Jorg Hirsch / Kim Travnor (translation)

Andrew Andersen (map editing for web version)


Longman London and New York 1996






The Creation of the Hungarian People's Democracy, 1945-56




With the expulsion of the last Wehrmacht units on Hungarian soil on 4 April 1945 and the country's complete occupation by the Red Army the war had come to an end. Yet it was a long time before Hungary achieved the stabilisation necessary to create a democratic order and overcome the immense damage caused by the war. In many places the Soviet soldiers had been greeted as liberators, but excesses like rapes, indiscriminate arrests and the deporation of over 250,000 persons to forced labour camps in the Soviet Union soon changed the civilian population's perceptions. The piecemeal dismantling of plant and installations to pay for reparations and the unlimited power accrued by the chairman of the Allied Control Commission, Marshall K. E. Vorošilov, made people adopt a more realistic attitude as the character of the new régime began to emerge more clearly. Around 400,000 Hungarians had been killed in the Second World War. Direct damage to property was estimated at about 22 billion pre-war pengé, a figure which represented about four or five times the national income for 1938 and about 40 per cent of the nation's total wealth. The destruction of all the bridges over the Danube and the Tisza and heavy losses in the transport sector, amounting to 35 per cent of Hungary's railway installations, over 80 per cent of its rolling stock and the entire Danube fleet, had a particularly damaging effect. A quarter of all dwellings had suffered shelling and bomb damage. The housing stock in Budapest had been particularly badly hit. According to initial estimates, 50 per cent of the country's industrial installations and plant had been totally destroyed. As a result of these losses and shortages of raw materials, production in May 1945 reached only 30 per cent of its pre-war levels. Agriculture had lost half of its livestock and a third of its machinery, with the result that the grain harvest in 1945, also affected by the radical land reform, produced a yield of only 30 per cent of the pre-war average. Galloping inflation, caused by Germany running up a debt of 1.5 billion Marks by the end of 1944, took off in the spring of 1945. Since Hungary's financial reserves were soon completely exhausted, food could eventually only be obtained by bartering with objects of recognised value.

Under the Soviet occupation the Communists, who had been banned ever since the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship in August 1919, tried immediately -- and very successfully -- to exploit the collapse of the Horthy régime and its political, social, administrative and judicial institutions. The party leaders returning from Soviet exile in early November 1944 could depend on the support of two to three thousand Hungarian Communists, who were not, however, given any influential positions in the provisional Central Committee of the revived Hungarian Communist Party (Magyar Kommunista Párt -- MKP) led by its chairman, Ernő Gerő, and his deputy, Imre Nagy. The "'Programme for the Democratic Reconstruction and Future Development of Hungary'", published in Debrecen on 30 November 1944, was all but unanimously adopted by the Hungarian National Independence Front (Magyar Nemzeti Függetlenségi Front) which had been founded with active Communist assistance and thus became the basis of the Provisional National Government's policies. In this government Communist Party members at first secured only the ministries of agriculture, industry and transport and social welfare. But the interior minister, Ferenc Erdei, who nominally belonged to the National Peasants' Party -- which, in the meantime, had been strongly infiltrated by the Communists -- was a crypto-Communist who saw to it that the 'Political Police Section' set up in late 1944 (originally ÁVO, later ÁVH) could be used as an instrument of the Communist Party. By exploiting their control of the police, whose economic section was used to intimidate the 'class enemy', and by controlling meetings and assemblies, the postal and telegraph services, the radio and the movement of people and goods, together with granting material privileges under the guise of 'social welfare' and implementing a popular land reform, thus creating new dependencies, the Communists gained a degree of influence in the country which far outweighed their actual numbers and former political significance.

As dislike of the occupying Red Army grew among the vast majority of Hungarians, the Soviet troops soon did not bother to conceal their open support of the Communists. The preferential backing which the Soviet occupation power gave to the Communists benefited them immediately after the cessation of hostilities when they began taking over control of the administration and local government in the name of the Independence Front in order to replace the traditional political institutions with national councils at all levels. They also benefited from being given places on the councils as equal partners alongside the older-established and more popular Social Democrats and Smallholders, and frequently took over the key position of chairman. The call to safeguard the unity of the working class and join forces in the process of reconstruction proved inadequate in making the representatives of the olderestablished Social Democrats and the Trade Union Council go along with the Communists who had to rely on the support of the National Peasants' Party. But the increasingly employed threat of asking the Soviet occupation power to intervene, together with Communist control of the political tribunals and people's courts, soon achieved the desired effect of discouraging or totally silencing potential opponents.

However it was only when the veteran Communist, Mátyás Rákosi, returned to Hungary in February 1945 with detailed instructions from Moscow that the Hungarian Communist Party committed itself totally to Stalin's party line. The Central Committee of the Budapest Communist Party, led by Rákosi, which had come out of illegality on 19 January, merged with the Debrecen party headquarters on 23 February and Rákosi declared himself General Secretary. At the party's national congress on 20-21 May 1945 the Communists employed extremely nationalistic language when they announced their readiness to cooperate with all democratic elements in the task of national reconstruction, seen as the most urgent problem facing the country. The attempt to combine nationalism and Communism by stressing popular national issues, especially territorial ones like northern Transylvania and Slovakia, was justified by the argument that the heightening of nationalist feelings was merely an intermediate stage on the way to true internationalism and any denial of national interests simply meant that the class enemy would be able to exploit these for his own political ends.

This policy direction was a concession to the views held by most of the country's home-based, nationalistically minded Communists. Unlike those members who had returned from exile in Moscow, they had experienced the war and its accompanying persecutions at first hand and in their own country. They did not view Hungary as a territory occupied by the Red Army and a mere satellite of Moscow, but as a country which would have to undergo a revolution inspired by their own national motivations and carried out by indigenous elements, if necessary with the backing of Soviet troops. They stressed the need to mobilise progressive democratic social forces in order to develop Socialism within the framework of a 'new democracy' and geared their domestic political programme to implementing long-overdue political, social and economic reforms. These would not necessarily have to be doctrinaire measures, but would be intended to deprive their political opponents of their power base. Thus the overriding priority for Hungary's 'homegrown Communists', as they were called, was to create an effective political organisation which would consist of a nucleus of disciplined supporters at the centre of a larger number of affiliated groups who sympathised with most of their short-term aims.

It was to be expected that the 5,000 or so members of the group which made up the Moscow 'Apparatchiks' or 'Muscovites' would seek to establish much closer ties with Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party. The prevailing view amongst this group was that only the powerful backing of the Soviet Union's experienced and purposeful political leaders as well as the presence of the Red Army could prevent the disruptive possibility of foreign intervention before they had had time to carry out a national 'revolution'. Only the Soviet leaders could, in their view, obviate the national animosity that existed between Hungary and its neighbours, especially Rumania and Czechoslovakia. Stalin had also known how to ensure a high degree of obedience towards the Soviet Communist Party's dictates because the leaders he designated and made personally responsible to him were a mixture of revolutionary heroes, martyrs and Stalinist bureaucrats who were relatively inexperienced and isolated from the population and even within their circle of party colleagues in Hungary itself. Their insecurity and aggression, which they had developed as a result of their long period of imprisonment, exile or membership of an ethnic minority, their lack of popular support and, despite outward party discipline, often barely concealed personal animosity within the small party leadership, guaranteed that Moscow's instructions would be faithfully carried out. In the cease-fire agreement of 20 January 1945, the USSR had reduced Hungary's sovereignty to a minimum -much more than was the case with Russia's other enemies. This allowed the Kremlin to deploy its own Soviet experts in the process of restructuring the government and to place Hungarian adherents completely loyal to Moscow in all key positions in the civil service, army and police to ensure that the Soviet Communist Party's absolute power to command and the Hungarian Party's unconditional subordination to Stalin's personal rule were guaranteed. The growing tensions between individual groups within the Hungarian Communist Party, between the hard core of Hungarian Communists -- later called 'national Communists' -- the 'Muscovites', Spanish and Chinese civil war veterans, suspected of being 'Internationalists', western émigrés and the victims of German concentration camps, were at first of little political significance.

Thanks to Stalin's backing Mátyás Rákosi ( 1892-1971) was able to take over the party leadership unopposed. After a period as a prisoner of war in Russia during the First World War, he had joined the Hungarian Communists after his release and during the Soviet dictatorship had held various posts in the provincial party organisation, assuming overall command of the Red Guard in its final days. He had made his way to the Soviet Union via Vienna and had been employed latterly as a party secretary on the executive committee of the Comintern. Entrusted with the task of reconstructing the Hungarian Communist Party, he returned to his homeland in 1924, only to be arrested a year later and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment. It was not until 1940 that he was expelled to the Soviet Union. In February 1945, he returned to Hungary to find Ernő Gerő already there. Gerő had similarly spent a long period in Soviet exile, but, in contrast to Béla Kun who fell victim to the purges in 1939, had survived Stalin's reign of terror and, thanks to his work for the Comintern in France, Belgium and Spain, had a good knowledge of international affairs. Imre Nagy ( 1896-1958) had also been in exile in Moscow. He, too, had been won over to Bolshevism whilst a prisoner-of-war in Russia and after years of working underground in Hungary had reached the Soviet Union from Vienna in 1928. During the Second World War he had been put in charge of the Hungarian broadcasts of 'Radio Kossuth' and during his time there had worked alongside József Révai ( 1898-1959). Révai was widely regarded as the main ideologue of the Soviet dictatorship in 1919 and who, interrupted by a spell in prison between 1931 and 1934, had tried many times to revive the Communist movement in Hungary. As a political journalist and editor-in-chief of the party newspaper, Szabad Nép (A Free People), and finally minister for national education, he was given the task of imposing ideological conformity on Hungary.

László Rajk ( 1908-1949), a former teacher who had been expelled from the university of Budapest for his Communist activities in 1932, had a different experience. As a member of the National Federation of Hungarian Building Workers he had been involved in organising nationwide strikes in 1935 and had taken an active part in the Spanish Civil War as party secretary in the Hungarian Batallion of the International Brigades. After a spell of internment in France he had escaped to Hungary where he was again interned until the end of September 1944. For a short time thereafter he was one of the original organisers of the Hungarian Front. Imprisoned once more and deported to Germany he took no further part in active politics until May 1945 when he built up a very powerful position as secretary of the Budapest party organisation, member of the Central Committee and Politburo, deputy General Secretary of the Communist Party and interior minister. Of the Communists who had spent the war in Hungary only János Kádár, born in 1912, gained prominence. Imprisoned for two years in 1935 following his early involvement in the Communist Youth League, he held an important party post between 1940 and 1941, and, as a Central Committee secretary, had taken part in rebuilding Hungary's banned Communist party from the beginning of 1943 onwards. Although he was promoted to the new Central Committee and Politburo in February 1945 and rose as secretary of the Greater Budapest party organisation to become deputy General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1946, he was undoubtedly a second-rank member of a party hierarchy dominated by the 'Muscovites'.

After a highly unscrupulous recruiting campaign the Communist Party was eventually able to win support for its aims from sympathisers and idealists, opportunists and fellow-travellers, fascist converts and frightened civil servants, former Szálasi supporters and members of thelumpenproletariat. Also, some of the mainly Social Democratic workforce and rural poor now joined the party out of conviction. In February 1945, it had 30,000 members and by July of the same year this figure had risen to 225,000 members. By January 1946 it had risen further to almost 610,000. Thereafter, membership increased only gradually from 660,000 in December 1947 to 887,472 in June 1948. But, despite these impressive figures the Communists had no hope of coming to power by legal, democratic and parliamentary means, although they were constantly able to extend their sphere of influence thanks to the support and backing they received from the Soviet-dominated Allied Control Commission regardless of objections from the American and British commissioners.

The main opposition to the Communists came from the Independent Party of Smallholders, Agricultural Workers and Citizens (Független Kisgazda, Földmunkás és Polgári Párt) which was refounded in Soviet-occupied Szeged on 23 November 1944. Its Supreme National Council entrusted the Calvinist Reform Church pastor, Zoltán Tildy ( party leader), and Ferenc Nagy ( chairman), with the party leadership on 19-20 August 1945. This party, which numbered more than 900,000 members by the summer of 1945 and had advocated a greater measure of political democracy, social justice and a 'firm new national policy on land' since 1930, was fully prepared to cooperate with any socially relevant groups within the framework of the Hungarian National Independence Front. However, it saw itself increasingly as a party which stood above social class differences and combined a belief in the bourgeois-democratic way of life, defence of private property and freedom of worship with the aim of creating 'a genuine democracy to be built upon Hungary's democratic traditions and imbued with the spirit of Hungary'. Although the Smallholders continued to work within the Provisional Government and the Independence Front, the Communists never tired of denouncing these, their strongest political opponents, as disguised heirs to Horthy's brand of fascism. They attempted to weaken them by provoking secessionist defections and putting pressure on their popular party leaders through slanderous accusations, intimidation and police action.

The Communist Party also manipulated the left wing of the National Peasants' Party which had grown out of the populist movement and had been founded as far back as June 1939 (Nemzeti Parasztpárt). Centred on the newspaper Szabad Szó (The Free Word), this radical Socialist party led by left-wing intellectuals and representing the agrarian proletariat, first began to be more politically effective within the Hungarian National Independence Front. Its plans for land reform, published on 14 January 1945, called for the breaking up of all estates of more than 100 hold (i.e. 57.5 hectares), and formed the basis of the decree issued on 17 March 1945 which abolished the large estates and provided for land to be redistributed for the benefit of the rural poor. All the Smallholders Party's attempts to achieve closer cooperation with the National Peasants' Party, which numbered 170,000 members in the summer of 1945, failed because of opposition from the latter's chairman Péter Veres and its leaders who leaned heavily towards the Communists. The efforts of its General Secretary, Imre Kovács, to remove Communist sympathisers from the party's headquarters, also proved unsuccessful, especially after the party's incorporation into the "'Left-Wing Bloc'" on 5 March 1946. Thus, the National Peasants' Party drifted more and more into the Communist camp and began to advocate 'the development of a people's democracy', the nationalisation of industry and collectivisation of agriculture without being able to prevent its cessation of independent political activity in the autumn of 1948 and self-inflicted dissolution a year later.

The Social Democratic Party, which had been driven underground during the Second World War, had been able to reactivate over 350,000 members, mainly industrial workers, by the end of 1945 with its slogan 'Democracy today, Socialism tomorrow'. It supported the idea of a people's republic, radical democratic reforms, the nationalisation of key industries and the confiscation of the great estates. Under Árpád Szakasits, who was elected General Secretary in August 1945, and a majority of leaders from its left wing, the Social Democratic Party found it increasingly difficult to resist the Communist call for working-class unity and, as part of the 'Left-Wing Bloc', increasingly espoused the latter's aims more openly. The party leadership frustrated both ex-minister Károly Peyer's attempt early in 1946 to return the party to a more independent line and the negotiations, held in the autumn of 1947, aimed at achieving the closer cooperation of all anti-Communist groups under the leadership of the Smallholders' Party. By February 1948, Social Democrats who supported the idea of the party pursuing its own independent policies had been expelled and after a thorough purge the party was forced to merge with the Communists on 12 June 1948 to form the Hungarian Workers' Party (Magyar Dolgozók Pártja -- MDP).

From early 1946 onwards, divisions deepened between the unequal partners in this new coalition as to which political direction the country should take and which principles it should adopt in economic and social policy. However, these played only a secondary role in the months immediately after the war. A large degree of consensus existed between the groups represented in the provisional National Assembly and the Provisional Government. They agreed that the armistice conditions -- to strive for Hungary's democratic reconstruction and bring the supporters of Horthy's régime and representatives of Szálasi's reign of terror to justice -should be carried out to the letter. This, together with the payment of reparations, was a precondition for the speedy conclusion of a peace treaty and subsequent withdrawal of an increasingly unwelcome occupying force. There was also unanimous agreement on the need to implement land reform, repair war damage, stimulate the economy and raise the nation's standard of living. However, since there was also considerable disagreement between the political parties as to which practical measures were most appropriate to deal with these urgent tasks, their willingness to compromise was increasingly strained. This in turn steadily raised the potential for conflict and encouraged increasingly serious internal quarrels.

Although all the responsible parties recognised the need for a solution to the agrarian problem, agreement on land reform, the first incisive, though somewhat precipitate measure to be carried out, was not easily achieved. At the end of the war almost half of Hungary's 9 million inhabitants still earned their living from agriculture. Of these, about two-thirds, i.e. 3 million people, did not own their land or possessed holdings of less than 5 hold (i.e. 2.8 hectares). In contrast, about 10,000 families controlled almost half the country's arable land, the 1,000 wealthiest families owning over a quarter of all land under cultivation, and the Catholic Church owning over half a million hectares. Since all previous attempts to redistribute land more equally had failed or been sabotaged by the large-scale landowners, it was agreed that the land reform legislation and the principles it would observe regarding the extent of expropriation and redistribution should be prepared thoroughly in advance by a committee of experts. However, correctly estimating the extent of the rural poor's growing impatience, the Communist Party adopted the National Peasants' Party's proposal of 14 January and, by referring to pressure from the Soviet occupying power, forced the other parties to endorse the decrees of 17 March 1945 abolishing the great estates and reallocating the land to the village poor.

Accordingly, land which had been owned by 'traitors to the fatherland' and 'Horthy fascists', including all estates of more than 575 hectares, was expropriated within the space of six weeks. The maximum amount of land allocated to Peasants for their individual use was fixed at 115 hectares. Otherwise it was redistributed in parcels of 100 hold (i.e. 57.5 hectares). Apart from 11,500 hectares which were spared, Church lands were completely confiscated along with that owned by banks and other enterprises. Forested land of over ten hold and orchards and vineyards of over twenty hold also had to be handed over. In all, 3.222 million hectares of Hungary's 8.3 million hectares of cultivable land (i.e. 38.8 per cent), was eventually expropriated. The law provided for compensation, but this was paid out only in exceptional cases and was practically worthless in view of the country's rampant inflation. Contrary to the aims of the Smallholders' Party to create small viable farms, the Communists and the National Peasants' Party followed a policy of allocating a share of land, where possible, to all interested parties. Of the 1.874 million hectares earmarked for reallocation (i.e. 22.5 per cent of all the land under cultivation), 642,000 people, including 110,000 former farmhands, 261,000 agricultural labourers, 214,000 dwarfholders, together with smallholders and village tradesmen, received a share of land which generally did not exceed five hold (i.e. 2.8 hectares). This meant that about two-thirds of rural households possessed plots of one to five hold, making up 23.1 per cent of the country's total arable land. A fifth of the peasants owned between 5 and 10 hold(i.e. 18.9 per cent of cultivable land) while just on a tenth owned between 10 and 20 hold(i.e. 22.4 per cent). The 3.4 per cent of peasants who owned middle-sized farms of up to 50hold and the 0.6 per cent of richer peasants who owned smallholdings of up to 100 holdcontinued to control a good quarter of the country's arable land (18.3 and 8.9 per cent respectively). Some 1.348 million hectares of expropriated land became state property. After the land reform up to 95 per cent of Hungary's rural population owned small plots of land whose yield was still, however, often insufficient to feed their large families. The latifundiaeand more profitably productive middle-sized holdings, which had previously satisfied the country's food needs and provided considerable employment, were broken up. These changes in the structure of ownership also resulted in a complete transformation of the social structure in the countryside.

Helped by the officially appointed Land Redistribution Committees, which were entrusted with implementing the reform at a local level, the Communist Party tried to gain a political foothold in the villages and extend its influence among the National Councils which were the local organs of the National Independence Front. The party activists did not tire of extolling their achievement of having 'given the land to the peasants'. They rejected as a malicious slander any suspicion of wanting eventually to nationalise all available arable land and proclaimed it was their intention that the new owners of land would rapidly 'acquire wealth'. When allocating farmland or the livestock and inventories of the great estates, or when the Soviet army distributed seeds and fuel, special preference was given to peasants willing to cooperate as middlemen and agents. The Communists believed that only by these means could they halt the considerable drift in rural support to the Smallholders' Party. Their strategy of appearing as benefactors to the rural poor did win the support of the smallholding peasants at first. But, because cultivation of the redistributed fields had been undertaken with insufficient means and to some extent too late, the result was a disastrous harvest in 1945. Poor yields caused by a drought throughout 1946 and 1947 forced Hungary, a country which had once specialised in agrarian exports, to cover its food needs to a great extent by imports.

Certain of the backing of the Soviet-dominated Allied Control Commission, the Communists also called for drastic economic measures to be implemented at their first national congress held on 20-21 May 1945. The workers' low real wages, which were being steadily eroded by inflation, the shortages of raw materials, the inadequate provision of food to the big cities and the Soviet occupation power's interventions in the economy, demonstrated clearly the need to carry out a fundamental transformation of the economy. However, the Smallholders, the right wing of the Social Democrats and the National Peasants' Party had no wish to support the radical nationalisation measures and state control advocated by the Communists. Ferenc Nagy, who was appointed minister for reconstruction on 11 May 1945, opposed the Communist Party's demands, which were accompanied by growing criticism of their coalition partners. Following the resolutions passed by the Supreme National Council of the Smallholders' Party on 19-20 August 1945 the Communists accused their more popular competitor of providing a rallying point for the right-wing opposition representing capitalist interests, the clergy and the wealthy landowners and cited as evidence the Smallholders' call for an inquiry into abuses arising from the land reform and for the economy's consolidation on the basis of private capitalism. Among the Social Democrats, in contrast, the upper hand was gained by the party leadership faction which was openly sympathetic to the Communist call to defend the unity of the working class in its struggle against reactionary elements and attempts to restore capitalism.

When Ernő Gerő visited Moscow on 27 August 1945 and signed an agreement pledging economic cooperation with the USSR beyond the guidelines set out by the cabinet, he provoked an internal political crisis. Even the American and British governments intervened, since they saw their own citizens' property interests threatened and wanted to prevent Soviet domination of Hungarian foreign trade which was becoming increasingly obvious. The unilateral resumption of full diplomatic relations between Budapest and Moscow, announced before the conclusion of a peace settlement on 25 September, and Soviet foreign minister Molotov's uncooperative attitude at the Conference of Foreign Ministers, which met in London on the 11 September to prepare the peace treaties with the wartime coalition's former enemies, placed an even greater strain on the western Allies' relations with the Soviet Union. Only when the Kremlin agreed to allow the holding of free elections with the participation of all 'democratic' parties, was the American government prepared to establish diplomatic relations with the Provisional Government on 2 November 1945. But the western Allies' realisation that they did not have the means to back up their diplomatic protests to the members of Communist governments or the Allied Control Commission produced a situation in which the American and British governments raised fewer and fewer objections to Stalin's view that Russia's former enemies in eastern Europe had been tacitly handed over to the Soviet sphere of influence at Teheran and Yalta.

But those groups which opposed the Communists with growing reservations and criticism could also claim successes. From the 5 to 13 September 1945 the provisional National Assembly met in Budapest to legalise retroactively the decrees passed by the Provisional Government under General Béla Miklós de Dálnok after, the 22 December 1944. The parties of the political centre, strengthened by deputies from the western half of Hungary, succeeded in enabling the passage of an electoral law based on liberal democratic principles. The large increase in its own membership had led the Communist Party to misjudge the mood of the country and it did not, therefore, raise any fundamental objections. The deputies of the single chamber parliament were to be elected on the basis of a universal and direct, secret suffrage extended to all citizens over the age of 20. Those citizens who faced expropriation proceedings or had been incriminated by tribunals of enquiry or involved in an important capacity in the 25 banned right-wing radical organisations were disenfranchised, as were all of Hungary's ethnic Germans. But in the Budapest municipal elections, held on the 7 October 1945, the single list of Communist and Social Democratic candidates suffered a serious defeat, polling only 42.8 per cent of the vote. In contrast, 50.5 per cent of 'the electorate supported the Independent Party of Smallholders which had never previously contested an election in the capital. The result, which was more a rejection of the Communists and their Soviet backers than an endorsement of the Smallholders' political views, had a major effect on the national elections held on 7 November 1945. Marshall Vorošilov, the Soviet chairman of the Allied Control Commission, once more attempted to propose a single list of candidates which would have given the Smallholders only 40 per cent of the vote and 47.5 of the contested seats. But this move, together with the Communist Party's various efforts to postpone the election failed as a result of the western Allies' objections and the opposition of the other parties. Even the Social Democrats had withdrawn from the single list with the Communists. When the votes were counted after the freest and least rigged elections ever held in Hungary, 57 per cent of the electorate (i.e. 245 seats out of 409) had supported the Smallholders' Party programme. 17.4 per cent (67 seats) had voted for the Social Democrats, 6.9 per cent (2 Seats) for the National Peasants' Party and 1.6 per cent (2 seats) for the Bourgeois-Democratic Party, representing the urban middle class. The Communist Party had won only 797,040 votes, representing 16.9 per cent of the electorate (70 seats), which meant that the Communists had suffered a serious electoral setback. The main reasons for this reverse at the polls were: the widespread anti-Russian feeling caused by the Red Army's excesses and wholesale dismantling of plant and installations as reparations, the growing disillusionment of the smallholding peasantry following a poor harvest, the fear of too radical a transformation of the country's political and socio-economic structures and the Communist Party's inability to present itself as the champion of national interests following the new loss of territories returned to Czechoslovakia and Rumania.

After this clear election result many Magyars expected that Hungary would develop along the lines of a western liberal democracy despite the presence of the occupying Soviet troops who had to be tolerated until the signing of a peace treaty. But Marshall Vorošilov made it plain that the Soviets would stick to their policy of tolerating only a government coalition composed of all parties while safeguarding the gains already made by the Communists. But although the victorious Smallholders, led by Zoltán Tildy, who belonged to the party's left wing and supported closer cooperation with the USSR, supplied the premier and half the government ministers, the Communists, for whom Imre Nagy took over as minister of the interior, showed themselves to be superior in tactical skill and political ruthlessness. Proclaiming the class struggle and the final destruction of the reactionary structures of fascism, they began a war of attrition aimed at slowly eroding the power of their political rivals under the cover of 'collective cooperation'. In a phrase which was to gain general currency. Rákosi later described this as 'salami tactics'. By using the 50,000 strong political police to intimidate and eliminate actual or potential opponents the Communists managed steadily to gain ground.

They also benefited from the fact that the 'left-wing' leaders of the Social Democratic Party under the deputy premier, Szakasits, shared many of their short-term aims and developed initiatives which undermined the policies of the majority in parliament. Thus, the new parliament, constituted on 6 December 1945, unanimously approved Communist legislation which placed the mines and power stations under state control - amounting in practice to nationalisation. Apart from the interior ministry, which László Rajk took over from the ill Imre Nagy, who disapproved of illegal radical measures, on 4 February 1946, the Communists provided only the deputy premier ( Rákosi) and the ministers of transport and social welfare. Since they, therefore, had no direct means of influencing economic policy, they initiated the creation of a Supreme Economic Council on 9 January 1946 which was able to circumvent the cabinet. Empowered to grant loans, distribute raw materials and intervene in the decision-making of large enterprises, this body allowed the Communists to apply their economic policies. The workers' committees in the big factories, which were being increasingly infiltrated by Communist Party members, not only tried to influence general trade union policy to further promote the Communists' aims, but acquired a substantial say in determining wages and price levels. The inflation which had been spiralling out of control since December 1945 led to a depreciation of the currency in the first half of 1946 on a scale, unprecedented even in international terms. The result was that by the middle of July a gold pengé was worth 1.4 quadrillion pengé at 1938 values. This allowed the Communists to demand and justify a greater degree of state intervention in the economy. The introduction of a new currency based on the forint (florin) on 1 August 1946 enabled the government eventually to halt the depreciation of the currency. The government's subsequent policy of austerity which aimed at a modest availability of consumer goods and helped stabilise prices encouraged a growth in confidence in the new currency and facilitated a gradual economic recovery. In 1946, the government was more or less able to achieve its limited goal of raising the workers' real wages to about a half of their 1938 value and productivity to 60 per cent of its pre-war level in 1939. Under the terms of a reparations agreement signed on 15 June 1945, Hungary was obliged to deliver consignments of goods to the Soviet Union. In 1946, the value of these amounted to 26.4 per cent of the state's total expenditure; in 1947, it was still as high as 17.8 per cent. Comprising 71 per cent of Hungary's total exports, these consignments severely curtailed Hungary's economic recovery. The volume of goods which had to be produced to cover the country's reparations debt amounted to 82 per cent of its foreign trade with the Soviet Union, 91 per cent of its trade with Yugoslavia and 49 per cent of its trade with Czechoslovakia. Hungary's foreign trade with the West, which had stood at around 90 per cent before the war, fell to just 53 per cent.

The goal of all parties to achieve a high level of production as quickly as possible through a systematic economic recovery and a living standard comparable with the pre-war levels could only be brought closer by initially encouraging private initiative and the profit motive. The need to reinvest 20 per cent of the national income and limit the production of consumer goods in favour of developing Hungary's staple products meant that the population had to continue to make sacrifices. The serious damage of the two drought years of 1946 and 1947, the lack of skilled workers, the failures of training programmes, shortages of raw materials and frequent production stoppages caused by a lack of spare parts or energy shortages put a great strain on the economy. The Communists cited these problems to justify the cabinet decree of 22 November 1946 which placed the country's biggest ironworks (the Rimamurány Ironworks, Ganz & Co., the Manfred Weiss Steel and Metalworks) under state ownership. On 28 May 1947, the Communist-dominated Supreme Economic Council placed all the major banks under state control until they were later formally nationalised on 21 November 1947. The National Assembly decision of 1 July to launch a Three Year Plan for the entire economy by 1 August 1947 subsequently gave the Communists the opportunity to take over control of the most important areas of production. On 6 February 1948, the National Assembly finally approved legislation which nationalised the bauxite industry and aluminium production and also agreed to the nationalisation of all industrial firms employing more than 100 workers. On 4 April, it also approved the disbanding of the employers' organisation, the National Federation of Factory Owners. A government decree of 18 December 1948 on the organisation of cooperatives, the adoption of a Five Year Plan on 10 December 1949 and the law of 28 December nationalising firms with more than ten employees and foreign-owned factories were the outwardly visible signs of the complete assimilation of Hungarian economic life to the obligatory Soviet model.

This was the culmination of a development which had begun on 27 August 1945 when Hungary had signed a long-term trade agreement with the Soviet Union. Since the volume of Hungarian exports remained relatively small after the end of war and imports were necessary in order to revive industry, the Soviet Union saw the chance of orientating Hungary's national economy more towards the Soviet Union by stepping up deliveries of raw materials and increasing the volume of Hungarian goods for the Russian market. The Russians combined the confiscation of German property, which affected almost all large businesses on account of their multifaceted involvement with the German banks from 1940 onwards, with the demand that Hungary repay Russia the debts it owed to the defeated German Reich regardless of the fact that Hungary's credit with the German authorities meant that the balance had been essentially in Hungary's favour. After the initial wholesale dismantling of some branches of industry and the despatch to the Soviet Union of the machinery thus acquired, the Soviet government soon recognised that a reorganisation of the most important key industrial enterprises into mixed Soviet-Hungarian concerns under Soviet management offered a number of important advantages: they could save on the costs of dismantling, transporting and reinstalling plant, gaining also from its immediate operational use, as well as the more efficient use of Hungarian labour working for Soviet interests and, finally, more effective control of the Hungarian domestic economy. After considerable agreement had been reached in negotiations of 9-18 April 1946 on economic cooperation, the Soviet Union found a way of financing its own enterprises more comfortably by investing its share of war spoils in six mixed-ownership companies set up between May and August 1946. A civilian airline, a Danube shipping line (4 May), oil exploration company (23 July) and crude oil refining company (25 July) were set up, followed on 6 August by a company for mining, bauxite extraction and aluminium production as well as a mixedownership company for the design and construction of plant for the bauxite industry. These companies, which were effective monopolies in their own sectors of industry, were supraterritorial and exempt from rates and taxes. The Soviet Union declared their goods to be 'Soviet-produced' and conducted a brisk transit trade which reduced the sales market of those branches of industry linked to these enterprises which had remained in Hungarian hands.

The transfer of profits thus acquired enabled the Soviet Union to drain Hungary of over a billion US dollars until 1954 when pressure from Imre Nagy's more self-confident government made the Russians agree to transfer the mixed-ownership companies to Hungarian state ownership for a substantial payment; the only exception being firms mining uranium. These economic practices which involved direct exploitation and the fact that before 1948 many prisoners-of-war and civilian internees were sent to Russia as forced labour stirred up the Hungarian populations' latent antiRussian sentiment and made the work of the Communist Party that much harder.

In contrast, the expulsion of Hungary's ethnic Germans in January 1946 under the terms of the Potsdam agreement proved popular with the public. By 1948, around 240,000 German Hungarians had been forcibly resettled in the American and Soviet sectors of Germany. A few were also settled in Austria. The emergency measures passed against the remaining 250,000 ethnic Germans in Hungary were revoked in 1950. The Czechoslovak government's intention to repatriate approximately 650,000 Magyars living in Slovakia failed because of the Allies' veto. A treaty between Prague and Budapest, signed after lengthy negotiations on 27 February 1946, proposed an exchange of populations between equal numbers of Slovaks settled in Hungary and Magyars resident in Slovakia. Approximately 70,000 people were affected on each side and a further 20,000 may well have left Czechoslovakia voluntarily. As a new and more sympathetic policy towards the national minorities began to emerge, the 50,000 or so Hungarians, who had been forcibly settled in the Sudeten areas abandoned by the Germans in 1945 were allowed to return to their villages once relations between Czechoslovakia and Hungary had returned to normal.

On 1 February 1946, following an initiative of the Social Democrats and entirely in line with Communist intentions the Hungarian Republic was officially proclaimed (Law 1 of 1946). Tildy, who had been premier up until this point, was made its first president. Thus, the thousand-year-old Kingdom of St Stephen, having survived Turkish rule, revolutions, foreign domination and Horthy's Regency, came to an inglorious end. In the new parliamentary republic far wider powers were vested in the president, although Tildy, fearing the Communists and soon worn down by their pressure, failed to make sufficient use of them. On 4 February, the new premier, Ferenc Nagy, a former party official in the wartime Peasant Federation and now chairman of the Independent Party of Smallholders presented his cabinet. The appointment of László Rajk as the new interior minister was to prove especially significant. As minister for reconstruction and, from November 1945 onwards, also chairman of the National Assembly and National General Council, Nagy had made it clear that he had no intention of giving in to the illegal actions of the Communist Party or the interventions of the Soviet occupying power. He was regarded as secretly pro-American and a politician who, while introducing a western-style parliamentary democracy, would even have been prepared to preserve the monarchy.

But Nagy also had to watch helplessly as his interior minister, Rajk, deliberately set out to replace around 50,000 to 60,000 state officials with obedient yes-men within six months. In the 'public meetings' called by the Communists these officials, who had been the pillars of the old system, were forced to resign as a result of the 'people's judgement'. By 1950, probably about 120,000 state employees had lost their jobs. This 'popular movement', which Rákosi praised as 'primitive democracy', helped the Communist Party establish a firmer footing, especially in the countryside and smaller provincial towns. The activities of the People's Courts, which prosecuted the politically exposed representatives of the Horthy régime, excited the general mood of the country further. On 12 March 1946, Ferenc Szálasi and several members of his Arrow Cross government were executed. They were followed by the former prime ministers Bardossy, Imrédy and Sztójay who were executed as war criminals. In all, as many as 25,000 people may have been sentenced as war criminals by the highly arbitrary People's Courts and the death penalty carried out on about 500 of them. At the same time, between January 1945 and March 1948, there were almost 40,000 political prosecutions, resulting in over 20,000 people being sentenced.

In January and February 1947 a show trial, in which prominent members of the Smallholders' Party were accused of conspiring against the republic with the aim of restoring the Horthy régime, spread fear and terror and helped the Communists step up the process of weakening their opponents. Several groups opposed to the régime - Magyar nationalists who deplored the erosion of the old Hungarian Kingdom's traditions, landowners and rich peasant farmers who feared for their economic survival, religious groups which opposed the Communists' official atheism -- provided the excuse the latter were waiting for by joining forces in a secret organisation called the 'Hungarian People's Community'. Its aim was to establish a coalition government on the western parliamentary model under Horthy's last prime minister, General Géza Lakatos, following the signing of a peace treaty and the subsequent withdrawal of Soviet troops. Since the ministers who belonged to the Smallholders' Party, Albert Bartha (defence) and András Mistéth (reconstruction) and leading right wingers ( General Secretary Béla Kovács, Kálmán Saláta, etc.) had known about the planned overthrow of the government, the Communists were able to exploit the affair by denouncing the whole of democratic opposition and diverting attention from their own violation of civil rights.

The Party of Smallholders had already begun, however, to break up in January 1946. When the Communists introduced draft legislation for a state protection law designed to give a semblance of legality to arbitrary police actions, its critics, led by the lawyer, Desző Sulyok, were branded as reactionaries' and 'fascists'. The Communists demanded that the larger coalition partner should purge its own ranks, threatening to leave the government if this was not carried out. Since the leaders of the Smallholders' Party feared an intervention by the Soviet occupation power if the coalition collapsed just at the point when decisive negotiations on a peace treaty were imminent, they agreed to the Communists' demand and expelled Sulyok and his sympathisers from the party. Thereupon the latter founded the Hungarian Freedom Party ( Magyar Szabadság Pdrt) as an 'anti-communist party of national resistance'. The Communist Party's initiative in creating a Left-Wing Bloc (Baloldali Blokk) on 5 March 1946, which, alongside the Communists, included Social Democrats, the National Peasants' Party and the Trade Unions Council, and which organised a 400,000-strong demonstration on the main square of Budapest on 7 March, had created a united counterweight to the weakened Smallholders' Party, which tried to give more weight to its demands by mobilising popular support, capitalising on popular sentiment and openly flouting the law.

When the Smallholders' Party's left wing, led by István Dobi and Gyula Ortutay, openly espoused the policy aims of the Left-Wing Bloc and forced the party executive on 12 March 1946 to accept the demands of the Left, which were heavily influenced by the Communists, the party leadership was placed further on the defensive. Though they managed to secure some advantages when the coalition was renegotiated through President Tildy's moderation on 5 June 1946, they failed to halt the Communists' advance. The latter were also able to block the Smallholder's intensified efforts in the autumn of 1946 to renew their old wartime alliance with the Social Democrats and bring about a merger with the National Peasants' Party. The Smallholders were forced to expel several of their deputies who were involved in an alleged conspiracy which was the subject of a show trial, an event which led their dynamic General Secretary, Béla Kovács, to resign. On 26 February 1947, he was arrested and abducted by the Soviet security police who charged him with spying for a western intelligence service. The affair finally broke the moral backbone of the Smallholders Party. During he spring of 1947 about another 50 deputies were forced to leave the Independent Party of Smallholders. Led by Zoltán Pfeffer, they founded the Hungarian Independence Party ( Magyar Függetlenségi Párt) on 18 July as a rallying point for the conservativebourgeois, anti-Marxist opposition. Of their former 245 seats in the National Assembly, the Smallholders still held 187, but also lost their absolute majority.

The prime minister, Ferenc Nagy, also eventually fell victim to the increasingly open attacks made on liberal democratic politicians by the state security authorities, encouraged and supported by the Communist minister of the interior. Following a cabinet reshuffle which increased the Communist Party's influence, Nagy, who was taking a rest cure in Switzerland at the time and had been officially informed that charges were being made against him in connection with the anti-government conspiracy, announced his resignation on 30 May 1947. Among the other prominent politicians who, like him, chose exile was the President of the National Assembly, the churchman, Béla Varga. The new General Secretary, the Roman Catholic priest, István Balogh, who took over in February, was probably subjected to Communist blackmail and resigned from his post and that of secretary of state to the prime minister. His resignation, together with the founding of the Independent Hungarian Democratic Party ( Független Magyar Demokrata Pdrt) accelerated the collapse of the Smallholders' Party. The Communists could well rejoice, for the fragmentation of their opponents improved their chances of becoming the strongest political force in the country. Although they managed to enhance their position further in the government formed by Lajos Dinnyés, briefly defence minister and Smallholder's Party member, on 31 May 1947, they were the most vocal group in calling for the parliament -- now again renamed the 'Országház' -- to be dissolved and demanded the holding of fresh elections for 31 August 1947. A new more restrictive electoral law which denied the franchise to 350,000 of the 5 million citizens previously entitled to vote prepared the way for a Communist victory over opposition groups which lacked funds and were still unfamiliar to the electorate.

But, as in November 1945, the second post-war elections again proved disappointing for the Communists. Despite a massive election campaign and probably also a considerable degree of rigging results, the Communist Party won only 22.3 per cent of the vote, giving it only 100 of the 411 available seats in parliament. The Social Democrats won 14.9 per cent of the vote and 67 seats. Only 8.3 per cent of the electorate voted for the National Peasants' Party which won 36 seats. The Smallholders, now led by the left winger, István Dobi, still managed to attract 15.4 per cent of the vote and returned the second largest parliamentary fraction comprising 68 deputies. Balogh's Independent Hungarian Democratic Party obtained 18 seats from its 5.2 per cent share of the vote, Pfeiffer's Independence Party was rewarded with 49 seats from its 13.4 per cent and the Democratic People's Party (Demokrata Néppárt), which had broken its close ties with the Smallholders in the spring of 1946, managed to win a substantial 16.4 per cent of the vote and was returned as the biggest opposition party with 60 seats. Splinter groups like the Christian Women's Party, led by mother superior, M. Schlachta (1.4 per cent and 4 seats), the Bourgeois-Democratic Party (1 per cent and 3 seats) and the Hungarian Radical Party (1.7 per cent and 6 seats) were an insignificant factor.

When the anti-Marxist opposition's attempts to form a coalition government with the Independent Party of Smallholders against the Communists and Social Democrats, failed because of opposition from the Smallholders' left wing, the Communist Party did all it could to remove its political opponents quickly. Rákosi, who was confirmed as General Secretary at the Third Congress of the Hungarian Communist Party, held between 29 September and 1 October, had a firm grip on the party and had no wish to stage show trials against the leaders of the opposition, preferring instead to adopt a softer approach. By announcing that preparations were underway to put them on trial and that their parliamentary immunity had been lifted, he encouraged them to flee to the West.

Following the departure of D. Sulyok, whose Hungarian Freedom Party had already been dissolved in July 1947, Zóltan Pfeiffer also emigrated to the West on 4 November 1947. His Hungarian Independence Party was subsequently banned on 20 November 1947. After its founder, István Barankovics emigrated, the Democratic People's Party, too, had to dissolve itself, although this did not happen until 4 February 1949. In each case, the parliamentary seats of the outlawed parties were immediately declared vacant. A merger did take place between the BourgeoisDemocratic party and the Hungarian Radical Party to form the Radical Democratic Party Alliance, but this lasted only until 3 March 1949 when the new grouping then merged into the reorganised Hungarian Independence-Popular Front and, thus, into the Communist government camp. In May 1949, István Balogh's Independent Hungarian Democratic Party also had to cease its activities when it, too, was incorporated into the Popular Front.

With the disappearance of the bourgeois-democratic opposition the majority of the Social Democrats expected a more determined stand from their traditional party against the Communists' dictatorial, totalitarian aspirations. But the party leadership, already heavily infiltrated by Communist supporters, was as little able to organise opposition to the omnipotent Communist Party as the remaining small group of Smallholders, which was torn apart by internal squabbles. On 13 September 1947, its Supreme Council had emphasised the need to continue the coalition with the parties of the Left-Wing Bloc despite the perceived threat of Communist domination. In Dinnyés' second government, reorganised on 23 September, the Smallholders still provided four ministers, while all the other ministries of any significance were already controlled by the Communists. Alongside Rákosi, who was appointed deputy premier and minister of state, Rajk (interior), Gerő (transport) Erik Molnár (foreign affairs) and Károlyi Olt (social welfare), the members of the cabinet who nominally belonged to other parties, i.e. Szakasits ( deputy premier and minister of state), Erdei ( minister of state), József Darvas (public works), Péter Veres (defence) and Gyula Ortutay (education and culture) could be regarded as loyal Communist Party supporters.

On 1 July, the Communist Party won parliamentary approval for a Three Year Plan to be implemented on 1 August. The banks, together with the 264 industrial and commercial enterprises which they controlled, were nationalised on 29 November 1947. This was followed by the nationalisation of almost 600 industrial firms with more than 100 employees on 25 March 1948. Henceforth, 85 per cent of all employees worked in state-controlled enterprises, while many private commercial firms were allowed to continue operating. The Communists attributed the slow rise in living standards, which had been encouraged by a relatively good harvest in 1948 and the slow closing of the gap with industrial production levels of 1938, solely to the decisive measures they had taken in the interests of the country and its workers, the emasculation of profiteering capitalists and the end of the restrictive influence of foreign capital.

The Communists also tried to overcome the population's continued rejection of its arbitrary and coercive measures by stepping up its campaign for working-class unity and a merger of the two Marxist parties, which it saw as inevitable. When the 'right-wing' Social Democrats opposed a merger which would involve the loss of their political independence, their spokesmen, who included the former government ministers, Károly Peyer, A Kéthly, F. Szeder and A. Bán, were expelled following an internal party struggle which lasted until February 1948. At a dubiously convened party meeting at the beginning of March the go-ahead was given for a merger, which was prepared on all levels by ajoint political and organisational committee and took place on 12 June 1948 at the Communist Party's Fourth Party Congress and the Social Democratic Party's Thirty-Seventh Congress. At the First Party Congress of the new, united Marxist-Leninist party, held on 13-14 June 1948, the former Social Democrat, Szakasits, was appointed chairman of the new Hungarian Workers' Party ( Magyar Dolgozók Pártja -- MDP) which now numbered over 1.1 million members. Rákosi was made General Secretary and the Communists, János Kádár and Mihály Farkas, were appointed his deputies. The main priorities for the party were: the complete democratisation of the state apparatus, the preparation of a new constitution, an 'improvement in living standards by developing productive forces', the abolition of the 'education monopoly of the propertied classes', state control of church schools, the spread of the class struggle to the countryside, the strengthening of Hungary's international standing and the deepening of relations with the Soviet Union and the new neighbouring 'People's Democracies' of eastern Europe.

The assimilation of the Social Democrats into the system and the destruction of the opposition meant that the Communists had successfully concluded their 'Socialist revolution' in the spring of 1948 and achieved an unchallenged monopoly of political power. They could now set about destroying the last vestiges of freedom and erode the few remaining bastions of anti-Marxism. They could also concentrate on achieving Hungary's assimilation into the 'Eastern Bloc' and force Hungary to emulate an obligatory Soviet model which ran entirely counter to Magyar national traditions. There was now no need to take any account of opponents at home or western public opinion.

The peace treaty, whose main principles had been already laid down in the autumn of 1946, was signed in Paris on 10 February 1947 and became effective on 15 September 1947. With its signing the western Allies surrendered their only means of applying diplomatic pressure to halt or, at least, delay the spread of Socialism in east central Europe and the Soviet Union's incorporation of countries occupied by the Red Army into its direct sphere of influence. To the great disappointment of all Magyar patriots, Hungary was again obliged to accept the frontiers laid down in the Trianon Treaty of 1920 and cede a further 40 square kilometres of territory opposite the Czechoslovak bridgehead city of Bratislava. The country's population of 9 million Magyars had to adjust itself once more to an area of 93,030 square kilometres of territory. The Hungarians felt particularly annoyed that the Soviet foreign minister, Molotov, clearly supported the Rumanians on the question of Transylvania, which was still the object of the rival claims of Budapest and Bucharest, and had defended the Czechoslovak government's harsh policies towards its Magyar minority. The danger posed by the latter was subsequently removed by the forced resettlement of Slovaks, exchange of populations and expulsion of Hungarians regarded as disloyal or incriminated by their wartime activities. Prague's alliance and treaties of friendship with Belgrade and Bucharest had also aroused Hungarian fears of a revival of the Little Entente. Thus, the Hungarian government took a close interest in Tito's initiative to create a Danubian Confederation or Balkan Union which they felt would provide better protection for their national interests than a hardening of the old attitudes associated with the idea of the nation state. Most Hungarians were very disappointed that the occupation of their country did not end with the signing of the peace treaty. In order to secure its supply routes to Austria's Soviet Zone, the Red Army, which did not shirk from intervening openly on behalf of its Communist protégés, continued to station troops in Hungary.

After 1945, the Hungarian government also tried to re-establish friendly contacts with the western Allies. However, their diplomats in Budapest and representatives in the Allied Control Commission soon resigned in protest at massive Soviet interference and the illegal actions of the Hungarian Communists. Between 8 and 25 June 1946 a Hungarian government delegation visiting Washington and London had submitted its proposals for peace negotiations and formally requested economic aid. The members of the delegation drawn from Hungary's democratic parties also asked for moral support. When in January and February 1947, however, the Communist Party began to destroy the democratic opposition by staging a show trial against members of the Smallholders's Party, a protest by the western Allies and the freezing of a 15 million dollar loan by the US government could no longer halt the Soviet Union's measures to force Hungary's incorporation into their sphere of influence over the eastern European 'People's Democracies'. The Hungarian government's intention to take part in the European Economic Conference, due to be held in Paris on 12 July 1947, at which America's proposed Marshall Plan for Economic Aid and Reconstruction was due to be discussed, had to be withdrawn after the Kremlin abruptly rejected this programme for European recovery.

Through an economic and loan agreement signed on 15 July 1947 the Soviet government, for its part, tried to tackle Hungary's anticipated economic problems by implementing the Three Year Plan and guaranteeing the country's incorporation into the eastern European economic system increasingly centred on Moscow. The foreign trade relations of all the eastern European countries were subsequently reduced to a political lever controlled by the Soviet superpower, with the result that, while strengthening its own economic potential, the Soviet Union was able to strengthen its political domination to the point where it could unite those countries which shared its political system and ideological aims into a 'Socialist world empire'. Moscow's influence on the Hungarian economy was a major factor in establishing Soviet political control over the country. In recognition of the good work done by the Hungarian Communists on their takeover of power, but also because, according to Marxism, exploitation could not exist among Socialist states, the Soviet government halved Hungary's remaining reparations debt up to 1 July 1948. Despite this help, Hungary may well have paid compensation to the USSR amounting to a total of at least 250 million US dollars according to world market prices in 1955.

The impetus which came from the first conference of the Communist Information Bureau, which met between 22 and 27 September 1947 at Szklarska Porcęba in Poland, was of major importance for the internal political changes imposed on Hungary and its incorporation into the Socialist Bloc. Outwardly, the Cominform was only supposed to support the struggle of the European Communist parties to improve the situation of the working class, maintain peace and defend the independence and sovereignty of its member states. In legal terms it was not supposed to be an above-party institution, but a coordinating forum with no coercive power over members. In de facto terms, however, the Cominform became a command headquarters controlled by the Kremlin, against whose decisions no appeal was possible in practice. Like the other leaders of eastern Europe's Communist parties, who, even after the complete emasculation of their opponents, found their dependence on the Kremlin leaders of World Communism increased because of the radical changes imposed upon them against the opposition of most of their populations and the intensification of conflicts arising from the Cold War, Rakosi generally welcomed the founding of Cominform. For the party faithful, schooled in the USSR, the conformity which Stalin demanded brought with it a certain degree of security. There was no more need in future to disguise the decisive influence of the Soviet Communist Party on the direction taken by the Communist parties of eastern Europe. It was no longer necessary to give the impression that the creation of the Socialist Bloc's monolithic unity, which Stalin henceforth demanded, had to be achieved by joint discussion of the methods and external and internal policy aims of the various Communist parties and the democratic expression of opinions.

When, by invoking Article 53, para. 1 of the United Nations charter, the Soviet government concluded a friendship treaty pledging support for Hungary on 18 February 1948, it merely amounted to legally formalising Hungary's already existing dependence in a treaty which symbolised the purely formal equality of Communist countries on an international level. The signatories to the treaty pledged themselves to support all efforts to maintain world peace and especially to resist any aggressive plans by West Germany -- which was rearming -- and its allies. Beyond this, the treaty also envisaged close economic cooperation. It is doubtful whether Stalin was really prepared to respect the expressly included positive declarations of 'friendship' between the signatories: namely mutual respect of sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs and complete equality of status. There was no explicit mention of the ideologically crucial role of the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet Union in the treaty, which was soon followed by bilateral agreements with the other members of the Socialist Bloc ( Yugoslavia on 8 December 1947, Rumania on 24 January 1948, Poland on 18 June, Bulgaria on 16 July and Czechoslovakia on 16 April 1949). The Soviet and Hungarian Communist party press saw it, at any rate, as embodying a new kind of relationship between Communist states which confirmed Stalin's view that a new social structure also demanded new political forms: namely, a community of interests based on the same socio-economic forces and a new approach to international relations.



The imposition of a 'united front from below', which signalled the 'organic union' of the Communist Party (MKP) and a Social Democratic Party, decimated by purges and expulsions, resulted in the creation of the new Hungarian Workers' Party (MDP). By the summer of 1948, this development, together with the establishment of extensive Communist Party control at all levels of political, social, economic and cultural life, marked the completion of the Communist takeover in Hungary. The Communist Party's establishment of its monolithic rule was marked by new legislation, which included intensifying the class struggle and carrying it into the countryside, exposing the remaining opponents of the new system and intensifying relations with the Soviet Union at the expense of Hungary's own national interests. Stress was now placed on transforming the state, society and the economy from within. During this transition from the 'phase of consolidation' to that of 'Socialist construction', Hungary's Communists, while loudly proclaiming their loyalty to the Soviet Union and Stalin, were quickly prepared to demonstrate the doctrinaire uniformity and total conformity expected of them, partly from fear and the need to toe the line, but partly also for the sake of their own careers and personal safety. The experiences and political practice of the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet Union became a rigid dogma. Personal loyalty and the desire to accommodate Soviet desires became the single most important criterion in judging a party functionary or someone's political views at a time when Tito and he Yugoslavian Communist party were successfully opposing this degrading form of subservience and blind obedience. Although some prominent comrades, while acknowledging the need to intensify the class struggle and rapidly change society, held firmly to their conviction that they would have to take national conditions into account in promoting the 'people's democratic revolution', they were branded as political 'deviants' and accused of an apparently inadequate understanding of Stalin's views and the Soviet Union's ideological and political leadership role.

The Communist Party's officials after 1948 were expertly skilled at maintaining themselves in power. Those deemed to be the most reliable and most willing in the eyes of the Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee occupied all the key positions in the executive branches of the state, the management of industry and mass organisations like the trade unions, womens' and youth organisations, cooperatives and cultural organisations. Structured according to the principles of 'democratic centralism', the new MDP claimed to be 'the leading nucleus of all the workers' organisations in the society and state'. Modelling all levels of Hungary's system of training and education on that of the Soviet Union, the Communists aimed at rapidly creating a new intelligentsia schooled in Marxist-Leninist principles, re-educating bureaucrats willing to cooperate and strengthening the ideological commitment of the party secretaries. Whereas difficulties were increasingly placed in the way of middle-class citizens, the reformed and standardised school system was designed to ensure positive discrimination for children from workers' and peasant families. The organisation of the press, radio and publishing, all of which had already been subject to considerable state control since 1945, was restructured. Comprehensive censorship measures were further refined and 'Socialist realism' became the artistic norm. In Budapest and the other major cities the monumental Soviet style of architecture was enthusiastically taken up by architects. Following the nationalisation of Church lands, the conflicts which had already been provoked with the Christian churches, especially the Catholic Church, were heightened by the struggle over church schools. The Catholic Church's apparent dependence on the Vatican and its role as the 'vanguard of American imperialism' provided an excuse for interfering in its internal administration and imposing restrictions. The expansion of the planned economy and the forced collectivisation of agriculture were not only necessary to raise the standard of living and promote rapid industrialisation; they also served to neutralise politically the peasants who were considered conservative and reactionary, destroy traditional social structures and facilitate social control. Control of the already infiltrated armed forces and ubiquitous secret police fell to party officials who enjoyed the Kremlin's special confidence and were, moreover, often Soviet citizens.

Because of the prevalence in Hungary of traditional anti-Russian attitudes and newer anti-Soviet attitudes which had been reinforced by the experience of occupation, the Kremlin thought it vital to allow only those comrades to reach the top echelons of party and government who had proved their loyalty towards the Soviet Communist Party over a long period, whether as émigrés in Moscow, propagandists of the Comintern, in the service of the NKVD or as keen advocates of Stalinist methods. Stalin's idealisation, the myth surrounding his person as the architect of Socialism, victorious field marshall and towering statesman, helped the Kremlin chief to stamp his impression on Communist Hungary's social order and political system. The Soviet leader may well have been comforted by the thought that the leading officials he chose enjoyed no real support among the Hungarian population which the war, the chaos of its aftermath and Communist interference had left completely demoralised and insecure. Despite the existing ties of personal loyalty, almost a feudal relationship, Stalin always let his place men in Hungary feel a degree of insecurity in order to exert an even greater influence on their country's internal development. The psychological element present in their relationship with Stalin, which is not easy to grasp, caused Hungary's Communists to make most of their decisions in anticipation of the possible wishes and orders of their Kremlin boss both out of a sense of devotion and loyalty, as well as fear for their lives. However, Stalin's death on 5 March 1953 marked the end of an era in which an individual's decisions had been able to cause abrupt changes in the policy direction of the Socialist countries. His heirs, largely paralysed by the internal Soviet power struggle to find a successor, were forced to witness how Stalin's system of informal and indirect control could no longer function and how the people's democracies, left largely to their own devices, underwent a period of instability during the period of a power vacuum. The shattering events which befell Hungary in the autumn of 1956 seriously questioned the Communists' whole range of achievements. The subsequent 'triumph over counter-revolution' was only made possible as a result of the intervention of Soviet troops.

The successful Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia on 25 February 1948 also encouraged the Hungarian Communists to ignore internal protests and press on with their 'Socialist revolution' according to the Kremlin's guidelines. Following the creation of a single Socialist party and the elimination of the parliamentary opposition the Council of Ministers was able to implement the measures required to effect change mainly by the use of decrees, without encountering any parliamentary objections. On 1 February 1949, the remaining rump parties, now branded the 'reserves of the class enemy', were forced to merge with the newly founded Hungarian Independence-Popular Front (Magyar Függetlenségi Népfront), as members of which they were allowed to take part in the parliamentary elections held on 15 May 1949 before being forced to dissolve. With the disappearance of the Independent Party of Smallholders, the National Peasants' Party, the Independent Hungarian Democratic Party and the Hungarian Radical Party, the MDP, styling itself 'spearhead of the dictatorship of the proletariat', remained the only organised political force in the country with 71 per cent of the 402 deputies in parliament. Despite the single list of candidates 'only' 95.6 per cent of electors voted for the Popular Front, a fact which 'clearly' demonstrated the need for strengthening the inculcation of ideological values and purging the party of the working class of its 'unreliable elements'. By January 1950, around 300,000 members had been expelled from the party, reducing its total membership to 828,695.

In December 1948, the former agricultural labourer and Smallholder party politician, István Dobi, took over the new government in place of his party colleague, Dinnyés. Ten of the fifteen members of the new cabinet were Communists, of whom the most prominent were Rakósi, who became deputy prime minister, János Kádár, who took over the interior ministry after August 1948, and László Rajk, who became foreign minister after the same date. Apart from Dobi, the minister for education and culture, Ortutay, and the minister for trade, József Bognár, had been members of the former Party of Smallholders, while the minister for reconstruction, Darvas, and the minister for agriculture, Erdei, had belonged to the National Peasants' Party. The highest office in the land, that of President of the Republic, was filled by the left-wing Social Democrat and Communist fellow-traveller, Árpád Szakasits, who replaced Tildy after the latter's resignation on 30 July 1948 following attacks on him by the Left. Szakasits, however, despite his holding of high office was unable to prevent his own arrest and imprisonment in April 1950.

The new régime's disregard for legal rights was of great importance in establishing its rule in the Hungarian People's Republic. The country's judicial system had remained essentially intact after 1945, although the creation of new 'People's Courts' to track down war criminals and 'elements hostile to the people' represented the undermining of legal principles. These special courts, which comprised lay-judges supplied by the political parties and trade unions, were empowered to pronounce the death sentence. A confession by the accused obviated the need to prove his guilt on the part of the court. After the creation of the Left-Wing Bloc and the Communist Party's successful infiltration of the trade unions, the People's Courts increasingly became institutions for condemning the 'class enemy'. Introduced in 1947, the Workers' Courts, or 'profiteer courts' as they were called, pronounced sentence on 'crimes' committed by former owners when firms were nationalised or 'economic offences' committed within private companies. These courts served the political aims of the Communists. A law of March 1948 gave the minister of justice full powers to dismiss judges who had fallen from favour or were deemed politically unreliable, and the subsequent dismissal of over 10 per cent of Hungary's judges marked an end to judicial independence. After 1949 more and more 'peoples judges' sat in court cases where they gave the content of the judgement, while the formally trained judges remained responsible for overseeing court protocol. This politicisation of the judicial system meant an end to the principle of equality before the law and the courts, and signified the introduction of a party-political 'class justice'.

Section VI of the new constitution of 20 August 1949 confirmed the independence of the judiciary and the Supreme Court's control over legal judgements. But since, at the same time, control of the judiciary by the State Prosecutor's Office was imposed and responsibility for the appointment, accountability and suspension of all judges made subject to the 'guidelines to electors', issued by the party, little remained of judicial independence. The 'control of Socialist law' was brought under the direction of the highest legal authority, the State Prosecutor's Office (Law 13 of 1953). Administrative justice had already been transferred in 1948 to the arbitration boards of factories and councils, the parliamentary court and the State Prosecutor's Office. The new criminal law code of 1950, which extensively adopted legal principles applied in the Soviet Union, also introduced the concept of 'Socialist law' in Hungary. In future class justice dealt with the accused and sentenced him primarily according to his social class membership. This resulted in crimes which by definition could be committed only by the class enemy. Under this system a lawyer was permitted only to defend interests which the courts deemed 'just'. The independence of the legal profession ceased as lawyers were placed directly under the minister of justice. In place of the People's courts special courts attached to the Budapest Criminal Court were eventually entrusted with staging political trials which paid scant attention to the official rules or the rights of the accused.

The secret police played a vital role in the process of 'exposing the class enemy' and preparing political trials. From the beginning the Soviets had given it assistance. By training émigrés, defectors and 'turned' prisoners-of-war during the Second World War according to NKVD and NKGB instructions (the People's Commissariats for Internal Affairs, i.e. state security) had prepared the way for using them in a later Communist takeover. Before 1949, a political department of the Hungarian general staff, headed by Colonel György Pálffy-Oesterreicher and supported by forty Soviet advisers, carried out the functions of a political police. The political department of the gendarmerie (ÁVO) existed alongside this. After 1950, the dynamic Gábor Péter reorganised the various police organisations with the help of Soviet experts. In the new ÁVH he developed a perfect technique of fabricating appropriate conspiracies and confessions at the most opportune moment to exploit a political situation. Thanks to its purges, the secret police, comprising sixteen departments holding records on over a million citizens and relying on some 300,000 informers, was able to remove itself almost entirely from party control during the latter part of the Stalinist era. It became a semi-autonomous institution which eventually could only be directly controlled by Moscow. At the same time, the Soviet police kept its own independent secret police apparatus in Hungary. During the period of the great purges and the show trials which violated 'Socialist law', neither the Soviet security service, the MVD, nor Stalin were beyond sending incriminating material about certain officials to the Hungarian party leadership with the instruction that the local security police should follow up the case.

In the armed forces, too, reliable Hungarians, who were proSoviet and devoted to the Kremlin, were also given key positions from the time of the country's liberation onwards. The creation of a large army had to wait at first until a cease-fire agreement had been concluded, with the result that in the autumn of 1945 only 10,000

men were available for the defence of Hungary's frontiers. This force remained poorly equipped, moreover, because of Soviet anxieties concerning their reliability and operational ability. The mass demobilisation carried out immediately after the end of the war had made it possible to dismiss all full-time officers suspected of anti-Communism on the grounds that they had actively supported the war against the Soviet Union. However, a small superbly trained and politically reliable group of officers had returned home in the wake of the Red Army, most of whom had emigrated to the Soviet Union in the inter-war period and had proved their commitment in the Rákosi batallion of the International Brigades in Spain or in special units behind the front in the Second World War. The defence minister who initially belonged to the Smallholders' Party could not prevent these 'Muscovites', along with PálffyOesterreicher, Lieutenant General Gusztáv Illy and László Sólyom, from occupying the key positions in the general staff. When, after the signing of the peace treaty which allowed Hungary a standing army of 65,000 men and an air force of 5,000 trained specialists, the government pressed ahead with a build-up of the armed forces, Communist sympathisers, were given preference in joining the army as full-time professional officers. The creation of a new officer corps, trained at Soviet military academies or by Soviet military instructors, whose members were recruited from the socially less well-off classes and thus thought less susceptible to bourgeois democratic and pro-western views, resulted in a situation in which by 1954 52.8 per cent of Hungary's officers were of 'proletarian' or 'peasant' origin. As for the generals, 52 per cent had risen from the working class and 21 per cent from the peasantry. The system of political policing and control, emulating the Soviet model and carried out by 'politruks', i.e. instructors attached to each commanding officer, and the steady increase in political instruction in dialectical materialism of each officer corps intake, was from the outset part of the process of political and ideological re-education. But the modernisation of arms systems led the Kremlin to ensure that only those comrades were put in control of the armed forces whose absolute loyalty to the Soviet Union left no room for doubt. The defence minister, Mihály Farkas, and his successor, General István Bata, were Soviet citizens as was the air force chief, Sándor Házi, and the chief of the general staff, János Tóth. On the Kremlin's instructions, they increased the number of troops to over 100,000 men by 1950, with the result that more than 1 per cent of the entire Hungarian population was permanently under arms.

These major changes were only partly endorsed by the government's new written constitution (Law XX of 1949). Approved by the united Socialist party in parliament on 18 August, the Basic Law, as it was called, came into effect on the 20 August 1949, the traditional national holiday in honour of St Stephen, which was referred to as 'constitution day'. Although it underwent several significant amendments, the same constitution remained in force until the collapse of Communism. In January 1949, the commission appointed to produce a draft of the new constitution had visited Moscow in order to find inspiration in the Soviet constitution of 1936. Their draft, published on 15 March, was, again following Soviet practice, discussed in the various party organisations. Of the 67 proposed amendments, six were incorporated into its final form. According to this constitution, which revealed little originality, the 'Hungarian People's Republic' was 'a state of workers and peasants' in which 'the nation's workers' were engaged in gradually abolishing 'the elements of capitalism' and deliberately constructing 'the Socialist economic order'. The constitution created a surrogate parliament in the Presidium (Elnöki Tanács) which comprised twenty-one members elected and controlled by the country's parliamentary deputies. This functioned not only as a collective head of state, but assumed parliamentary powers during the long periods between the plenary sessions of the wider assembly. Thus, the legislative centre of gravity shifted to official decrees issued by the Presidium. Since the principle of the separation of powers was abolished, the Council of Ministers also had the power to legislate. The constitution also gave the administration increased autonomy and thus prepared the way for the introduction of a system of soviets which was officially implemented by Law 1 of 1950. These soviets were elected by all citizens entitled to vote for candidates nominated by the party. In the event of the electorate's wishes being ignored, the voters retained the right to remove from office the new organs of state power which were supervised by the Presidium, the Council of Ministers or the superior soviets at local and regional level. The administration's former independence was abolished and replaced by the principles of 'democratic centralism' and 'double dependence' on both party control and that of the voters. The Independence Front, which was re-named the 'Patriotic Popular Front' in 1954, was given responsibility for organising elections, thus guaranteeing the continuation of the party's direct leadership and control. Of the 220,000 delegates elected to Soviets for the first time in October 1950, over a third belonged to the MDP.

Many Magyars were particularly offended by the constitution's abolition of the state coat of arms from the Kossuth period, which was replaced by a 'hammer and sickle on a round field of azure, supported on either side by wheatsheafs' with a 'five-cornered red star in the upper half of the field', 'emitting rays on to the field' with 'a folded band of red, white and green underneath'.

After depriving the workers of political power within the framework of a united Socialist party, removing the democratic parties' scope for activity and usurping the control mechanisms of the state and the economy, the Communists thought the time had come to deal with the last remaining opponent of any significance, namely the 'reactionary' Catholic Church, in particular, its hierarchy. The conflict dated back to the beginning of 1945 when Cardinal József Mindszenty succeeded Cardinal Serédi as Hungarian Primate. This passionate, devout and highly conservative prince of the Church had openly and publicly expressed his rejection of dialectical materialism and Communist aims. When the MKP began to attack the two foundation stones of the Church's influence in Hungary, i.e. landed property and the education of youth, it ruled out any prospect of establishing a modus vivendi between the Catholic bishops and the MKP. Mindszenty, who had been imprisoned by the Arrow Cross while Bishop of Veszprém, openly supported the return of the monarchy and a cautious approach to any change in Hungary's social and economic order, which he believed could only be achieved by evolutionary means. The Christian Democratic People's Party, (Keresztény Demokrata Néppárt) which had been founded by Count József Pálffy on 13 October 1944, was able to count at first on the support of broad sections of the clergy. As a broad, conservative Catholic movement, its programme adopted Mindszenty's views, demanding that the creation of a new political, social and economic order be based on natural law, the moral teachings of the gospels and social policy as proclaimed in papal encyclica. On 17 March 1945, it also demanded 'genuine compensation for the Church's confiscated properties' and called for 'the clamour of party-political disagreements to be kept out of the schools'. As a result, the Communists successfully excluded the clergy from participating in the November elections of 1945. The militant Primate took his revenge on 18 October by issuing a committed pastoral letter in which he condemned the 'Marxist evil' and called on the faithful to support the Party of Smallholders at the elections. Their subsequent success was almost certainly due to this open intervention by the Church on their ehalf. When, despite the Church's protests, the republic was proclaimed on 1 February 1946, Mindszenty defiantly revived his former title of 'Chief Excommunicator of the Realm'.

During 1946 the Communists exacted thier revenge by conducting a policy of minor harrassment for which the interior minister, Rajk, was chiefly responsible. Church institutions were subjected to petty chicanery, the activities of the church press were obstructed by rationing newsprint and searches were carried out in denominational schools, which on several occasions resulted in the discovery of 'arms caches'. Church youth organisations and the Catholic Student Federation, which was accused of involvement in the murder of two Soviet soldiers, were banned. When the Communists also campaigned for the abolition of compulsory religious instruction the conflict escalated. Mindszenty called on all churchgoers to stage mass demonstrations and succeeded in temporarily forcing the MKP to exercise restraint. After the rigged elections of August 1947 and the destruction of the democratic opposition the Cardinal forbade the ringing of church bells 'as long as Hungary is ruled by excommunicates'. An attempt at mediation by two prominent laymen, the composer, Zoltán Kodály, and the historian, Gyula Szekfű, proved unsuccessful. It was predictable that the MKP's infuriated leaders would take revenge at the earliest opportunity. In February 1948, attacks against the churches and their denominational schools were stepped up. The Catholics, along with the Calvinists and the Lutherans were now targetted by government propaganda. Following the government's announcement of its intention to bring all denominational schools under state control, Cardinal Mindszenty tried to prevent the carrying out of this threat to the Church's activities by a series of petitions, sermons and pastoral letters. The less hierarchically organised protestant churches, on the other hand, representing about a quarter of the country's practising Christians, failed to resist the pressure for long and handed over their 2,000 schools to state control. On 16 June 1948, the Hungarian parliament, unimpressed by the Catholic clergy's vigorous protests, approved the programme to establish state control over all denominational schools. The Catholic Church was dispossessed of some 3,000 educational institutions. The Cardinal was not, however, prepared to give in, and ordered the 2,500 priests and nuns in the affected schools to stop teaching immediately. The government then began a campaign to force the militant cardinal to resign and be replaced. But since this pressure failed to achieve its objective, Mindszenty was arrested on 23 December 1948 and put on trial between 3 and 8 February 1949, charged with subversion. Although the Cardinal made several confessions under the pressure of psychological torture, his alleged confession of guilt, circulated in a government publication before the trial opened, was a crude forgery. In his skilfully worded, reconciliatory final speech at the trial the Cardinal admitted that the Church had made some mistakes in the pursuit of its political aims. But apart from his illegal contacts with the American ambassador and irregularities in the handing over of foreign aid donations -- for which he could hardly be held responsible -- the prosecution was unable to furnish proof of any 'crime against the state'. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, the removal of the Cardinal, who was so much feared by the Communist leadership, did nothing to break the influence of the Catholic Church among its adherents. The party ideologues must have found it disquieting that after religious instruction had been made optional 95 per cent of Hungary's parents still opted for their children to take it, despite the obstacles this placed in their way. The new Hungarian Primate, the Archbishop of Kalocsa. József Grősz, had a much more conciliatory nature than Mindszenty, but he, too, showed that he was not prepared to accept any further encroachment upon the Church's rights without a fight. As a result, the government embarked upon a new round in its struggle against the Church in June 1950 by arresting a number of priests and laymen, confiscating most of the monasteries and evicting 12,000 nuns and monks. These measures forced the bishops to sign an 'agreement between the government of the Hungarian People's Republic and the Catholic Church' on 30 August 1950. Under its terms the Council of Bishops was obliged to recognise the régime and the republican constitution. It also agreed to condemn any subversive activity against the people's democracy, to appeal to the faithful to do their utmost in 'the great work which the entire Hungarian people is performing under the leadership of the régime' and to support the aims of the Communist-inspired world peace movement. In return, the government promised to guarantee the Church's 'freedom of action', return eight Catholic training colleges to Church control and lift the ban on the four orders of Benedictines, Franciscans, Marists and the teaching order of nuns. It also agreed to compensate the church for its economic losses for 18 years until it was again able to maintain itself by its own means. The Hungarian bishops were not prevented from taking any disciplinary measure against the so-called 'peace priests' who had sided with the régime. The Calvinist Reformed Church, for its part, had already been obliged to sign a similar agreement.

Since the internal political climate in Hungary was, however, increasingly deteriorating, the Catholic hierarchy soon found itself subjected to new pressures. The Church's discreet neutrality no longer satisfied the régime which sentenced the interim primate, Grősz, to fifteen years imprisonment in July 1951 after a show trial which ended in the accused making a full confession and incriminating himself to an unbelievable degree. Further trials led to heavy sentences being meted out to the Catholic Bishop of Csanád, Msgr. Hamvas, the Lutheran bishop, Lajos Ordass and the presbyterian bishop, László Ravasz, although, unlike Mindszenty, all were eventually officially rehabilitated in 1956. From now on the newly created State Office for Church Affairs had little trouble in persuading bishops and priests to take an oath of allegiance to the People's Republic on 21 July 1951. The activities of the 'peace priests', petty harassment and constant secret police surveillance forced the churches to come to terms with the limited scope for action left to them and their increased exclusion from public life.

The establishing of state control over church schools was accompanied by an increasing imitation of Soviet methods and values in the educational sector and cultural life in a way which was completely alien to Magyar traditions and which aroused strong objections. In 1941, 6 per cent of Hungary's population, i.e. 466,180 people over the age of ten were still registered as* illiterate. It had therefore been an urgent government priority after the war to overcome this lamentable state of affairs which resulted from the country's backwardness and traditional social structure. By awarding grants the government attempted to increase the number of students from workers' and peasant families who made up only 5 per cent of the total student population. It also encouraged prospective students to take up the study of the natural sciences. In the period after 1947, an impressive number of higher educational establishments, including vocational and technical schools, universities and technical faculties, were set up in record time in order to train new personnel for the party, the bureaucracy, industry and scientific research. These institutions also offered evening courses and correspondence courses for anyone in full-time employment. In 1951, the selective awarding of grants supported 24,000 students in Hungary, who, however, had to accept, increasing restrictions being placed on their freedom to choose a career.

The proposed increase in student numbers, envisaged in the first Five Year Plan, was greatly exceeded. The number of secondary school pupils, which had been expected to rise by 45,000, rose by 77,000. Instead of the expected figure of 8,000, the number of students matriculating at universities and other higher education establishments showed an increase of 30,000. In 1951 alone, 17,000 new students applied for places, with the result that 33,000 young people in all received a university education (compared with 11,500 students in 1938). In the same year, 1.25 million children attended elementary school and a further 93,600 pupils were enrolled in further education. The government tried to cope with the unexpected flood of students by speeding up the completion of the new Technical University of Heavy Industry in Miskolcz, the Agricultural College in Gödöllő and the College for the Chemical Industry in Veszprém. In addition, a Department for Transport Studies was set up in Szeged and a Foreign Languages College established in Budapest.

The party was also able to announce proudly that as many as 57 per cent of students and 68 per cent of secondary school pupils already came from a working-class or peasant background. But when many gave up their studies after a short period owing to adverse external circumstances and major ideological difficulties 'bourgeois' professors were blamed for discouraging the students through their examination system. A great deal of interference in curricular development and training methods in which greater stress was placed on a knowledge of dialectical materialism contributed to a rapid decline in teaching standards and a breakdown in discipline. Although the minister of education, Darvas, admitted to the party newspaper Szabad Nép on 29 August 1951, 'Our students are very weak in Mathematics, Hungarian Language and Literature and Physics', adding that 'only all too often proper education is neglected in favour of senseless politicisation', little was done at the height of the Stalinist era to overcome the system's acknowledged inadequacies and liberate Hungarian education from its Soviet model.

As chief spokesman on cultural affairs during the Rákosi era, József Révai also let it be known on 6 September 1951, that 'the ultimate aim of our national education is to inspire people wholeheartedly with the truth of the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin'. Accordingly, those responsible for journalistic and cultural activities were given the task of convincing the adult population of the blessings of the new state ideology by full-scale attempts to influence opinion, alter the popular consciousness and disseminate a new ethos. This was accompanied by a cult of the USSR and a drive to promote the learning of the Russian language, carried out principally by the Hungarian-Soviet Friendship Society with over 1.2 million members. Under the MDP's supervision it pursued its mission of eradicating the Hungarians' deep reservations towards the Soviet Union and of demonstrating the country's close ties with the Soviet people and their great leader, Stalin. In schools and youth organisations, too, a policy of cultural russification was intended to inculcate a spirit of national subordination for as long as it took to instil recognition of the Soviet Union's pre-eminence and to promote a genuine and voluntary solidarity within the Socialist bloc. The official party newspaper Szabad Nép, which had a daily print-run of 800,000 copies following the dismantling of Hungary's once varied press, shared these goals. It sanctified the 'USSR's peace policy' and 'great success in constructing Socialism', at the same time praising Stalin and his Hungarian 'viceroy', Rákosi. Cultural centres, cinemas, theatres and public libraries, set up at considerable cost throughout the country, were used to promote the party's political aims with considerable educational zeal.

As part of the struggle waged against 'bourgeois objectivism', Hungary's creative artists also found themselves under pressure to toe the official party line. The growing tendency to prescribe dogmatically the subject matter of artistic activity and scientific research produced disastrous results, however, since many intellectuals and artists who opposed Stalinist norms preferred to go to prison or a labour camp rather than serve Socialist realism and do their 'duty to partiality' in the humanities and 'optimistic' art. 'The party demands that our writers supply the nation with positive heroes', Révai stated at the Hungarian Congress of Writers in May 1951. But, despite greatly improved working conditions and considerable social advantages, only mediocre artists were prepared to take up his call. Since the government was not merely content with submission and obedience, but constantly expected enthusiasm, life was increasingly poisoned by deception, cynicism and opportunism.

In order to pre-empt organised opposition, the régime forced about 38,000 citizens, mainly members of the upper classes and intellectuals, including 14,000 citizens of Jewish origin, to leave Budapest in May and June 1951 after completely confiscating their property. Throughout the whole of Hungary about 70,000 people may well have been affected by these deportations. According to official information from the time, the forced resettlement included 6 ex-princes, 52 counts, 41 barons, 22 ministers and state secretaries of former governments, 85 generals, 324 staff officers, 30 factory owners, 46 bankers and 250 magnates. Like the others, they were forced to earn a living as agricultural labourers, barred from leaving their prescribed place of residence. But the régime not only acted against the 'class enemy'. Following Stalin's call for an 'intensification of the class struggle', it was also ruthless in dealing with its alleged internal enemies. As a result of genuine or feigned Soviet fears of the effects of Titoism in the shape of National-Stalinism, 'left-wing deviance', or its right-wing 'bourgeois' variant, 'revisionism', Stalin had initially allowed purges to be conducted in Albania, Bulgaria and Poland which spilled over into Hungary in the summer of 1949. Taking the form of a never-ending series of public and secret trials against opponents of the system they were intended to give the party a monolithic unity and secure the unconditional loyalty of all its members. Those found guilty of minor offences were expelled from the party and often sent to prison camps where they they faced high work norms or were made to serve in punishment battalions. Veteran Hungarian Communists with long party service suddenly found themselves accused of being Gestapo agents and Horthy fascists. Men who had fought in Spain and China were suddenly charged with being 'cosmopolitan traitors'. Jews were accused of being 'hirelings of Zionism'. Even some of those who had spent the inter-war period in Moscow were not safe from fabricated charges. László Rajk, who had already been considerably stripped of power when he was transferred from the ministry of the interior to the foreign ministry in August 1948, was arrested in May 1949 at the instigation of the 'Muscovites' around Rákosi, Gerő, Révai and Farkas. At his trial held in May 1949, he, together with his Hungarian and Yugoslav co-defendants, confessed to 'nationalist deviance' and admitted to having fought in Spain as an 'agent of imperialism'. His unbelievable self-deprecation went so far as to confirm the prosecution's fantastic charges aimed at exposing Tito and other National Communists. The trial, which was conducted along the lines of the great Moscow show trials of the 1930s, ended on 22 September 1949 with the pronouncement of death sentences against Rajk, Tibor Szőnyi and András Szalai, who were duly executed on 15 October. The remaining accused were given life sentences or long-term imprisonment. The military who were similarly charged, i.e. Pálffy-Oesterreicher and Korondy, were given a military trial and shot by firing squad.

rotests against the flagrant violation of the conditions on human rights as expressly laid down in Article 40 of the peace treaty with Hungary were submitted by the US and British governments as early as 2 April and 31 May 1949. But these were rejected by the Hungarian government and the USSR as interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. The United Nations Organisation's condemnation of the show trials on 5 October and 3 November 1950, together with further measures such as a refusal to allow Hungary to join the United Nations (lasting until 1955), could not halt the purges, nor prevent the régime's excesses which were later to be euphemistically described as 'contrary to Socialist legality'. Rákosi and his closest colleagues knew how to use the purges to remove potentially dangerous rivals for power and establish Rákosi's personal dictatorship all the more firmly in Hungary. The political police, the ÁVH, which had been created as the 'shield of revolution' to protect Hungary's people's democracy against any subversion, slipped from party control and established itself as a ,state within the state', feared by the population and party officials alike. Among the 4,000 former Social Democrats who fell victim to the purges in early 1950 were leading figures like Szakasits, György Marosán and István Ries. They were followed by about 5,000 trade union officials whose removal provided the régime with the opportunity of reorganising the unions so that they could be used in future primarily to oppress the workers in the interests of fulfilling the government's economic plans.

Disgusted by the mass arrests and campaigns of personal revenge, leading Communists like the 'Muscovite', Imre Nagy, and the celebrated literary theorist, György Lukács, withdrew from political life. Others, who, like the interior minister, Jáinos Kádár, and the head of the ÁVH, Péter, bore responsibility for the Rajk trial, themselves fell victim to the wave of purges they had initiated. In April 1951 the group of home-based Hungarian Communists, which had been active underground during the war and included foreign minister, Gyula Kállai, secretary of state, Géza Losonczy, and Ferenc Donáth, who had been in charge of Rákosi's personal office for a time, were arrested along with Kádár and charged on the basis of confessions extorted after severe torture. Ká?dár was given four years in prison and Donáth two years, while the death penalty passed on Kállai and Losonczy was commuted to life imprisonment by an act of clemency. When the new interior minister, Sándor Zöld, learned that proceedings were being instigated against him personally, he shot his family and then committed suicide. The purges continue when almost half of all party officials were removed from their positions in October and November 1951. When the party's Central Committee declared war on 'Social Democratism' in June 1952, even the new chairman of the Presidium, Sándor Rónai, was removed from office in August. The preparations instigated by Stalin a few weeks before his death, to put the Kremlin's mainly Jewish doctors on trial, caused antisemitism, disguised as 'anti-Zionism', also to spill over to Hungary, despite the fact that Rákosi and most of his circle of party leaders were themselves of Jewish origin. Among the victims of this third wave of purges which lasted until well into 1954 were also such experts in torture and law-breaking as the ÁVH chief, Péter, and the former minister of justice, Gyula Décsi. The exact number of middle and high ranking party officials arrested and sentenced is unknown but, certainly, several thousand may have fallen victim to these purges. In addition, more than 350,000 party members lost their party membership by August 1954, which in most cases meant that those affected were subjected to tangible political and economic discrimination.

Rákosi, who, for good or ill, was entirely at the mercy of Stalin's pressures and increasingly hated by his own countrymen, had been able to establish his personal dictatorship in Hungary only by spreading fear and terror and building up his own personality cult after removing all his rivals. On his 50th birthday, 9 March 1952, he was enthusiastically honoured by both party and state. The public praise and sycophantic fuss accorded him were surpassed only by the Stalin cult. Under Rákosi, the chairman of the National Economic Council, Ernő Gerő, had established a strong position assisted by two other 'Muscovites': the chairman of the State Planning Authority, Zóltan Vas, and the Central Committee Secretary for Economic Affairs, István Friss. Gerő's willingness to carry out any order reliably and zealously also allowed the defence minister, Mihály Farkas, to rise in the party hierarchy and the minister of culture and party ideologue, József Révai, also belonged to the party élite for a time. Absolutely loyal to the Soviet Union in the first place and only then to Pákosi, these men took care to follow to the letter the Kremlin's instructions on Hungary's Socialist transformation in their respective spheres of operation. When Rákosi, Gerő and Farkas created a ' Defence Committee (Honvédelmi Bizottstág) as a direct result of the Korean War in November 1950, they also created a coordinating authority which became de facto the real centre of power in Hungary, as the Politburo and the party's Central Committee were increasingly stripped of their prerogatives. At the MDP's Second Party Congress held in Budapest between 25 February and 2 March 1951, the leading positions in the party were filled only by those comrades who blindly followed the 'Muscovite' line and unquestioningly accepted Rákosi's position as party leader. When Rákosi also assumed the premiership on 14 August 1952, his power seemed complete, even though the economic policies he had pursued had caused a profound crisis in Hungary.

At Stalin's behest, Hungary's national economic development was forced to follow a path of rapid and thorough industrialisation in all sectors. This was accompanied by moves to spread the class struggle to the villages and tackle the problem of rural poverty at the same time as breaking the opposition of the wealthier peasants. Although the nationalisation of industry and large parts of the service sector had placed almost 90 per cent of the means of production under state ownership by 1948, the legacy of old ways and Hungary's traditionally evolved social structure had still to be broken up by a programme of forced industrialisation and reduced dependence on the world market. The régime also hoped that industrialisation, public works and the mechanisation of agriculture would remedy the problems of overpopulation, underemployment and a low standard of living in the countryside. The steady growth in agricultural production, required to supply the rapidly growing industrial centres, also appeared to be the best way of reducing the peasants to the level of wage-earners, thereby enabling food distribution to be made subject to state control. Only thus could the régime divert funds needed for industrial investment away from the agricultural sector and exclude the conservative and reactionary peasant farmers from exercising any political influence.

A Three Year Plan, prepared with the help of Soviet experts and introduced on 1 August 1947, pursued the overall aim of eradicating the last traces of war damage and increasing production by at least 10 per cent over its 1938 levels. For military reasons maximum emphasis was also placed on developing heavy industry, which received most of the available investment funds, to the neglect of other sectors. By 31 December 1949, after almost superhuman efforts and enormous sacrifices, some important sectors had even managed to exceed the plan's quotas, with the result that on 10 December the National Assembly was able to launch the first Five Year Plan as from 1 January 1950. Its main aims were to accelerate the programme of 'Socialist industrialisation' and improve the country's defence capacity. Of the investment target of 35 thousand million forints, 17 thousand million were earmarked for industry. To ensure the plan's success, the Presidium decreed on 29 December 1949 that all firms employing more than ten workers and all foreign-owned firms would be nationalised. At the same time, the workers' productivity norms were increased and their party-controlled trade unions entrusted with maintaining work discipline in order to meet the plan's targets. Following the Soviet example, economic affairs were regulated by legislation designed to deprive employees of all freedom of action. State control over the direction of labour was reinforced by the abolition of the right to choose one's place of work and the right to strike. Further nationalisation without compensation, which in February 1952 included, among other things, rights of home ownership (with the exception of small family houses), led to a sharp increase in discontent among the workers, especially since the leadership's unrealistic revision of the Five Year Plan's schedule contributed to a constantly declining living standard. Although the economy showed all the symptoms of a major economic crisis, the economic Tsar, Ernő Gerő, announced self-confidently at the MDP's Second Party Congress that he would transform Hungary from a backward agrarian country to a modern 'country of iron and steel' within four years.

The new direction which nationalisation and industrialisation gave to the economy was also accompanied by the 'Socialist transformation' of rural life. The aim was to collectivise agriculture, thus organising the peasants in a way which would make it easier to exert control over them. This also meant loosening up the existing social structure in such a way that the MDP would in future be the only point of focus and cohesion for the community. In the summer of 1948 the régime began a propaganda war against 'Kulaks', by which it meant peasants who owned more than 25 hold (approx. 14 hectares). However, every citizen whom the party deemed politically undesirable could be accused of being a Kulak and subjected to harassment before being sent to a prison camp and having his property confiscated. After this attempt to take the class struggle in to the villages had proved largely unsuccessful Rákosi launched a recruitment drive in August 1948 to set up voluntary agricultural cooperatives. In May 1947, he had already promised the small holding peasants who clung to their land 'that no power in the world will succeed in expropriating land from the beneficiaries of land reform as long as the Communists remain in power'. To persuade them to accept their forced participation in cooperatives, they were initially allowed to hold on to their private plots. This was to be followed by a number of planning stages, at the end of which all land, together with its livestock and inventories, would be collectivised. The peasant would eventually retain only a small plot of up to half a hectare for his own private use. By the 1 December 1950, however, only 76,887 families, including 120,000 workers, could be persuaded to join one of the established 2,185 cooperatives.

Because the government still held back at first from imposing compulsory measures, and opened up the market to agricultural produce after rationing had ended in 1949, there was a distinct improvement in the general food situation. But the fact that the national income rapidly outpaced the production of consumer goods led the Soviet economist and theoretician, Evgenij Varga, who was of Magyar origin and had been attached to the Hungarian government as an adviser, to demand that the 'consumption fever' should be brought to an end by depressing real wages and forcing collectivisation. In the autumn of 1950, poor harvests, low state-regulated purchase prices and the threat of expropriation caused many peasants to slaughter their livestock and invest their ready cash in consumer goods. Food supplies to the towns were consequently reduced to the point that all foodstuffs had to be rationed again until 30 November 1951 and all meat and animal fat until 30 June 1952. Since over a million workers were already employed in industry and contributed 55 per cent of the national income compared with the agricultural sector's 23.9 per cent, priority had to be given to supplying food to the large cities and industrial concerns. The government also had to introduce coercive measures in order to push ahead with its collectivisation programme.

These measures were at least successful, inasmuch as some 300,000 families had joined the cooperatives by 30 June 1953. But although the number of collectives had now grown to 5,224, there were still only 375,000 workers engaged in this kind of agricultural production. Many family members devoted themselves exclusively to more profitable private economic activities or moved to industry which witnessed a marked increase in the number of women workers in particular. A shortage of labour and the limited use of agricultural machinery which was exclusively allocated to the so-called Machine Tractor Stations also led to a series of bad harvests which began as early as 1951 and forced Hungary, once a foremost exporter of agrarian produce, to import foodstuffs in order to cover its domestic needs. Neither the cultivation of fallow land, nor the speeding up of collectivisation, nor the extension of state ownership to take in around 12 per cent of all arable land, fulfilled the government's modest hopes of improving yields. An increase in the supply of artificial fertiliser and more agricultural mechanisation also achieved little, with the result that the agrarian sector continued to be the main constraint on the government fulfilling its high economic targets.

Although 29 per cent of Hungary's foreign trade was already directly transacted with the Soviet Union, Budapest was greatly disappointed by the initially limited success of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) set up in Moscow on 25 January 1949. Despite its undertaking to guarantee 'mutual fraternal aid' on an equal basis, the Soviet Union, which had virtually achieved autarky, was able to use Hungary's great dependence on supplies of raw materials and energy, deliberately to fix a low price on goods which Hungary had to supply to the Soviet Union under the terms of Comecon's long-term trade agreements while at the same time it steadily increased its demand for high quality. Since a resumption of Hungary's former trade with the West was inconceivable at the height of the Cold War, there was no alternative but to retreat into the Soviet-dominated economic bloc and continue the programme of industrialisation demanded by the Soviet Union which concentrated solely on heavy industry and measured progress in terms of heavy tonnage at the expense of consumer goods production. The West's economic blockade also provided an excuse to blame any economic deficiencies and setbacks on the enmity of western capitalists who were 'envious of Socialist industrialisation and its successes' and to avoid being blamed by the workers for their considerable sacrifices and continually deteriorating living standards.

Since the consolidation of the Soviet Union's east European imperium was central to Stalin's foreign policy, Hungary was denied the opportunity to develop any of its own diplomatic initiatives. The founding of NATO and the creation of the German Federal Republic was used to increase dramatically the population's fear of aggressive imperialism. The conflict between Stalin and Tito had resulted in Hungary completely freezing its formerly close relations with its southern neighbour and, on the Soviet Union's instructions, responding increasingly aggressively to the Yugoslav Communists' successful attempts to resist pressure from the Kremlin. World opinion's rejection of the persecution of the churches, the terror rials and the purges froze Hungary's minimal contacts with the outside world even further. The outbreak of the Korean War increased fears of a total confrontation of the superpowers almost to the point of hysteria. Hungary's adoption of the Stalinist system of institutional and ideological conformity offered only the possibility of developing bilateral contacts with the other Socialist countries of eastern Europe and sharing in Soviet initiatives such as the world peace movement. The aims announced at one of the last major conferences of the World Peace Council, held in Budapest in June 1953, that, 'Every nation has the right to determine freely its way of life and must respect that chosen by other peoples' in order to 'facilitate the necessary peaceful co-existence of different systems and allow relations between the nations to be shaped to the advantage of all' still had only limited validity in the Soviet Union's sphere of influence in eastern Europe.







In the final weeks of his life Stalin, who was increasingly intransigent in demanding ideological conformity, urged further purges and even closer economic cooperation between the Soviet Union and its east European allies. His unexpected death on 5 March 1953 spared Hungary the incalculable consequences of this intended Soviet interference in its affairs. Because of internal rivalries within the Soviet leadership and their weaker position, Stalin's successors did not dare intervene in the internal affairs of the east European People's Democracies to the same degree of ruthlessness as their predecessor. Despite all attempts to preserve a continuity in relations and to continue using traditional disciplining methods, the new Soviet leaders were obliged to leave the leading party officials in fellow Socialist countries more to themselves than previously. Molotov, who had emerged from the leadership struggle still firmly in charge of Soviet foreign policy, supported continuing Stalin's policies, unchanged in form and content. However, after the elimination of the interior minister, Beria, Stalin's actual successors, Malenkov and Krushchev, prevailed with their argument that Soviet interests were best served by a policy which would be more flexible in form, but similar in content. The Soviet Union's domination was no longer to be secured by terror and the methods of the police state nor by the undisguised exploitation of the east European economies, since there was always the danger of a sudden outbreak of open opposition. The National Communist parties, weakened by the purges and internecine struggles of the previous four years, would not be able to deal effectively with such opposition. The view of the new Kremlin leaders that economic concessions would have to be made in order to raise living standards and their recognition of the need to raise Communist morale and the will to succeed by allowing the parties more autonomy was linked with the hope that this would enable the National Communists to achieve greater respect and popularity in their own countries.

The need to scale down police terror and remove comrades known to be Stalin's closest disciples out of the firing line aroused the suspicion of Rákosi and his closest colleagues, although, with typical obedience they let themselves be persuaded of the absolute necessity of the 'New Course' advocated by Malenkov. Because of severe food shortages and inadequate housing conditions, the first Five Year Plan's emphasis on encouraging heavy industry and the policy of compulsory agricultural collectivisation had caused general dissatisfaction to rise to boiling point, despite the régime's repressive measures. Hungary's citizens continued to experience the arbitrary use of political power, as their government tried in vain to reverse the downward economic trend and overcome cultural and spiritual stagnation. The government and administration were overcentralised, the bureaucratic state apparatus entirely subject to the party's directives. Civic rights were trampled upon. Excluding officials responsible for the economy, the inflated bureaucracy had grown to 320,000 civil servants. The party with upwards of 850,000 members was administered by 40,000 senior officials. The state security services may well have employed as many as 10,000 and over 150,000 soldiers served in the armed forces at any one time. The populations growing sense of realism after campaigns, appeals and compulsory measures designed to educate them to selfresponsibility, no longer allowed itself to be conciliated by the party's unbelievable propaganda.

In order to mobilise the population for the parliamentary elections due to be held on 17 May 1953 the largely inactive Popular Front committees were revived as the common organisation linking party members with the politically affiliated, but failed to bridge the gulf which existed between the leadership and the population. A week after the outbreak of the workers' rising in the German Democratic Republic Rákosi, Gerő, Farkas and Imry Nagy, who had meantime become acting deputy prime minister without any real influence, were summoned to the Kremlin. After heated exchanges with their Soviet comrades, Rákosi, who was mocked as the Jewish King of Hungary', felt obliged to make do with the post of First Secretary of the MDP and handed over the running of the government to Nagy who had not been implicated in the purges. At the plenary executive meeting of the Central Committee on 27-28 June fierce criticism was levelled at the policies which the régime had pursued up to this point. The personnel of the Politburo and Secretariat was replaced and decisions made on the basic direction to be followed by a new government programme which Nagy submitted to parliament when presenting his new cabinet on 4 July 1953. In order to improve living standards, he announced that consumer goods production would be encouraged at the expense of heavy industry which had hitherto been given preferential treatment. Collective farmers were to be allowed to leave the agricultural cooperatives and take their own property with them. He also promised a revision of judicial practices which had offended 'Socialist law', together with the closure of internment camps and an end to arbitrary police methods.

Nagy made it clear in due course that he wanted to eradicate what remained of the subordinate role Stalin had imposed on Hungary and would follow a policy which no longer ran counter to its interests. He found the idea of a world divided into two military power blocs and the consequent need of the Socialist countries to defend themselves -- which naturally implied the Soviet Union's leadership -- unacceptable because it imposed sacrifices on Hungary at the expense of its own economic development and social transformation. In anticipation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, formulated later at the Bandung Conference of the non-aligned countries, he expressed the view that respect for national independence, sovereignty, equality, self-determination and non-interference in internal affairs had to be applied also to the Socialist countries: 'It is the sovereign right of the Hungarian people to decide which form of international status is the most favourable for guaranteeing national independence and peaceful development.' Nagy, the spokesman of a small 'liberal' minority within the MDP was tolerated by the new Kremlin leadership despite reservations concerning the practicability of such heretical ideas. The Soviet leaders hoped that it would be possible to reduce the Hungarian population's hatred of Rákosi's Communist Party and overcome the country's economic difficulties. It soon became clear, however, that Rákosi and his 'dogmatic' followers were not prepared to surrender their position without a fight, especially since they were able to hold onto their bastions of power in the planning authorities and economic administration and could push through Ernő Gerő's appointment as interior minister. Despite this obstacle, Nagy, who was able to rely on the support of the intelligentsia, the majority of bureaucrats and Magyar nationalists, tried very hard to establish control over the omnipotent state security service, the ÁVH. He hoped essentially to reduce its status to that of a much smaller state security department under the interior ministry in order to prevent it becoming a political factor in its own right. Most of the 150,000 inmates of Hungary's prisons and prison camps were released. However, the process of rehabilitation took a long time and by the end of 1954 had benefited only 100 veteran Communist Party members. The régime's alleged opponents, who had been deported to the countryside, were allowed to return to their home towns. By the end of 1953 more than 500 collectives had been dissolved and the notorious 'Kulak list' abolished. Only 200,000 peasants contined to work in the cooperatives which owned just on 18 per cent of the country's arable land. The redistribution of investment meant that heavy industry was allocated 41.1 per cent fewer funds compared with the previous year. However, the desired speedy economic recovery failed to materialise, since the removal of compulsion was accompanied by a decline in work discipline and, hence, productivity. It soon became apparent that the reform measures which Nagy's political opponents had avoided were unlikely to fulfil the régime's over-exaggerated expectations, even approximately. Nevertheless, in order to fulfil the plan to some extent, increasing pressure was put on the workers to reach their targets by the end of 1954 and the peasants were again called upon to join cooperatives.

Although the Central Committee of the MDP had deliberately decided to continue the 'New Course' on 31 October 1953, this did not deter the group around Rákosi from consistently undermining Nagy's policies. The support which the Soviet leaders gave the Hungarian premier on his visit to Moscow in January 1954 and the Kremlin's rejection of Rákosi's policies when the latter addressed them at the beginning of May did nothing to prevent his supporters continuing their delaying and blocking tactics. At the MDP's Third Party Congress, held in Budapest between 24 and 30 May 1954, Rákosi even managed to increase his support among the 70 members of the Central Committee and fill the Politburo, apart from Nagy's post, and the secretariat entirely with his own supporters. The detailed work which went into the preparation of the second Five Year Plan also provided Rákosi with the opportunity to establish national economic priorities in accordance with his own ideas on the subject. Nagy's attempts in October 1954 to counter the growing influence of his opponents within the party by reviving the Hungarian Independence-Popular Front as part of the Patriotic Popular Front failed to produce the desired effect. After his mentor, Malenkov, was dismissed from his position as chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR on the 8 February 1955, he succeeded in remaining as head of the Hungarian government only until 18 April 1955. Four days previously he and Mihály Farkas, who had up until now supported Rákosi, were stripped of all their party offices. Reduced to the status of a political non-person, Nagy was expelled from the MDP in November 1955 and accused of bearing sole responsibility for all the shortcomings and mistakes of the past.

Rákosi did not enjoy his success for long. Krushchev, who was interested in avoiding an East-West confrontation because of the Soviet Union's growing economic problems, would no longer tolerate a return to violent Stalinist terror methods. The efforts of the Kremlin's strong man to normalise relations with Yugoslavia as well as eradicate the effects of Stalinism in the Soviet Union increasingly threatened the position of Stalin's most faithful Hungarian paladin who was also mainly responsible for the campaign against Tito. But Nagy's brief period in power before the premiership was handed over to Rákosi's younger and dependent supporter, Andrés Hegedüs (b. 1922), had succeeded in reducing the population's fear of intimidation and persecution by the secret police and had extended the limits of personal and intellectual freedom. Despite his objections, Rákosi failed to prevent Cardinal Mindszenty being transferred from prison to a more tolerable form of house arrest in July 1955, nor the clergymen sentenced along with Archbishop Grósz from being released from prison in October. When Rajk's widow was also set free, the question as to who should bear political responsibility for the régime's purges and judicial murders could no longer be suppressed. At the plenary executive meeting of the Central Committee, held in June 1953, Rákosi had already admitted once to having set all the ÁVH's operations in motion. Now, two years later, all he could do in mitigation of his offence was point out that the actual behind-the-scenes organiser, the ÁVH chief, Péter, had been sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court on 13 March 1954.

Since, under Krushchev, priority was once more given to the expansion of heavy industry, Rákosi did not hesitate to return to the principles of the old Stalinist 'moon economy'. Once again the gap increased between the iron and steel sector, on the one hand, and light industry, consumer goods production and the agricultural sector, on the other. Nevertheless, during Nagy's period in office the Soviet-Hungarian owned companies were returned to full Hungarian ownership. The Soviet government also granted a loan, albeit a modest one, amounting to 25.7 million dollars. On 7 and 8 June 1955, a plenary executive meeting of the Central Committee decided upon the wholesale collectivisation of agriculture in the hope of raising production by 25 per cent. But, despite the government's powers, complete collectivisation could be achieved only gradually, since the peasants, feeling insecure and hostile to the policy, offered passive resistance and refused to work on fields managed by the cooperatives. In addition, the hopes of tackling Hungary's economic difficulties more effectively by increasing economic cooperation within the framework of Comecon were only fulfilled to a limited extent. The Kremlin's demand for a 12 per cent increase in defence expenditure, despite Krushchev's policy of peaceful co-existence, placed yet another heavy burden on the Hungarian economy.

The population was particularly disappointed when the signing of the Austrian State Treaty on 15 May 1955 did not result in a withdrawal of the Soviet troops still stationed in Hungary for the purpose of securing the Red Army's supply routes. When the Federal Republic of Germany had joined NATO on 6 May, the Soviet Union had used this as the pretext for the People's Democracies to sign a multilateral agreement on friendship, cooperation and mutual support in Warsaw on 14 May, but its terms did not exclude a priori the stationing of Soviet troops on the soil of a co-signatory. Since the Soviet leadership initially showed little desire to transform the Warsaw Pact into a genuine advisory and decision-making body of equal partners, it must have come as a serious blow to the Hungarian 'national' Communists, in particular, to have to come to terms with the loss of some of their sovereignty and freedom of action. In the event of a defensive action against NATO, their armed forces were to be subordinated to a common Supreme Command. They also had to accept the continued presence of Soviet units as a force intended to preserve internal political order and, hence, the Kremlin's right to intervene militarily. Thus, Hungary's entry to the United Nations on 14 December 1955 did little to raise the nation's sense of injured self-esteem.

Because of its refusal to follow the Soviet example of openly acknowledging its share of responsibility in the anti-Tito campaign and to do anything to rehabilitate the victims of the terror trials, the Rákosi régime was increasingly subjected to intensive attacks by Yugoslavia from the summer of 1955 onwards. Krushchev could barely conceal his approval. The result was a slow but steady change in Hungary's internal political climate. Released victims of the purges, younger party officials and activists joined Hungary's intellectuals and artists in demanding a revision of the official party line. They also wanted officials guilty for the purges to be exposed and punished. As the gulf deepened between the population and the Stalinist régime, Rákosi felt obliged to make minor concessions in order to prevent exacerbating any tensions. Journalists were given a modicum of freedom which resulted straight away in more readable newspapers and magazines. When the censor ordered the confiscation of an edition of the weekly newspaper of the Writers' Federation. Irodalmi Ujság (Literary Journal) in September 1955 on account of an article critical of the government's cultural policy, the editorial board resigned and 59 well-known writers signed a pointed protest resolution addressed to the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The state security services responded immediately with a punitive action. In March 1956, the party leadership felt moved, however, to allow a student discussion circle calling itself the 'Petöfi Club' (after the freedom poet of the 1848-49 Revolution) to meet in Budapest and tolerated the expression of alternative opinions to a limited extent, since even the party newspaper Szabad Nip had spoken out against the rigid imposition of intellectual conformity.

At the Twentieth Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, held on 24 and 25 February 1956, Krushchev had denounced some of the crimes of the Stalin era as part of his campaign against his internal party critics and had sanctioned the possibility of different 'national paths towards socialism' as one of Lenin's original principles. For the Soviet Union and the other Communist countries of eastern Europe, the Kremlin leader's denunciation of Stalinism contained a potentially explosive time bomb, although this was not recognised at the time. Krushchev's vague formula of a 'limited multiplicity in unity' contained the hope that Communist régimes might emerge which were able to look after their own interests without fundamentally weakening the solidarity of the Socialist Bloc. Closer economic ties and the unifying power of an ideological discussion of contemporary relevance would make up for the renunciation of terror and dictatorship. Krushchev's limited understanding of the consequences of this for national political leaderships attempting to gain mass support or, in Hungary's case, facing the united opposition of their population, proved as serious a misjudgement as his false estimation of Tito's ambition and the aims of the Chinese Communists.

Krushchev, who also faced growing problems in the other People's Democracies, believed that the First Secretary of the MDP, though heavily implicated himself, should personally press ahead with the process of destalinisation in Hungary. Tito, on the other hand, uncompromisingly demanded that his arch-enemy, Rákosi, be stripped of power. However, a problem arose in that Rákosi's only successor as party leader was the similarly implicated'Muscovite', Gerő. The former tried to use the breathing space created by the exchange of views between Moscow and Belgrade to pin the blame for the violation of 'Socialist legality' exclusively on the secret police, the ÁVH, and its former chief, Gábor Péter. On 27 March 1956, he announced Rajk's posthumous rehabilitation. Only three weeks later, however, he also had to admit publicly to his share of responsibility and complicity. By the beginning of July more than 11,000 people had been released in batches from prison. The cooperation between rebellious intellectuals and discontented workers achieved by the Petöfi Club forced the government to embark upon a limited resumption of the 'New Course' by making material concessions and agreeing to respect legal norms more strictly in future. But when this failed to end the mounting popular discontent, Rákosi believed he could restore calm to the country by reverting to the old tried-and-tested methods of repression. In a Central Committee resolution of 30 June he mounted a fierce attack on Nagy and his intellectual sympathisers, and went on to announce 'a complete liquidation of Nagy's conspiracy' at a full meeting of the Central Committee on 12 July. But by now the point had been reached when the Kremlin felt obliged to intervene directly.

The reason for Soviet intervention at this juncture can be found in the riots which broke out among workers in the Polish town of Poznan on 22 June. By 28 June, the unrest had escalated into a political conflict which assumed a distinct anti-Soviet bias and had to be crushed by regular troops. The affair had made the Soviet leadership aware of the pent-up feelings of bitterness and the extent to which these nurtured the potential for revolution. Thus, Rákosi's untimely actions had conjured up the danger of another, even more dangerous explosion in Hungary. Several Magyar Central Committee members, disturbed by the party leader's blind rage, had, in accordance with the usual procedures, turned to the Soviet ambassador, Yuri V. Andropov, with a request for guidance from the Kremlin. Anastas Mikojan, whom Krushchev used as a 'troubleshooter' during the months that followed, was given the job of bringing the revolutionary outbreaks under control. He arrived in Budapest on 17 July, entrusted with the task of ensuring Rákosi's replacement. On the following day the First Secretary resigned 'for health reasons' and went into Soviet exile where he remained until his death in 1971. His successor, Ernő Gerő, immediately found favour as a loyal spokesman for the pro-Moscow faction. In order to achieve his main aim, which was to put an end to splits within the leadership and maintain Soviet domination, he wanted to make material concessions to the workers, force the pace of industrialisation even further and continue with the programme of agricultural collectivisation. He also wanted to isolate 'subversive and oppositional elements' both inside and outside the party and rehabilitate party members who had been wrongfully imprisoned. Nagy, whom the Soviets also regarded as a sympathiser of the now deposed Malenkov and the person actually responsible for creating unrest, was not allowed to be reinstated to the MDP leadership. Instead, prominent victims of the Rákosi period, such as J. Kádár, G. Kállai and G. Marosán, were appointed to the party secretariat and Politburo.

This half-hearted Soviet intervention did indeed discredit the Stalinists in Hungary, but could satisfy neither the internal Hungarian opposition nor the sceptical Yugoslavian Communists who at first had no wish to accept the veteran Stalinist, Gert, as head of the MDP. Reconciliatory gestures, such as the burial with honours of Rajk's mortal remains on 6 October, could not conceal the fact that the new party chief had no clear policy and was unable to stamp out the sparks of revolution. With the continued support of the once more conspicuous secret police, the army and the Soviet occupation forces, but with only a small basis of support within a party in turmoil, he tried to resist mounting pressures from below. Soviet gestures of support, such as the approval of a loan of 100 million roubles and Tito's willingness, communicated by Krushchev, to boost their prestige by receiving Gerő and his premier, Hegedüs, in Yugoslavia, were no longer sufficient to strengthen the former's basic position. Following lengthy talks in the Kremlin with Mikojan and the party ideologue, Suslov, in early October 1956, Gerő and his companion, Kádár, who accompanied him on the visit, saw the possibility of influencing the course of internal events in Hungary, only if Nagy were allowed to rejoin the party. Whereas the transfer of the party leadership to the rehabilitated National Communist, Władysław Gomulka, in the presence of Krushchev on 19-20 October had stabilised the internal political situation in Poland, the situation in Hungary grew more acute by the hour. From the 20 October, meetings were held at Hungary's universities at which students formulated their ideas in a short programme which consciously imitated the Twelve Point programme of 15 March 1848. They demanded a free press, the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops, the creation of a genuine multi-party system, guarantees of civic rights and personal freedom, an end to the country's economic exploitation and the punishment of those responsible for the terror of the Stalinist era. When, on the afternoon of 23 October, a demonstration of solidarity with the Poles attracted 100,000 people to the memorial of the Polish general and Hungarian freedom fighter, Józef Bem, the ÁVH responded with force. The demonstrators flooded into the city centre where, joined by police and soldiers, they set in motion an uprising which soon took on an anti-Soviet character. The helpless party leadership, which had been caught unawares, sought Moscow's permission to appoint Imre Nagy to the premiership, for it was believed that only his personal credibility and moderating influence could help end a general strike which had been called and stop attacks being carried out against the hated security forces and -- for the first time -- Soviet installations. Marosán, a member of the Politburo, former Social Democrat and only recently a rehabilitated victim of the Rákosi period, turned to the Kremlin for military assistance to put down the 'counter-revolution'. Despite disagreement on which course to adopt, a majority of members in the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party agreed to the use of Soviet troops in the hope of being able to nip the disturbances in the bud without creating a sensation. Mikojan and Suslov were also despatched to Budapest to repress the popular rising on the spot.



Following the proclamation of a state of emergency the struggle for liberation, which was concentrated mainly on Budapest, was at first quickly brought under control. This was due largely to the Hungarian army's initial passivity and the massive intervention of Soviet troops which caused an unnecessary bloodbath. At the same time, the Soviet negotiators put it to Gerő that he should hand over his position as First Secretary of the MDP, by now in complete dissolution, to the popular victim of the Rákosi period, János Kádár, and, like his predecessor, leave Hungary immediately. The new leadership of Kádár and Nagy appealed to the population to observe law and order in return for a promise that they would try to persuade the Soviet troops to return to their barracks while negotiating with the Kremlin for their final complete withdrawal from Hungary. The announcement of a new government, including prominent non-Communists, on 27 October, together with the withdrawal of Soviet armoured units beginning on the 28th and Nagy's promise, given over the radio on 31 October 1956, that Hungary would remain Socialist but leave the group of one-party states and declare its neutrality triggered off a misguided euphoria among the population.


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Nagy's utterances reinforced Moscow's reservations. Not only the Kremlin's emissaries, but ambassador Andropov and the Supreme Commander of the Soviet troops 'provisionally' stationed in Hungary, Grebennik, took the view that the Hungarian Communists could not be left solely responsible for stabilising the Communist system. Despite its still under-developed infrastructure, Hungary's bauxite deposits, uranium resources -- regarded as the richest in Europe -- together with its geographical situation and population of over 9 million possessed a strategic value which the Soviet leadership was not prepared to surrender, given the incalculable effects such a move would have on the cohesion of the Socialist Bloc. It is probably wrong to assume that the Kremlin only agreed to Nagy's appointment and reform programme because it was in any case intent on military intervention in Hungary and was merely buying time in order to reinforce and regroup its troops stationed there. The first intervention, which the Soviets justified on the basis of Marosán's appeal for help in 'crushing the rebels by using the forces of revolutionary order', made it possible for Nagy to form his government and enabled a change in the party leadership to take place which brought about a return to normal conditions in Hungary. This was optimistically praised by the Soviet press, while the Soviets own contribution to the 'elimination of counterrevolution' was played down. The 'Soviet Government's Declaration of the Principles of Development and Further Consolidation of Friendship and Cooperation between the Soviet Union and other Socialist States', published on 30 October, expressly stated the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of fellow Socialist countries, although it was couched in such a way that it was open to a wide variety of interpretations.

The MDP had been deprived of its most prominent Stalinist leaders, but when it continued to show advanced signs of collapse, despite its reorganisation under Kádár and immediate change of name to the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party ( Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt -- MSzMP), and Nagy came out in favour of a multi-party system and Hungarian neutrality, the threshold of tolerance which the Kremlin leaders had been hitherto prepared to grant Hungary was reached. From the evening of 1 November, Soviet units again moved rapidly towards Budapest from their forward bases in the Carpatho-Ukraine where they had been redeployed. It was only on 2 November that the Soviet media began to launch their all-out attacks on Nagy and the 'clique of counter-revolutionaries who had come to power' in Hungary. Therefore, it can be assumed that the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, encouraged by the combined British, French and Israeli attack on the Suez canal, took the decision around All Saints Day to employ military means finally to force a consolidation of power in their interest. Only after protesting to the Soviet ambassador against the Soviet advance on Budapest and threatening to terminate the Hungarian government's Warsaw Pact membership 'if the new reinforcements were not withdrawn to their previous positions' had proved futile, did Nagy decide to declare Hungarian neutrality on the night of 1-2 November and withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. Thereafter, the Kremlin immediately showed that it was prepared to enter into sham negotiations on the details of troop withdrawals.

While the Soviet Supreme Command dragged its heels in the negotiations on troop withdrawals with a Hungarian delegation led by defence minister, General Pál Maléter, in Tököl near Budapest, Kádár, who as party chief was still a member of the cabinet, tried to form a rival government at Szolnok on the River Tisza. In this he was encouraged by the Soviets and actively helped by ambassador Andropov. On the morning of 4 November, after the Hungarian delegation had been arrested and Soviet troops had begun the fight for Budapest with over 2,500 tanks, Kádár announced the formation of a new government which had appealed to the Soviet Union for military assistance: 'The Hungarian Government of Revolutionary Workers and Peasants requests the assistance of the Soviet Army Command in helping our nation smash the dark forces of reaction and restore law and order to the country in the interest of our people, the working class and the peasantry.' Nagy, who spoke for the last time on Radio Budapest at 5.20 a.m. on 4 November, reported that the aim of the fighting was, 'to overthrow the legal and democratic government of the Hungarian People's Republic'. Afterwards, he sought political asylum in the Yugoslav embassy along with his closest colleagues, including György Lukács. Almost 200,000 Hungarians escaped across the Austrian border. Despite a general strike and fierce street fighting against superior Soviet armoured units, against which large numbers of Hungarian soldiers also fought, Soviet military intervention was effectively over by 10-11 November 1956.

The Hungarian government's official report on the uprising later cited more than 3,000 dead and 13,000 injured as well as over 4,000 destroyed buildings. Actual losses were probably higher. The persecution of the 'counter revolutionaries' which followed, despite the amnesty proclaimed by the Kádár government, may well have resulted in over 20,000 people being sent to prison and thousands to Soviet forced labour camps. Law 4 of 1957, promulgated on 15 January 1957, provided for special courts to sentence participants in the uprising to death without formal charges and speeded up proceedings. Some 2,000 people were accordingly executed. Nagy's attempt to exploit the country's revolutionary atmosphere in order to see a brutal Stalinist dictatorship directly replaced by a national and Social Democratic system had failed leaving behind it a heavy trail of blood and innumerable painful scars.

The Kremlin had run a relatively small risk in ordering this second military intervention in Hungary. The Red Army had been in control of the situation throughout. The West, whose freedom of action was restricted because of the Suez crisis, made do with protests and verbal threats. The Soviet Union made skilful use of its veto in the UN Security Council to block any proposed diplomatic and economic sanctions. The People's Democracies, from the German Democratic Republic to China, had no hesitation in publicly defending the necessity of the Soviet military intervention which even Tito and Gomulka carefully described as unavoidable. The concern expressed, particularly in western Europe and in Communist parties outside the Socialist Bloc, regarding Soviet military intervention against a loyal 'fraternal state' insisting only on its obvious rights of sovereignty, made no impression on the Kremlin. But the warning signs that Soviet prestige had suffered a reverse and the accompanying signs that the hitherto strictly observed power relationships based on Soviet hegemony in eastern Europe were beginning to dissolve caused growing concern in the Kremlin. Its willingness to tolerate 'national paths to socialism' disappeared after Krushchev came under increasing pressure from the Stalinist faction within the Soviet Communist Party. In future, the first priority would be to consolidate the Soviet Union's dominant position of power in eastern Europe and maintain the regions of political and economic stability.