Eastern Europe in the Post-War World

By Hubert Ripka | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
The Hungarian Revolution

THE INTELLECTUAL PIONEERS OF FREEDOM

Had the Red Army not intervened at the very beginning of the demonstrations in Budapest in the last days of October 1956, some kind of 'Gomulkism' might, quite conceivably, have also been established in Hungary. Until that time at least, events in Hungary, a satellite that -- since the Poznan rising -- was considerably influenced by Poland, were not dissimilar to the pattern of political evolution in Poland.

Brutal Soviet intervention was only one reason why the revolution spread like fire throughout Hungary. As early as 1955, the regime in Poland was making reluctant concessions to the ever-increasing pressure of the liberals. These concessions became more frequent in Poland after Khrushchev's attack on Stalin, but Rakosi continued to impose his harsh rule in Hungary. His Stalinist line was made all the more unbearable because the Hungarians -- unlike other enslaved nations -- had enjoyed, from the middle of 1953 to the beginning of 1955, certain advantages from the 'softer' policies introduced by Imre Nagy. Rakosi came to be loathed more and more, especially by Communist intellectuals and students. Finally, the Hungarian intelligentsia, Communist and non-Communist, became the chief advocates of a return to democracy. Spurred on by their consuming desire for freedom from tyranny, they prepared the way for revolt. While Rakosi became more cruelly inflexible, they grew proportionally more radical.

After the dethronement of Stalin, the only course left to this intractable Stalinist was to appear to conform to the new policy line. Rakosi began to learn that lip-service was not enough when Moscow rehabilitated the notorious Bela Kun, on its own

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