The 1956 counter-revolution in Hungary and present-day anti-communist propaganda
This November marks the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian counter-revolutionary uprising. Ever since its suppression, and especially after the restoration of capitalism in Hungary, this event has been the subject of severe controversy between the forces of progress and those of reaction. We reproduce below a slightly edited version of an article written a while ago by the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party, with the hope that our readers will get a clear understanding of those events.
In the years of 1989-90 a bourgeois counter-revolution took place in Hungary. Opportunist and revisionist forces inside the leadership of the former Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (HSWP) made a bargain with capitalist circles of the USA and Germany to hand over the power to internal bourgeois counter-revolutionary forces. The Marxist wing inside the HSWP proved unable to defend the achievements of socialism. Later those who had surrendered socialism reorganised themselves into the Hungarian Socialist Party and joined the political system of capitalist Hungary. Neither can we overlook the role of the opportunist policy of the former leadership of the Soviet Union, that betrayed socialism.
The bourgeois forces which gained power in 1990 look to the 1956 counter revolution as their historical ideal. On this ideal is based the whole political and ideological system of capitalist Hungary. It also constitutes the main means of present-day anti-communist propaganda.
THRUST OF THE ANTI-COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA
The modern Hungarian bourgeois elite regards the events of the 1956 as a ’revolution and war of independence’. The main aim of the anti-communist propaganda is to make people accept the bourgeois interpretation of the 1956 events. The term ‘revolution’ also implies that everything that was done in socialist Hungary during the period from 1948 to 1956 is unacceptable and should to be thrown away.
The ‘war for independence’ in bourgeois parlance implies that the Hungarian people waged a heroic struggle against the Soviet Union and – as present-day memorial plaques claim – “here in Budapest heroic Hungarian patriots won a victory over the most powerful army of the world”. According to capitalist propaganda, Soviet troops began military operations against Hungary without any declaration of war. 2,652 Hungarian citizens were killed in battle but the “heroic struggle for independence, which lasted many days, suffered defeat as the country was left on its own in the fight against a much more powerful enemy”.
One of the main tendencies of the anti-communist propaganda is to attempt to prove that communism was alien to the nature of the Hungarian people and that the socialist period could come about only because it was imposed upon Hungary from outside.
From the above follows one of the most widespread thrusts of the anti-communist attack which tries to claim that between 1956 and 1958, the ‘communist regime’ implemented savage reprisal against ‘heroes of the revolution and war for independence’, and even against ordinary Hungarian people. According to the propaganda 400 people were executed, 21,668 were sentenced to imprisonment, and 16-18,000 were interned for participating in the revolution.
Actually there can be no doubt that it was a counter-revolution aimed against socialism. In October 1956 counter-revolutionary forces in Hungary started an attack on the young socialist state with the support of the international imperialism. The aim was to overthrow the socialist system and restore the bourgeois system which had existed before 1945. Counter-revolutionary forces took advantage of the errors made by the ruling Hungarian Working People’s Party. The counter-revolutionary forces also took advantage of the situation in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union where, after the death of Stalin, Khrushchev had come to power. Khrushchevite ‘denunciations’ played into the hands of the anti-communist propagandists.
It is also beyond doubt that the majority of Hungarian people nevertheless did not want the restoration of the capitalist past, nor the return of the regime which from 1920 to 1945 was associated with the name of Miklós Horthy and which brought Hungary to the ravages of the WWII and fascism. In spite of the difficulties, problems and errors of socialist construction, the people still preferred a socialist society.
Although the Khrushchevite revisionist leadership of the Soviet Union was inclined to let the counter-revolutionary forces and their imperialist backers have their way, it was pushed by other socialist countries, notably China, to take stern measures against counter revolution, thus forcing the Khrushchevites in November 1956 to defend Hungarian socialism. This prevented the United States and other imperialist countries from military intervention into the Hungarian events and at the same time enabled the armed resistance of counter-revolutionary forces to be suppressed.
On 4 November 1956 the Hungarian Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government was formed with János Kádár at its head. The Kádár-led government treated those whose activity was directed against the state order according to the laws of the People’s Republic of Hungary.
It is also a historical fact that after 1956 in Hungary a new period of socialist construction started which made possible a considerable development of Hungarian industry and agriculture, fast and marked improvement of living standards, free health care and education, general provision of pensions. Today’s Hungary is still living at the expense of resources accumulated in the years of socialism.
BOURGEOIS INTERPRETATION OF 1956
The first act of the bourgeois forces which took power in the spring of 1990 was to pass legislation to entrench the bourgeois interpretation of the 1956 events. Act XXVIII of 1990 says that in 1956 there had been a ‘revolution and war for independence’. Combining these two expressions is in itself aimed at manipulating people, as it uses terms which had earlier been applied only in connection with the Hungarian revolution and war of independence of 1848-49. The events of 1848-49 for the whole Hungarian nation mean genuine revolution and genuine war for independence, and everybody considers the anniversary of these events to be the National Day. The Act of 1990 claims political and spiritual continuity between 1848, 1956 and 1989. The Act goes on to say ”These glorious events of recent Hungarian history can be compared only to the revolution and war for independence of 1948-49. The Hungarian revolution in autumn of 1956 laid the foundation for hopes that it would be possible to establish a democratic social system, and no sacrifice is in vain for the sake of the independence of our homeland. The reprisals, which followed the revolution, though they restored the former regime, were unable to extirpate the spirit of 1956 from the soul of Hungarian people. Parliament declares that, in accordance with the spirit of 1956, it will do everything in the interests of multi-party democracy, human rights and national independence”. As a matter of fact this Act seeks to lay down the law as to what one should think about the 1956. Obviously this law is directed against socialism, against communist forces.
At the same time bourgeois forces were from the very beginning also using another method – anti-Sovietism. From the time of capitalist restoration onwards, the Soviet Union has been represented as oppressor, exploiter and dictator. This approach is secured by Act XVII of 2001 entitled ‘On the significance of restoring independence and on the Day of Hungarian Independence’. The Act provides: “On 19 March of 1944 our country was occupied by Germany, and, as a result of that, our homeland suffered the horrors of war and national-socialist rule. Yet, though the victory of the allied powers brought an end to the German occupation and the dictatorship supported by it, the German occupation was replaced by a Soviet one, and under the cover of the Soviet arms it was possible to establish a communist dictatorship, the four decades of which also brought immense suffering and damage. The influence of the 1956 revolution and war for independence contributed to the circumstances when the latest turn of our history once again restored to our nation its precious freedom and our country’s sovereignty was restored. On June 19, 1991 the last Soviet soldier left the territory of Republic of Hungary, and now the nation is the master of its fate, independent from every alien force and free of any restriction.”
The Hungarian bourgeois parties Fidesz (Alliance of Young Democrats) and MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party) are united as regards their estimation of the place of the 1956 in the history of Hungary; both parties consider the counter-revolution of 1989-90 to be a direct sequel to the 1956 uprising and thus they declare a historical continuity. Both political forces insist that communism and fascism mean the same and one must struggle against both. Their opinions coincide upon the role of Soviet Union as an occupier and dictator. They also fully agree that such an approach should dominate in education, mass propaganda and mass media.
There are nevertheless significant differences too. MSZP stresses the role of Imre Nagy in the 1956 events and considers those events as the beginning of ‘democratic socialism’, which the MSZP is still representing today. As is generally known, Imre Nagy after the death of Stalin in June of 1953, was made the prime-minister of Hungary on the recommendation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In 1956 the Nagy-led government decided to establish a bourgeois multi-party system, to leave the Warsaw Pact, to form a National Guard – the armed force of counter-revolution. In 1958 Imre Nagy was sentenced to death and executed.
The MSZP while in government made this aspect the centre of its anti-communist propaganda. Imre Nagy was presented as positive figure representative of ‘democratic socialism’. At the same time Janos Kadar was described as a politician who served the interests of Soviet Union and carried on ‘soft’ dictatorship, and they try to wipe out his memory from the national consciousness. The shameful part of this process was the desecration of Kadar’s grave which took place in the years of the MSZP government. The grave of Kadar was opened and part of his remains were stolen. The authorities closed the investigation in a surprisingly short time.
The other bourgeois party, Fidesz, on the contrary does not acknowledge democratic socialism, does not acknowledge Imre Nagy and considers acceptable only the ideas of bourgeois restoration and bourgeois counter-revolution.
LAW AT THE SERVICE OF ANTI-COMMUNISM
Bourgeois power in the struggle against communist forces uses a number of juridical measures. In 1993 Parliament modified the first paragraph of the 269/B Section of Criminal Code, according to which “Whoever (a) distributes; (b) openly displays; (c) exhibits in public the swastika, SS symbol, arrow cross, hammer and sickle, five-pointed red star or representational symbols and does not commit any greater crime, will be charged and fined”. This law set an example for other countries, and despite all protests it is still in force. It provides a legal justification for the propaganda war against communist symbols.
The year 2000 saw the establishment of the ‘Memorial day for victims of communist dictatorships’. The Parliament accepted Resolution number 58/2000 (VI.16), according to which in every year on February 25 all secondary schools of Hungary should celebrate the Memorial day for victims of communism commemorating that on this day in 1947 Bela Kovacs, the general secretary of the Independent Smallholders’ Party, was arrested and transported to the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact this decision forced anti-communist propaganda into schools.
Fidesz, which came to power in April 2010, among its most ‘urgent’ measures, enacted an amendment to the Section 269/C of the Criminal Code as follows: “Denial in public of the crimes of the national socialist and communist systems. Whoever publicly denies, doubts or presents as negligible the fact of the genocide and other crimes against humanity committed by the national-socialist and communist systems, commits a misdemeanour and punishable by imprisonment of of up to three years.”
This law is one of the most effective instruments of anti-communist propaganda, as, from the very beginning, it excludes the legal possibility for discussion and presentation of contrary opinions. Thus the historical place of 1956 is not, and cannot be, the subject of public debate or contrary opinions. Only works which conform to official interpretation can be published.
The bourgeois political élite nevertheless understands that juridical measures alone are not enough to change consciousness of the masses.
SCIENCE AT THE SERVICE OF ANTI-COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA
Since the counter revolution in Hungary great efforts have been made and serious money has been spent to create ’scientific’ research institutes serving the aims of anti-communist propaganda.
One of the first was the Documentation and Research Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (the 1956 Institute), which was founded in the summer of 1989 and which has received substantial material and professional support. Up to now this institute is the centre for research work connected with the 1956. Besides numerous other publications, it has published on the Internet 1,200 pages of documents relating to the 1956 counter-revolution.
The bourgeoisie also established an institute named Historical Archives of State Security Services, the direct task of which was to publish documents of the internal political intelligence service from 1957 up to 1989, special attention being paid to the lists of state security officers and agents. Based on data in this Archives, hundreds of publications have appeared attempting to ‘denounce communist dictatorship’. The aim was to prove that all those who cooperated with the socialist system were either traitors or agents.
In the period preceding the 50th anniversary of the 1956 events, the most prominent Hungarian libraries were mobilised in this anti-communist crusade.
FILMS AND BOOKS ON THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Since the counter-revolutionary restoration, the new fascistic rulers of Hungary have published memoirs of those who took part in it. More than 400 books on 1956 were published and 100 conferences were held.
2002 saw the opening in Budapest of a ‘museum’, named the House of Terror. (http://www.terrorhaza.hu) whose aim – with the help of the most modern means – is to make people to believe that communist dictatorship and fascist dictatorship are one and the same; more than that – that communist is the worst.
An important part is assigned to the films. 20 full-length documentary films were released on the 1956, using the latest technology to manipulate public opinion.
COUNTER-PROPAGANDA OF THE HUNGARIAN COMMUNIST WORKERS’ PARTY
The position of the HCWP on the 1956 events is clear and straightforward. In the opinion of HCWP the events of 1956 constituted a counter-revolution regardless of intentions of some of those who took part in it and the complexity of events.
The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party organised a scientific conference on the 1956 counter-revolution. In 2006 the party Central Committee had formulated the political position of the party. HCWP in principle is guided by the assessment made by HSWP in 1957, according to which the counter-revolution was caused by four factors: first, the errors of the leadership made in the course of socialist construction; second, the treachery of the revisionist wing united around Imre Nagy; third, the activity of international imperialism; and fourth, the conspiracy of internal counter-revolutionary forces.
HWCP reassessed the role of the Soviet Union and the CPSU. It emphasised that the Soviet leadership bore direct responsibility for Imre Nagy’s accession to power. It was the result of Khrushchevite revisionism, which later led to serious problems in the Soviet Union and in the international communist movement.
That is how the HWCP defines the connection between the 1956 events and the events of the 1989. In the history of Hungarian communist movement, the HCWP was first to say that the leadership of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party and that of Janos Kadar personally was responsible for neglecting class struggle, and for compromises with international bourgeoisie and internal opposition, which later led to collapse of the socialist system.
The HCWP is of the opinion that another error of the former HSWP was its excessive accommodation to the wishes of the Khrushchevite revisionists.
In our struggle against the anti-communist propaganda connected with the events of the 1956 we also experience many difficulties. Arguments of the HCWP are based mainly on books and articles published in the period of socialism according to the standards and traditions of those times. Today it is not enough and these materials are not always appropriate. We need to analyse facts and documents relating 1956 from a Marxist perspective.
The 60th anniversary of this counter-revolutionary uprising and its suppression is marked in the imperialist press and in the press of its agents in the working-class movement – the Trotskyites, social democrats and revisionists – by fierce denunciation of those who suppressed this counter revolution and high praise for those who rose against socialism. This is only to be expected. The working class the world over, however, will take its stance on these events in the only way that they deserve to be treated, namely, a counter-revolutionary attempt by imperialism and its stooges to overthrow the socialist system in Hungary, which was just suppressed at the time. Sadly, the counter revolution succeeded in the end, not only in Hungary but in the entire Eastern Bloc, including the once great and glorious Soviet Union. The main responsibility for this turn of events lies at the doorstep of Khrushchevite revisionists who, having come to power after the death of Joseph Stalin, set about the task of revising Marxism Leninism in the fields of ideology, political economy and foreign policy, and thus started the rot which, over a period of more than three decades, led to the collapse of socialism in these countries. in lesson to be learnt from these tragic events is that the working class must not relax its theoretical guard and must fight against opportunism in the working-class movement.