THE HUNGARIAN "SOVIET REPUBLIC" OF 1919.
"It went too smoothy, I couldn't go to sleep. I spent the whole night figuring
out where our error lay, for there must be an error somewhere. The whole thing
was too smooth; we will stumble upon it but, I fear, only when it is too late".
(Bela Kun, cited in: H. Gruber (Ed): "International Communism in the Era of
Lenin"; New York; 1972;;
1. THE POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL BACKGROUND . . . . . . . . . . . . p.1
2 THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE NATIONAL-DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION
(January - October 1918) . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .p. 8
3. THE KAROLYI REGIME (October 1918 - March 1919). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . .p.13
4 THE "SOVIET REPUBLIC" (March - August 1919). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . p.16
5 THE PEIDL GOVERNMENT (August 1919). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . p.26
6. THE FRIEDRICH GOVERNMENT (August - November 1919). . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7. THE HUSZAR GOVERNMENT (November 1919 - March 1920) . . . . . . . . . . . .
POSTSCRIPT: THE HORTHY SEMI-FASCIST REGIME. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
APPENDIX: THE FATE OF BELA KUN. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . p.58
T H E H U NGA R I A N "S OV I E T R E P U B L I C" OF 1919
I N T RO D U CT I 0 N
For 133 days, from March 21st. to August 1st., 1919, a "Soviet Republic" existed
This "Soviet Republic" was defined as a state in which "the working class held
political power",, as "the dictatorship of the proletariat":
"In establishing the Soviet Republic the proletariat has taken into its hands
... full power for the purpose of doing away with the capitalistic order and the
rule of the bourgeoisie and putting in its place the socialistic system of
production and society. The dictatorship of the proletariat is ... a means to
the destruction of all exploitation and class rule".
(Constitution of Hungarian Soviet Republic, in: H. Gruber (Ed.): "International
Communism in the Era of Lenin"; New York; 1972; p. 123).
and the process by which the "Soviet Republic" was established was characterised
as a "peaceful socialist revolution".
"Without any bloodshed, power passed into the hands of the working class".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 139).
"In Hungary, for the first time in the world, the socialist revolution had been
won and the dictatorship of the proletariat set up in a peaceful manner".
(J. Kende, L. Gecsenyi and A. Steinbach: "Revolution in Hungary: 1918 and 1919";
London; 1968; p. 22).
"The seizure of power had been carried out peacefully. ... No opposition or
protest was made even by those sections of society which did not agree with the
internal political programme of socialist transformation".
(Z.L. Nagy: "Revolution in Hungary )", in: E. Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A History of
Hungary"; London; 1975; p.434-5).
"Judge: Was there no resistance?
Rakosi: Not the least resistance. ... No one resisted. It is utterly
(Trial of the Hungarian Society, 1935, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 98, 104).
It is, however, a fundamental principle of Marxism-Leninism that a ruling
capitalist class will use every means within its power to prevent the seizure of
political power by the working class and the resultant elImination of
"The historical truth is that in every profound revolution, the prolonged,
stubborn, desperate resistance of the exploiters ... is the rule. Never, except
in the sentimental phantasies of the sentimental simpleton Kautsky, will the
exploiters submit to the decision of the exploited majority without making use
of their advantages in a last' desperate battle, or series of battles."
(V.I. Lenin: "The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky", in:
"Selected Works", Volume 7; London; 1946; p. 140).
Marxist-Leninists recognise that it is possible for a working class to seize
political power peacefully, without resistance on the part of the capitalist
class, in certain exceptional circumstances - namely, when the capitalist class
possesses no effective state machinery of force with which to resist. It is
sometimes argued that this was the situation in Hungary in March 1919, that the
Hungarian national capitalist class. having only won its own freedom from
Austrian domination in July 1918, had not had time to build up an effective
state machinery of force by its own by the following March.
What cannot be explained on the basis of this theory, however, is the fact that
the ruling capitalist class actually released the leaders of the Communist Party
of Hungary from prison and invited them, in conjunction with the leaders of the
Social Democratic Party, to set up a "Soviet Republic". As the the President of
the Republic, Count Mihaly Karolyi, related in his memoirs:
"I therefore proposed that. . I would charge the Social democrats, in
conjunction with the Communists, to form a new Government, this proposal was
(M. Karolyi: "Memoirs: Faith without Illusion"; London; 1956; p. 154).
This strange fact is sometimes "explained" on the basis of the theory that
capitalism in Hungary in March 1919, only eight months after the-Hungarian
National capitalist class had gained power, was already "bankrupt" and the
ruling class in a state of "collapse":
"In this situation the proletariat enters the stage, summoned by Count Karolyi
and the Hungarian bourgeoisie itself. . . .
The new revolution in Hungary, replacing bourgeois democracy "with the Soviet
Government, .. is not the result of a struggle between the proletariat and the
bourgeoisie, in which the latter has been vanquished, but is simply the result
of the fact that the Hungarian bourgeoisie . . kicked the bucket . . . The
proletariat gains power as a result of the collapse of the bourgeoisie".
(P. Levi: Article in: "Freiheit", (Freedom), March 24th. 1919, cited in: H.
Gruber (Ed.): ibid.; p. 144, 145).
Although. this theory is Luxemburgist, and not Marxist-Leninist, even Lenin -
despite his misgivings about the character of the Hungarian "socialist
revolution", misgivings which are documented in the text which follows - felt
compelled by the facts to adopt this theory:
"A most radical, democratic and compromising bourgeoisie realised that at a
moment of extreme crisis, ... a Soviet government is a historical necessity,
that in such a country there can be no government but a Soviet government, the
dictatorship of the proletariat".
(V.1. Lenin: Speech Closing the 8th. Congress of the RCP, March 23rd., 1919, in:
"Collected Works", Volume 29; Moscow; 197'4; p- 224).
"The bourgeoisie voluntarily surrendered power to the Communists of Hungary. The
bourgeoisie demonstrated to the whole world that when a grave crisis supervenes,
.....the bourgeoisie is unable to govern".
(V.1. Lenin: Communication on the Radio Negotiations with Bela Kun, March 1919,
in: ibid.; p. 243).
"In Hungary the revolution was most unusual in form. The Hungarian Kerensky, who
over there is called Karolyi, voluntarily resigned, and the Hungarian
compromisers - the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries realised that they
must go to the prison where our Hungarian comrade Bela Kun ... was confined.
They went to him and said: 'You must take power!' The bourgeois government
resigned. . . This is a revolution of world-historical importance. . .
The Hungarian bourgeoisie admitted to the world that it had resigned voluntarily
and that the only power in the world capable of guiding the nation in a moment
of crisis as Soviet power".
(V.1. Lenin: Report on the Domestic and Foreign Situation of the Soviet
Republic, Extraordinary Meeting of Moscow-Soviet, April 3rd, 1919; in ibid.; p.
It follows that the manner in which the Hungarian "Soviet Republic" was
established in March 1919 can be explained only on the basis of one of the
Either the Marxist-Leninist principle that the capitalist class will use every
means in its power to prevent the seizure of power by the working class - a
principle which has been found to be valid everywhere else and at all other
times - was invalid in Hungary in March 1919;
or the establishment of the Hungarian "Soviet Republic" was not the genuine
seizure of power by the working class, that is, the Hungarian "Soviet Republic"
was not the genuine dictatorship of the working class, but a false facade
erected by the Hungarian national capitalist class to serve some purpose of its
The analysis which follows demonstrates that the second theory is the correct
On March 20th., 1919 the Hungarian national capitalism class, and its government
headed by President Mihaly Karolyi, were faced with a grave dilemma. On that day
there was received in Budapest an ultimatum from the victorious Allied Powers
which amounted to the dismemberment, not merely of the territory of the former
multi-national Kingdom of Hungary, but of ethnic Hungarian territory.
They were unwilling to accept this ultimatum. Indeed:
"... there was not a single Hungarian politician willing to fulfill this demand
of the Great Powers". (Z.L. Nagy: "Revolution in Hungary (1918-1919)", in: E.
Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A History of Hungary"; London; 1975; p. 433).
But, on the other hand, they were unwilling to reject it, since this would
almost certainly mean war with, and occupation by, the military forces of the
Allied Powers, leading, in all probability, to the enforced loss of even more
Hungarian ethnic territory.
They therefore embarked on a cunning plan, a plan to frighten the Allied Powers
with "the specter of Bolshevism". On March 21st., 1919 they arranged for the
establishment of a "Soviet Republic" in Hungary with the declared aim of
bringing about a military alliance with Soviet Russia.
Already, on March 19th., Karolyi had:
"... informed the cabinet that in the judgment of the government's military
experts it would be only a matter of weeks before the Russian Red Army would
break through the Romanian lines and reach the eastern boundaries of Hungary".
(R.L. Tokes: "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic"; New York; 1967; p.
The representatives of the "overthrown" hungarian national capitalist class,
whose principal political party was the Social Democratic Party, then made it
clear that the "socialist revolution" had been "caused by the Allied ultimatum".
As the Minister of Nationalities in the Karolyi regime, Oszkar Jaszi, expressed
"The Communist revolution was the immediate result of the Vix note . . . .. It
is impossible to deny the immediate connexion of cause and effect between the
Vix note and this dictatorship".
(O. Jaszi: "Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary", New York; 1969; p.
an opinion which was obligingly confirmed by the Chairman of the Revolutionary
Governing Council, Sandor Garbai:
"What is happening now is happening because the Entente has forced events into
(S. Garbai: cited by: 0. Jaszi; ibid.; p. 98).
and by its Peoples Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Bela Kun:
"The reply of the Hungarian people to the ultimatum of the Entente demanding the
immediate and final surrender of Hungarian territory to the Romanian oligarchy
is the proclamation of a Dictatorship of the Proletariat",
(B. Kun: Radio Message to the Workers of the World, March, 23rd 1919; in: 0.
Jaszi, ibid. p. 98).
The representatives of the capitalist class added that public opinion against
the Allied demands was "so overwhelmingly hostile" that they could only "rescue"
Hungary from "the dictatorship of the proletariat" if these demands were
"greatly modified to Hungary's advantage".
The political atmosphere in Hungary at the time - where workers were setting up
Councils modeled on the lines of the Soviets in Russia and where in many areas
the landless peasants were arbitrarily seizing the large estates - played an
important role in disguising the false facade of the "Soviet Republic".
But that the officials of the national capitalist regime did not take the
"Soviet Republic" seriously is testified to by Matyas Rakosi, relating at his
trial in 1955 the events which followed his release from prison on March 21st.,
"I was taken to the Under-Secretary of State ... who immediately introduced
himself as follows: "My name is Comrade Mehely. (Laughter in court). I knew that
he had been secretary of the national Association of Industrialists, and I was
surprised to find that he was a comrade too. But immediately after, All the
Under-Secretaries of State and the Counsellors rushed to see me, and they all
introduced themselves as 'comrades'".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1955, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 105).
But, however, the political representatives of the national capitalist class may
have sought to disguise the spurious character of the "Soviet Republic", the
political representatives of the landlord class saw it clearly as a mere
maneuver designed to frighten the Allied powers into withdrawing their demands
for the dismemberment of the Hungarian state. Rakosi quotes from a book entitled
"Data on the Szeged Counter-Revolution" by Bela Keleman, who was Minister of the
Interior in the counter revolutionary "National Government" set up at Szeged
during the period of existence cf the "Soviet Republic":
"The view was fairly widespread that the proclamation of the Soviet Republic was
only a means of compulsion to force the Entente to relinquish the dismemberment
(B. Keleman: "Data On the Szeged Counter-Revolution", in: M. Rakosi; Statement
at Trial, 1935, in: ibid.; p. 159).
The plan was by no means as risky as it sounds, for it was conditional upon the
imprisoned leaders of the Communist Party accepting the dissolution of their
party and its "merger" with the Social Democratic Party into a "Socialist Party
of Hungary" - in fact, the submerging of the Communists into a party more than a
hundred times the size of their own party. The Hungarian "Soviet Republic" was
in fact dominated and controlled by the "former" Social Democratic Party, whose
members held the principal state posts throughout the country:
"The greatest.. error committed by the Hungarian workers revolution of 1919 ...
consisted of... the fact that the important posts in the revolutionary regime
were occupied by Social Democratic leaders who sabotaged and betrayed our
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, July 1926, in: ibid. p. 42).
"Owing to the fact that the entire social Democratic Party had accepted the
agreement with the Communist Party, and because as a result these men (the
social-democrats - Ed.) were in a position to present themselves to their
discontented followers as protagonists of the proletarian revolution, it was
impossible to eliminate them. Therefore the proclamation of the dictatorship of
the proletariat had consolidated these men in their positions. It permitted them
to stay in their positions and to carry out their struggle against the
dictatorship of the proletariat, just as they had done before its proclamation .
. . .
"The bourgeoisie ... succeeded in maintaining itself in all the key positions
(of the 'Soviet Republic' - Ed.)".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935, in: ibid.; p. 141-2).
As the social-democratic leader Vilmos Bohm expressed it later:
"We stayed on the commanding bridge of the ship which was battered by the storm,
to save with one great effort what could be saved".
V. Bohm: "Ket forradalom tuzeben" (In the Crossfire of Two Revolutions); Vienna;
1923; p. 261).
Further, any risk that the spurious "Soviet Republic" might become transformed
into a genuine one, and consolidate itself, was nullified by the fact that the
programmes of both the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party rejected
any distribution of the land of the large estates among the peasantry, thus
dooming the "Soviet Republic" to alienate the land hungry rural poor:
"Another capital error was the fact that, unfortunately, we ... failed to
distribute the large estates to the landless peasants. . . .
The Communist Party of Hungary realises that it committed a grave error when, at
the time of the dictatorship, it did not distribute the land".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, July 1926, in' "The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954, p. 42, 53).
"Woe to the government 'which has the peasantry against it. It leads but a
(B. Szanto: "The Real Reason for the Collapse of the Hungarian Soviet Republic",
in: "Die Internationale" (The International), Volume 1, No. 15/16; November
1st., 1919, in: H. Gruber (Ed.): "International Communism in the Era of Lenin";
New York; 1972; p. 135).
If the ploy was successful in securing satisfactorily modified armistice terms
from the Allied Powers, the "Soviet Republic" could then be dismantled at a
From the point of view of its authors, the Hungarian national capitalist class,
the plan proved very successful. Within a week of the "socialist revolution" the
Peace Conference in Versailles despatched to Budapest the mission which the
Karolyi regime had striven unsuccessfully to obtain, bearing with it new terms
which Karolyi himself described as "amazingly favourable".
The representatives of the national capitalist class within the Soviet regime",
the former leaders of the Social Democratic Party, then turned against both the
Communists and the regime - bringing about the resignation of the "Revolutionary
Governing Council" and the end of the "Soviet Republic" on August 1st., 1919.
Some of the lessons which Marxist-Leninists drew from the collapse of the
"Soviet Republic" in Hungary were formulated in the following year in the
Conditions of Affiliation to the Communist International, drafted by Lenin,
which were adopted by the Second Congress of the CI:
'"Not a single Communist must forget the lessons of the Hungarian Soviet
Republic. The Hungarian proletariat had to pay dearly for the amalgamation of
the Hungarian Communists with the reformists . . .. Every organisation that
wishes to affiliate to the Communist International must in a planned and
systematic manner remove from all positions in the working class movement that
are at all responsible . . . .reformists and adherents of the 'Centre' and put
in their places reliable Communists. . . The working class cannot consolidate
its victory unless it has behind it at least a section of the agricultural
labourers and the poor peasants, and unless it has by its policy neutralised a
section of the rest of the rural population. In the present epoch, Communist
work in the rural districts assumes first-class importance. ...
Parties desiring to affiliate to the Communist International must recognise the
necessity of a complete and absolute rupture with reformism and the policy of
the 'Centre'. ... Without this it is impossIble to pursue a consistent Communist
The Communist International imperatively, and as an ultimatum, demands that this
rupture be brought about at the earliest date. ...
The parties which still adhere to the old Social-Democratic programmes must
revise these programmes as speedily as possible and draw up a new Communist
programme applicable to the special conditions prevailing in their respective
countries in the spirit of the decisions of the Communist International. ...
All parties which desire to affiliate to the Communist International must change
their name. Every party desiring to affiliate to the Communist International
must bear the name: Communist Party of such a such a country. ... The question
of name is not merely a formal question, but one of political importance The
Communist International has declared resolute war agaInst the whole bourgeois
world, and against all yellow, Social-DemocratIc parties. The difference between
the Communist Parties and the old, official 'Social-Democratic' or 'Socialist'
parties, which have betrayed the banner of the working class, must be made
absolutely clear to every rank-and-file toiler".
(V.I. Lenin: "The Conditions of Affiliation to the Communist InternatIonal", in:
"Selected Works"", Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 201-2, 203, 205-6.)
In his speech to the First Congress of Collective Farm Shock Brigaders in
February 1933, Stalin's inescapable implication is that the Hungarian "socialist
revolution" of March 1919 and the Hungarian "Soviet Republic" of March-August
1919 were not genuine:
"Only the October Revolution set itself the aim of abolishing all exploitation
and of eliminating all exploiters and oppressors. . .
You have ... the Workers and Peasants' Soviet Government . . . There is not, nor
has there ever been, another country like this in the world".
(J.V. Stalin: Speech at 1st. Congress of CollectIve Farm Shock Brigaders, in:
"Works", Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 245, 251).
T H E H U N G A R I A N S 0 V I E T R E P U B L I C OF 1919
PART ONE THE POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND) SOCIAL BACKGROUND
The Hungarian National-Democratic Revolution of 1848-9
In the 1840s Hungary was a semi-colonial province of the Austrian Empire, three
times the size of the present-day state. Its population included not only
Magyars (ethnic Hungarians), but also national minorities of Czechs, Germans,
Italians, Poles, Romanians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians.
The social system of Hungary was predominantly feudal and agricultural, with
land ownership dominated by a handful of aristocratic Magyar families who were
content with their status of junior partners to their Austrian counterparts.
As a capitalist economic system developed, slowly and with difficulty, within
Austrian feudalism, the rising bourgeoisies of the nations and part nations
imprisoned within the empire became the leading force in the democratic
revolutionary movement directed against the ruling autocratic centred In Vienna.
On March 13th., 1848 a revolutionary uprising in the imperial capital led to the
resignation and flight of the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince
Klemens von Metternich, to the acceptance by emperor Ferdinand I of a
Constitution on April 25th., 1848, and to the abdication of the Emperor on
December 2nd., 1848 in favour of his nephew, who became Franz Josef I.
In Hungary at the same time, a national-democratic revolution led to the
Declaration of Independence of April 14th., 1849, which proclaimed Hungary to be
an independent republic with Lajos Kossuth as Governor-President.
Following the "restoration of order" in Vienna by imperial forces commanded by
Prince Alfred zu Windisch-Graetz, the independent regime in Hungary was crushed
by the combination of an Austrian imperial army under the command of General
Baron Julius von Haynau and Russian forces under the command of Field-Marshal
Ivan Paskevich. Its overthrow was followed by a bloody reign of terror under
Haynau which lasted for nearly a year.
The Compromise of 1867
The one permanent achievement of the revolution of 1848-9 was the law of
September 6th., 1846 abolishing serfdom, which was not repealed after the
successful counter-revolution. This helped forward the development of the
capitalist economic system within Hungary.
In 1859 the Austrian imperial armed forces were defeated by the armies of Italy
and France, resulting In the cession to Italy of Lombardy. And in 1866 a further
defeat at the hands of Prussia resulted in the cession to Italy of Venetia and
the payment to Prussia of a large sum in reparations.
These internal and external developments so weakened the Austrian autocracy that
in 1867, it was forced to strengthen its position by raising the status of the
Hungarian aristocracy to that of nominally equal partners. The Act of Compromise
of May 29th., 1867 transformed the Austrian Empire formally into the Dual
Monarchy of Austro-Hungary. By this, Hungary became a Kingdom in "indissoluble
unity" with Austria, with the Austrian Emperor as King, with autonomy in
internal affairs but accepting the "joint character" of foreign affairs,
finance, defence and diplomatic representation.
In June 6th., 1867 the Emperor Franz Josef was crowned King of Hungary.
The Development of Capitalism
Although the development of the capitalist economic system in Hungary continued
to be held back by the dominant landed aristocracy, the Compromise of 1867
permitted this development to a limited extent - as the following table shows:
Coal production (million quintals): 7 102
Iron ore production (million quintals): 5 21
Length of railway lines (kilometres): 2,200 22,000
Number of factories: 24 5,000
Power used in factories
(thousand horse-power): 9 (1863) 886
Number of industrial companies: 170 (1875) 1,000
Capital of industrial companies (million crowns) 200 (1873) 1,512 (1910)
Capital of Banks (million crowns): 729 13,197
Number of industrial workers (thousands): 110 (1880) 620
% of national income from industry and mining: 16% (1870) 26%
Industrial capital in Hungary was relatively concentrated: by 1900 0.5% of all
industrial companies produced 66% of output and employed 44% of the workers.
This concentration was particularly strong in metallurgy. Three iron-producing
firms controlled the majority of output.
With the development of industry, the share in it of the Hungarian national
capitalist class (which was predominantly Jewish) rose - from one third of the
industrial plants in 1880 to two-thirds in 1913.
In 1913 the class composition of the population (including dependents) was
roughly as follows:
Landlord class: 0.1
Comprador capitalist class: 0.2
National capitalist class: 0.2
Rich peasantry: 0.3
Urban petty bourgeoisie: 1.9
Middle peasantry: 6.0
Poor peasantry: 8.2
Urban working class: 5.9
The Development of the Working Class Movement
The first political organisation claiming to represent the interests of the
working class was the General Workers' Association, formed on February 25rd.,
1868 on the initiative of Janos Hrabje, a member of the General Council of the
First International. Its programme, strongly influenced by the teachings of
Ferdinand Lassalle, included demands for the extension of the franchise, for
working class education, and for the establishment of workers' productive
associations "to overcome capitalism".
In the spring of 1871 the GWA organised a series of strikes in support of
improved working conditions, and a number of demonstrations in support of the
Paris Commune. After the suppression of the Commune, the government banned the
GWA, arresting its leaders and, in April/May 1872, trying them for treason.
Although they were acquitted, the persecution brought about the disbanding of
the organisation, although its Sickness and Disablement Fund (established in
1870 on the initiative of Karoly Parkas) survived.
In 1876 Leo Frankel, who had been Commissioner of Labour in the Paris commune
and a member of the General Council of the First International, returned home to
Hungary, and on his initiative a conference held on April 2lst-22nd., 1878
re-established a political organisation claiming to represent the interests of
the working class - the Non-Voters' Party (the only name which the authorities
At a conference on May 16-17th., 1880 the General workers' Sickness and
Disablement Fund merged with the Non-Voters' Party to form the General Workers'
Party of Hungary (GWP). Although this party did not break completely with the
influence of Lassalle, its programme was couched in the language of Marxism and
aimed at public ownership of the means of production.
In 1881 Frankl was arrested on charges of 'criminal libel' in the party's press
and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. On his release he left the
country, and the leadership of the General Workers' Party shifted into the hands
of the more openly right-wing officials of the sick fund.
In 1889. the General Workers' Party of Hungary took part in the foundation
congress of the Second International.
A conference of the GWP in the autumn of 1889 elected Pal Engelmann to the
leadership, and on his initiative the party began to lay greater stress on
socialist agitation. In 1890, for the first time in Hungary, 60,000 workers
celebrated May Day.
At a congress on December 7th., 1890 the General Workers' Party of Hungary was
renamed the Social Democratic Party of Hungary (SDP), and the congress became
the First Congress of the SDP. The congress adopted a "Declaration of Principle"
designating as the ultimate aim of the party the public ownership of the means
of production, but without specifying how this was to be brought about, and as
more immediate aims universal suffrage and "parliamentary democracy". It made,
however, no mention of land reform.
In the summer of 1891 violent clashes took place in the rural south-east of
Hungary (the "Stormy Corner") between the gendarmerie and agricultural workers
demonstrating for higher wages and better working conditions. Following this, at
the Second Congress of the SDP at the end of 1892, the right-wing officials of
the sick fund, who repudiated class struggle, succeeded in expelling the
"left-wing", headed by Engelmann, from the party.
At the Third (Unification) Congress of the SDP, on May 13th. 1894, the
"left-wing" was readmitted to the party, and one of its representatives, Ignac
Silberberg, became party leader. This congress adopted, for the first time, an
agrarian programme; this, however, declared that the working class had no
interest in "preserving the peasantry" and put forward a policy of
nationalisation of the large estates without redistribution.
This policy towards the peasantry was continued into the 20th century. An
article on "Peasant Politics" published in "Nepszava" (The People's Voice) in
July 1907 declared:
"'The peasantry is reactionary in the true sense of the word. . . . This ...
makes it impossible to enter into even temporary alliances with the peasantry".
("Peasant Politics"; in: "Nepszava" (The People's Voice), July 26th., 1907, in:
R.L. Tokes: "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic"; New York; 1967; p. 6).
On April 22nd., 1894, following the arrest of Janos Szanto Kovacs, who had been
organising agricultural workers at Hodmezovasarhely in the Great Plain, the
local population stormed the town hall and engaged police and the army in heavy
fighting. The government declared a state of emergency and banned all
"socialist" meetings, while Szanto Kovacs and the Hodmezdvasarhely "rebels" were
sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
At the end of 1895, however, the right-wing faction had been successful in
removing the "left-wing" faction, headed by Silberberg, from the leadership.
In the summer of 1897 large-scale harvest strikes broke out among agricultural
labourers in 14 counties. The movement found enthusiastic support within the
leadership of the SDP in the person of Istvan Varkonyi, who had himself been an
agricultural labourer and who had commenced publication in the summer of 1896,
mainly from his own resources, of the newspaper "'Foldmivelo" (The Agricultural
Labourer). The leadership of the SDP repudiated class struggle in the
countryside, as in the towns, and officially dissociated the party from Varkonyi
and his paper. As a result, on the initiative of Varkonyi, a congress was held
at Cegled on September 8th., 1897 which formed a new party, the Independent
Socialist Party (ISP) which adopted a correct agrarian policy of demanding, not
only better conditions for agricultural workers, but the nationalisation of
church lands and of all estates over 60 hectares - these to be redistributed in
plots of 5 hectares at a low rent. The influence of the ISP spread rapidly in
the rural areas of Hungary, and in 1898 the government arrested Varkonyi, banned
"Foldmivelo" and savagely repressed the movement for the land reform. At the
same time the government declared trade unions under militant leadership (about
one-third of the total) illegal, and even banned the congress of the SDP from
being held. In 1898 also the government adopted the so-called "Slave Act", which
compelled every farm worker to enter into a written contract with his employer,
the breaking of which constituted a criminal offence, and which prescribed
severe penalties for organising agricultural workers or engaging in strikes.
Until 1899 trade unions were local organisations only, but in this year the
first Trade Union Congress was held - following which the first countrywide
trade unions were organised. By 1904 the number of trade unionists had risen to
more than 50,000, five times the number in 1899. Almost all the trade unions
were closely associated with the Social Democratic Party.
On March 25th., 1906 the Independent Socialist Peasant Party was formed under
the leadership of Andras Achim. It published "Paraszt Ujsag" (The Peasant
Journal) and called for land reform, universal suffrage, progressive taxation
and measures to protect small farmers and agricultural workers. Although Achim
endeavoured to build an alliance between the poor and middle peasantry on the
one hand and the industrial workers on the other, this was fiercely resisted by
the leadership of the SDP. In May 1911 Achim was shot down by the sons of a
landowner, and his party fell to pieces.
Meanwhile in 1909 the landlord class made a rival attempt to win the middle
peasantry to its side by the formation of the National Independence and '48
Farmers' Party (known as the "Smallholders' Party"), led by Istvan Nagyatadi
Szabo, but this did not become a serious political force until after the
destruction of the "Soviet" Republic in August 1916.
Also In 1909 the Hungarian national capitalist class launched, at the University
of Budapest, the Galileo Circle as a centre for progressive young intellectuals
from the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie.
On May 23rd., 1912 the SDP launched a general strike and demonstration in
Budapest in protest at the appointment of the arch-reactionary Count Istvan
Tisza as Speaker of the House (an appointment made to try to force through the
Army Bill against parliamentary opposition). The demonstration was attacked by
mounted police and unit of the army, and pitched battles were fought for most of
the day, which became known as "Bloody Thursday".
On July 28th., 1914, Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and within the next
few days the war developed into the First World War, with Austro-Hungary and
Germany at war with Britain, France and Russia.
The Social-Democratic Party gave full support to the war "against tsarist
barbarism", and in February 1918 Jakab Weltner, the editor of the party's
newspaper "Nepszava" (The People's Voice) was able to boast that it was one of
the few parties of the Second International in which no left-wing group of
opposition to the war broke away .
"Jakab Weltner, editor of the party paper "Nepszava", could boast in February
1918 that the Hungarian party was among the few which did not split during the
(P. Kenez: "Coalition Politics In the Hungarian Soviet Republic", In: A.C. Jane
and W.B. Slottman (Eds.): "Revolution In Perspective"; Berkeley; 1971; p. 65).
On November 21st., 1916 the Emperor Franz Josef died, and was succeeded by his
nephew as Karl I (Karl IV of Hungary).
On November 25th., 1917 several hundred thousand people attended a mass meeting
in the Hall of Industry in Budapest called to express support for the socialist
revolution in Russia. The meeting adopted a resolution calling for a general
strike against the war and for the formation of Workers' Councils along the
lines of the Soviets formed in Russia.
The first such Workers' Council was set up on December 26th., 1917.
Until 1919, the franchise was limited by property and sex qualifications to 6%
of the adult male population, so that the Hungarian National Assembly was
dominated by political representatives of the landlord, comprador capitalist and
national capitalIst classes:
"In 1918 ... the National Assembly had 413 members. .. 267 of these 413 members
were big landowners. The workers in industry and agriculture and the
smallholders did not have a single representative".
(M.Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of Matyas
Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 116).
The Hungarian national capitalist class was represented in the National Assembly
by deputies from the Independence and '48 Party, formed In July 1916 under the
leadership of Mihaly Karolyi, and from the National Bourgeois Radical Party,
formed in June 1914 under the leadership of Oszkar Jaszi.
The other party representing the interests of the national capitalist class, the
Social Democratic Party, did not have a single member in the National Assembly,
or in any local council.
PART TWO THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE NATIONAL-DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION (January -
The January General Strike
On January 18th., 1918 a large-scale political strike broke out in Vienna in
protest at the harsh demands being made by the Central Powers against Soviet
Russia in the peace talks at Brest-Litovsk. Budapest workers joined the strike,
which for three days spread through most of the industrial centres in Hungary,
involving more than half a million workers.
The government reacted to the strike by placing returned prisoners-of-war from
Russia in quarantine for screening, by banning the Galileo Circle, by arresting
labour leaders who had expressed sympathy with Soviet Russia, and by creating a
special security headquarters to combat "subversion".
The Development of the National Movements
By the spring of 1915 the national movements of the oppressed part-nations
within Hungary were demanding a radical redrawing of the frontiers of
South-Eastern Europe along ethnic lines. The Allied powers gave support to many
of these national movements with the aim of further weakening the
The Social Democratic Parties in both Austria and Hungary denounced the demands
of the national movements in the name of preserving the territorial integrity of
The June General StrIke
From the middle of 1918 Hungary became increasingly short of food fuel and raw
materials. The real wages of the workers had sunk to 53% of the pre-war level,
that of day labourers to 46%, that of office workers to 35%.
On June 20th. the Military Commandant in Budapest ordered workers demonstrating
at the MAVAG works in support of demands for the resignation of the government
to be fired upon. Within a few hours all factories in the capital had stopped
work in protest, and the workers of the provincial towns followed suit the next
day. The general strike lasted nine days and involved half a million workers,
who demonstrated, despite martial law, for an end to the war and the resignation
of the government.
The Disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Army
By 1918 the Austro-Hungarian Army was gradually disintegrating. In February a
mutiny broke out in the Cattaro fleet. By the summer the number of deserters
exceeded a hundred thousand. On May 20th. mutinous soldiers at Pecs occupied the
barracks and raIlway station, and were disarmed only after a long and bitter
On September 30th., 1918, Bulgaria surrendered to the Allied Powers, and the
enfeebled Austro-Hungarian army was compelled to try to fill the gaping hole in
the southern front.
The Extraordinary Congress of the SDP
In mid-October 1918 an Extraordinary Congress of the Social Democratic Party of
Hungary adopted a resolution calling for the formation of a "People's
Government" in Hungary.
The Proclamation of Federal Union
In an effort to save the Empire from dissolution, on October 16th., 1918 Emperor
Karl proclaimed its transformation into a Federal Union of four states - German,
Czech, South Slav and Ukrainian. 'The lands of the Hungarian Crown" were,
however, to be outside this federal arrangement and to be governed as at
present. The Polish inhabitants of the Empire would be permitted to join the new
state of Poland, whose independence had been proclaimed on October 7th.
Within the next two weeks National Councils were forced by the peoples of most
of the oppressed nations and part-nations within the Empire.
The Resignation of the Wekerle Government
As it became clear that the military position of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was
hopeless, on October 25rd., 1915 the Hungarian Government, headed by Sandor
The Formation of the Hungarian National Council
On October 25th., 1918, on the Initiative of Count Mihaly Karolyi, the leader of
the Independence and '48 Party, a Hungarian National Council was formed in
Budapest, composed of representatives of his own party, the National Bourgeois
Radical Party, and the Social Democratic Party.
The Battle of the Chain Bridge
On October 28th., 1918 a large crowd marched to Castle Hill in Buda in a
demonstration calling for the appointment of a Government headed by Count Mihaly
Karolyi. At the Chain Bridge police fired on the demonstration, killing 3 people
and wounding 55.
The Formation of the Hadik Government.
On October 29th., 1918, in defiance of popular demands, the Emperor appointed a
political representative of the landlords, Count Janos Hedik, as Prime Minister
of Hungary. His government lasted barely two days.
The Request for an Armistice.
On October 29th., 1918 the Austro-Hungarian Government requested the Allied
Powers for an armistice (which was signed in Padua on November 3rd.).
During the war Hungary had mobilised 3.6 million men (17% of the population),
and had lost 0.7 million killed, with 0.7 million wounded and million taken
The Dissolution of the Empire
By this time the Austro-Hungarian Empire had no real existence.
On October 21st., 1918 the 210 German members of the Imperial Parliament had
formed themselves into a National Assembly of German Austria, and proclaimed
this an independent state on October 30th.
On October 27th, 1918, the Romanian National Council in Bukovina announced its
secession from Austro-Hungary in order to join Romania.
On October 28th. the Czech National Council, and on October 30th. the Slovak
National Council proclaimed the establishment of an independent state of
On October 29th., 1918 the parliament of Croatia voted to secede from
Austro-Hungary in order to join the new state of Yugoslavia, which was
proclaimed on the same day.
On October lst.; 1918 the Ukrainian National Council in Galicia announced its
secession from Austro-Hungary in order to join the Ukraine then under the
The National-Democratic revolution in Hungary
On October 30th., 1918 crowds of soldiers and workers demonstrated in front of
the headquarters in Budapest of the Hungarian National Council. By this time the
Austro-Hungarian state authority had virtually collapsed, and at dawn on October
31st. they occupied, without resistance, the headquarters of the military
Commandant of Budapest and the principal public buildings throughout the
The Hungarian national-democratic revolution had been accomplished.
PART THREE : THE KAROLYI REGIME
(October 1918 - March 1919)
The Formation of the Karolyi Government
On October 3lst, 1919 the victory of the national-democratic revolution was
celebrated in Budapest with the wearing of michaelmas daisies. The government
headed by Count Janos Hadik resigned, the revolutionary soldiers arrested the
milItary commandant of Budapest and the king called on Count Mihaly Karolyi
(leader of the Independence and '48 Party) to form a government.
Karolyi formed his government later the same day, with ministers drawn from his
own party, the National Bourgeois Radical Party and the Social Democratic Party.
In its programme, the government promised to enact legislation formalising
independence, introducing universal suffrage and the secret ballot, civil
rights, social reform and land reform.
The Formation of the Budapest Central Workers' Council
On November 1st. the peasants began to drive out the local government officials
and to disarm the gendarmerie. In the towns the workers had already begun to
form Councils modelled on the Soviets set up in Russia, and the soldiers in the
army quickly followed suit. From meetings and demonstrations all over the
country, demands for the immediate organisation of a republic began to flow in
to the government.
On November 2nd., in an effort to canalise this spontaneous movement into legal
channels, the leaders of the Social Democratic Party formed the Budapest Central
Workers' Council, under the control of right-wing social-democrats. This body,
jointly with the government, immediately called upon the population to observe
"law and order", to wait for the government's decrees, and to surrender all
arms; it began to organise a National Guard for the preservation of "order".
On November 3rd. representatives of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy signed an
armistice with representatives of the Allied Powers in Padua. This contained no
provisions as to the frontiers of Hungary, and the Allied army in the Balkans
continued to advance. A government delegation led by Karolyi therefore began
negotiations in Belgrade with General Franchet d'Esperey, the Allied
Commander-in-Chief in the Balkans, and a separate armistice was signed here on
November 13th. The demarcation line laid down in this armistice agreement ran
deep into the former territory of Hungary in the south and east, but did not
affect Slovakia in the north.
The Karolyi government officially condemned the repressive policy adopted by the
Dual Monarchy to the national minorities in the territory of Hungary. At the
same time, in the interests of the capitalist class which it represented, it was
keenly anxious to maintain the territorial integrity of the old Hungary, and for
this reason rejected the granting of the right of secession to the national
On November 13th., 1918 the Minister for Nationalities, Oszkar Jaszi, began
negotiations with the various National Councils within Hungary in an effort to
persuade them to accept measures of limited political and cultural autonomy
within the Hungarian state. This programme was, however, unacceptable to the
The Proclamation of the People's Republic
On November 16th., 1918 the National Council passed a "People's Decree", which
was ratified by a mass meeting of 300,000 people in front of Parliament. It
"Hungary is a People's Republic, sovereign and independent from any other
(National Council: People's Decree, Nov. 16th., 1918, in: J. Kende, L. Gecsenyi
and A. Steinbach: "Revolution in Hungary: 1918 and 1919"; London; 1968; p. 12).
The decree went on to bind the government to enact laws on the following
"(a) the universal, secret, equal and direct right of all, including women, to
vote in the election of parliament, municipal and rural district councils;
(b) freedom of the press;
(c) people's jurors;
(d) the right of assembly and to hold meetings;
(e) the allocation of land to those who tilled it;
and procedure for the immediate implementation of these laws".
(Ibid.; p. 12).
The Foundation of the Communist Party
On March 24th., 1918 a group of released Hungarian prisoners-of-war in Russia,
headed by Bela Kun, had formed the Hungarian Federation of the Russian Communist
Party, which proceeded to carry on propaganda work among Hungarian
prisoners-of-war still interned in the Soviet Republic. It also
ran two schools - in Moscow and Omsk - in which, by November 1918, some 500
cadres had been trained as cadres for the future Communist Party of Hungary.
Bela Kun was born on February 20th., 1886 in the village of Lele, in Szilagy
county in Transylvania. He joined the Social Democratic Party in 1902 at the age
In the autumn of 1904 he enrolled in the Koloszvar Law Academy, at the same time
taking a part-time post with the local Workers' Insurance Fund and writing
articles for the radical newspaper "Or" (Guardian).
In 1905 he moved to Nagyvarad to join the staff of another radical newspaper
"Szabadsag" (Liberty), and in February 1907 moved once more, this time to the
capital to become a staff member of the influential "Budapest Naplo" (Budapest
In 1915 he married Iren Gal.
On the outbreak of war in 1914, he was conscripted into the army, and in January
1915, sent to the Russian front. In early 1916 he was taken prisoner, and
interned near Tomsk in Siberia..
In the spring of 1917 Kun wrote to the Tomsk City Council, which was controlled
by the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, and persuaded it to allow himself
and a number of other prisoners who were members of the SDP to live outside the
On April 23rd., 1917 he wrote to the Tomsk branch of the RSDLP offering his
services to "the socialist cause". At the end of the month he was admitted to
the branch, becoming a member of its executive Committee.
In early December 1917, following the socialist revolution in Russia, he went to
Petrograd at the invitation of the Central Committee of the RCP. Here he met
Lenin and joined the staff of the Propaganda Department of the People's
Commissariat for Foreign Affairs - becoming editor of its Hungarian-language
newspaper "Jemzetkosi Szocialista" (International Socialist) and later editor of
its German-language newspaper "Fackel" (the Torch).
He attached himself to the "Left Communist" faction within the party, headed by
On February 25rd., 1918 the Propaganda Department of the PC of Foreign Affairs
was wound up in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
On March 24th., 1918 he became Chairman of the Hungarian Federation of the RCP,
and in April also Chairman of the Confederation of Foreign Communist Groups of
On November 4th., 1918, when the news of the national-democratic revolution in
Hungary had reached the Soviet Republic, the Hungarian Federation of the RCP
convened a conference in Moscow, which resolved that members should return home
forthwith and proceed there as soon as possible to found a Communist Party.
Bela Kun and other leading members of the Federation arrived in Budapest on
- Matyas Rakosi had already returned in May - and others followed during the
next few days.
On November 24th., 1918 the returned members of the Hungarian Federation of the
RCP, together with some left-wing elements who had now broken away from the SDP
and the anarcho-syndicalist Revolutionary Socialists (established in the autumn
of 1917), held the Foundation Congress of the Communist Party of Hungary, under
the chairmanship of Karolyi Vantus.
The Temporary Constitution of the party, adopted by the congress, contained the
"leftist" provision that:
"Only manual labourers and landless peasants are eligible for party membership".
(Temporary Constitution, CPH, in. R.L. Tokes: "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet
Republic"); New York; 1967; p. 102).
The congress elected a committee of 13 members, headed by Bela Kun as Chairman,
and an Alternate Central Committee, headed by Tibor Szamuely as Chairman, to
function in case the open CC was unable to function. The latter, in fact, took
over the leadership of the party during the imprisonment of members of the open
CC, from February 21st; to March 21st; 1919.
The principal points of the party's programme adopted at its Foundation
(1) an end to class collaboration with the capitalist class;
(2) exposure of the right-wing leadership of the Social Democratic Party;
(3) effective means to combat unemployment;
(4) assistance for demoblilised soldiers and the disabled, to be paid out of war
(5) the immediate introduction of "workers' control" in the factories;
(6) nationalisation of the large estates and their conversion into large-scale
state or cooperative farms;
(7) the replacement of the foreign policy based on seeking the favour of the
Allied Powers by one based on alliance with Soviet Russia;
(8) extension of the role of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Councils;
and (9) ultimately, the seizure of political power by these Councils and the
construction of socialism.
On December 7th., 1919 the party began publication of the newspaper "Voros
Ujsag" (Red Journal), and in January, 1919 of a monthly theoretical journal
Although the party conducted agitation in the factories, in the first months of
its existence it had little success in winning the support of the organised
workers who, by and large, remained loyal to the social democratic Party. It
did, however, win wide support among the unemployed, who were neglected by the
Nevertheless, a mass meeting organised by the party in Budapest in the second
half of December 1918 endorsed the slogan "All Power to the Workers' Councils!",
and this slogan was adopted in the next few weeks by a number of such councils.
The Formation of the Hungarian National Defence Force Association
On November 30th., 1918 a fascist-type counter-revolutionary organisation
representing the interests of the landlord class was formed - the Hungarian
National Defence Force Association (Magyar Orszagos Vedero Egyesulet )(MOVE),
under the leadership of Gyula Gombos.
The Revision of the Armistice Agreement
In December 1918 the Allied Powers unilaterally amended the armistice agreement
signed with the Hungarian government in Belgrade on November 13th. This
amendment permitted the Czechoslovak and Romanian armed forces to cross the
demarcation line laid down in the armistice agreement into Slovakia and
In December 1918 and January 1919 the Karolyi government adopted:
(1) An electoral Law granting the vote to all men over the age of 21 with 6
years' Hungarian citizenship, and to women on a more restricted franchise, and
providing for elections to be held by secret ballot;
(2) A law providing for "freedom of speech, of the press and of assembly";
(3) A law dismissing the Lords Lieutenant of the old regime, and replacing them
with government appointed Commissioners;
(4) a law establishing an 8-hour working day;
(5) a law establishing an "autonomous region" for the Ruthenian people living in
(6) a "Law for the Defence of the Republic", giving the government power to
intern persons "in the interests of the security of the state".
The January Strike and Occupation
On January 2nd., 1919 a strike broke out at one of the largest coal mines in the
country, at Salgotarjan, and the miners proceeded to occupy the pits, the local
administration buildings and the railway station. The government crushed the
action by armed force, and executed 10 strike leaders on January 10th.
Over the next few days, however, a number of factories in the capital and in
provincial towns were taken over by Workers' Councils, who evicted the managers
and proceeded to run the enterprises themselves.
The Election of the President
On January 11lth, 1919 the National Council elected Mihaly Karolyi President of
The Coollidge Mission
On January 15th., 1919 a mission from the Allied Powers, led by US historian
Archibald Coolidge, arrived in Budapest. The government sought to convince the
mission of the importance of granting economic "aid" to Hungary - through the
American Relief Administration directed by Herbert Hoover - in order to
strengthen the position of the bourgeois democratic regime and avert the
"threat" of the "spread of Bolshevism".
The mission did, in fact, make such recommendations, but they were not acted
The Formation of the Berinkey Government.
On January 18th., 1919 President Karolyi appointed Denes Berinkey, a lawyer who
had been Minister of Justice in the Karolyi government, Prime Minister. He
formed a new coalition government, with four Ministers (of Education, Public
Welfare, Trade, and Defence) drawn from the Social Democratic Party.
The Offensive against the Communist Party
A few days after the Coolidge mission had left Hungary - leaving behind one of
its members, Philip Brown, in Budapest - the head of the British Military
Mission in Vienna, Colonel Sir Thomas Cunninghame, had talks with the Hungarian
government, informing it that Allied economic "aid" would be dependent upon "a
reduction of Communist influence" in Hungary.
Accordingly, on January 28th. 1919, the Budapest Central Workers Council, under
the leadership of right-wing members of the Social-Democratic Party, expelled
members of the Communist Party from its membership and from that of the trade
unions, in the interests of 'safeguarding democracy".
A few days later, on the orders of the Minister of the Interior, police raided
the premises of the Communist Party and of its' newspaper "Voros Usjag" (ed
Journal), destroying the latter's printing press.
The Land Reform Law
On February 16th., 1919 the government enacted its Land Reform Law. It provided
that all estate land in excess of 700 acres (in certain instances, over 300
acres) was to be acquired by the state, with compensation payable to the
landholders concerned. This nationalised land was then to be leased or
sold either individually or cooperatively.
On March 23rd., 1919 President Mihaly Karolyi distributed surplus land from his
own vast estates at Kalkapolna in accordance with the provisions of the law.
The law failed to satisfy the expectation of the land-hungry poor peasantry. Not
only did they consider the limits set on the size of estates to be unreasonably
high, but they found that the process of distribution was surrounded with so
much bureaucratic red tape - of which the civil servants, who were mostly
unsympathetic to the land reform, took full advantage - that very little land
was distributed during the lifetime of the Karolyi regime.
The impatient peasants at first deluged the government with demands that the
land reform should be speeded up, but soon they began arbitrarily to occupy the
large estates, redistributing the occupied land either among individual peasant
families or - in so far as they were under the influence of the SDP (which
opposed individual redistribution) - to peasant cooperatives.
The Unemployed Demonstration
The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had a serious effect on the
economy of Hungary, already disastrously weakened by four years of war. This,
together with the occupation of the southern, south-eastern and northern areas
of Hungary's former territory, further fragmented the economic unit which had
until then functioned as an economic whole. Serious shortages of fuel and raw
materials brought the majority of the factories to a standstill.
As a result of this economic situation, by the beginning of 1919 unemployment in
the towns had assumed massive proportions, the ranks of the unemployed being
swelled by over a million demobilised soldiers and refugees from the occupied
On February 20th., 1919 a mass demonstration of unemployed took place outside
the offices of the Social Democratic Party's daily newspaper "Nepszava" (The
People's Voice) in Budapest. The demonstrators clashed with police, a number of
them being injured and several policemen fatally injured.
The Arrest of the Communist Party Leaders
For some weeks the Social Democratic Party Ministers in the government had been
resisting recommendations from the Minister of the Interior and the Commissioner
of Police that the leaders of the Communist Party should be arrested. The
violence of February 20th. gave them the pretext to change their position, and
on February 21st. 68 leading members of the Communist Party were arrested. They
were, however, treated as political prisoners, enabling them to receive visitors
and to continue a degree of leadership of the party from prison.
The Formation of the Directories
In March 1919 arbitrary occupation of the large estates took on country-wide
In numerous places, both in the towns and in the countryside, the Workers and
Peasants' Councils refused to allow the government-appointed Commissioners to
take up their posts, and seated their own local administrations - called
The Allied Ultimatum
On February 26th., 1919 the Peace Conference in Versailles decided to set up a
"neutral zone"' in Hungary, outside the jurisdiction of the Hungarian government
and to be occupied by Allied forces, in the south-eastern part of the country.
The purpose of this move was to establish a secure buffer zone between Romanian
and Hungarian armed forces, in order that the former could be used in the war of
intervention against the Soviet Republic without any danger of their being
attacked by the latter.
The Allied demand was handed to President Karolyi on March 20th., 1919 by the
representative of the Allied Power in Budapest, the French Lieutenant-Colonel
Vix, in the form of a Note.
Vix made it clear to the Hungarian government that the demarcation line of the
"neutral zone" would be the new frontier of Hungary;
"Vix added the verbal comment that the new line was not to be regarded as merely
an armistice line, but as a definite political frontier"'.
(0. Jaszi: "Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary" New York; 19699; p.
and that if the government did not accept the Ultimatum by 6.00 pm, the
following day (March 21st.), the Allied Powers would reopen hostilities against
"If by six o'clock on the evening of the next day (March 21st.) an unconditional
affirmative reply had not been received,.. the Entente threatened us with the
renewal of a state of war".
(M.Karolyi: Statement to Cabinet, March 20th., 1919, in: 0. Jaszi: ibid., p.
The Resignation of the Berinkey Government
Since the "neutral zone" included areas inhabited entirely by Magyars, the
government considered it impossible to accept the ultimatum. On the other hand,
it considered that the armed forces at its disposal were totally insufficient to
enable it to reject the ultimatum. It therefore resigned on the day the
ultimatum was received, March 20th., 1919.
The Merger of the CP and the SDP
On the afternoon of March 21st., 1911, a delegation of leaders of the Social
Democratic Party, headed by Jakab Weltner, visited the leaders of the Communist
Party in prison and informed them that they would be released forthwith from
prison if they agreed:
Firstly, that the CP should immediately "merge" with the SDP into a single
secondly, that the new party should immediately proclaim a "Soviet Republic" and
take over governmental power.
The imprisoned Communist Party leaders agreed to these proposals, and were
immediately released from prison.
On the following day, March 21st., 1919., the leadership of the two parties met
and formally agreed - without either party attempting to hold a congress which
would normally decide such an issue of principle- - to "merge" the two parties
into the Socialist Party of Hungary.
"The Hungarian Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Hungary held a
joint meeting of the Executive Committees and resolved the complete merger of
the two parties.
The united Party's name, pending the revolutionary International's decision on
the party's final name, shall be the 'Hungarian Socialist Party'. . . .
The two parties will jointly participate in the leadership of the new party".
(Executive Committees, HSDP and CPH: Joint Statement, March 21st., 1919, in: J.
Weltner (Ed.): "Az Egyseg 0kmayni" (The Documents of Unity); Budapest; 1919; p.
A few members of the right-wing of the SDP refused to participate in the
"A part of the right leadership (of the SDP- Ed.) resigned".
(K. Hadek: "The Lessons of the Hungarian Revolution", in: "Die Internationale"
(The International), Volume 2, No. 21; February 25th, 1920; in: H. Gruber (Ed.):
"International Communism in the Era of Lenin"; New York; 1972; p. 141).
but this did not change the fundamental position:
The "merger" was not brought about, of course, because the leaders of the Social
Democratic Party had been miraculously converted overnight to the principles of
"Hungarian social democracy, belonging to the most politically corrupt creatures
of the Second International, was bankrupt.
Reality was the fact of the bankruptcy of social democracy, not its conversion
(K. Radek: ibid.; p. 141, 142).
"The Hungarian Social Democratic Party is the most spineless of the parties
belonging to the Second International".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, July 1926, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 39).
"Up to the last moment, the Karolyi Government, and with it the Social
Democrats, were hostile to us".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935, in: ibid.; p. 177).
The real character of the "merger" is evidenced by the relative sizes of the two
parties participating in it.
Because of the peculiar method of organisation of the Social Democratic Party,
by which every member of a trade union automatically became a member of the
party, its total membership in the spring of 1919 was approximately 700,000,
organised in thousands of branches:
"The members of the trade unions were at the same time members of the Social
Democratic Party, and the number of organised workers in Hungary reached 700,000
by the end of 1918".
(Z. Nagy: "The 1918 October Revolution: 50 years after", in "The Hungarian
Quarterly", Volume 9; No.31; Autumn 1968, p. 7).
"The Social-Democratic party had been an organisation of trade unions where
membership in a union automatically meant membership in the party".
(P. Kenez: "Coalition Politics in The Hungarian Soviet Republic", in: A.C. Janos
and W.B.Slottman - Ed.); "Revolution in Perspective", Berkeley; 1971; p. 64-5).
"The Social Democratic Party already counted 700,000 members. . The Social
Democrats formed an intact party, possessing thousands of branches".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
;Matyas Rakosi"; London; 19545 p. 143).
The total membership of the Communist Party, formed less than four months
earlier, was, of course, only a small fraction of this. Jeno Varga speaks of the
party in the spring of 1919 as having:
"very few members".
(J. Varga: "Vengriya" (Hungary), in: Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya" ;
(Great Soviet Encylopaedia), Volume 10; Moscow 1928; p. 85).
Vilmos Bohm estimates the membership of the Communist Party at this time as:
"about 1,000" ;
(V. Bohm, cited by: M.Karolyi: "Memoirs: Faith Without Illusion"; London; 1956;
and Oskar Jaszi at:
(O.Jaszi: 'Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary"; 1967; p. 118).
Even on the basis of Jaszi's higher estimate, therefore, the total membership of
the Communist Party in the spring of 1919 was no more than O.7% of that of the
Social Democratic Party.
The "merger" between the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party was
thus the liquidation of the party of the working class, and the virtual
submersion of its members in the Social Democratic Party.
On the side of the Communist Party the merger was accepted by a majority of the
leadership who accepted a Luxemburgist underestimation of the role of the party
in the socialist revolution:
" The ease with which they (the Communists - Sd.) sacrificed their organisation
followed from the Hungarian Communists' concept of the Party, which was more
Luxemburgist than Leninist. ... It would be anachronistic to think of the
Hungarian Party at that time as a Bolshevist organisation. Bela Kun had little
understanding of Leninist ideology and the theoreticians had not yet freed
themselves from their Western European ... Socialist background.. .
Gyorgy Lukacs who. . was considered to be on the right wing of the party, and
Laszlo Rudas, who was a leader of the left wing, agreed with Luxemburg's ideas
of spontaneity. . . Footnoting Luxemburg's "Mass Strike" he (Rudas - Ed.) wrote
that parties played only secondary roles in revolutions".
(P. Kenez: ibid.; p. 70-1).
The "merger" was, however, opposed by a number of leading members of the
Communist Party, notably by Bela Ozanto, Tibor Szamuely, Matyas Rakosi, Jeno
Laszlo and Laszlo Rudas, who were denounced on account of their opposition, by
Bela Kun and those supporting the "merger" as "leftists":
"Quite a few among us could already at that time anticipate the fateful
significance of this merger. Most comrades, including Comrade Bela Kun, called
us either overly cautious or overly radical. But the course of events revealed
in ghastly lucidity how right I had been in my objections to this merger";
(B. Szanto: 'The Real Reason for the Collapse of the Hungarian Soviet Republic',
in: "Die Internationale" (The International), Volume 1, No. 15/16: November
1st., 1919; Helmut Gruber (Ed., "International Communism In the Era of Lenin"',
New York 1972; p. 133).
"The greatest error committed by the Hungarian workers revolution of 1919 ...
consisted of allowing the revolutionary party of the Hungarian workers, the
Communist Party, to be absorbed into the Social Democratic Party".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, July 1926, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 42).
The new party carried on the publication of the former SPD newspaper -
"Nepszava" (The People's Voice) - as its morning paper, and of the former SPD
newspaper "Voros Ujsac" (Red Journal) as its evening paper.
PART FOUR: " THE SOVIET REPUBLIC" (March - August 1919)
The Formation of the Revolutionary Governing Council
The "merger" agreement between the Executive Committees of the Social Democratic
and Communist Parties provided that the two former parties would "jointly
participate" in forming a government:
"The two parties will jointly participate in ... the government".
(ECs, HSDP and CPH: Joint Statement of March 21st., 1919, In: J. Weltner (Ed.):
"Az Egyseg Okmanyai" (The Documents of Unity); Budapest, 1919; p. 5-6).
and that the new party formed by the "merger" would immediately "assume complete
"The party, in the name of the proletariat, immediately assumes complete
On March 21st., 1919, therefore, the leaders the Hungarian Socialist Party
formed a new government, the revolutionary Governing Council, with Sandor Garbai
(a former leader of the SDP) as its President. The members of the government,
called People's Commissars, who headed the various departments of state, called
People's Commissariats, were, in fact, drawn entirely from the former SDP with
one exception: the former leader of the CPH, Bela Kun as - significantly, in
view of the real aim behind the formation of the RCG - People's Commissar of
"Bela Kun was the only Communist Commissar out of 12 in the government formed on
March 21st., 1919. . . .
The new government had an almost exclusively Socialist (i.e. social democratic -
Ed.) leadership. With the exception of Bela Kun; all commissars were Socialists.
The only commissariat headed by a Communist was that of foreign affairs".
(P. Kenez: "Coalition Politics In The Hungarian Soviet Republic", In A.C. Janos
and W.B. Slottman (Eds.): "Revolution In Perspective" Berkeley; 1971; p. 62, 68,
In order to maintain the appearance of a "socialist revolution", the new
government was not formally appointed by President Mihaly Karolyi. He simply
withdrew from the political scene.
The left-wing of the former Communist party, led by Tibor Szamuely, who had
opposed the dissolution of the party, also opposed the acceptance by the former
Communist party of less than 50% of the posts in the revolutionary Governing
"The greatest error committed by the Hungarian workers' revolution of 1919. .
consisted of. . . the fact that the important post in the revolutionary regime
were occupied by Social Democratic leaders who sabotaged and betrayed our
(M.Rakosi: "Statement at Trial, July 1926," In: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
M.Rakosi": London; 1954; p. 42).
Bela Kun, in fact, found himself at one with the former leaders of the SDP, in
preferring responsible posts to be occupied by members of the former SDP rather
than by members of the left-wing of the former CP, and in allocating the latter
only minor positions:
"With the cooperation of Landler, Garbai and Bohm, Kun gradually excluded the
leftists from sensitive positions in the Revolutionary Governing Council, ..
exiling the leftists to the peripheries of power".
(K.L. Tokes: "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic", New York; 1967; p.
The "merger" agreement between the SD? and the C? had declared, rather vaguely,
that it would be the aim of the new party:
"... to completely disarm the bourgeoisie".
(ECs, HSDP and CPH: Joint Statement of March 21st., 1919, in: J. Weltner (Ed):
"Az Egyseg Okmanyai" (The Documents of Unity); Budapest; 1919; p. 5-6).
But the Revolutionary Governing Council made no attempt to remove from their
posts in the state apparatus (the civil service, the armed forces, the police,
the gendarmeries, etc.) the existing officials and officers:
"No one was removed from his position, although the agreement had stipulated the
disarmament of the bourgeoisie" .
(M.Rakosi: Statement at Trial; 1954; in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of Matyas
Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 145).
The Proclamation of the "Soviet Republic"
The first act of the new government, on March 21st., 1919, was to proclaim the
establishment of the Hungarian "Soviet Republic'".
On the night of March 2lst./22nd., 1919 the Revolutionary Governing Council
proclaimed martial law throughout the country. The administration of martial law
was placed in the hands of a special Political Department of the People's
Commissariat of Internal Affairs, headed by Otto Korvin, which proceeded to
establish a security police modelled formally on the lines of the Cheka in the
Russian Soviet Republic.
Although opponents of the regime put out much propaganda about the "savage"
nature of the "Red Terror" which existed under the "Soviet Republic", even
former President Mihaly Karolyi was compelled to admit that this was, in fact,
"The 'terror' was a mild one. . .. The courts-martial, composed of workers,
passed four death sentences in Budapest and twenty-four in the country" .
(Mihaly Karolyi: "Memoirs: Faith without Illusion"; London; 1956; p. 175).
The RGC's Appeal
The "merger" agreement between the SD? and the CP had stressed:
'In order to ensure the complete authority of the proletariat and to make a
stand against Entente imperialism, the fullest and closest military and
spiritual alliance must be concluded with the Russian Soviet government".
(ECs, HSDP and OPH: Joint Statement of March 21st., 1919, in: J.Weltner (Ed.):
"As Egyseg Okmanyai" (The Documents of Unity); Budapest; 1919; p. 5-6.
On March 22nd, 1919, the day after its formation, the Revolutionary Governing
Council issued an appeal, entitled "To All", emphasizing that the country's
difficulties could be solved only by a "socialist" government which would seek a
military alliance with Soviet Russia.
The Abolition of Titles and Ranks
On March 22nd., 1919 the RGC issued a decree abolishing titles and ranks.
Lenin's Misgivings about the "Soviet Republic"
On March 23rd., 1919 Lenin sent a radio message to Bela Kun on expressing
serious misgivings about the nature of the Hungarian "Soviet Republic":
"Please inform me what guarantees you have that the new Hungarian government
will actually be a communist, and not simply a socialist, government, i.e., one
Have the Communists a majority in the government? When will the Congress of
Soviets take place? What does the socialists' recognition of the dictatorship of
the proletariat really amount to?
I should like to know where you see real guarantees".
Vladimir.I.Lenin: Radio Message to Bela Kun, March 23rd 1919, in "Collected
Works"; Volume 29; Moscow; 1974; p.227..
Kun's reply gave a very misleading picture:
"The Hungarian Social Democratic Party centre and left wing accepted my
platform. This platform strictly adheres to the principles of proletarian
dictatorship and of the Soviet system. . .
The Socialist right wing - Erno Garami, ... Gyula Pedil... and (Mano - Ed)
Buchinger ... broke with the party without taking any followers with them. The
very best forces that ever existed in the Hungarian workers' movement now
participate in the government, which, since there are no real workers' and
peasants' soviets, holds the power. . .
My personal influence over the Revolutionary Governing Council is such that the
firm dictatorship of the proletariat will be exercised. Also, the masses are
(B. Kun: Radio Message to V.I. Lenin, March 26th., 1919, in: "Pravda" (Truth),
March 26th., 1919, in: R.L. Toke's: "Bela Kun and the Hungarian soviet
Republic"; New York; 1967,; p. 147-8).
It was on the basis of this communication from Kun that Lenin drew the incorrect
conclusion that the Hungarian "Soviet" regime was a genuine one:
"Comrade Bela Kun's reply was quite satisfactory and dispelled all our doubts.
It was only these Left Socialists, who sympathised with the Communists, and also
people from the Centre, who formed the new government, while the Right
Socialists, the traitor-socialists, ... left the Party and not a single worker
The bourgeoisie voluntarily surrendered power to the Communists of Hungary".
(V.I.Lenin: Communication on the Radio negotiations with Bela Ku, March 1919,
In: "Collected Works"; Volume 29; Moscow; 1974; p. 242, 243).
Bela Kun's Note to Versailles
On March 24th., 1919 the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Bela Kun
despatched a Note to the Peace Conference at Versailles on behalf of the RGC.
This emphasised the peaceful intentions of the Hungarian government towards all
states and asked the conference to send a diplomatic mission to Budapest to open
The Closure of Retail Shops
On March 24th., 1919 the People's Vice-Commissar for Socialisation, Gyula
Hevesi, issued the most absurd decree of the "Soviet Republic's brief existence,
all retail shops, with the exception of food shops, tobacconists and pharmacies,
were ordered to close, and the death penalty prescribed for any retail
commercial transactions outside these exempted fields.
The decree caused such chaos that it was sensibly repealed on the following day.
The Separation of Church and State
On March 25th., 1919 the RGC issued a decree separating the Church from the
state, and formally guaranteeing freedom of religious worship.
The latter section of the decree was partly nullified in practice by the fact
that the RGC gave its encouragement to an "anti-religious campaign, directed by
a defrocked priest Oszkar Faber, which involved the desecration of churches and
the insulting of priests.
The Formation of the Red Army
The "merger" agreement between the SDP and the CF declared:
"The class army of the proletariat must be created immediately".
(ECs of HSDP and OPH: Joint Statement of March 21st., 1919, in: J. Weltner
(Ed.): "Az Egyseg Okmanyai" (The Documents of Unity); Budapest; 1919; p. 5-6).
On March 25th., 1919 the RGC issued a decree reorganising the existing army into
the Red Army. All officers and men who were willing to continue to serve were
permitted to do so, and since almost all the officers were drawn from the
landlord class, they felt no loyalty to the "Soviet Republic".
"The Red Army, without the slightest formality, had admitted the officers of the
old army into its ranks, and so the officers and their political opinions had
remained the same as before".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1955, in "The Imprisonment and Defence of Matyas
Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 155-4).
In an effort to check this position, Political Commissars are attached to all
units with the aim of maintaining the "loyalty" of these officers. But, as will
be discussed in the later section entitled "The Council Elections", these
Political Commissars themselves were neither politically reliable nor competent.
As a result the officer corps of the Red Army consistently betrayed the
interests of the "Soviet Republic".
"In substance, the centre organism of the Red Army was counter-revolutionary.
... Every time the Red Army sustained a reverse the ventral organism spoke of it
as a change for the better."
(M.Rakosi "The Imprisonment and Defence of Matyas Rakosi"; London 1954; p.154.).
The decree also established workers' battalions and regiments, to be based on
each factory and to undergo training after work with arms stored in the factory,
to function as a reserve for the Red Army.
The Establishment of Revolutionary Tribunals
On March 25th., 1919 the ROC issued a decree abolishing the existing courts and
replacing them by revolutionary trIbunals. These included, in addition to
trained lawyers, lay assessors drawn from the working class.
The Establishment of the Red Guard
On March 26th., 1919, the government issued a decree merging the police and the
gendarmerie into a single force, called the Red Guard, but without any
significant change of personnel.
The Nationalisation of Banks, Insurance Companies and the larger Industrial
On March 26th. 1919 the RGC, issued a decree nationalising all banks, Insurance
companies, together with all industrial mining and transport enterprises
employing more than 20 workers. Some 100,000 workers were employed in these
Production Commissars were appointed by the government to direct each
nationalised enterprise, and workers' councils were to be elected in each to
"assist" the Production Commissar.
The decree also froze bank deposits, placing restrictions on the amount of
The nationalisation of industrial enterprises was, however, premature. Neither
the Production Commissars appointed by the state, nor the workers councils had
the necessary experience of industrial management, and the decree was followed
by a sharp fall in industrial production:
"In general the productivity of labour has fallen greatly. A little less in
agriculture than in industry, but enormously in some branches of industry" .
(J. Varga: Speech of June 16th., 1919, In O. Jaszi: "Revolution and
Counter-Revolution in Hungary"; New York; 1969; p. 138).
"The effect of nationalisation was seriously to curtail industrial production,
causing commodity shortages that turned both workers and peasants against the
(H.Gruber "International Communism In the Era of Lenin"; New York; 1972; p.
The New Banknotes
From the time of the nationalisation of the banks on March 26th. 1919; the RGC
began printing bank notes, which were in fact reproductions on white paper of
the "blue" Banknotes issued by the Austro-Hungarian banks. These were denounced
by the bank in Vienna as "counterfeits", and since the mass of the peasantry
refused to accept them, this caused great problems in the purchase of food from
"Instead of producing banknotes clearly identified as its own from the start,
the office of the Commissariat of Finances proceeded with the production of
reprints of the 1, 2, 25 and 200 crown-notes issued by the Austro-Hungarian
Bank. These reprints were very crudely produced and immediately branded by
Vienna as counterfeits. The farmers blatantly refused to accept the so-called
'white money'. ... Everybody else received their salaries in this so-called
white money, but could obtain nothing for it in the countryside".
(B. Szanto: "The Real Reason for the Collapse of the Hungarian Soviet Republic",
in: "Die Internationale" (The International), Volume I, No. 15,/16; November
1st., 1919, in: H. Gruber (Ed.): "International Communism in the Era of Lenin";
New York; 1972; p. 155).
The Housing Decree
On March 27th., 1919 the RGC issued a decree nationalising blocks of flats,
requisitioning all housing accommodation in excess of three rooms per family for
the rehousing of homeless families and those in substandard accommodation,
reducing rents by 20% and canceling arrears of rent.
Under this decree, in Budapest alone 51,410 working class families (amounting to
more than 100,000 people) were rehoused in requisitioned accommodation.
The Allied Blockade
On March 26th., 1919 the Allied Powers announced that they would continue the
economic blockade of Hungary imposed during the World War.
The Education Decree
On March 29th., 1919 the RGC issued a decree nationalising all educational
institutions (some 80% of elementary schools and 65% of secondary schools had
been owned by the church) and establishing free compulsory education up to the
age of 14.
A campaign was also undertaken against illiteracy, providing for the
establishment of free evening courses in reading and writing for adults.
Other Social Measures
Among other social measures instituted by the RGC in March/April 1919 were:
(I) the implementation of the law passed under the Karolyi regime establishing
an 8-hour working day;
(2) the establishment of equal pay for equal work;
(3) the introduction of 6 weeks maternity leave on full pay for women workers;
(4) the general raising of wages by 40%, the raising of overtime rates to
time-and-a-half for the first two hours, and to double time for each subsequent
hour, together with the introduction of a bonus of 20% for night work:
(5) The increase of the produce traditionally allocated to agricultural workers
by an average of 100%;
(6) The (mistaken) abolition of piecework system in industry;
(7) the introduction of unemployment benefit;
(8) the introduction of a state accident and sickness insurance scheme
(compulsory for employed workers, voluntary for working peasants); during the
first four weeks of disability, benefits amounted to 60% of wages, rising to 75%
after the fourth week.
During the period of existence of the "Soviet Republic", the state organised
many theatrical performances, concerts, art exhibitions and film shows for the
working people of town and country.
Among the leading artists who participated In this cultural work were:
the poets Gyula Juhasz and Arpad Toth;
the writers Mihaly Babiti, Bela Balazs, Gyula Krudy and Zsigmond Moricz;
the philosopher Gyorgy Lukacs;
the painters Robert Bereny and Bortalan Por;
the sculptors Beni Ferenczy and Ferenc Medgyessy;
and the composers Bela Bartok, Erno Dohnanyi and Zoltan Kodaly.
On April 2nd., 1919 the Draft Constitution of the Hungarian "Soviet Republic"
was published; it was modeled closely on that of Soviet Russia.
The Draft Constitution defined the state as "a Republic of Workers', Peasants'
and Soldiers' Councils", in which "the working class held full political power",
as "the dictatorship of the proletariat", and stated that Its aim was "the
construction of a socialist society":
"In establishing the Soviet Republic, the proletariat has taken into its hands
... full power for the purpose of doing away with the capitalistic order and the
rule of the bourgeoisie and putting in its place the socialistic system of
production and society. The dictatorship of the proletariat is, however, only a
means to the destruction of all exploitation and class rule of whatever kind".
(Constitution of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, In: T. Pongracz: "A Forradalmi
Kormanyzotanacs es a Nepbiztossagok Rendeletei" (The Revolutionary Governing
Council and the Orders of the Commissariats); Volume 2; Budapest; 1919; in: H.
Gruber (Ed.; 'International Communism in the Era of Lenin" New York; 1972; p.
In pursuance of this aim, the state would take over all large and medium sized
industrial, mining and transport enterprises, together with all financial
institutions and insurance companies.
It would arm the workers, establish a Red Army as the "class army of the
proletariat", and "disarm the exploiting classes".
The local organs of the soviet state were to be Village and Town Councils,
elected by the working people in each locality. These councils would elect
delegates to constitute District Councils, Dan the latter would in turn , elect
delegates to a National Congress of Councils, which was to be the highest organ
of the state.
The National Congress of Councils would elect a Governing Central Committee, to
be the highest organ of the state between sessions of the congress and
responsible to the latter.
The Governing Central Committee would elect the government, the Revolutionary
Governing Council. which would be the highest organ of the state, between
sessions of the Governing Central Committee; this government would be
responsible both to the latter and to the National Congress of Councils.
The members of the Revolutionary Governing Council would be called People's
Commissars, and each would head a department of state, called a People's
The Revolutionary Governing Council, the Governing Central Committee and the
National Congress of Soviets would all have the power to issue decrees.
The franchise would be restricted to working people of both sexes over the age
of eighteen - this term being defined to include pensioners, soldiers and those
engaged in housework.
All citizens were guaranteed the right to work (or to state support if
unemployed or incapacitated).
The working people were guaranteed the right to free education, together with
freedom of speech of of press, of association, of assembly and of demonstration.
Racial or national oppression was outlawed, and national minorities were
guaranteed the right to use their own language and to form councils for the
promotion of their national culture. A continuous area in which a majority of
the inhabitants were of German or Russian nationality would constitute an
autonomous national county.
The Appointment of Bohm as Commissar for War
On April 3rd., 1919, as a result of hostile demonstrations outside the
headquarters of the People's Commissariat for War by left-wing soldiers, the
former SPD leader Joszef Pogany was forced to resign as Commissar for War. He
was replaced by another former SPD leader, Vilmos Bohm, who also became
Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army.
The Land Reform
On April 3rd., 1919 the RGC decreed the nationalisation of all land on estates
in excess of 140 acres.
Both the Social DemocratIc Party and the Communist Party, before their "merger",
had opposed the redistribution of land among the poor peasantry, contending that
the large estates should be kept intact and farmed collectively.
Already, at the time of its formation, the RGC had stopped the redistribution of
land being carried out under the Karolyi regime's land reform. With the passing
of the RGC's own land decree, the nationalised land was not redistributed, but
made available for collective farm only.
This caused bitter dissatisfaction among the poor peasantry:
"The Revolutionary Governing CouncIl mace a serious mistake in not distributing
part of the appropropriated land to the small plot holders and those who owned
(J. Kende, L. Geosenyl and A. Steinbach: "Revolution In Hungary: 1918 and 1919",
London; 1968; p. 35).
"The fact that the new land law did not make it possible for the landless to
receive land evoked dissatisfaction in the countryside".
(Z.L.Nagy: "Revolution in Hungary (1918-1919)", in: E. Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A
History of Hungary"; London; 1975; p. 437).
"Another capital error was the fact that, unfortunately, we failed to distribute
the large estates to the landless peasants. We began to organise agricultural
cooperatives at a moment when the prerequisites for this were non-existent. . .
The Communist Party of Hungary realises that it committed a grave error when, at
the time of the dictatorship, it did not distribute the land".
(M. Rakosi; Statement at Trial, July 1926: in 'The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 42, 53).
The dissatisfaction of the poor peasantry was accentuated by the fact that the
"collective farms" formed in this way were not genuine cooperative farms, since
the state appointed a Production Commissar to manage each farm, and since this
Production Commissar was in most cases, because of the shortage of peasants with
experience of large-scale farming, either a former estate-owner or his steward:
"The regime needed experts to continue production, and the new managers have
been the old landowners and bailiffs. The peasantry was bitterly disappointed".
(P.Kenez: "Coalition Politics in the Hungarian Soviet Republic", in: A.C. Janos
and W.B. Slottman (Eds.): "Revolution In Perspective"; Berkeley: 1971, p 79).
"Commissars of production were appointed to head the agricultural cooperatives
that were formed in this manner. Since the new state did not have the necessary
number of skilled men, these experts were appointed overwhelmingly from among
the former owners, or the stewards who had previously managed the large
(Z.L. Nagy: ibid.; p. 436).
"The nationalisation of large estates, which were converted into collectives
generally managed by the local gentry and their agents, who were the most
experienced administrators, automatically made many peasants enemies of the
(H. Gruber: "International Communism in the Era of Lenin"; New York, 1972; p.
The National Question
Like the Karolyi regime which preceded it, the Revolutionary Governing Council
of the "Soviet Republic"
"Was willing to grant local economic autonomy to nationality groups, except for
the right to secession from Hungary".
(R.L. Tokes.' "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic" New York, 1967 p.
This policy alienated the oppressed part-nations within the Hungarian state from
the Revolutionary Governing Council
The Smuts Mission
There was a difference of opinion between the Allied Powers as to the response
which ought to be made to the Hungarian government's note of March 24th. The
British and US delegations, led respectively by Prime Minister David Lloyd
George and President Woodrow Wilson, favoured the sending of a diplomatic
mission to Hungary authorised to make concessions to the "Soviet" government;
they accepted at face value the propaganda of the Hungarian nationalist
capitalist class to the effect that the "socialist revolution" in Hungary had
been brought about by the offence to Hungarian national sentiment created by the
demands put forward in the Vix note, and feared that the continued existence of
the "Soviet" government in Budapest could only provoke the spread of
"Bolshevisim" through Central Europe:
"The Anglo-Saxon politicians, President Wilson and Prime Minister Lloyd George,
blamed primarily the aspirations of the French military leaders, Marshal Foch
and his circle, for what had happened in Hungary. It was their opinion that the
establishment of the Soviet Republic was exclusively due to a violation of the
nation's interest, and a protest against the unjustly exaggerated French
demands. Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau were equally and most deeply
concerned that a soviet type of power had come into existence in Central Europe,
and they feared the possibility of a similar political development in Austria,
Germany and elsewhere".
(Z.L. Nagy: "Revolution in Hungary (l918-199), in E. Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A History
of Hungary"; London, 1975; p. 438-9).
The French delegation, on the other hand, favoured a negative response to the
Note of June 24th., and the authorisation of an immediate invasion of Hungary by
Romanian and Czechoslovak troops.
The British and US delegations enforced their views on the Peace Conference, and
the South African General Jan Smuts was dispatched to Budapest, where he spent
April 4-5th., 1919. The mere sending of the mission, which the Karolyi regime
had Ben unable to obtain, was regarded as a success for Hungary:
"Within a week (after the formation of the "Soviet" government - Ed.) the
attitude in Paris towards Hungary had changed. ... The Peace Conference sent
General Smuts to negotiate.
So what my Government had not been able to obtain in five months was granted to
the Communists after a week".
(M. Karolyi "Memoirs: Faith without Illusion"; London; 1956; p. 158).
Furthermore, the Smuts mission was authorised by the Peace Conference to make
substantial concessions on the Vix demands, offering terms which Karolyi
expressing the viewpoint of the Hungarian national capitalists - described as
"amazingly favourable", as terms which "should have been accepted without
"The conditions which General Smuts offered were a marked improvement on those
of the Vix ultimatum. The line to which the Hungarian troops had to withdraw was
modified to our advantage and formally declared to be a military boundary,
without effect on the decisions of the Peace Treaty. The neutral zone between
the two lines was to be abolished immediately, and a substantial loan granted.
The General would advise the Entente to have the representatives of Hungary
invited to the Paris Conference, thus enabling them to put forward their point
of view. . . .
These amazingly favorable conditions should have been accepted without delay".
(M. Karolyi "Memoirs: Faith without Illusion"; London; 1956; p. 158-9).
But Bela Kun had been a member of the "Left Communist" faction within the
Russian Communist Party, headed by Nikolai Bukharin which had fought against
against acceptance of the peace terms offered by the German imperialists at
Brest-Litovsk in favour of a "revolutionary war" which the infant Soviet
Republic was physically quite unable to carry out. Carrying forward this
"leftist" line in Hungary, Kun rejected the terms offered by the Smuts mission:
"These amazingly favourable conditions were rejected by Bela Kun, who argued
that they would mean a second Treaty of Brest-Litovsk".
(M. Karolyi "Memoirs: Faith without Illusion"; London; 1956; p. 159).
Kun based his rejection on a mistakenly exaggerated view of the contradictions
between the Allied imperialist powers which, he told the National Congress of
Councils in June, he felt had rendered Hungary safe from military intervention
by, or with the approval of the Allied Powers:
"We must point out the existence of conflicts of interest among the states of
the Entente. ... because of the inner laws of Imperialism, these states are
compelled to fight among themselves. ..
Since Hungary is eminently suited for purpose of colonisation. . It is certainly
a prize that precludes any agreement by the Entente imperialists."
(B. Kun: Speech at national Congress of Councils , In: "A Tanacsok Orszagos
Gyulesenek Naploja" (Proceedgins of the National Congress foCounicls); Budapest;
1919; in R.L.Tokes: "Bela Kun & The Hungarian Soviet Republic"; New York; 1967;
Nevertheless, at a session of the Revolutionary Governing Council on April
"Kun was forced to admit his mistake in refusing to negotiate seriously with the
Entente. ... He offered his resignation".
(R.L. Tokes; Ibid. p. 162).
The Council Elections
On April 7-10th., 1919 elections were held throughout the country to Village and
Town Councils. They were carried out on the basis of a single list of candidates
nominated by the Socialist Party of Hungary.
These Village and Town Councils then proceeded to elect delegates to the
District Councils, and the latter, in turn, to the National Congress of
The councils at all levels were dominated by members of the former Social
"The local soviets .. elected a Directory from their midst. . . performing the
functions of magistrate, major, judge, presiding judge. Since other qualified
candidates were lacking, the very same leaders and secretaries of the old party
and the trade unions were frequently elected to the executive Committee of the
Directory. Everybody has to admit that the administrative work performed by
these soviets was not of a communist nature".
(B.Szanto: 'The Real Reason for the collapse of the Hungarian Soviet Republic";
in "Die International"; in "International Communism in The Era of Lenin"; New
York; 1972; p.133-34).
In order to check the activity of these local councils, the People's
Commissariat of the Interior appointed Political Commissars attached to each
"A political commissar with extensive power, appointed by the People's
Commissariat of the Interior, was thus attached to every executive committee
.... It was the function of these political commissars to supervise the faithful
execution of all decrees issued by the Soviet government" (B.Szanto: Ibid;
These Political Commissars were, however, often incompetent to carry out their
duties, it being the practice to regard everyone who had been a prisoner-of-war
in Russia as reliable to perform such tasks:
"The office of the Commissariat of the Interior committed numerous blunders in
that it seemed to view everyone who had demonstrably been a Russian prisoner of
war as politically reliable and as serviceable in the department for political
administration; due to the operation of this system totally incompetent and
politically immature people were often dispatched as political commissars".
(B. Szanto: ibid.; p. l34).
The Formation of the Viennese Counter-Revolutionary Committee
On April 17th., 1918, with the backing of the British imperialists, emigre
aristocrats established in Vienna the Viennese Counter-Revolutionary Committee,
headed by Count Istvan Bethlen.
On 'May 2nd, a group of army officers associated with this committee broke into
the Hungarian Legation in Vienna and stole considerable quantities of Hungarian
Following the rejection of the new armistice terms offered by the Allied Powers
through the Smuts mission, the British and US Imperialists accepted the line of
their French counterparts and resolved to approve an invasion of Hungary by
Romanian and Czechoslovak troops.
The Romanian and Czechoslovak governments approved the new Allied plans on April
10th., but the French Commander-in-Chief In the Balkans, General Franchet
d'Esperey, was unsuccessful in efforts to persuade the Yugoslav government to
join in the invasion.
On April 16th., 1919, therefore, with the approval of the Entente, Romanian
forces crossed the demarcation line into Hungarian territory from the south-east
and, since the Hungarian Red Army was still in process of organisation, were
able to advance rapidly.
The Revolutionary Governing Council immediately began to call up men of military
age for the Red Army, and established an Eastern High Command, with the
Commissar for War and Commander-In-Chief, Vilmos Bohm, as its Commander and
Aurel Stromfeld as its Chief of Staff.
On April 23rd., 1919 Colonel Craenenbrock, the commander of the Szekely
(Transylvanian) Division, which formed the core of the Red Army on the Eastern
Front, came to terms with the Romanian High Command and ordered the division to
surrender. This created a grave situation for the Red Army on this front, and it
was forced to retreat to the river Tisza, which Romanian troops reached on May
"The Szekler Division held more than half the front. When it surrendered, there
could no longer be any question of serious resistance."
(M. Rakosi. Statement at Trial, 1935., In: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi", London; 1954; p. 145).
Meanwhile, on April 23rd. Czechoslovak troops had invaded Hungary from the
north, and quickly effected a junction with the Romanian forces in north-east
The Health Service Decree
On May 1st., 1919, the RGC issued a decree nationalising all private hospitals,
clinics, sanatoria and spas, and establishing a state health service with free
medical and hospital care for all citizens.
The decree also established a school medical service, and a system of holidays
for working class families and school-children. During the summer of 1919, more
than 1,000 working class children spent a a holiday on the shores of Lake
The Trade Union Recruiting Campaign
On May 2nd., 1919 as Romanian troops reached the rive Tisza, the 500-member
Budapest Council of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, called on the trade unions
of the capital to mobilise every available worker for the Red Army. Within ten
days the campaign had succeeded in mobilising 500.000 workers into new units,
which succeeded in halting the Romanian advance.
The Appointment of Stromfeld as Chief of Staff
On May 5th., 1919 Aurel Stromfeld was promoted from the post of Chief of Staff
of the Eastern Red Army to that of Chief of Staff of the entire Red Army.
The Formation of the "National Government"
On May 5th., 1919, a number of aristocratic landlords and comprador capitalist
politicians established at Arad, in south-eastern Hungary under French military
occupation, a "National Government", headed by Count Gyula Karolyi (a cousin of
Count Mihaly Karolyi) as "Prime Minister". The "Government" was backed by the
French imperialists as a rival to the Viennese Counter-Revolutionary Committee
established in Vienna on AprIl 15th. ; with the backing of the British
The "Minister of War" in the "National Government" Admiral Miklos Horthy, former
Commander of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, proceeded to organise a "National Army",
with its officers drawn from the old army and its rank-and-file recruited
largely from the peasantry.
On June 2nd., 1919 the "National Government" moved its headquarters 100 km. to
the east, to the city of Szeged, which was also under French military
The Red Army Offensive In the North
Having checked the Romanian advance, on May 20th., 1919 the Red Army, reinforced
by the workers units recruited by the trade unions, commenced a large scale
offensive against the invading Czechoslovak troops in the North, whose
organisation and morale was weaker than that of the Romanian troops in the
By the end of May the Red Army had succeeded in driving a wedge between the
Czechoslovak and Romanian forces, had driven the Czechoslovak troops from
Hungarian soil and had begun to advance quickly into Slovakia, where it was
greeted sympathetically by the population.
The Congress of the Association of Agricultural Labourers
Membership of the Association of Agricultural Workers had increased
spectacularly since the end of the war - from l,300 in 1917 to 40,000 by the end
of 1918 and to 580,000 by the spring of 1919.
On June lst.-2nd., 1919 the union held a congress, which denounced the failure
of the Revolutionary Governing Council to distribute the land.
The Railway Strike and the Rural Uprisings
On June 1st., 1919 the Viennese Counter-Revolutionary Committee was successful
in provoking a strike of railway workers on the Southern Railway, and a series
of armed peasant uprisings in the Danube-Tisza area and in Southern
Transdanubia. So far as the Vienna Committee was concerned, these actions had
the aim of paralysing the rail communications of the Red Army and of seizing a
piece of territory within Hungary that could serve as a base for further
The Revolutionary Governing Council succeeded in ending the rail strike by
granting substantial wage increases to all transport workers, and in crushing
the uprisings by transferring Red Army units into the area.
The Clemenceau Note of June 7th.
As, in the first days of June 1919, the Red Army advanced into Slovakia, the
Czechoslovak government appealed to the Allied Powers at the Peace Conference in
Versailles for urgent assistance:
"The commanders of the Czechoslovak army and the Czechoslovak government were
urging the immediate and effective intervention of the Peace Conference against
the successfully advancing Red Army. They pointed out that if they did not
receive reinforcements they would have to reckon with revolutionary uprisings in
both Slovakia and Bohemia".
(Z.L. Nagy: "Revolution In Hungary (1918-1919)", in: E. Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A
History of Hungary"; London; 1975; p. 444).
The Allied Powers decided to respond to this request by means of diplomatic
"The Allied Powers ... 'decided to resort to diplomatic intervention in order to
help the Czechoslovak bourgeoisie - who were in a critical situation as a result
of the victorious Red Army campaign".
(J. Kende, L. Gecsenyl and A. Steinbach; "Revolution In Hungary )1918 and
1919)"; London; 1968; p. 47).
On June 7th., 1919, therefore, the Peace Conference sent a Note to the RGC,
signed by French Prime Minister George Clemenceau, which:
"Called on the government to halt its advance, and held out the prospect of an
invitation for its representatives to go to Paris for negotiations."
(Z.L.Nagy: Ibid; p.445).
The RGC rejected the demand made in the note, and the Red Army continued its
advance into Slovakia.
The First Congress of the Hungarian Socialist Party
On June 12th-13th., 1919 the First Congress of the Hungarian Socialist Party,
was held in Budapest, attended by 327 delegates.
Now that the "Soviet Regime" had fulfilled the purpose assigned to it by the
Hungarian national capitalist class - that of frightening the Allied Powers into
modifying the terms of the Vix ultimatum significantly to Hungary's advantage -
its political representatives within the HSP - the former leaders of the SPD -
began to turn, at first secretly, against both the "Soviet Regime" and the
members of the former CP:
"Many of the secretaries, leaders and functionaries of the former Social
Democratic Party and the trade unions suddenly began to oppose us in secret".
(B. Szanto: "The Real Reason for the Collapse of the Hungarian Soviet Republic",
in: "Die Internationale" (The International), Volume 1, No. 15/16; November
1st., 1919,' in: H. Gruber (Ed.): 'International Communism in the Era of Lenin";
New York', 1972; p. 133).
"The right wing and the centre of the Social Democratic Party had the fixed idea
that if they played their cards well, they could liquidate the dictatorship of
the proletariat. . .
The Social Democratic Party itself was thinking out ways and means of
liquidating the dictatorship of the proletariat. ... In two places in his book,
Bohm declares that he called the leaders of the Social Democratic party together
to discuss how to put an end to the dictatorship of the proletariat and to
remove the Communists from power by force".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935, In: "The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954, p. 146, 157).
At the party congress, the former leaders of the SDP turned openly against both
the "Soviet Regime" and the former members of the CP, who:
"could count on only 60-90 delegates out of 327."
(P. Kenez: "Coalition Politics in the Hungarian Soviet Republic", in: A.C. Janos
and W.B. Slottman (Eds.): "Revolution in Perspective" Berkeley; 1971, p. 85).
"A debate over political methods dominated the congress of the united workers'
party on 12th. and 15th. June. The differences between the Communists and the
Social Democrats, which their mergy of their parties only postponed but did not
resolve, became increasingly apparent ... and led to violent debates and clashes
of opinion during the discussions of the congress. One group of the Social
Democratic leaders condemned the government's radical measures and demanded that
they be moderated".
(Z.L. Nagy: "Revolution In Hungary (1918-1919)", in" Z. Pamlenyi (Ed.) "A
History of Hungary"; London; 1975; p. 445).
"At the Party Congress in June, the Social-Democratic opposition led by
Zsigimond Kunfi ... tried to push the Communists into the background".
(Z.L.Nagy: "133 Days"; in: "The New Hungarian Quarterly"; Volume 10; No 33;
Spring 1969; p.14.)
A significant controversy which took place at the congress was over the name of
In April the Executive Committee of the Communist International had written to
the Executive Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Party saying:
"The Executive Committee Comintern expects your congress to ... decree that your
party should bear the name of Communist Party".
(ECCI: Letter to Congress of Hungarian Communists, In: "Communist
International", Volume 1; No 1; May 1919; In: R.L.Tokes: "Bela Kun & The
Hungarian Soviet Republic"; New York; 1967; p.181.)
and followed this up with a cable to the congress itself on June 12th.:
"The Executive Committee of the Communist International ... submit the name
'Hungarian United Communist Party' for your consideration".
(ECCI: Cable to 1st. Congress HSP, June 15th., 1919, in: R.L. Tokes: Ibid.; p.
The delegates who had formerly belonged to the SDP, however:
"fought for the name of the party to be 'Party of Hungarian Socialists'."
(P. Kenez. ibid.; p. 75).
Eventually a compromise was reached, and the party was renamed the "Party of
Hungarian Socialist-Communist Workers".
In the election for the Executive Committee of the party, the former SDP
majority refused to accept the recommended list of candidates which included
four former CP members out of 15. Only when the former CP group threatened leave
the party (which the Hungarian national capitalists did not at this stage wish),
did the congress reluctantly accept the original list:
"They (the former member of the CF - Ed.) suffered the most humiliating defeat
on the election of the Executive Committee. The Congress refused to elect
Communists (with the exception of Kun), and only when Kun and his old comrades
threatened to break up the party did the Socialist leaders succeed in persuading
the delegates to accept the original list which contained four Communists out of
(P. Kenez; Ibid.; p. 83).
"When the election results were communicated to the united party's leaders, it
appeared that as the result of a massive anti-Communist write-in campaign, with
the exception of Kun, the Communists failed to receive enough votes to qualify
them as members of the party executive. This was more than the Communists were
prepared to accept. They announced that they would abandon the party unless the
election results were voided and a united slate nominated. ... the originally
proposed slate was restored and elected by acclamation by a most reluctant party
(R.L. Tokes: "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic"; New York; 1967; p.
The Clemenceau Note of June l3th.
Following the rejection of Its' Note of June 7th., on June 15th., 1919 the Peace
Conference sent a further Note to the RGC, also signed by Clemenceau. This
stated that if the Red Army withdrew from Slovakia:
"Romanian troops would hand over the territories they had occupied east of the
(Z.L.Nagy: "Revolution in Hungary (1918-1919) in E.Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A History of
Hungary". London; 1975; p. 445.
Meeting jointly with the Executive Committee of the Party of Hungarian
Socialist-Communist Workers the Revolutionary Governing Council decided to
accept the terms of the Note, and notified this the Peace Conference to this
effect on June l4th.
The military leaders of the Red Army, correctly correctly opposed this decision
an the grounds that the note contained no guarantees that the Romanian troops
would, in fact, withdraw from eastern Hungary:
"The decisions were taken before any guarantees were received from the great
powers that the promises contained in the Clemenceau notes would be carried out.
The leaders of the dictatorship of the proletariat committed a grave mistake in
ordering a one-sided withdrawal".
(J.Kende, L.Gecsenyi and A.Steinbach; 'Revolution In Hungary; (1918-1919";
London; 1968; p. 48).
In protest at the decision taken, Vilmas Bohm resigned as Commander-in-Chief of
the Red Army (being succeeded by Jeno Landler), and Aurel Stromfeld resigned as
the Chief of Staff (being succeeded by Ferenc Julier).
The National Congress of Councils
On June 14th-23rd, 1919, the National Congress of Councils - elected indirectly
from the election of April 7th. - met in Budapest attended by 348 delegates, and
guests from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Soviet Russia.
The main opposition at the congress came from rural delegates, who attacked the
RCG particularly on an anti-Semitic basis (a majority of its members being of
Jewish origin). As Bela Kun said indignantly at the Congress :
"What is happening behind the front line, indeed at this very Congress, is open
incitement for pogrom and counter-revolution. It happened here in this very hall
yesterday that a hand-written pogrom leaflet was circulated.
... How can the Red Army fight and maintain its morale when at this National
Congress of Councils, and even at the party congress, people agitate against the
Jews and instigate pogroms?"
(B. Kun: Speech at National Congress of Councils, in. "A Tanacsok Orszagos
Gyulesenek Naploja; (Records of the National Congress of Councils), June 21st.,
1919; No. 8; Budapest; 1919; p. 22; in: A.C. Janos: "The Agrarian Opposition at
the National Congress of Councils", in: A.C. Janos and W.B. Slottman:
"Revolution in Perspective"; Berkeley; 1971; p. 96-7) .
The congress heard and discussed reports on the economic, military and foreign
policy situation; adopted the Constitution published in draft form on April
2nd.; elected a Governing Central Committee of 150 members; and, after a heated
debate, approved the RGC's order to the Red Army to withdraw from Slovakia.
The Attempted Putsch in Austria
Faced with the fact that there was no prospect in the near future of effective
military assistance from Soviet Russia, in mid-May 1919, Bela Kun sent Erno
Bettellheim to Vienna, charged with the task of "brining about a socialist
revolution and establishing a Soviet Republic" in Austria.
Bettelheim himself later described his mission as follows:
"The territory of Soviet Hungary was very small and extended only in a radius of
50 to 250 km around Budapest. The fights in April ahd already indicated that
even insignificant successes of the enemy could greatly endanger Budapest. The
continuation of the war would have been impossible following the loss of
Budapest, since the weapons and ammunition factories were concentrated in and
around Budapest. This strategic situation imposed on the Hungarian Soviet
Republic the duty to secure for itself an area of retreat in case Budapest were
to be lost. In view of the then existing situation, such an area was only
offered by Austria. There the whole military equipment of the past monarchy was
stored. With Vienna and its mighty weapon and ammunitions factories, the
Hungarian troops could have withdrawn behind the Danube and beyond even after
the loss of Budapest.. . .
The Bank of Issue of the old monarchy was located in Austria with all the
technical equipment. The counter-revolutionary curse of the 'white money' would
have been removed at one blow and the Hungarian peasantry would have been
inseparably tied to the dictatorship by Austrian industrial goods.. . .
Austria was not only the key to the salvation of the Hungarian dictatorship, but
to the extension of the world revolution. If the Hungarian Red troops crossed
the border of Czechoslovakia and at the same time declared the dictatorship in
Austria, then a Czech revolutIon could safely be expected". (E. Bettelheim: "The
'Bettelheimerei': A Contribution to the History of the Austrian CP", in.-
"Kommunismus" (Communism), Volume 2, No. 29/30; August 15th., 1921; in: H.Gruber
(Ed.): "International Communism in the Era of Lenin"; New York; 1972; p. 1967).
Following the elections in February, a coalition government formed from the
Social Democratic Party and the Christian Socialist Party headed by Karl Renner
(SDP) as Chancellor, had taken office on March 15th.
The Communist Party of Austria, which had come into being at its foundation
congress on February 9th., 1919 under the leadership of Elfriede Friedlander
(later known as Ruth Fischer) and Franz Koritschoner, had influence chiefly
among the unemployed and returned soldiers. The great mass of the organised
workers - including the trade unions, the workers' councils and the
para-military People's Militia - remained firmly under the leadership of the
The political position of the SDP-led workers' council movement was evidenced by
the reply which the Executive Committee of the Austrian workers council movement
made on March 23rd., 1919 to the appeal of the Hungarian Revolutionary Governing
Council of the previous day:
"You have appealed to us to follow your example. We would do this
wholeheartedly, but we cannot do so at this time. There is no more food in our
country. Even our scarce bread rations depend entirely on the food trains sent
by the Entente. For this reason, we are enslaved to the Entente. If we were to
follow your advice today, the Entente capitalists would cut off our last
provisions with cruel mercilessness and leave us to starvation. . Our dependence
on the Entente is total . . .
Long lIve international workers' solidarity!"
(Declaration of the Executive Committee of the Workers' Councils of German
Austria, March 23rd., 1919, in: H.Gruber (Ed) Ibid.; p. 181-2).
The leadership of the Communist Party of Austria saw clearly that socialist
revolution was impossible without the winning of the majority of the rank and
file of the workers', peasants', and soldiers' councils to that cause by means
of patient, persistent organised Party work within the councils. A national
conference of CPA members of workers councils, held on May 4th-5th; 1919,
"The proletariat must... reject bourgeois parliamentarism in order to carry
through the transformation of the capitalist economic into a communist one, and
create an organisation for itself in order to consolidate all economic and
political power into its hands. The only suitable form which makes this possible
is the workers' and soldiers' councils and the councils of small peasants and
It is therefore the duty of every communist . to make this uniquely suitable
institution completely acceptable through untiring, systematic struggle and
tenacious endurance. . .
For us communists the only correct principle remains.
'The emancipation of the working class can only be the work of the workers
The workers councils are the only road to the dictatorship of the proletariat".
('Beschlusse der ersten Delegiertenkoferenz dcr Kommuunistschen Arbeiterrate
Deutschosterreichs" (Resolutions of the First Delegate Conference of the
Communist Workers' Councillors of German Austria); Vienna, 1919; in: H.Gruber
(Ed.); Ibid.; p. 183).
But Bettelheim had no time for this kind of "patient, persistent organised work"
within the working class movement. He made himself out to be an "official
emissary of the Communist International" charged with: "organising the socialist
revolution in Austria as soon as possible":
"In the middle of May Dr. Bettelheim arrived as Hungarian emissary in Vienna. He
posed as a plenipotentiary of the Third International, with the alleged order to
proclaim the Soviet Republic as soon as possible. In reality- the Executive of
the Communist International knew of Dr. Bettelheim - a fellow altogether new to
the movement - as much as Dr. Bettelheim knew of the Communist International -
that is, nothing. . .
Dr. Bettelheim's 'Moscow mandate' is either the product of the imagination of a
young comrade unfamiliar with communism, or the swindle of an adventurer. ...
The world revolution can develop as a movement only if made by the proletariat
of every country, not by 'emissaries'".
(K.Radek: "The Lessons of an Attempted Putsch: The Crisis in the German-Austrian
Communist Party", in: "Kommunistische Rate-Korrespondenz"; (Communist
Councillors' Correspondence), Volume 1, 'November 20th., 1919, in: H. Gruber
(Ed.): ibid., p. 189, 190).
Then, in the name of the "Communist International', he proceeded to utiilse the
considerable financial resources with which he had been furnished from Budapest
to by-pass the elected leadership of the CPA by organising a "Directorate" or
"Committee of Four", headed by himself, which demanded the loyal obedience of
all members of the party,' this, in turn, proceeded to organise a series of
"Action Committees" - for the unemployed, for returned soldiers, etc. - which
demanded the obedience of all workers in their respective fields in order "to
carry through the socialist revolution":
"Instead of organizing the party, he (Bettelehiem-Ed) disorganised it by
undermining the leadership and replacing it with a 'directorate'. . .
Dr.Bettelheim let loose on Vienna a cohort of agitators who spent thousand-crown
bills quite freely."
(K.Radek: Ibid: p.192).
"Bettelheim used his ample financial resources to circumvent the CPA leadership
in establishing anonymous action committees".
(H.Gruber; ibid.; p 178-9);.
On June 6th , 1919 the Allied Powers ordered that the para-military organisation
of workers, the People's Militia, be reduced in numbers by 25%, and the
"'Council of Four" was successful in organising a number of demonstrations,
directed against this demand. Although the alarmed Austrian government was able
to convince the Entente to rescind the order, the "Committee of Four" decided on
June 12th.; that its limited success in mobilising workers and soldiers or this
issue justified their fixing the "socialist revolution" for June 15th.:
"In the early-morning hours this meeting adopted unanimously the fo1lowing
The counter-revolutionary government has to be dispersed by force and the
dictatorship proclaimed by the CP in the name of the proletariat. An armed
demonstration of the proletariat and the military must be called for this
purpose for June 15th. The directorate and the revolutionary Soldiers' Committee
declare themselves to be in permanant session".
(Bettelheim: Ibid.; p. 198).
The detailed plans firmly adopted by the "Committee of Four" provided for an
uprising in the industrial area of Neunkirchen on June 14th.:
"Comrade Koritschonor travelled early on June 13th, to the industrial area of
Neunkirchen .. with the aim of having the workers there seize power on June
14th. ... The proclamation of the proletarian dictatorship in the industrial
area of Neunkirchen would have been decisive. Naturally, once the dictatorship
had been proclaimed, a vast network had been prepared to announce it throughout
(E. Betteiheim: Ibid. p. 199).
to be followed next day, June 15th., by an uprising- in the capital.
Accordingly, Vienna was flooded with leaflets and posters, issued by the
"Committee of Four" and the "Action Committees" ; which it controlled, calling
for the "socialist revolution" to take place on June 15th:
"The hour for the emancipation of the proletariat has come! . . .
On Sunday the 15th. of June at 10 a.m.. the revolutionary workers will
demonstrate for the setting up of a soviet dictatorship, against hunger and
exploitation, for social revolution!
Every member of the People's Mlitia has the duty to participate in this
demonstration with weapon in hand.. . .
Long Live the Soviet Republic of German Austria.'"
(Leaflet Issued June 14th., 1919; in H.Gruber (Ed) : ibid.; p. 183-4).
The Workers' Council in Vienna, led by the Social-Democratic Party, responded on
June 14th. with a directive to the capital's workers and soldiers to boycott
what it described as an "attempted putsch"
"It is an act of violence which is being planned by this 'Committee of Four' ,
with the Hungarian lieutenant Bettelheim (or Bernstein) as leader, a man
completely unknown to the Viennese workers.
And that is why we are holding this "Committe of Four' and its agents
repsonsible from teh start for any harm that can occur today. . .
Do not not let yourselves be used for an attempted putsch!. . .
Remain aloof from the unscrutable demonstrations of the communists!
Follow the orders of the Workers' Council only!"
(Natlonal Board of Executives of the Workers' Councils: Declaration of June
14th., 1919; in: H.Gruber (Ed): ibid.; p. 185-6).
A section of the leadership of the Communist Party, including Elfriede
Friedlander (Ruth Fischer), also opposed the attempted putsch. Betteiheim
"Melcher, the former member of the directorate who had left demonstratively the
meeting of June 12th., appeared in the barracks on the Selzergasse demanding
that I call off the action, lest he announce early in the morning in the name of
the CP that the demonstration of June 15th. had been called off. I made It clear
to him that only the hitherto existing body was entitled to decide this
question. Meanwhile; it was announced that the founder of the party (Elfriede
Friedlander -Ed) together with a few outmanoeuvred careerists, was waiting
downstairs for an answer. Melcher had become their spokesman. ...
In the afternoon (of June 14th. - Zd.) someone declared in the most circulated
evening paper of Vienna, 'Der Abend', in hte name of teh CP, that the
demonstratlon of June 15th; would not take place. All teh careerists of teh
Party, under teh leaderhisp of the fodunign lady, toured the military quarters
in order to onstigate the crowds against the demonstration".
(E. Bettelbeim: ibid.; p. 200, 201).
"Had the German-Austrian Communist Party ... usurped 'power' by means of a
putsch ... without the support of the majority of the proletariat, this
'victory' would merely have weakened the Hungarian Soviet Republic. A
German-Austrian Soviet Republic a la Bettelheim - would not have been a soviet
Republic at all. The councils were after all opposed to its proclamation. The
trade unions were opposed to it. On whom could it have based itself? On enlisted
Red Guards who would have been obliged to apply force against the majority of
the working class? ... These simple reflections should have indicated to the
Bettelheim people the madness of a putschist tactic. ... But this is precisely
the crux of the matter:
the messiah of the Budapest bureau of propaganda did not have a glimmer of the
meaning of communism; every word of his charge against the German-Austrian
Communist Party proves this. . The vanguard of the German-Austrian proletariat,
the communists, frustrated during the June days the putschist tactic of the
Bettelhelms. They did not plunge themselves into the adventure of the Soviet
Republic without Soviets".
(K. Radek: ibid.; p. 191, 194).
On June 13th., the government banned public meetings and demonstrations in the
capital until further notice.
On the evening of June 14th., police arrested the members of the "Committee of
Four" - except for Bettelheim, toescaped - and more than a hundred members of
the "Action Committees".
On the morning of June 15th; some 7,000 people demonstrated in Vienna; the
demonstrators were mostly unemployed workers and disabled returned soldiers; the
memebers of the People's Militia and msot oranised workers obeyed thier leaders'
instructionsnot to take part. The demonstrators attemepted to release their
impriosned leaders, and were dispersed by police with about twenty killed.
"The June action of the working class of Vienna had been defeated".
(J. Kende, L. Gecsenyl and A. Stelnbach: "Revolution in Hungary: (1918 and
1919)"; London, 1968; p. 50).
The Establishment of the Slovak "Soviet Republic"
On June 16th., 1919, as the Hungarian Red Army had come to occupy a large part
of Slovakia, a Slovak "Soviet-Republic" was established at Eperjes, modelled on
the lines of the Hungarian Soviet Republic". Its revolutionary Governing Council
was headed by Antonin Janousek, head of the Czechoslovak section of the
Hungarian Socialist Party and a number of its People's Commissars - such as Erno
Por as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Tibor Szamuely' as People's
Commissar for Social Production- were seconded from the RGC in Budapest.
A proclamation by the RGC of the Slovak "Soviet Republic" declared that it would
aim for union with a future Czech "Soviet Republic".
The Formation of the Council of National Economy
On June 21st., 1919 the RGC set up a Council of national Economy headed by Jeno
Varga as Chairman, with the function of regulating the economy of the country.
On July 9th. the GNE reinstituted piecework rates in industry in an effort to
secure increased industrial production.
The Attempted Coup of June 24th.
On June 24th., 1919 an attempt to overthrow the Revolutionary Governing Council
by force took place in Budapest. Units of the Danube flotilla and the troops of
one barracks in the capital took part in the attempted coup, which had been
planned by Joszef Haubrich, a former Leader of the SDP who had been appointed
commandant of the Red Guard in Budapest in April.
The plan was that workers in the capital would join the coup, after which the
Red Guard would intervene "on their 'side". But the plan failed because the
attempted coup aroused no support among the working class:
"The rebels had counted on being joined by the workers of the Budapest
factories, but this did not happen".
(Z.L. Nagy: "Revolution In Hungary (1918-1919)", in; E. Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A
History of Hungary", London; 1975, p. 447).
"The whole scheme failed .. . due . . . to the fact that the industrial workers
... never rallied to the counter-revolution".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935; In: 'The Imprisonment and Defence of
Matyas Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 189).
In these circumstances, Haubrich refrained from showing his hand and ordered the
Fed Guard to suppress the rising, which it accomplished within a few hours.
The Negootiations In Vienna
On June 24th, 1919 Vilmos Bohm arrived in Vienna for discussion with the
diplomats of the Allied Powers. A few days alter he was joiend by memebers of
the former Social Democratic Party.
In these dIscussions it was agreed that the Hungarian "Soviet Republic" should
be liquidated as soon as possible, and that the Entente should put forward:
" the demand for the resignation of the Governing Council, the setting up of a
new provisional government, consisting of trade union and labour leaders. ...
Bohmrn and a number of the Social Democratic leaders recommended acceptance of
(Z.L.Nagy: "Revolution In Hungary (918-1919), in E.Pamlenyi (Ed. )"A History of
Hungary"; London; 1975; p. 448).
"The Entente never stopped repeating that if the dictatorship of the proletariat
fell, then they would help any democratic government which replaced it".
(M.Rakosi: Statement at Trial, l935, in "The Imprisonment and Defence of Mayas
Rakosi"; London; 1954; p.159).
The Withdrawal from Slovakia
On June 30th. ,1919, the Hungarian Red Army began its withdrawal from Slovakia.
The Slovak "Soviet Republic" was then immediately overthrown by troops of the
The withdrawal adversely affected the morale of the working people, and
especially that of the soldiers of the Red Army:
"The military evacuation of the northern regions resulted en a deteriorateon of
morale both ;within the army and am among the population.. . . A number of the
soldiers did not go to their new stations, but went home".
(Z.L.Nagy: "Revolution in Hungary (1918-l919)", in: E. Pamlenyi (Ed.) "A History
of Hungary"; London, 1975; p. 447).
"By the middle of July it had become painfully clear that the decision to
retreat from Slovakia was a fatal strategic and tactical mistake. The withdrawal
had irreparably damaged the national pride of the trade-union battalions, caused
mass desertions from the Red Army, and induced the Czechoslovak army ... to
pursue the dejected Hungarian units".
(R. L. Tokes: "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic"; New York 1967, p.
especially after, on July 2nd., the Romanian government:
"... officially informed the Peace Conference that it refuscd to withdraw from
the region east of the Tisza unless the Red army was disarmed".
(Z.L.Nagy: Ibid; p. 447).
"The withdrawal of the Hungarain army and the Romanian governemtn statement gave
rises to biter disppointment among the people fo the country, and above all
among the soldiers of the workign class army. This unfavourable effect
undoubtledly diminshed the mass basis of support for teh dictatorship of teh
(J.Kendes, L.Gecsenyi, and A.Steinbach: "Revoltuion in Hungary: 1918-1919;
London; 1968; p.48.
The Offensive Against the Romanian Forces
On July 5th., 1919, the Revolutionary Goveerning Council approved a plan put
forward by the new commanders of the Red Army for an offensive against the
Romanian troops with the aim of driving them from teh area East of the Tisza.
On July 11th., 1919 the RGC issued a decree imposing universal military service
for the Red Army.
On July 20th., 1919 the Red Army launched its offensive, which was doomed before
"I consider this (the offensive against the Romanian forces - Ed.) to have been
a very serious mistake, because the same reasons that had decided us to evacuate
Upper Hungary also forbade us to attack"
(M.Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of Matyas
Rakosi"; London; 1954., p. 159).
In fact, counter-revolutionary offlicers, headed by Chief of Staff Ferenc
Julier, had passed the plans for the offensive to the Romanian High Command:
'The complete plan of battle of the Red Army had been delieverd to the
(M.Rakosi; Ibid; p. 159).
The Red Army's initial advance was halted on July 24th;. and the Romanian army
immediately launched a counter-offensive, causing the Red Army to disintegrate
and permitting the Romanian forces to cross the Tisza.
"The Romanians ... had llittle difficulty in inflicting a defeat on us."
(M.Rakosi: ibId., p. 159).
The Failure of the International Strike
The Executive Committee of the Communist International had called upon the
workers of The Allied countries to carry out a political strike on July 21st.,
1919 in solidarity with the Russian Soviet Republic and the Hungarian "Soviet
Republic", and in protest at foreign military intervention against these states.
The social-democratic parties of the Second International, however, opposed the
strike call, which met with little response:
"The leaders of the Second International, who supported the imperialist
slaughter, broke the International protest strike."
(ECCI: Satement On The Fall of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, August 5th., 1919,
In.'J. Degras (Ed.): 'The Communist International. Documents: 1919-1945", Volume
1; London; 1971; p. 64).
The failure of the International strike lowered still further the morale of the
Hungarian workers and soldiers:
"21 July was awaited with great expectations in Hungary. . . As a resutl fo the
high hop[es, teh disappointment was all teh greater when it was foudn that ,
althouhg in numeorus coutires the workers demostrated their solidarity, in
Western Europe and particualry in teh elading Entente coutnries teh strike
(Z.L.Nagy: "Revolution in Hungary (1918-l919)", in: E. Pamlenyi (Ed.) "A History
of Hungary"; London, 1975; p. 448).
"The failure of the expected strike was the last blow in defeating the spiritual
strength of the proletariat".
(M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial, 1935, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of Matya
Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 159).
The Failure to Secure Military Aid From Soviet Russia
During the first three months of 1919, the Soviet Russian Red Army made sweeping
advances on the Ukrainian Front, under the command of Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko,
reaching the eastern border of Poland by mid-march. On March 19th. President
"Informed teh cabinet that in the judgement of the government's military experts
that ti woudl be only a matter of weeks before the Russian Red Army would break
through the Romanian lines and reach the eastern boundarIes of Hungary".
(R.L. Toke's: 'Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic"; New York; 1967; p.
Indeed the threat of a military alliance between a 'Soviet Hungary" and Soviet
Russia was, as has been said, oen fo the motives for the formation of the
Hungarian spurious "Soviet Republic" by the Hungarian national cpatilsit class.
As soon as the latter was formed the government of Soviet Russia attempted to
render it military aid. On March 25th, 1919,. - four days after the formation of
the Revoltuioanry Governing Council in Hungary - the Russian Soviet Government
requested Khristian Rakovsky, who ahd been appointed Chairman of the Council of
hte Ukranain Soviet Republic on Jnauray 25th., 1919, to order the Ukranian
RedArmy to cease its advance towards the Black Sea and:
"to advance westward to the border of South-eastern Galicia and Bessarabia. The
latter was important in establishing immediate ties with the troops of the
Hungarian Soviet Republic".
(V. Antonov-Ovseenko: "Zapiski o Grzhdanskoi Voine"; (Note on the Civil War),
Volume 3,' Moscow; 1933; p. 524).
This request was ignored by Rakovsky.
On April 22nd., 1919 Lenin himself cabled to the Soviet Russian
Commander-in-Chief, Joakhim Vatzetis:
'An advance into a part of Galicia and Bukovina is essential for the purpose of
establishing contact with Soviet Hungary".
(V.1. Lenin: Telegram to J. Vatzetis, April 22nd., in J .M.Meijer; (Ed): "The
Trotsky Papers; 1917-1922", Volume 1; The Hague; 1964; p.375).
On April 25th., 1919, by-passing both Rakovsky and Vatzetis, the Political
Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party sent an order
directly to Antonov-Ovseenko, the Commander of the Ukrainian Front, to:
"Establish direct contact with Soviet Hungary".
(M.Gorky et al: "Istoriya Grazhdanakoi Voiny" (History of the Civil War");
Volume 4; Moscow; 1959; p.71).
On May 9th. the partisan forces under Ataman Grigoriev who had joined up with
the Soviet Russian Red Army on February 1st., changed sides again and began
fighting the Ukranian Red Army.
Taking advantage of the confused situation which followed, on May 17th. the
white "Volunteer Army" under General Anton Denikin opened an offensive against
the Ukranian Red Army from the South, directed towards Kharkov which he took on
June 24th. By the end of June the forces of Soviet Russia had been pushed back
as far as Kiev.
By this time Bela Kun was convinced that the failure of the Soviet Russian Red
Army to give effective military aid to the Hungarian Red Army was due to
treachery on the part of Khristian Rakovsky, the Chairnan of the Council of
People's Commissars of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, and Georgi Chicherin, the
All-Russian People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and telegraphed his
suspicions to Lenin. Lenin replied at the end of June:
"Please do not worry too much, and do tno despair. Your charges or suspicions
against Chicherin and Rakovsky lack absolutely any foundations".
(V.I. Lenin. letter to Bela Kun, June 1919; In "Leninsky Sbornik" Lenin
Miscellany);Volume 36; Moscow; l959 p.79).
On July 28th., when the "Soviet Republic" had only three days more to exist, Kun
cabled to the Party of Hungarian Socialist-Communist Workers representative in
Moscow, Endre Rudnyanszky, for transmission to Lenin:
'I have already all liits of my patience regardless of Ch(icherin)'s and
R(akovsky)'s supposedly harmonious cooperation with the party's Central
Committe. I conider it a complete lack of cooperation that we were beaten by
Romanian troops from teh Bessarabian front".
(B. Kun: Cable to E.Rudnyanszky, July 28th., 1919, In Institute for Party
History, Central Committee, Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party: "A Magyar
Munkasmozgalom Tortenetenek Valogatott Dokumentumai" (Selected Documents from
the History of the Hungarian Workers Movement), Volume 6, Part 2, Budapest,
1960; p. 545-6).
Lenin replied on July 31st.
"I assure Comrade Bela Kun that Rakovsky had been appointed by the full Central
Committee and we are satisfied with him. We are doing everything possible to
help our Hungarian friends, but our forces are small. Our victory in the Urals
has liberated Hungarian prisoners-of-war, whom we shall transfer rapidly to the
Ukrainian and Romanian fronts".
(V.1. Lenin: Cable to Bela Kun, July 51st., 1919, In: Ibid.; p. 552).
But the next day the Revolutionary Governing Council resigned. And the Hungarian
"Soviet Republic" ceased to exist.
That Kun's suspicions that Antonov-Ovseenko, Chicherin and Rakovsky were
treacherously obstructing Soviet Russian military aid to teh "Soviet Republic"
of Hungary may not have been without foundation is evidenced by thier history.
All three came from aristocratic families, were Mensheviks until the eve of the
socialist revolution in 1917, were during World Ward I closely associated with
Trotsky on his Paris journal "Nashe Slovo" (Our Cause), and, in the 1920's, were
prominently assocIated with the opposition groups headed by Trotsky.
The Clemenceau Note of July 26th.
On July 26th., in line with the discussions held in Vienna with Bohm, and his
social-democaratic colleageus, the Allied Powers sent a Note to the RGC in
Budapest, signed by Fernch Prime Minster Georges Clemenceau declaring:
"That it refused to negotiate on any issue with the Governing Council".
(Z.L.Nagy: "Revolution in Hungary (1918-1919)", in: E. Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A
History of Hungary"; London; 1975," p. 448).
In Hungary, the former leaders of the Social Democratic Party now came out
openly with the demand for the resignation of the Revolutionary Governing
Council and by the end of July, assisted by the disintegration of the Hungarian
Red Army on the Romanian front, they had been successful in persuading a
majority of the working class to this line:
"The Social Democratic Party, making use of the promises of the Entente, ...
succeeded in persuading the workers that if the Soviet Republic were peacefully
liquldated, it would mean democracy and the end of the blockade, and that the
Allies would not tolerate a counter-revolution". (M. Rakosi: Statement at Trial,
1935, in: "The Imprisonment and Defence of Matya Rakosi"; London; 1954; p. 171).
The Resignation of the Revolutionary Governing Council
By the end of July 1919 the Romanian troops had succeeded in crossing the river
Tisza and were only 100 kilometres from Budapest.
On August 1st, a joint session of the Revolutionary Governing Council and teh
Central Committee of the Socialist Comunist party of Hungary was held.
Bela Kun told the cetlng that the position of the "Soviet" Republic" was now
"I have been forced to come to this cold, sobering conclusion: the dictatorship
of the proletariat has been defeated, economically, militarily and politically."
(B. Kun: Speech to Joint Session of RGG and CC of S-CPH; August 1st., l919 in:
V. Bohm: "Ket Forradalom Tuzuben" (In the Crossfire of Two Revolutions), Vienna;
1923; in: R.L.ToKes: "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic" New York,
1967; p. 203).
With typically "leftist" outlook, Kun blamed the defeat of the "Soviet" Republic
on the Hungarian working class:
"The proletariat of Hungary betrayed not their leaders but themselves.. . . If
there had been a class-conscious revolutionary proletariat, then the
dictatorship of the proletarlat would not have fallen in this way",
and called for a stiff dose of fascist white terror to "raise their political
"This proletariat needs the most inhumane and cruel dictatorship of the
bourgeoisie to become revolutionary"'.
(Ibid.; p. 204).
A resolution was then adopted that the Revolutionary Governing Council should
resign immediately, and the Budapest Central Workers Council - still dominated
by the former members of the SPD - be asked to nominate a new government.
The Austrian Social Democratic government gave Kun diplomatic immunity and he
left the same day for Vienna with his family and a few friends, in a special
"Kun . . seizing the opportunity offered him by the Austrian government of Otto
Bauer, got into a special train with his family and friends and left for Vienna.
... Those of his colleagues who had no room on the train were left behind to the
mercy of the Romanian and White Armies".
(M.Karolyi: "Memoirs: Faith without Illusion"; London; 1556; p. 172).
Among those who failed to escape was Tibor Szamuely, who committed suicide.
PART FIVE: THE PEIDL GOVERNMENT
(August 1st. - 7th., 1919)
The Formation of the Peidl Government
The Hungarian capitalist class considered that the dismantling of the principal
measures effected by the "Soviet" govcrnment could be brought about by a
governent of social-democratic politicians and trade union leaders with less
resistance from the working class than if this dismantling were carried out by a
government of openly bourgeois politicians.
On August 1st., 1919 therefore, following the resignation of the Revolutionary
Governing Council, the Budapest Central Workers' Council, which was dominated by
social democrats was permitted to "appoint" a new government headed by the
former leader of the right-wing faction of the SPD Gyula Peidl which was
composed almost entirely of trade union leaders.
The Lifting of the Allied Blockade
On August 2nd., 1919 the Allied Powers agreed to lift their blockade of Hungary.
The Dismantling of the "Soviet" Measures
On August 2nd., 1919 the new government released all the political prisoners
arrested under the "Soviet" Republic, abolished the revolutionary tribunals and
restored the old law. courts.
On August 3rd.,1919 the government dissoved the Red Guard and restored the old
On August 4th., 1919 the blocks of flats nationalised by the "Soviet" government
were handed back- to their former owners, and the decrees of that government
reducing rents were repealed.
On August 6th., 1919 all the industrial, commercial and financial institutions
nationalised by the "Soviet" government were returned to their former owners.
The Romanian Occupation of Budapest
Meanwnile, on August 3rd., Romanian troops reached the capital, Budapest, and
PART SIX: THE FRIEDRICH GOVERNMENT (August 7th., 1919 - November 24th., 1919)
The Overthrow of the Peidl Government
On August 7th., 1919 the Peidl government was overthrown in a military coup by a
group of army officers acting on behalf of a section of the landlord class
closely allied with the former imperial family.
The officers proclaimed Archduke Josef State Governor of Hungary, and he in turn
appointed a government headed by Istvan Friedrich.
The DIssolution of the Szeged "Government"
A majority of the members of the "government" in Szeged were prepared to
recognise the Friedrich government, and this "government" dissolved itself.
The more far-seeing members of the "Szeged governmnt", however, realised that a
regime associated with the former Imperial family would be unacceptable to the
Allied Powers. These members rallied round Admiral Miklos Horthy, who had held
the post of Minister for War in the Szeged "government".
The Formation of an "Independent" High Command
On August 9th., 1919 Horthy announced that the "National Army" formed by the
Szeged government and under his command - a force of some 25,000 with officers
drawn from the landlord class and its rank-and-file mainly from the middle
peasantry - constituted an armed force independent of the Friedrich government
Colonel Baron Antal Lehar, who commanded a similar armed force in the west of
the country formed on the initiative of the Viennese Counter-Revolutionary
Committee headed by Count Istvan Bethlen, in turn placed his army under Horthy's
Horthy was also supported by two fascist para-military organisations formed
under the Karolyi regime. These were the Hungarian National Defence Force
Asscciation (Magyar Orszagos Vedero Egyesulet) (MOVE) and the Association of
Vigilant Hungarians ( Ebredo Magyarok Egyesulete) (EME), both commanded by
Captain Gyula Gombos, who had been Unzer-Secretary of War in the Szeged
The Reconstitution of the Social Democratic Party
On August 24th., 1919 the Social Democratic Party was reconstituted under the
leadership of Karoly Peyer a trade union Leaderwho had been Minister of the
Interior in the Peidl government.
The Resignation of Archduke Josef
On August 24th., 1919 Archduke Josef rcsigned as state Governor under the
unremitting pressure of the Allied powers.
The Withdrawal of Romanian Troops
The French imperialists, believing that they could convert Romania into a French
client state favoured the continued occupation by Romanian troops of as much of
Hungarian territory as possible.
The British and US imperialists, however, not wishing to see the influence of
their French rivals strengthened in this way, took their stand on the
"independence of Hungary" and through their domination of the Allied Supreme
Council, were successful in forcing the withdrawal of Romanian troops, which was
completed by Novernber, and gave their full backing to Horthy's
The White Terror
On August 11th., 1919 Horthy's "National Army" started out from Szeged, marching
through the north of the country not occuppied by Romanian troops to join up
with Lehar's army in the west, where Horthy established his military
From here, the combined counter-revolutionary force proceeded to cccupy the
whole country as the Romanian troops withdrew, taking Budapest on November 16th.
The path of the force was marked by savage white terror and mass anti-Jewish
pogroms. Within a few months 5,000 people had been brutally murdered, and 75,000
more were crarmmed into improvised concentration camps. More than 100,000 fled
from the country to escape terror.
The Peidl government had instructed all local organs and officials of the
"Soviet Republic" to remain in office until further notice. Thsoe who obeyed
this instruction fell victim to the White Terror.
"On instruction of the Peidl Ministry, all local soviets and political
commissariats were ordered to remain at their posts until further notice. In the
interest of the general welfare this order was generally but reluctantly
followed. These conscientious comrades were, a few days later, amidst horrible
outrage and abuse, arrested by the officers' camarilla or tortured to death".
(B. Szanto': "The Real Reason for the Collapse of the Hungarian Soviet
republic", in: "Die Internationale" (The International), Volume 1, No. 15/16;
November 1st., 1919, in: H. Gruber (Ed.) "International CommunIsm in the Era of
Lenin"; New York; 1972; p. 136).
The General Wage Cut
On August 17th., 1919 the National Federation of Hungarian Manufacturers imposed
a 50% wage cut on all industrial workers.
PART SEVEN : THE HUSZAR GOVERNMENT
(November 25th., 1919 - 24 March 14th., 1920)
The Formation of the Huszar Government
On November 24th., 1919, following the occupation of Budapest by Horthy's
counter-revolutionary troops, a new government was formed by these forces,
headed by Karoly Huszar.
The British diplomat Sir George Clark, who had arrived in Hungary on October
23rd., pressed Horthy to introduce a facade of "democracy" in Hungary, since the
atrocities committed by his troops had caused some embarrassment to the British
As a result of this intervention the new government was drawn not only from the
two newly-formed parties representing the landlord class - the Christian
National Unity Party, and the National
Independence and '48 Farmers' Party ("Smallholders Party") led by Istvan
Nagyatdi Szabo; the Social Democratic Party representing the interests of the
national capitalist class, was permitted to take part in the government, its
leader, Karoly Peyer, being given the portfolio of Minister of Labour and Public
On November 26th., 1919 the Supreme Allied Council recognised the Huszar
government as the legitimate government of Hungary.
On January 25-27th., 1920 parliamentary elections were held. However, the White
Terror continued during the election campaign, effectively preventing the
candidates of the Social Democratic Party from contesting the elections. As a
result the party withdrew from the elections, and, in protest, from the
The 150 seats of the new parliament were thus divided between two political
parties representing the interests of the landlord and comprador capitalist
National Independence and '48 Farmers' Party. . . . 91 seats
Christian National Unity Party . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 seats
The Restoration of the Monarchy
On February 29th., 1920 legislation was passed by the new parliament restoring
the monarchy, but leaving the post of monarch vacant.
The "Election" of Horthy as Regent
On March 1st 1920 units of Horthy's "National Army" surrounded and occupied the
parliament buildings and demanded that the deputies elected Horthy as Regent of
Hungary, which they duly did.
The Formation of the Simonyi-Semadam Government
On March 14th., 1920 a new coalition government of the two main political
parties was formed, headed by Sandor Simonyi-Semadam as Prime Minister.
The Treaty of Trianon
On June 4th., 1920 the Simonyi-Semadam government signed the Peace Treaty of
Trianon with the Allied Powers. This fixed the new boundaries of Hungary so as
to leave the new "kingdom" an area of 35.9 thousand square miles (out of the
area of 125.6 thousand square miles of the old kingdom) and a population of 7.6
million (out of the population of 20.9 million in the old kingdom);
it provided for the payment of an unspecified sum in reparations; and it limited
the armed forces of the new state to 35,000.
POSTSCRIPT : THE HORTHY SEMI-FASCIST REGIME
The semi-fascist regime under Horthy continued until October 1944.
Its character is described by modern revisionist historians with accuracy:
" A system of authoritarian dictatorship was brought about, in which the
elements of fascism mingled with the legality of conservative and reactionary
views. There was a parliamentarism of sorts, but of a type in which the majority
of representatives were tools in the hands of the leaders of the state
apparatus. A multi-party system existed, but the supremacy of the government
party was maintained by ruthless methods, resulting in what was virtually
one-party rule. Certain civil rights, such as a limited suffrage and the freedom
of assembly and organisation, were formally guaranteed, but their application
and use was almost totally dependent on the whims of the police.. .. . . .
The police and gendarme terror was still reminiscent of the mentality of the
counter-revolutionary armed detachments. The consolidated regime remained
chauvinistic and aggressively irredentism. The official ideology, the so-called
"Szeged idea" (the counter-revolutionary movement started out from the town of
Szeged), adorned with high-flown adjectives like "Christian" and "national", was
conceived in the spirit of Hungarian supremacy. The ideology of cultural
superiority and the idea of Hungarian political leadership in the Danube Valley,
together with the savage persecution of liberalism, democracy and communism as
'alien to the Hungarian people' permeated the whole school system, the press and
political life. . . .
Many citizens were ... barred from numerous areas of public life because of
their Jewish faith, and the few Jewish students admitted to the universities
were exposed to physical injury as the result of organised campaigns of
(E. Pamlenyi (Ed.): "A History of Hungary"; London; 1975; p. 472-3).
It was with this semi-fascist state that, on December 22nd., 1921, the leaders
of the Social Democratic Party- signed a pact - the Pethlen-Peyer Pact, signed
by Prime Minister Count Istvan Bethlen and the leader of the SDP, Karoly Peyer.
Under this agreement the SDP was permitted restricted rights to function as an
"opposition party" in return for the promise to support the regime at home and
APPENDIX : THE FATE OF BELA KUN
Following the collapse of the Hungarian "Soviet Republic", Bela Kun was interned
in Austria until the summer of 1920. After his release, he went to the Soviet
Union, where he remained until his death in 1939.
In the autumn of 1920, he took part, as a Political Commissar, in the last
campaign of the Civil War, in the Crimea, against the White guard troops
commanded by General Baron Petr Wrangel.
In February 1921, Kun was coopted to the Little Bureau of the Executive
Committee of the Communist International, and sent as the representative to
Germany. Espousing the "leftist" "theory of the general offensive", he played
the leading role there in the disastrous "March Action".
(These facets of Kun's political career are analysed in the Communist League
report on "Revisionism in Germany: Part One' In: "Compass").
Following his severe criticism by Lenin in connection with his role Germany, he
was then given a minor post in the Urals.
At the 4th. Congress of the Communist International, in February 1922, he
resumed his place in the leadership of the CI. Thereafter he took an active part
in all the congresses and most of the plenums of the Cl. He was at various times
member or candidate member of the ECCI, deputy member of its Presidium, member
of its Organizational Bureau, head of its Agit prop Department, and wrote
Bela Kun was arrested by the security police of the People's Commissariat of
Internal Affairs (NKVD) on May 50th., 1937 and executed on November 50th.,
1939. His wife Iren was arrested on February 25rd., 1958 and sentenced to 6
years in a labour camp, his daughter Agnes was dismissed from her position in a
publishing house, and the latter's husband, the Hungarian poet Antal Hidas was
also confined in a labour camp until released in 1945.
On February 21st., 1956, shortly after the 20th. Congress of the CPSU, Kun was
"rehabilitated" in an article in "Pravda" (Truth) written by the Hungarian Jeno
In March 1959 Iren Kun returned to Hungary.
On March 21st., 1964- a school and a street in Leningrad were named after Kun.
Despite his "rehabilitation", the neo-revisionist leaders - both of the Soviet
Union and of Hungary - have been extremely reticent about the circumstances of
his arrest and execution.
The officially approved Soviet biography of Kun, by I.M. Grachalk and
M.F.Lbovich, merely states:
"The life of this fiery champion of the working class movement, of this
distinguished figure in both the international and the Hungarian communist
movement, was cut short on 30th., November 1939".
( I.M. Granchak and M..F. Lbovich: "Bela Kun"; Moscow; 1975; p. 149)
and the official revisionist history of Hungary is little more explicit:
"He became a victim of the Stalinist purges".
(E.Pamlenyi: "A History of Hungary"; London; 1975; p. 620.)
Despite this reticence in Moscow and Budapest, most writers have attributed
Kun's arrest and execution to Stalin:
"The murder of the Hungarian Communist leader Bela Kun, may be regarded as a
specially characteristic example of Stalin's mania for destruction".
(B. Levytaky: "The Uses of Terror: The Soviet Secret Service 1917-70"; London;
1971; p. 112).
"Stalin's homicidal fury in the Comintern ... was directed against both leaders
and Party militants. . . The foreign Communist groupings were wiped out by
Stalin. . .
The Hungarian Communist leaders . .. managed to escape the "White Terror" only
to fall victim to Stalin's terror.. . .among them Bela Kun."
(B.Lazitch: "Stalin's Massacre of the Foreign Communist Leaders"; in M.M.
Drachovitch and B.Lazitch: "The Comintern: Historical Highlights"; New York;
1966; p. 140, 161-2;.
But even those who make this assumption are compelled to admit that Stalin had
no rational motive for the elimination of one:
"Kun was no oppositionist, no adherent of Trotskyists or any other such
movement, but a loyal supporter of Stalin".
(B.Levytsky: ibid.; p. 112).
"There could not have been an internal power struggle voiced in the massacres
described here, because the victims were foreigners and therefore ineligible as
potential rivals of Stalin.... or does the explanation that the purpose of the
massacre was to get rid of the remaining Trotskyite, Zinovievist or Bukharinist
elements suffice, for almost every foreign Communist leader arrested and killed
by Stalin's police had in the past served Stalin against Trotsky, Zinoviev and
No exclusively political interpretation could explain why it was necessary to
murder, along with their wives and children, Comintern leaders who had been in
Stalin's service for many years."
(B.Lazitch: ibid.; p. 170-2).
and so are forced to resort to "explanations" based on Stalin's alleged "psycho
'If we are to put a finger on the true reason for these massacres. . .we must
seek a psychological, even psycho pathological approach."
(B.Lazitch ibid.; p. 172).
on Stalin's alleged:
"mania for destruction" .
(B.Levytsky; Ibid; p.112).
The fact that in the remaining sixteen years of his life, unprejudiced and even
hostile observers in close contact with Stalin find him to be eminently sane
makes it difficult to take this "theory" seriously.
The facts of Kun's arrest and execution make sense however, if it is understood
(1) by 1937 Stalin and his fellow-Marxist-Leninists were in a minority in the
leadership of both the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist
International, which were dominated by (still partly concealed) revisionists;
(2) at the 7th. Congress of the Communist International its' revisionist
leadership, headed by Georgii Dimitrov, had diverted the CI onto a right
revisionist course; and
(3) Kun, with his long history of leftism, was unable completely to accept this
right revisionist line:
"Part of the leadership of the CPH, including Bela Kun . . .considered that it
was unnecessary for the Communists of Hungary to make a change at once in the
political line of the party (in accordance with the decisions of the 7th
Congress of the CI - Ed)."
(I.M.Granchak & M.F.Lbovich: Ibid; p. 146).
Not Stalin - who according to all the evidence available - was opposed to the
right revisionist line adopted by the 7th Congress of the CI - but the (still)
partly concealed revisionists who dominated the CI had the motive for wishing to
see Kun eliminated Comintern apparatus. And since the Soviet security police was
at this time headed by a (still concealed) member of the revisionist conspiracy
Nikolai Yezhov, they also had the opportunity to secure the physical liquidation
of Kun and other foreign Communists in the Soviet Union who were unable to
completely accept the new line.
The above interpretation is confirmed by the account published by Arvo Tuominen,
then General Secretary of the Communist Party of Finland, of the proceedings of
the commission set up by the leadership of the CI to examine "the case of Bela
Kun". This commission was presided over by Georgii Dimitrov (Bulgaria), the
"rapporteur" was Dimitri Manuilsky (Soviet Union), and its other members,
besides Tuominen, were Wilhelm Florin (Germany), Klement Gottwald
(Czechoslovakia), Otto Kuusinen (Finland), Wilhelm Pieck (Germany), Palmiro
Togliatti (Italy) and Wang Ming (China) - all of whom later revealed themselves
to be revisionists of long standing:
"As soon as the meeting had begun, the chairman, Georgii Dimitrov, announced
brutally that it was to resolve the case of Bela Kun. The Secretary of the
Comintern, Dimitri Manuilsky, immediately began the reading of certain
documents. After having read several pages he demanded of 'Citizen' Bela Kun, if
he was familiar with these documents.
The term 'Citizen' employed by Manuilsky made Bela Kun start violently. The rest
of us held our breath: the use of the word 'Citizen' in place of the term
'Comrade' signified in such circumstances a sentence of death.
Pale and upset, Bela Kun stammered:
'I am perfectly familiar with them. They are part of circular written by myself
and sent to the Communist activists of Hungary'.
'Very well!' said Manuilsky, and continued the reading of the letter. He read a
passage in which the activity of the Comintern was severely criticized and
attributed to the weak representation of the Soviet Union in the Comintern.
After reading this passage, Manuilsky turned once more towards Bela Kun:
'Has Citizen Bela Kun also written this passage?'
'Yes', replied Bela Kun with hesitation, for he sensed that something terrible
'Very well', said Manuilsky; 'Citizen Bela Kun must know that a representative
of the USSR in the Comintern is Comrade Stalin'."
(A. Tuominen: "Kremls Klockor" (The Kremlin Chimes) Helsinsfors; 1958; In "Est
(East and West), Volume 15 No. 293; February 1st/5th. 1963; p. 9).
"... roared like a mortally wounded lion:
'This is a terrible provocation, a conspiracy to get me murdered. But I swear
that I have not wanted to insult Stalin. I want to explain everything to Comrade
(A.Tuominen: Article in "Uusi Kuvaehti" (New Illustrated Magazine) No. 10/13,
June 22nd., 1956; in R.Conquest: "The great Terror"; Harmondsworth; 1971; p.
"When this duel had ended, Dimitrov shook a little bell and declared that the
meeting was terminated. . . . Bela Kun was allowed to leave".
(A.Tuominen: "Kremls Klockor" (The Kremlin Chimes); Helsingfors; 1958; in: "Est
et Ouest" (East and West), Volume 15, No. 293; February lst./l5th., 1963; p. 9).
The biography of Kun, officially approved by the Hungarian revisionists, by
Belane Kun, relates that a few days after this meeting Stalin telephoned and:
"asked Kun to receive a French reporter and refute a rumor of Kun's arrest".
(B. Kun; "Kun Bela" (Bela Kun); Budapest; l966; in R. Conquest: ibid.; p. 580).
This he did and the denial was published. A few days later, on May 30th., 1937,
Kun was arrested by the NKVD.
Clearly, either Stalin possessed a perverted and sadistic "sense of humour", for
which there is no evidence, or the moves to eliminate Kun were not made on
Stalin's initiative. Indeed, Stalin's telephone call may be seen as a move to
make Kun's arrest by the revisionist majority more difficult.
Besides Kun, a number of other foreign Communists resident in the Soviet Union
who - because of their firm Marxist-Leninist position, or more frequently,
because of their consistent "leftist" positions - were unable completely to
accept the right revisionist line adopted at the 7th Congress of the CI were
eliminated by the (still partly concealed) revisionist leaders of the CI in
conjunction with the revisionist led NKVD on the basis of trumped-up charges. To
link these actions with the "Personality cult" which they had built up around
Stalin, the "charges" were not infrequently related to alleged insults of
Other writers have given similar accounts to that cited by Tuominen of the Bela
Kun "case" of the proceedings in relation to other such foreign Communists
resident in the Soviet Union. For example
Herbert Wehner, then a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of
Germany living in Moscow, has described how the elimination of those leaders of
the CPG who were unable completely to accept the political line of the 7th.
Congress was carried out under the supervision of Palmiro Togliatti (Italy). In
the case of Herman Schubert, he relates:
"Herman Schubert, who worked for the executive committee of Red Aid after being
dropped from the party leadership, was preparing to take part in a debate
organised by the Presidium of the ECCI, with a number of the organisation's
officials present, when Ercoli (i.e., Togliatti - Ed.), who chaired the meeting,
asked him whether it was true that he had expressed himself in the manner
testified to in a letter written by Malke Schorr, an Austrian official of Red
Aid. In the letter, which Ercoli read out loud then and there, the woman
described a brief conversation she had had with Schubert in a corridor of the
Red Aid building. She had drawn Schubert's attention to the fact that Red Aid
should take advantage of the Moscow trials in its international propaganda, in
particular of Trotsky's relations with the Nazis. Schubert had replied that this
propaganda would not be effective, because the enemy could retort that Lenin had
crossed Germany in a sealed car with the permission of the Kaiser's militarists.
Malke Schorr insisted that measures be taken against Schubert, who had dared to
put Lenin and Trotsky on an equal plane! Ercoli repeated his query and demanded
that Schubert answer yes or no. Schubert wished to explain the circumstances of
the conversation and and the sense of his answer to Malke Schorr, but he was cut
short. Soon, afterwards, he was arrested".
(H. Wehner: "Erinnerungen" ("Memoirs"; Bonn, 1957; p. 150).
It is clear that the generally accepted picture of "Stalinist terror" in the
1950s is very far from the true one.