History of the Hungarian People’s Republic (PART 6: The Social-Democrats and Communists Merge 1948)

In the course of the revolutionary movement in Hungary the Social-Democrats had very noticeably split into a left-wing and a right-wing. Reactionaries had suffered many defeats and as a result the Social-Democrat Left was much stronger than the Right. The Social-Democrat Left-Wing supported collaboration with the Communists and had become closer and closer to Communism ideologically. They supported socialist construction and class struggle, and held Marxist positions on various issues. The Social-Democrat Left represented the old Marxist tradition within Social-Democracy.

“The Social Democratic Party, after being 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, far-reaching democratic reforms, the nationalisation of key industries and the confiscation of the great estates… The party leadership frustrated both ex-minister, Karoly Peyer’s attempt early in 1946 to return the party to [an anti-communist] line and the negotiations, held in the autumn of 1947, aimed at achieving closer cooperation of all anti-Communist forces under the leadership of the Smallholders’ Party.” (Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary, p. 168)

“Regarding foreign policy… the [SDP] left wing preferred an all-out pro-Soviet line.” (László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: between the United States and the Soviet Union, p. 63)

“Among the Social Democrats… the upper hand was gained by the faction in the party leadership which was openly sympathetic to the Communist call to defend the unity of the working class in its struggle against reactionary elements and those wishing to restore capitalism.” (Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary, p. 171)

“As a result of the acceleration of revolutionary progress, the members and officials of the Social Democratic Party came still closer in ideology to the Communist Party. It was increasingly recognized that the fusion of the two parties should not be delayed too long. The number of those who went over to the Communist Party was also increasing. The right-wing elements in the Social Democratic Party were considerably upset by these events and fought against them, because further revolutionary

transformations and the unification of the two parties would be tantamount to a complete political defeat for them… The right wing of the Social Democratic Party in Hungary launched a campaign to induce the party executive to take more vigorous action against any efforts to unite the two parties. On 15 October a memorandum signed by 34 officials of the party organizations of 16 factories in Budapest and its vicinity and of three district party organizations was submitted to the party leadership…

They did not touch on a single issue of reconstruction or the struggle against reaction… The principal topic of their petition was to proclaim the “party interests”… They reproached the party executive for failing to fight against the Communist party with sufficient vigour to protect and increase the Social Democratic positions. They demanded the removal of the left-wing activists from the Party centre and their replacement with their own people. As befits persons who were having the ground swept away from under their feet they raised the idea that if their demands were not satisfied, it would be better for the SDP to dissolve of its own accord. Events progressed towards the unification of the two workers’ parties, but those who submitted this memorandum preferred the dissolution of the party to any possible unification with the Communist Party.

The leadership of the Social Democratic Party considered the internal situation of the party and the memorandum submitted on 18 October. Antal Ban observed that some were expecting an American-Soviet war and an American victory, and wanted to see a pro-American policy.“ (Nemes, pp. 174-175)

“In October 1947, at a session of the SzDP’s party Executive the right wing demanded that the left-wing leaders be ousted and that the SzDP break with the policy of co-operation with the Hungarian Communist Party. The idea that the SzDP should dissolve itself as a gesture of protest was also raised. The left wing… launched a counter-offensive in response.” (Borsányi & Kende, p. 121)

Matyas Rakosi said:

“The outcome of over three years of struggle is that the working class and labouring peasantry hold power in Hungary. During the past three and a half years the working class, headed by our Party, has proved its ability to govern the country. It has become the leading and decisive force and is recognised as such by the overwhelming majority of the people. This recognition brought into the Party this spring thousands of Social-Democratic workers. The correct policy of the Communists isolated the Right Social-Democrats and brought about healthy conditions for the fusion of the two workers’ parties.” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

“The left-wing leaders of the Social Democratic Party were justified in emphasizing that the right-wing faction was placing the Social Democratic positions in jeopardy, because it set their party against the revolutionary interests of the working class which had at last achieved power. In the meantime, an increasing number of people left the Social Democratic Party, which was losing its prestige, and joined the Communist Party, which was gaining prestige. By January and February 1948, this transfer of allegiance was assuming the proportions of a landslide. At the same time even more people simply quit the party… party membership and the party’s mass influence were rapidly diminishing.

It was then that the left-wing leaders of the Social Democratic Party… recognized: unification must not be delayed any longer and all opponents of this move should be energetically countered… political unity of the working class should take place in Hungary with the active collaboration of the Social Democratic Party, rather than at the cost of its disintegration. This however made it imperative that the party should be cleansed of anti-communist elements.

In mid-February [1948], there was an open break between the representatives of the left and right wings in the leadership of the Social Democratic Party. Anna Kethly, Imre Szelig and their associates, together with the centrists who joined them, including Antal Ban, were forced to abdicate their leading positions in the party. Following this, several right-wing and centre members of the party executive also resigned, some of them, because they opposed the SDP’s support of the merger and others because they did not want to hamper unification and expected to facilitate its preparation and implementation by standing aside.” (Nemes, pp. 178-179)

Already previously right-wing Social-Democrat leader Karoly Peyer had united with right-wing elements in the Smallholder Party and tried to launch an anti-communist campaign inside the Social-Democrats. However, it failed and he was expelled:

“Peyer launched an open campaign against the pro-Communist trend within the S.D.P., but was defeated, and this left him and the Social Democratic right isolated in the Party. He was reproved and eventually left it to join the Hungarian Radical Party (Magyar Radikalis Part).” (George Schöpflin in Martin McCauley ed., Communist power in Europe, 1944-1949, p. 101)

“the leader of the right-wing, Karoly Peyer, withdrew from the Social-Democratic Party and ran on the ticket of one of the bourgeois parties. This, of course, gave rise to confusion among the Social-Democrats… the Social-Democrats and bourgeois parties fought for the vote of the petty bourgeoisie, with the result that the Social-Democrats lost heavily in this struggle.” (Revai, The activities of the C. C. of the Hungarian Communist Party)

“When the ‘right-wing’ Social Democrats opposed a merger… their spokesmen, who included the former government ministers, Karoly Peyer, A. Kethly, F. Szeder and A. Ban, were expelled following an internal party struggle which lasted until February 1948.” (Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary, p. 183)

“The exposure of the right Social-Democrats made our Social-Democratic comrades realise that the existence of rival working-class parties was altogether unnecessary, and that this inter-party rivalry was most detrimental not only to the interests of the working people but to Hungarian democracy as a whole. A spontaneous movement for the formation of a united workers’ party gained ground among the working class, thousands of Social-Democratic comrades expressed their desire to join our Party. For the time being we have stopped recruiting new members, but thousands of people are impatiently waiting for the day when entry into the Party will be renewed.” (Rakosi, problems of ideological and theoretical work in the communist party of Hungary)

“At the beginning of 1948 a rapidly growing number of SzDP members decided to switch to the Communist Party… By February the flow of social democrats to the Communist Party reached such proportions that the MKP Political Committee was forced to order a temporary clamp-down on new membership. The SzDP met in congress on 6-8 March 1948. This congress resulted in complete victory for the left wing. The resolution adopted at the congress stipulated that the new party leadership begin “talks immediately with the leadership of the Hungarian Communist Party with a view to creating the ideological, political and organizational conditions necessary for the forming of a united workers’ party.” (Borsányi & Kende, p. 121)

“The thirty-sixth annual Congress of the Social Democratic party, meeting in Budapest in February [1948], ended with a widely publicized and spectacular victory of its extreme left-wing leaders over the more conservative right-wing members, who seemed to have been completely discredited… The final outcome of the Social Democratic Congress was a dramatic decision of the party leadership to liquidate its moderate members and to integrate its activities with those of the Communist party.”
(György, Governments of Danubian Europe, p. 117)

“Then in March 1948 at the Social Democrats’ congress, the Communist-influenced left… called for a merger with the Communists. It took place on 12 June after a joint congress, and the Magyar Dolgozók Pártja, the Hungarian Workers’ Party, was born.” (Stone, p. 399)

“[O]n 12 June… the Social Democrats voted to join outright with the Communists combining into the Hungarian Workers Party.” (Pryce-Jones, pp. 28-29)

At the founding congress of the new party Rakosi said:

“The congresses of the workers’ parties, the Communist and Socialist parties of Hungary adopted an unanimous decision to unite. This historic event is an occasion for joy and satisfaction not only to the working people of Hungary but also to the supporters of democratic progress throughout the world. In line with this decision, which marks a new epoch in the history of our country, we have gathered here to announce the fusion of the two fraternal parties, to discuss the problems of work of the new party and also the draft programme and statutes of the party, which have been submitted to the congress for consideration.” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

During the merger as a temporary measure the Hungarian Communist Party “Politburo decided to identify a core of activists as “party workers.” At the time of the merger over 100,000 members possessed special party worker cards.” (Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary: from Kun to Kādār, p. 228)

Challenges involved in an underground party becoming a mass party

The merger of the two workers’ parties happened on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. The merger could be worthwhile only on such a basis:

“One of the prerequisites for the fusion was that the Social-Democratic comrades should adhere to the position of Marxism-Leninism. In accordance with this we drafted a joint programme which we submit to the congress for consideration. This programme not only analyses international and domestic problems in the spirit of the teachings of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin, but also outlines the tasks confronting the united party, tasks which the united Workers’ Party must complete without any loss of time.” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

“It is of vital importance to us to turn the Party into a truly monolithic organisation, imbued with a single spirit, a single desire and a single will. It is imperative that the comrades who have come from the Social-Democratic Party quickly master the theory of Marxism-Leninism and accept iron Party discipline.“ (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

“What was the party like that came into being with the fusion of the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party?… The united party which came into being was a Marxist-Leninist party.

It was an important question to what extent the vanguard character of the party would prevail — not only in its role in the life of society, but also in its organizational composition; in addition to the genuine vanguard, to what extent would it rally the sympathizers, in other words the people who supported the policy of the party, but did not come up yet to the requirements of party membership.

It is a universal experience that a legal revolutionary party when it becomes a mass party inevitably includes in its ranks, side by side with the vanguard, a part of the sympathizing masses, who constitute a constant source for refilling and strengthening the party. This also happened to the Communist Party, a large number of sympathizers were persuaded to join… This was one of the results of party rivalry, of a situation when even the number of the registered members of each party figured in the struggle for positions. Consequently, there were many formal admissions to membership, the sort of “joining” which did not mean more for the entrant than a single act, which was not even followed by the payment of the monthly membership dues. This kind of formal membership was even more extensive in the Social Democratic Party.” (Nemes, p. 182)

When the Hungarian Communist Party emerged from the underground, and became a legal party, it recruited members very actively. It was important to draw as many workers, peasants and intellectuals, as well as all partisan fighters and anti-fascist fighters into the party. It was important to increase the party’s membership, because this increased its prestige and influence in the elections and the political struggle of the time.

However, this created its own challenges. First of all, it was difficult for some veterans of the underground party to adapt to the new conditions. Some members held the ultra-left view that they should have simply taken power in a violent revolution, right away in 1944-45, and did not see the “peaceful path” to socialism as a possibility.* This is because they didn’t analyze the concrete conditions of Hungary at the time.

[*Naturally the “peaceful path” to socialism is not a universal or common phenomena, but was related to the very specific and even exceptional conditions of Hungary at the time. It also should not be understood as a “peaceful growing of capitalism into socialism” without a revolution, without the smashing and overthrow of the bourgeoisie]

Another challenge was, that when so many new members were recruited into the party, new recruits were bound to be of lower quality and ideologically weaker. The Hungarian Party quickly grew from mere thousands, to tens of thousands, and in a few years hundreds of thousands. This was not entirely unique though, the Finnish Communist Party also only had thousands of members when it was underground, but still had tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of supporters. When the party became legal, it also had a massive influx of those who had always supported them, but had been too afraid, or unable to join the party when it was underground. Still, the Hungarian Party recruited much more actively then most communist parties, and when it was combined with the Social-Democrats, its membership reached as many as 800,000 in a country of 9 million people.

In early 1948 party members were told to apply for new membership cards. In this process 150,000 inactive members who didn’t renew their membership were removed. As the merging of the two parties was happening, 40,000 people had left the social-democrats and joined the communists. A temporary ban on new members was adopted. Focus now shifted away from quantity, to quality. Right-wingers from the social-democrats were not allowed to join the new party, and ideological education was stepped up.

In various speeches and articles Rakosi gave a thorough analysis of the issues related to the merging of the two workers’ parties:

“It is too early as yet to predict what the membership of the party will be, but it will certainly exceed the million mark. This contains the danger of inflating the Party and of obliterating the demarcation line between the Party and the working class. That is why we have considered it necessary to introduce stricter rules when accepting new members and in this way ensure the healthy growth of the party…” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

“It would be incorrect, of course, to draw a parallel between the Communist Party of Hungary and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But what can be said is that in our Party there are relatively and in absolute figures all the more so — considerably fewer Communists possessing a clear understanding of Marxist-Leninist theory and who could, in all justice, be considered members of the general staff of the working people.

From this it follows that, comparatively speaking, our Party should have considerably fewer members than the CPSU(B). But what is the actual state of affairs? Last autumn Party membership reached 800,000 and, notwithstanding thousands of exclusions in connection with the exchange of membership cards, is now reaching the million mark. In view of the forthcoming fusion of the Communist and Social Democrat Parties, and the mass entry of peasants into the Party, this growth will continue in the united party.

Our Party is not only made up of the vanguard detachment of the working class, but also includes the absolute majority of industrial workers…

How did it come about that our party found itself developing in this way? At first we strove to get the most conscious workers, peasants and progressive intellectuals, who had had some experience of struggle, to join our ranks. To ensure this we accepted members only on the basis of a detailed questionnaire, backed with recommendations by two veteran members of the Party. However, we quickly realised that by following this procedure, we remained in the minority compared with the Social Democrats and other parties which were competing with us. These workers, peasants and intellectuals who were eager to join the Party because they sympathised with the Soviet Union, the Soviet Army or with the vigorous and selfless activities of our Party, these people, in their overwhelming majority had never taken part in the labour movement and wanted to master Communist theory as members of our Party. When we did not accept these sympathisers into the Party, disillusioned and hurt they joined the Social Democratic Party which had a united front with us and which did not follow a line of such strict selection.

The result was that the Social Democratic Party grew by leaps and bounds and soon outnumbered us. In the summer of 1945, for instance, it frequently happened in the course of the factory committee elections that Social Democrat comrades, using the arguments that they had double our membership in the factories, insisted on getting two-thirds of the majority… Moreover, the Right Social Democrats referring to this fact made even more extravagant demands on us. They used this argument in the autumn of 1945 at the time of the General Election when they prevented a common election list being put forward. The immediate effect of this rivalry was that we opened wide the Party doors, which explains the rapid increase in its membership. We were not happy about this and we recognised the dangers inherent in the influx into our Party” (Rakosi, The party—the vanguard)

“Unquestionably many people have come into our Party—and this is even more true of the Social Democrat Party — for whom it would have been much better had they first passed through a definite preparatory school of socialism in the trade unions or in other mass organisations, and had not immediately joined the Party which they can thus directly influence” (Rakosi, The party—the vanguard)

“Comrade Stalin has pointed out how dangerous it is to turn the Party into a scattered, amorphous, disorganised “formation” which loses itself in a sea of “sympathisers” and obliterates the demarcation line between the Party and the class and bypasses the task of the Party to raise the unorganised masses to the level of a vanguard detachment.

We failed to take full account of the danger that a quantitative increase can lead to a deterioration of quality. We were misled by the circumstance that, despite its swollen ranks, our Party was able to carry out its tasks: to create and consolidate the people’s democracy. At the same time however, there were signs that the existence of a vast number of members lacking Communist education was beginning to hamper the Party in carrying out its vanguard role. A number of recent symptoms show that at critical moments some of its members allowed themselves to be influenced by non-class conscious elements and even enemies of democracy…

It should be noted that careerists of all kinds and enemies are now trying to get into the Party… Our enemies are trying to get into the Party in order to cause us a lot of harm…

The Party, —continued Stalin, could not but know that it was strong not only in the number of its members but, above all, in their quality. The Bolshevik Party combated this danger in various ways: Party purge, temporary non-acceptance of new members, but mainly by adopting a series of measures designed to raise the ideological level of the Party. The composition of the Party must be steadily improved, wrote Stalin at the time, by raising the level of the Party member’s consciousness and by accepting into the Party on an individual basis, only comrades who have been tested and are devoted to the cause of Communism. It is necessary, said Stalin, to extend the propaganda idea of Marxism-Leninism, to raise the theoretical level and political tempering of our cadres. In the main we too, must take similar measures. The task will be much easier during the registration of members in the united party when, fortunately, two-party rivalry will play no role.

Now that the two workers’ parties are combining and the dangerous element of rivalry is eliminated, it is high time that the Party become a party in accordance with Marxist-Leninist theory. For the purpose of raising the ideological level of the Party, the question of study must be given priority… The Political Bureau has decided that the six-month Party school be changed into a one-year school for 50 students. The six-month school will be attended by 100 members annually, the number of three-month courses will be increased to six. About 10,000 Party members will attend the weekly Party school in the course of a year. We shall increase the number of courses and promote individual studies. Each year every Party worker must master, in independent study, at least the material of the three-month course. Naturally, members of the united party will attend these party schools. Apart from this, the special commission handling the matter of study for the two parties is now dealing with the question of refresher courses for the Social-Democratic comrades. We are devoting special attention to the education and discipline of the Party functionaries.” (Rakosi, The party—the vanguard)

“The question of the fusion of the two parties was decided at the recent congress of the Social-Democratic Party. However, as stressed by the leading Social-Democratic comrades, the ideological basis for fusion must be Marxism-Leninism. So that in a few months’ time thousands of former Social-Democratic members of the united party will be fully justified in demanding that we acquaint them with the teaching of Marxism, further elaborated by Lenin and Stalin. But this is only one aspect of the tasks facing us. Apart from the Social-Democratic comrades our Party is being joined by the people from the peasant population and by the intelligentsia. For instance, in the province of Zemplen alone 5,000 small peasants, teachers and doctors joined our ranks in the month that preceded the closing of recruitment.

These peasant people have come to us not because they are acquainted with Marxist-Leninist theory but because of their convictions, which have taken shape in the course of three years observation and experience, that our Party is the most consistent and honest party, is the party that most successfully represents and defends the interests of the working people of Hungary. These peasants and representatives of the intelligentsia will bring with them not only their sentiments of sympathy for our Party but also various prejudices and mistaken conceptions. Unless we take timely measures to provide thousands of new people who will be joining our ranks during the coming weeks and months with the minimum theoretical and ideological education then the theoretical level of our Party, none too high at the moment, may be lowered still more.” (Rakosi, problems of ideological and theoretical work in the communist party of Hungary)

The two parties united on a very equal basis. First, local chapters of social-democrats and communists united, then district levels and finally highest levels. Rakosi said:

“Following the congress, the leadership of the two workers’ parties set up mixed political and organizational committees. On June 12 the Communist Party congress will take place and will decide the question of fusion. The Central Committee has resumed recruiting to the Party, which is being joined by thousands, not only by workers and small peasants, but even by medium peasants.” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

The social-democrats had expelled their right-wingers, and now decisively abandoned the opportunism of the 2nd international, and returned to their revolutionary marxist roots. This is why the merging on marxist-leninist principles was possible. It would still take time to develop all these elements into a party of truly iron unity and high theoretical caliber.

Although political and theoretical education is the most important way of improving the quality of party members, it was also absolutely necessary to purge the party of right-wingers, careerists and other harmful elements. Rakosi said:

“As is known, when we carried through the exchange of membership cards, new cards were not issued to thousands of former Party members whom we considered unworthy of the Party’s confidence.” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

“the Social-Democratic Party is removing the Right elements from its ranks – between 8,000 to 9,000 have been expelled, already. A thorough purge has been carried out in the Parliamentary fraction where 33 of the 68 deputies have been recalled or expelled from the party. When the fusion of the two workers’ parties is accomplished the new party will hold 46 per cent of the seats in Parliament.” (Rakosi, Victory of the People’s Democracy in Hungary)

Later at the second congress of the united party Rakosi also discussed this topic:

“In order to eliminate… undesirable elements we decided upon the supervision of membership. This supervision which was carried out in our Party after suitable preparation, in the first half of 1949, extended to more than one million members. Of these, we excluded 190,407 members and qualified another 125,672 as candidates to membership. Besides, there were many tens of thousands of members who did not report for supervision” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

The Hungarian Working People’s Party

The result of the merger was that communists gained the support of the absolute majority of the working class and that social-democracy was effectively eliminated as a competitor to genuine socialism, i.e. Marxism-Leninism. Right-wing social-democracy still continued as an underground force which attempted to sabotage socialist construction.

The new party; the Hungarian Working People’s Party, was a mass Marxist-Leninist party. It was a vanguard party, although many of its new members still needed a lot of education. It was easily the largest party in the parliament with 46% of the vote.

The bulk of the Social-Democrat members were loyal working class activists, and many of the Left-Social-Democrat leaders also genuinely supported socialism and accepted Marxism. The best element of the Social-Democrats firmly joined with the Communists. Speaking about the new party Rakosi said:

“when the decisive hour struck, when development put the organic implementation of working-class unity on the agenda, the healthy kernel of the Social-Democratic Party stood at the height of its historic task and was capable of acting correctly… The bulk of the Social-Democratic Party was, in these decisive months, loyal sons of their class and people, and they sealed this loyalty with honest and sincere unity with the Communists. All the successes and achievement of the two and a half years which have passed since prove that this merger was correct and healthy, have opened up new sources of strength and gave new vigour to Hungarian Socialist development. The fruit of this merger is our united, unbroken and great Party, the Hungarian Working People’s Party, fighting under the banner of Lenin and Stalin, and fired with Communist spirit” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

After having discussed the merger of the left-wing Social-Democrats into the Communists, let’s discuss the Right-wing Social-Democrats. Who were they? Where did they come from? And what became of them?

The Right-Wing Social-Democrats

As I mentioned briefly in part 1 the right-wing social-democrats basically acted as a fake opposition in fascist Hungary. They made an agreement with the fascist government to not organize peasants, to not organize government employees, to not organize political strikes, and practically to not organize strikes at all but prevent them, to not criticize the government but instead defend the fascist government internationally. They defended the White Terror and promised to attack the communists and all revolutionaries and label them terrorists. In return the right-wing social-democrats were allowed to operate legally, and basically got full control of the party and the trade-unions. This agreement is known as the Peyer-Bethlen agreement – Peyer was the leader of the right-wing social-democrats and Bethlen was Horthy’s prime minister.

“As the white terror raged the social-democratic party began negotiations with Horthy. In December 1921 they agreed, that social-democrats can get a few seats in the parliament, publish their newspaper censored by the government and get amnesty for interned social-democrats. However, social-democrats were not the only ones interned, communists were also imprisoned and the amnesty didn’t include them… On top of that they promised to try to get support from [international] social-democrats for Horthy’s land of white terror…” (SKP vuosikirja VI, p. 114)

As the liberal count Karolyi writes:

“[Bethlen] brought the Social Democrats to heel, drawing up a secret pact with them. This pact, accepted by the Socialist Party under duress, made them agree to his franchise bill with its open [non-secret] ballot for the rural districts, and his prohibition on all farm-laborers’ organizations. This meant the complete control of the peasantry and was of major importance to the landowner Bethlen.” (Karolyi, p. 234)

“In Budapest, on December 22, 1921, an agreement was signed by the Prime Minister and four Cabinet Members, on behalf of the Horthy Regency, and by five leaders of the Hungarian Social-Democratic Party—Messrs. Peyer, Farkas, Miakits, Popper and Bencs. Here:

The delegates of the Hungarian Social-Democratic Party declare that they agree to the wishes expressed by the Prime Minister, both with regard to foreign and home policy, and give assurance of fulfillment on their part.

They agreed “not only to abstain from all propaganda injurious to the interests of Hungary, but on the contrary will carry on an active propaganda on behalf of [fascist] Hungary.”” (Atpheker, p. 21, quoting The Labour Monthly (London) April, 1925, VII, PP- 242-44.)

Conservative historian Professor C.A. Macartney writes:

“The terms are believed to amount to the following: It was noted that large open-air meetings were prohibited, and the unions of the State officials, railways, and postal workers, which had been dissolved, could not be revived. The Social-Democrats agreed not to make anti-Hungarian propaganda abroad, to dissipate false (!) rumours of terrorization current among foreign Socialists [i.e. to lie that there is no White Terror], and to adopt the “national” internal policy, they agreed to collaborate on economic policy with the national parties, to abstain from political strikes, and to refer wage disputes to arbitration. They would break with the revolutionary parties. They agreed not to extend their agitation to the agricultural labourers… They would also confine their agitation among the miners within such limits as not to endanger the continuity and measure of production.

In return the Government agreed to arrest and intern none but terrorists, Communist agitators, and other dangerous persons” and to release right-wing social-democrats. (C. A. Macartney, Hungary, p. 266)

After this agreement between the right-wing social-democrats and the fascist government of Horthy became known three years later, the II International criticized it – as the social-democrats belonged to the II International – but nothing else happened. The II International didn’t expel them, and the criticism had absolutely no impact. These right-wing social-democrats remained as the leaders of the party throughout the Fascist period. When Hungary joined the Axis Peyer was the Chairman of the Social-Democrats, and the leader of the government-recognized Trade Union Federation. They were also allowed seats in the parliament, and many of them such as Anna Kethly sat in the parliament all throughout WWII when Hungary was fighting a war of aggression on Hitler’s side.

The right-wing social-democrats, who it is accurate to call social-fascists (people who pretend to be socialists, but really defend fascism) represented Hungary in the League of Nations and tried to act like there was no White Terror, and that Hungary really wasn’t all that bad.

“Invariably, also, Hungarian foreign delegations, as those appearing at the League of Nations, were made up largely of Social-Democratic leaders, men such as the ubiquitous Peyer, or Peidl or Garami.” (Aptheker, p. 22)

The job of the right-wing Social-Democrats was to prevent strikes and to keep the workers under control. During the Great Depression New York Times wrote in its headline of September 2, 1930: “Reds Lead Jobless in Budapest Battle; 2 Die, 257 Wounded. Workers, Erecting Barricades, Driven Out by Tanks. Socialists Unable to Control Protests.”

By “Reds” they mean communists, and by “socialists” they mean right-wing social-democrats. In other words, communists organized workers while right-wing social-democrats sent tanks to kill them.

During WWII the right-wing social-democrats were allowed to operate as helpers of the fascist war effort. When the war had started, right-wing social-democrat leader Peyer wrote to Undersecretary of State Alador Boor:

“During the last few days individuals have repeatedly appeared at the premises of the trade unions under my leadership and attempted to persuade the workers present to commit various unlawful acts. I have the honour to present with respect the reports I received.” (A photostatic copy of this letter, and a translation, are in The Labour Monthly (London), July, 1950, Vol. 32, p. 317)

In other words, workers tried to organize sabotage against the fascist war, but Peyer the right-wing social-democrat, prevented this and informed the authorities. At this point it should be mentioned that there were leftists inside the social-democrat party too, and even communists had infiltrated into the party. Those leftists did try to oppose the war, and this leftist faction became more influential after the Nazis occupied Hungary and banned all parties, even the social-democrats. But the right-wing social-democrats always co-operated with fascism to the bitter end.

“During the years of the war… the Social-Democratic apparatus, including its Parliamentary delegation and its press… though exercising a critical approach, sought fundamentally, as Rustem Vambery wrote, “to make the war popular with the working class.”” (Aptheker, p. 23)

When the defeat of fascism seemed imminent, the right-wing Social-Democrats (Karoly Peyer, Anna Kethly etc.) met with the right-wing leaders of the Smallholder Party to discuss how they should react to the fact that Communists would inevitably become a legal party, and powerful. The right-wing Smallholder leader Ferenc Nagy writes about this in his memoirs:

“the leaders of the Social-Democratic Party met with us to discuss how the parties would react to the unavoidable entry of the Communists into the postwar political arena.” (p. 38)

Social-Democratic leaders… promised to fight any thrust of Communism, and declared that their platform was general suffrage, private property and self-government; and believed that on this basis our efforts could be coordinated.” (p. 38)

“This is very consequential for the post-1945 period. First of all, as Elizabeth Wiskemann points out, the political reputation of the Social Democrats was “soiled” and this “left them in a weak position when the revolution came.” More important, the Social-Democratic agreement with the fascist [Horthy] Regency had seriously weakened all levels of working-class trade-union organization and had totally neglected the mass of the peasantry in the face of the vilest kind of chauvinistic, anti-Semitic and fascistic propaganda. There had been, therefore, a minimum of any kind of democratic or popular opposition… to extreme reaction and ultra-nationalism…

Meanwhile, the Communist movement had been illegalized, its members arrested, imprisoned for long terms, executed and, not infrequently, summarily murdered by the police or other agents of the Regency.” (Aptheker, p. 24)

This is briefly the history of the Right-wing Social-Democrats. They were fascist collaborators and supporters of the imperialist war effort. Together with the Right-wing leaders of the Smallholder Party (mainly Ferenc Nagy) they had made a secret agreement to do everything in their power “to fight Communism”, as Ferenc Nagy admitted in his memoirs. The Right-wing Social-Democrats were an anti-communist and pro-fascist force, and they became a group of spies, saboteurs and obstructionists hindering the Hungarian Popular Front government from the inside, and working on behalf of Western (mainly American) intelligence services.

As a result some right-wing social-democrats were imprisoned for espionage and conspiring against Hungary together with the American imperialists. Other right-wing social-democrats escaped to America and continued working for the CIA there.

“1949 September 16. The Voice of America broadcasts the statement by Karoly Peyer, the right-wing Social-Democratic traitor to the working class who had fled to the West, in which he states that the people’s democratic state order in Hungary “can only be overthrown with foreign aid”.” (Documents on the hostile activity of the United States Government against the Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 23)

This “foreign aid” obviously means foreign invasion and American funding of counter-revolutionary armed units.

The liberal count Karolyi characterized the Right-Wing Social-Democrats in the same way, as agents of foreign imperialism. He wrote about these reactionaries that:

“The few political [emigres] form an amorphous mass of all shades and parties, Fascists, Royalists, Social Democrats, Reactionaries, ex-Communists and militant Catholics… they exist on hopes of war between the West and the East which might enable them to regain their lost positions. In order to live, all of them are obliged to work for the highest bidder, usually the U.S.A.” (Karolyi, p. 220)

The Hungarian government discovered that right-wing social-democrat leader “Karoly Peyer suggested to [American diplomat] McCargar that if he received American support he would take steps to overthrow the Hungarian Government and to prepare for a change of regime. The matter was also raised of Peyer fleeing abroad and there forming a counter-government with American aid.” (Documents on the hostile activity of the United States Government against the Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 91)

And of course this is what happened, Peyer fled to America. However, the Hungarian government didn’t know at the time (though they suspected it) that McCargar who presented himself as a diplomat, was actually a CIA agent, and actually even led his own organization inside Hungary which was far more secret than normal CIA operations. This is known because in the 60s McCargar wrote a book about some of his activities. The book was published under a false name, but some people were already able to figure out it had to be McCargar. In 2010 documents were finally declassified which confirmed that McCargar had led an ultra-secret spy organization in Hungary.

According to his book (The Spy and His Masters: A Short Course in the Secret War) McCargar (alias Christopher Felix) led his spy organization in Hungary between 1946-48. After this he had to flee. One of McCargar’s agents, codename ‘Paul’, was “a very high member of the Government, a Smallholder. A lawyer by profession” and codename ‘Leo’ “was a Smallholder Member of Parliament”. His other agents included diplomats, officials, for example codename ‘Sara’ “of a nominal Peasant Party membership… [in] the Political Section of the Foreign Office, where she… [had] access to all of that section’s most confidential correspondence.”, codename ‘Sam’ “an official in the [Communist] Trade Union Council” and codename ‘Edmund’ “an officer of the A.V.O. [Hungarian intelligence service]”, codename ‘Guy’ was “the holder of an important post in the National… Police” and codename ‘Anna’, was a monarchist who was involved with the Church. They were also in contact with Smallholder leader Bela Kovacs and right-wing social-democrat leader Karoly Peyer. This American spy organization infiltrated all the main political parties, all sections of the Hungarian government and state including even the Hungarian intelligence service and the police. And it organized all reactionary sections of the population: right-wing Smallholders, right-wing social-democrats, monarcho-fascists and reactionary priests.

As McCargar only talked about his spies with codenames, most of them have never been identified. He mentions Bela Kovacs and Karoly Peyer with their real names, but who for example, was codename “Paul” (a very high member of the government, and a smallholder) or codename “Leo” (a smallholder member of parliament)?

The conspiracy of Bela Kovacs and Ferenc Nagy was revealed. Kovacs was arrested and Ferenc Nagy escaped to America. Peyer also managed to escape but Anna Kethly was arrested. At that point the Right-wingers had already lost control of the Social-Democrat party, and Kethly had even been expelled from it. It seems they got into contacts with American intelligence services exactly because they had lost control of the party and had no other ways of clinging to power.

Naturally anti-communists like to pretend that all these people were completely innocent of any crimes and that they were simply persecuted for some other reason. But Ferenc Nagy doesn’t make it a secret that he was looking for the violent overthrow of the Popular Front government, with American support. The OSS/CIA agent McCargar also admits (although under a false name, and three decades after the fact) that he had recruited Bela Kovacs, Karoly Peyer and Ferenc Nagy. Even anti-communist historians have also admitted, that Bela Kovacs belonged to the illegal Fascist secret society called Hungarian Unity, and that he was their infiltrator inside the government.

In the end the old right-wing leaders “[Smallholder] Bela Varga, [Right-Wing Social-Democrats] Karoly Peyer, Szelig, [Smallholders] Sulyok and Pfeiffer… set up their counter-revolutionary headquarters under U.S. State Department supervision in Washington.” (Kartun, Tito’s plot against Europe: the story of the Rajk conspiracy, p. 55)


SOURCES:

Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary

László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: between the United States and the Soviet Union

Dezső Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962*

György Borsányi & János Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary*

[*Nemes, Borsanyi and Kende are Kadar-era revisionist authors and while their analysis is fine, it is largely plagiarized from Rakosi.]

Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary

George Schöpflin in Martin McCauley ed., Communist power in Europe, 1944-1949

Revai, The activities of the C. C. of the Hungarian Communist Party

Rakosi, problems of ideological and theoretical work in the communist party of Hungary

Andrew György, Governments of Danubian Europe

Norman Stone, Hungary: A short history

David Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution

Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary: from Kun to Kādār

Rakosi, The party—the vanguard

Rakosi, Victory of the People’s Democracy in Hungary

Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party

SKP vuosikirja VI

Memoirs of Michael Karolyi; faith without illusion

The Labour Monthly (London) April, 1925, VII

C. A. Macartney, Hungary

Herbert Aptheker, The Truth About Hungary

The Labour Monthly (London), July, 1950, Vol. 32

Documents on the hostile activity of the United States Government against the Hungarian People’s Republic

“Christopher Felix”, The Spy and His Masters: A Short Course in the Secret War

Kartun, Tito’s plot against Europe: the story of the Rajk conspiracy

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