First Published: Pravda July 4, 1918
Source: International Socialist Library No. 15, Revolutionary Essays by Bela Kun, B.S.P., London.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
The working-class movement in Austria-Hungary previous to the risings already bore all the signs of developing revolution. The Austro-Hungarian and German papers give us only fragmentary information about the revolutionary movement which has sprung up. But even from that we can make two important deductions concerning the strength, the power of resistance, and the meaning of the revolutionary movement.
First, the strike in Hungary is not a purely local event. It is not a series of strikes embracing separate industries. It is one mass movement, bearing the stamp of the General Strike, in the sense that work has ceased everywhere, in all the most important branches of industry, transpot, and mining.
Secondly, it is absolutely impossible to reduce the causes for the General Strike purely to hunger or the demand for electoral reform. The General Strike is directed against the machinery of the State — against militarism and discipline.
All the demands of the strikers are connected with the question of power, and, as such, rise beyond the limits of the parliamentary State. The movement, it cannot be doubted, will not continue on the scale of the usual mass strike, especially as it is fraught with the most deadly peril for the vital interests of a State at war.
The movement has adopted the typical forms of that stage of a revolution which is the forerunner of the actual rising. Here and there more and more frequent cases of stoppage of work are to be observed, representing something unheard of during the first three years of the war — right up to the October Revolution. The “union sacrée” has been smashed to atoms by the workers themselves. All attempts at conciliation on the part of the leaders of the official Social-Democracy, whose aspirations have never left the bounds set by a narrow Parliamentarism, have beeen in vain.
True enough, the proletarian movement arose elementally; the strikers have not a clear class feeling or a concrete social policy; the movement has no leaders, and is semi-conspirative; but it is undoubtedly revolutionary. Greater results have been achieved than by the last forty years’ struggle for the franchise.
In their search for the path to freedom, the workers have entered the trade unions. Before the war, the membership of the Hungarian trade unions never exceeded 110,000; during the last two years, they have had an increase of over 100,000 members. During the war it was impossible to transform the labour organisations in accordance with the revolutionary requirements of the proletariat; but the workers now are carrying on the struggle in spite of the trade union leaders. The mass struggle has in Hungary become the accepted method of the working-class movement, even though it has not yet received official sanction. For fifteen long years the official organs of the Party have threatened the bourgeoisie: “We shall begin to talk Russian.” At the present moment, the Hungarian proletariat is talking and, actually, acting Russian.
In Budapest there is a general strike. The railwaymen have struck. Other enterprises are on the eve. The postal and telegraph employees are adopting passive resistance, which is nothing but a veiled form of strike.
The chief coal pits are also idle. According to the declaration of the Hungarian Minister for Commerce, 600 truckloads of coal per dray are wanting through the strike at Petroszeny alone. The transport crisis has reached its maximum.
The workers openly refuse to obey the orders of the administrative officials of the militarised enterprises. They threaten the commandants and officers with the fate of the colonel at Pecs, whom the soldiers killed with their rifle-butts. The repressive measures undertaken in the case of one individual workman, who had been arrested for a statement of this kind, served as the immediate cause of a strike in the largest mining district in Hungary. In Budapest, after an exchange of shots in the State railway shops, the workers sacked the office of another factory.
In the demands of the metal-workers’ deputies, put forward on June 19th, the following two points appear: (1) The withdrawal of gendarmes from the factories; (2) The dismissal of the railway shop officials.
On June 21st the strike at Budapest became a general stoppage. The newspapers did not appear; the tramway services stopped; the postal and railway servants announced their solidarity with the strikes (a strong movement is noticeable in their midst); the private postal-telegraph-telephone services also ceased. The leaders of the Party and of the trade unions made an attempt to moderate the movement; but from day to day new proclamations appear, calling on the workers to continue the strike.
The Minister for Commerce and Industry has declared in Parliament that the action of the railwaymen and postal servants will be crushed by the most severe repressive measures. The Government wants to crush the working-class movement by violence. The proletariat must reply not by isolated shots, as happened lately at Budapest, but by a mass movement. The bourgeoisie can no longer rely on its military forces. The soldiers are going over to the side of the people, not only at Pecs, but also in other towns. In the Hungarian plain regular pitched battles between deserters and the gendarmerie have taken place. On the Italian front, the Hungarian troops — like the Roumanian, the Serbian, and the Slovak soldiers — either refuse to take the offensive, or else surrender.
The quantity of “trustworthy” troops is quite insignificant. On the other hand, the number of deserters and men arrested for violation of discipline is growing. The Hungarian military prisons have long been so full that the authorities have been forced to make use of civil gaols.
Tisza has appeared in the foreground. Wekerle, the Hungarian Trepov, is still Premier, but Count Tisza has announced that the day is at hand when he will take over the government in order that repressive measures shall be ruthlessly administered. But whether Tisza will have time to do this is another question. The objective situation, in Hungary is such that there is little hope of governing by means of a Parliamentary ministry, and without an open dictatorship.
And from the open dictatorship of the capitalist class, it is not a long step to the open dictatorship of the proletariat.