Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History

2. The History of the Publication of Trotsky’s Works in Hungarian

To illustrate the truth of Varga’s statement that Trotsky’s ideas and analysis could not have been known to the Hungarian people at the time of the 1956 Revolution, but that the struggle itself threw up the echoes of the Transitional Programme, we append here the abstract of Szabó Lasló Zsolt’s presentation to the International Trotsky Symposium at Wuppertal from 26 to 30 March this year. It demonstrate quite clearly the slim chance that any of the insurgents could have been acquainted with any of Trotsky’s writings at first hand.

In my contribution I shall attempt to describe the publication of Trotsky’s works. I also want to answer the question as to the motives and background for the publication of Trotsky’s several works.

The publication of Trotsky’s works can be chronologically divided into many periods:

The first period goes up to 1919. Nothing by Trotsky appeared in Hungarian up to that time, and I shall analyse the reasons for this fact.

The second and, up to today, the most fruitful period was during the 133 days of the Hungarian people’s republic in 1919. [1] I will demonstrate the agitational function of the works published in this period.

The third period is linked with the Hungarian Communist emigration in Vienna. [2] Here I will describe where Trotsky’s name appears in the theoretical journal of the Hungarian Communists and in which contexts it can be connected to Trotsky’s fate.

The fourth period coincides with the period of Trotsky’s third exile. [3] Even during this period Trotsky’s works did not appear in Hungary itself; rather they appeared abroad in Hungarian. For example, a Trotskyist group published three of Trotsky’s pamphlets in Pressburg. [4] I will put the background to this event into the appropriate context.

The fifth period is that of the so-called 1950s. Naturally at that time none of Trotsky’s works were allowed to be published in Hungary, although many works that dealt with Trotsky, or Trotskyism, were allowed to appear. I will analyse them according to their content.

After the Hungarian uprising in 1956 came the great silence. It was not until 1970 that a book was published about Trotsky, that by Figuères, Trotsky and Trotskyism [5] in a translation by Erna Gerö, who had led the Hungarian Party from July to October in 1956. [6]

Then I shall describe the two ‘closed’ (i.e. only available for certain circles) Trotsky selections of the 1980s.

Finally I shall recount the events of this year as regards the publication of Trotsky’s works in Hungary.

Szabó Laszló Zsolt


1. In March 1919 a joint Communist/Socialist Soviet republic was established in Hungary under the leadership of Bela Kun. It failed to tackle the land question in time and generally bungled the situation. It fell from power due to attack from White counterrevolution and the Romanian army, which wanted to seize Transylvania. Kun fled abroad and was finally murdered by Stalin (cf. Reader’s Notes, Revolutionary History, Vol.2 no.1, Spring 1989, p.50.

2. During the rest of the inter-war years White Terror reigned in Hungary under a Regency exercised for much of the time by Horthy, an ex-admiral in the Austro-Hungarian navy of the imperial epoch. Although an effort was made to preserve the outward forms of bourgeois democracy in order to gain western support for Hungary’s requests to revise the frontiers laid down a the Treaty of Trianon, Communists were systematically repressed, and on occasion jailed and tortured as well. The emigré tried to maintain contact from Austria where a large and well-organised working class movement continued to exist until it suppression by Dollfuss in 1934.

3. Trotsky was deported from the USSR to Turkey in February 1929, and spent the last eleven and a half years of his life in exile until his murder by a Stalinist agent in 1940.

4. Pressburg is the modern Bratislava, the chief city of the Slovak area of Czechoslovakia. Until the break-up of the Czech state under Hitler’s pressure in 1938-39 the Trotskyists there operated under conditions of bourgeois democracy. On 1 August 1930 Trotsky wrote to the Hungarian Trotskyists in exile in Bratislava congratulating them on starting up a magazine. See A Letter to Hungarian Comrades, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1930, New York 1975, pp.349-51. A further letter shows that there was also a group of Trotskyists existing in Hungary in clandestinity. See Another Letter to Hungarian Communists, 17 September 1930, ibid., pp.382-5.

5. Leo Figuères, Le Trotskisme, cet anti-leninisme, of which this is a translation, was published in Paris by Editions Soc in 1969, following the growth Trotskyism among the youth in 1968 and the discrediting of the French Communist Party during the events of the May of year.

6. Erno Gerö (1898-1980) was a ruthless Stalinist operator who probably functioned as a torturer for the GPU in Spain (cf. Revolutionary History, Vol.1 No.2, Summer 1988, p.55, n27). Khrushchev’s de-stalinisation combined with popular pressure to oust the Hungarian dictator Matyas Rakosi, he was replaced by Gerö, an equally unattractive figure. It was his AVH-directed provocations that led to the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution of 1956. Since this translation was done after he had been expelled from the Hungarian CP, and had gone to the Soviet Union, he obviously had plenty of time left on his hands in which do it.

Updated by ETOL: 13.2.2005