22. Fascist Counter Revolution?

Submitted by libcom on March 27, 2005

Fascist Counter-Revolution?

"In all its bloody triumphs over the self-sacrificing champions of a new and better society, that nefarious civilisation, based upon the enslavement of labour, drowns the moans of its victims in a hue and cry of calumny, reverberated by a world-wide echo."
K. Marx, The Civil War in France (1871).

Despite all this, there are, even today, members of the Communist Party who still believe their leaders' propaganda that Russian troops stopped a fascist counter-revolution in Hungary. Let us nail this lie once and for all.

In the Daily Worker of November 10, 1956, the British Communist Party's 'theoretician', Palme Dutt, wrote: "The issue in Hungary is between the Socialist achievements of twelve years and the return to capitalism, landlordism, and Horthy fascism, as made clear to all by Cardinal Mindszenty's broadcast." What a terrible indictment this sounds of Russian-type Communism! Does Palme Dutt really mean that large sections of the Hungarian working class actually preferred capitalism? Of course this is not true.

In our account of the Hungarian Revolution we have not mentioned the release of Cardinal Mindszenty (on October 30) nor his broadcast (on November 3) which Palme Dutt refers to. This was no mistake. We did not 'forget it'. The Mindszenty broadcast was not an important feature of the Revolution. It only appears important when one looks at the 'excuses' given by the Kremlin's apologists for the massacre of November 4.

It is unnecessary to quote the whole of Mindszenty's speech. Palme Dutt and other Stalinist propagandists based their claim of a 'return to fascism' on the fiction that Mindszenty called for the restoration of the confiscated property of the Catholic Church. While ambiguity abounded in the Cardinal's phrases, none could have been interpreted as meaning this - not even when he said he wanted "a classless society based on the rule of law and democracy and also on private ownership, correctly restricted by the interests of society and justice". This sentence might have tarred Mindszenty as God's own social-democratic confusion-monger, but never as a 'fascist'.

Reactionaries of conservative or even of fascist persuasion undoubtedly took part in the Revolution. They would no doubt have taken the fullest advantage of a new, free society to air their views. But such views would have gained insignificant support. These people certainly did not start the revolution nor did they have any influence on its development. Communist propagandists throughout the world scraped the barrel and ransacked the dispatches of press correspondents, particularly those of the Right, for any scrap of information which might be used to prove their contention. Mindszenty's broadcast, coming as it did the day before the second Russian attack, was the best they could unearth.

And even here, they were forced to misrepresent what Mindszenty had said. They were also forced to maintain an eloquent silence when, on November 5, Mindszenty had to seek refuge in the American Embassy. What? Were there no Hungarian 'counter-revolutionaries' who might have sheltered the worthy priest? So much for his influence on the Hungarian masses in revolt. On the whole, Mindszenty supported Nagy. But Nagy was not in control - the people were. The workers would not listen to Nagy. Why should they listen to Mindszenty?

If the Hungarian Revolution of October-December 1956 was the work of 'reactionary, fascist, counter-revolutionary forces', where was the bureaucracy's much-vaunted 'efficiency'? What were the Hungarian state-security forces (A.V.O.) doing during the preparations for the uprising? How is it no inkling of the plans for revolt ever reached the big flapping ears of the secret police? In a state where a dossier was kept of every person above the age of six, the sort of organisation essential to a fascist, or just a plain capitalist-inspired, revolt was impossible. It may seem paradoxical, but the strength of the Hungarians in revolution lay in their lack of a centralised and bureaucratic 'revolutionary' organisation - an organisation, that is, similar to that of their rulers.

What professional revolutionaries would have wasted valuable time in pulling down the massive statue of Stalin, in burning books and papers in the 'Horizont' Russian bookshops, in the interminable discussions that went on in the Councils, committees, and even in the streets?

But on the other hand, what professional revolutionaries would have been able to extract from the Hungarian working class the depths of initiative, resistance, and self-sacrifice they were to show in a cause they felt to be their very own?

The Stalinists still insist that the revolutionaries did not get their arms from the factories or from soldiers in the Hungarian army. All their propaganda at the time stressed that arms were being smuggled to the people across the Austrian border. How could the frontier guards (a section of the bureaucracy's most faithful servants, the A.V.O.) be so feckless in their 'duties' as to allow hundreds of thousands of rifles, machine-guns, grenades - not to mention hundreds of tons of ammunition - to pass unnoticed through the electrified barbed wire and from there to proceed, unmolested, to various pre-arranged distribution points? Little more need be said about the charge of 'fascist counter-revolution'!

But there were other, minor features which, the Stalinists claim, were 'reactionary': the demand for parliamentary elections, the illusions in U.N.O., the dropping of the term of address 'comrade', the adoption of the word 'friend', and the elimination of the Communist Party emblem from the Hungarian flag.

We have already commented on some of these points. The first two demands arose as the result of ten years of Stalinist rule. Not only were parties of the Right suppressed, but also all political tendencies and ideas among the working class itself. Compared with the conditions that prevailed in Russian-dominated Hungary, many of the political institutions in the West appeared as paragons of democratic virtue. Even within the ranks of the Party, all opposition was strangled. Defectors from the party line were dealt with by the security police.

It is not relevant here to make a detailed analysis of fascism. It is enough to point out that fascism had no chance among workers as politically conscious as the Hungarians showed themselves to be in October-November 1956. Moreover, the social and economic conditions essential for the growth of fascist tendencies simply do not develop under conditions of total bureaucratic capitalism. Despite this, the Party propagandists formulated a new dogma following Kadar's return from Moscow, in March 1957. They declared that "the dictatorship of the proletariat, if overthrown, cannot be succeeded by any form of government other than fascist counter-revolution". Like in the Catholic Church, things are proclaimed as dogma which the leaders want the masses to accept but can't logically convince them of. Anyway, even before the Revolution, the proletariat did not dictate. It was dictated to. And it was against this that the proletariat rose. Kadar himself was to admit all this quite explicitly when he proclaimed: "the regime is aware that the people do not always know what is good for them. It is therefore the duty of the leadership to act, not according to the will of the people, but according to what the leadership knows to be in the best interests of the people". [92]

At the 10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party, in 1921, while the workers and sailors of Kronstadt were being ruthlessly suppressed, Trotsky had first clearly formulated the same idea. Denouncing the workers' opposition inside his own Party he explained: "They have come out with dangerous slogans! They have made a fetish of democratic principles! They have placed the workers' right to elect representatives above the Party. As if the Party were not entitled to assert its dictatorship even if that dictatorship temporarily clashed with the passing moods of the workers' democracy". Trotsky spoke of the "revolutionary historical birthright of the Party." "The Party is obliged to maintain its dictatorship ... regardless of temporary vacillations, even in the working class ... The dictatorship does not base itself at every given moment on the formal principle of a workers' democracy ..."

Over seventy years earlier Marx had spoken of the emancipation of the working class being the task of the working class itself. In 1921 and in 1956 Bolshevism and Stalinism respectively set out to prove him wrong. The Party leaders, not the masses, were now the embodiment of social progress. If necessary the 'temporary vacillations of the working class' were to be corrected with Party bullets!