Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 HSR

Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 (HSR)

 

a state of dictatorship of the proletariat that lasted in Hungary from Mar. 21 to Aug. 1, 1919. Its creation was the consequence of the revolutionary upsurge provoked by the intensification of political and economic oppression in Hungary during World War I and by the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The government of the bourgeois liberal-radical parties and the Social Democrats that came to power on Oct. 31, 1918, as a result of the victory of the bourgeois democratic revolution proved incapable of resolving the tasks confronting it. Since it was also unable to find a solution to the foreign-policy crisis produced by recurrent pressure on the part of the Entente, the government resigned, offering complete power to the leaders of the Social Democratic Party. In the context of an acute revolutionary crisis, the latter could not bring themselves to form a government without the participation of the Communists; they entered into negotiations with the imprisoned (since Feb. 21, 1919) leaders of the Communist Party of Hungary (CPH). The two parties united (March 21) into the Socialist Party under conditions of recognition of the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat. That same day, the HSR was proclaimed and the first government—the Revolutionary Governmental Council (RGC)—was formed. S. Garbay, a Social Democrat, became chairman of the RGC. A prominent role in the organization of Soviet power and in the development of the foundations of domestic and foreign policy of the HSR was played by B. Kún, who held the post of people’s commissar for foreign affairs. The RGC included Communists and Social Democrats. The formation of the HSR showed that the dictatorship of the proletariat was not a “specifically Russian phenomenon”; it was applicable for other countries as well. The proclamation of the HSR evoked enormous enthusiasm not only among the workers of Hungary but among the workers of all countries, especially Soviet Russia; on March 22, V. I. Lenin sent a salutatory telegram to the government of the HSR in the name of the Eighth Congress of the RCP(Bolshevik). The RGC, thanks to the persistence of the Communists (B. Kún, T. Szamuelly, B. Szántó, B. Vágó, and others) and also the left-wing Social Democrats (J. Landler, E. Varga, G. Nyisztor, J. Hamburger, J. Pogány, and others) who had joined it, set a course for the fundamental transformation of the country. Capitalist factories, mines, means of communications, banks (decrees of March 26), and land holdings exceeding 100 holds (57 ha; the decree of April 3) were nationalized and proclaimed public property; the eight-hour work day was introduced, with an increase in wages averaging 25 percent (the decree of April 17). More than 100,000 workers were moved into apartments confiscated from the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. Universal, free state insurance for industrial and office workers was implemented, free education for children up to 14 years of age was introduced, and a workers’ university was formed. The Hungarian Red Army was established (the decree of March 25) for the defense of the republic. The All-Hungarian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was held between June 14 and June 24; it adopted the Constitution of the HSR and elected the Central Executive Committee of the republic. In April the Entente organized armed intervention against the HSR, utilizing the troops of the bourgeois governments of Rumania and Czechoslovakia. The republic’s economic situation deteriorated sharply as a result of the imperialist blockade. The critical situation of the HSR aggravated the vacillations of some Social Democrats and redoubled the subversive work of the right-wing Social Democrats, who were seeking the restoration of the bourgeois system. In counterbalance to the capitulators, the Communists and the left-wing Social Democrats who joined with them summoned the working class to the struggle. The Budapest Workers’ Council sent half its membership to the front and carried out a general mobilization of workers for the defense of the republic. Russian, Ukrainian, Austrian, Polish, Rumanian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, and other internationalists fought in the ranks of the Hungarian Red Army. The offensive of the Rumanian and Czechoslovak forces (beginning on April 16 and 27 respectively) was halted in the middle of May. Moving to the offensive, the Hungarian Red Army liberated the territory of the HSR and, through a heroic campaign in the north, occupied Košice on June 6 and Prešov on June 9, thus facilitating the proclamation of the Slovak Soviet Republic of 1919. The HSR recognized the Slovak Soviet Republic, concluded an alliance with it, and also recognized the right of the Slovak people to complete self-determination and unification into a single socialist state with the Czech people in the event of the victory of the Czech proletariat. Through diplomatic pressure the Entente imperialists were able to check the heroic offensive of the Hungarian Red Army and obtain the withdrawal of its troops to a demarcation line established by the Entente. However, the Entente did not keep its promise with respect to the withdrawal of Rumanian forces. In response to the note of People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs B. Kún pointing out the necessity of living up to that promise, the imperialists of the Entente demanded the dissolution of the Hungarian Red Army. On July 20 the Hungarian forces began an offensive on the eastern front, but the plan for the offensive was treacherously betrayed to the interventionists by counterrevolutionary officers serving on the staff of the Hungarian Red Army. The Rumanian forces moved to the counteroffensive. Exploiting the resumption of military actions, right-wing socialists and trade-union leaders increased their subversive activity in the army and in the rear. They conducted negotiations with representatives of the Entente in Vienna, seeking the resignation of the HSR government on the pretext that it was obstructing the conclusion of a peace treaty with the Entente and the lifting of the blockade. B. Kún, T. Szamuelly, J. Hamburger, and other prominent figures in the HSR proposed an urgent convocation of the Budapest Council on July 31, calling on it to mobilize the workers immediately for the defense of the HSR. However, this did not come to pass. On August 1, under pressure from the right-wing Socialists, the government of the HSR submitted its resignation.

Soviet power in Hungary was suppressed by the military forces of the Entente with the support of domestic counterrevolutionary forces. Despite its short duration (133 days), the HSR had great historic significance in the development of the Hungarian and international workers’ movements. Hungary was the first country after Russia to proclaim Soviet power.

V. I. Lenin devoted much attention to the HSR; he appraised its achievements highly and studied its experience. He made a profound analysis of the main errors committed by the Hungarian Communists in carrying out the socialist revolution: the fact that the Social Democratic Party had not been purged of right-wing elements before the amalgamation with the Communists—“the unification of the Hungarian Communists with the reformists cost the Hungarian proletariat dearly” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 205); and the transformation of confiscated landlord and church lands into state farms instead of dividing the lands among the landless and land-starved peasants, thus preventing the establishment of a firm alliance between the working class and village poor and the complete neutralization of the middle peasants. Lenin considered the experiment of the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Hungary by a comparatively peaceful route to be “decisive for the proletarian masses, for the European proletariat and toiling peasantry” (ibid., vol. 38, p. 262).

REFERENCES

1919 god v Vengrii: Sb. materialov k 40-letiiu Vengerskoi Sovetskoi respubliki. Moscow, 1959.
Vengerskie internatsionalisty v Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii i grazhdanskoi voine v SSSR: Sb. dokumentov, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1968.
Lebov, M. F. Vengerskaia Sovetskaia respublika 1919 g. Moscow, 1959.
Liptay, E. Vengerskaia Sovetskaia respublika. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from Hungarian.)
Istoriia vengerskogo revoliutsionnogo rabochego dvizheniia, part 1. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from Hungarian.)
Münnich, F. A Magyar Tanácskóztársaságról. [Budapest], 1969.

M. F. LEBOVICH

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