|Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...|
The formation of various national councils by ethnic groups in Hungary pointed the way to a final solution of the nationalities problem and the establishment of a modus vivendi. As early as October 27, a Rumanian National Council was set up in Arad and issued a declaration claiming self-determination. [1.] The Croat National Council, the Narodno Vijece, led a successful revolution in Zagreb. On October 29, the Slovene Anton Koresec, the Croat Ante Pavelic and Serb Svetozar Pribicevic, leaders of the National Council, solemnly declared the independence from Austria and Hungary of all the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The new government formed by the council aimed to effect the union of Croatia with Serbia and Montenegro. [2.]
On October 30, a Slovak National Council met at the town of Turocszentmarton (Turciansky Sv. Martin) and called for independence and union with the Czechs:
The Slovak nation is a part of the Czecho-Slovak nation, united in language and in the history of its culture. . . [3.] This declaration, regarded as a valid expression of Slovak will, was specious in two respects. False information, originating with Benes and Masaryk and relayed through Prague, was foisted on the council, which was told that, unless the Slovaks declared themselves part of the "Czechos1ovak" nation, the Allies would leave them under Hungarian rule. [4.] This threat forced the hand of even so extreme a Slovak nationalist as Hlinka, who, as he later admitted, "spread sails to the prevailing winds" and supported the declaration. [5.] Also the original declaration was soon superseded by a new draft which omitted the clause affirming the Slovak's right to send a delegation to the Peace Conference. When this falsified version of the declaration was printed, several delegates protested but to no avail. [6.]
On October 31, in the wake of the victory of the Hungarian revolution, Karolyi telegraphed the fraternal greetings of the Budapest National Council to the Slovak National Council. The Slovaks' reply of November 2 declared that "the Slovak National Council, having joined CzechoSlovakia, would welcome collaboration with the Magyar People's Republic on an international basis." [7.]
For Hungary it seemed that, like Kossuth's liberal 1849 nationality program, Karolyi's similar solution had come too late. By 1849, the Hungarian revolution had been vitiated by Austria's skillful manipulation of the ethnic minorities in accordance with its traditional policy of divide et impera. The 1918 Frostflower revolution was similarly weakened by the nationalities, opposition to Karolyi's aim of preserving Hungary's integrity. In 1849, Hungary was suppressed by the joint efforts of Austria and Russia. In 1918 the fate of the revolution was decided by the Allies.
The news of revolutionary tension and the subsequent victory of the revolution in Hungary was received with great apprehension by Allied observers. To some, the revolution seemed to be far to the left, heavy with the "seeds of Bolshevism.', From Switzerland, which served as the Allied window on Central Europe, the U.S. Minister to Berne, Pleasants A. Stovall, sent back anxious accounts of the situation in Budapest. On November 2, in a telegram to Lansing the Minister informed the Secretary of State that, besides the National Council, Workers' and Soldiers, Councils were being set up and bore a striking resemblance to the Workers, Soviets in Russia. He concluded:
To summarize, I greatly fear that we may witness a rapid movement towards extreme socialism, which will sweep away not only present forms of government and the dynasty but which will become a clearly defined Bolsheviki movement. [8.]
The "semiofficial,' organ of the French government, [9.] Le Journal des Debats. was also sharply critical of the rise of Karolyi. Though it conceded that as a man he was sincere, it believed that as a politician he was as hotheaded and chauvinistic as the other members of the aristocratic oligarchy. [10.]
Seton-Watson's The New Europe, which had an influence far out of proportion to its circulation, especially on British and American policymakers, [11.] was very apprehensive of the implications of the revolt for the nationalities. The editors feared that Hungary might be considered a "liberated', state by the victors. and the territorial claims of the ';oppressed nationalities,, ignored. The New Europe therefore warned the Allies that the Hungarian revolution was no more than a maneuver without real substance. [12.] The article adverted that the revolution was generated by the Magyars, whose responsibility for the war was second only to that of the Prussians. The tone of the article, an ironic tirade against Karolyi's new Hungary, reflected the fears of the exiled leaders of the non-Magyar nationalities, especially the Czechs. With some justice, Masaryk and the other Czech leaders considered The New Europe their propaganda organ. [13.]
Karolyi had the reputation of being a political leader who had consistently opposed the war. On the other hand, the Czech and other nationality leaders in exile unflaggingly supported the war because they realized that only an unconditional Allied victory could bring their plan to create Czechoslovakia to fruition. During the Karolyi-Wilson negotiations for a separate Austro-Hungarian peace, the Czech leadership, for example, made feverish efforts to ensure that the negotiation came to naught. [14.] As the war neared its end, the Czechs were demanding the severe punishment of Hungary to satisfy their own ambitions of creating a Czechoslovakia.
The victory of the Hungarian National Council and the introduction of its platform were anticipated by Colonel House. On October 29, the chief of Inquiry, an official United States organization charged with preparing plans for the Peace Conference, sent to Washington for presidential approval the revised version of the Fourteen Points. House reported that Point Ten was no longer valid because the rise of the successor states (Czecho-Slovakia, Galicia, German Austria, Jugo-Slavia, Transylvania and Hungary) was a fait accompli. House spoke of Hungary as being independent and very democratic in form, but governed by Magyars whose aim was to prevent the detachment of the territory of the nationalities that would "undoubtedly,. join some of the new states. [15.] House further recommended American support for the concept of national unity and independence, and a Confederation of Southeastern Europe. The following day President Wilson approved the program, though he insisted that final details must be ironed out at the Peace Conference. Recognizing the confused situation in Central Europe, Wilson felt that the "admission of inchoate nationalities to the Peace Conference', was most undesirable. [16.]
On November I , House received further instructions from the President on the fate of the former Austro-lmperial Army and its subjection to national authority. He favored the transfer of the respective ethnic units of the Austro-Hungarian Army 10 Czecho-Slovak and Southern Slav authorities. He thought that such a gesture would show the good faith of the Allies toward the new states. At the same time he called for more caution toward Hungary, though he conceded that even there, local control was preferable to foreign. Wilson's view on developing a sphere of influence in east-central Europe was negative. He favored non-intervention by the United States and hoped that the other great powers would follow the American example. [17.]
British policy makers adopted a similar policy. In the middle of November, the Austro-Hungarian specialist of the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office, Lewis B. Namier, outlined a policy of non-interference. He also saw the Hungarian revolution in a salutary light, as it promised agrarian reforrns. [18.] Balfour accepted Namier's views and on November 22, the War Cabinet approved non-intervention in the affairs of the successor states. [19.]
American non-intervention in the former Empire was especially significant as the policy was enunciated while the fear of an outbreak of Bolshevism in central Europe gripped Wilson's cabinet. On November 2, Secretary of War Newton Baker warned Wilson of the Bolshevik threat. Baker urged the President to make it clear to the new states being formed out of the Habsburg realm that the United States did not favor violent revolution, but rather wanted them to "observe orderly processes in these revolutionary days and refrain from acts of violence." [20.] Even on election day, November 5, the President's major concern was the threat of revolution and in a conversation with cabinet members Wilson spoke at length about the possibility of rebellions in Europe as a result of Bolshevik propaganda. [21.]
This fear of Bolshevism forced Wilson to act. In an appeal to the "peoples of the constitutent nations of Austria-Hungary that achieved liberation from the yoke of an Austro-Hungarian Empire,,' the President called for order with moderation, so that "violence and cruelty of every kind are checked and prevented, so that nothing inhumane may stain the annals of the new age of achievement." The message was conveyed by Lansing to Stovall in Berne with instructions that it should be turned over to the Director of the Committee on Public information in Switzerland, Mrs. Vira B. Whitehouse. Further instructions ordered that the appeal should be translated and given the "widest possible distribution." [22.]
Wilson's message was delivered to Mrs. Whitehouse on the morning of November 7. It was at once released in four languages: German, Hungarian, Italian and French. The language of the message and Lansing's instructions left little doubt that it was directed equally to all the nations of the former empire.
Its communication to those nations was difficult, however, because of the chaotic condition of the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian foreignaffairs apparatus. Minister Stovall furthermore did nothing to facilitate Mrs. Whitehouse's endeavor. Professional jealousy between the diplomatic corps and the C.P.I. often resulted in such sabotage on the part of professional American diplomats. [23.] Transmission of the message through Allied military channels would have been too slow to satisfy Lansing's order, so Mrs. Whitehouse had to look for other means to convey the presidential message. Her choice fell on the recently arrived personal representative of Mihaly Karolyi, Roza Bedy-Schwimmer.
Bedy-Schwimmer, as a leader of the National Feminist Association of Hungary, was in Switzerland in order to establish contact with Allied representatives, particularly with the Americans. She went as spokeswoman for the pacifist sentiment of women in Hungary, as early in November it was widely believed that peace negotiations would take place in neutral Switzerland In anticipation of the arrival of Allied leaders, Bedy-Schwimmer convinced Karolyi that she could also be his ideal representative in search for Allied recognition of his National Council. [24.]
Before the war she had gained world renown as a pacifist and feminist. In July 1914 she was living in London, serving as International Press Secretary of the International Suffrage Alliance and special correspondent for many important European newspapers. On July 9, 1914, the Sarajevo crisis had led her to ask for an interview with Lloyd George. At a breakfast meeting with the British chancellor of the exchequer and Liberal leader, the Hungarian lady cautioned that England was taking the crisis too lightly. She warned Lloyd George of the dangers of such an attitude and in no uncertain terms predicted an Austro-Serbian war with Europe-wide consequences. Though at the time Lloyd George dismissed her ominous prophecy, he later came to credit her as the only person he met during the crisis who was aware of the dangers inherent in the situation. [25.]
Bedy-Schwimmer was also personally acquainted with President Wilson and with Colonel House. She had met the President for the first time in September 1914, when she presented an international petition urging him to call a Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation between the belligerents. [26.] Bedy-Schwimmer soon afterwards met Mrs. Whitehouse at the American Women's Suffrage Convention, where the American suffragette led the isolationist wing of the movement. Bedy-Schwimmer was instrumental in having the convention adopt a foreign-policy platform demanding peace among the belligerents. [27.]
Her reputation as an ardent pacifist had been enhanced in November 1915, while she was on a speaking tour in the United States. At that time she had met Henry Ford, who was appalled by the carnage in Europe. He was determined to stop fighting "where 20,000 men could be killed within 24 hours without changing the position of the armies." Bedy-Schwimmer won Ford over to her idea of commissioning a peace ship with prominent American and international personalities abroad. This ship was to visit European ports at which the notables on board would make appeals to the European nations not in the name of the United States government but as representatives of the people. [28.]
Once Ford had espoused her cause, the Hungarian pacifist had another occasion to get in touch with President Wilson. She and the later Nobel Peace-prize laureate, Jane Addams, wanted the President to join with other neutral nations to set up a peace committee in The Hague. Its purpose was to make peace proposals and put pressure on the belligerents until a cease-fire was accepted by all warring factions. Though President Wilson could not officially endorse such endeavors, he privately favored Bedy-Schwimmer's efforts. [29.]
For Mihaly Karolyi, himself a pacifist, Bedy-Schwimmer was the ideal envoy. Her sincerity could hardly be challenged, while her personal acquaintance with the British Prime Minister, the American President and his personal representative in Paris, Colonel House, especially well fitted her for her mission. Once she had met Mrs. Whitehouse and had shown her credentials as Karolyi's representative. Bedy-Schwimmer was instructed to take Wilson's message back to Hungary. Entrusted with this task, the Hungarian became a C.P.l. agent, even equipped with an official pass.
Her orders included distribution of the message among the nationalities of the former empire. She was to have the message translated and printed in Czech. Slovak, Rumanian, Serbian and Ruthenian in addition to the trans-languages in which it had already appeared. The message was to be mitted to all newly constituted authorities and to all newspapers. [30.]
Bedy-Schwimmer left Berne on the evening of the seventh. After she had arrived in Budapest, Wilson's appeal was sent by courier to the national councils of Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Slovakia, Burgenland, Galicia, Poland, and Croatia. In a telegram to Mrs. Whitehouse, Bedy-Schwimmer reported the success of her mission: "The widest publication has been obtained." [31.]
Bedy-Schwimmer's mission was regarded in Budapest as a triumph for the Hungarian National Council which during her absence had elected her to its Executive Committee. It was not known to the Hungarian leaders that Mrs. Whitehouse's initiative was her own: rather, it was thought that the American government was looking on Hungary as a go-between among the successor states. After all, it was reasoned, it was the Karolyi government that had been put in charge of translating and distributing Wilson's appeal, and this indicated that Hungary was to receive preferential treatment, at least by the United States. The Anglo-American leaning of the Karolyi government thus seemingly received early encouragement. Karolyi's blind attachment to Wilsonism was strongly influenced by Bedy-Schwimmer's circumstantial role; Karolyi felt that his belief in Wilson was completely justified and he looked forward to close cooperation with the Allies. For this reason, Bedy-Schwimmer was asked to return to Switzerland as representative of the National Council.
On the very day Lansing cabled Wilson's appeal, Stovall reported new, disquieting news from Hungary. He spoke of Karolyi's cabinet as being extremely radical and thought that a step further to the left "could mean the acceptance of bolshevism." [32.]
Karolyi himself was very careful to heed Wilson's call and did his best not to alienate the United States' seemingly favorable attitude toward Hungary . Soon after receiving Wilson's message. the Hungarian government received an appeal from Lenin which applauded the revolutions taking place in the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Lenin's appeal to the peoples was a call to reject Wilsonism, which he termed a deception of the American capitalists. He reminded the German, Czech, Hungarian and Croat workers and peasants that the American, British and French forces were engaged "in a criminal war against the workers and peasants of Russia in order to force them to pay for the debts incurred by the Russian bourgeoisie and tsarism." Lenin warned that American promises of bread and butter were only a cover for such "criminal activities,,, and expressed his belief that Wilsonism would be rejected in favor of a Communist revolution:
Our unshakable belief is that the Austrian and Hungarian workers will understand that they cannot trust the factory owners, bankers and generals of any state: the laboring masses can be freed only through an International Proletarian Revolution.... We call on you, unite with the Russian workers and peasants. . .
You have stepped on the road of revolution, continue on this road fearlessly toward victory! [33.]
The Karolyi government was asked to print the message and transmit it to Prague and Zagreb. Lenin's message, however, was not released by the Hungarian government. It was only saved from oblivion by social revolutionaries who got hold of the appeal through a contact working at the government wireless receiving station in Csepel. [34.]
On the day that the People's Republic was proclaimed, the social revolutionaries dropped leaflets bearing the message from an aircraft into the crowds celebrating in Parliament Square. In the leaflet, Lenin's appeal was preceded by an accusation that the government was guilty of sabotage because "since November 10 it has kept the message secret from the Hungarian workers." [35.]
The incident forced the subject to be brought up at a Workers, Council meeting where the government was questioned about the veracity of the leaflet. The government representative had to concede that such a message had been received on the date mentioned, but declared that the authorities had the impression "that Lenin's instructions were satisfied, and because of the existing confusion, the radiogram was not published.,, He added that the cause of the delay was under investigation. [36.]
To Lenin and the Bolsheviks Karolyi looked like a Hungarian Kerensky. They regarded Hungary as the state ripest for a proletarian revolution. [37.] As far back as 1913, Lenin saw close similarities between Russia and Hungary, and considered that social and economic conditions were very much alike in both countries:
It is a well-known fact that Hungary is closest to Russia not only geographically, but because the absolute power of the reactionary landlord exists there also. [38.]
The Hungarian Social Democrats were anxious to counter Lenin's comparisons. On the first anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, Nepszava congratulated Moscow, but took time out to argue with Lenin that Hungarian conditions were very dissimilar from Russia's. In Russia, its editorial said, the percentage of industrial workers was higher than in Hungary. On the other hand, Russia's peasantry, unlike Hungary's, was politically unaware. For this reason, Nepszava concluded, the Hungarian peasantry would never submit to political dictatorship by the small industrial working class. [39.] Nepszava's observation later proved to be correct, for the Bela Kun regime was greatly weakened by the hostility of the peasants, who were unwilling to defer to directives from the workers of Budapest.
On November 20, when Lenin's appeal was finally published in Nepszava, the newspaper's commentator warned readers not to take Lenin's call for a Bolshevik revolution to heart. He reminded them that Bolshevism in Hungary would occasion foreign intervention, which would lead to the triumph of reaction. [40.] This prophecy, likewise, later came true.
The Hungarian Social Democrats strove to improve the country's international position through their connections with Western leaders. On October 29, Socialist Party leader Mano Buchinger was sent to Geneva to get in touch with the Czech and Slovak Socialists, who were attending a meeting of the Czechoslovak National Council with Benes. Buchinger's task was to impress upon the Socialist comrades the need for a less antiMagyar attitude by the Czechoslovak National Council. The future of Slovakia was also expected to be discussed.
On his way to Switzerland, Buchinger stopped in Vienna to meet the Czech socialist and former Reichsrat leader, Vlastimil Tusar, who by October 29 was presenting himself as the agent of the Czechoslovak government. Buchinger failed to persuade Tusar to recognize Karolyi's Hungarian National Council. On the second leg of his trip, in Zurich, Buchinger met other Czech socialists who were no less hostile toward Karolyi. The Hungarian then realized the futility of his mission and returned to Budapest without even reaching Geneva. [41.]
The first official foreign-policy statement of the victorious National Council was promulgated on November 2, when a call 'to the peoples of the world" reported the victory of the revolution:
The entire Hungarian people has just completed a pacific and victorious revolution, and, breaking the yoke with which it has been oppressed for centuries, has now formed a democratic and completely independent state. The Hungarian people energetically repudiates all responsibility for the war declared by its oppressors. Listening only to its own cry of conscience, it lays down its arms and desires peace. The proclamation went on to declare the equality and fraternity of all peoples within Hungary and without. It reminded the West that Hungary for a thousand years had been the "bulwark of Europe and Civilization.,' It called for just treatment for Hungary and for a guarantee of its territorial integrity. [42.]
The declaration was the first intimation to the Allies that Hungary's main foreign-policy concern was to be the preservation of its territorial integrity. It is noteworthy that, unlike statements by other ethnic councils, Budapest's declaration did not speak of Hungary's future role as a "bulwark,, against Bolshevism. This may have strengthened the fears of many that the Hungarians sympathized with the Bolsheviks.
While The New York Times did not report the National Council's proclamation and The Times of London printed it without commentary, Le Figaro of Paris paid it more attention. Le Figaro catered to the French middle classes and was reputed to reflect Premier Georges Clemenceau's position. [43.] In an editorial, the newspaper welcomed the victory of the revolution, but had reservations about the tone of the declaration. It acknowledged that it was easy to understand why the Karolyi regime should identify itself with the liberal revolutionary tradition of Hungary under Kossuth, but then questioned how much had been achieved since that time. 1t wondered how "the Hungarian people could change the color of their skin from one day to the next and be reborn according to the surest democratic methods." It rejected the notion of Hungary's equality with the other nations "who are still bloody from the war that the Magyars and their allies unleashed with such rare ferocity." The paper said that it was up to the Entente to decide under what conditions the Hungarian people, "who in the course of four years have given the greatest evidence of loyalty to the cause of war," should be absolved of their guilt. [44.] The tone of the editorial made it clear that now that the war had been won France was swinging away from the Wilsonian ideals and Hungary could expect harsh treatment from Paris.
Another Paris newspaper close to the government, Le Temps, printed the Rumanian National Council's response to the Hungarian declaration. The Rumanians called the Hungarian declaration a pack of lies and claimed that the Magyars were answerable for the war. The statement from Arad demanded the dismemberment of Hungary in accordance with the "ideals of Justice.,, This statement, too, was printed without comment. [45.]
Though no major foreign policy statement on the fate of east-central Europe was issued until late December, it was obvious that France favored territorially strengthening those states that could be counted on as allies. Since power meant territory, this presupposed breaking up Hungary. In contrast, Anglo-American foreign policy favored non-interference and self-determination, which kept alive the possibility that, with plebiscites and elections and with an acceptable nationalities program, Hungary could have been preserved whole. [46.] In November, then, foreign policy toward Hungary by the Big Three was becoming polarized.
|Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...|