|Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...|
To avoid the problem of dual authority, Karolyi resigned as president of the National Council which promptly elected in his place one of his followers, Janos Hock, a Catholic priest and a popular orator. The skeleton cabinet that Karolyi formed included another follower, Count Tivadar Batthyany, as Minister of Interior and Marton Lovaszy as Minister of Education. The Social Democrats held two cabinet posts: Zsigmond Kunfi was Minister of Welfare and Erno' Garami, Minister of Commerce. Though the Social Democrats were only a minority in the cabinet, their influence on matters of policy was overwhelming. The party's strength was based on its popular appeal coupled with efficient centralized machinery. Its affiliation with the labor unions was also an important asset. In fact, it is safe to say that the government could not have existed without the Social Democrats, cooperation. [1.]
The Social Democratic Party's participation in the government removed one of the problems that plagued the March Revolution in Russia: the danger of dual authority. In Russia the investiture conflict between the Provisional Government and the Workers' and Soldiers' Soviet was a source of constant friction which contributed greatly to the Bolsheviks, victory in November 1917. In Hungary, the Soldiers, and Workers' Councils were closely controlled by the Social Democratic Party and, therefore, supported the work of the provisional government.
In Budapest, the Workers' Council began to be organized on the eve of the revolution. Elections to the council were held on October 30 and were conducted by union officials, who made sure that their candidates were acceptable to the socialists. The Workers' Council first met on November 2. It had a total of three hundred and sixty-five members, two hundred and thirty-nine of whom were elected directly d5 representatives of the factories and one hundred and twenty-six of whom. were delegated by the party and union leadership. [2.] The council acted as an extension of the Social Democratic Party, rubber-stamping those government measures that the party had approved. [3.]
The president of the Workers' Council was Dezso Bokanyi, an old Socialist and experienced labor organizer who was the head of the Masons' Union. Karolyi also appointed him chairman of the National Propaganda Committee, a position he was well suited for as the Social Democrats' ablest and most popular orator. [4.]
At the time of its inception, the Soldiers' Council was not subject to the control of any other party. Many of its members, however, sympathized with moderate or radical social democracy. In order to forestall a challenge to authority from this source, the Soldiers, Council was reorganized on November 3. Its new president was Jozsef Pogany, a former military correspondent of the Socialist newspaper Nepszava and a trusted Social Democrat. The council came under the strict supervision of the new Minister of Defense, the pacifist Bela Linder. The presidents of the Workers- and Soldiers' Councils acted as a liaison between their respective organizations and the National Council. According to government directives, however, none of the three councils had any executive or legislative powers; instead, their role was defined as "advisory ." [5.]
The important position of Minister of Nationalities was given to the noted sociologist, Oszkar Ja'szi, who represented the small Radical Party which he founded just before the outbreak of the war. Like the Social Democrats, the Radical Party had no representation in Parliament, but during the war years it had gained increasing prominence because of its avowedly pacifist platform. It was the one principle that gave unity to the party, which otherwise embraced a wide variety of views ranging from Marxism to laissez-faire liberalism. [6.] It was more akin to a political debating society than a close-knit political party like the Social Democratic Party. Most of its support came from the relatively small Hungarian middle class; its intellectuals were mainly Jewish, with whom the "historic class,, felt nothing in common. For this reason not a single aristocrat was among Jaszi's followers. [7.]
The serious problem of the nationalities fell on Jaszi's shoulders. Before the war, he had been a leading critic of Hungary's nationalities policy. He considered the suppression of ethnic minorities to be a national shame, indicative of the bankruptcy of the whole system. In a discussion of the ineptitude of public administration in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, he noted:
I do not discuss certain specific problems, since the crux of the matter can be found in the whole system, which is based on imprecise laws, on force and on class consciousness. [8.]
Because he attributed the minorities, ills to economic exploitations, he believed that the granting of cultural and linguistic liberty would satisfy them. [9.] In an essay entitled "The Future of the Monarchy, the Collapse of Dualism and the Danubian United States," written in the middle of 1918, Jaszi suggested the organization of a "pentarchy." By this he meant a confederation of the five nations in the Monarchy that had a separate historico-political identity--the Magyar, Polish, Czech, Croat and Serb nations. Jaszi saw confederation as the solution because he believed by 1918 that small, isolated states had become an anachronism. If they did not unite, he reasoned, they would have to lean on the Great Powers, and then they would be nothing but impotent buffer states. Within a confederate system he saw Hungary as a kind of eastern Switzerland. He thought the Magyar nation, by means of a natural economic and cultural hegemony, would be able to stimulate effective cooperation with the other nationalities if it would give up its feudalism and its senseless policy of assimilation. [10.]
After the collapse of the Dual Monarchy, Jaszi,s book was reprinted under the revised title, "The Future of Hungary." The text itself was unchanged, because basic principles, he asserted, remained the same. [11.]
As Minister of Nationalities in the Karolyi government, Jaszi believed that, since the new system was a democratic one, it would be possible to keep the nationalities within the ancient borders of Hungary. With his rational, scientific mind, he did not grasp that the feeling of nationalism defies all rational theories. He also disregarded the fact that the leaders of the various nationalities were already committed to secession. Jaszi's plan for an "eastern Switzerland,,, however, appealed to all parties in the National (Council. The Karolyi Party, perpetuating the liberal democratic traditions of 1848, saw Jaszi's plan as an updated version of Kossuth's projected Danubian Confederation. The Radicals gave their leader their undivided support. The Social Democrats backed Jaszi,s plan because it was international in scope, for Jaszi envisioned his "eastern Switzerland" as part of a larger Danubian Confederation, which in turn would be a member of a future United States of Europe. [12.] No doubt there was added to all these rational explanations an irrational reverence for borders that dated from "times immemorial.''
Jaszi's plan may have appealed to the patriotic Hungarian National Council, but it did not appeal to the national councils of the successor states. The latter were demanding large chunks of Hungarian territory. Regardless of their justification, their claims raised new, insolvable problems. Demands overlapped, but none of the new successor states was willing to moderate them in order to arrive at a just and amicable solution.
The Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak Government, Eduard Benes, declared on November 5, 1918 in Matin, that the Czechs would have to occupy Slovakia in its entirety because Bolshevism threatened Hungary and could spread from there to the West. He also suggested that northwestern Hungary should also be occupied by the Czechoslovaks in order to connect Bohemia with Yugoslavia. He argued that this way a strong barrier would be built between the Germans and the Hungarians. Benes also claimed that the Czechoslovak cordon would insulate the West from the threat of Bolshevism. Benes closed his argument by claiming that through Czechoslovakia the Allies were to become the masters of Mitteleuropa in place of Prussia. [13.] Though the United States and Great Britain were not willing to become active participants in east-central Europe, France needed little prodding to make the area a French llfitteleuropa. Benes' success in this respect was later acknowledged by the French High Commissioner in Hungary, Fouchet, who claimed that "the Quai d'Orsay was entirely in the hands of Benes." [14.]
The Hungarians saw the calls for occupation of Hungarian territories under the pretext of the Bolshevik menace as camouflage for imperialistic nationalism. Under such circumstances, Jaszi came increasingly to believe that renunciation of territorial integrity meant betraying the country to "all kinds of exaggerated imperialistic intrigues." [15.]
The portfolio of foreign affairs was taken by the Prime Minister himself. This was a very different arrangement from the cabinets of the other former Central Powers. In the new Germany Max von Baden or Ebert, and in Austria Renner were never their own foreign ministers. In the new Austria Otto Bauer occupied the Foreign Ministry. This gave these nations valuable flexibility at home and abroad. Karolyi's decision could be faulted because it made the prestige of the government dependent on Allied support. [16.]
The truth is, however, that in late October and early November, when the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest came under fire from several sources, no Hungarian government could have attracted popular support if it had not aimed to preserve Hungary's traditional borders. The Magyars, who were the most numerous and powerful of the nationalities in Hungary, believed that their only need for concern was the victorious Great Powers, which could perpetuate the permanent dismemberment of Hungary. For this reason, most people accepted the idea that the best way for Hungary to obtain favorable treatment was to be represented by a man whom the Allies knew to sympathize with the Entente. No one better fitted the role than Count Karolyi. His decision was therefore realistic and popular. The Budapest evening paper Az Est editorialized:
The Entente does not know and could not know anything about the new Hungary. It only knows that Mihaly Karolyi is Hungary's leader. It knows that Karolyi was always the knight in shining armor fighting for peace, justice and the rights of the nationalities and the Socialists. Now that it sees Hungary in his hands, it trusts Hungary as he hastens to establish the rule of justice and mutual respect. [17.]
The fact that the socialists cooperated with the "moderate" Karolyi and did not decide to form a purely Socialist cabinet was closely tied to the belief that Karolyi was the man who could liquidate the consequences of the war in the most painless fashion. Karolyi's weight as prime minister thus depended from the very first on his success as foreign minister.
Karolyi's actual involvement in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was very vague indeed, and was to serve as so much window-dressing for the revolution. The actual work of organizing the new ministry and the day-to day conduct of policy was the responsibility of the Secretary of State. Jozsef Diener-Denes. Diener-Denes, a socialist , had little experience in foreign affairs, but his acquaintance with foreign socialist leaders was considered an important asset. His deep-seated prejudices and suspicious attitude toward his colleagues made him a poor choice for such an important post. His foreign-policy program, which was endorsed by Ka'rolyi and the cabinet, called for a territorial settlement to be negotiated at the Peace Conference. Unlike other government officials, he was opposed to the use of military force to preserve territorial integrity until the settlement was reached. He thought that territorial incursions by neighboring states would be strongly condemned by the Peace Conference and saw no need to fight intervention. [18.]
On the afternoon of October 31, accompanied by the members of the new cabinet, Karolyi went to the Royal Palace to take the oath of office before Archduke Joseph It soon became evident, however, that the populace wanted a republic. At mass meetings in Budapest speakers demanded that the Government retract its oath. The November 2 issue of Nepszava published a declaration from one of these meetings, which protested against the fact that "the government should start its business based on an oath given to the King.,, It also claimed that the sovereign power of the National Council was founded on the support of the workers and soldiers and did not need royal sanction. [19.]
In response to popular pressure, the socialist members of the cabinet decided to retract their oath, but Karolyi and other members of his party in the cabinet refused to follow suit. Out of a deep sense of honor these men offered their resignation rather than break their oath of allegiance. Thus, on November I the new cabinet had its first crisis. Its collapse within twenty-four hours of its inauguration was prevented by Archduke Joseph. In response to a deputation consisting of Minister of the Interior Tivadar Batthyany and Minister of the Nationalities Oszkar Jaszi, the Crown's representative agreed to intervene and advise the king to release Karolyi and his cabinet from their oath of allegiance. The king acceded, but no republic was yet proclaimed as Karolyi thought that this could be settled only by an elected assembly. [20.] A fitting conclusion to the allegiance crisis occurred on November 2, when Archduke Joseph and his son went before the National Council to volunteer their oath of allegiance to this organ.
Following the crisis, the new government s task was to implement the pre-revolutionary program of the National Council. Its first objective was to end the war and reach an armistice agreement with the Allies. As early as October 28, the Chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff, General Artur Arz von Straussenburg, ordered his subordinates to begin direct negotiations with the Italians on an immediate armistice. On the morning of November 1, the Allies communicated their conditions. They included an immediate cease-fire and evacuation of Austro-Hungarian forces from certain areas which, in general, were identical with those promised to Italy under the Treaty of London. The Allied Supreme Council gave considerable freedom to the Italians, who pushed their own interests, partly at the expense of the Serbs. Besides this agreement, the Allies reserved the right to occupy "such strategic points in Austria-Hungary at such times as they may deem necessary to enable them to conduct military operations to maintain order." [21.]
The armistice was finally concluded on November 3 at Padua It was signed by the military representatives of the defunct Dual Monarchy. During the Padua negotiations, the Karolyi government protested and, fearing betrayal of Hungary's interest, claimed that only the representatives of a responsible government could negotiate with the chief Allied representative, the Italian General Diaz. [22.]
As early as November 1, the Hungarian government had denied the Dual Command's right to negotiate on Hungary's behalf. The new Minister of Defense, Bela Linder, in line with Karolyi's pacifist pro-Allied foreign policy, had even ordered the immediate recall of Hungarian troops from all fronts. The order further instructed all Hungarian units in Hungary or elsewhere to lay down their arms. [23.] In spite of all protests, however, the Allies considered the Armistice of Padua to be binding on both Austria and Hungary.
The second phase of Karolyi's program emphasized internal reform. Promised democratic laws were now promulgated. On November 16, the government issued a Hungarian "Bill of Rights." This document included a new voting law, prepared with an eye on the forthcoming elections for a Constituent Assembly, which was to meet early in 1919. [24.] Suffrage was extended to all males over twenty-one, who also had the right now to be elected to any public office. The same franchise was given to women over twenty-four. Another law, promulgated on the same day, introduced an eight-hour workday and a forty-eight-hour week. [25.]
The government prepared a series of tax reforms. On .November 8. a government spokesman, Pal Szende, declared that the country's tax burden was to be borne by the "capitalists." Excise taxes on petroleum, sugar, and wheat were reduced with the prospect of complete repeal in the near future. Szende also mentioned the introduction of progressive inheritance taxes. [26.] His program was widely applauded, and two weeks later the Radical Party official was appointed Secretary of State in the Ministry of Finance.
Organizing the Ministry of Finance required special gifts. New machinery had to be set up because formerly financial affairs had been conducted by a joint Austro-Hungarian ministry. In spite of his great talent and seemingly inexhaustible energy, however, Szende was never appointed minister of finance because of his Jewish background. Another Jew, Welfare Minister Kunfi, opposed Szende's promotion on the grounds that, with two Jewish ministers in the cabinet, there would be too many Jews in high position. [27.] It is not clear whether Kunfi's opposition to more Jewish ministers was motivated by external or internal considerations, or by both.
The fact that in March 1919 the Magyars accepted an almost wholly Jewish leadership may indicate that Hungarian public opinion had no specific objection to Jews in power so long as they were doing what was expected of them. There is no indication that Kunfi as Commissar of Education in the Bela Kun cabinet ever protested against its Jewish majority. It is more likely, therefore, that discrimination against Jewish Magyar leaders occurred primarily to please the Allies. It was in line with the basic objective of Hungarian foreign policy--to project the image of Hungary that would be most pleasing to the West. The repeated humiliation of Hungarians of Jewish background by Allied officials was proof that Kunfi's cares were not unfounded.
Anti-Semitism was on the upsurge in 1918-1919 in the West, where it often identified with anti-Bolshevism. [28.] Though it was not voiced as openly and in such justifiable fashion as anti-Bolshevism, anti-Sernitism was embraced by many Allied officials. Even such a prominent statesman as Winston Churchill could later speak of a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy. At the time of the Polish-Russian crisis he accused the Bolsheviks of bringing about an "international of Russian and Polish Jews." [30.] White Russian refugees in the West, with a tradition of anti-Semitism, helped to perpetuate this fear of an international Jewish and Communist conspiracy.
Well-publicised witch-hunts. such as the Overman Judiciary Subcommittee hearings of the United States Senate, helped to give substance to that fear even in America. In February 1919, witnesses testified to the subcommittee that the Russian revolution had been directed by EastSide Jews. [31.]
To keep Jewish participation in the Hungarian government to a minimum was difficult. If the best minds of Hungary were to be enlisted in government service, many of them had to come from the assimilated Jewish intelligensia. The two social groups that were best educated in Hungary were the Hungarian aristocracy and Hungarian Jewry. The suspicious attitude of the revolution toward the discredited aristocracy meant that many of the best-educated were excluded from government service. Indications of counter-revolutionary activities by such aristocrats as Andrassy and Windischgraetz deepened suspicions. The liberal and often radical tradition of the Jewish intelligentsia made this group especially welcome to the government. Because of the ever-increasing role of the Jews, French diplomats came to refer to the Hungarian capital as Jewdapest (Youdapest). [32.] The Foreign Office was also kept informed of the large Jewish participation in the Hungarian government. Sir Horace Rumbold, the British Ambassador in Switzerland, had even predicted the outbreak of violence and pogroms in Budapest as a protest against the Karolyi government. Similarly, a French agent informed his War Ministry that Karolyi had no policy of his own and that he was a puppet of Jewish socialists. [33.]
Land reform presented a special problem, because there existed no clear consensus on how the land should be divided: whether it should be given to the peasantry outright or merely rented out to them by the state. The Social Democrats with traditional Marxist suspicion of the peasantry were mainly responsible for the fact that no land reform law was promulgated until February 16,1919.
The law proclaimed the state's right to nationalize all estates over 700 acres in area. The former owners were to be compensated on the basis of the table values of 1913. In areas where the peasants were particularly short of land, the government reserved the right to nationalize properties larger than 280 acres. Priority in the distribution of land was given to poor farm hands, laborers and war veterans. The new owner was given the choice of leasing the land from the state in perpetuity or of buying it outright over a period of 50 years at live percent interest. The complicated law, drafted by the Radical Arnold Daniel and the Socialist Jeno Varga, [34.] contained 70 paragraphs. lts execution was the responsibility of the newly established Land Commission. Symbolically, the first and almost the only large estate divided up was Mihaly Karolyi's own. The hectic situation in March prevented more thoroughgoing implementation of the land reform, while about sixty large estates were seized by local initiatives. [35.]
There was no nationalization plan for industry as there was for agriculture. Faced with coal and raw-materials shortages and resultant unemployment, even the Social Democrats were reluctant to initiate such industrial reform. Before starting nationalization, they preferred to have normal production restored, arguing that the government should not take over "scrap metal.,'
It is remarkable that the Frostflower revolution was virtually bloodless and did not "demand its victims.', The only exception was, of course, the murder of Istvan Tisza. His death had a salutary effect on the course of the revolution, for it seemed to relieve tensions. A contemporary writer, Arpad Pasztor, summed it up eloquently:
The masses demanded a sacrifice. Now he lies dead, like a hero of Greek tragedy. [36.]
The aftermath of most revolutions-jacqueries and looting--accompanied the Frostflower revolution as well. As Karolyi later confessed, Linder's order to disarm had much to do with the uneasy internal situation. Karolyi hoped to prevent the return of armed men who might have become marauders and outlaws. This, in turn, might have threatened the stability of the government and occasioned Allied intervention. [37.] To prevent looting in Budapest, the Social Democrats organized union workers into "people-s guards,,--another indication of the power of the socialists. The guards were dissolved by the end of November as order in Budapest was reestablished. [38.]
All through the early days of November there was steadily mounting popular pressure to proclaim a republic without calling an election. Telegrams from all over the country gave evidence of the strength of the republican movement. Many local national councils called for the establishment of a socialist republic. [39.]
The only obstacle standing in the government's way was King Charles. The Hungarian government, however, was reluctant to end the monarchy without a popular vote. It was wary lest such a unilateral act trigger a legitimist counterrevolution. So a delegation was sent to the king to seek his abdication. The king, who had earlier renounced his rights to the Austrian throne, was willing to do the same for Hungary. On November 13, by the Eckartsau Declaration, Charles "renounced participation" in the affairs of state, declaring that he recognized in advance whatever form of state Hungary might in the future choose to be. [40.]
On November 16, both houses of Parliament, which had not met since the outbreak of the revolution, reconvened and "voted" to dissolve. On the same day the formal declaration of the republic took place in front of the Parliament Building. Nationalism and internationalism were symbolized by the Hungarian tricolor flying alongside the red flag. The mixture of ideas present in the new system was reflected in the official name of the new state: The People's Republic of Hungary.
The proclamation of the republic was greeted by an immense crowd in Parliament Square. Only a few representatives of the Ruthenian, Slovene and German minorities were present; the largest nationalities, the Slovaks and the Rumanians were conspicuously absent. [41.] Among the celebrants was a veteran of 1848. The keynote speaker, Janos Hock, beckoned him to the platform and declared:
That which you fought for seventy years ago. . . Hungary's independence, has been won. [42.]
|Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...|