History of the Hungarian People’s Republic (PART 5: Three Year Plan 1947-49)

The Three-Year Plan was launched on August 1, 1947. The purpose of the plan was first of all to reconstruct the country after the massive devastation caused by the war, but also to start building a new society with better living conditions. The plan involved the nationalization of large mines and banks.

Nationalization

“The mines had been nationalised first, followed by some industrial concerns which had remained in private hands, and the banks. In March 1948, came the general nationalisation law which covered all factories employing more then one hundred workers.” (Pryce-Jones, p. 28)

“From July 1946 heavy industry was taken over by the state, and in 1947 ten banks. By March 1948 all industries employing more then a hundred workers were taken over, and late in 1949 all employing more then ten.” (Stone, pp. 413-414)

In the previous article I showed that the vast majority of Hungarians supported socialist policies even if they didn’t all vote for the communist party, because all the parties in the government coalition had adopted the same socialist program for the country. The vast majority of the population supported not only the nationalization of banks, but also of factories:

“Additional evidence… includes a study prepared in December 1945 by the respected Hungarian Institute of Public Opinion. In an extraordinary and quite surprising display of support for radical change, 67 percent of the respondents said that they favored the nationalization of factories (with 32 percent opposed and one percent “don’t know/no answer”), while 75 percent favored the nationalization of banks (with 23 percent opposed and one percent “don’t know/no answer”). Results reported by Robert Blumstock, “Public Opinion in Hungary,” in Walter Connor, Zvi Gitelman et ah, Public Opinion in European Socialist Systems (New York; Praeger, 1977), p. 140.” (Charles Gati, Hungary and the Soviet bloc, p. 70)

Recovery and living standard

“The Three-Year Plan that covered the period of 1947-49 aimed to increase investment and industrial production… Official and independent estimates put the resulting increase in the national income over 1938 levels at anywhere from 16 percent to 24 percent; the plan promoted a remarkable recovery” (Kovrig, p. 75)

“Hungarian industry has surpassed the pre-war level… For example, already by October [1948] the nationalized mining industry had increased its production to 37% higher than before the war. The real wage of the workers in Hungary is 15-20% higher than before the war.” (Kommunisti, no. 3, 1949, s. 130)

“The standard of living for the mass of the people was higher than it had ever been in Hungarian history.” (Howard K. Smith, p. 315)

“[U]nemployment had vanished… For the first time in Hungarian history, a complete system of socialized medicine was created and there was provided paid vacations for all workers, really universal education, and important social security benefits, especially for the incapacitated and the aged.” (Aptheker, p. 67)

The Budapest correspondent of The (London) Times, writing April 1, 1948, summed up the overall situation during the period of the Three-Year Plan:

“Listening to the wealthier peasants, to some of the middle classes, and to those [who had property confiscated], one would think that there was no one behind this Government at all. Listening to the poorer peasants, to their sons and daughters educated free in the new colleges, to young boys and girls going out to build railways, new fields, bring in harvests, and to most workers, one would think that the whole country was enthusiastic for it… Treaties have been signed with nations near by, for centuries enemies… Deserts of ruins have been rebuilt…” (quoted by E. P. Young in The Labour Monthly, Jan. 1957).”

“The three-year plan also provided for the creation of numerous labor unions. Since 1944 the railwaymen, post-office workers, heavy industrial workers, and even government employees formed unions, all of them in branches of industrial and public life, where they had been strictly forbidden under earlier regimes.” (Gyorgy, p.133)

“To come to Budapest in August, 1948… One could sense in the first days the elan of a people striding forward with a faith in the future based on what had been accomplished in the few years since the Liberation. The physical signs of reconstruction were there in front of everybody’s eyes to see, the new bridges over the Danube, whole streets repaired and rebuilt, food and clothing shops well stocked with unrationed goods. There was confidence and hope in the voices of youths and girls, marching through the streets singing their songs of liberation.” (Burchett)

“Village stores, full of new consumer goods which peasants had never seen in their lives before, or at most in Budapest shop windows, were packed with customers. Electrification of the villages gave the peasants an interest in electrical cookers, irons and other gadgets they had never dreamed of before. They were all available in the new village stores. Houses were springing up everywhere in the countryside on sites allocated from the large estates. In Budapest; the shops were crammed with unrationed food and textiles, crammed also with buyers until late at night. To enable the workers to do their shopping in comfort – it is the fashion now in Hungary for both husband and wife to work – the co-operative food stores stay open until 10 p.m. In each district there are special stores which maintain a twenty-four hours’ service.” (Burchett)

“…my travel in England would be limited by petrol rationing, and in Hungary petrol rationing, as all other forms of rationing, has long been abolished.” (Burchett)

“On May Day [1949] Budapest was a mass of banners, singing, marching people, flowers, mobile buffets and groups picnicking in every park and garden. It was the greatest celebration Budapest had ever known.” (Burchett)

“…in the spring of 1949, with the Three-Year Plan well on the way to completion, the people could justifiably celebrate four years of astounding progress.

The rebuilt city, the restored homes and bright new workers’ flats, the four new bridges over the Danube, the rubble heaps converted into gardens – this was all something done by the Budapestians themselves, at first working with their bare hands…” (Burchett)

“Nationalised industries delivered trams and buses to restore the city’s transport service, industrial workers put in extra shifts, at first on the most meagre rations, to get the city’s life pulsing again. Hand in hand with reconstruction went the social and economic reforms, without which the tempo of work and morale of the workers could not have been sustained. The nationalisation of the key industries, equal pay for women, establishments of creches and nursery schools, and generous maternity leave and pay for pregnant and nursing mothers, paid holidays and requisitioning of the former luxury hotels for workers’ holiday resorts…” (Burchett)

Burchett interviewed an old couple in Budapest in 1949. The old man Dindoffer said:

“We had it hard those first months… No food, no heating, no proper roofs over our heads and no clothes. Look at us now,” and he waved his hand round the flat, walked over and opened the wardrobe to show his own winter and summer suits, his good winter overcoat… “I never had two ‘best’ suits in my life before. Now I have one for winter, one for summer. He opened his wallet and showed two 100 forint notes (worth six pounds). I’ve got money in the bank and I always have a little reserve of cash in my purse. Did we ever have spare change in the house in the old days, Mama?” And Mama shook her head and murmured, “More often we were in debt.”

In Dindoffer’s normal week; he earned eight pounds, but as the old chap worked regularly twelve hours a week overtime, his average earnings were thirteen pounds ten a week. For his flat, including heating in winter, he paid eighteen shillings weekly.” (Burchett)

“There had been a very marked rise in real wages, and a rise in the living standards of the poorest peasants. In economic terms, the revolution was brilliantly successful.” (Warriner, p. 31)

“In addition to the average rise, there has been also a rise in the incomes of the lowest paid industrial workers, whose incomes have been levelled up by new wage scales. This large group is certainly much better fed than before… because they receive subsidised rations or factory canteen meals. All industrial workers have benefited by a great extension of social services — insurance, paid holidays, family allowances— which before were non-existent…” (Warriner, p. 81)

“Agriculture needed to be intensified… For both these developments, social welfare and intensification, the Three Years Plan (1947-49) made ample provision. The social results are apparent in every village” (Warriner, p. 97)

Success of the plan

“Bourgeois circles cherished the hope that the Plan was bound to fail. Some of them even claimed that nobody would seriously think of tackling it. This was the cherished dream of Hungarian reaction. However, the Plan is going ahead at a steadily increasing rate” (Rakosi, People’s Democratic Transformation in Hungary: Report to the Third Conference of the Hungarian Communist Party)

The plan was even more successful then predicted.

“All the targets in the original draft of the plan were much lower than those which were finally fixed, and were raised in the second half of 1949 when it was clear that the Three Years Plan targets had been easily over-fulfilled.” (Warriner, p. 99)

“The Three-Year Plan was completed almost 8 months ahead of schedule. Industrial production during the Three-Year Plan reached 140 percent of the last peacetime year. Agricultural production almost reached the prewar level. The standard of living of the workers is, on the average, 37 percent higher then before the war.” (Five-Year Plan of the Hungarian People’s Republic)

“Investment in industry and infrastructure had gone up from almost nothing to a fifth of the national income by 1948, and in 1949 industrial production was substantially above the level of 1941.” (Stone, p. 414)

“In the west, there are three current criticisms of the east European plans. The first, and simplest, is that the plans cannot be achieved… and that… there is never any proof that the targets are actually reached… Hungarian statistics claim that real wages had risen by… thirty-three per cent, in 1949 as compared with pre-war, and these figures can be roughly confirmed by observation—better food, cheaper housing would certainly be sufficient to account for a rise of the order claimed… there is no truth in the criticism that the plan results are not known…

A second line of criticism is that if the plans are achieved, they are achieved by forced labour… This is not true either, for though forced labour does exist it is not the means by which the plans are carried out… This sort of slapdash criticism shows only a complete ignorance of what the real conditions are in most of these countries; there is no need to force labour into industry, because there is so much labour on the land that it is easy to obtain any number of workers by the offer of regular industrial wages, and better food…

The third line of criticism is a genuine one. It is that the plans can be achieved, and achieved without forced labour but only at the cost of the workers present standard of living because the big investment in construction must mean cutting down the production of consumption goods. Now of course it is true that the increased investment must be made at a cost if a big proportion of labour is occupied in building dams and blast furnaces it will not bring in any immediate return in a bigger output of consumer goods and food. That in itself is no objection to the plans; it is indeed their real justification. For precisely what was wrong with the economy of east Europe before was that it did not invest enough… There can be no argument against raising the rate of investment as such” (Warriner, pp. 109-111)

Rakosi said:

“We have resolutely dislodged landlord-capitalist reaction and representatives of Western imperialism from the political and economic life of our country. The Three-Year Plan which was viewed sceptically not only by our enemies but sometimes even by our supporters, will be fulfilled seven months ahead of schedule.

We consider our economic achievements to be of the utmost importance, but we do not for a moment forget that the individual is the greatest asset of the people’s democracy. And that is why we consider the improvements in the public health to be no less important than our economic successes during the recent difficult years… The fact that we have now more marriages, that the birth-rate is higher and the death-rate lower than ten years ago, that we have been able to reduce infant mortality from 9 per cent to 6 per cent in Budapest – all this speaks of the vast improvement in the economic and living conditions of the working people.

Women are beginning to take an active part in the life of our country. In the past the Hungarian woman was shackled by capitalist exploitation; she did not enjoy equal rights with men, she shouldered the burden of family and household cares…

It is no exaggeration to say that the strength of our people’s democracy can be numerically determined, like the temperature on a thermometer, by the role women play in it. And we shall ensure that the role of the working women in the life of our country grows rapidly in the future.

There has been a radical change in the people’s attitude to labour. More and more people are beginning to understand the connection between individual effort and the common cause. They have adopted a new attitude to work, their outlook has broadened, they see the connection between their personal work and building up the country, realising that by better work they can build a better future. The slogan, “Work better and you will live better” has acquired a new and profound meaning. Realisation of this meant that work is no longer regarded as something that has just got to be done; it is more and more becoming a matter of honour and glory, a great incentive in strengthening the nation and building Socialism; it has given rise to new methods. Thanks to this we are able to carry out the Three-Year Plan in 2 years and 5 months…

In speaking of the gains of Hungarian People’s Democracy during the past four years we must not for a minute forget that we were able to achieve them only because we had the daily assistance and support of our liberator, the Soviet Union.” (Rakosi, Strengthening the People’s Democratic Order)

SOURCES:

Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution

Stone, Hungary: A Short History

Charles Gati, Hungary and the Soviet bloc

Kovrig Bennett, The Hungarian People’s Republic

Kommunisti, no. 3, 1949

Howard K. Smith

The (London) Times, writing April 1, 1948

Gyorgy, Governments of Danubian Europe

Howard K. Smith, The State of Europe

Burchett, People’s Democracies

Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe

Rakosi, People’s Democratic Transformation in Hungary: Report to the Third Conference of the Hungarian Communist Party

Five-Year Plan of the Hungarian People’s Republic

Rakosi, Strengthening the People’s Democratic Order

History of the Hungarian People’s Republic (PART 4: The 1947 elections)

These days, anti-communists often claim that in the Hungarian parliamentary election of 1947 there was some kind of election fraud, just like they claimed about the 1945 elections. However, there is absolutely no proof of this. On the contrary:

“Such newspaper correspondents, however, as those representing Le Monde in Paris and the Times and Herald Tribune in New York, reported that, in general, so far as they could see, “there was neither violence nor abuse,” and that elections went off rather quietly and fairly… the general verdict, even of anti-Left observers, was that on the whole the election was quiet, free and bona fide.” (Aptheker, The Truth About Hungary, p. 56)

This is going to sound absolutely ridiculous when I spell it out, but the “strongest proof” of election fraud, is that people who were working or for some other reason, away from their home district, were still allowed to vote. Blue ballot tickets were given to people who were away from their home district but still wanted to vote. According to anti-communist mythology, communists gave out a lot voting tickets to these people, who then supposedly voted in many different places. However, there is actually no proof for this. This is mostly based on rumors and eye-wittness testimonies of reactionaries.

If a right-winger saw a stranger who wasn’t from there, vote, how exactly would he know this person had voted many times? Of course he couldn’t know that. Right-wing conservatives simply saw strangers that they didn’t know, and being hostile to outsiders, immediately invented these lies. Of course its a nice story: “Communists arriving from outside, to vote here”, but its only a story.

Anti-communists claim that communists believed they would get an absolute majority through this kind of fraud, but anti-communist historians have actually never agreed how many extra votes this should have gotten the communists. They don’t agree, because there is no proof for this, and thus it is naturally impossible to calculate. They usually suggest merely tens of thousands of votes, which might sound like a lot, but considering that the communists got more then a million votes, it really has very little significance. If more then five million people vote, how exactly would tens of thousands of fake votes supposedly get you an absolute majority? Its absolutely ridiculous. Naturally no documents about rigging of elections have ever been found, despite the communist archives being available to right-wing researchers today.

This myth about the 1947 election has become very famous these days, but back in the day people didn’t really care about it much. Instead they had a completely different argument for why they considered the election to be rigged. What was their reason? It was because nazis were not allowed to vote. However, it should be kept in mind that in most countries immediately after WWII, nazis were not allowed to vote. Hungary wasn’t in any way different in this.

The Clerical Fascist Cardinal Mindszenty complained that fascists were not allowed to vote. However, while in 1945 5,100,000 people voted, in 1947 the number of voters had not decreased but increased to 5,400,000.

American journalist Howard K. Smith wrote that “only some 300,000 Hungarians were disqualified from voting on suspicion of having had Nazi affiliations… The proportion of disqualifications [of Nazis] was the same as in the elections of democratic Belgium, where there were certainly far fewer Nazis than in Hungary” (Smith, The State of Europe, p. 303).

So the truth is, only a relatively small number of people (actual Fascists) were disqualified from voting, while in reality the voting in 1947 was even more representative then earlier, and even more people voted then ever in the past.

After the ousting of reactionaries the Smallholders party was being taken over by the Left-Wing. A core of the most Right-Wing deputies left, to create a new even more Right-Wing party:

“Zoltan Pfeiffer, led another fifty deputied from the Smallholders, this time as the Independence Party.” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, p. 395)

“The right-wing forces organized new parties in order to campaign in the elections. Under the leadership of Zoltan Pfeiffer, a lawyer ousted from the Smallholders Party, a party was formed which subscribed to the ignominious cause of neo-fascism. Istvan Barankovics, a conservative politician, organized a clerical party, and there was a party, headed by Margit Schlachta, which received support

from the various orders of nuns. Father Istvan Balogh a former leader of the Smallholders Party, also organized a new party. In addition, the Bourgeois Democratic Party and the Radical Party contested in the elections as they had in 1945.“ (Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962, p. 153)

All these new reactionary parties ran in the 1947 elections, against the Popular Front coalition.

The Communists emerged as the largest party with 22%, the Social-Democrats lost some of their votes and now had 14%, since the reactionaries of various types had now left the Smallholders their support was reduced to 15% and the National Peasant Party increased its support to 8%. The biggest right-wing parties were the Barankovics clericals with 16% and Pfeiffers neo-fascists nationalists with 13%.

Communists won 22% of the votes. “Making a common list with the parties of the Left they could claim a majority.” (Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution, p. 28)

Its worth noting that at this point even the Smallholders had accepted the Communist proposal for a Three Year Plan of reconstruction, nationalization of the biggest banks and state control of key sectors of the economy. The Social-Democrats and National Peasants also supported this in their programs, together with other Communist demands such as purging of fascists and punishment of war-criminals. So although the Communist Party still did not get the absolute majority of votes, the other parties of the coalition had moved to the left and accepted the main points of the Communist program. Of course it would’ve been somewhat unrealistic to imagine that all Hungarians would become Communists in only two years, but it is evident they still supported Socialism in all practical questions:

“the total voting for the two parties standing for Socialism came to about 38% of the entire electorate… In addition, many of the planks of the other parties included more or less complete adherence to Socialism; it seems reasonably clear that, by 1947, a majority of the Hungarian electorate was voting in favor of Socialism, of varying modes and degrees.” (Aptheker, pp. 57-58)

“The entire coalition polled 61 percent.” (Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 67)

Some anti-communist have claimed as usual that communists used some type of election fraud. However, no evidence of this has ever been produced. And besides, the communists gained a moderate increase from 17% to 22%. Meanwhile Social-Democrats lost 3% and the Smallholders lost much more. Is it not more logical that the Communists simply attracted some new voters from these parties, due to their achievements?

I’ll give some examples. The anti-communist historian Paul E. Zinner writes:

“…Communist mayor of Budapest… won respect for the dramatic and efficient supply of the capital with food in the fall of 1945, when famine threatened. The Communist Minister of Transportation, Erno Gero, won plaudits as the chief architect of the rapid rebuilding of the Danube bridges in Budapest and elsewhere. (A popular slogan in Hungary at the time was “Eljen Gero-Hidvero: “Long Live Gero the Bridge Builder.)… Finally, the Communists received credit for stabilizing the Hungarian currency in the summer of 1946 after a runaway inflation… the Communists made a favorable impression by both their agricultural and their industrial policies.” (Zinner, Revolution in Hungary, pp. 51-52)

“between 1945 and 1947… all major social groups benefited from the economic upsurge. The workers scored impressive social gains. The middle class was able to recover losses dating back to the closing phases of the war. But the most striking social and economic advances were made by the peasantry. Communist economic policies contributed significantly to maintaining “alliances” with the peasantry and the middle class.” (Zinner, p. 55)

Special correspondent in southern Europe for the Nation, Hilde Spiel, wrote from Budapest: “The wildest inflation in history has ravaged Hungary during these last few weeks.” She writes that the “feudal landlords” and “a number large financiers left in Hungary, besides a large and bloated bureaucracy” are hindering the governments effort to stop the inflation. She writes:

“The only danger to the country seems to lie with those citizens who are determined at all costs to prevent economic stabilization. They are to be found among the few remaining big financiers and industrialists, the disgruntled state officials, and the landed gentry deprived of their property. Aided by their social standing, and their undeniable charm, they try to influence members of the Western Allied missions against the government, hoping to obstruct the financial reconstruction and thus unseat the present regime. ” (The Nation, August 24, 1946, pp. 211-13)

Despite this obstruction by reactionaries the communists had succeeded in stopping the inflation, as I mentioned in part 2.

“the Communists’ call for the country’s reconstruction fell on fertile ground. Their slogans advocating equality, land reform, and the punishment of war criminals had a significant appeal, whereas their attempt to include formerly disenfranchised social groups in political affairs brought them genuine popularity.” (Apor, The Invisible Shining, p. 37)

“the reconstruction plan launched by the Communists and supported by the other parties, was an undisputed success.” (Molnar, A concise history of Hungary, p. 301)

“Erno Gero, Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction… was the hardest worker at his office, always the first in the morning and the last at night…” (Karolyi, p. 326)

“Their competence, energy, and at times, a wise sense of diplomacy… were recognized by everyone… The bourgeois parties were of little consequence, having no definite programme, and no leading personalities.” (Karolyi, p. 334)

“According to opinion polls, in 1947, especially in the countryside, he [Rakosi] was by far the most esteemed Hungarian politician, and he was considered the most suitable for the post of prime minister.” (Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért)

“Rákosi enjoyed remarkable popularity among the Hungarian population in the postwar years, especially among the petty bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia, and the industrial workers of Budapest. In January 1946 he was the country’s second most popular politician… and he rose to first place a year later. He was considered the most skillful leftist orator in May 1948, and an August 1947 poll showed that the majority of respondents regarded him as the person best qualified to be prime minister… Rákosi’s… popularity… is normally attributed to his—and the MKP’s—role in reconstruction after the war. The Party’s popularity was partly reflected in the sudden growth of its membership after the war. Many of the newcomers joined the Party because of the role it played in reconstruction: land distribution, the introduction of the new currency, and price reductions for basic commodities were popular measures… Rákosi’s relative popularity seems genuine enough” (Apor, pp. 185-186)

But no! Even after such achievements, if the Communists grow their support even by 5% anti-communist immediately accuse them of election fraud!

The results of the 1947 election were somewhat similar to the 1945 elections, the government still needed to be a coalition, but as a coalition it had a comfortable majority. The most noticeably change was the split between the left and right. The amorphous ‘big tent’ Smallholders had split, and half of them were now in opposition to the government. While the left had become more united, the right-wing was becoming more disunited. They worked together, but were clearly divided into two different groups: Pfeiffer’s nationalists who were more urban, and Barankovics’s catholics who were rural. The Catholic Church also got into conflict with the Barankovics Party, because it wasn’t considered conservative enough.

“Signs of disintegration began to appear in the Barankovics Party… Although this party had won the vast majority of the Catholic vote, it was unable to come to an agreement with [extremely conservative-MLT] Cardinal Mindszenty, Hungary’s Archbishop Primate. Because of the conflicts between the Church leadership and the leadership of the Barankovics Party, the clergy withdrew their support from the party. After this the organizations of the Barankovics Party, most of which had been set up during the election campaign, rapidly fell apart. The party leadership, too, was affected by these developments. Many left the party altogether.” (Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary, p. 120)


“The collapse of this party was precipitated by the fact that Jozsef Mindszenty, head of the Catholic Church, was dissatisfied with the party’s activity. On the one hand Mindszenty distrusted Barankovics, who had established contact with left-wing circles during the war… Mindszenty stubbornly insisted on the restoration of the Habsburg dynasty, which he expected to result from a third world war and from an American military victory in that war. Thus, the Barankovics Party came under attack from both right and left. Realizing that his situation was hopeless, Istvan Barankovics left the country and his supporters in Hungary announced the dissolution of the party.” (Borsányi & Kende, p. 125)


SOURCES:

Aptheker, The Truth About Hungary
Smith, The State of Europe
Stone, Hungary: A Short History
Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962
Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution
Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic
Paul E. Zinner, Revolution in Hungary
The Nation, August 24, 1946
Apor, The Invisible Shining
Molnar, A concise history of Hungary
Memoirs of Michael Karolyi: Faith without Illusion
Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért
Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary



Why was Lenin’s body mummified? Who decided it?

“Nothing would be easier and more obvious than to imagine that upon Lenin’s death his successors— with Stalin in the lead— quickly gathered in a back room and immediately understood the utility of preserving, displaying, and worshiping his body. A top-down manufactured cult of Lenin would then provide a substitute religion for the peasants, complete with the sainted founder’s relics, to replace the Russian Orthodoxy they were trying to destroy. It would enhance the legitimacy of Lenin’s successors and of the regime in general by tracing that regime’s descent from a founder, who was rapidly and intentionally becoming a mythical progenitor on whose pyramid the successor acolytes would stand to demonstrate their lineage… This idea, which is not uncommon in the scholarly literature, assumes that the Bolsheviks had a plan… Here it seems that there was no plan, no major role for Stalin but rather a series of contradictory, ad hoc, and contested proposals reflecting input both from below and above. Lenin’s successors stumbled and bumbled for a long time about what to do with his body.

First of all, it seems that Stalin had little if anything to do with the decision to permanently display Lenin. He was not on the Lenin Funeral Commission, chaired by Feliks Dzerzhinskii, where such decisions were made, and his associate Kliment Voroshilov, who was a member, bitterly opposed the idea. Stalin was a member of the Politburo, which, as it turned out, approved all the recommendations of the commission, but he seems to have played no active role in the decision. According to rumors that surfaced decades later (in the 1960s), Stalin had been the initiator of the idea to mummify Lenin even before Lenin died, having supposedly suggested it at an informal meeting of Politburo members in 1923, at which time Trotsky vehemently opposed the idea. This story is quite improbable on its face. The idea that such a careful political tactician as Stalin would openly talk about disposing of Ilich’s body while the latter was still alive, and in the presence of his arch-rival Trotsky, borders on the ridiculous. The senior leaders would consider it unpardonably crude to have such a discussion while their dear Lenin lived, and Stalin would certainly not have handed Trotsky such a faux pas on a platter…

The decision to preserve and display Lenin’s body was taken incrementally over a period of years, and it was not until 1929– 30 that his resting place was finalized in the stone mausoleum. At first, on 24 January 1924, Lenin was put in the Kremlin’s Hall of Columns for viewing by the public. Professor Abrikosov embalmed the body in customary fashion so it would last the three days until the funeral and burial. Nobody contemplated a longer viewing. Two days later, the huge crowds obliged the Politburo to order moving the display to Red Square near the Kremlin wall. Architect A. V. Shchusev was quickly conscripted to design and build a temporary structure there which was thrown together by 27 January. The crowds kept coming, and soon Shchusev was charged with designing a larger structure that was completed some weeks later. But it was not made to last. It was a wooden structure called the “temporary mausoleum.”

Meanwhile, during the extended viewing period… Lenin’s body began to decay. The Dzerzhinskii Commission was consequently faced with making a longer-term decision about the body. In February, commission member and engineer Leonid Krasin claimed that he could preserve the body through freezing, and on the seventh the commission authorized him to buy expensive German machinery for that purpose. By 14 March, the body continued to deteriorate and although Krasin continued to defend the freezing idea, the commission brought in Professors Zbarskii and Vorob’ev with a new chemical procedure for long-term preservation. It was not until 26 July that the commission made the final decision to embalm and display Lenin forever, based on Zbarskii and Vorob’ev’s procedure…

[About] whether or not even to have an open casket, there was sharp debate… Voroshilov took sharp issue with N. I. Muralov’s suggestion to display the body. According to Voroshilov, “We must not resort to canonization. That would be SR-like…” …Would Lenin have approved? Probably not, Dzerzhinskii admitted, because he was a person of exceptional modesty. But he’s not here; we have only one Lenin who is not here to judge, and the question is what to do with his body. He brushed aside deep questions, noting that everybody loved Lenin. Pictures of him were treasured; everyone wanted to see him. Lenin was a truly special person. “He is so dear to us that if we can preserve the body and see it, then why not do it?” “If science can really preserve the body for a long time, then why not do it?” “If it is impossible, then we won’t do it.”… the Dzerzhinskii group won the day… It was rather an incremental process.

Voroshilov, as we saw above, was afraid of the hypocrisy and person-worship… Other Bolsheviks, like Dzerzhinskii… thought that Lenin was such a special case as to not provoke such reflections…

As with preserving the body, the resistance to traditional monuments was strong… In October-November 1924, senior Bolsheviks Lunacharskii and Krasin made the case for monuments. “The question of monuments should be seen from the point of view of the demands of the revolutionary people.” The proletariat, they argued, has a solid sense of history and connection to the past. Proletarian monuments, unlike bourgeois ones, are not mere idols or signposts. Proletarian monuments are “sources of strength taken from the revolutionary masses. . . . A revolutionary monument is an active thing; it is a centralizer and transformer of social strength. . . . Revolutionary society does great deeds and therefore has a need to immortalize itself.” “Lenin’s tomb has already become a magnetic center for the masses, who visit it and whose literal voices of millions of people show that it answers a profound need of the masses.” … “We are an organic unified class doing great things and therefore naturally monumental.”… they concluded “We are not anarchists. We have great and brilliant leaders. So we conclude that monuments and monumentalism are completely natural in our revolutionary life.” Voroshilov, who resisted displaying the body, thought monuments were fine to maintain memory. After all, he had been to London to see Marx’s grave…

[When Lenin died] Thousands of unsolicited condolence letters and telegrams spontaneously poured in. The very decision to move Lenin’s body from the Hall of Columns to Red Square had to do with crowd control and was the result of thousands of requests from the public, especially from those unable to reach Moscow in time to see the body during the viewing period originally planned. The decision to build the second, “temporary” wooden and then the third permanent stone mausoleum had similar causes: the people kept coming, more than a hundred thousand in the first six weeks, despite bitter cold… proposals poured in from the provinces to build local monuments to Lenin and to name all kinds of things for him. Without permission, in Cheboksarai they build an exact replica of the mausoleum to be used as a bookselling kiosk. This caused much consternation in Moscow. Sailing in the wake of popular action, the regime quickly understood that they needed to get control of this process, and arrogated to themselves the right to approve or disapprove such requests; nothing could be built without their approval. Subsequently much of the work of the Dzerzhinskii Commission consisted of approving (but mostly disapproving) these proposals, which included everything from a proposal for an electrified mausoleum, complete with lightning bolts, to renaming the calendar months because as one letter-writer said, “Lenin was savior of the world more than Jesus.” (Arch Getty, Practicing Stalinism, pp. 69-77)

History of the Hungarian People’s Republic (PART 2: Democratic Coalition Government)


WWII caused massive destruction in Hungary, mostly because the German fascists stole everything they could and took it to Germany, and what little they couldn’t steal they blew up, burnt and destroyed.

WAR DEVASTATION

“The siege of Budapest lasted fifty-one days before the Russians captured the city. Hardly a house was intact and thousands of soldiers and civilians had been killed” (Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution, p. 17)

“The Germans, departing, had taken 214,000 tons of goods, including machinery and food, by barge or railway (32,000 waggons) or lorry (8,000 loads); 70,000 dwellings had been destroyed, and a quarter of the inhabitants were homeless… a gold train had taken away the valuables stolen, mainly from Jewish families. (The property stolen from Jewish families and others, and the gold reserve of the National Bank, ended up in mining shafts in Austria.) The Holy Crown of King Saint Stephen I and the crown jewels were also transported west…” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, pp. 363-364)

“Half of the industrial plant, the railways, the bridges, the livestock, had gone.” (Stone, p. 365)

“Budapest was a city of rubble, burned tanks and rotting corpses… every bridge over the Danube destroyed by the Nazis. Of 35,500 apartment houses, 29,987 had been destroyed or badly damaged… Bands of starving children roamed in the streets, wailing for bread and their parents. Of the city’s fine bus service, 16 buses were left, the Germans had driven off in the rest. Gas, water supply, and electricity services were disrupted… all telegraph and telephone poles had been cut down by the Germans, railway lines had been cut through at regular intervals by special sabotage machines. Every road leading into Budapest had been mined, every bridge over thirty feet long destroyed.” (Burchett, People’s democracies)

“1,200 locomotives and over 40,000 railway wagons were driven off to Germany… there was no food in the country… livestock had been reduced from 8.6 millions to 3.2 millions. Budapest in early 1945 was a hopeless city of rubble, stench and starvation.” (Burchett)

“[M]ost of the agricultural machinery, tractors and combines had been destroyed or shipped back to Germany, eighty per cent. of the draught cattle had been killed” (Burchett)

“the German invaders and the Arrow Cross agencies endeavoured to take away everything they could lay their hands on… wherever this was not prevented by the resistance of the Hungarian people or the advance of the Soviet troops…” (Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962, pp. 31-32)

“three-quarters of the pool of railway trucks, two-thirds of the operable locomotives and most of the motor vehicles. The value of the goods taken to the West amounted to about 2,000 million dollars. The retreating fascists had made 40 per cent of the rail network unusable and demolished thousands of railway and load bridges.” (Nemes, p. 83)

I’ve cited a lot of numbers here, but the level of destruction is almost impossible to comprehend. More then half a millions Hungarian jews had been killed in the holocaust, and hundreds of thousands of others had lost their lives at the hands of the fascists. Two-thirds of trains, almost all cars and buses and the vast majority of livestock had been destroyed in Hungary, while practically all homes in Budapest had been destroyed, electricity and railnetworks had been clipped into little pieces by sabotage machines, all major roads had been mined and practically every bridge had been cut. Half of industry had been stolen or destroyed, all the national bank’s gold reserves had been stolen. The fascists had left the country destroyed and starving.


“The Red Army tried to preserve Budapest and especially its citizens as much as possible, heavy artillery and bomber plains didn’t bomb the city.” (SKP vuosikirja VI, p. 122)

Despite their own problems, the USSR was able to send food aid to Hungary, for example:

“At the end of March, the Soviet Union sent 1,500 wagons of cereals, 300 wagons of meat and 200 wagons of sugar to Hungary as loan.” (Nemes, p. 60)

“After liberation the Red Army was first to deliver food supplies and medical aid to Hungarians, saving the citizens of Budapest from starvation and epidemic.” (SKP vuosikirja VI, pp. 122-123)

LIBERATION. END OF THE WAR. DEBRECEN PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT.

While the fighting was still going on, a provisional anti-fascist government was set up in Debrecen. This anti-fascist government, was a coalition of the Communist Party, Social-democratic Party, The National Peasant Party, the Smallholder Party, as well as trade-unions and other democratic forces. National Committees of trade-unionists, communists, partisan fighters and others also spontaneously emerged in liberated areas. These united to the Debrecen government and became the foundation of a new democratic state.

“Tanks and field-guns stood blackened where they had been hit and the bodies of soldiers lay unburied in the winter, but politics were beginning. In villages, towns, districts, and counties occupied by the Russians, ‘national committees’ sprang up, run by representatives of left-wing movements or trade unions. A National Council on these lines was installed in Debrecen on 21 December 1944…”
(Pryce-Jones, p. 19)

“…230 delegates assembled, a third of them Communists, from villages and townships liberated by the Red Army, and they elected a new government from all the anti-Fascist parties. Its programme included land reform and confiscation for war criminals…” (Stone, p. 361)

“For the first time after 25 years underground, the Communist Parly began to freely operate and it was the first to begin the work of reconstruction and the creation of a new power.” (Nemes, p. 33)

“The great cause of national reconstruction and joining in the war against the nazis required the creation of a new central power, a new Hungarian state. A clear-cut programme had to be drawn up to rally the national forces and rebuild the country. The Communist Party issued such a programme for a democratic national rebirth published on 30 November 1944 in the Debrecen newspaper Neplap.

This document stated:

“Our country is experiencing the most disastrous catastrophe in its history. The leaders of Hungary, hiring themselves out to the Germans, plunged Hungary into the Hitlerite imperialist war… They aligned themselves with the German fascists, because with such help they intended to subjugate the neighbouring peoples and ruthlessly suppress the Hungarian people within the country and keep them in slavery. The country is suffering under the fatal consequences of this criminal policy. Despite this, the Communist Party proclaims that there will be a Hungarian rebirth!”” (Nemes, pp. 34-35)

“In April the provisional government moved to Budapest… The Communist Party line for the moment was that Hungary was experiencing a [bourgeois democratic] revolution… and that all [democratic] elements should therefore co-operate. ‘Unite All Forces for Reconstruction’, was the slogan coined by Matyas Rakosi, First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party. As a proof of goodwill, Communists helped to rebuild churches. They also activated the other political parties permitted by the Allied Control Commission.” (Pryce-Jones, pp. 20-21)

Zinner also points out “The apparent concern of the Communists with national welfare and the zeal with which they led the reconstruction of war-damaged installations, including churches…”

(Revolution in Hungary, p. 50)

“The provisional government undertook to conclude an armistice with the Allies, to pay the reparations, to wage war against Germany, to repeal anti-Semitic and antidemocratic laws, to guarantee democratic rights and to institute universal and secret suffrage, to disband right-wing political movements and punish war criminals, and to effect a land reform.” (Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 64)

“The leader of the Hungarian Communist Party, Mátyás Rákosi, stepped onto the tribune. He was welcomed with immense enthusiasm. “Long live Rákosi! Long live Rákosi!” resounded from the crowd… “Freedom!” Comrade Rákosi began his speech and hundreds of thousands roared back from every corner of the square: “Freedom!”” (Apor, The invisible shining, p. 58)

By April 4th the whole territory of Hungary had been liberated from the Nazis. (Ignotus, Hungary, p. 152)

“Hungary received aid from the Soviet Union for restoring the economic life and production e.g. to replace the horses stolen by the Germans, new horses and cars were brought for transporting food supplies. The Soviet Union aided the development of the Hungarian national economy and living standard of the citizens by reducing war reparations by 50%.” (SKP vuosikirja VI, pp. 122-123)

LAND REFORM

The most important political action of the provisional government was land-reform. It was undeniable, that the Hungarian peasants had suffered horribly under the rule of the Hapsburg monarchy and then under Horthy.

“In Hungary, peasants… were… more then the rest, oppressed and exploited.” (Ignotus, p. 171)

“…the greatest problem of modern Hungary: the vast inequality of landholding. It was a largely peasant country, and the peasants often farmed with primitive methods.” (Stone, p. 50)

“…smallholders only amounted to about one-third of the rural population; the rest were either totally landless or ‘dwarf-holders’: compelled, that is, to sell their labour on a market where manpower was cheaper than anything else.” (Ignotus, p. 172)

“before the war some 400,000 Hungarians possessed so little land that they had to sell their labor power as agrarian serfs in order to keep from starvation, and another 400,000 had no land at all.” (Behind the curtain, p. 181)

Historian Elizabeth Wiskemann wrote “In Hungary the distribution of land remained… the most unjust in central Europe” (in R. R. Betts, ed., Central and South East Europe, London, 1950, p. 98)

“Among East European countries, Hungary was the worst instance of the system of giant landed estates and their complement, a vast agricultural proletariat, living below subsistence level. This state of affairs was preserved unimpaired up to 1945.” (Ilonya Polanyi, World Affairs, a magazine published by the London Institute of World Affairs April, 1949, p. 134.)

Before WWII “it was calculated that… In Hungary 24%… of the rural population belonged to the category [of unemployed or under employed].” (Nevalainen, marxilaisen taloustieteen oppikirja osa 2, p. 67)


“In March [the Debrecen government] carried through a land reform. This was long overdue, in a country where almost half the arable land had belonged to one percent of the landowners. Four and a half million acres were now distributed among 660,00 peasants… Tremendous posters everywhere claimed this reform as an achievement of the Communist Party.” (Pryce-Jones, p. 19)

“Committees dominated by Communists and the National Peasants’ Party people carried out the redistribution… and within three months 8 million acres had been taken over, some for state farms but the greater part (5 million acres) given to 500,000 new owners… The Catholic Church lost 90 percent of its lands…” (Stone, pp. 370-371)

“[The second largest landowners in Hungary] The Eszterhazys between them owned 750,000 acres of which the senior member of the family, Prince Paul Eszterhazy, owned 300,000. They owned 15 castles in Hungary, several more in Austria and Bavaria… There was only one larger landowner in Hungary and that was the Roman Catholic Church.” (Burchett)

The Peasants had lived in misery, while the richest 1% had owned half the land in the whole country. The land had primarily belonged to the clergy and the nobility, who now lost most of the power they had held century after century. They had literally lived like kings, standing over the peasants. The Land-reform was necessary, to destroy feudal social relations, to free the peasants from the total power of the church and the noble families. Although land-reform was only the first step, it immediately produced favorable results. Economist Warriner writes:

“The land reform has brought a complete social and economic transformation in the countryside… In 1947, I visited again the same villages that I had known in 1936, where land had now been distributed.

The most noticeable change then was better food: the new peasants were eating wheat and rye bread regularly, instead of maize, and drinking coffee with sugar, unknown before… Peasants who had been

estate labourers before, and had now become owners of the standard 12 acre holding, said that in a bad year their real income was twice what it had been before, and with a good harvest would be three or four times as high. Their money income was large enough to buy boots for the whole family. Two years later, in 1949, the dominant impression in the villages was the good supply of consumer goods; ‘Nepboltok’— ‘People’s Shops’— had been started, with a wide range of textiles, shoes, aluminium saucepans, china.” (Warriner, p. 134)

Journalist Wilfred G. Burchett interviewed one of the noble families after the land-reform. The nobility had lost their massive land holdings, and their numerous castles, mansions and private parks:


“[Countess Eszterhazy] shuddered when I asked what had happened to the properties at Tata. “It’s too dreadful to speak about.” she said. “The castle has been turned into a lunatic asylum, the beautiful old Hunting Lodge has become a Communist Youth Hostel, the English Park was turned into a training ground for the Olympic team, because they said the atmosphere and climate was like that of England and would help the team that was going to England for the Olympic Games. The parks are all thrown open, anyone can wander through them,” and her china-blue eyes filled with tears.” (Burchett)

“I made a tour of some of the Eszterhazy castles to see for myself what was going on. Tata is a beautiful village, about ten miles off the main road between Budapest and Vienna. Sure enough the main castle had become a hospital for the insane, the Hunting Lodge – was full of gay young people, including a group of Canadians who had been working on one of the volunteer youth brigade projects. It was Sunday, in mid-summer, the two magnificent parks were crowded with villagers and peasants, reclining in the shade of massive oak and elm trees. More peasants and some workers from the nearby Tata coal mines (Eszterhazy property before they were nationalised), were splashing away in a fine swimming pool that had formerly been a private preserve of the Eszterhazys.” (Burchett)

“[L]ives [of the Tata peasants] are still hard, they still work from dawn to dark and have little enough at the end of the month to buy clothes or other necessities with. They are still plagued by priests who tell them it’s sinful to have taken the land of their masters, and that God and the Americans will punish them for it.

“My boy’s at the university,” said one brown old peasant, squatting on the ground in the English park at Tata. “He’s learning to be an engineer. D’ye think I could ever have managed that in the old days? If I’d saved up everything and could sell a pig or two, I couldn’t even keep him at school after he was twelve. Now they even pay him for learning. He’s at one of the People’s Colleges and they pay him enough that he sends me and the missus a bit on the side.”

Of the land reform, he said, “We could have done with a bit more land. It’s hard to make do without 10 acres, but we live all right. We eat better than we ever did”” (Burchett)

“At the village of Eszterhazy the castle had been turned over to an Agricultural College. On the Sunday I visited it, there was a big Mothers’ Day meeting in progress. In the castle courtyard, seats had been set out in the warm autumn sunshine, and parents were watching a performance by the school children. On other Eszterhazy estates parks had been thrown open to the public, in some cases used as plant research stations, castles used as hospitals, schools, orphanages, youth hostels.” (Burchett)

Rakosi had said “in front of the [horthyist] court in 1926 that “land will only be distributed in Hungary by the Communists!”” (Apor, p. 55) Now his promise became reality!

““Blessed should be the name of he who has granted us land,” a delegation of farmers from Szolnok
County told Rákosi in early March…” (Apor, p. 55)


FACTORY COMMITTEES

It was essential to begin normal production as soon as possible, to produce necessary goods, electricity, and to repair war damage. Factories destroyed by the war, and looted by the Nazis, had to be restored. Workers organized into Factory Committees, took over the management and control of factories.

“The management of industrial plants was taken over by the factory committees as they were known. For the time being these did not change the legal status of the plant: this remained in private ownership. Since, however, in most cases the owners and the company management had fled the country the factory committees assumed responsibility for the most important tasks linked with the starting of production.“ (Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary, p. 103)


“with the setting up of factory committees under Communist leadership workers’ control was realized in practice.” (Nemes, p. 37)

“[Communists and Social-Democrats] jointly pushed through a government decree which was passed in February [1945] for the recognition of the activities and jurisdiction of the factory committees. The factory committees were officially authorized to take control of production as well as the trade activities of the industrial companies, and could play an active role in the regulation of labour relations and the administration of companies. Control by the workers in factories and mines was established as soon as they started to operate, but pressure had to be exerted on the right wing… to give government approval to this practice. The right wing considered this a forced concession. At the same time they emphasized the capitalist ownership of the factories, in order to be able to limit later the jurisdiction of the factory committees to the settlement of labour disputes. However, the factory committees were power positions of the working class which strengthened the government’s influence among the workers and at the same time reduced capitalist exploitation.” (Nemes, p. 65)

The masses had already dealt two serious blows to the landowners and capitalists: the land had been redistributed to the peasants, and workers established themselves in Factory Committees, which already had an important role in managing factories even though they were still privately owned, and they were a position from where the workers could defend their interests against the capitalists. Capitalists no longer had total control over the factories, and if Hungary was to build socialism, transferring factories to socialist ownership could happen smoothly since they were already worker controlled. The workers were already learning to manage the factories themselves, without the capitalists.

1945 ELECTIONS


“In November 1945 the first completely free election, under secret ballot, ever held in the history of Hungary took place” (Behind the Curtain, p. 177) (There actually were elections with universal secret ballot already during the 1919 Hungarian Communist Revolution, but ignoring that Gunther is correct)


The four largest parties received the following results:

“Smallholders received 57 per cent., Communists and Social Democrats 17 per cent. each, National Peasants 6 per cent. The coalition government or “People’s Front” continued in office.” (Burchett)

It was significant that despite decades of intense anti-communist propaganda, and a prevailing environment of reactionary nationalist and religious ideology, the Communist Party emerged as one of the largest parties. In fact, the Communists had the same amount of votes as the Social-democrats, despite the fact that the Communists had never been able to organize legally before, and had been heavily persecuted. Of course, the Communists had some supporters from their underground years. They also received new support because they were the main organizers of the anti-fascist resistance movement and partisan movement. The Communists were also the main organizers of the land-reform. They had quickly emerged as the leading force in the Factory Committees and as an equal partner with the Social-Democrats in the Trade-Unionions. The Communists were used to underground conditions, and thus their organization was not paralyzed by the Nazi occupation and Arrow-Cross coup de’tat to the same extent as the other parties.

“Despite the persistence of popular stereotypes concerning the Communists, the first few months of 1945 witnessed a remarkable increase in the MKP’s popularity. Membership skyrocketed: the organization had only a few thousand members in January, but by October, Party membership had reached half a million” (Apor, p. 36)

“the party’s main newspaper Szabad Nep, whose chief editor was comrade Revai. The newspaper soon increased from 100,000 to 300,000 copies.” (SKP vuosikirja VI, p. 126)

Some right-wing anti-communists might want to claim that communists simply rigged the elections, or used some kind of election fraud, but this was not the case. Even anti-communist historians like Paul E. Zinner, were forced to admit that:


“…the election was free; it met the highest standards of democracy; it was secret, universal, and direct and everyone could vote according to his conscience… On the basis of the conduct of the election and the reaction of the Communists to its outcome, no one could describe their behavior as anything but impeccable. They obviously did not tamper with the ballot” (Zinner, p. 40)

According to Zinner there were “Liberties seldom, if ever, experienced before (free election by democratic franchise, free press, free speech, an intensive formal parliamentary life)” (p. 37)

“in Hungary… free elections took place” (Kertesz, S. D., The Methods of Communist Conquest: Hungary 1944-1947)

The big winner of the election, was the Smallholders party, a rather amorphous centrist party without any clear ideology or message. It was logical that the Smallholders could receive a lot of votes, but their popularity was of temporary character, the Smallholder Party appealed to everyone, and at the same time, didn’t fully satisfy anybody. In a country where the vast majority of the population had never been able to vote before, the Smallholder Party seemed like a safe bet. It would’ve been unrealistic for them to suddenly jump to the Communist Party or Social-Democratic Party. Likewise the National Peasant Party was distinctly left-wing, and thus couldn’t appeal to everyone, and also focused primarily on the Peasants, and thus didn’t appeal to the urban population.


NEW CURRENCY

The devastation of the war, massive theft of Hungarian property and gold by the Nazis, the terrible shortage of goods and black-marketeering had caused massive inflation.

“In 1945 and 1946 Hungary was in the grip of the greatest inflation in history… People rushed out with their whole week’s salaries to buy a few bus tickets or a loaf of bread.” (Burchett)

In order to make the situation tolerable, workers at factories often received their wages in food and other products directly, and other goods were rationed.

“Most experts were of the view that a stable currency could not be established without a foreign loan.”
(Borsányi & Kende, p. 110)

The inflation was so bad, that the Communists suggested a completely new currency:

“On the initiative of the Communists a currency reform was worked out and put into effect on August 1, 1946. One new Forint was valued at 426, followed by twenty-seven zeros of the old pengoes. Overnight Hungary had a stable currency which could buy real goods which now began to appear in the shops. Currency reform won the Communists great prestige…” (Burchett)

Hungary’s gold had been stolen and production had been decimated. There was a shortage of everything and black market prices skyrocketed. But as soon as production got going again, it was possible to solve the inflation since prices remained stable and the currency could actually get consumers what they wanted.

After the currency was stabilized, right-wing anti-communist ‘historians’ changed their narrative. Nowadays they describe the ending of the worst inflation in world history, as nothing special. They do not want to give communists credit for this achievement, and instead suggest that the inflation really could have been easily ended and blame the communists for ending it too slowly. For example, in his book Revolution in Hungary, Zinner says: “once inflation was in progress, the communists refrainted from halting it.” and “Hungary’s currency could have been stabilized long before August 1, 1946”! (p.54)

Even putting an end to the worst inflation in history, is not good enough for anti-communists. They don’t give communists any credit for it. I would like to ask mr. Zinner, if ending the inflation was supposedly so easy, then why did the capitalist opposition parties or the Smallholders Party not do it, and instead claimed that it could only be solved with massive loans from the West?

The communists had emerged as one of the biggest parties in Hungary, and clearly as the most active political force in the country. They had a plan for the reconstruction of the country and solving economic and social problems. They led the creation of the anti-fascist democratic coalition government. They organized workers into factory committees, which began to restore production. The communist party grew into a mass party of hundreds of thousands of members. The communists also carried out land-reform together with the national peasant party, and stabilized the currency. As a result of these and many other successful policies the popularity of the communists would continue to grow rapidly, while the popularity of the right-wing and reformist forces would begin to diminish.


SOURCES:

David Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution

Norman Stone, Hungary: A Short History

Wilfred G. Burchett, People’s democracies

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

SKP vuosikirja VI

Paul E. Zinner, The Revolution in Hungary

Bennett Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic

Balazs Apor, The invisible shining, p. 58)

Pal Ignotus, Hungary

John Gunther, Behind the curtain

R. R. Betts, ed., Central and South East Europe

Ilonya Polanyi, World Affairs, April, 1949

Doreen Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe

Eino Nevalainen, marxilaisen taloustieteen oppikirja osa 2

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

Kertesz, S. D., The Methods of Communist Conquest: Hungary 1944-1947

History of the Hungarian People’s Republic PART 1: Horthy’s Hungary


Introduction

This article series presents a short history of the founding of the Hungarian People’s Republic: the establishing of a Socialist system in Hungary. We will explore the conditions in Hungary before socialism, and then the events which led to Socialism being victorious. Hungary had many national peculiarities which make this investigation interesting, it is also a notable example of a relatively peaceful socialist transformation. It was still a communist revolution, but a relatively peaceful one. We will explore how that was possible, what the results of the socialist system were, and what challenges it had to face.

HUNGARY IN THE EARLY 1900s

After suffering a crushing defeat in WWI, Hungary had become one of many stagnant little Eastern European fascist dictatorships. The country had lost 2/3 of its territory in the war, was economically under developed, dependent on the West, and still semi-feudal. Hungary was technically still a monarchy, though it had no monarch anymore. The fascist dictator Horthy was serving as a Regent, i.e. a leader in the absence of a king. Hungarian society was ruled by the landed-aristocracy, medieval nobility, clergy and to a lesser extent the rising capitalist class. Most wealth in the country was in the hands of the Catholic church.

As economist Doreen Warriner stated, Hungary, like most Eastern European countries, was already a fascist dictatorship before the Nazis:

“…the outstanding fact about eastern Europe as a whole, with the exception of Czechoslovakia, was that it was Fascist-ruled. The regimes headed by Horthy, Boris, Beck Stojadinovic and Antonescu were not the creation of Nazism on the contrary, they had come to power long before… as a result of the victory of internal reaction in the nineteen-twenties… Western powers… openly aided Horthy in the

Hungarian counter-revolution… The popular parties were crushed out of existence by extremes of oppression in Horthy’s White Terror in 1920… Western powers did not protest… so long as the dictatorships were anti-Soviet, it did not matter if they were also anti-democratic.” (Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe, p. ix)

The ideological climate of Hungary was dominated by nationalism and religion. Anti-semitism was widespread. Catholicism was the largest religion, but there was also a substantial Calvinist and Lutheran minority.

“Up to 1918 the desire for national independence… had been a progressive force. But when national independence had been achieved… [east European] dictatorships exploited the national grievances to build up their own power” (Warriner, p. x)

In the case of Hungary, this was particularly easy because Hungary had suffered so much in WWI and lost so much of its territory. This particular form of nationalist rhetoric was also particularly reactionary, because similar to nazism in Germany, it centered around starting a new war where Hungary could restore itself to the status of a great imperialist power, like it used to be.

“In Hungary is the strongest, the most pervasive nationalisn in all Europe. In the chauvinism sweepstakes the Hungarians beat even the Poles.” (John Gunther, Inside Europe, p. 425)

James D. Evans calls nationalism in Hungary “a veritable obsession” (That Blue Danube, London, 1935, p. 127) and European correspondent for the Overseas News Agency and the New York Post, Leigh White wrote that “the Magyar [Hungarian-MLT] curse is chauvinism … it is simply a dementia” (The Long Balkan Night, p. 15).

Leftist, democratic and communist parties were illegal in Horthyist Fascist Hungary. There was a parliament though, and several parties existed which were used by Horthy to fool the people and maintain a facade of democracy. The social-democratic party was the only legal supposedly “left” party in the country. It was allowed to function in the 20s and early 30s if it agreed to collaborate with Horthy, and not try to organize strikes or resistance.

“The Social Democratic Party… [had] its wings… clipped by a previous formal agreement with [Horthy’s prime minister] Bethlen under which the Social Democrats would abstain from rural politics and undertake to keep the trade-unions out of the political sphere.” (Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 32)

“…Bethlen managed a deal with the socialists in December 1921, by which they… accepted limits on trade union activity…” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, p. 279)

Theoretically the trade-unions existed, but their activity was strictly limited. The Horthy government specifically demanded that the Social-Democrats and trade-unionists not organize in the countryside, because the vast majority of the population were peasants. So, although trade-unions existed, the vast majority of people could not join them, and while technically there was a parliament, the vast majority of people couldn’t vote either.

“…Hungary was… dominated by estate owners, magnates of the Esterhazy-Karolyi class in the Upper House or gentry with middling-sized estates, who occupied most parliamentary seats. This was a gentlemen’s parliament…” (Stone, pp. 145-146)

Wilfred Burchett pointed out that at the best time during Horthy’s rule “in Hungary less than 30 per cent of the population had the right to vote…” (Burchett, People’s Democracies). Norman Stone says the same in his book Hungary: A Short History “The suffrage… widened to 27 percent…” (p. 279)


While some parties were allowed to function under these restrictions, the Communist Party and any genuinely democratic or leftist parties were banned outright. Still, the Communist Party tried to organize underground despite the persecution.

“The traditional political climate in Hungary had been anything but favorable to the Communists… The penalties were so severe, and the skill shown by the Hungarian security police in ferreting out Communist organizers… was so great as to discourage all but the most determined from seeking Communist ties.” (Zinner, The Revolution in Hungary, p. 27)

The Communists were labeled enemies of the fatherland, enemies of god and as jews. The Church controlled the education system, so the limited schooling that people received was virulently nationalistic, chauvinistic and religious. Jews were frequently lynched, treated as second class citizens and excluded from political and academic life, so large numbers of them joined unferground leftist democratic movements including the communist party. Thus the accusation that communists were all jews was very much a self-fulfilling propechy: the communists were part of the few who accepted the jews, and both jews and communists were persecuted by the state. I will discuss this in more detail later.


Warriner describes the situation of Hungary very aptly in the following way:

“With political oppression economic stagnation went hand in hand… Hungary… [was] mainly agricultural, with the bulk of the population on the land as small peasant farmers or landless labourers. Industry developed very slowly. The greater part of industrial and financial capital was owned by foreign interests.“ (Warriner, p. xi)

“…the standard of living, measured in manufactured goods, was very low, and during the ‘thirties was falling. For this widespread poverty the only remedy would have been industrialisation. But to this the obstacles were shortage of capital, and the lack of an internal market due to the poverty of the peasants. Foreign capital did not relieve the shortage, because it was invested only in the raw materials needed by the West… Peasant poverty therefore created a vicious circle, with no way out. It was not a transient thing, which could be expected to disappear with gradual economic advance, for within the existing set-up there could be no such thing as a gradual economic advance. The dictatorship… existed to prevent it, to protect the interests of the foreign investors, and their local capitalists and landowners, who both had vested interests in stagnation. The ruling class was a paralytic network of interests resisting change, topped off by a… dictator, and banked up on nationalism.” (Warriner, pp. xii-xiii)

“What eastern Europe primarily needed was the industrial revolution, and without the shift in the European balance of power resulting from Soviet victory it would never have come. Western Europe, so far as it was interested in eastern Europe at all, was interested in keeping it backward, as a source of cheap food and cheap labour…” (Warriner, pp. xiii-xiv)

ANTI-SEMITISM IN HORTHY’S HUNGARY

“The two social categories branded as ‘destructive’ since the 1919 counter-revolution, namely Jewry and the industrial working class… were treated as outcasts, or at best as second-class citizens, with painful consequences…” (Ignotus, Hungary, pp. 165-166)

“…universities were ruled by right-wing student organizations called fraternal societies… They received semi-official support from the government and were given preference among those applying for state scholarships. The patrons of the fraternal societies, the so-called domini (usually outstanding right-wing public figures) lent them a helping hand after graduation… Neither the semi-official mentors nor the domini objected… when at the beginning of the academic year, the fraternal societies launched noisy and brutal ‘Jew-beatings’… to scare off the Jewish students already admitted in limited numbers to the universities.” (Szász, Volunteers for gallows, p. 32)

Historian Kovrig wrote about Hungarian anti-semitism:

“[A]nti-Semitism remained as a latent and disintegrative force.” (Kovrig, p. 27)

However, as a reactionary Hungarian emigre, Kovrig naturally turns everything upside down. He doesn’t think that jewish workers, peasants and intellectuals were radicalized because they were oppressed second class citizens. Instead he blames anti-semitism on the jews, implying that if only the jews had submitted to oppression and not struggled for rights, then there wouldn’t be anti-semitism against them (p. 26). It is the old self fulfilling prophecy. Jews joined leftist parties because those are only places that welcomed them, and they fought for their rights. The reactionaries then turn around and say ‘the leftists are all jews’ and ‘jews are a bunch of troublemakers and revolutionists’.

Even the British conservative anti-communist historian David Pryce-Jones admits that:

“Jews had often become revolutionaries in the hopes of changing their status in a country of traditional anti-semitism.” (The Hungarian Revolution, p. 36)

“In… Hungary… the virulently racist, anti-Semitic prejudices of the population, fanned and incited by the prewar, semifascist regimes, drove Jewish workers and intellectuals to the communists, the only party that had put up an uncompromising fight against the preparers of the Holocaust.” (Hodos, Show Trials, p. 149)

“The record of Horthy’s Hungary was besmirched by anti-Semitic legislation… [the first Hungarian nazi] law was passed at the end of 1938, limiting Jewish employment…” (Stone, p. 300)

You can tell Stone (who was an adviser for Margaret Thatcher) was being very generous to Horthy. In fact there were anti-jewish laws much earlier then 1938.

“it is undeniable that many citizens of Budapest are fiercely anti-Semitic” (Gunther, Behind the curtain, p. 183)

“The feeble support for the Communist movement in Hungary [in the 20s and 30s] was closely linked to the rise of anti-Semitism in interwar Hungary and the popular perception of the Communist Party as a Jewish organization… a “Jewish conspiracy” in the eyes of many. The Party leadership was very much aware of the persistence of anti-Semitism in Hungarian society” (Apor, The Invisible Shining, p. 36)

HUNGARY JOINS THE AXIS

Hungary joined WWII on the axis side for three main reasons: its close historical and economic ties with Germany, Hungary’s own Fascist system with similar goals to Germany, and because of the Treaty of Trianon. That was the treaty after WWI where Hungary had been reduced to less then 30% of its size. The explicit goal for Hungary in the war, was to try recreate its lost empire. Hungarian forces invaded the USSR together with Germany. Fascism had ramped up in Hungary throughout the 30s but now it reached yet a new level. The Horthy government also participated in the holocaust:

“…familiar features of Nazi terror rule set in… the Yellow Star on Jews and ‘Jewish houses’, while from the provinces practically the whole of Jewry (including Christians of Jewish origin, in some cases even gentiles of ‘mixed blood’) was deported for ‘final solution’… Parliament, purged of [even pseudo] leftist parties and anti-Nazi conservatives… political dissenters, including well-known journalists, capitalists, and trade-unionists as well as politicians proper, were deported en masse.” (Ignotus, p.189)

“Adolf Eichmann arrived on 19 March with a detachment of thirty-two Gestapo ‘specialists’, and [prime minister] Sztojay approved an immediate plan to send 100,000 Jews for ‘labour’ – in fact, to Auschwitz… measures against Jews: the yellow star, prohibitions on buying food in short supply, freezing of bank accounts, closure of shops… By the end of April ghettoisation went ahead, starting with Kassa and going through the rest of the country… then the deportations got going, on 15 May.” (Stone, p. 319)

“Then Eichmann turned his attention to Budapest, where since May 170,000 Jews were concentrated in 1,900 ‘yellow star’ apartment houses, while 120,000 lived illegally in Christian households. On 25 June a curfew was imposed on the ghetto Jews, and they were unable to receive guests; and the deportations were to start on 6 July.” (Stone, p. 321)

However, as the war went on, it became clearer and clearer that the Soviet Union was winning. It became necessary for the Hungarian rulers: the imperialists, clergy, nobility and capitalists to start thinking of options of how to get out of this war, which they were losing.


“At the time, the ruling circles feared that if they supported the nazis to the very end, the power of the Hungarian landlords and capitalists would also be eliminated after the German invaders had been driven out. They not only had to realize that the defeat of Germany was unavoidable, but also had to recognize that their hopes of peace, based on a compromise between the British and Americans on the one hand, and the Germans on the other, were false. The very last moment came when the Horthyite leading circles, who had often been deceived and humiliated by Hitler’s government and the German general staff, could still take the step of assisting Hungary to join the anti-Hitler coalition. The only way to do this was to ask the Soviet Union without delay for an armistice [and switch sides]…”
(Dezső Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962, p. 14)

Germany’s defeat was certain, so it was best to abandon the Axis and surrender. That way, the Horthy government hoped it could save itself. Horthy calculated that he could join the Allies, and not be destroyed by them. However, he hesitated to make an armistice, because he was hoping that he could surrender to the Anglo-American troops, instead of surrendering to the Soviet troops. The rule of the capitalists and Horthy, would be better protected if it were the Western troops that occupied Hungary, and not the Soviets.

“The key idea was to get Hungary into a ‘neutral’ position, fighting Bolshevik Russia, but not the English and Americans it wanted to befriend… the political ruling class was… concerned… with saving its own skin. Its project… included the preservation of… [the] undemocratic system, an attachment to the revisionist vision… and a move over to the Allies but without calling a halt to the war with Russia…” (Molnar, A concise history of Hungary, pp. 287-288)

“When the Red Army began its operations in Hungary, three German and three Hungarian armies were stationed in the area of the Carpathian Ukraine, North Transylvania and in the region east of the Tisza. Two German army groups joined their front to the south… The German general staff had at their disposal bigger military forces in [this] area… than in both the West European and Italian theatres of war. This explains why the Horthy clique hoped that, with German assistance, they could hold back the Red Army until the arrival of the Anglo-American forces, and that was why they hesitated until the last minute to ask for an armistice.” (Nemes, pp. 15-16)

At the same time, the anti-fascists, led mainly by the communists, were organizing themselves to rise up and fight the Nazis:

“The German occupation… created a new situation for the working class movement. The legal working class movement ceased to exist… After a common platform had been hammered out, the Hungarian Front, a united organization of anti-fascist resistance, was formed in May 1944 – The Front comprised communists, social democrats, smallholders, and the National Peasant Party as well as the Dual Cross Alliance, an organization representing the anti-German wing of the ruling class.”
(Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary, p. 97)


It was possible for Hungary to change sides, and turn their army against the Nazis:

“The combined strength of the Hungarian forces in the theatre of war totaled about 450,000 men. This represented a significant force… The Hungarian general staff had another quarter of a million armed troops in Budapest and other districts available to disarm the German invaders. [The anti-fascist resistance movement] The Hungarian Front was ready to provide all assistance to this end.” (Nemes, p. 16)

However, the Horthyists wanted to avoid a conflict between them and the Germans, wanted to delay the arrival of the Red Army and hoped that the British and American forces would come to Hungary first.

“The new offensive of the Red Army started on 6 October 1944 and the Soviet troops began their campaign to liberate Hungary… the Communist Party urged an immediate cease-fire and castigated those who were hesitating and delaying its conclusion… It appealed to Hungarian soldiers: “Join forces with the Red Army in the struggle against fascist barbarism!”” (Nemes, p. 17)

“On the initiative of the Communist Party, the Hungarian Front issued an appeal to the officers of the army: “Our criminally irresponsible government… is delaying… the only decision which could save our country and our national army from complete destruction. This decision is: an immediate armistice with the Red Army and armed struggle against the German invaders.” …It called upon the officers of the garrisons to supply arms, ammunition and explosives to the workers and peasants and the anti-German intelligentsia, and assist them in their struggle. “There is no time for further hesitation and long preparations. Act now!”” (Nemes, pp. 17-18)

The Communists were adamant that it was necessary to arm the workers to prevent a Nazi coup, as the Nazis would undoubtedly take over the Hungarian government, if they suspected that Hungary might want to switch sides. The Horthy government refused to arm the workers, and was more concerned with trying to split the anti-fascist resistance movement and have communists and leftists removed from it (Nemes, p. 18).


THE NAZIS TAKE OVER: SZALASI’S COUP

On October 15th Horthy announced his cease-fire with the Soviet troops. Immediately, he was arrested by the Nazis and the government was taken over by them:

“Within a few hours he was deposed and taken prisoner by the Germans. In his place ex-Major Szalasi, the leader of the most extreme Nazi Party, the ‘Hungarists’ or ‘Arrow-cross Fascists’, was appointed ‘Leader of the Nation’. All points of strategic importance in the capital, including the vital broadcasting centre, were occupied by the Gestapo and other German formations.” (Ignotus, p.190)

“By the evening all stations and the radio were in German or Arrow Cross hands, and at 5.30 a.m. on 16 October Veesenmayer came to the Castle to take Horthy and the others to Gestapo headquarters… There he abdicated… to give Szalasi authority to form a government.” (Stone, p. 341)

This was a strategic move on Horthy’s part:

“…the Hitlerite general staff were able to make their preparations for the Arrow Cross coup, and they concentrated about three divisions of German forces in the area of Budapest… At noon on 15 October, Horthy announced the cease-fire over the radio, after first informing the Germans of the step he was about to take. He also made this fact known in his proclamation: “I informed the local representative of the German Reich that we were concluding a preliminary cease-fire with our enemies.” The Hungarian Front had not been informed in advance of the announcement of the cease-fire, whereas the Germans had been given prior notice.” (Nemes, pp. 21-22)

The Hungarian military had not been given instructions about what to do in this situation. They had not been given instructions to unite with the Red Army and turn against the Germans. However, the Germans who knew the situation before hand, had ordered the Hungarian Commanders to not obey any instructions without first asking the German command. Horthy was not genuinely switching sides, to unite with the Soviets against the Germans. He was merely making a statement of armistice, thus giving him some credibility in the eyes of the Allies, but in practice not fighting the Germans. The Hungarian army stayed firmly under German control and had not been made ready to fight against Germany.

As a result of Horthy’s sabotage of the anti-fascist resistance, of his refusal to give weapons to the workers, of his opportunist maneuvering, the Arrow-Cross Nazi Coup, which had been prepared well before hand, took place. In order to delay the Red Army, and thus to protect power of the capitalists and nobility, Horthy was willing to unleash the Hungarian Nazi Party, the Arrow-Cross, on the Hungarian people.

“The Germans… persuaded Horthy to withdraw his proclamation and resign as head of state in favour of Ferenc Szalasi, the Arrow Cross leader. On the demand of the Germans, Horthy issued a statement on 16 October that declared his proclamation of the previous day to be null and void, and called on the Hungarian army to continue the war against the Soviet Union… Horthy and his associates pulled out, but they did so leaving the country, without any resistance, in the hands of the German invaders and their Arrow Cross agents.” (Nemes, p. 22)


THE RULE OF THE ARROW-CROSS

The rule of Szalazi was the worst time in Hungarian history. There were daily mass killings and the remaining jews were hunted down, rounded up and put into cattlewagons that would take them to Germany — to their death. As the Nazis’ time was running out, the Arrow-Cross began simply killing all the jews they could find, right then and there, without bothering to try to transport them to Gas Chambers. It was truly senseless, because the war was already almost over. Nazi forces were in full retreat, to escape the advancing Red Army. Only those who were completely blinded by Nazi propaganda, still thought they could turn things around and win the war. It was in these conditions that Szalasi’s Arrow-Cross Party took over, it was the last ditch effort by the most fanatical reactionaries to cling to power, before their total defeat.

“Violent anti-Semitic propaganda issued from the radio, inciting pogroms… When the siege began, the Arrow Cross were still murdering about fifty Jews every night, and in early January three Jewish hospitals were ransacked: 17,000 Jews were killed in this period. Just before the Red Army arrived, the militia had picked up children in the Jewish orphanages in Pest and Buda and were deterred from shooting them only because they themselves now had to flee.” (Stone, p. 345)

“While the German regular army dismantled and transported westward all that was movable in factories and trade-combines, the armed Arrow Cross gangs were roving the streets and knocking up households at will with demands for jewelry, cash, and lives. As winter set in, with ice-floats blocking the Danube, and the people of Budapest shivering in cellars beneath the thunder of Soviet gunfire and Allied air raids, the Hungarian Nazis took their final toll in blood and property, no longer bothering themselves about deportation when railway waggons were not available, but shooting their victims on the spot… The hunt was directed against political dissenters and jews… by the end of the war some two-thirds of Hungary’s Jewish population (practising and converted), including some 40% of those in Budapest, were exterminated. On the whole territory which during the war was supposed to be run by Hungarians, about 600,000 Jews lost their lives. The Nazis left behind a wholly devastated country…” (Ignotus, p.191)

The guns of the Red Army could already be heard, and despite all the lies and propaganda against communism that Hungarians were subjected to, despite the reactionary medieval ideology that they had been submerged in for centuries, people knew that nothing could be as bad as the Arrow-Cross. Even many anti-communist historians agree that Hungarians anxiously waited for the Red Army to liberate them, save them from the Arrow-Cross and finally bring peace again.

“Szalasi’s Arrow Cross government was to have a reign of terror which brought anarchy, destruction and almost civil war to the country. The more outrageous the behavior of the fascists, the more the Red army was looked upon locally as a liberating force. Throughout Hungary, ordinary people came to wait eagerly for the Russians… Few people waited more eagerly then the Jews, for whom this was a desperate life-and death matter.” (Pryce-Jones, p.15)

“For the next weeks, as the Russians closed the ring around Budapest, the Arrow Cross fascists roamed the city in bands looking for Jews or Communists. They shot them on the spot, or sometimes hanged them. Inhabitants became used to hurrying past street-corner murders, and averting their eyes in case they were accused of helping subversives.” (Pryce-Jones, p. 16)

THE HUNGARIAN PARTISAN MOVEMENT

“the Communists were the earliest and most effective fighters against the Nazi invaders and oppressors; it was the Communists, as a rule, who initiated and led military and political action; it was they who were hounded most mercilessly by the Fascists… it was they who imparted discipline and organization to the scattered patriotic forces.” (Gunther, p. 36)

“Directly after the Arrow Cross coup, the Communist Party issued another appeal to the Hungarian people… It again emphasized… all-out national resistance against the German invaders and their Arrow Cross accomplices… it asked every member of Hungarian society: Where do you belong, to the nazi front or the Hungarian Front? Whoever belongs to the Hungarian Front “acts and organizes the national resistance”.” (Nemes, p. 25)

“Before… 15 October… the Communist Party was the only party in Hungary that organized armed resistance. The Budapest action guards… already operated. On 6 October one of these groups, the Marot group, blew up the statue of Gyula Gombos, regarded as a symbol of Hungarian fascism… German motor vehicles and guns were destroyed, railway tracks around Budapest were repeatedly blown up, hand-grenade and sub-machine-gun attacks were launched against German and Arrow Cross headquarters and guards, and communication lines were damaged…. They encouraged resistance and increased the feeling of uncertainty within the Arrow Cross camp and power apparatus, thus speeding up their collapse.” (Nemes, p. 25)

“After 15 October larger Communist partisan groups of from 30 to 80 members were formed in the outlying districts of Budapest. During their activity they contacted the anti-nazi officers of several Hungarian military units and with their help acquired arms… Among the suburban groups the armed activities of the Ujpest and Kobanya-Kispest partisans were significant. They killed nearly one hundred Arrow Cross and SS members.” (Nemes, pp. 25-26)

“The partisan units and the small resistance groups that came from the Soviet Union or were formed at home together caused a total of over 3,000 casualties — dead, wounded and prisoners — to the fascist troops and their auxiliary detachments… Compared to the Soviet, French and Yugoslav partisan struggles, or the uprising in Slovakia, the partisan movement in Hungary was of modest dimensions. Nevertheless, its significance went far beyond its direct military impact, because it encouraged the growth of other forms of national resistance. ” (Nemes, p. 27)

“With the support of the other parties of the Hungarian Front, a broader front emerged early in November, with the formation of a joint body named the Liberation Committee of the Hungarian National Uprising.” (Nemes, p. 29)

“The appeal of the Young Communist League appeared at the end of October announcing the reorganization of the League and its action programme… It designated the main tasks of the League to organize and mobilize armed troops of working-class youth and to increase their participation in the national resistance, together with other youth organizations… Communist students at the Gyorffy College established contact with anti-nazi groups of students at two other colleges and at the Universities of Technology and Economics… these formed a joint organization called the Freedom Front of Hungarian Students, and their anti-nazi propaganda activities were particularly successful.

The Young Communist League also initiated a broad youth coalition that was formed in November under the name of the Freedom Front of Hungarian Youth. It consisted of the Young Communist League, the Freedom front of Hungarian Students and a peasant party youth group… Some representatives of the religious youth organizations also joined the developing anti-nazi youth front. Within the framework of this front was organized the Gorgey battalion consisting of 100 to 120 students and young workers…” (Nemes, pp. 30-31)

There was an attempt to organize a general national uprising, together with partisans and those units of the Hungarian army who wanted to fight the Nazis, but unfortunately the leaders of the uprising were caught by the Gestapo. “They were court-martialled in December and executed by the Arrow Cross forces… they gave their lives for the national liberation.” (Nemes, p. 31)

The Hungarian anti-fascist heroes, led by the Communists and other patriotic forces believed in the approaching victory. They knew that the dark days of Nazi occupation and fascism were coming to an end. The insane terrorism of the Arrow Cross would finally stop. The anti-fascist heroes fought fearlessly to win peace and a new better life for their country.




SOURCES:

Doreen Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe

John Gunther, Inside Europe

John Gunter, Behind the curtain

Evans, That Blue Danube

White, The Long Balkan Night

Kovrig Bennett, The Hungarian People’s Republic

Norman Stone, Hungary: A Short History

Zinner, The Revolution in Hungary

Paul Ignotus, Hungary

Béla Szász, Volunteers for gallows

David Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution

Hodos, Show Trials

Apor, The Invisible Shining

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

Molnar, A concise history of Hungary

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

Wilfred G. Burchett, Peoples’ Democracies

FEW WORDS ABOUT MY SOURCES:

Almost all my sources are established “respectable” anti-communist/pro-capitalist mainstream historians. The only exception is that I cite 2 books by Hungarian communist historians: one by Nemes and the other by Borsányi & Kende. Burchett is also a journalist with communist sympathies.

The facts I present here can be considered very reliable, because they are confirmed both by pro-communist and anti-communist sources. I chose to cite mostly anti-communist historians, since they obviously have no bias to lie on behalf of communism. This way the information should be acceptable to non-communists.

That said, capitalist historians are dishonest and biased against communism, so I typically don’t recommend any of them. The only non-communist book on this topic I can recommend is “Revolution in Eastern Europe” by Doreen Warriner, it is both objective and well researched, with lots of empirical data. The other non-communist history books are extremely flawed, I had to verify everything I quoted from them from multiple sources and make sure it was true.

Nemes, Borsányi & Kende are not perfect either, they are kadarist revisionists. I agree with the facts I quoted from them, but not necessary with everything they might say.

At the end of this series I will probably discuss the research process and the sources in detail.

The Myth that Stalin banned Hamlet

There is a widespread but baseless myth that ‘Stalin banned Hamlet’ in the USSR.

Shakespeare researcher Michelle Assay writes about it in “What Did Hamlet (Not) Do to Offend Stalin?” published in Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare, 35, 2017.

THE MYTH IS SPREAD EVERYWHERE, EVEN BY ‘RESPECTED’ SCHOLARS

Assay writes:

“there is no official documentation that could provide a factual backbone for his so-called Hamlet ban.” (p. 1)

However, anti-communist propagandists have never needed sources or fact:

“Yet it has become received wisdom that Stalin not only hated Hamlet and its hero but accordingly banned any production in the Soviet Union. Stalin’s animus towards Hamlet features in almost every study dealing with Shakespeare and Soviet political/cultural life. The myth of the ban in fact takes various shapes: at best it is nuanced by such modifiers as “tacit” or “virtual”; at its worst the myth takes the form of highly exaggerated claims, which usually disregard the historical facts, including actual productions of Hamlet during Stalin era.” (p. 1)

The myth was spread even in so-called academically ‘respectable’ publications:

“Here are two examples from quite respectable publications: “Theatrical performances of Hamlet were subsequently [to Mikhail Chekhov’s 1924-5 production] banned until after Stalin’s death in 1953”, and “[in the 1940s] the play [Hamlet] had not been produced in the Soviet Union since Nikolai Akimov’s zany version of 1932.”Such statements can quickly be disproved. They disregard not only the provincial productions of Hamlet in the 1940s (for instance two in Belorussia directed by Valeri [also known as Valerian] Bebutov, one in 1941 at the Voronezh State Dramatic Theatre, and one in 1946 at the Iakub Kolas Theatre in Vitebsk) but also Sergei Radlov’s rather wellknown 1938 staging, which due to its great success toured widely beyond Leningrad and Moscow, as far as the Urals, Sochi and Belorussia, to almost unanimously positive reviews… More ideologically motivated are over-exaggerations of the kind found in Solomon Volkov’s widely debated concoction of Shostakovich’s supposed memoirs.” (p. 1)

HOW WAS THE MYTH INVENTED?

Assay suggests that the myth could have originated from Stalin’s statement (real or invented) that during WWII the nation needed an active optimistic hero, and not someone as passive and tragic as Hamlet. But as Assay writes, Hamlet was still performed during this period: “this in itself does not imply the complete absence of Hamlet… from the Soviet stage.” (p. 2)

Assay cites Dimitri Urnov’s article “How did Stalin ban Hamlet?” where Urnov suggests that the myth could have originated from the Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet from 1940, which was never completed. But “Urnov, however, goes on to argue – convincingly – that the production of Hamlet at the Moscow Art Theatre was halted not by Stalin but rather by many unfortunate circumstances and much internal tension within the Theatre itself.” (p. 3)


“There was at least one other contributing factor to the longevity of the myth of Hamlet and Stalin: the Hamlet fever that took over Soviet theatres following Stalin’s death” (p. 8)

However, this fever is hard to pinpoint. There had never been a Hamlet ban—Hamlet had simply been continuously produced. So when exactly did the fever begin? It is clear that Hamlet’s popularity increased over time and in the late 60s there was even a film. It seems clear that in the late 40s and early 50s there were other large projects and other topics which received most attention.


IN REALITY SHAKESPEARE AND HAMLET WERE CELEBRATED IN THE USSR

Assay writes that in reality Hamlet and Shakespeare plays were not only performed but:

“Bearing the seal of approval of Marx, Engels and Lenin, Shakespeare was indeed an attractive subject for schools and research institutes and provided “an ideal classic to reach the widest strata of readers and audiences and thus to bridge the gap which had frequently developed between modern art and the people.”” (p. 6)


In the late 40s when the Cold War intensified, the USSR became more and more critical of western capitalist propaganda in the form of culture. About this, Assay writes that Shakespeare was never under attack, only capitalist methods of Shakespeare criticism. Shakespeare’s works were translated and printed:

“During this critical period, it was not Shakespeare but supposed Western-style attitudes towards his scholarship that came under attack, including works of Mikhail Morozov that were deemed to be under Western influence… It was not the subject matter or the mere fact of writing about a foreign author that came under criticism, but Morozov’s [bourgeois] approach to Shakespeare scholarship… Following these attacks, and while politically correct “Soviet Shakespearology” was being supplanted by commentaries by Pushkin and Vissarion Belinski, there were also translations, often reprinted in anthologies.” (p. 7)


WHY THE MYTH WAS CREATED

Assay is a bourgeois scholar writing for a bourgeois publication. They only hint that there were political motives behind creating this myth—this fabrication—without delving any deeper into it.

Of course western academia used every opportunity to invent lies about the USSR, Stalin and Communism, including this totally non-existent ‘Hamlet ban’.

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 7: The Civil War

“To the front”

When the Finnish revolution and civil war began on midnight between 26-27 of January 1918, the country had already been in a revolutionary situation for months. The February revolution of 1917 had dismantled the Tsarist police and created a serious power vacuum in the country. A people’s militia had been created to carry out police duties, but the militia was not a typical police force at all and consisted largely of ordinary workers.

The conditions of the working class, poor tenant-farmers and household servants were very bad. They worked anywhere from 10 hours per day, 16 hours per day, or in the case of household servants basically an unlimited amount of hours. Unemployment was also high and famine was a serious danger. One quarter of the population were at an imminent risk of starvation.

The socialists won elections in 1916 but in 1917 the government was disbanded by the Russian Empire. There was also no municipal democracy: in municipal elections people with more property had more votes. The ordinary people lived in terrible conditions and didn’t have many peaceful ways of trying to improve their situation.

When the Tsarist police and other repressive institutions collapsed, the Finnish workers began strongly demanding an 8 hour working day, reasonable wages, food at decent prices and equal suffrage. Household servants began demanding the right to organize, and tenant-farmers began demanding land reform. There were massive demonstrations, protests and strikes.

The rich capitalists, aristocrats and politicians tried to use the police to suppress the people, but the new police – the people’s militia – didn’t always obey the rich. It often sided with the people.

Finland didn’t have its own military so in order to repress the people, the capitalists needed to create a military. That is why the White Guard was created. The White Guard carried out violent and brutal attacks against protestors and striking workers and peasants. To protect themselves, the workers and peasants created their own Red Guards, which were unarmed at first.

In December 1917 the Socialists began a General Strike demanding an 8 hour working day, democracy, end to the repression, food for the starving and other similar demands. This strike caused the Finnish state to completely collapse. Red Guards, who had only a small number of rifles, spontaneously occupied most government buildings and important locations. Power was in the hands of the people.

However, the capitalists and right-wing politicians managed to trick the people. They promised that the socialists could form a government if they just ended the General Strike. The socialists accepted and ended the strike, but it was all a lie. The capitalists and right-wing politicians now refused to allow the socialists to form a government, and they refused to grant any of the people’s demands, although some workplaces were forced to accept an 8 hour work day.

Already for months, the Finnish capitalists, right-wing politicians and aristocrats had been building a secret White Army in the region of Ostrobothnia. They had stockpiled massive amounts of weapons and ammunition which they had received from Germany and Sweden. They had hidden large amounts of food, and created a secret network of White Guard agents, disguised as volunteer fire-departments, forest offices and under other kinds of cover. They had received hundreds of non-commissioned officers from Germany, who were now training White troops in Ostrobothnia.

It was absolutely necessary for the capitalists to have total control inside Finland. The militia was unreliable, and they couldn’t tolerate the existence of the Red Guards. They also couldn’t keep the people from protesting or going on strike. Of course, they categorically refused to grant the people’s justified demands – instead they were going to rely on violent repression.

The situation had become more and more revolutionary, but the December General Strike was a turning point. The Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia in October, which demonstrated that a workers’ revolution was possible. The December General Strike showed to the Finnish capitalists, exactly how precarious their situation was if the workers decided to rise up and take power. Therefore, the capitalists massively speeded-up their military preparations. They needed to create a strong army, attack the workers, destroy the Red Guard, and install a military dictatorship or a monarchist dictatorship.


THE WHITE ASSAULT: The declaration of war


The war began with an assault by the White Army, North from most of the big population centers. The Whites had previously withdrawn the senate and most capitalist politicians to their new secret capital in Vaasa. This became the seat of the White government.

The Whites began their assault under the pretext of trying to liberate Finland from Russia. This might seem very strange. After all, Finland had already been given independence by the Soviet Russian government, and the Russian police, the Russian governor general and other Russian authority inside Finland had been totally dismantled. So how could they claim they were defending themselves from the Russians?

The fact is, there were still some Russian troops inside Finland. This is because Finland did not have its own military, and the Russian Empire had been worried that Germany might invade Finland. WWI was still going at this point.

The remaining Russian troops inside Finland were not stable fighting units. During the last days of the Russian Tsarist Empire and the Russian Provisional Government, the army had completely collapsed. Soldiers had started to leave their barrackses and go home. The soldiers had supported the February revolution and killed their monarchist officers. In Finland, the capitalists had tried to use Russian troops against demonstrators but the troops didn’t obey. Sometimes the soldiers defended the workers and peasants who were demonstrating. These troops were not in Finland to occupy or oppress the people, in fact, they refused to do so.

British historian Upton says the Russian soldiers: “had neither the will nor the ability to retain control in Finland.” (Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918, p. 272)

“It was quite clear that the presence of the Russians was to be temporary, and that the defense of Petrograd was the sole reason for their remaining.” (Upton, p. 249)

The Whites accused the socialists of wanting the Russians to stay, so they could use them for their own purposes but historian Upton completely debunks this:

“Not the slightest hint had been given that the party wanted the Russians to stay…” (Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918, p. 249)

The Finnish capitalists themselves had often tried to use Russian soldiers against Finnish workers, but socialists never had any intention of doing so. The social-democrats were anyway not in favor of violence, and didn’t speak Russian.

Furthermore, the military had absolutely collapsed, most units were barely held together and the Russian army couldn’t have oppressed Finland even if they had wanted to. On top of that, the Soviet Russian leader V. I. Lenin, had promised that the troops would be gradually withdrawn from Finland. The only thing holding this back was the war. Soviet Russia was intending to stop its participation in WWI and immediately when a peace treaty could be signed between Soviet Russia and Germany, the troops would begin to be withdrawn.

In reality, already for months troops had been returning home even without orders. Lenin also ordered the military to not interfere in Finnish affairs, not that the soldiers would’ve wanted to anyway. Consistently when the Finnish capitalists had asked Russian soldiers to attack demonstrators and thus interfere, the soldiers had refused.

In short, there were Russian troops in Finland, but they were confined to their barrackses and were not in fighting condition. This is why, when the Whites attacked the soldiers, they defeated them easily. The soldiers were not interested in fighting or prepared for it.

“Their Russian opponents were mostly demoralized, isolated… without any obvious cause to fight for, and mostly taken by surprise” (Upton, p. 272)

The Soviet-German peace treaty was signed on March 3, 1918, about a month after the Finnish civil war started. The Whites were in a hurry. If they wanted to pretend that the civil war was a “national war” against Russia, and not a class war against the Red Guards, then they had to attack right away before the Russian troops were pulled out.

“Mannerheim ordered the war to begin with the disarming of Russian soldiers in Southern Ostrobothnia … small number of Russian barracks thinly spread out, were not in any condition for battle, so a surprise attack guaranteed an easy victory and a large amount of weapons and supplies. The intention was that the early success would inspire the whites, boost moral, instill a sense confidence…

The Russian soldiers posed no threat, had been ordered to not get involved in Finnish affairs, and were waiting to be pulled from the country after a peace had been made between Germany and Russia. So why did Mannerheim choose to attack them? To get weapons, boost morale etc. but there was a more important reason:

“The goal of targeting the Russian soldiers was to make the war a seem like a national war against Russians. Mannerheim’s secret order of 25. of January… said to attack the Russian soldiers on 28 [of January]… [source: Erinnerungen, p. 171] Around the same time, though not right away, the working class movement concluded that revolution was unavoidable…” (Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918, p. 148)

In white guard propaganda the war was presented as a “national war” against Russian tyranny. But this was a lie. Soviet Russia had given Finland independence and had agreed with the Finnish government that the remaining Russian troops would be pulled after Russia signs a peace treaty with Germany. The white guards screamed that Russia had no reason to fear a German intervention, although Russia was still at war with Germany. In fact, the whites themselves would arrange a German intervention into Finland.

The real target of the white attack were not the Russian soldiers, that was demonstrated by the war itself. The real target was the Finnish working class.

“There was no need of war to remove the Russian soldiers; they would have removed themselves in a little while.” (Upton, p. 272)

To give some perspective, according to historians such as Paasivirta (Suomi vuonna 1918, p. 206) only 1000-4000 Russians participated in the fighting. The exact number is not known, but it is small, and without question most of these soldiers were only acting in self-defence and trying to retreat to Soviet-Russia. The Soviet Russian government allowed volunteers to help the Finnish reds, but the Soviet government had its own war to fight and was not in a position to send troops. They gave the Finnish reds rifles and bullets, and also significant amounts of food.

The White war effort was not a war of independence, the capitalists themselves had a very mixed relationship with the independence movement (most of them were not committed to it) while the Russian Bolsheviks and Finnish socialists had supported Finnish independence much more strongly.

The White commander Mannerheim himself actually admitted that the real target of the war, were the Reds, who he calls huligans and bandits:

“The peasant army of independent Finland under my command does not wage war against Russia, but has risen to protect freedom and the legal government and to ruthlessly defeat the huligan and bandit forces, that publicly threaten the country’s legal order and property.” (Mannerheim quoted in S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918, p. 56)

“…Mannerheim himself proved that foundational claim of bourgeois propaganda, that supposedly a national liberation war had started in Finland, to be a lie, and admitted the class character of the war…” (Holodkovski, p.166)

The White government also told Sweden, that they were fighting a civil war and not a war with Russia. However, the Whites also wanted to deny that this was a class-war and instead claimed that the Reds were criminals and huligans:


“The Swedish government was told: The struggle which is now in progress in Finland is not a class war… but is a collision between, on the one side a legal social order… and on the other side plain terrorist activity… criminal gangs, which have initiated violence against all human and divine rights…” (Upton, p. 311)

“Mannerheim told the Swedish minister that… “the Reds have begun a rebellion…”” (Upton, p. 311)

Lastly, although the Russian troops did not want to fight, and were told to not interfere in Finnish affairs, and although the actual war was in fact fought between White Guards and Red Guards, and not between Finland and Russia, its worth mentioning that at times Russian soldiers still tried to defend themselves from the Whites. The Whites then tried to use this as proof of Russian aggression. The Whites executed their Russian prisoners and carried out mass killings and massacres against Russians, although reactionary monarchist Russian officers actually worked together with the Whites. Mannerheim himself had been a Czarist officer whose job it was to oppress Finland and other nations in the Russian Empire. Mannerheim did not speak Finnish, and had no ties with the Finnish people and he also had a soldier assistant who only spoke Russian. These were the aristocratic and militarist “independence warriors” who claimed they were not fighting a class war, but a “national war”.


THE WORKERS’ REVOLUTION

The Finnish social-democratic party was controlled by a center-left faction which had not been very keen on revolution. The party had decided by a narrow margin, to not carry out a revolution during the December General Strike. They had agreed to end the strike, in hopes of being able to form a government and carry out peaceful reforms. However now the socialists realized that the whites had secrelty built a massive army, were passing dictatorial laws and were preparing for a war to crush the workers, destroy the Red Guard, and strip the people of all their rights. The socialists saw the whites were being mobilized. The Reds finally began to make hasty preparations, 2 days before the white assault.

The working class itself was very militant, much more militant then the social-democrat politicians. The trade-union and the Red Guard were also quite revolutionary. The party had a very small right-wing faction, which opposed the revolution and immediately went into hiding when the revolution started. This right-wing group led by Väinö Tanner, later collaborated with the whites and the German invaders. The party also had a leftist revolutionary faction, but the biggest group were the center-leftists. The center-left was not keen to start a revolution, but when the civil war was imminent, they realized they needed to act, they needed to defend themselves, and they couldn’t simply abandon the workers to be slaughtered by the Whites. They started a revolution:

“The social-democratic party committee, the central command of the workers’ militia and the central command of the red guard published a declaration on 26. of January that an executive committee has been created as the highest revolutionary authority.” (Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa, s.54)

“The… declaration alerted the masses that the bourgeoisie has begun an armed attack against the working class movement to strip away those democratic rights, which it only recently won in the revolutionary struggle of the general strike” (Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918, p. 98)

“…the Workers’ executive committee gave the worker guards orders to prepare for occupying all government buildings and strategic locations.“ (Holodkovski, p. 175)

“The orders stated that mobilization of the worker guards was to be begun on the 26. of January at midnight and to be completed in three days. Worker guards were to be given special lists of people, who were to be arrested and transported to locations where guards were responsible for their safety and good treatment. After the order to begin the revolution is given, the parliament, the university, regional governments, highest government organs and banks are to be taken over under the supervision of persons appointed as worker guard comissars. The central command had the right to seize for itself those buildings and locations it saw fit as well as transportation and telephone. [Source: “Красный архив” (“Red archive”), 1940, vol. 2 (99), pp. 34, 35]” (Holodkovski, p. 175)

“Bourgeois newspapers were to be closed down.” (Hyvönen, p. 98)

“On the 27. of January the [more moderate] Workers’ guard and [the more militant] Red guard were merged, taking the name the Red guard.

The executive committee considered serious resistance by the white guards a possibility and gave the Red guard central command the following order: the Red guard has, if necessary the right to use armed force against those members of the white guard who attempt armed resistance. Those members of the white guard who surrender without resistance, must be disarmed. Their commanders must be arrested and transported to the militia building… the imprisoned or wounded must not be treated brutally or inhumanely… any weapons and large amounts of food must be confiscated and listed, signed by the owner of the supplies or two wittnesses. [Source: H. Soikkanen, Kansalaissota dokumentteina, II, pp. 34-35]“ (Holodkovski, pp. 175-176)

“Throughout the country corresponding messages were sent to [Red guard] regional commands… At 11 o’clock at night on January 27. Red guard detachments began to occupy locations mentioned in the orders of the previous day in the capital of Finland. A red lantern and red flag appeared in the tower of the workers’ club as a signal that the revolution had begun.” (Holodkovski, p. 176)

“…Helsinki was quickly taken under red control without a fight. By the end of January the most important cities of Southern Finland were under the control of the reds… A declaration of revolution to the people of Finland was published in The Worker on 28. of January, which stated that the working masses have taken state power in their hands. At the same time it encouraged all the working class organizations and [red] guards [and militias] to fulfill their revolutionary duty, everyone according to their ability.” (Koskinen, p. 54)

The following examples are from a Southern municipality:

“The command decided on 4. of February to announce that all weapons and ammunition were to be brought to the Red guard within 24 hours of the announcement… The confiscations happened without incident and e.g. in the manor of Vaanila Nyberg’s flying column was served pancakes and jam. [A local man] testified… that [the Red Guard leader] Nyberg was quiet and polite when conducting the gun search…” (Koskinen p. 62)

“The Red guard of Koikkala-Vaanila carried out gun confiscations with the help of 17 men and 6 horses in the villages of Koikkala, Hongisto, Röylä, Paksalo, Mynterlä, Vaanila and Lehmijärvi.” (Koskinen p. 62)

“The confiscations began on 4. of February. Aleksander Stick said he took part in the confiscations of weapons in at least 25 houses. They took the shotguns and browning rifles, which were taken to the workers’ club… on 5. of February… property owning farmers brought their guns voluntarily. But they were unusable as the owners had left parts of them at their homes.

The telephone centers were taken under control. In Koski-Suittila the watchman at the “phone-central” was to make sure the manager mrs. Åström only allowed calls to the food-authority, the doctor or drugstore. Other calls were not allowed. Elderly men worked as watchmen…

Travel without permit was not allowed. Permits were given by the local command. At [the train] station guards inspected those traveling by railway.” (Koskinen p. 62)

The workers’ executive committee stated in their declaration to the Finnish people:

“The great moment of the Finnish working class revolution has arrived. Today the working people of the country’s capital have bravely defeated the sinister den of oligarchy, that started a dangerous war against its own people… Members of the criminal senate prepared in the capital disgusting plans to have Finns spill the blood of their brother Finns, and a treacherous attack against the organized working class of Finland. In doing this they made themselves guilty in such brazen treason as to request foreign monarchist governments to send murderer troops to slaughter the Finnish people. Thus the entire freedom and life our our nation was in great danger… [the workers must] rise to save themselves and the whole nation from that destruction and misery… The senate has committed countless crimes to steal for itself that state power which belongs to the people. Apparently the main plot was that the senate wished to crush the working class movement with bloodshed, shackle all attempts at democracy and bury the poor people’s hopes for change in the slumber of death.” (“To the working people of Finland”, quoted in Holodkovski, p. 177)

So the revolution began. The Reds were still poorly organized and poorly armed compared to the whites and the whites also managed to steal most of the state’s funds to their new capital. The Reds occupied government buildings and infrastructure, organized control of public transport and created a system where travel was only allowed if one had a permit. This was to prevent spying, smuggling etc. The Reds tried to monitor the telephone centers to prevent spies from listening on calls, and to allow the scarce telephone to be used only for important calls. The Reds spent a lot of time confiscating weapons from local landlords, rich peasants and capitalists. The Reds easily took control (often practically without resistance) in all the southern areas, and in the bigger population centers in other regions of the country too.

The right-wing counter-revolutionary faction of Väinö Tanner split from the social-democrat majority and stayed in hiding throughout the civil war. At the end of the war these traitors collaborated with the Whites and invading Germans. The centrists united with the revolutionary left-wing faction of the social-democrats to support self-defence by workers, and to protect democracy from a capitalist military-monarchist dictatorship which the whites were building.


FIGHTING THE WAR

“In armed struggle the Finnish working class movement was forced to operate in unfamiliar circumstances. It was clearly visible in the formation and arming of the red guards and especially in directing the battles. A newly arising class, such as our working class was, could naturally never compete in the realm of military expertise with the ruling classes, who in that realm held all the experience. Officers are always serving the prevailing system, dependent on it and grown attached to it… The most populous and important region, Southern-Finland, ending up under working class control, made it possible for the reds to aim their attack towards the North, which the whites had chosen as their base area… But in order for the war effort to have been directed correctly, the red leadership would have needed to know the laws of revolutionary war. However, the revolutionary leadership of the red troops did not know them, and this was evident since the very beginning of the war effort.

Initially the reds quite correctly began advancing towards the North, but even so it wasn’t done with as much energy and determination as it could have. For example the Haapamäki—Pieksämäki railroad ended under white control due to the slow start of the red advance. When after stopping at Vilppula, the reds didn’t immediately make serious attempts to breach North, the whites were able to fortify this section of the railway under their control. Poor understanding of the character of a revolutionary war was also demonstrated by the fact that immediate firm actions were not taken to raise the red guards of the North to battle, and after the red guards of the North had suffered defeat, there weren’t serious attempts to organize them into a partisan movement behind white lines.

In preparation for the victory of the Russian October revolution the Bolsheviks always had the clear and determined goal to secure the military victory over their opponent. After the path of armed struggle had been chosen, every party organization prepared for an armed rising… When societal forces are being driven to an armed conflict, all other issues depend on this conflict; all other action must be subordinated to serve the armed effort in such a situation. — In this sense it is justified to criticize the actions of the Finnish social-democratic party. The party was late in preparing for the struggle and thus when the situation arose, couldn’t provide the necessary leadership to the most important struggle, that of the workers’ and tenant-farmers’ red guard. Important administrative actions and fulfilling the goals of the revolution could only lead to results if victory had first been insured in the war effort.

The early portion of the war resulted in the whites capturing Northern-Finland and the reds Southern-Finland. A front emerged accross the country from West to East. From Merikarvia through Ikaalinen, Virrat, Ruovesi, Vilppula, Jämsä, Mäntyharju, Savitaipale and Vuoksenniska all the way to Lake Lagoda. The military initiative shifted to the red guard in late February. In early March a general offensive was being planned, the goal of which was to capture the Haapamäki—Pieksämäki railroad. Clear signs of fatigue began to show among white troops. The peasant troops who had been forcibly conscripted or recruited through lies or bribery, now began to understand the nature of their war against the Finnish workers and tenant-farmers. Furthermore the monarchist agitation of the white officers and bourgeois newspapers helped to expose the real goals of the whites. Most of all, Spring was approaching and peasants were getting restless about neglecting their farms.” (Hyvönen, pp.117-119)

At the beginning of the war, both sides were still recruiting more troops. The Whites began forced conscription in their territory, while the Reds organized volunteers. Both tried to quickly throw forces at the front. The Reds still lacked weapons, but were able to mobilize ten thousand armed troops very quickly. During the course of the war, the size of both armies increased to 80,000 each.

The war can be understood in three phases: The formation of the front, the Red General Offensive, and the White General Offensive.

During the first phase, both sides rushed forwards. The Reds tried to advance North as fast as possible, and the Whites tried to run towards the South. Both sides thus tried to get more territory. This was important for controlling strategic locations and resources. It was particularly important to control railways, which played a huge role in the war. There were no tanks, and practically no cars. Resources and reinforcements were transported on rails, and armored trains were used in battle. I will discuss individual battles or series of battles in detail in further videos, but here I will give a brief overview of the war as a whole.

The first battle of the war was waged in Lyly, a village North of the city of Tampere on February 2nd. The frontline can be separated into three parts: the Northern Front, which formed North of Tampere, the Eastern front North of Vyborg, and the center front basically between them. It was convenient for the Whites that while population centers like Oulu, Varkaus and others were all taken over by workers, they were inside the White territory and far away from the Red territory in the South. The Whites could then go from town to town, and eliminate the Reds there.

The Reds were a bit too slow to advance forward and thus gave Whites an unnecessary advantage. The Reds also lacked the necessary military skills and military discipline, to carry out a massive general offensive. As I described in the article about the structure of the Red Guard army, the units were too decentralized to coordinate massive attacks. They could hold their own against the Whites, and defend successfully even though the Whites had superior weaponry and professional officers. But the Reds had a difficult time trying to attack.

However, it was understood that remaining on the defensive mean the death of any revolution, so the Reds correctly understood the importance of taking the initiative and attacking. The second period of the war was the Red General Offensive which lasted from the end of February to the middle of March. Fierce battles were fought during this time, but the Reds did not succeed in destroying the Whites.

However, time was not on the side of the Whites. They didn’t control industrial centers and would eventually run out of resources. Also as spring approached, the soldiers conscripted by the Whites wanted to go work on their farms. This might have been necessary in any case, as the Whites would otherwise start running out of food. The Reds could fight a long war and be completely fine, but the Whites couldn’t. The Whites were thus in a hurry to launch their own general offensive, and it had to succeed, otherwise they were ruined.

The Whites only won the war, because of the following reason: they agreed that Germany should invade Finland in the South and attack the Reds in the rear. In exchange, the Whites would turn Finland into a German protectorate with a German king. Finland would sign a highly exploitative trade agreement with Germany, and Germany would dominate Finland politically and economically.

Because of the German invasion the Reds had to split their forces. There was chaotic fighting in the rear against the rapidly advancing Germans, while also trying to hold the front in the North. The Whites on the other hand were able to concentrate their troops on an attack in the North, against Tampere. This was the most important battle of the war, and had massive casualties on both sides, and caused massive destruction in the city. The victory in Tampere and the German invasion in the South gave the Whites the initiative, and they were able to keep their attack rolling from then on. This lasted through March to the beginning of May.

During the final phase of the battle Mannerheim gave his notorious declaration to the people of Tampere:

“To the citizens and troops of Tampere! Resistance is futile. Raise a white flag and surrender. Enough citizen’s blood has been shed. Unlike the reds we don’t kill our prisoners. Send your representatives with a white flag. MANNERHEIM”



This was a complete lie. After the battle in Tampere the Whites carried out a mass extermination and slaughtered prisoners of war and civilians. This became a trend, and they carried massacres and atrocities after most victories. This is why practically every town in Finland, even smaller ones, have mass graves, and monuments to victims of the Whites. They continued mass killings after the war in the White Terror.


Mannerheim’s lie “we dont kill prisoners unlike the reds” was even more gross, because not only did the whites arrange mass killings of prisoners and civillians all the time, but the reds on the other hand practically never did. The red government never ordered any mass executions. The small amount of white prisoners or capitalist civillians who were killed, were killed by reckless undisciplined elements who disobeyd orders. This happened against the orders of the reds. On the other hand, Mannerheim in his notorious “weapon in hand”-order, instructed to treat all red guard prisoners as traitors, and the punishment for treason is the death sentence. For this reason the White Terror killed more then 30,000 people while the so-called “red terror” killed only around 1000 people. And this remarkably low number includes violence by random criminals and thieves, which was falsely blamed on the reds. The number also includes executions which the reds carried out against criminals and murderers who had infiltrated inside the red guard. Red guard members who committed crimes or violence against civilians were punished, sometimes with death. But for the Whites slaughtering civilians was policy, and those who criticized it were attacked.

As the Whites and Germans advanced, the Reds began moving East to escape to Soviet Russia. There they founded the Communist Party, and made plans to continue the struggle against the White dictatorship.

WHY DID THE REDS LOSE THE WAR?

I will start with the least important reasons, and end with the most important.

The Reds were militarily inexperienced, but this is somewhat unavoidable as the workers and poor peasants necessarily have less officers and career soldiers in their ranks. The ruling classes always foster a reactionary military. This situation was made more difficult because Finland hadn’t had a military since 1901. This meant that only very few members of the population had military training: practically only those who had served in the Tsarist military. Obviously the vast majority of Tsarist officers were far-right reactionaries, such as Mannerheim. Some had gone to Germany as “jägers” to be trained by the German Imperial army, but majority of these were right-wingers and wealthier people too. The police also had some training with weapons, but obviously most police officers were also rightists. This meant that the Reds had an exceptionally serious lack of military training. The situation was more favorable for the Bolsheviks as the October Revolution took place during WWI. The workers and peasants had been conscripted by the Tsar, and had been fighting the war for years and thus were already quite battle hardened and capable soldiers. Still, this difficulty wouldn’t have been insurmountable.

The Reds also had a serious tendency towards indecisiveness, softness, a reformistic and legalistic attitude and style of work. This is because they came from a reformistic background and had been under the influence of the reformist and opportunist 2nd international. The Finnish Reds were not rotted to the core by this opportunism, and in fact they overcame it. However, it caused problems and challenges. I’ve discussed the Reds military difficulties and softness in detail in part 6.

As a consequence of their softness and reformistic attitude, the Reds focused a lot on carrying out the policies which they promised: land reform, job programs, democracy, social welfare etc. but this was premature. They should’ve focused 100% of their efforts towards winnig the war. The Red government represented the highest point of Finnish society, it was truly the most humane, most free, most progressive and enlightened government that this land has ever had. However, it was tragically destroyed because they lost the war. The people’s dream was drowned in blood by the White butchers and their German masters.

The Finnish revolution began in the most difficult circumstances. The Bolsheviks were able to carry out their revolution at an opportune time, and only had to fight the civil war later. The Finnish revolution began as a civil war. This meant that organizing the government, the economy and everything else had to be done during the chaos of war. An exceptionally difficult task. The Reds also had to learn how to fight, how to lead an army, how to build an army, as the war was already raging. The Reds had not learned revolutionary skills before hand, everything had to be learned in the fighting itself. However, they were up to the task. They were learning. The Red Guard became a quite strong and capable fighting force, and if the war had lasted longer, if the Reds had had more time, they would’ve become truly skilled revolutionaries and they would’ve won.

The Finnish Reds were not familiar with Leninism other then superficially. They couldn’t read Russian and did not have a Leninist vanguard party. Their party was of the old social-democrat type, althought it was a leftist social-democrat party, and not a counter-revolutionary one. While the Leninists were conscious revolutionaries, the Finnish Reds were still somewhat groping in the dark. They had a revolutionary heart, but lacked the necessary knowledge and experience.

It is universally acknowledged these days that the revolution should’ve been started during the December 1917 General Strike. The workers were able to take power easily, they surprised the capitalists and the capitalists were not able to respond. It was a devastating mistake to end the strike and return to “normal” life. It gave the capitalists the opportunity to build up their army, make a deal with Germany, and launch the civil war at a time that was suitable for the Whites but unfavorable for the Reds. This is biggest mistake the Finnish Reds made, while their biggest deficiency was their unfamiliarity with Leninism.

However, despite all these difficulties, mistakes and problems, the Reds were becoming more experienced, were moving closer to Leninism and would’ve been able to rectify all the mistakes if not for the German invasion. The Whites needed Germany, and they would not have been able to fight a protracted war. However, the German invasion would probably not have happened if the Reds had taken power in December 1917. The German invasion would also possibly not have happened, if Leon Trotsky had not sabotaged the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk. Kuusinen wrote:

“I forgot to mention a third cause of the defeat of our revolution in 1918: this was the well known theatrical gesture made by Comrade Trotsky at the first Peace negotiations with the representatives of the German Government at Brest-Litovsk (January/Februarv). The peace conditions proposed at that time by the German government were much more favourable than those dictated later, both for Soviet Russia and for the Finnish workers’ government. Before Comrade Trotsky left for Brest-Litovsk for the last time (at the end of January), Comrade Lenin told him that he should sign the peace treaty at once…

Had peace come about between Germany and Russia at that time, then it is highly probable that the German government would have sent no troops to Finland. This conclusion of ours is based upon the memoirs of German generals, published after the war.

But on 10th February, Comrade Trotsky refused to accept the conditions of peace offered by the Germans. A valuable month passed before the peace treaty was accepted, and during this time Soviet Russia was obliged to abandon Reval and other cities at our (Finland’s) back to the Germans. And during the same time the German troops struck their blow at us.” (O. W. Kuusinen, “A Misleading Description of the “German October””)



THE SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT LEADERSHIP IN THE REVOLUTION

Y. Sirola, O. W. Kuusinen & K. M. Evä


Around the time of the revolution, the social-democrat leadership began taking its first steps towards Bolshevization. Leaders such as Kuusinen and Sirola began studying the ideology of Leninism for the first time.

“Those leaders of the Finnish working class movement who later became founders of the Finnish communist party, began to gradually distance themselves from traditional parliamentary tactics and more and more adopt a firm revolutionary stance. This was aided by the experience of Soviet-Russia and becoming more closely familiar with Lenin’s ideas. At the end of 1917 Sirola began with the help of a Finnish-Russian dictionary, to read Lenin’s text “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?”[source: E. Salomaa, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti, p.225]“ (Holodkovski, p. 150)

“On 12. of January he published in “The Worker” his article titled “Will the situation develop to a revolution?” [Kehittyykö tilanne vallankumouseksi?], where he stressed especially those questions which were important for supporters of revolution: pointed out Marx’s words that ending up on the defensive, is the death of an uprising, thought it essential to follow Danton’s slogan “Courage, courage and once more courage”, and explained how important it was for the bolsheviks to win the support of the peasantry. [source: E. Salomaa, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti, pp.226-227]

A strong desire to look into Lenin’s works had also arisen in Kuusinen after he had met Lenin and discussed with him shortly before the October revolution. [Source: U. Vikström, Torpeedo, p. 50] For Kuusinen also, the problem was that he didn’t speak Russian. Kuusinen only began studying Lenin’s book “The State and Revolution”, which is of special importance in taking a correct Marxist stance on the bourgeois state and for understanding the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, during the final period of the Finnish revolutionary government, and therefore this theoretical study couldn’t influence the revolutionary government’s policy.” (Holodkovski, p. 150)

It became evident that a Leninist party of the Bolshevik type was essential for a successful revolution but the Finnish socialists were lagging in behind in this regard, still influenced by the reformist trend of Kautsky and the 2nd international. Both Kuusinen and Sirola would later write their own criticisms of the SDP’s reformism from a Marxist-Leninist perspective. The most well known is “The Finnish Revolution: A Self-Criticism” by Kuusinen.

SOURCES:

Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918

Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918

Mannerheim, Erinnerungen

Paasivirta, Suomi vuonna 1918

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa

S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918

Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

“Красный архив”, 1940, vol. 2

H. Soikkanen, Kansalaissota dokumentteina

Kuusinen, “A Misleading Description of the “German October”

Salomaa*, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti

Vikström, Torpeedo



*Salomaa was a communist who became a big revisionist eurocommunist especially since the 1960s. The history books he wrote are still mostly good and correct, and had to follow the party line more or less. However, after de-stalinization he used every opportunity to falsely attack Stalin in his books.

Truth About the Kronstadt Mutiny

THE KRONSTADT MUTINY

In March 1921 there was a mutiny against the Soviet government among soldiers in the fortress town of Kronstadt. The mutiny went on for two weeks, until it was suppressed by the Bolshevik government. The Kronstadt mutiny is one of those topics which is always debated: was it a heroic uprising against the ‘tyrannical bolsheviks’? Or was it an attempt at counter-revolution? Before I started researching this topic I thought that the Kronstadt mutiny was just a silly anarchist action – but its actually much worse then that.

THE LASTING MYTH OF KRONSTADT

The Kronstadt mutiny has remained a topic of discussion to this day. That is because it is always used as an example of supposed ‘communist tyranny’ by anarchists and revisionists, but also by capitalists and imperialists. They all claim that since the communists had to suppress a mutiny, therefore it proves they were anti-worker, oppressive and that they had turned against the revolution. Of course, this is simplistic and childish thinking and pure demagogy. Of course, there were other revolts and plots against the bolsheviks too, but the Kronstadt mutiny works much better for anarchist and capitalist propaganda purposes because at least on the surface it was done by soldiers of mostly peasant origin (and not by the rich) and because at least on the surface it had a left-wing agenda – however, the surface appearance doesn’t necessarily reflect the whole truth.

The first capitalist president of Russia Boris Yeltsin (the most hated Russian leader in known history) praised the Kronstadt mutiny and opened the archives on Kronstadt for researchers, so that they could prove how heroic the mutiny was and how evil the bolsheviks were. Unfortunately it backfired, since the primary source evidence doesn’t support his conclusion at all. The opened archives contain more then 1000 documents which include firsthand accounts by mutineers, secret White Guard reports, articles, memoirs etc. collected from a range of Soviet, White Guard, Menshevik, anarchist and western capitalist sources.

When the mutiny broke out it was immediately praised and supported in the capitalist media – actually, it was already praised and supported in the capitalist media two weeks before it had even broken out. This already shows that the mutiny was organized, or at least sponsored and supported by capitalists and western imperialist countries.

LEADER OF THE MUTINY PETRICHENKO

The leader of the mutiny was a political adventurer named Stepan Petrichenko. He had been in the Red Army, but considered himself an anarcho-syndicalist. He was also a Ukrainian nationalist. Petrichenko apparently remained an anarcho-syndicalist at least on the surface for most of his life, but one year before the Kronstadt mutiny he had tried to join the White Army. Anarchist historian Avrich writes:

“Petrichenko returned to his native village in April 1920 and apparently remained until September or October… The authorities, he later told an American journalist, had arrested him more than once on suspicion of counterrevolutionary activity. He had even tried to join the Whites…” (Avrich, Kronstadt, p. 95)

Avrich also discovered a secret White Guard Memorandum On Organizing An Uprising In Kronstadt.

Already pretty quickly after the events in Kronstadt we had absolutely solid proof the leaders and organizers of the mutiny were White Guardists or were working with White Guardists. And now with the archival materials, we have absolutely mountains of further evidence. If anyone says otherwise, they are wilfully ignorant or lying.

HOW THE MUTINY WAS ORGANIZED

In 1921 the country was in ruins after years of WWI and civil war. Fuel and food were always extremely scarce. As long as the civil war lasted, the population tolerated all these hardships. They understood it was inevitable in the war. However, in 1921 the war was coming to an end. Massive amounts of soldiers were sent home from the Red Army or at least taken away from battle. This created disturbances as people were no longer focused on fighting the White Army, and there were lots of badly adjusted jobless soldiers wandering around. Peasants also began opposing the war-time policy of grain requisition at fixed prices. Most soldiers themselves were peasants. This all combined together, to create some spontaneous disturbances. The policy of the government, was to evaluate the situation, change from war policies to peace time policies, and organize the reconstruction of the country and revitalization of the economy. However, that was an extremely difficult task which couldn’t be completed in one day.

There was unrest in Petrograd after several factories were temporarily closed due to fuel shortages. Some menshevik counter-revolutionaries were arrested without bloodshed. False rumors of workers being shot and factories even being bombarded, were spread in the fortress town of Kronstadt. Reactionaries took full advantage of these rumors and spread them.

“Mingled with the initial reports was an assortment of bogus rumors which quickly roused the passions of the sailors. It was said, for example, that government troops had fired on the Vasili Island demonstrators and that strike leaders were being shot in the cellars of the Cheka.” (Avrich, p. 71)

“the Petrograd strikes were on the wane… But the rumors of shootings and full-scale rioting had already aroused the sailors, and on March 2, at a time when the disturbances had all but ceased, they were drafting the erroneous announcement (for publication the following day ) that the city was in the throes of a “general insurrection.”” (Avrich, p. 83)

This was the necessary ideological preparation for the mutiny.

A mass meeting was held in Kronstadt on March 1 where anti-Communist statements and lies were spread. The meeting was orchestrated in such a way that Communists were not allowed to speak. The topic was raised that new elections to the Soviet should be carried out.

A delegate meeting of soldiers was held the next day on March 2. In this meeting it was proposed that all Communists be arrested. The delegates were amazed. However, the organizers of the mutiny made the completely baseless and hysterical claim that armed Communist detachments were about to surround the meeting and arrest everyone, therefore it was supposedly justified and necessary to begin rounding up and arresting Communists. This type of fear propaganda was cleverly used by the mutineers. Delegates had no time to think, they had no access to information, and Communists had no chance to speak. Thus the reactionaries could basically push through their anti-Communist policy.

“the Bolshevik commissar barely had time to object to the irregular proceedings before being cut off by the “military specialist” in charge of artillery, a former tsarist general named Kozlovsky… “Your time is past,” Kozlovsky declared.” (Avrich, p. 81)

The adventurer, anarcho-syndicalist and would-be White Guardist Petrichenko declared that a so-called ‘Provisional Revolutionary Committee’ or PRC had been elected. This PRC would now take over.

“[T]he chair of the meeting, Petrichenko, quieting down the meeting, announced that ‘The Revolutionary Committee… declares: “All Communists present are to be seized and not to be released until the situation is clarified” (Introduction to Kronstadt Tragedy)

“suddenly… a voice from the floor… shouted that 15 truckloads of Communists armed with rifles and machine guns were on their way to break up the meeting. The news had the effect of a bombshell, throwing the delegates into alarm and confusion… it was the bogus report that Communists were preparing to attack the meeting that actually precipitated the formation of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee… Petrichenko himself took up the rumor and announced that a detachment of 2,000 Communists were indeed on their way to disperse the meeting. Once again pandemonium broke loose, and the delegates left the hall in great excitement.” (Avrich, p. 84)

Using skillful propaganda and deception Petrichenko claimed that the ‘Provisional Revolutionary Committee’ was elected by soldier delegates. However, this was simply a lie. No elections had been carried out. But the masses did not know that – after all, maybe their delegates in their meeting had elected such a committee? Who could say? This is a good example of how such a reactionary coup can happen.

The Provisional Revolutionary Committee or PRC was never elected, its members had already been chosen before hand. In fact the committee was already sending orders and messages, one day before it had supposedly been elected. The committee stated:

“[T]he Communist Party is removed from power. The Provisional Revolutionary Committee is in charge. We ask that non-[Communist] party comrades take control into their hands” (“To All Posts of Kronstadt,”, reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy.)

Avrich also mentions how the PRC was never elected, though he claims it was merely “for lack of time to hold proper elections” (Avrich, p. 84)

This “Provisional Revolutionary Committee” actually consisted of opportunists, capitalists and counter-revolutionaries. Two members of this committee were Mensheviks who had opposed the October Revolution. Mensheviks and their foreign supporters believed Russia needed capitalism and wasn’t ready for a workers’ revolution. Ivan Oreshin, another member in the committee was part of the capitalist Kadet party, one of the leading parties under the Tsar. The head of the Committee was the would-be White Guardist Petrichenko. The chief editor of the Kronstadt mutiny’s newspaper, Sergei Putilin was also a supporter of the capitalist Kadets. Thus both the political leadership of the Kronstadt mutiny, and the mutiny’s propaganda outlets were under the control of counter-revolutionaries.

A genuine revolution is not led by anti-revolutionary Mensheviks or by capitalists. Already from its very inception, the Kronstadt mutiny was basically counter-revolutionary. However, that was just the beginning.

Other members of the PRC were a black-market speculator Vershinin, former police detective Pavlov, two ex-capitalists or property holders Baikov and Tukin “who had once owned no less than six houses and three shops in Petrograd. Another committee member, Kilgast, had reportedly been convicted of embezzling government funds in the Kronstadt transportation department but had been released in a general amnesty on the third anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.” (Avrich, pp. 93-94)

“Perepelkin may have been the only reputed anarchist among the rebel leaders, but… he was in a good position to propagate his libertarian views… [however] the sailors, for their part, never called for the complete elimination of the state, a central plank in any anarchist platform.” (Avrich, p. 170)

It was important for the leaders of the Kronstadt mutiny to appear like they were some kind of revolutionaries. They needed gauge the mood of the soldiers, and try to fool them. Leader of the Kronstadt mutiny, would be-White Guardist Petrichenko made the proposal to allow full freedom for “all socialist parties” in the public meeting of March 1. Immediately he was attacked by angry shouts by soldiers: “That’s freedom for the right SRs and Mensheviks! No! No way! …We know all about their Constituent Assemblies! We don’t need that!” (Kuzmin Report, Stenographic Report of Petrograd Soviet, 25 March 1921, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

Petrichenko needed to be careful to not alienate his crowd. The Kadet Ivan Oreshin who was part of the PRC wrote: “The Kronstadt uprising broke out under the pretext of replacing the old Soviet… with a new one… The question of… extending the vote also to the bourgeoisie, was carefully avoided by the orators… They did not want to evoke opposition among the insurgents… They did not speak of the Constituent Assembly, but the assumption was that it could be arrived at gradually…” (Oreshin in Volia Rossii (April-May 1921), quoted in Shchetinov Kronstadt Tragedy)

The mutiny leaders understood that the soldiers didn’t actually support their goals, so they needed to keep their true goals secret. They could be achieved “gradually” by sneaky secret maneuvering.

During all these operations the reactionary organizers of the mutiny still carefully tried to use a cover of revolutionary and pro-worker language. They called each other ‘comrades’ and ‘the revolutionary committee’. However, they were adamant that Communists must be crushed. The vaguely anarchistic ideology, most likely influenced by Petrichenko, suited their purposes. All kinds of demagogical slogans were made about “freedom against bolshevik tyranny”, “soviets without communism” etc.

However, even if we didn’t know that Petrichenko had wanted to be a White Guardist it was still completely obvious that the Kronstadt mutineers were not following anarchist theory in any typical sense. They were not establishing a stateless society but an anti-Communist military dictatorship. 300 Communists were rounded up and thrown into prisons, but hundreds of Communists also managed to run away.

“The repression carried out by the PRC against those Communists who remained faithful to the communist revolution fully refutes the supposedly peaceful intentions of the rebels. Virtually all the minutes of the PRC sessions indicate that the struggle against the Communists still at large and against those still in prison, remained an unrelenting focus of their attention. At the last phase they even resorted to threats of field courts martial in spite of their declared repeal of the death penalty.” (Agranov, April 1921, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

An anarchist thug named Shustov, was the commandant of the prison. Imagine being an anarchist and advocating the abolition of all prisons, but at the same time you’re literally a prison warden, and you keep arresting hundreds of Communists! Shustov was chosen as the executioner who would shoot the leading local Communists. There was a plan to carry out a mass execution:

“Early on the morning of March 18, Shustov set up a machine gun outside the cell, which contained 23 prisoners. He was prevented from slaughtering the Communists only by the advance of the Red Army across the ice.” (Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution)

THE KRONSTADT DEMANDS

Lenin pointed out that the Kronstadt demands were quite vague and unclear. This was inevitable because they were not realistic policy proposals but a combination of utopianism, spontaneity and demagogic propaganda intended to gather enough support until the White Guard could take power and crush the Communists and all other opposition.

The essential demands were: (Source: March 1 Resolution, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

1. New elections to the Soviets. In Kronstadt Communists were arrested and thus would not be allowed to run in elections. Instead the Soviets would be filled with mensheviks, white guards, anarchists and opponents of the October Revolution such as the SR kerensky types. Of course the reactionaries also hoped this could spread elsewhere and help destabilize the Soviet government. Needless to say this was not an anarchistic “stateless” order.

2. Full freedom of action for anti-Communist parties including the left-SR terrorists who tried to assassinate Lenin in 1918. The terrorist’s bullet hit Lenin in the neck but he survived. These anti-Communist forces would receive full freedom of action, but of course in Kronstadt the Communists would be repressed and prevented from all activism. Again, the reactionaries hoped this would spread to other areas too.

3. There should be no government regulation of trade-unions. Of course, in practice this simply meant that unions should denounce the Soviet government, sever their ties with the Soviet government and not follow instructions from it. If this demand was implemented it would lead to chaos because the unions were the government’s main instrument of economic management and workplace democracy. The demand for unions which did not collaborate with the workers’ government was also an essentially anti-socialist demand. Unions working with a proletarian state are an important part of planned economy and socialist construction.

4. Anti-Communist rebels like menshevik saboteurs, SR terrorists and those organizing revolts should be freed from jail.

5. The mutineers demanded bigger rations. Of course everybody wanted higher wages and bigger rations, but this was just a cheap attempt to garner popularity. Also, the bolshevik government was being basically forced to pay somewhat higher salaries and better rations for skilled experts, bourgeois officials and workers in strategic branches. They did not want to do this, but they had to. Those experts and officials could not be replaced right away, and if they didn’t collaborate the government would have huge problems. Therefore the bolsheviks simply had to accommodate those people until Red Experts could be trained to replace them. It may seem unfair, but failing to recognize this necessity is just another example of utopian stupidity.

6. The abolition of “war communism” or grain requisition. Again, this demand could gain some popularity. The peasants never particularly liked the system of war communism, though it was necessary for the war effort. The mutineers more broadly demanded that peasants should be able to use their land and property exactly how they see fit. They did not want collective agriculture or socialist planned economy, but instead who ever was lucky enough to have land should use it to the best of their ability and compete on the market. Landless would remain landless, and big peasants would get bigger.

7. The mutineers demanded the purging of Communists from the military and factory management, and abolition of Communist political departments from the army. The army at this point still had very large numbers of professional officers and soldiers from the times of the Tsar and Kerensky. These officers were needed and used by the Communists because of their skills and professional military training. However, because those officers and soldiers were not communists or workers, and were generally untrustworthy the Bolsheviks invented ‘political comissars’ to supervise the officers.

“former imperial officers were… [used] as “military specialists” ( voenspetsy ) under the watchful supervision of political commissars. In this way, badly needed command experience and technical knowledge were provided until a new corps of Red Commanders could be trained.” (Avrich, p. 66)

The Kronstadt mutineers demanded that this system be abolished. Such a demand might appeal to some anarchists, but one can only imagine what the result would be. The non-Communist officers inside the Red Army would no longer follow socialist instructions and the Red Army would stop being a proletarian army at all. In fact, this quickly happened and the old Tsarist officers Kozlovsky, Vilken and others were soon walking around like they were masters of the situation. In fact, they were masters during the mutiny.

According to the SRs the White Guard general Kozlovsky was ‘elected’ to the defence council of the Kronstadt mutiny, but it seems unlikely he could get elected. Its more likely he was simply chosen by the counter-revolutionaries into that post. The Menshevik newspaper Sotsialisticheski Vestnik published in Germany wrote that Kozlovsky and the other Whites tried to convince the Mensheviks and SRs to begin a general military assault against the Soviet government, but they were unable to convince them. The Mensheviks wrote: “The political leaders of the insurrection would not agree to take the offensive and the opportunity was let slip.“

WHITE GUARDS AND CAPITALISTS IN KRONSTADT

White emigres immediately began making plans to join the Kronstadt mutineers. A former associate of White General Dennikin, N. N. Chebyshev wrote about those times: “White officers roused themselves and started seeking ways to get to the fight in Kronstadt… The spark flew among the emigres. Everybody’s spirit was lifted by it” (quoted in Shchetinov, Introduction to Kronstadt Tragedy)

Imperialist France and Britain encouraged capitalist states on the Russian border to assist the Kronstadt mutiny. British foreign minister Lord Curzon sent a secret message to Finland On March 11 stating: “His Majesty’s Government are not prepared themselves to intervene… Very confidential: There is no reason, however, why you should advise the Finnish Government to take a similar course or to prevent any private societies or individuals from helping [the mutiny]” (Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939).

Food and money came from rich capitalists and White emigres to support the Kronstadt mutineers. Tsarist Baron P. Y. Vilken, the former commander of the Sevastopol, used his spy contacts to deliver the money. His telegrams discuss sending the funds through Helsinki “which needs the money in the beginning of March” (Russkaia voennaia emigratsiaa 20-x—40-x godov).

“The Russian banks, with the former Tsarist minister of finance Kokovtsev at their head, began to collect money for Kronstadt. Goutchkov, the head of the Russian imperialist party, got in contact with the English and American governments to obtain food supplies.” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

“The Whiteguard emigres in Paris organized collection of money and provisions for the mutineers, and the American Red Cross sent food supplies to Kronstadt under its flag.“ (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

“the Russian Union of Commerce and Industry in Paris declared its intention to send food and other supplies to Kronstadt… an initial sum of two million Finnish marks had already been pledged to aid Kronstadt in “the sacred cause of liberating Russia” (Avrich, p. 116)

“the Russian-Asiatic Bank contributed 225,000 francs. Additional funds were donated by other Russian banks, insurance companies, and financial concerns throughout Europe, and by the Russian Red Cross, which funneled all collections to Tseidler, its representative in Finland. By March 16 Kokovtsov was able to inform the Committee of Russian Banks in Paris that deposits for Kronstadt already exceeded 775,000 francs…” (Avrich, p. 117)

The leaders of the Kronstadt mutiny published an article on March 6 where they claimed to oppose the Whites. However, this was more deception as Petrichenko and many of his associates were White Guardists. Two days later on March 8 they welcomed a secret delegation of allies, which included a courier from the SR Administrative Center, an agent of Finnish State Security, two representatives of the monarchist Petrograd Combat Organization and four White Guard officers, including Baron Vilken.

The Whites were disguised as a “Red Cross” delegation sent from Finland. According to a detailed report by White Guardist Tseidler to his HQ, the delegation was immediately invited to ajoint session of the PRC and the general staff officers. A plan was reached to use the Red Cross as a cover to organizing sending food, supplies and funds to Kronstadt. (Source: Tseidler, Red Cross Activity in Organizing Provisions Aid to Kronstadt, 25 April 1921).

White emigre and former member of the Kronstadt leadership Kupolov wrote later that some of the Kronstadt leaders (probably mensheviks and anarchists) were not too happy about the monarchist and White Guard plots. However, Petrichenko was simply using them and planned to eventually get rid of them too. Kupolov writes:

“The PRC, seeing that Kronstadt was filling up with agents of a monarchist organization, issued a declaration that it would not enter into negotiations with, nor accept any aid from, any non-socialist parties… But… Petrichenko and the General Staff secretly worked in connection with the monarchists and prepared the ground for an overthrow of the committee…” (Kupolov, “Kronstadt and the Russian Counterrevolutionaries in Finland: From the Notes of a Former Member of the PRC”)

This is exactly why the Bolsheviks stated that while many of the Kronstadt mutineers were not White Guards or members of the capitalist class, their action still furthered the goals of the White Guard counter-revolution and of capitalist restoration. The White Guards were simply using these mensheviks and hapless opportunists.

The PCR claimed:
“In Kronstadt, total power is in the hands only of the revolutionary sailors… not of the White Guards headed by some General Kozlovsky, as the slanderous Moscow radio proclaims.” “We have only one general here… commissar of the Baltic Fleet Kuzmin. And he has been arrested.”” (Avrich, p. 99)

In exile Petrichenko stated:
“Cut off from the outside world, we could receive no aid from foreign sources even if we had wanted it. We served as agents of no external group: neither capitalists, Mensheviks, nor SR’s.” (Avrich, p. 113)

These days we know that he was lying.

Anarchist sailor Perepelkin, who was there in Kronstadt stated:

“And here I saw the former commander or the Sevastopol, Baron Vilken with whom I had earlier sailed. And it is he who is now acknowledged by the PRC to be the representative of the delegation that is offering us aid. I was outraged by this. I… said, so that’s the situation we’re in, that’s who we’re forced to talk to. Petrichenko and the others jumped on me… There was no other way out: they said. I stopped arguing and said I would accept the proposal. And on the second day we received 400 poods of food and cigarettes. Those who agreed to mutual friendship with the White Guard baron yesterday shouted that they were for Soviet power.” (Komarov Report, 25 March 1921)

“Any doubts about Vilken’s motives (his officer background was known to the rebel leaders) were brushed aside, and the Revolutionary Committee accepted his offer.” (Avrich, p. 122)

This has of course continued to this very day. The pseudo-Anarchists in Rojava made the same exact arguments. They said, they needed to collaborate with American imperialists because American imperialists were giving them funding, training, military support and weaponry. And were they really expected to win all on their own without such support? But such opportunistic logic merely reduces any movement into helpless puppets of capitalists and imperialists.

Wrangel’s right hand man, White General General Von Lampe literally laughed at the anarchists, mensheviks and SRs. He wrote in his diary that their propaganda was “full of justifications to dispel the thought, God forbid, that the sailors were under the influence of [White Monarchist] officers… The SRs don’t understand that in such a struggle, what are needed are severe and determined measures.” (Quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

An editor for the mutineer newspaper Lamanov stated: “Up until the seizure of Kronstadt by Soviet troops I thought the movement had heen organized by the Left SRs. After I became convinced that the movement was not spontaneous, I no longer sympathized with it… Now I am firmly convinced, that, without a doubt, White Guards, both Russian and foreign, took part in the movement. The escape to Finland convinced me of this. Now I consider my participation in this movement to have heen an unforgivable stupid mistake.” (Minutes of Cheka Interrogation of Anatoly Lamanov)

On March 15 the Kronstadt mutineers secretly sent two of their leaders to Finland, to ask for support. At this time Finland was ruled by the ferocious White Guard government of Mannerheim and co. which was launching invasions into Soviet-Karelia and supporting the Russian White Generals. When the mutiny was being defeated, on March 17 Petrichenko and the leaders ordered the crews of ships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol to blow up the ships and flee to Anti-Communist Finland. However, at this point the soldiers had already begun to think their leaders must be reactionaries and did not follow orders. They rose up, saved the ships and arrested all the officers and Provisional Committee members they could get their hands on.

After the Kronstadt mutiny had failed and its leaders had fled to Finland, they agreed to join the White Army of Wrangel:

“In May 1921 Petrichenko and several of his fellow refugees at the Fort Ino camp decided to volunteer their services to General Wrangel… in a new campaign to unseat the Bolsheviks and restore “the gains of the February 1917 Revolution.”” (Avrich, p. 127)

It is very significant that at this point they were no longer in Kronstadt, and thus didn’t need to pretend they supported the October Revolution. Hence they now began to only praise the February revolution of Kerensky!

The Petrichenko gang and the Whites forces of Wrangel agreed to “the retention of their slogan “all power to the soviets but not the parties.”… the slogan was to be retained only as a “convenient political maneuver” until the Communists had been overthrown. Once victory was in hand, the slogan would be shelved and a temporary military dictatorship installed…” (Avrich, pp. 127-128)

THE REACTIONARY PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN

The Kronstadt mutineers and their capitalist allies carried out a massive propaganda campaign to support the mutiny. They published lies claiming that supposedly the Bolsheviks were carrying out atrocities and supposedly everybody was rising up against them. In fact, nothing of the kind happened.

The Kronstadt newspaper wrote on March 7: “Last Minute News From Petrograd” – ”Mass arrests and executions of workers and sailors continue.”

On March 8 a Finnish capitalist newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet published the following lies, provided to them by Mensheviks: “Petrograd workers are striking… crowds bearing red banners demand a change of government – the overthrow of the Communists.”

On March 11 the Kronstadt newspaper wrote: “The [bolshevik] Government In Panic.” “Our cry has been heard. Revolutionary sailors, Red Army men and workers in Petrograd are already coming to our assistance … The Bolshevik power feels the ground slipping from under its feet and has issued orders in Petrograd to open fire at any group of five or more people gathering in the streets …”

“Moscow Rising Reported. Petrograd Fighting.” (London Times, March 2, 1921)

“Petrograd et Moscou Seraient aux Maine des Insurgés qui ont Formé un Gouvernement Provisoire.” [“Petrograd and Moscow will be in the hands of the insurgents who have formed a provisional government”] (Matin, March 7)

“Les Marins Revoltés Débarquent à Petrograd.” [“Rebelling sailors land in Petrograd”] (Matin, March 8)

“Der Aufstand in Russland.” [“The uprising in Russia”] (Vossische Zeitung, March 10)

“In Petrograd the remnants of the SRs, Mensheviks and various anarchists banded together… [and] collaborated with the newly formed monarchist Petrograd Combat Organization (PCO), as the PCO itself asserted (PCO Report to Helsinki Department of National Center, no earlier than 28 March 1921; reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy). The [monarchist-capitalist] PCO even printed the Mensheviks’ leaflets! On March 14… [they] issued a leaflet in solidarity with Kronstadt that said not one word about socialism or soviets, but instead called for an uprising against “the bloody communist regime” in the name of “all power to the people” (“Appeal to All Citizens, Workers, Red Army Soldiers and Sailors,” 14 March 1921; reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy).” (Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution)

“Savinkov, aide to Kerensky… in his Warsaw newspaper Svoboda, printed on Polish [capitalist] government money, boasts (24th February) “I fight against the Bolsheviks, I fight alongside those who have already struggled with Kolchak, Denikin, Wrangel and even Petlioura, strange as that may seem.” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

Savinkov wrote that the sailors of Kronstadt had captured the battleship Aurora and fired its cannons on Petrograd. This never actually happened. He wrote: “when the cruiser Aurora fired on Petrograd it was an expression of repentance for the sin committed on the 25th of October 1917 with the bombardment of the Winter Palace, the seat of Kerensky’s ministry.”

“The Roul of Berlin, the organ of the right wing of the Cadet Party, wrote “The uprising of Kronstadt is scared, because it is an uprising against the idea of the October revolution”. The Society of Russian Industrialists and Financiers of Paris, when they heard the news from Kronstadt, decided to not worry about the extremist demands or the primitive cause of the mutiny [“les revendications extremistes cause primitive de la mutinerie”] because its essential point was that “the sailors were for the overthrow of the Communist government” [Dernières Nouvelles de Paris, 8th March].” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

The reactionary mutineers claimed that mass uprisings had broken out in Petrograd and Moscow to support the Kronstadt mutiny, but this was a total lie. Even Menshevik leader Dan admitted in his 1922 book that “the Kronstadt mutiny was not supported by the Petersburg workers in any way” (quoted in ‘The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2). This is easy to understand, because the mutiny was not based on genuine political organizing or a genuine program. It was a plot organized by White Guard reactionaries and political adventurers, by spreading false rumors, lies, and exploiting the temporary difficulties and confusion in Kronstadt at the time in order to carry out a military coup, repress the communists and prevent the workers and peasants from understanding what was actually going on.

It was enterily unlikely that workers would support the mutiny in other towns where they could not be simply tricked by plotters, and where they had their working class and Communist organizations. The Kronstadt mutiny used anarchists, left-SR terrorists and Mensheviks as their henchmen but even they were to a large extent simply fooled into it, as White Guardists were secretly trying to orchestrate many aspects of the mutiny for their own purposes.

Its also worth pointing out that the best revolutionary elements in the left-SRs, left-Mensheviks and even anarchists had already seen the error in their ways and joined the Bolshevik Party either right before the October Revolution or soon after it. Only the worse elements like terrorists, utopians and right-wing Mensheviks now opposed the Bolsheviks. The anarcho-syndicalist “Worker Opposition” also supported the Bolsheviks in crushing the Kronstadt mutiny.

“SOVIETS WITHOUT COMMUNISM! DOWN WITH COMMUNISM!” – IDEOLOGY OF THE KRONSTADT MUTINY

Milliukov, one of the capitalist leaders of Russia who was ousted by the October Revolution, wrote in his newspaper which he published in Paris, that reactionaries need to support the Kronstadt mutiny. He therefore advocated the slogan “Down with the Bolsheviks’ Long live the Soviets!” (Poslednie Novosti. 11 March 1921). The first step was to get rid of the Bolshevik Communists, after that it would be easy to restore the power of the capitalists.

“The [capitalist]… Milyukov, supplied the Kronstadt counter-revolutionaries with the watchword “Soviets without Communists””(A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

Stalin said: “Soviets without Communists — such was then the watchword of the chief of the Russian counter-revolution, Milyukov…” (J. Stalin, Articles and Speeches, Moscow, 1934, , Russ, ed., p. 217)

“But the class enemy was not dozing. He tried to exploit the distressing economic situation and the discontent of the peasants for his own purposes. Kulak revolts, engineered by Whiteguards and SRs, broke out in Siberia, the Ukraine and the Tambov province… All kinds of counter-revolutionary elements — Mensheviks, SRs, Anarchists, Whiteguards, bourgeois nationalists—became active again. The enemy adopted new tactics of struggle against the Soviet power. He began to borrow a Soviet garb, and his slogan was no longer the old bankrupt “Down with the Soviets!” but a new slogan: “For the Soviets, but without Communists!”

A glaring instance of the new tactics of the class enemy was the counter-revolutionary mutiny in Kronstadt… Whiteguards, in complicity with SRs, Mensheviks and representatives of foreign states, assumed the lead of the mutiny. The mutineers at first used a “Soviet” signboard to camouflage their purpose of restoring the power and property of the capitalists and landlords. They raised the cry: “Soviets without Communists!” The counter-revolutionaries tried to exploit the discontent of the petty bourgeois masses in order to overthrow the power of the Soviets under a pseudo-Soviet slogan.

Two circumstances facilitated the outbreak of the Kronstadt mutiny: the deterioration in the composition of the ships’ crews, and the weakness of the Bolshevik organization in Kronstadt. Nearly all the old [revolutionary, communist Kronstadt] sailors… [had been sent away to the] front, heroically fighting in the ranks of the Red Army. The naval replenishments [sent to Kronstadt to replace them] consisted of new men, who had not been schooled in the revolution. These were a perfectly raw peasant mass who gave expression to the peasantry’s discontent with the [grain requisition system and war communism]. As for the Bolshevik organization in Kronstadt, it had been greatly weakened by a series of mobilizations for the front.”
(History of the CPSU(B) short course)

Anarchist historian Avrich writes that the bulk of Kronstadt sailors had fought in anti-Communist forces before: “…we have it from Petrichenko himself that “three-quarters” of the Kronstadt garrison were natives of the Ukraine, some of whom had served with the anti-Bolshevik forces in the south before entering the Soviet navy.” (Avrich, p. 93)

“Throughout the Civil War of 1918-1920, the sailors of Kronstadt… More than 40,000… replenished the ranks of the Red Army on every front.” (Avrich, p. 62)

“There can be little doubt that during the Civil War years a large turnover had indeed taken place within the Baltic Fleet… old-timers had been replaced by conscripts from the rural districts… By 1921… more than three-quarters of the sailors were of peasant origin, a substantially higher proportion than in 1917, when industrial workers from the Petrograd area made up a sizable part of the fleet.” (Avrich, p. 89)

The temporary weakness of the local Communist organization in Kronstadt, the mass influx of politically uneducated people from the countryside, who were even anti-communists, and the sending of politically educated, experienced proletarians away to the frontlines during the war – these factors allowed the SR utopians, terrorists, anarchists, mensheviks and outright capitalists, monarchists and White Guards to gain a temporary foothold in Kronstadt.

One of the reasons for the relative weakness of the Kronstadt Bolshevik party organization, was that Trotskyists and Zinovievites were in a strong position there:

“The work of political education was at that time badly organized in the Baltic Fleet, and the Trotskyites… managed to get into leading positions…” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

A power struggle began between the opportunist factions of Trotsky and Zinoviev. At this time Lenin had been waging ideological struggle against Trotsky’s bureaucratic position on the questions of war-communism and role of the trade-unions. Zinoviev took advantage of this to strengthen his own opportunist faction. Trotskyists themselves admit this:

“Seizing on Trotsky’s wrong-headedness, Zinoviev mobilized his own base in the Petrograd-Kronstadt area against Trotsky… Zinoviev opened the floodgates of the Kronstadt party organization to backward recruits while encouraging a poisonous atmosphere in the inner-party dispute. The rot in the Kronstadt Communist Party organization was a critical factor in allowing the mutiny to proceed” (“Kronstadt 1921…”, Spartacist, Spring 2006 #59, )

There is no honor among scoundrels! A few years after this the renegade cliques of Trotsky and Zinoviev would unite their forces against the Bolshevik party.

“The authority of the party was further undermined by a struggle for political control in the fleet, which pitted Trotsky, the War Commissar, against Zinoviev… As a result of this dispute, the commissars and other party administrators lost much of their hold over the rank and file.” (Avrich, p. 70)

ANTI-SEMITISM

Another piece of information, indicating that the Kronstadt mutineers did not represent the best revolutionary elements, but actually some of the most politically backward elements, was their rampant anti-semitism. Anti-semitism of course was quite common in Russia at that time, but it was not tolerated among the Communists. It was more common among peasants then workers.

“feelings against the Jews ran high among the [Kronstadt] sailors, many of whom came from the Ukraine and the western borderlands, the classic regions of virulent anti-Semitism in Russia” (Avrich, p. 179)

One of the Kronstadt newspaper editors Lamanov, said that people constantly wrote anti-semitic articles about Jews having “murdered Russia” but he usually succeeded in preventing them from being published. (Source: Further Minutes of Questioning of Anatoly Lamanov, 25 March 1921)

“Vershinin… [member of the PRC] shouted an appeal for joint action against the Jewish and Communist oppressors…” (Avrich, p. 155)

“Jews were a customary scapegoat in times of hardship and distress… In a particularly vicious passage [one sailor] attacks the Bolshevik regime as the “first Jewish Republic”… he labels the Jews a new “privileged class,”… calling the government ultimatum to Kronstadt “the ultimatum of the Jew Trotsky.” These sentiments, he asserts were widely shared by his fellow sailors… Witness the appeal of Vershinin, a member of the Revolutionary Committee… on March 8… “Enough of your ‘hoorahs,’ and join with us to beat the Jews. It’s their cursed domination that we workers and peasants have had to endure.” (Avrich, pp. 179-180)

WHY DIDN’T THE BOLSHEVIKS NEGOTIATE A PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT?

Anarchists usually claim that the Bolsheviks saw the Kronstadt mutiny as some great threat to their power. That supposedly the “heroic struggle” of the mutineers could’ve inspired everyone to overthrow the Bolsheviks. However, this is completely false.

Lenin wrote:

“This Kronstadt affair in itself is a very petty incident. It no more threatens to break up the Soviet state than the Irish disorders are threatening to break up the British Empire.” (Lenin, On the Kronstadt revolt)

The Menshevik leader Dan admitted in his 1922 book that “the Kronstadt mutiny was not supported by the Petersburg workers in any way” (quoted in ‘The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2)

The Bolshevik government suppressed the mutiny because the Whites still tried to use it as a springboard for restarting the civil war with foreign imperialist backing.

“What the authorities feared, in other words, was not so much the rebellion itself…” (Avrich, p. 134)

“Of greater concern to the Bolsheviks was the determination of the [white] emigres to gain access to Kronstadt and use it as a base for a landing on the mainland. This would have meant nothing less than a resumption of the Civil War…” (Avrich, p. 134)

The ice was quickly melting so time was of the essence. Kronstadt had an extremely strong fortress and heavy weaponry. It would be very difficult to attack, and if the ice melted the only way to get there would be on battleships. Kronstadt itself also had two battleships. Therefore if the Bolsheviks waited and didn’t attack and take the Fort right away, the resulting battle might be catastrophic in its casualties and material damages. The mutineers also felt that they had gone too far, and there was no turning back. They felt they couldn’t negotiate their way out of this and simply had to fight as long as possible.

Zinoviev carried out pointless negotiations with the mutineers, which achieved nothing and only allowed the counter-revolutionaries to fortify their defenses.

“Zinoviev negotiated with the traitors for seven whole days, thereby giving them time to fortify themselves.” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

TROTSKY’S ROLE

It is often stated that Trotsky led the suppression of the Kronstadt mutiny, and that under Trotsky’s leadership the soldiers committed atrocities. However, both of these claims are false. The military defeat of the mutiny was entirely led by Voroshilov. Trotsky himself wrote later:

“The truth of the matter is that I personally did not participate in the least in the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion” (Trotsky, More on the Suppression of Kronstadt)

The soldiers, 300 of whom had been delegates to the 10th Bolshevik Party Congress, acted heroicially but Zinoviev who was in a power struggle with Trotsky at the time, spread all kinds of lies about the military operation, saying that it was organized by Trotsky and that all kinds of mistakes and wrong-doings supposedly occurred. But the bureaucratic mistakes of Trotsky, neglecting ideological education in the army and navy, and the further sabotage of Zinoviev contributed to the outbreak of the mutiny.

DEFEATING THE MUTINY

“The mutineers gained possession of a first-class fortress, the fleet, and a vast quantity of arms and ammunition… Against the Kronstadt mutineers the Party sent its finest sons—delegates to the Tenth Congress, headed by Comrade Voroshilov. The Red Army men advanced on Kronstadt across a thin sheet of ice; it broke in places and many were drowned. The almost impregnable forts of Kronstadt had to be taken by storm…” (History of the CPSU(B) short course)

“Picked units of the Red Army were sent to crush the Kronstadt counter-revolution. The Tenth Congress of the Party, which was in session at that time, sent 300 of its delegates, headed by K. E. Voroshilov, to reinforce them. On March 16, the revolutionary soldiers… commenced an assault upon the main forts of Kronstadt, rushing forward in spite of continuous machine-gun fire and the bursting shells which broke the already fragile ice over which they were advancing. In the front ranks of the assault columns was Voroshilov, setting an example of Bolshevik courage and valour.” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, pp. 307-308)

APPENDIX. LENIN ON KRONSTADT:

“What does it mean? It was an attempt to seize political power from the Bolsheviks by a motley crowd or alliance of ill-assorted elements, apparently just to the right of the Bolsheviks, or perhaps even to their “left”—you can’t really tell, so amorphous is the combination of political groupings that has tried to take power in Kronstadt. You all know, undoubtedly, that at the same time whiteguard generals were very active over there. There is ample proof of this. A fortnight before the Kronstadt events., the Paris newspapers reported a mutiny at Kronstadt. It is quite clear that it is the work of SRs and whiteguard émigrés, and at the same time the movement was reduced to a petty-bourgeois counter-revolution and petty-bourgeois anarchism. That is something quite new. This circumstance, in the context of all the crises, must be given careful political consideration and must be very thoroughly analysed… There is evidence here of the activity of petty-bourgeois anarchist elements with their slogans of unrestricted trade and invariable hostility to the dictatorship of the proletariat… they wanted to correct the Bolsheviks in regard to restrictions in trade—and this looks like a small shift, which leaves the same slogans of “Soviet power” with ever so slight a change or correction. Yet, in actual fact the whiteguards only used the non-Party elements as a stepping stone to get in. This is politically inevitable. We saw the petty-bourgeois, anarchist elements in the Russian revolution, and we have been fighting them for decades. We have seen them in action since February 1917, during the great revolution, and their parties’ attempts to prove that their programme differed little from that of the Bolsheviks, but that only their methods in carrying it through were different. We know this not only from the experience of the October Revolution, but also of the outlying regions and various areas within the former Russian Empire where the Soviet power was temporarily replaced by other regimes. Let us recall the Democratic Committee in Samara. They all came in demanding equality, freedom, and a constituent assembly, and every time they proved to be nothing but a conduit for whiteguard rule. Because the Soviet power is being shaken by the economic situation, we must consider all this experience and draw the theoretical conclusions a Marxist cannot escape… We must take a hard look at this petty-bourgeois counter-revolution with its calls for freedom to trade. Unrestricted trade—even if it is not as bound up initially with the whiteguards as Kronstadt was—is still only the thin end of the wedge for the whiteguard element, a victory for capital and its complete restoration. We must, I repeat, have a keen sense of this political danger.”
(Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“I emphasised the danger of Kronstadt because it lies precisely in the fact that the change demanded was apparently very slight: “The Bolsheviks must go . . . we will correct the regime a little.” That is what the Kronstadt rebels are demanding. But what actually happened was that Savinkov arrived in Revel, the Paris newspapers reported the events a fortnight before they actually occurred, and a whiteguard general appeared on the scene. That is what actually happened.” (Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“The way the enemies of the proletariat take advantage of every deviation from a thoroughly consistent communist line was perhaps most strikingly shown in the case of the Kronstadt mutiny, when the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries and whiteguards in all countries of the world immediately expressed their readiness to accept the slogans of the Soviet system, if only they might thereby secure the overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia, and when the SRs and the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries in general resorted in Kronstadt to slogans calling for an insurrection against the Soviet Government of Russia ostensibly in the interest of the Soviet power. These facts fully prove that the whiteguards strive, and are able, to disguise themselves as Communists, and even as the most Left-wing Communists, solely for the purpose of weakening and destroying the bulwark of the proletarian revolution in Russia.“ (Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“The vacillation of the petty-bourgeois element was the most characteristic feature of the Kronstadt events. There was very little that was clear, definite and fully shaped. We heard nebulous slogans about “freedom”, “freedom of trade”, “emancipation”, “Soviets without the Bolsheviks”, or new elections to the Soviets, or relief from “Party dictatorship”, and so on and so forth. Both the Mensheviks and the SRs declared the Kronstadt movement to be “their own”. [Menshevik] Victor Chernov sent a messenger to Kronstadt. On the latter’s proposal, the Menshevik Valk, one of the Kronstadt leaders, voted for the Constituent Assembly. In a flash, with lightning speed, you might say, the whiteguards mobilised all their forces “for Kronstadt“. Their military experts in Kronstadt, a number of experts, and not Kozlovsky alone, drew up a plan for a landing at Oranienbaum, which scared the vacillating mass of Mensheviks, SRs and non-party elements. More than fifty Russian whiteguard newspapers published abroad conducted a rabid campaign “for Kronstadt”. The big banks, all the forces of finance capital, collected funds to assist Kronstadt. That shrewd leader of the bourgeoisie and the landowners, the Cadet Milyukov, patiently explained to the simpleton [Menshevik] Chernov… and to the Mensheviks Dan and Rozhkov, who are in jail in Petrograd for their connection with the Kronstadt events… that there is no need to hurry with the Constituent Assembly, and that Soviet power can and must be supported—only without the Bolsheviks.

Of course, it is easy to be cleverer than conceited simpletons like Chernov, the petty-bourgeois phrase-monger, or like Martov, the knight of philistine reformism doctored to pass for Marxism. Properly speaking, the point is not that Milyukov, as an individual, has more brains, but that, because of his class position, the party leader of the big bourgeoisie sees and understands the class essence and political interaction of things more clearly than the leaders of the petty bourgeoisie, the Chernovs and Martovs. For the bourgeoisie is really a class force which, under capitalism… and which also inevitably enjoys the support of the world bourgeoisie. But the petty bourgeoisie, i.e. … cannot… be anything else than the expression of class impotence; hence the vacillation, phrase-mongering and helplessness…

[Menshevik leader] Martov showed himself to be nothing but a philistine Narcissus when he declared in his Berlin journal that Kronstadt not only adopted Menshevik slogans but also proved that there could be an anti-Bolshevik movement which did not entirely serve the interests of the whiteguards, the capitalists and the landowners. He says in effect: “Let us shut our eyes to the fact that all the genuine whiteguards hailed the Kronstadt mutineers and collected funds in aid of Kronstadt through the banks!” Compared with the Chernovs and Martovs, Milyukov is right, for he is revealing the true tactics of the real whiteguard force, the force of the capitalists and landowners. He declares: “It does not matter whom we support, be they anarchists or any sort of Soviet government, as long as the Bolsheviks are overthrown, as long as there is a shift in power; it does not matter whether to the right or to the left, to the Mensheviks or to the anarchists, as long as it is away from the Bolsheviks… ‘we’, the capitalists and landowners, will do the rest ‘ourselves’… History proves it. The facts bear it out. The Narcissuses will talk; the Milyukovs and whiteguards will act.”
(Lenin, The Tax in Kind)

“You must have noticed that these extracts from the whiteguard newspapers published abroad appeared side by side with extracts from British and French newspapers. They are one chorus, one orchestra… They have admitted that if the slogan becomes “Soviet power without the Bolsheviks” they will all accept it. Milyukov explains this with particular clarity… He says he is prepared to accept the “Soviet power without the Bolsheviks” slogan. He cannot see from over there in Paris whether this is to be a slight shift to the right or to the left, towards the anarchists. From over there, he cannot see what is going on in Kronstadt, but asks the monarchists not to rush and spoil things by shouting about it. He declares that even if the shift is to be to the left, he is prepared to back the Soviet power against the Bolsheviks…”
(Lenin, The All-Russia Congress Of Transport Workers)

SOURCES:

Paul Avrich, Kronstadt: The 1921 Uprising of Sailors in the Context of the Political Development of the New Soviet State

[Avrich provides a lot of useful factual information, however he is pro-anarchist. He sees the Kronstadt mutiny as a tragedy which could never have succeeded but he sympathizes with it. Despite everything he tries to deny that the mutiny was orchestrated by the Whites. He admits that the Kronstadt mutineers collaborated with Whites, Monarchists, Capitalists, foreign powers, Mensheviks and SRs but basically claims “that doesn’t matter”. His book is from 1970 when the archives were still closed. For that reason he relies quite heavily on dishonest Menshevik and Anarchist sources which have nothing to support their claims, and often he takes Petrichenko’s words at face value. He also doesn’t understand Marxism and therefore distorts it. Perhaps it was impossible to publish in American academia unless one reached an anti-bolshevik conclusion? Still he deserves credit for his discoveries.]

White Guard Memorandum On Organizing An Uprising In Kronstadt, reprinted in Avrich

Primary source documents printed in “Kronshtadtskaia tragediia 1921 goda, dokumenty v dvukh knigakh” (“Kronstadt Tragedy”):
-Kuzmin Report, 25 March 1921
-Agranov Report, April 1921
-“To All Posts of Kronstadt,” Kronstadt Izvestia
-Ivan Oreshin, Volia Rossii (April-May 1921)
-Kronstadt March 1 Resolution
-Tseidler, Red Cross Activity in Organizing Provisions Aid to Kronstadt, 25 April 1921.
-Kupolov, “Kronstadt and the Russian Counterrevolutionaries in Finland: From the Notes of a Former Member of the PRC”
-Komarov Report, 25 March 1921
-Von Lampe’s Diary entry
-Minutes of Cheka Interrogation of Anatoly Lamanov

Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution, Spartacist #6 Spring 2006
[Very good article, which brought many primary source documents to my attention. The article propagates erroneous Trotskyist views but luckily they have practically nothing to do with the topic of Kronstadt and can thus be ignored.]

Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939

Russkaia voennaia emigratsiaa 20-x—40-x godov

Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921

History of the USSR volume 3
http://ciml.250x.com/archive/ussr/english/history_of_the_usssr_part3.pdf

Stalin, Articles and Speeches, Moscow, 1934, Russ. ed., p. 217, quoted in History of the USSR vol. 3

Hufvudstadsbladet, March 8, quoted in “The Truth about Kronstadt” by Wright

Kronstadt Izvestia, March 7 & 11, quoted in Wright

Sotsialisticheski Vestnik April 5, 1921, quoted in Wright

“Petrograd et Moscou Seraient aux Maine des Insurgés qui ont Formé un Gouvernement Provisoire.”, Matin, March 7, quoted in Wright

“Der Aufstand in Russland.”, Vossische Zeitung, March 10, quoted in Wright

The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2

Dernières Nouvelles de Paris, 8th March quoted in Radek

Trotsky, More on the Suppression of Kronstadt

History of the CPSU(B) short course
https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1939/x01/ch09.htm

Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jan/25.htm

Lenin, The Trade Unions, The Present Situation And Trotsky’s Mistakes
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/dec/30.htm

Lenin, On the Kronstadt revolt
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/mar/15.htm

Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/10thcong/index.htm

Lenin, The All-Russia Congress Of Transport Workers
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/mar/27.htm

Lenin, Third Congress Of The Communist International https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jun/12.htm

Lenin, The Tax in Kind
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm

The Wallenberg Mystery solved? (CIA/OSS espionage against socialist Hungary)

Practically everybody who reads any book on Hungarian history will run into the name Raoul Wallenberg, Swedish capitalist diplomat and humanitarian. Wallenberg who was in Hungary during WWII used his wealth and diplomatic immunity to protect people from the Nazi bandits of the Hungarian ‘Arrow-Cross’ and the Gestapo. When he disappeared after WWII it became a cliché to accuse Stalin of “killing this innocent heroic man”.

Indeed, Wallenberg doesn’t seem like the typical villain at all, if he really protected people from the Arrow-Cross. So what happened to him? Nobody knew. Every capitalist history book simply repeated the same assumption: ‘Wallenberg was a hero, who was killed by the Soviets for no reason’.

In 2001 documents were discovered by accident in a barn in Virginia. These documents dealt with a highly secret CIA subcontractor, or a spy-ring which worked for the CIA but wasn’t officially part of the CIA. The spy-ring was called ‘The Pond’. It left almost no files, and we can assume what we have discovered is only the tip of the ice-berg. The 2001 documents might be the first verification that The Pond existed, but already in the 60s a disgruntled ex-spy mentioned some of The Pond’s operations in Hungary in his book The Spy and His Masters, written under a false name of course.

After the 2001 discovery the CIA has written an official explanation of what The Pond was and did. There is absolutely no reason why we should simply take their word for it. Instead the official history written by the CIA must be taken with a massive grain of salt. Due to increased interest in the case, the CIA released some information in 2010, confirming that The Pond existed, and revealing names of some of its members. Only three names have been admitted: James McCargar (the disgruntled spy mentioned above, and author of The Spy and His Masters), John Grombach (leader of the spy-ring) and Ruth Fischer (an Austrian-German Trotskyist).

However, there is also reason to believe Wallenberg was another member of The Pond. Indeed, this explains what happened to him. In the 1990s the CIA admitted that Wallenberg had been an agent of the OSS working against the Germans. Having placed an OSS agent in Fascist Hungary, it seems almost self-evident that the the USA kept using this agent to spy on pro-Soviet Hungary after the war. McCargar (who himself was a CIA spy stationed in Hungary disguised as a diplomat) also mentions at least a dozen of other spies and contacts (using fake names of course) he had in Hungary, and some in Switzerland, and his group was certainly not the only one in Hungary at the time.

Though the CIA has admitted since the 90s that Wallenberg was OSS (which later became CIA) one can still read in history books as recent as 2010 (A Concise History of Hungary by Miklos Molnar) and 2018 (Hungary: A Short History by Norman Stone) statements which outright claim or at least imply that Wallenberg was simply an innocent man or a hero, who was attacked by the Soviets for absolutely no reason. Naturally none of these books mention that he was part of a spy-ring intended to attack and potentially destroy the new government of Hungary. They don’t mention it, even though it would actually provide an answer to this mystery, which has puzzled people for decades and decades. Its almost like they don’t want an answer to the mystery? They would rather perpetuate lies, malicious hints and assumptions against the USSR, than give the real answer.

Yrjö Sirola as a fighter, teacher and person (1876-18. March 1936) by Elli Stenberg

Source: SKP – taistelujen tiellä
Published in 1945

(Translated by MLT from Finnish)

“Keep your eyes wide open” is a life motto which Yrjö Sirola followed closely in all periods and activities of his life and gave as an instruction to the entire Finnish working class in 1906. This motto is known by everyone who was fortunate to know Yrjö Sirola as a teacher or close colleague.

The history of Yrjö Sirola’s life in all its stages is inseparably tied to the history of the Finnish working class. Also during the times when he has been abroad – 1909-1913 in America and after 1918 in the Soviet Union – he has worked in particular on behalf of the Finnish working class and the whole Finnish nation.

It is natural and easy for the son of a worker to step into the workers’ movement and devote his whole life to it. On the other hand among those coming from the intelligentsia, there are only few who can honestly feel and say “I have no interests besides the interests of the working class”. Yrjö Sirola almost unnaturally modest, selfless and honest fighter in class struggle, earnestly felt that way despite coming from the intelligentsia, being the son of a priest.

Yrjö Sirola joined the workers’ movement on the eve of the 1905 general strike, when the Finnish working class was taking its first independent steps. Before that he had already read socialist literature and been to workers’ meetings, which he felt a passionate sympathy towards. In 1904 he became the editor of the People’s Paper in Tampere. He described his worldview of those times, saying that “it was a jumble of progressive secular bourgeois, henry-georgeist, tolstoyist, theosophical and utopian socialist waverings.”

During the 1905 general strike Yrjö Sirola was already a notable leader of the workers’ movement. With his inspiring speeches, which the older generation still thinks about today, he rallied the working masses behind him. His influence was the greatest during the two revolutionary periods 1905-06 and 1917-1918. He always gave a great importance for the international experience of the proletariat and through them tried to give a direction and purpose for the significant events in the Finnish workers’ movement. The experiences of the Russian Revolutions and the Paris Commune, were always topics of his energetic study and later the experiences of the Finnish working class as well.

Skill, sense of responsibility and hard work, caused Sirola to quickly rise to the most important positions in the workers’ movement. He was elected party secretary in the 1906 party congress in Oulu and to the parliament as a workers’ party representative in 1907. Documents of the parliament testify to his tenacity. Resolutely, he was e.g. in the frontlines of the struggle against tsarism, upholding the marxist view in the question of national struggle for independence. In fighting against the tsarist oppression of Finland he never mistook the Russian people to be the oppressors. On the contrary, he understood that the oppression was targeting them too. He felt the lives of the two nations were closely tied to each other and wanted collaboration in the joint struggle for emancipation. Privately he was in contact with Russian revolutionaries and took part among others, in the conference of the Russian bolsheviks in Tampere in 1905 and in Stockholm in 1906. In these events he was introduced to Lenin, which was mutually very significant. Since that time Sirola took many influences from Lenin.

On the eve of the Finnish revolution, in the autumn of 1917, Sirola was already one of the most principled and unshaking leaders of the workers’ movement. At that time too, he was a member of the parliament and Social-Democrat party leadership. He saw the requirements of the situation more clearly then many others and boldly defended his views against those who still doubted the necessity of revolution. During the revolution he was the minister of foreign affairs of the Finnish People’s Delegation [the red government~MLT], to which job he was suited due to his knowledge of foreign languages. In this position like in all others, he never lost firm contact with the masses, but spoke to the people often and had conversations with them.

After the defeat of the revolution, Yrjö Sirola took part in the serious self-criticism by the working class leaders who lead the revolution, concerning the reasons for its defeat and their old forms of activity. Together with Kuusinen and others of the working class’ finest, he began the arduous work for organizing a communist party in Finland. He was the chairman of the Finnish Communist Party central committee, and was tirelessly and eagerly at the frontlines of all the party’s battles.

Sirola also took part in the founding congress and other congresses of the Comintern and was a member in the Comintern’s control committee. In the Soviet Union he contributed significantly to the field of education. He worked as the People’s Comissar for education in Soviet-Karelia and as the headmaster of the Communist University of the National Minorities of the West in Leningrad oblast.

But Yrjö Sirola didn’t live solely for the working class. He also lived for his nation. In his writings and speeches he often emphasizes the joint action of the class-conscious proletarians, freedom loving peasantry and radical bourgeois. Already after the general strike he saw the necessity of this joint action and set it as the task for working class struggle.

Yrjö Sirola wasn’t only a politician and class-fighter, he was also a writer. His newspaper articles were often prosaic and immersive, still always retaining the appropriate factuality and not lapsing into mere pretty sounding words. In his youth he also wrote poetry and prose about contemporary events for periodicals. It is unlikely that he put together a unified collection, with the exception of “Vapautuksen tiellä” [on the path of liberation~MLT], which contains newspaper writings. Through his translations into Finnish, he has made some of the best works of proletarian poetry known to the Finnish working class.

He performed significant work as a literary critic, doing similar analysis of e.g. Järnefelt as Lenin did on Tolstoy. He has made the Kalevala [Finnish and Karelian national epic~MLT] more well known in Soviet-Karelia through his writings and presentations. There he supported in every possible way artistic literature in Finnish and Karelian languages and devoted a lot of time and energy to it. His personal knowledge of literature was amazingly broad.

Yrjö Sirola has had a great and influential career in teaching. All his work was dear to him, but it sometimes seemed that teaching was the dearest. He admitted it himself, albeit saying it was difficult to say what was closest to his heart.

Already in his youth while researching the events of the Paris Commune his attention was drawn to a statement by one member of the Commune: “Let us learn, let us gain education, it is due to our ignorance that we were defeated”. He never forgot these words. He acquired knowledge for himself, distributed it generously to others and guided the youth in their independent search for knowledge, here too maintaining close connection with everyday life. He considered organizing information to be as important as gathering it.

“It is not enough to know, one must also use: it is not enough to want, one must also do”. Sirola often reminded his students of these words of Goethe, himself being a prime example. Self-education and self-discipline were characteristic for him. He tried to cultivate these things in his students too because “without them, man really cannot do much that is particularly important in life.”

There are not many teachers like Sirola. Even the most difficult things became easy to understand through him. He knew how to motivate in study. He was full of warmth towards his students. Anyone could ask him for advice without delay, and give writings or presentations for him to examine. He was never so busy that he couldn’t advise, evaluate and correct errors. He knew how to give even the hardest criticism without depressing the student but instead inspiring them to try again. He was not only a teacher to his students, but also a comrade and fatherly friend.

As a teacher Sirola became an invaluable asset in raising working class forces. Marxist philosophy of society, dialectical materialism taught by him has given many workers who actively work in the workers’ movement a marxist-leninist clarity of thinking.

Yrjö Sirola also carried out constant scientific research in the area of working class history. He founded the workers’ archive in Helsinki. Under his leadership, an archive of the Finnish workers’ revolution was organized in Leningrad. He strove towards new achievements in all fields of human knowledge. In his work and his aims, he was forever young and tireless.

The inheritance left by Yrjö Sirola is large and valuable. It is immortal. To maintain this inheritance and comrade Sirola’s memory the writers of Soviet-Karelia have began a project for gathering and researching the writings left by Sirola. In the same purpose the Yrjö Sirola Foundation has recently been created in Helsinki, the mission of which is to aid in many ways the education, scientific, artistic and other endeavours of the democratic forces of our country.

There are great people who only live after their death. Yrjö Sirola lived and influenced much during his life, though due to circumstances of state politics he didn’t become as recognized as he deserved even in his homeland. Now both living and the dead step into view, from underground and from the other side of the border.[1] Yrjö Sirola is in the front ranks. His work lives in those he raised and will survive through generations. He is immortal, for “living in the best of the future, is a type of immortality.” (Brandes)[2]



Notes by MLT:

1. This refers to marxism becoming legal in Finland in 1944. This text is from 1945. For the first time, it became possible to talk about the ideas of communists, both living and dead. Communists returned to visibility from underground, or from “the other side of the border” from the Soviet Union.

2. This quote is by the Danish poet Georg Brandes from his poem that was published in Finnish under the title of “Hautakammio” (Tomb, crypt or literally ‘burial chamber’). Unfortunately I have not been able to find out what the original title is.