Hungary, 1956

(From the book "Anarchy: A Graphic Guide", written and illustrated by Clifford Harper)

Stalin died on March 6th, 1953. Within months a workers' revolt in Czechoslovakia was quickly crushed. Shortly afterwards, a rebellion sparked off by Berlin building workers spread throughout East Germany and was subdued by Russian tanks after days of bitter street-fighting. In June 1956, Polish workers struck in Poznan for workers' control, higher pay and lower prices. As the strike spread, thousands took to the streets and a full-scale uprising seized the city. Cries of 'Freedom and Bread' and-'Out with the Russians' were only silenced by the use of tanks.

In Hungary, in 1956, the Writers' Union Congress denounced 'the regime of tyranny'. The poet Konya asked:

'In the name of what morality do the Communists consider themselves justified in committing arbitrary acts against their former allies, staging witch-trials, persecuting innocent people, treating genuine revolutionaries as if they were traitors, gaoling and killing them? In the name of what morality?'
On October 23rd, 1956; in Budapest, 155,000 demonstrated 'in solidarity with our Polish brothers and sisters'. Marching on the radio station, they paused to tear down a huge statue of
Stalin but its jackboots held fast. The radio station was ringed by the AVO, the hated security police. Without warning they machine-gunned the peaceful crowd.

The Hungarian revolution had begun. The night shift at an arms factory rushed truck loads of weapons to the city centre, where thousands of workers had gathered. Police and soldiers handed their arms over to the people. By early the following morning the main streets were in the hands of the workers and students, a Revolutionary Council was formed in Budapest and a General Strike, soon spread to all of Hungary.

Russian tanks, entering Budapest to aid the threatened Government, met furious resistance. Armed only with light weapons and molotov cocktails, thousands fought back. After three days thirty tanks were destroyed and Russian tank crews began siding with the rebels.

Workers' councils were formed in factories, steel mills, power stations, coal mines and railway depots throughout Hungary. Peasants spontaneously formed their own councils, redistributed land, and supplied the towns with food. From the first day liberated radio stations broadcast the news across the country.

With the General Strike complete, the councils began to federate and within a week established a Council Republic. Government ceased to exist. The workers' councils then issued an ultimatum the strike would continue until all Russian troops quit the country. On October 30th, the Red Army tanks pulled out of Hungary. It seemd as if the people had won.

But on November 4th the tanks returned. Having regrouped beyond the borders, fifteen Russian divisions, now with six thousand tanks, fell upon the Hungarian people. All major cities were pounded by artillery fire. In Budapest, the workers' districts bore the brunt of the assault. The people fought back as best they could, but the entire city was shelled continuously for four days and soon lay in ruins. After ten days of terrible fighting, with thousands dead and injured, the people finally gave in.

Guerrilla bands fought on throughout 1957 but the last workers' councils were abolished on November 17th. Strikes and demonstrations continued until 1959.


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