Bela Kun

Materials for the History of the Birth of the Hungarian Revolution

First Published: Pravda July 24, 1918
Source: International Socialist Library No. 15, Revolutionary Essays by Bela Kun, B.S.P., London.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The eyes of all workers are turned towards Russia. Mass emigations of the persecuted reach the Ukraine, but very rarely does anyone manage to reach Russia.

Lately a Hungarian metalworker visited our group. He had deserted from the Italian front, lived in an illegal position near Budapest, and then fled, on June 1st, through Bukovina and the Ukraine, to Russia. His comrade had served in a prisoners-of-war camp, and had picked up a little Russian from the Russian prisoners. They succeeded in reaching the frontier by means of false documents, which are easily procurable in Hungary. One of them has communicated the following to the newspaper, “The Social Revolution” — the Magyar organ of the Russian Communist Party — concerning the reasons which prompted him to start for Russia —

“I am asked why I left Hungary for Russia. I had my good reasons.

“Instead of the régime of Tisza, who was told to go to the devil in 1917, there appeared the far-famed ‘democratic’ government of Count Esterhazy. He displayed his zeal for democracy ‘in practice.’ He began negotiations with the leaders of the social-patriotic party, and begged them on his knees to support him in his work and make the working class realise that ‘the fatherland’ was in danger.’ ‘We are surrounded by enemies,’ he told them. But he forgot to mention that the danger only threatened his family estates.

“He only underlined the necessity for increasing production, the reward for which would be universal and secret suffrage, including women in its scope. He promised to bring the Reform Bill into Parliament as soon as possible, in order together with it to confirm the war loans which were crushing the workers. ‘We shall also assign you seats on the Food Commission at present being organised. After all, such a position is no mean one at a moment when there is no bread, and when we have to cudgel our brains to discover how to satisfy the demands of the mob for bread.’ The Party leaders replied something after this style: ‘Leave all that to us: we know what to do. Guarantee us a demonstration, which will give us a chance to throw light upon the political situation, and it will not be unsuccessful — Goodbye, Excellency.’ The demonstration took place, but the expected ‘success’ was not forthcoming. Moreover, something took place which the worthy leaders had not even in their dreams expected.

“All the shop windows at the corner of Rakoczy Street and at the Royal Museum were smashed, so it appeared: the shops had been looted, and the goods taken home. This was rather too much . . . “Nepszava” shortly published an explanation, alleging that hirelings of Tisza were responsible for the looting: not sober-minded people, but ruffians hired by Tisza, to oust Esterhazy from the ministerial armchair. And that wasp not to be recommended: after all, it was only Esterhazy who could get the Reform Bill through . . . The arrests showed that the riot was not organised by hooligans bought by Tisza. It turned out that the arrested men were organised workers, who would never sell themselves to Tisza — as the leaders of the official party who had not gone over to Esterhazy pointed out.

“The distrust of the people towards the Party leaders from that day began to grow, and found expression in the January strike. The leaders had to resign, because the workers had become more class-conscious, and a crowd of 200,000 people was pouring through Budapest, intoxicated with the Russian revolution, and crying “We too want a revolutioin!” But the party leaders, who were negotiating with Wekerle, were not capable of that . . . Instead, they tried to bring confusion into the ranks of the proletariat. They allowed the tram-men to come out, but exacted certain sureties from the delegates of some of the workshops, and ultimately we had nothing left us but to stand by our sureties. Then they sent 24 of us from the workshop to the Italian front, whence I fled, via Budapest, Bukovina, and the Ukraine, to Russia.

“I will remark that we did not know that in Russia had been set up the dictatorship of the proletariat. Had that been known to us, our mass strike would have ended quite differently. They deliberately concealed it from us.

“During the January strike we had the opportunity of observing that the elements advocating revolution were for the most part young workmen, between 18 and 24. They defended the extremist point of view, declaring that what we needed was a revolution, not franchise reform. In March and April they were taken for the Army. The same fate threatened me, and I don’t in the least regret having escaped it. I now have the chance of making a closer aquaintance with proletarian dictatorship; at home, in our wealthy capitalist country, it is only the labour leaders who cannot even comprehend it.

“I am happy to be able both to observe and to fight for that proletarian dictatorship, and, spiritually enriched, to return home to open the eyes of the workers, starving in our rich Hungarian land of Canaan, concerning the enormous difference between a demonstration in the name of electoral reform, and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“Will anyone, after all this, ask me why I fled from Hungary to Russia?

“With fraternal greetings, Tanczicz.”

In this letter is reflected the state of mind of the Hungarian proletarians, previous to the great June strike.