1950s >> 1956 >> no-628-december-1956

Happenings in Hungary

“Freedom” has been the battle cry in countless revolutions and revolts throughout the ages, and recent events in Hungary must have recalled past sacrifices immortalised by poets, such as Byron’s “Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn but flying, streams like the thunderstorm against the wind.”

At the present time the conscience of the world is being stirred by the heroic but unequal struggle which the Hungarians are wielding against the military forces of the Soviet Union. The iron fist closes and the rebels drown in their own blood as another paragraph is completed in the history of Hungary—another event in a chapter of foreign invasions.

Western Bloc governments and their newspapers have mostly made statements sympathetic to the rebels. American government leaders in expressing their feelings for Hungary, were reported as saying that nothing could be done until after the elections, as they did not want to do anything to prejudice their re-election—surely touching a new “low” in cynicism.

The Western Bloc of capitalist powers desire to oust the Soviet Union from Hungary in order to enjoy the same material advantages, and not because of any lofty ideals. It is a question of business, not of ideals, for the latter do not flourish in the jungle of capitalist go-getters.

The Daily Express of 9th November printed an appealing photo of a small girl under the caption— “Stepping out to a new life; a small Hungarian refugee who has arrived at the Austrian border. Behind her are horrors that her young mind could not comprehend. Ahead of her—who knows? A succession of camps and hostels; or perhaps a new home in England. But she is wary. After these last weeks suspicion is instinctive.” Then there was a report to the effect that a Wolverhampton firm offered a house, rent free, to a family of Hungarians; while a number of countries were reported as having offered sanctuary to numbers of refugees. There have been no reports, however, of sanctuary in Britain for Egyptian victims of the British military action in Suez.

The Daily Express published a series of articles by Dr. Edith Bone, who was released in the recent fighting after seven years solitary confinement in Hungary on a spy charge. Dr. Bone revealed that she had gone to Hungary as correspondent for the Daily Worker. The writer, who is a reader of that paper, is unable to recollect any agitation at any time over the disappearance of this colleague. Following her revelation, the Daily Worker confirmed her statement, and, believe it or not, added that they never could understand what had happened to her all this time. However, this newspaper is inundated with letters from comrades horrified at what has been going on in Hungary, and D. N. Pritt, Q.C., has written an article entitled “Hungary; Keep your Heads” (Daily Worker, 9th November), apparently in an effort to calm these comrades. He charges the popular press version of events as a complete fabrication of the U.S. capitalists, and ends his article with the following astonishing paragraph: “We should all be as happy to realise, in 1956, that the Soviet Union prevented the establishment of a fascist government in Hungary.” Another article in the same issue plugs a similar theme, and is headed “ Deep-laid Plot,” and the penultimate paragraph reads: “In the circumstances, Soviet counter-intervention, if one may call it so, has surely been justified on grounds with which every British democrat, and especially every British worker, must sympathise.”

The line on Hungary that this organ of the so-called Communist Party publish, and appear to get away with, is surely a scathing criticism of the low level of Socialist understanding on the part of their supporters. Perhaps the most brazen statement of all is on the front page of the same issue, in heavy print, describes the Daily Worker as “the only paper that puts the class and peace issues fair and square,” and then goes on in the next sentence to put a question to their readers: “Friends of the Daily Worker everywhere—we ask you to settle one question with yourselves and then, immediately, with us. Could you, in our national situation, do without the Daily Worker NOW? ”

The pro-Soviet press claim that the revolt is an attempt by Hungarian fascists to seize control from a workers’ government. The Western Capitalist press, on the other hand, report the trouble as a clash of two irreconcilable ideologies, that of Communism versus the democratic way of life—they see materialised the combat between evil and good, between the powers of darkness and of light, of the machinations of the Devil against the will of God.
A Socialist analysis of events in Hungary reveal the revolt as a nationalist movement determined to seize control for the benefit of the budding Hungarian capitalist class and, as such not worth the spilling of one drop of working-class blood. Like nationalist movements in other industrially backward countries, the revolt is led by students and supported by disillusioned workers and peasantry.
The Observer (4/11/56) contains an article headed “Students Led Hungarian Revolt,” and starts with the statement that

  “The Hungarian revolution began as a student movement. This I can say with absolute conviction, having just returned from Budapest, where I discussed the matter with the insurgents themselves.”
“The events in Budapest on that Tuesday evening had in fact been slightly preceded by uprisings in two other university towns—Szeged and Pecs. There the students had simply called upon the town councils to resign and had re-elected emergency committees from their own numbers.”
“These committees of 15 to 30 members containing professors and students, had a single president, who in more cases than not was undergraduate. The attitude of the older members of the community was that this was a student movement, and as such should be led by them.”
“The Student committee of the revolution in Budapest itself seems to be an even more powerful body. Its president, a young man named Josef Molnar, works in constant liaison with Colonel Meleter. commanding the Hungarian Army in Budapest. Almost all the students at this university of technology are armed.”

Hungary is only partially industrialised, and the expansion of the budding capitalist class is hampered by the Russian Government, who wish to keep the country as a market for their own industrial products and as source for. raw material and food supplies as well as for strategic reasons. Russian political and economic experts help to manage the country and give less opportunities for educated patriotic Hungarians to rise to the top jobs. University students, particularly in backward countries, are mostly members of better-off families. They are usually firm supporters of their national capitalism, and their educated sons have the training to act as spokesmen and leaders. It is economic interest that is the mainspring behind the action of the students, even though it is concealed by high-sounding ideals. While the personal courage of the Hungarians may be recognised, how often the call for “Freedom” masks the need for the development of a new class in society!
Some of the workers, believing that the Hungarian control will solve their poverty problem, give their support The peasants consider that an independent government will enable them to get a better market for their produce, though complete independence in the present-day world is more of an unobtainable ideal than practical power politics will allow, as Poland and Yugoslavia (not to mention a host of other small countries) have found out. This, then, is the Hungarian economic set-up which lies behind the barrage of propaganda.
The tragic bravery of the Hungarian students should not blind the workers to the fact that it is not in their interest to support the struggle of either the developed state-capitalism of the Soviet Union or the indigenous capitalism of Hungary. In other countries whenever the new ruling group is firmly in the saddle of government they lose no time in turning on the workers.
F. E. Offord