The Hungarian Uprising, 1956
an extract from Stalinism: Its Origins & Future by Andy_Blunden, 1993
The high-point of the political revolution was Hungary October 1956. The following story is taken from the report by Peter Fryer, then foreign correspondent for the British Communist Party’s Daily Worker in Budapest.
After arriving in Hungary Peter Fryer went to Magyarovar. The previous day a peaceful demonstration of 5,000, inspired by the events in Budapest, had marched to the AVH (political police) headquarters and demanded they remove the red star, symbol of the Soviet occupation. The AVH replied with a hail of machine gun fire, killing 80. The crowd went to the army barracks and demanded and received weapons and stormed and took the AVH headquarters.
Fryer was taken to meet the Revolutionary Committee in Magyarovar.
The revolution culminated in the creation of a genuine Soviet government, a coalition which placed at its head Imry Nagy. Nagy had been rehabilitated and made Prime Minister in 1953 after the death of Stalin. Instead of repressing the uprising, Nagy had joined it, and vainly attempted to dissuade the Soviet Union from intervening.
The uprising was brutally crushed by the intervention of Soviet tanks on November 4. 20,000 Hungarians and 3,500 Russians died in the fighting. Nagy was put on trial and executed, and replaced by Janos Kadar, a non-entity who had joined Nagy’s revolutionary government, but later reappeared behind the Soviet tanks.
From the initial uprising on October 23, the revolution lasted only 18 days. The great speed of events, combined with the Stalinist monopoly on the means of communication, and bourgeois misrepresentation, meant that it was all over before the working class of the world was able to respond to the call of the Hungarian workers. Although the movement was spontaneous, the political background of all those who held leading positions in the revolution was communist or socialist of one kind or another. The revolution did not have time to develop a program as such, but its political character was unambiguous and clear - it was the program of political revolution.
As a spontaneous uprising, the revolution never considered the question the capacity of the Stalinism to utilise its armed force, and it lacked international support capable of repelling the Stalinist invasion.
Fryer's reports to the Daily Worker were not published. The treatment of the Hungarian events in the Stalinist press in Australia was typical. In October 31 1956, the CPA’s Tribune headlined: ‘Counter-Revolutionary Bid to Overthrow Socialism in Hungary’. The November 7 edition said: ‘the Hungarian people are not fighting the troops, but are in fact welcoming them’.
This version of events had trouble standing up to facts with which it was clearly at odds. By December, Communist Review had to explain how the rule of the Hungarian Workers Party had ‘led to a movement ... on the part of honest Communists, progressive workers and of students and others, a legitimate and proper movement, in its inception, for reforms ...’ which was apparently supported by ‘tens of thousands’ of ‘well-organised, trained and armed fascists’.
This double-talk could not erase the fact that the Hungarian workers had dealt a death-blow to Stalinism of international and historic proportions.
At Moscow University in November 1956 a group students challenged their “Marxism-Leninism” lecturer over the suppression of the Hungarian Revolt, quoting Lenin at him and eventually driving him from the hall. The protests spread to Leningrad and other major cities as far as Central Asia and even penetrated the Moscow garrison. After expulsions and reprisals against students the revolt was quelled.
Despite the blow that the Hungarian Revolution had dealt to the credibility of Stalinism, the repression of the political revolution also took its toll on the workers of Europe. The Polish workers retreated after witnessing the fate of their comrades in Hungary, and while never abandoning the fight for national independence and political freedoms, proceeded with considerable caution thereafter, and a generation would grow up under the suffocating pall of Stalinism, before a new uprising took place.
Andy Blunden is a Communist and Union activist, an expert on Hegel, who now writes for the Marxist Internet Archive Collection. He says that his writing is is seeking 'a way forward for a mass movement hoodwinked and betrayed by social democracy, crushed by Stalinism, abandoned by Trotskyism but which is still searching for a way out of the bourgeois morass'.
Peter Fryer was a member of the British Communist Party, an eyewitness to the Hungarian Revolution. The events of 1956 led to to leave the British CP and become a Trotskyite (anti-Stalinist).