The events that unfolded towards the end of 1956 in Hungary shook all the Communist Parties of the world. The official line of the Communist Parties was that what was taking place in Hungary was a Fascist counter-revolution! Not all the ranks of the CPs were fooled. Many could see that the workers of Hungary had risen up against the bureaucratic elite in power. This could be no counter-revolution. Thus many rank and file members of the Communist Parties questioned the official party interpretation of events. In 1957 alone the Italian Communist Party lost 300,000 members as a result of the Hungarian events. In Britain the Communist Party of Great Britain was also affected. It was in order to intervene in the debates taking place in the British CP that Ted Grant wrote an open letter at the end of 1956, that we publish here below.
Comrade of the Communist Party.
You have supported the Communist Party as fighters against Capitalism-Imperialism, for its overthrow and the realisation of Socialism; a new system of Society without classes or exploitation of man by man or nation by nation.
You believed that the Communist Party and present leadership represented that programme; the theory and ideas of Marx and Lenin.
Events have struck blows against that illusion. This is the programme which the Communist Party and Communist International were set up to carry out and for which the Russian workers made the October Revolution. But the Russian Revolution degenerated through the usurpation of power by the Stalin clique. All that remains of the great Russian revolution is the basic gain; the elimination of Capitalism, the State Ownership of the means of production and its development on the basis of a plan.
But control was filched out of the hands of the Workers and the Peasants, and concentrated into the hands of the Bureaucracy; the millions of officials, army officers, managers, Party and State functionaries.
Your leaders have admitted the crimes of Stalin under the impact of the Khrushchev disclosures at the 20th Congress. The lack of democracy, the National oppression of the non-Russian peoples, the terror against the Working Class, the exile of millions to Siberia, the dictatorship of a clique with an unbridled Secret Police.
This applies and applied not only to Russia itself but to the regimes of eastern Europe, in which the masses were subjected to mismanagement and plunder, in the interests of the Russian Bureaucracy.
Your leaders pretend that these were the mistakes and crimes of one man. This is palpably false for anyone trained in the Marxist method. No dictator represents himself alone, but the interest of a class or stratum of society. Who then did Stalin represent? The workers? Obviously not. he stood, on the contrary, for the forces who carried through a political counter-revolution against the Russian masses; but a counter-revolution on the basis of state ownership; and this terror was not for Stalin's whim but in the interests of the material needs of these usurping officials. Even today your leaders are hiding the fact that the present leadership in the Soviet Union is still trampling on the programme and methods of Lenin.
Lenin summarised his programme for Workers' Power and its inception as the first steps for a Workers' State, in order to prepare a transition to Socialism, in four simple points.
- the setting up of Soviets, or Committees composed of Workers, Peasants and other Representatives of the population, with free and democratic elections to them and the right of recall.
- No standing army but the armed people.
- No official to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled workers.
- Gradually all the tasks to be done in turn by the workers themselves. Every cook should be able to be Prime Minister. When everyone is a "bureaucrat" in turn no one can be a bureaucrat.
Under Khrushchev as under Stalin not a single one of these fundamental points remains in existence in Russia today. The law limiting the wage of officials has long been abolished. the difference between managers and workers is greater than in capitalist countries. The difference in wages and conditions between officers and men in the army is greater than even in the USA. generals, officers and managers are a privileged caste separate and apart from the people. The top clique of officials under Khrushchev as under Stalin live like millionaires.
Above all, this can only be maintained by the crushing of democracy and the rights of the Working Class.
Trotsky urged five-year plan
The achievements of industrialisation and the five-year plan (incidentally put forward by Trotsky and opposed by Stalin in the early years), demonstrating the superiority of Socialist economic methods over Capitalism, were carried through despite bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption which hamper and hold back the development of the productive forces.
But state ownership and planning, in order to function efficiently to the maximum extent possible, require the full participation, control, check, and management of the workers and peasants, and only thus can the interests of the workers and peasants be served, and the way be prepared for the transition to Socialism and the withering away of the State. The opposite process has taken place in Russia and her satellites. In Poland, Hungary and other countries of Eastern Europe the Russian bureaucracy through its local representatives and agents oppressed the masses by the same arbitrary brutal and terroristic methods.
After more than ten years of Stalinist rule this has culminated in the uprising of the Hungarian masses. This was a magnificent, heroic national struggle comparable to the Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution itself. Now your leaders are up to their old games. they are desperately trying to deceive you by resorting to the old Stalinist lies and slanders. Yesterday they denounced Tito, Gomulka, Kostov, Rajk and Slansky as fascists, counter-revolutionaries, imperialist agents and spies. They have recently been compelled to make abject retractions, and to claim that they have been "honestly mistaken". Now they are up to their old games again. they use the unholy joy of the capitalist press at the exposure of Stalinist misdeeds and national oppression to try to confuse you. It is true that blood-stained Imperialist Capitalism has been guilty of terrible crimes against the workers and the peoples: Suez, Kenya, Cyprus and Malaya.
But they are Capitalists-Imperialists. Their system demands such measures in defence of their profits and privileges. But Socialism and workers' rule demand different methods entirely, otherwise they would not be worthy of the name of Socialism. The crimes of Stalinism under its new disguises in Russia, Poland and Hungary are similarly in defence of inequality, national oppression, bureaucracy, inefficiency, terror and indifference to the needs and aspirations of the masses.
Your leaders lied, or as they claim, were deceived in their previous vituperative attacks - can you believe them now?
Again the "Daily Worker" lies
All honest members of the Communist Party must ask themselves as a duty to the struggle of their class for Socialism why these events have taken place and whether their leaders are once again "mistaken".
It is a definite lie on the part of the "Daily Worker" and the government of Janos Kadar that this was a Fascist movement, counter-revolutionary in its aims. No more than the movement in Poland was fascist. Gero and the other Stalinist bureaucrats provoked this insurrection on the part of the masses. A few stray hooligans or Fascist elements such as Joseph Dudasz, whom the "Daily Workers" featured so prominently, tried to take advantage of the workers' movement but were immediately arrested and put in jail. This the "Daily Worker" has not revealed.
As always in great events, as in the Russian Revolution of 1917, these elements intervene in the movement. But the decisive section of the insurrectionary forces in Hungary were from the working class and youth, the factory workers. The elite of the Hungarian masses were and are in the van of the struggle. The amazing capacity of the Hungarian workers to fight against terrible odds is something which places them among the greatest working class fighters in history. Two general strikes and two insurrections in three weeks! Why? To restore Capitalism and Landlordism! What a dirty lie. The "Daily Worker" of 15th November gives the lie to all the propaganda of these traitors of Socialism, when they list the demands of the workers, before they agree to go back to work. Similar demands were featured by the "Daily Worker" itself as early as 27th October: the demand for a workers' National Guard, immediate negotiations for the withdrawal of Russian troops, the right to strike and free Trade Unions.
Hungarian workers' demands:
- Workers' councils in every factory to establish workers' management and radically transform the system of State Central planning and directing.
- Wages to be raised immediately by 10 to 15 per cent and a ceiling of about £106 a month fixed for the highest salaries.
- To abolish production norms except in factories where the workers or workers' councils wish to keep them.
- wages and pension demands.
- Speed up house-building.
- Negotiate with the Soviet Union and other countries on the principle of equality.
Instinctively the Hungarian masses have tried to adopt the programme and policy of Lenin as listed in the demands above.
To say under these conditions that they want Capitalism back is a dirty lie of hardened perverters of Socialism.
The "Daily Worker" in its desperate efforts to fool the members and supporters of the Communist Party has referred to the overthrow of the Hungarian Republic of 1919. What they forget to mention is that this Republic had the overwhelming support of the masses and could only be overthrown by the intervention of foreign troops backed by Britain and France.
Now the foreign troops used against the revolution are troops of Russia, just the opposite to events at that time. The young Hungarian Soviet Republic was overthrown by outside intervention in 1919 before it could consolidate itself. Only foreign intervention could pave the way for a struggle by the White Guards against the Russian Revolution. At this time World Imperialism is impotent to intervene and in fact would be afraid of the victory of the Workers in Hungary.
For whom does Kadar speak?
Yet ten years after the revolution has been consolidated in Hungary this is the denouement. The Russian army and the puppet Government of Kadar represent Stalinist Counter-revolution in Hungary. With the defeat of the Government the workers instantaneously organised revolutionary committees of workers, soldiers, students, peasants, even lawyers, so strong was the revolutionary feeling in Hungary. These revolutionary committees were Soviets, but Russian and Stalinist-Hungarian oppression has made the name Soviet stink so much that the masses called them revolutionary committees. These committees, based on the factories, regiments, etc., are the most democratic form it is possible to achieve. yet the first act of the Kadar Government after the second treacherous intervention by Russian troops was to order the dissolution of the soldiers' committees and the appointment of "Commissars" as overlords to the Workers' committees. It is significant that this too the "Daily Workers" fails to mention or explain!
The "Worker" contradicts itself when at the same time it is giving currency to the lies about Fascist and Imperialist agents, it admits the need of basic reform in Poland and Hungary.
How could Fascist or Imperialist agents have any effect if there were not this justified discontent of the masses against Stalinist absolutism? Even if it were true, the responsibility would be on the shoulders of the Russian, Hungarian and British CP Bureaucracy, which condoned and concealed these crimes. Of course, the Imperialist butchers seek to discredit the idea of Socialism by using the crimes of the s0-called Communist Party.
It is surely clear that the Hungarian masses do not wish to go back to Horthyism and Capitalism. But they want to end, once and for all, the domination and bleeding of Hungary for the benefit of the Russian Bureaucracy. That is why they are demanding the publication of the pointedly secret trade treaties between the Soviet Union and Hungary. In Poland even Gomulka, under the pressure of the masses, has come out against Russian domination and for the withdrawal of Russian troops.
What Lenin said:
What the Hungarian masses are trying to do instinctively, without yet having at their heads the tried and tested consciously revolutionary Socialist and Communist leadership the situation so urgently demands, is to adopt the precepts of Lenin. Lenin warned of Stalinist methods in Georgia as an example of national oppression. Lenin also warned of the consequences of bureaucratism, inequality and arbitrary methods of command. The methods in Eastern Europe are a thousand times worse than the ones that Lenin castigated.
Comrades of the Communist Party! The entry of the Russian Army is to consolidate Stalinist counter-revolution against the legitimate demands of the Hungarian people. A simple test can be used. Why has not the slogan been raised by the Russians and the Hungarian Communist Parties, the slogan of Lenin to safeguard the revolution in 1917: All Power to a Central Council of the Revolutionary Committees! For a Workers' Socialist Hungary, with full democracy for all tendencies accepting state ownership and planning, for workers' management of industry, for the withdrawal of the Russian troops, for the right of the Hungarian people to decide their own fate without interference.
In a confused way that is the programme of the Hungarian masses. Leaflets issued by the workers and the intellectuals in Budapest under the heels of the Russian occupation have been groping for this solution. This is the programme of Socialism, not of counter-revolution.
The Hungarian political revolution has taken a nationalist form because of the bureaucratic national oppression of Stalinism. But the Hungarians, no more than the workers of other countries, can solve their problems in isolation. The Hungarian masses must appeal to the rank and file of the Red Army, to the workers of Russia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and of the world, if they are to be successful.
Instead of nationalism, internationalism! For a Socialist Federation of all the Balkan States with full national autonomy.
Back to Lenin!
Comrade of the Communist Party! Back to the programme and policy of Lenin! We appeal to you: remember the saying of Lenin, that one should study one's opponents in the working class movement conscientiously. Read the works of Lenin and Trotsky, where these events are foreshadowed and explained in advance.
These titanic events in Russia, Hungary and Poland, and the invasion at Suez, plus the storms that are heralded, show the need for a real Socialist programme for Britain. An alternative must be offered to the reformism of the Labour Party and the neo-reformism of the Communist Party leadership.
For the last 20 years and more, the policy of your leaders has been dictated by the foreign policy of the Russian bureaucracy. Your leaders still pursue a policy which is not in the interest of the workers of Hungary, Britain or Russia, but nationally and internationally, a reflection of the need of the foreign policy of the Russian Bureaucracy.
The only road:
Comrades! new shocks lie ahead. Yesterday the 20th Congress, today Hungary, tomorrow...(?)
The intervention of Russian troops was designed to prevent the setting up of a Socialist Democracy on the borders of Russia, because this would have been the beginning of the end for the Russian bureaucracy. Already some Russian soldiers have deserted to the side of the Hungarian people. This is an omen of the future! The intervention of Russian troops prevented the masses establishing a Socialist democracy in Hungary, but in the future when the Russian masses rise, who will defend the Russian Bureaucracy then? In the coming period great events impend, in the East against Stalinism, in the West against Capitalism. We can best help the workers of Russia and Eastern Europe by conducting an implacable struggle for the overthrow of Capitalism and Imperialism in Britain and the West.
Comrade of the Communist Party! You can best help in this task by a clear understanding of the problems of the Working Class and the theory and practice of Marxism and Leninism. We are convinced that you will come to understand that the revolutionary struggle can be carried through to a victorious conclusion in Britain and internationally only on the programme of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, which your leaders have abandoned.
We recommend Peter Fryer's book Hungarian Tragedy