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Hungary was first occupied by semi-nomadic Magyars in 896. It remained an independent kingdom until being conquered by the Turks in 1526.
The Austrians began to expel the Turks at the end of the 17th century. Union between Austria and Hungary took place in 1867. Overall political authority was held by Emperor Franz Josef. Over 51 million people lived in the 675,000 square kilometres of the empire. The two largest ethnic groups were Germans (10 million) and Hungarians (9 million). There were also Poles, Croats, Bosnians, Serbians, Italians, Czechs, Ruthenes, Slovenes, Slovaks and Romanians. Overall, fifteen different languages were spoken in the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Austria and Hungary shared the same currency but other state functions rested with the national governments. Both states had unelected upper houses and elected lower houses of parliament. Hungarian politicians complained that the Austrian parliament was too powerful and that they were considered to be junior partners.
The Austro-Hungarian government feared attack from Russia. In 1879 Austro-Hungary and Germany agreed to form a Dual Alliance. This became the Triple Alliance when in 1882 it was expanded to include Italy. The three countries agreed to support each other if attacked by either France or Russia.
The Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army was officially under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, Emperor Franz Josef. By 1914 Josef was 84 years old and the chief of staff, Count Franz Conrad, had more power over the armed forces. Conrad, favoured an aggressive foreign policy and advocated the use of military action to solve Austro-Hungary's territorial disputes with Italy and Serbia.
After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the last few months of the First World War, the leader of the Independent Party, Mihaly Karolyi, gained control. He tried to introduce social and democratic reforms but lack of support led to him being ousted by the communist leader, Bela Kun.
Admiral Miklos Horthy, commander-in-chief of the Imperial and Royal Fleet, returned to Hungary in November 1919 and led the overthrow of Bela Kun. In March 1920 he became Regent of Hungary and held office for the next twenty-four years.
Miklos Horthy attempted to remain independent of Adolf Hitler and refused to allow Hungary's Jewish population of 80,000 to be handed over to the Schutz Staffeinel (SS). It was not until the German Army occupied Hungary in March 1944 that the Jews were deported to Nazi Germany.
The Soviet Army invaded Hungary in September 1944. It set up an alternative government in Debrecen on 21st December 1944 but did not capture Budapest until 18th January 1945. Soon afterwards Zolton Tildy became the provisional prime minister.
In elections held in November, 1945, the Smallholders Party won 57% of the vote. The Hungarian Workers Party, now under the leadership of Matyas Rakosi and Erno Gero, received support from only 17% of the population. The Soviet commander in Hungary, Marshal Voroshilov, refused to allow the Smallholders Party to form a government. Instead Voroshilov established a coalition government with the communists holding some of the key posts. Zoltan Tildy, was named president and Frenc Nagy prime minister. Matyas Rakosi became deputy prime minister.
Laszlo Rajk became minister of the interior and in this post established the security police. In February 1947 the police began arresting leaders of the Smallholders Party and the National Peasant Party. Several prominent figures in both parties escaped abroad. Later Matyas Rakosi boasted that he had dealt with his partners in the government, one by one, "cutting them off like slices of salami."
The Hungarian Communist Party became the largest single party in the elections in 1947 and served in the coalition People's Independence Front government. The communists gradually gained control of the government and by 1948 the Social Democratic Party ceased to exist as an independent organization. Its leader, Bela Kovacs was arrested and sent to Siberia. Other opposition leaders such as Anna Kethly, Frenc Nagy and Istvan Szabo were imprisoned or sent into exile.
Matyas Rakosi also demanded complete obedience from fellow members of the Hungarian Communist Party. His main rival for power was Laszlo Rajk, who was now foreign secretary. Rajk was arrested and at his trial in September 1949 he confessed to being an agent of Miklos Horthy, Leon Trotsky, Josip Tito and Western imperialism and admitted that he had taken part in a murder plot against Matyas Rakosi and Erno Gero. Laszlo Radk was found guilty and executed. Janos Kadar and other dissidents were also purged from the party during this period.
Matyas Rakosi now attempted to impose authoritarian rule on Hungary. An estimated 2,000 people were executed and over 100,000 were imprisoned. These policies were opposed by some members of the Hungarian Workers Party and around 200,000 were expelled by Rakosi from the organization.
Rakosi rapidly expanded the education system in Hungary. This was an attempt to replace the educated class of the past by what Rakosi called a new "toiling intelligentsia". Communist indoctrination took place in schools and universities. Religious instruction was denounced as propaganda and was gradually eliminated from schools.
Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty, who had bravely opposed the German Nazis and the Hungarian Fascists during the Second World War, was arrested in December, 1948, and accused of treason. After five weeks of torture he confessed to the charges made against him and he was condemned to life imprisonment. The Protest churches were also purged and their leaders were replaced by those willing to remain loyal to Rakosi's government.
Rakosi had difficulty managing the economy and the people of Hungary saw living standards fall. His government became increasingly unpopular and when Joseph Stalin died in 1953 Matyas Rakosi was replaced as prime minister by Imre Nagy. However, he retained his position as general secretary of the Hungarian Workers Party and over the next three years the two men became involved in a bitter struggle for power.
As Hungary's new leader Imre Nagy removed state control of the mass media and encouraged public discussion on political and economic reform. This included a promise to increase the production and distribution of consumer goods. Nagy also released anti-communists from prison and talked about holding free elections and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact.
Matyas Rakosi led the attacks on Nagy. On 9th March 1955, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers Party condemned Nagy for "rightist deviation". Hungarian newspapers joined the attacks and Nagy was accused of being responsible for the country's economic problems and on 18th April he was dismissed from his post by a unanimous vote of the National Assembly. Rakosi once again became the leader of Hungary.
Rakosi's power was undermined by a speech made by Nikita Khrushchev in February 1956. He denounced the policies of Joseph Stalin and his followers in Eastern Europe. He also claimed that the trial of Laszlo Rajk had been a "miscarriage of justice". On 18th July 1956, Rakosi was forced from power as a result of orders from the Soviet Union. However, he did managed to secure the appointment of his close friend, Erno Gero, as his successor.
On 3rd October 1956, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Party announced that it had decided that Laszlo Rajk, Gyorgy Palffy, Tibor Szonyi and Andras Szalai had wrongly been convicted of treason in 1949. At the same time it was announced that Imre Nagy had been reinstated as a member of the Communist Party.
The Hungarian Uprising began on 23rd October by a peaceful manifestation of students in Budapest. The students demanded an end to Soviet occupation and the implementation of "true socialism". The police made some arrests and tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas. When the students attempted to free those people who had been arrested, the police opened fire on the crowd.
The following day commissioned officers and soldiers joined the students on the streets of Budapest. Stalin's statue was brought down and the protesters chanted "Russians go home", "Away with Gero" and "Long Live Nagy". The Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Party respond to these developments by deciding that Imre Nagy should become head of a new government.
On 25th October Soviet tanks opened fire on protesters in Parliament Square. One journalist at the scene saw 12 dead bodies and estimated that 170 had been wounded. Shocked by these events the Central Committee of the Communist Party forced Erno Gero to resign from office and replaced him with Janos Kadar.
Imre Nagy now went on Radio Kossuth and announced he had taken over the leadership of the Government as Chairman of the Council of Ministers." He also promised the "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."
On 28th October, Nagy and a group of his supporters, including Janos Kadar, Geza Lodonczy, Antal Apro, Karoly Kiss, Ferenc Munnich and Zoltan Szabo, manage to take control of the Hungarian Communist Party. At the same time revolutionary workers' councils and local national committees are formed all over Hungary.
The new leadership of the party is reflected in the comments made in its newspaper, Szabad Nep. On 29th October the newspaper defends the change in the government and openly criticises Soviet attempts to influence the political situation in Hungary. This view is supported by Radio Miskolc and it calls for the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country.
On 30th October, Imre Nagy announced that he was freeing Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty and other political prisoners. He also informs the people that his government intends to abolish the one-party state. This is followed by statements by Zolton Tildy, Anna Kethly and Ferenc Farkas concerning the reconstitution of the Smallholders Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Petofi Peasants Party.
Nagy's most controversial decision took place on 1st November when he announced that Hungary intended to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. as well as proclaiming Hungarian neutrality he asked the United Nations to become involved in the country's dispute with the Soviet Union.
On 3rd November, Nagy announced details of his coalition government. It included communists (Janos Kadar, George Lukacs, Geza Lodonczy), three members of the Smallholders Party (Zolton Tildy, Bela Kovacs and Istvan Szabo), three Social Democrats (Anna Kethly, Gyula Keleman, Joseph Fischer), and two Petofi Peasants (Istvan Bibo and Ferenc Farkas). Pal Maleter was appointed minister of defence.
Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, became increasingly concerned about these developments and on 4th November 1956 he sent the Red Army into Hungary. Soviet tanks immediately captured Hungary's airfields, highway junctions and bridges. Fighting took place all over the country but the Hungarian forces were quickly defeated.
Imre Nagy was imprisoned and executed in 1958. Other government ministers or supporters who were either executed or died in captivity included Pal Maleter, Geza Lodonczy, Attila Szigethy and Miklos Gimes.
Janos Kadar remained loyal to the Soviet Union but did introduce a series of economic reforms which helped to raise living standards. He held power until resigning as leader of the Hungarian Communist Party in 1988.
(1) Crystal Eastman, The Liberator (February 1919)
Bela Kun is a young man (they are all young) - probably 29 or 30. He is stocky and powerful in physical build, not very tall, with a big bulging bullet-head shaved close. His wide face with small eyes, heavy jaws and thick lips is startling when you first see it close - I am told it is a well-known Magyar typebut his smile is sunny and winning, and he looks resolute and powerful. He has a superhuman capacity for hard work. His title is Commissar of Foreign Affairs, but there is not the slightest doubt in anyone's mind that he is in every sense the head of the government. He is described by his comrades as a "great agitator," a man of real revolutionary talent, a "genuine Socialist statesman," the "first statesman Hungary has had in seventy years." Their eyes glow with pride in him. "The rest of us are nothing," said Lukacs, Commissar of Education. "We do our part, but there are hundreds like us in every country." It is nothing to the European movement whether we are hanged tomorrow or not. If Kun were killed it would be a serious loss to the revolution."
Bela Kun gave me a written message to the workers of America, which I cabled for publication in the July number of The Liberator.
He also gave me written answers to some of the questions that were in our minds in America. He said that they had learned much from the experience of Russia - both what to do and what to avoid. Perhaps it was a reflection of his own personal growth in Russia that made him say, "We certainly learned, from the Russian example, self-sacrifice."
He also said, "We learned the proper form of dictatorship there."
I asked him whether the Hungarian dictatorship was more or less strict than the Russian, and he said it was more strict. "The Russians made many experiments," he said, "before they found the proper form of dictatorship. We have been saved those experiments."
I asked him whether he found necessary a complete suppression of free speech and press, and this is his reply:
"We do not practice general suppression of free speech and free press at all. Workmen's papers are published without the intervention of any censorship. Among workingmen there is perfect freedom of speech and of holding meetings; this freedom is enjoyed not only by the workmen who share our views but also by those whose views are different. The anarchists, for instance, publish a paper and other printed matter. There are also citizens' papers, for instance, the Twentieth Century, a periodical published by the society for sociology, without any control or restriction being exercised upon it. We only suppress bourgeois papers having decided counter-revolutionary intentions.
"We are doing this not because we are afraid of them, but because we want in this way to obviate the necessity of suppressing counter-revolution by force of arms."
(2) Winston Churchill, speech in Fulton, Missouri (5th March, 1946)
A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytizing tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade Marshal Stalin. There is sympathy and goodwill in Britain - and I doubt not here also - toward the peoples of all the Russias and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships.
We understand the Russians need to be secure on her western frontiers from all renewal of German aggression. We welcome her to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. Above all we welcome constant, frequent, and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty, however, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe - I am sure I do not wish to, but it is my duty, I feel, to present them to you.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in the Soviet sphere and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone, with its immortal glories, is free to decide its future at an election under British, American, and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful in-roads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed of are now taking place.
The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern states of Europe, have been raised to preeminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy. Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed and disturbed at the claims which are made upon them and at the pressure being exerted by the Moscow government. An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist Party in their zone of occupied Germany by showing special favors to groups of left-wing German leaders.
(3) Laszlo Rajk, confession (September, 1949)
It was (in 1947) that I first realised that not only Rankovic (Yugoslav minister of the interior) "and other men who had been in Spain were pursuing Trotskyist policies and that they were working hand-in-glove with the American intelligence agencies, but Tito too, the prime minister of Yugoslavia!
They failed because the government reshuffle here in 1948 rooted out all the people we had infiltrated into every walk of government life, into the public and state agencies, the army - everywhere. And the propaganda work of the Catholic reactionaries led by Mindszenty, on which Tito had also been counting, came to nothing, because the mighty central government of our People's Democracy dashed one of their most important instruments out of their hands by nationalising the Catholic schools. That was a crippling blow to the whole plan!"
(4) Tibor Szonyi, prosecuting council against Laszlo Rajk (September, 1949)
Tito and his clique! In their dealings with us and their own accomplices, they dropped their mask and spoke openly of overthrowing our People's Democracy. They would have stopped short at no crime. Honourable court, I too, offered my services for these wicked plans. And my crimes are no less heinous when compared with the offences committed by the arch-criminals of the pernicious Tito gang.
(5) David Irving, Uprising! (1981)
A few weeks later, Rajk's young widow Julia sees the official Blue Book on the trial. When she reads her husband's first reply a sad smile flickers across her angular, handsome face. Ladislas Rajk has beaten the system after all. Despite the violence, the drugs, and the dress-rehearsals, he has left a clue for posterity right there in his first words.
"When were you born," the court had asked.
And Rajk had answered, "On March 8th, 1909."
But that was not true. It was May 8th. How could any man make such an error unless to leave a hidden message to the world outside that all was not as it seemed?
(6) Peter Fryer, Hungarian Tragedy: PostScript (1956)
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.
(7) Matyas Rakosi, article in the Szabad Nep (19th July, 1956)
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.
(8) Seftan Delmer, Daily Express (23rd October, 1956)
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.
(9) Tass Soviet News Agency (24th October, 1956)
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.
(10) Janos Kadar, Radio Kossuth (24th October, 1956)
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.
(11) Erno Gero, speech (24th October, 1956)
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.
(12) Imre Nagy, Radio Kossuth (25th October, 1956)
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.
(13) George Lukacs, Radio Kossuth (28th October, 1956)
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.
(14) Imre Nagy, Radio Kossuth (30th October, 1956)
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.
(15) Janos Kadar, Radio Kossuth (30th October, 1956)
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.
(16) (16)Janos Kadar, Radio Kossuth (1st November, 1956)
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.
(17) Joseph Mindszenty, speech (1st November, 1956)
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.
(18) Leslie Bain's interview with Bela Kovacs appeared in the New York Reporter on 13th December, 1956.
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."
(19) Marshall Zhukov, Tass Radio Station (7th November, 1956)
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!
(20) Milovan Djilas, New Leader (19th November, 1956)
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.
(21) Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beavoir, Roger Vaillant, Claude Roy, and others, France-Observateur (15th November, 1956)
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.
(22) Mikhail Gorbachev, Memoirs (1995)
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.
(23) George Milkes, The Hungarian Revolution (1957)
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.
(24) Archibald MacLeish, Time-Life Magazine (10th December, 1956)
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.