Hungarian Uprising


Hungarian Uprising
(1956)
   The Hungarian uprising was a 12-day-long rebellion by students, workers and eventually soldiers against communist rule in Hungary that was mercilessly crushed by Soviet forces. Resentment toward the Soviet-dominated one-party system that had developed in Hungary following World War II had been mounting for some time, and when Nikita Khrushchev denounced Josef Stalin at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1956, Hungarians felt confident enough to adopt the denouncement as their own. In the atmosphere of increased de-Stalinization that Khrushchev’s speech and the 1956 Polish Uprising propagated, the people of Hungary, already agitated by the continual presence of Soviet troops in their country and the repressive nature of the governments of Mátyás Rákosi and Erno Gerö, felt strong enough to rebel. Intellectual criticism of the Soviet regime in the aftermath of the 20th Congress soon turned to rebellion in Hungary among students and workers, as protestors destroyed statues of Stalin, demanded an end to the leadership of the country by any associates of the Rákosi-Gerö regimes, and called for immediate radical political reform.
   These demonstrations developed into all-out revolt when on 23 October Hungarian forces loyal to the communist regime began to fire on protestors in Budapest. The arrival of Soviet tanks to quash the upheaval served only to exacerbate tensions, so much so that Hungarian soldiers joined the revolt, and Moscow ordered the withdrawal of its forces. The Hungarian government, sensing the need of reform to preserve, instigated a reshuffle that saw Imre Nagy take the reins as prime minister (Nagy had introduced reforms in his initial term of office from 1953 to 1955), and János Kádár become head of the Hungarian Workers Party. With the communist regime progressively undermined by the reemergence of political parties banned following World War II and the restoration of the church’s role in society, Nagy propounded plans to form a coalition government that would create a mixed market economy, withdraw from the Warsaw Pact in order to attain neutral status for Hungary, and bring about a multi-party system.
   Unsurprisingly, Moscow reacted angrily to these intentions, and began to work with party leader Kádár, also determined that the regime should strenuously avoid any reform, to form a counter-government to be placed in power by Soviet might. On 4 November Soviet forces invaded Hungary with the aim of crushing the rebellion and supplanting Prime Minister Nagy with Kádár’s Moscow satellite government. Resistance was rapidly overcome and Soviet victory assured by November 14th, at which point the counter-revolutionary Kádár government took charge of party and state under the banner of the renamed Hungarian Socialist Workers Party. Some 190,000 Hungarians immediately fled, while Nagy and his fellow reformers were fooled by the Russian promise of safe conduct, taken to Romania and secretly executed in 1958.
   The murdered leaders of the revolution were finally rehabilitated in 1989 by a communist regime on the verge of collapse, while surviving activists from the uprising formed a key component of postcommunist Hungary.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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