Shibdas Ghosh

Imre Nagy

Source : Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) (used with kind permission)
First published : 12 July, 1958
HTML Markup : Salil Sen for September, 2007
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.

Written in the background of a serious ideological confusion in the communist circles over the question of execution of Imre Nagy in Hungary who led a counter-revolutionary uprising there to subvert the socialist state.

As soon as the news of the trial and execution of Imre Nagy by the Hungarian government came out in the press, the imperialist-capitalists and other reactionary circles throughout the world, all at a time, have raised a hue and cry. It is clear that two motives are at play behind this offensive that the reactionary imperialist-capitalists have launched under cover of cheap humanist stance and popular democracy. One is to denigrate the communist ideology and the Soviet Union in the eyes of the world at large, and the other is to exploit this situation with a view to boosting the sagging morale of the reactionary nationalist forces of these countries of Eastern Europe, especially Hungary, and directing them against the working class states of these countries and the Soviet Union as well. The sordid history of black deeds of the imperialist-capitalist forces who are now masquerading as the 'champions of humanism, democracy and liberty' is no more unknown to anyone. The long record of their savage and barbaric armed onslaught to suppress the freedom loving peoples of the countries of Asia and Africa as also their naked interference, direct or indirect, in the internal affairs of these countries under this or that pretext is known to all. Just the other day, even in France, an erstwhile citadel of parliamentary democracy, when General de Gaulle, in Hitlerite way, throttled democracy and assumed the power of a dictator, these 'champions of democracy' did not feel that their ideals of democracy, humanism and liberty were in any way at stake ;  on the contrary, they went so far as to lend tacit support to all these heinous acts, this way or that. So, whatever hue and cry they may raise over the trial and execution of Imre Nagy, a traitor to socialism who led the counter-revolutionary forces to subvert the working class state, their real motive is not at all difficult to understand and we firmly believe that no honest and right-thinking person will be confused by this. Socialists of the world and the Praja Socialist Party (PSP) of our country, and, taking cue from them, many other splinter so-called Leftist parties have all joined in this chorus. These reactionary forces, taking this opportunity, have, with great zeal, engaged themselves in launching vilification campaigns against the world communist movement and the Soviet Union. Mouthing the slogans of humanism and democracy, they are in reality out to confuse the people at large and particularly the friends of communism and the Soviet Union. Before going into the question of whether the trial and execution of Imre Nagy were in conformity with the ideals of democracy and humanism, we would like to put a few questions to the members and workers of the Praja Socialist Party. First, where were your ideals of humanism, democracy and liberty, about which your party is now waxing so eloquent, when the French imperialists let loose a barbarous attack on the Algerian freedom fighters and butchered thousands of unarmed freedom loving people, and all this at a time when the French socialists affiliated to the Socialist International were in the government ? How is it that all of you preferred to keep mum when General de Gaulle, terrorizing the people at gunpoint, gave a burial to parliamentary democracy, assumed dictatorial power and the French socialists stood shamelessly by  his side ? Why did your leaders, the so-called champions of humanism and democracy, keep silent when the reactionaries in Hungary led by Nagy let loose an orgy of violence and mercilessly butchered the communists, the best sons of the soil ? What specimen of honesty is it ? May we ask you to ponder deeply, dispassionately and without prejudice over this glaring inconsistency between the preaching and practice of your party and your leaders ? Secondly, does any ideal or activity become sacrosanct and supportable simply because it has been able to muster people's support behind it ? As for example, the hated Nazism of Hitler, the movement for the formation of Pakistan in our country under the leadership of the Muslim League and similar kinds of reactionary moves at different times in different countries were able to secure people's support, even if temporarily. Despite massive support behind all these reactionary moves and ideas, did any honest and progressive individual support them ? It is, therefore, evident that mere mass support cannot be the criterion in deciding the character of an idea or movement. On what logic can anyone proclaiming himself a socialist support the counter-revolutionary move to restore capitalism, even in the name of establishing parliamentary democracy in Hungary, where the socialist state — whatever might be its shortcomings and limitations — came into being through revolutionary overthrow of imperialism, capitalism and feudalism ? Is it so very difficult to see through the real designs and motives of these so-called champions of humanism and democracy when one finds that they feel no hesitation to support these counter-revolutionary activities only on the plea of popular mass support ? Any student of history knows it well that it is social democracy that gave birth to fascism. Now it  is  again that social democracy which, in the so-called 'free world' of the bourgeois democracy, has become the most powerful ideological weapon in the hands of the capitalists in the matter of unleashing a veritable campaign against communism and Soviet Russia. The PSP and some other splinter Leftist parties in our country, waving this banner of rotten and discredited social democracy, are boasting of humanism and democracy. We earnestly hope that no honest and conscientious being will be duped by this sort of propaganda campaign of these parties.

There is no denying the fact that whatever may be the motive behind this vilification campaign by the imperialist-capitalist states and the social democrats, some amount of confusion has been created centring round this particular incident amongst a section of honest and right thinking people in different countries. Even in our country, some confusion prevails in some parties, big or small, who claim themselves to be communists. Some discussion has, therefore, become essential in this context.

First, it should be borne in mind that nobody, whether he calls himself a communist or not, can make a correct appraisal of this event unless he is able to free himself completely from the influence of bourgeois humanism and bourgeois democracy. For, we firmly believe that it is the influence of bourgeois humanism, the concept of supra-class democracy in a class divided society and the meaningless fascination towards the bourgeois parliamentary setup and its judicial system that is mainly responsible for causing such confusion. Bourgeois humanism and the ideology of communism are not only not complementary but are antagonistic to each other. The conflict between the ideologies of bourgeois humanism and that of communism is therefore inevitable in the sphere of ideological battle. But we often find that many intellectuals, even the so-called communists, very often confuse the dynamic concepts of ethics and morality of communist ideology with the concept of absolute and eternal moral values of bourgeois humanism. The idea of bourgeois humanism emerged at a particular stage of development of human thoughts and ideas to fulfil a particular historic necessity of human society. Although bourgeois humanism played a distinct role in enhancing the cause of nineteenth century revolutionary movement for establishing capitalism and bourgeois democratic setup in the epoch of feudal order and absolutism, today, in the present era of moribund capitalism and world proletarian revolution, it is the same ideology of bourgeois humanism that provides the most powerful ideological weapon in the hands of the exploiter capitalist class against the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-feudal revolutionary struggles of the masses. History will testify that it has not been possible to put an end to feudal and capitalist rule and exploitation and establish socialism in any single country, thereby opening up the path of uninterrupted social development without communist ideology, its strategy and tactics. Not only this, wherever the people had achieved their emancipation with Marxism-Leninism as their instrument of struggle, everywhere they did it by waging a fierce and relentless battle in the ideological field against the bourgeois concept of humanism, moral values and the so-called supra-class concept of democracy. So, one is bound to commit a great blunder if one judges the concept of morality and the act of a communist by the yardstick of bourgeois humanism which has been marked in history as an ideology conducive and complementary to the  cause and interest of the capitalist rule and exploitation. In this connection, we are to bear in mind one more point. It is the influence of bourgeois humanism and reactionary nationalism which is fundamentally opposed to proletarian internationalism that works directly or indirectly in the realm of thought as the root cause of all sorts of revisionist and reformist deviations appearing in the communist movement. Humanism which communists preach is qualitatively different from bourgeois humanism. Any concept, ideology or movement that helps to emancipate society from all kinds of exploitation and thereby to open up the path of uninterrupted social progress is consistent with the cause of human justice and, in our opinion, is the ideology of humanism the communists stand for, no matter with what ideology or state structure it comes in conflict or whether the struggle is violent or non-violent. But national independence, liberty, democracy, non-violence, universal brotherhood — call it by any name — if any such concept, ideology or movement goes against the people's interest and acts as an obstacle to the development and progress of society, then it is sheer betrayal of the cause of people and stands against humanism itself. Today, when the world is divided into two opposite camps with the capitalist-imperialist states on the one side and the socialist states led by the communists on the other, and when the future shape of the world social system depends on the success of the anti-capitalist revolutions in the different countries to be conducted in the perspective of the basic contradiction existing between these two opposite camps, any attempt to overthrow the socialist state in any country is not just a treachery to the cause of the people of that country alone, but betrays the interests of the toiling masses of the world and acts as an enemy of humanism. Although we consider the execution of Rosenbergs to be an act against humanism, the decision to execute Nagy is in complete harmony with people's interest and principle of social justice. The judicial system in a bourgeois parliamentary country can never be accepted by a true communist as the appropriate method of deliverance of justice. For, it is known to any Marxist or communist that the so-called "popular democratic" judicial system in the bourgeois democratic countries, although it poses to deliver justice to all, is, in the ultimate analysis, an instrument to protect the class interest of the capitalists, no matter whether it awards judgements in favour of the people on some petty affairs. But for the people it is a farce, a sham show of  justice when the basic class interest is found to be involved. And since Imre Nagy and his associates were not tried in the same very process of "popular democracy" (which is nothing but a farce) no communist can accept that what has been violated here is the principle of justice. So the real issue here is not whether the trial was conducted following the formalities of bourgeois democratic judicial method or not. The all-important question here is whether or not Imre Nagy and his associates provided leadership to the counter-revolutionary move in Hungary with a view to subverting the socialist state. Whether or not these activities on their part were betrayal of the cause of the masses and went against humanism itself. If anybody considers that to organize a movement for the overthrow of a socialist state for the restoration of  capitalism is perfectly in agreement with humanism — then his is entirely a different case.

But to any person who is sympathetic to the cause of the people and to all the progressive sections of society such activities can only mean downright and utter betrayal of people's cause and butchery of humanism unless of course they become biased against the communist movement and the Soviet Union. If capital punishment need be meted out to any person in human society, then it must be admitted that persons engaged in such heinous activities surely deserve it first. Had anybody an appropriate knowledge of the actual political situation in the New Democratic States of East Europe and the clandestine activities the imperialists are constantly carrying on inside these countries, he would have had no difficulty in seeing the justification and significance of the consideration that found expression in the execution of Nagy.

In fine, we would like to say a few words to the leaders of the international communist movement and more particularly to the common workers of the Communist Party of India.

The trend of revisionism, reformism and democratization which actually means de-centralization that started growing in the sphere of thinking and organizational activity of the communist movement since the 20th Congress of the CPSU and has become a powerful force within a short time is, to a great extent, responsible for the ideological confusion prevailing at present. At this juncture of intense class conflict in the international arena, we hold that it is of paramount importance to lay stress on the principles of proletarian internationalism, proletarian revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat and monolithic type of party organization based on democratic centralism and on such other basic tenets of Marxist-Leninist principles. But in the sphere of mutual relationship between the socialist countries we observe that instead of correctly realizing the necessity of adhering to the principle of proletarian internationalism, one-sided and unilateral emphasis has so long been given on questions like national sovereignty and equality of rights while developing mutual relationship among them. And what is more, the Marxist class outlook and class-approach to state machinery and democracy have been practically neglected behind the slogan of "different roads to socialism in different countries", and by the practice of speaking of 'democracy' and 'democratic system' in general terms without relating them to their class origin or class content, thus helping develop a supra-class concept about 'democracy' and meaningless fascination about the bourgeois parliamentary system amongst the people.

In our country, its pernicious effect has gone to such an extent that the Kerala State Unit of the CPI has openly demanded of the Central Committee of the party to voice protest against the execution of Imre Nagy. And in this regard many of the communist friends in our country did not feel it necessary even to follow the communist code of conduct. So, we would urge the communist friends to ponder over calmly as to the real cause that has given rise to the ideological confusion centring round the execution of Nagy.

Shibdas Ghosh Internet Archive  |  Marxism and Anti-Imperialism in India