Hungary '56 - Andy Anderson

Soviet tank captured by the crowd, Hungary 56

Andy Anderson's pamphlet, written in 1964 and published by Solidarity is invaluable as a guide to the events of the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

The demands for economic and political self-management were common to many revolutions of the past, but were unique in that they occurred in the context of the 'Communist' USSR, and after Stalin's regime had ended.

Re-published by AK Press 2002
ISBN: 0 934868 01 8

"We shall drag the blood-soaked Hungarian mud on to the carpets of your drawing rooms.

In vain do you take us into your homes - we still remain homeless. In vain do you dress us in new clothes - we remain in rags. From now on a hundred thousand question marks confront you.

If you wish to live in the illusion of a false peace, do not heed us. In our streets there are still cobble-stones from which to build barricades. From our woods we can still get stout sticks. We still have clear consciences with which to face the guns.

But if you will heed us, listen. And at long last understand. We not only want to bear witness to the sufferings of the Hungarian people in their fight for freedom. We want to draw the attention of all people to the simple truth that freedom can only be achieved through struggle.

Peace is not simply an absence of war. No people have longed more passionately for peace than we. But it must not be the peace of quiescence. This involves complicity in oppression. We promise the world that we shall remain the apostles of freedom.

All workers, socialists, even communists, must at last understand that a bureaucratic state has nothing to do with socialism."

Nemsetör, 15 January, 1957.

Comments

armillaria
Aug 19 2013 05:20

.....Does anyone know what Nemsetor actually is?

comradenicky
Sep 21 2013 02:59

Is there a Spanish translation to Andy Andersons' Hungary 56? If yes, could anyone please send me a link or if no, that's ok.

Thanks

unitinu
Sep 5 2017 19:14
armillaria wrote:
.....Does anyone know what Nemsetor actually is?

I think it's supposed to be "nemzetőr", which apparently means "militiaman."

mirysics
Oct 26 2017 11:20

As I reflect once again on the anniversary of this harrowing event, it deeply saddens me that these portions of the Western 'left' still extol this destructive event, which bears witness to many of my kinsmen being lynched for being Communists and many more subject to anti-Semitic pogroms. I understand this is an anarchist/libertarian leftist oriented website that generally opposes socialist states, but it is demoralizing to see ostensible comrades republish and glorify this sort of banal historiography. It is indeed possible to express earnestly the nature of the "left anti-soviet" oppostion without glossing over the enormous crimes that they permitted. "Freedom fighters" such as Béla Király, Gergely Pongrátz, Ekrem Kemál, the entire makeup of the anti-Soviet forces in the Battles of Corvin Köz, Széna tér (the two most significant and largest anti-Soviet fronts), these people were fascists. They hung my comrades in the streets, my family even. This was not a "minority", this was the essence of the uprising! Nagy admits this, claiming at one point that if he were to express to the outside what he was actually witnessing (lynching of Communists, Jewish pogroms), the Soviets would certainly invade.

I do not wish to impose or otherwise express any further as to my position on the Soviet intervention, because it frankly doesn't matter. This pamphlet is a bloviating rehashing of bourgeois historiography, but I'm guessing you all know that. Because I don't think you are stupid. I just wish you didn't so desperately want to identify with a side in a historical event that you resort to these harmful abstractions. I'm not sure what you think would have happened had this romanticized "revolution" succeeded, and it seems like no one does. There still were and are bloodthirsty vampires in this world, the imperialists, the capitalists, who will use every single opportunity possible to dig their fangs in. Look at how they exploited post-Tito Yugoslavia to pit forces against each other, dismember a state, dominate it economically, and then bomb it to smithereens and drop depleted uranium on its children with impunity. These are the vampires that would've met Hungary, a precariously-positioned country for war, as they have seen with centuries of perpetual war between the Hapsburgs and Ottomans, for one. How did they plan on meeting/combatting these vampires? After years of research, I've concluded that none of them had the foggiest. Wrapped up in idealist delusions that a country, where most of the living men had been Arrow-Cross Nazi soldiers just a decade earlier, were suddenly class-conscious proletarians with a measured grasp on libertarian socialism, you perpetuate the lies of your purported enemies: the global bourgeoisie and their fascist running dogs. It is quite disheartening.

Craftwork
Oct 26 2017 12:46
This pamphlet is a bloviating rehashing of bourgeois historiography, but I'm guessing you all know that. Because I don't think you are stupid. I just wish you didn't so desperately want to identify with a side in a historical event that you resort to these harmful abstractions. I'm not sure what you think would have happened had this romanticized "revolution" succeeded, and it seems like no one does.

Who is "you all"? I suspect most people on this website agree that we should oppose the 'democratic' (i.e. bourgeois/nationalist) opposition movements to "state socialist" governments as much as the state socialists themselves - no support, alliances or sympathy for any faction of the bourgeoisie.

I agree that there is a starry-eyed view of revolts in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, ..., Venezuela today, by (real) communists that overlooks the ideological grip of democratism and nationalism.

However, that doesn't mean we should overlook the role of independent communists in these struggles, or the continuity between the Stalinists of yesterday and the nationalists of today (often the same people). Gáspár Miklós Tamás writes:

Revolution – as something navigating uncharted waters by definition – needs theory, while conservative defenders of the status quo need only tradition, piety, deference to inherited authority. They do not propose, they only dispose – and wish to preserve things which appear valuable to their elders and betters. The revolutionary legacy of state capitalism steered by an anti-capitalist proletarian party demanded that its rule be based on correct philosophy and correct (social) science. This is why the régime was more ferocious towards rivals than towards enemies. The mere existence of ‘another Marxism’ for example was intolerable as it robbed the Party of its intellectual foundations, hence its hatred for social democrats, left communists and other heretics. After the defeat of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the intellectual participants were separated in two groups: those coming from the pre-war right, were decorated, the former communists and socialists thrown in jail. The former could be won over, their sin was venial, but the latter were seen as traitors, misinterpreters of the true doctrine, so their sin was mortal.

Juan Conatz
Oct 26 2017 16:56

Considering that the uprising and subsequent Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 created massive splits in the world left (not just in the Communist Parties), the stakes have always been high when it comes to what one says actually occurred here. The analysis that it was a revolt to establish/reestablish capitalism and liberal democracy is quite old. However, I have not come across the claim that the event could be primarily characterized as a pogrom. That seems like a more recent revision. And I'd like to see some actual evidence. Political descendants of those who sent in the tanks have also made similar claims with Ukrainian anarchists that don't pass muster, so you can see why I would be initially skeptical.

Red Marriott
Oct 26 2017 17:37
mirysics wrote:
After years of research, I've concluded...

Please show the factual evidence to support your conclusions.

Mike Harman
Oct 28 2017 21:42

There are two main arguments about Hungary 1956 being primarily anti-semitic/nationalist:

1. That the Hungarian Communist Party was mainly jewish, and therefore the 1956 uprising, because it was against the Communist Party, was an anti-semitic pogrom.

This doesn't really merit any discussion and google only really finds David Irving pushing that narrative, although tankies on twitter do it too. I did find this LRB review of 2006 academic books which discusses it a bit: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n22/eric-hobsbawm/could-it-have-been-different

2. That Hungarian Nazis (possibly backed by the CIA) were involved in the uprising. I don't think anyone disputes this, the question is the extent to which they were involved, and to what extent this has anything to do with the factory committees etc.

mirysics' post is arguing this second point, and there are some facts provided in his comment, just not much. I think it's better to engage with what's provided than just dismiss it though, so here's an attempt:

"Freedom fighters" such as Béla Király, Gergely Pongrátz, Ekrem Kemál, the entire makeup of the anti-Soviet forces in the Battles of Corvin Köz, Széna tér (the two most significant and largest anti-Soviet fronts), these people were fascists.

Bela Kiraly was proper Hungarian fascist officer - he commanded a forced labour jewish battalion in WWII http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/bela-kiraly-soldier-who-led-hungarian-resistance-against-the-soviet-union-during-the-1956-uprising-1741949.html

Gergely Pongrátz - no politics in this obituary:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/gergely-pongraacutetz-5345541.html

Ekrem Kemál I can't find anything in English, although his son (similarly named) was a Nazi.

Some more googling, and I found this declassified CIA document on the Hungarian Freedom Fighters Association, identifies several key players as fascists: https://ia601305.us.archive.org/0/items/HungarianFreedomFightersAssociationINSCOMDossierZF010456WJ/Hungarian-Freedom-Fighters-Association-ZF010456WJ.pdf

So the leadership of the main nationalist military units in Budapest were Hungarian WWII veterans and likely many under their command.

However this does not at all explain the student and workers councils, which were in all major cities, not just in Budapest, and which continued for weeks after the military resistance had been crushed and any fascists involved had fled Hungary or well on their way.

Also in Budapest itself a lot more was going on than these groups. Sandor Kopasci, who was in the communist anti-fascist resistance during WWII rose to become chief of police in Budapest, joined the revolt (in Nagy's circle), ended up as a janitor in Canada. I read 'In the Name of the Working Class' (didn't realise he was the chief of police until after I bought it..) a few years ago and he talks about going to meet anarchists in the city centre briefly, people he would have arrested weeks/days earlier.

So there was obvious Hungarian nationalist/fascist involvement, but this is used both by tankies and the Hungarian right to try to limit an understanding of 1956 to their involvement, ignoring everything else.

This shouldn't be either dismissed or over-emphasised, but it needs to be put in a proper context and to be honest I haven't seen a good attempt to do that anywhere. https://libcom.org/library/hungary-56-proletariat-storming-heaven-mouvement-communiste for example says right at the start it's not going to even go into the question, but then it's discussing the movement in the factories rather than the streets.