Raya Dunayevskaya 1956

Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary

Source: News & Letters, Tuesday, November 13, 1956. This piece appeared as Dunayevskaya’s “Two Worlds: Notes From a Diary” column;
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.

“Russian soldiers, go home!” has become the central rallying slogan of the Hungarian revolution, which broke out on Tuesday, Oct. 23. The student youth seem to have been the ones who sparked this revolt. But there is no doubt whatever that the overwhelming majority of the people are not merely “behind” it, but are creatively and actively participating in this struggle for freedom.

The Working-Class Method

As in all deep popular revolts, the Hungarian soldiers have joined the workers who form leading core of the revolution. A general strike tied up all railroad transport as well as most production. Not only did this working-class method of fighting put its stamp on the revolt, but also it thereby linked itself to the military strategy o the rebellion.

Against ‘Stalinist’ and ‘Titoist’

What is new in this revolt, the way in which it is distinguished from the Polish revolt, is that this mass revolution is not only struggling against Russian imperialist domination. It is also against its own ruling clique, so-called Stalinist and Titoist alike.

Indeed, there is no fundamental difference between these two brands insofar as the relations with the workers are concerned.

The Hungarian people opposed Imre Nagy’s “new” government, in which the only thing that is new is that some anti-Communist, but equally reactionary small capitalists (Smallholders Party) are included in the Central Committee. Small business capitalists and state capitalists are thus leagued with the Russians in trying to put down the mass revolt.

The Face of Counter-Revolution

There is not a single word, in all the verbiage about national unity and about getting the Russian troops out of Hungary, that there will be any change in relations at the point of production.

The attempt, on this side of the Iron Curtain, is to whitewash counter-revolution so long as it is not Russian. This is something the Hungarian working people are laying their lives down to stop. It is they who have suffered under the rule of the Five-Year Plans. This is true not only of the so-called Stalinist version of plans. In Tito’s Yugoslavia as in Gomulka’s Poland as in Khruschev’s Russia, the production plans are directed against the workers.

Thus, for example, the so-called “New Course” – which was initiated after the death of Stalin when heavy industry targets were revised downwards – did not in any way change the conditions of production. The guiding rule remained “strict labor discipline.”

In true state capitalist fashion, Gaspar, chairman of the National Council of the so-called Trade Unions, asked on January 12, 1956 that “educational measures (read: jail sentences) must be taken against violators of work discipline.”

Nagy, who was so busy talking about the “old sins,” did nothing to change that. In fact, in the midst of the revolution against him, when he was still appealing for “national unity” against Russian occupation, he was already busy telling the Hungarian workers how tough things would be for the “first few months” after “order” has been established.

Revising production targets did nothing to change work “norms” (production quotas). On the contrary, until the actual outbreak, the Hungarian press was full of talk against workers’ “complacency” to these targets and, while promising better wages sometime in the future, the Nagys continued to talk of “work competitions” (read: piecework and speedup) as the rule of production.

Stalinist or Titoist managers, even as both Ford and Reuther here, can think of no way of running production except on the backs of the workers.

It Depends On The Workers

At the same time, however, we must bear in mind that in the popular revolt, too, there are two major forces. The like of the revolution depends on whether the workers or the middle classes gain the leadership.

The present attempts of the workers to seize oil fields, rail centers, steel factories and means of communication and to run these by revolutionary committees – that is to say, workers’ control of production – is the true sign that this revolution is attempting a total change. In that alone can lie its true success.

If Russia puts down this revolt by its superior military might, it will learn that no counter-revolution can, for long, still the new forces of revolution that have unfolded.

- R.D.