Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
Szabó's fellow arrested-turned-informant gave his three days in prison in great detail. A recurring theme was that his cellmates, mostly working-class and arrested for real action during the 1956 Revolution, reassured him that "students are dealt with with kid gloves", "you'll be out in a few days". Which leads me to a little history lesson to emphasize something about the big revolutions during 'communism' and the following clampdown.

In 1956, Stalinism was over, with Dear Leader gone (both the original in the Soviet Union and the copy in Hungary), but its apparatus not quite. A lot of people were released - including, ironically, both Imre Nagy, the symbol of the revolution, and Imre Kádár, who would betray Nagy, call in the Soviet military, and then rule until 1988 -, but the feared secret service still existed, as did the second-line state-terror-ists, and dictature. So there was a sense of reforms and want for more.

The catalyst was (as often in Hungarian history) news from Poland, news of a crushed protest. Rebellion spread like bushfire from two sources: students - and the so-called Workers' Councils. The latter were self-established (not Party-controlled) councils at workplaces, demanding a Socialist state but with multi-party system and independent unions. These countinued to form all across the country after the breakout of revolution, and that was the reason the Party lost enough power to accept reforms (i.e. for those in the leadership who called the events "legitimate revolution" - then including Kádár - won over those who called it "counter-revolution").

And from this comes the second Socialist line in the Revolution: from the first day (23 October), one of the demand of protesters was not for everyone to go, but for Imre Nagy, himself a leading communist but popular, to form a national unity government. Which he did, and his government dismantled the old secret service, legalised other parties, called on the Russian military to leave, and disbanded and re-established the communist party under a new name (from Hungarian Workers' Party to Hungarian Socialist Labour Party).

After the revolution was crushed under Soviet tanks, the regime went especially after the two mentioned Socialist strands of the Revolution - the leaders of Workers' Councils and the members and administration of Imre Nagy got the worst torture and most executions. Never again did the Muscovites want the official legitimisation of their power challenged.

Which they achieved to such an extent that today, most remaining prominent 1956 veterans still appearing in public are from the Revolution's right-wing fringe, or people who fought in the final hopeless battles with Kalashnikovs against tanks (shades of Iraq here) as teenagers and became far-right in their old age.

There are strong parallels to this course of events in both the 1968 Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, and the 1980 events in Poland.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:58:38 PM EST
so-called Workers' Councils. The latter were self-established (not Party-controlled) councils at workplaces, demanding a Socialist state but with multi-party system and independent unions.

Minor addition: the very first Worker's Council was established a day before the revolution, in the iron smelter of the city today called Dunaújváros. This city was founded just years before as a model city, then under the name Sztálinváros (Stalin-city). Model cities were generously funded and filled with loyal workers. So the system was really hit at its core when rebellion broke out first there.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:21:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which they achieved to such an extent that today, most remaining prominent 1956 veterans still appearing in public are from the Revolution's right-wing fringe, or people who fought in the final hopeless battles with Kalashnikovs against tanks (shades of Iraq here) as teenagers and became far-right in their old age.

There are strong parallels to this course of events in both the 1968 Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, and the 1980 events in Poland.

I don't see the parallel to Poland in 1980. Neither in the disparate treatment of working class vs. intelligentsia oppositionists - both were placed in internment camps en masse ( the top several thousand) or fired and blacklisted (the next ones down the line) following the imposition of martial law in December 1981. THe ex opposition has also been very prominent in all spheres of politics and civil society, with the (obvious) exception of those dominated by the ex-Communists. The top two papers are dominated by ex-opposition figures, every non post-communist government has been as well, including the current one.

The 1980 movement had the advantage of a prepared cadre of leaders. The veterans of both the 1968 student/intelligentsia revolt and the workers' revolts of 1970 and 1976 began working closely together after 1976, formulating a program of the creation of an autonomous civil society, a program which was then implemented in 1980.

PS. You mention that the Hungarian revolt was partially sparked by the workers' revolt in Poznan in June. I did not know that. You might be interested to know that in November 1956 Poland was at the highpoint of a brief wave of freedom. Blood drives for the Hungarian revolutionaries were publicly organized. The provincial city Party paper that I went through had articles describing what was going on as revolutionaries vs. counter revolutionaries - with the Red Army in the latter role.

by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:27:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, in 1980, one parallel I saw was the dual move - students/wrokers' councils and intelligentsia/workers. Regarding the aftermath, I definitely did NOT meant that the regime hasn't gone after the students and intelligentsia - but did so with different vigour. Imprisonment and blacklisting and repeated firing from jobs (and for some the suggestion to emigrate) was the fate of many in the intelligentsia. But I submit 1980 is definitely different in there being no executions, so there couldn't have been that big differences in treatment, and much more leading figures could survive to play a post-1989 role. (Well to a lesser extent that is also true for the Velvet Revolution.)

Yes, the Polish link was direct: the protest that turned into a revolution started out as an announced sympathy protest for the workers of Poznan. Interesting input about the Polish response to 1956 - I knew about solidarity, but not that it was so much in the open.

I add a further bit of historical quirk: a still unresolved mystery is the shooting in front of Parliament on 25 October (70 dead). At the time there were protesters and Soviet tanks on the square - with some soldiers befriending the protesters. Someone first shot at the protesters from a roof - followed by some of the tanks also shooting at the crowd, but other tanks shooting at the rooftop shooters!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:46:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Occasional Series