Home > BC: Hungary 1919-1945, In English > The Period of Retorsion

The Period of Retorsion

1919: The order's been re-established

As the part of the breaking down of the 1917-23 revolutionary wave the bourgeoisie used very manifold means, took advantage of the weaknesses of the proletariat, to beat back the proletarian revolution in Hungary. When the self-organizing proletariat was actively fighting against the imperialist war by force of arms, organizing extended strike movement, forming workers’ councils, looting, as well as started the liquidation of the bourgeoisie, a “radical” framing force was needed which could counteract the extension and centralization of the struggles, the organization of the proletariat as a party. This role was played by the Bolshevik movement which, in spite of that it gained its strength mainly from the proletariat and its leadership, in words, was for the revolution (of course it wanted to carry out the revolution by the specific Bolshevik scheme: it sought to withdraw the old ruling class in order that it could establish the radical social democratic form of capitalism controlled by the Bolsheviks), during the period of deep crisis of capital, when there were good conditions for proletarian self-organization and for the total distruction of capitalist structures, it was objectively counter-revolutionary. The Bolsheviks backed by the moderate social democrats established the so-called Hungarian Council Republic, a structure of power which was able to successfully counteract the radicalisation of the masses. Under their reign the Bolshevik leadership was acting the part of the grave-digger of the struggling proletariat and doing so encouraged the sweep of the counter-revolution. For instance when Béla Kun entered into negotiations with the Entente and succeeded in counteracting the evolution of revolutionary defetism: Clemenceau sent a message for Kun in which he called upon the Bolshevik leadership to stop the advance of the Red Army in Slovakia. And what’s happened thanks to the „God of bourgeoisie”? Kun entered into collusion with the bourgeoisie, betrayed the Slovakian proletariat and doing so increased the demoralization, geared up the sweep of the white-terror carried out against the proletariat. The Red Army accepted the commands of the party-bureaucracy so the army, recruited from workers, could experience gradually to its own cost the consequences of Béla Kun’s oath of allegiance. When all these things delivered the goods and the Hungarian proletariat was unable to extend its struggle, unite with other proletarian movements in the region, finish with the Bolshevik leadership, and was defeated also by force of arms the government of the Hungarian Council Republic resigned, since it weakened, broke up and was unable to maintain its own power. The resignation was published in Népszava on 2nd of August. Kun and his associates earlier had hoped to get support from the Russian Bolsheviks but the latter were waging bloody war on the agrarian workers, the rich peasant proprietors and the white armies to maintain their power. So they were powerless to help their counter-revolutionary allied in Hungary.

Thus after all these events the restauration of the traditional bourgeois order started gradually. Right-wing social democrats formed a goverment under the direction of Gyula Peidl. By the reorganization of courts, of the police, of the gendarmerie, by giving back the companies to the owners the government built the bases necessary for the reconstruction. The bourgeoisie needed a stabilitating force in the region which was able to ensure the maintenance of the capitalist structures and the smoothness of them in long-term. It had to be able to eliminate the further proletarian resistance and to build a political-economic structure of which the production could be restarted in. Further condition for the stabilization was the signature of the peace-treaty which could adjust the „World War”, so a sound government needed. However, the Romanian troops after the occupation of East-Hungary, made an entry into Budapest on 4th and 5th of August, 1919. Thus the reign of the so-called trade-unionist government led by Peidl was only temporary. On 6th of August, the Romanian troops backed by the Hungarian conservative counter-revolutionary forces occupied the prime minister’s office and dispersed the trade-unionist leadership. The latter a few days earlier had even trusted that the Entente would redeem its promise and in this way they would calmly build a capitalist system, dreamt and led by them. They were wrong.

The counter-revolutionary forces, made an entry into Hungary, were not monolithic. A sphere of interest was represented by the Entente forces, the Hungarian nationalists also separated into different groups, etc. During the rivalry of the counter-revolutionary groups the events were managed more and more by the forces led by Miklós Horthy and by the the Romanian troops. Insomuch as the white guards led by Horthy had the necessary military force and after the fall of the Council Republic they were able to keep under control the major part of the government structures. In this time the reigning governments were only figureheads. The white-terror finished with all forms of proletarian resistance, it was merciless and revenged for the injuries of the bourgeoisie. Where the Romanian troops, which occupied the eastern and the middle part of the country, were not present there the terrorists of the Hungarian officer guards slaughtered the proletarians. They strengthened and extended their internecine war. The captured comrades of the Lenin Lads, who had been the vanguard of the revolution, were fiendishly tormented (just as the middle-age Inquisition did it) and later executed. The revenge of the bourgeoisie was bloodthirsty, it befitted their class blackground. Where Horthy’s troops were marching there were hanged proletarians, broken bones, eyes put out. Meanwhile the Bolshevik-social democratic left-wing took refuge in Austria. Béla Kun and his associates left the country while they deliberately eliminated from this fleeing the anarchists and left-wing Bolsheviks, who tried to hide and to resist in Hungary. The consequences were very depressing: Tibor Szamuely was struck dead by the border guards (or he commited suicide), Ottó Korvin stayed at Budapest and continued the organization, thus he was captured, tormented and later executed (there was an attempt to liberate him but the adventurous action failed). Thousands of militants, myriads of proletarians who were delivered into the hands of the white-terror stayed in Hungary and tried to reorganize our movement.

Beyond the armed terror the white forces used means of propaganda (which was spreading nationalism and revisionary insanity everywhere) and the legitimation of anti-Semitism (a numerus clausus in the case of universities for people of Jewish origin was adopted in 1920) to pacify and to win the Hungarian working class over to the white counter-revolution. In effect the conditions for the capitalist stabilization were given, so the white forces backed by the Entente successfully altered the political structure, and in a few years formed a sound government. Horthy and his associates tried to save their empire (after all they were directly descended from a state-power of which ruling class lost the „World War”), so they offered to the French bourgeoisie to support the intervention against Soviet-Russia with army. This offer, however, didn’t save their empire from the breaking up: the peace-treaty in Versailles, in the Trianon castle was signed in July, 1920. So for them, to the period of „World War I” and of the revolution which ended with huge economic loss, added the „apocalypse” of losing of territories. The territory of Hungary decreased from 282000 km² to 93000 km², its population decreased from 18 million to 7,6 million. The breaking up of the former empire is a serious trauma for the Hungarian far-right to this very day, so they often roar at their demonstrations and at football matches the slogan of „Down with Trianon!”. On the other hand the peace-treaty disunited thousands of working-class families and during the following decades many of them fell for nationalism driven from above and were fighting for bourgeois interests, killing their class fellows – meanwhile the irredentist framing had ever-increasing influence.

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