From International Socialist Review, Vol.17 No.4, Fall 1956, pp.111-112.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Starting with the June 28 general strike in Poznan, the Polish and Hungarian workers launched a general revolutionary uprising against the rule of the Kremlin bureaucracy. The movement of the masses rallied abound the demand for complete national independence and workers democracy. In its basic character the struggle is a continuation, on a higher level, of the June 1953 uprising of the East German working class.
The revolutionary developments in Poland and Hungary must be understood as a stage in the political revolution against the Soviet bureaucratic caste. What we saw manifested at the summits of Soviet society in the Twentieth Congress was the result of the deep stirrings of the revolutionary workers. Now the subterranean movement has broken through to the surface. The political revolution is no longer a prognosis – it is no longer necessary to deduce the source of the crisis in the system of bureaucratic rule from relatively isolated symptoms. The political revolution is an actuality in Poland and Hungary.
History is settling the question of how the Soviet bureaucratic caste will be removed. The notion that the bureaucracy itself would reform Soviet society, reintroduce workers democracy, etc., has died along with thousands of revolutionary workers in Hungary.
Despite the difference in form and tempo of events in the two countries, the revolutionary outbreaks in Poland and Hungary have fundamentally the same character. In both countries the movement originated among the industrial workers expressing, their bitter determination to end bureaucratic abuses, privileges and mismanagement. A parallel movement of bold revolutionary criticism against the caste rulers sprang up among the students and intellectuals. The parallel movements fused in the uprisings. The workers, by their social weight and class discipline, were the motor force of the development. The demand for national freedom was inscribed on the workers’ banners along with their demands for bread and democratic rights.
The working masses created their organizations, factory committees and councils, from one end of Poland and Hungary to the other. The workers organizations are closely associated with the student masses, who themselves are drawn from working-class and peasant families. In actual fact we see the emergence of the workers Soviet, similar to those built by the Russian workers in 1917.
The organization of the working class as the leading force in the national revolution is of enormous importance in view of the emergence of all the antagonistic class forces on the open arena. Within the all-national upsurge against Kremlin rule, representatives of bourgeois counter-revolution are undoubtedly at work. Backward strata of the workers, and particularly layers of the city and countryside petty-bourgeoisie, have come to identify communism with Kremlin and bureaucratic tyranny. Bourgeois slogans, parties and the Catholic Church are bound to make their appeal to these strata. In these circumstances the soviet organization of the industrial workers, imbued with the consciousness that the fate of the revolution depends on their leadership of all the working people, is the only road to a victorious consummation of the national liberation revolution. In this sense, the basic problem now confronting the revolution is: how can the workers come to realize that their councils must conquer the full power in order to achieve a genuine, that is, socialist, independence and workers democracy?
It is now clear that as long as the revolutionary masses are on the arena the bureaucratic caste in Poland and Hungary cannot hope to stay in power a single day without either breaking demonstratively with the Kremlin or accepting its services as a counter-revolutionary army of occupation.
The working masses did not fall back in the face of the first armed assistance the Kremlin gave to the tottering regime in Hungary. The workers and students fought with new courage against mechanized divisions, won over the Hungarian army, armed themselves, struck a body blow at the security police and forced the Nagy regime to break all ties with the Kremlin. In large areas of the country the workers councils took power.
At this writing the Kremlin’s army is entering Budapest once again and surrounding the industrial cities where the workers hold power. The Nagy government has been arrested. A Kremlin puppet government has been appointed. Fighting is going on in the streets. The fate of the revolution hangs in the balance. The movement may be thrown back, but it cannot be killed. With capitalism in the West besieged by anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist forces, the world situation is extremely favorable for the political revolution. The whole of Eastern Europe is seething with revolutionary discontent. And the workers of the Soviet Union itself are moving into line for an attack on their own bureaucratic rulers. The Kremlin can at best postpone the day of reckoning. With the revolutionary uprising of the Russian working class the system of bureaucratic rule throughout the Soviet orbit will be smashed.
In Poland the native caste rulers gained a reprieve by quickly shifting Gomulka, who had spent four years in a Stalinist prison as a “Titoist-fascist,” into power in open defiance of Kremlin orders. The Polish working class stood ready to fight to the death against the Kremlin’s threat of an armed attack on their revolution. The Kremlin drew back and then attacked through Hungary. This accelerated revolutionary developments in Hungary and signaled a new wave of mass demonstrations in Poland.
The Gomulka regime in Poland, as the short-lived Nagy regime in Hungary, represents the interests of the bureaucracy which was installed in power by the Kremlin’s bureaucratic-military action following World War II. The Kremlin at first tried “co-existence” with the bourgeoisie of Poland and Hungary on the basis of maintaining capitalist property. But with the opening of the cold war the Kremlin eliminated the capitalists and brought the social-economic structure of these countries into line with the nationalized and planned economy of the Soviet Union. This entire process, which excluded the social revolutionary action of the masses, left its deep imprint on the subsequent events. In the consciousness of the masses the Stalinist regimes were stamped as agencies of the Kremlin.
The working class opens its attack on the Stalinist regimes in Poland and Hungary with both countries organized, although in a bureaucratic manner, on the foundation of planned and nationalized economy. The problem of the working class is to overthrow the bureaucracy and create the workers democratic foundations for the socialized structure. All evidence indicates that this is precisely the basic tendency of the revolution in action.
The Gomulka regime, however, manifests considerably different tendencies than those of the revolutionary workers. Faced by the pressure of the masses, it was forced to break with the Kremlin and seek some semblance of popular support in order to continue in power. Since the workers still lack the consciousness to bring the new-born Soviets to power, the Gomulka regime seeks to reinforce its collapsing rule by forming “people’s front” alliances with elements from the remnants of the bourgeoisie, peasant party leaders, bourgeois nationalists, and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. At the same time it displays a tendency to flirt with Western diplomacy in the manner of Tito.
Without a workers revolutionary solution of the crisis, the capitalist elements could find support in the peasantry, who suffered the terrible crimes of the bureaucratic collectivizations. Thus by carrying through a political revolution the workers will be deepening the socialist revolution and aiming their most powerful blows at the threat of capitalist restoration.
But isn’t it safer to entrust the safeguarding of the progressive, anti-capitalist property forms to the Kremlin armies rather than to a “problematical” workers political revolution? This is the kind of question that runs through the consciousness of many who were educated by Stalinism. No, it is not safer. The Kremlin bureaucracy is the weakest link in the defense of the Soviet Union and the fundamental conquests of the Russian Revolution. The destruction of the caste rule alone can open up the road to a forward march of socialism in the Soviet orbit and on a world scale. Conversely, the greatest blow to the defense of the Soviet Union would be the crushing of the Polish and Hungarian revolutions. World capitalism would then have the pretext and the conditions to pursue its policy of “liberation.” In the face of revolutionary masses imperialism is helpless. Faced by a Kremlin-army-occupied Eastern Europe, with the revolutionary workers crushed, with a Red Army that is sickened by its counter-revolutionary role, the imperialist threat would be far greater than it is today.
The workers vanguard cannot waver for one moment in taking sides 100 percent with the national independence aspirations of the peoples of Hungary and Poland as against the Kremlin. Revolutionary socialists will say: We are with you in your struggle for national freedom. Remember that such freedom will never bs achieved through imperialism and capitalism but only through your own revolutionary power. Revolutionary socialists will appeal to the workers of all of Eastern Europe and above all of the Soviet Union to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Poland and Hungary. Revolutionary socialists will appeal to the soldiers of the Red Army to refuse to carry out the Kremlin’s counter-revolutionary orders. Revolutionary socalists will call upon the workers in capitalist countries to remain vigilant against any attempt of the imperialists to take advantage of the crimes of the Stalinist counter-revolutionists in order to launch their attack on the Soviet Union.
Above all, revolutionary socialists throughout the world will do everything in their power to help the Soviet and East European workers build their revolutionary parties. Whatever the ebbs and flows of the political revolution, whatever momentary setbacks it will suffer, the workers will come to realize that they must organize their own political party, completely independent from the bureaucracy. Through organization and the building of Bolshevik parties the Soviet and Eastern European working class will coordinate its movements, harness its forces, choose the right moment, launch its general offensive, and carry the struggle for socialism forward to complete victory.
Nov. 4, 1956
Last updated on: 21 April 2009