. Over the radio Moscow had announced the complete crushing of the 'counter-revolution' by midday of November 4. Organised resistance of the Hungarian working class nevertheless continued until November 14th.
As the war ended the AVO came out the holes they had been hiding in. They began to hang insurgents in groups on the bridges over the Danube and in the streets.
Fighting continued in country areas into 1957, but it was sporadic and isolated. Although many began to return to work, striking continued in most industries. Kadar worked to undermine the power of the Worker's Councils. He arrested a few members of the Council's Action Committees. This failed to intimidate. Next he promised the abolition of the AVO, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and a purge of Stalinists from the Party. Some workers believed this and returned to work. But the strike continued in many areas and in many industries. On November 16, Kadar was forced to start talks with delegates from the Councils. They demanded that a National Worker's Council be set up, which Kadar rejected, saying there was already a "workers government."
However, he was forced to agree to the recognition of individual councils and the setting up of a factory militia. Kadar said that if work resumed, he would negotiate for a withdrawal of the Russian Army. The delegates asked that he put this in writing, which he refused. Kadar tried other methods. He used the Red Army to stop food deliveries to the towns by peasants. He started issuing ration cards - but only to workers who reported for work. Still the strike continued. Kadar and his Russian masters were getting impatient. Already disaffection was spreading inside the Red Army. A few joined the guerillas, whilst many more had to be disarmed and sent back home because they refused to carry out orders. In response, the Hungarian government tried yet another tactic. Arrests of workers' delegates began.
Many council delegates were rounded up, as well as delegates of student bodies. Many came forward to take their place. When the State realised this, they began imprisoning the rank and file as well. Over the next few months, resistance continued against the onslaught of the 'Workers Government'. Mass demonstrations continued, and workers fought the AVO and the soldiers when they came to arrest their delegates. Through 1957, the arrests, imprisonments and executions continued. Those Council members not arrested began to resign, with the last Council remnants being quashed by November 17th that year.
There are no official figures for how many people died in Hungary in 56-57. Between 20 and 50,000 Hungarians and 3 to 7,000 Russians is the estimate. The number of wounded was much higher, and over 100,000 fled across the border. Strikes and demonstrations continued into 1959, and the struggle for workers’ power continues to this day.
Adapted from A Special Supplement of Anarchist Worker, November 1976: Hungary 56 by Nick Heath
Edited by Rob Ray and John S
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Following the death of Josef Stalin in 1953 many European communist countries developed liberal reformist factions. In Hungary the reformist Imre Nagy became Prime Minister but his attempts at reform were thwarted by Rákosi General Secretary of the Communist party. Rákosi used every opportunity to discredit Nagy and in 1955 had him removed from office. In July 1956 Rákosi was deposed and replaced by Erno Gero.
In Poland a revolt staged in June 1956 had resulted in reformist concessions being granted by Russia on October 19. News of the Polish concessions encouraged Hungarians who hoped to win similar concessions for Hungary.
On the afternoon of 23rd October 1956 thousands of Hungarian students took to the streets protesting against Russian rule. Their 16 key demands included a return to power of Imre Nagy, free elections and evacuation of all Soviet troops.
By early evening the number of protestors had grown to 200,000. At 8pm Erno Gero made a broadcast condemning the demands as lies and stating that the country did not want to sever its ties with Russia. Angered by the broadcast some demonstrators tore down the statue of Stalin while others marched to the Radio building and attempted to gain access. The security police (?VH) threw tear gas on the crowd and opened fire killing some demonstrators. In response the demonstration became violent, communist symbols were destroyed and police cars set alight.
Erno Gero requested Soviet military intervention and at 2am on 24th October Soviet tanks entered Budapest. However, the demonstration continued as many soldiers sympathised with the demonstrators. Imre Nagy was reinstated as Prime Minister on 24th October and called for an end to violence. However, sporadic outbursts of fighting continued until 28th October when the Russian army withdrew from Budapest.
The new Hungarian government immediately set about implementing its policies which included democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Nagy also announced that Hungary would withdraw from the Warsaw Pact.
On 1st November Nagy received reports that Russian tanks had entered eastern Hungary. On 4th November the tanks reached and encircled Budapest. Nagy made a broadcast to the world that Hungary was under attack from Soviet forces hoping that maybe help would come from the West. However, at the time Britain and France were preoccupied with the Suez Crisis and Americans did not want a return to war.
Around 4000 Hungarians were killed between 4th and 10th November when the Russians took control. Nagy initially sought refuge in the Yugoslavian embassy but was later captured by the Russians. He was executed in June 1958.
Reforms and Action
On March 18, King Ferdinand V expanded the autonomy of Hungary and appointed Lajos Battyani the first Prime Minister of Hungary. The government also included prominent figures of the liberal movement.
On March 18, 1848, the Hungarian State Assembly approved a whole series of reforms. Later serfdom was abolished, land was transferred to peasants, and redemption payments to landowners were to be paid by the state. The implementation of this reform led to the elimination of feudalism in agrarian relations and opened the way for the transition of Hungarian agriculture to capitalist rails. The law on the introduction of universal taxation and the deprivation of the nobility and priests of tax privileges was also adopted. Freedom of the press, inviolability of the individual and property, equality of Christian denominations, the responsibility of the government to the parliament were introduced, the suffrage was expanded (up to 7-9% of the population), and the state assembly was to be convened from now on. The union of Hungary and Transylvania was proclaimed.
On April 11, the king approved the reforms of the Hungarian revolution. The country became a constitutional monarchy. Ferdinand V retained the right to declare war and conclude peace, as well as the appointment of senior officials of the Kingdom of Hungary, but the actual power passed into the hands of the national government responsible to the parliament. However, the problems of distribution of powers between Vienna and Pest in issues of international relations, financial policy and, most importantly, the armed forces were not solved. Also, in the reforms of the state assembly and the decrees of the government, the national question was not reflected.
Meanwhile, in the ethnic regions of the Hungarian kingdom, revolutions also began, which quickly acquired a national color. On March 22, 1848 Josip Jelacic became the ban of Croatia, which launched a program for the restoration of the Triune Kingdom and, with the support of the emperor, created his own army and demanded independence from Hungary. In Vojvodina, the Serbian national movement resulted in the proclamation of autonomy and skirmishes with the Hungarians. The Slovaks and Romanians also demanded national autonomy, and the decision to unite with Hungary triggered bloody interethnic conflicts in Transylvania.
Vodovozov VV Revolution of 1848 / / Encyclopaedic dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron
Averbukh R. A. The Revolution and the National Liberation War in Hungary in 1848-49
European revolutions of 1848. “Principle of nationality” in politics and ideology
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