|Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...|
After Karolyi's cool reception by the French in Belgrade, new importance was attached to the message that Bedy-Schwimmer had brought to Hungary from Woodrow Wilson. On November 19, Karolyi decided to answer and appeal for American assistance. After enumerating the achievements of the Hungarian People's Republic, Karolyi complained about invasion by "foreign armies', which, he said, was threatening Hungary with anarchy. The message also asked the United States president to intervene on Hungary's behalf to have the Czech coal blockade lifted, because it was causing Hungary to drift toward economic catastrophe. [1.]
While Karolyi was trying to elicit a favorable response from the Americans, French Ambassador Jusserand was attempting to win Washington over to the French position. He suggested that Czechoslovakia, Poland and the South Slav state should be treated as the victorious Allies' equals, while Hungary should be dealt with as a defeated foe. France's disregard of the Belgrade Convention was reflected in the ambassador's references to a geopolitical entity that he called "Magyarie," an area "stripped of the Slovaks, the Rumanians in Transylvania and the Croatians.', Though such a state had never existed, French policy-makers wanted to make it one of the chief culprits for the war. [2.]
Hungary had no diplomatic representation in Washington to present its case, a fact that underlined the need to create a permanent diplomatic apparatus. As early as November 9, the Hungarian Council of Ministers had given permission to Secretary of State Jozsef Diener-Denes to organize a Hungarian diplomatic corps.
The first ambassador to be appointed was Ferenc Harrer, deputy mayor of Budapest, who was sent to Vienna. He arrived in the Austrian capital on November 14, accompanied by Diener-Denes. The socialist Diener-Denes was to represent the National Council and the Hungarian government at the funeral of the late Austrian socialist leader, Victor Adler. It was evident, however, that the real purpose of Diener-Denes, visit was to persuade the socialist leaders of the Austrian government to be cooperative with the "bourgeois,, Harrer. By now it was obvious that Ka'rolyi considered the social democrats an important asset in international relations. He hoped that they would build bridges to the socialists to act favorably toward Hungary. As for Harrer, it was hoped that through his participation in the Conference of the Ambassadors of the successor states it might be possible to establish amicable relations. The conference concentrated on common economic problems; territorial questions were excluded from its agenda. Existing conflicts of interest between the participants, however, crushed Hungarian hopes. [3.]
The appointment of a Hungarian envoy to Switzerland was much more controversial. Karolyi, much encouraged by Bedy-Schwimmer's earlier success as an "American agent," wanted her return to Berne. The fact that Laborite feminist agitation was gathering momentum in England weighted his consideration of the Hungarian suffragette for the post. Furthermore, England was about to go to the polls and Bedy-Schwimmer thus seemed to have connections with whichever party would win the election.
The majority of Karolyi's ministers did not share his enthusiasm for Bedy-Schwimmer. They argued that Karolyi was taking account of her popularity among the British and Americans without considering the host country. In Switzerland, where women's suffrage was not granted until 1971, the federal government was dead set against giving women the right to vote. The Hungarian Council of Ministers feared that the Swiss government might interpret the suffragette's appointment as a hostile act. [4.] The council thus rejected the appointment of Bedy-Schwimmer several times and only a personal plea by Karolyi finally swayed it to accept her nomination on November 18. The Hungarian ministers' fears proved to be justified, for the Swiss government declared Bedy-Schwimmer an undesirable alien and refused to recognize her credentials. [5.]
The greatest surprise for Budapest, however, was the apparent American disdain for the appointment of the renowned pacifist. The head of the United States Legation, Pleasants Stovall, frowned at Bedy-Schwimmer because she was Jewish and blamed Mrs. Whitehouse for being responsible for the Hungarian government's act. [6.] He also took steps to let the Hungarians know about "American., displeasure. Without instructions from the State Department, he asked the American "unofficial ambassador," George Herron, to talk to those Hungarians in Switzerland who could convey to Karolyi that he "send a real representative." Professor Herron was successful in getting the message through by talking to conservatives such as Laszlo Havas, owner of the Agence Havas, and to radicals such as the Hungarian publicist Ignotus. [7.]
The American press at home seemed to reinforce Herron's view. The New York Times devoted an editorial to Hungary's decision to appoint the first woman to an ambassadorial post. In a facetious tone it ridiculed Bedy-Schwimmer's past pacifist activities--a sign that, retrospectively, pacifism appealed only to the vanquished and not the victor. She was, The New York Times said, a "mistress of the middle and low diplomacy: an expert in the secret and public, the open and shut," the type of diplomat beloved by "writers of a certain school of fiction." The article censured her role in the ill-conceived Ford Peace Ship expedition and in that context accused her of swindling the automobile millionaire. Bedy-Schwimmer was compared pejoratively to Tallyrand, whose name in the coming age of "open diplomacy" had unflattering connotations. The long editorial concluded sardonically that the art of diplomacy was "likely to learn much from the feminine incursion." [8.]
In the face of this criticism the Hungarians decided to send out "semiofficial," government representatives to sound out the possibility of closer ties with England and the United States. Count Antal Sigray was sent to Berne to try to establish contacts with the Americans through his brother-in-law, the wartime United States Ambassador to Berlin, James W. Gerard. It was hoped that with the help of such an important connection Sigray would be able to work for a "favorable peace." Though he did not manage to accomplish this, he did supply the Karolyi government with valuable and important inside information about the attitude of the Americans toward Hungary. [9.]
Count Mihaly Esterhazy, on the other hand, had valuable connections in England through his mother, a British peeress. As a son-in-law of the Minister of Interior Batthyany and a former Independence Party parliamentarian, he had the deep trust of the Karolyi government. He was also sent to Switzerland to learn the disposition of England toward Hungary. Though Foreign Office documents do not indicate that he was able to make any important British contacts, he returned to Budapest with a report that had important repercussions. Although Anglo-American policy favored non-intervention in Hungarian political affairs, Esterhazy warned Karolyi that the Entente would prefer a more moderate Hungarian government. [10.] Closer to the truth, however, was Esterhazy's report of Bedy-Schwimmer's unpopularity in diplomatic circles. The life of the Hungarian ambassador to Switzerland was further complicated by the fact that, at Stovall's suggestion, Secretary of State Lansing ordered that only accredited diplomats could have direct dealings with the United States legation in Berne. [11.] l The effect of this was to close to Bedy-Schwimmer any channel to the State Department.
In view of the hostility toward the Hungarian ambassador to Switzerland, Karolyi began to reconsider his position and thought of sending Diener-Denes to Berne. This seemed especially timely as Diener-Denes had just been eased out of his position as secretary of state in favor of Ferenc Harrer, who was recalled from Vienna to take over. Esterhazy's report put a damper on this plan as well, for the President of the Swiss Federation had hinted to the count that the socialist Diener-Denes would not be permitted to enter Switzerland at all.
Esterhazy's account of the rising tide of conservatism among the Allies encouraged the majority of the Karolyi party to disassociate themselves from their leader's stand. They, too, considered him too radical. The split between the party leader and the rank and file culminated in Karolyi's censure in January. [12.] The majority's disloyalty to Karolyi owed much to the peculiar support he received from his followers. The members of the party came to support him during the war not because of his radical sociopolitical views but because of his anti-German and antiAustrian position. They continued to support him after Germany's defeat because they believed that they had no other choice since Karolyi enjoyed the Allies, confidence. Now that Esterhazy had reported Western suspicion of the Karolyi regime, these men decided to cut their ties with their leader. These developments eventually forced Karolyi to withdraw from his party and try to form a new party with those few who remained loyal to him.
Harrer's recall from Vienna on December 2 was occasioned by the fact that Diener-Denes proved to be a poor organizer, who also believed that the Czechoslovak intrusions should not be opposed on the grounds that injustices would be put right by the Peace Conference. The public and most ministers took a contrary view.
The establishment of a Hungarian Foreign Ministry became law only on December 15, when People's Law No. S was promulgated. This did not precisely define the functions of the minister of foreign affairs and left much leeway in setting up the foreign-policy apparatus. lt allowed the enlistment of Hungarian members of the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs if they swore allegiance to the People's Republic. This provision was strongly opposed by the Social Democrats who viewed the aristocratic composition of the former diplomatic corps with suspicion. Zsigmond Kunfi feared that they might not be able to understand the sociopolitical aims of the Hungarian government. The socialists thus favored attaching socialists to all embassies to survey the professional diplomats. [13.]
Diener-Denes' replacement, Ferenc Harrer, started work at the new ministry with great zeal, establishing five divisions and appointing a man to head each. The political division was under Count Imre Csaky, public administration under Bertalan Kallos, the legal division under Karoly Klusinszky, news and propaganda under Ivan Praznovsky and administration under Alfred Drasche-Lazar.
Difficulties in establishing embassies abroad persisted. Because of the war, Austria-Hungary had suspended diplomatic relations with the Allies, so there was not even a skeleton upon which the Hungarians could build their embassies. Because of the difficulties, Karolyi appealed to President Wilson on November 25, though his message was not received by the president until early January 1919. Karolyi's plans to exchange representatives were, however, not answered. [14.] In fact, the only country that established a formal embassy in Hungary during the Karolyi era was the Republic of Austria. [15.]
While Karolyi's foreign policy after the middle of November focused on securing American friendship, a new challenge threatened the Western orientation of Hungary's policy makers. In mid-November the Hungarian Bolsheviks returned from Russia and on November 24 formed a Communist Party in Hungary. The party was led by such experienced communists as Bela Kun, Jozsef Rabinovics, Tibor Szamuely, Ferenc Munnich and Matyas Rakosi, all of whom had already distinguished themselves fighting in Russia against Czechoslovak intervention. [16.]
The new party accepted into its ranks the loosely-knit Hungarian social revolutionaries whose self-styled leader was the young Otto Korvin. A small handful of extremists from the Social Democratic Party also joined the communists. The number of these former socialists was so small, however, that it can safely be said that the Hungarian Communist Party was distinct from the other European communist parties in that it was not a socialist splinter group. It gathered round organized, Russian-trained core groups that were outside the Social Democratic Party.
The secretary of the new Communist Party was the Hungarian communist leader in Russia, Bela Kun. Kun arrived in Budapest on November 17 with plans previously approved by Lenin, who envisaged his disciple in a role similar to his own opposite Kerensky. The Hungarian communists, aim was to show that Karolyi's foreign policy was bankrupt and that Hungary's salvation could come only from the rejection of Wilsonism and the acceptance of Leninism.
Yet the communists, too, favored the preservation of Hungary's integrity. They held that self-determination could not be achieved in a capitalist society and within a system that had reactionary aims. They argued that capitalism created an international proletariat, thus abolishing the meaning of nations. They reasoned that national self-determination would serve only the interests of the respective national bourgeoisies in their struggle against monopoly capitalism. They further claimed that the highest stage of capitalism, imperialism, weakened national consciousness even more. Thus a proletarian revolution that would destroy imperialism would also bring an end to the existence of nations.
The communist program was made available to the masses by the party organ, Voros Ujsag (Red News). This newspaper, first printed on December 7, maintained, for instance, that "there are no Frenchmen, Englishmen, Hungarians or Rumanians, only French proletarians and French bourgeois, Hungarian, Rumanian and English proletarians and Hungarian, Rumanian and English bourgeois." It denied the existence of nations under capitalism on the grounds that "national self-determination is simply self-determination of the ruling bourgeoisie." "Our slogan," the newspaper declared, "can but be the right of self-determination of all proletarians, regardless of language-- which means the dictatorship of the proletariat." [17.]
The communists, with their attack on self-determination, thus went further in defense of Hungary's integrity than Karolyi who hoped that, given the choice, the nationalities would vote to remain within a democratic Hungary. Karolyi himself did not escape attack from the communists. They called him an honest and straightforward man whose pacifism led him to oppose the war but who "sold the nation to Entente imperialism in place of German imperialism." [18.]
Not long after the arrival of the anti-Entente communists from Russia, the French supervisors of the Armistice and of the Convention also arrived at Budapest. The mission was organized in Belgrade by the commander of the French Army of the Orient, General Henrys. It was led by Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Vix, an officer of General Henrys, staff. The mission consisted of fifty-seven men-twelve officers and forty enlisted men. The mission was sent to Hungary in accordance with the Belgrade Convention of November 13. The orders issued to Vix, however, far surpassed the duties originally intended for a supervisor of the convention. In addition to the supervision of the arrangements of the Armistice and of the Belgrade Convention, Vix was ordered to gather intelligence reports in Hungary. He was to survey the movements of all foreigners. This task included the identification of permanent residents who did not originally come from areas of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Vix was to find out the reasons for their permanent status. Movement of these permanent residents abroad also had to be investigated. Vix was also asked to report on Austrian and Hungarian relations with neutral Switzerland. The surveillance of the activities of France's small allies, Serbia and Rumania, was also Vix's chore. Lastly, he was to recruit agents in Hungary, though he was warned that recruitment was to be done with utmost secrecy, since their intelligence work would deal with the activities of the Czechoslovaks and Yugoslavs and with the actions of the Rumanians in Transylvania. [19.]
The Vix mission arrived in Budapest on the evening of November 26 and was welcomed by Bela Linder, who was accompanied by a delegation of military officers and by members of the Ministerial Armistice Commission. The Commission was organized by the Council of Ministers and was to act as a go-between for Vix and those ministries that had some responsibility in the fulfillment of the clauses of the Armistice and the Convention. [20.] The Armistice Commission included representatives of ten ministries and the commissioners of coal, and of rail and water transportation. It was presided over by an army staff officer, Colonel Victor Stielly, who was present at the signing of the Belgrade Convention .2 1
On November 30, Stielly approached Vix with the first important communication of the Hungarian government. The Hungarians asked the Allies to occupy Hungary for the sake of avoiding disorder. [22.] This request by the Hungarians was consequently repeated several times during Vix's stay in Hungary. General Henrys was receptive to the request and called Franchet d,Esperey in Salonica asking him for Allied occupation. Henrys argued that this move was necessary to avoid a clash between the Hungarians and the Czechoslovaks, who were disregarding the Belgrade Convention by creating border incidents. [23.]
Apparently, General Henrys had not yet been informed of the fact that his government in Paris considered the Belgrade agreement as a dead letter. The commander of the French forces in Rumania, General Berthelot was better informed as he just happened to be in Paris at the end of November. On the morning of November 28, he confided to the Italian Ambassador, Bonin, that the Belgrade Convention was due to the clumsiness of General Franchet d,Esperey who was not yet aware of the details of the Diaz Armistice. For this reason the French government considered the Convention of no value and a de facto accord with local authorities. Berthelot, therefore, expected the outbreak of hostilities in Hungary over Slovakia and Transylvania. [24.]
The order of Hungarian troop withdrawal from Slovakia was transmitted to Vix on December 2. This French note was handed to the Hungarian government the-following day. The memorandum protested against the "occupation', of Slovakia by Hungarian troops, who expelled Czechoslovak forces that had briefly occupied the area in the middle of November. On receiving the note from Vix, Karolyi vainly objected that it was the Hungarians who had been driven out in the first place in flagrant disregard of the Belgrade convention. [25.] Though Vix was aware of Karolyi's logic, he had no other choice but to follow the instructions of his superiors and demand the Hungarians' withdrawal from Slovakia. [26.]
After the delivery of the memorandum, Hungarian public opinion, which until then had been friendly, began to turn against Vix and to regard the French Military Mission with hostility. The Hungarian leaders also came to believe that Vix was a heartless tyrant. This view of Vix was amply expounded in the memoirs of the Hungarian leaders and found its way into secondary works as well. The correspondence of Vix with his superiors, however, indicates that he had considerable sympathy for the struggling Hungarian government.
ln addition to his orders concerning Slovakia, Vix also received from Henrys directives that originated in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was informed that the Ministry did not recognize the Hungarian People's Republic and the Karolyi government. A few days later, Vix was ordered to treat the Hungarian government as a mere local authority without international status. [27.] These orders from the French government were received by Vix with dismay. He responded to his superiors by explaining the difficulty of his position as an oversee of the Belgrade Convention, which was unilaterally broken over the Czechoslovak question. He was also critical of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for withholding recognition of a government whose legal status could be justified in more than one way.
Upon the receipt of Vix's protest, General Henrys telegraphed the headquarters of his commander in chief in Salonika explaining the perplexing situation. Henrys complained that, as signer of the Belgrade Convention, he was put in an embarrassing position. He claimed that, in the light of the orders in contradiction of the Convention, the sincerity of the French was rightly being questioned. He further complained that the small allies of France were abusing the privileges accorded to them. He also reminded Franchet d,Esperey that Karolyi would resign if he were aware that his government was not recognized by France. Henrys voiced his belief that as signatory of the Belgrade Convention the Hungarian government could be considered the representative of an internationally recognized successor state. Furthermore, Henrys ominously warned his superior of the dangers that Karolyi's resignation would bring about. He forecast disorders that would force the recall of Vix from Budapest. To avoid such developments, Henrys called for the scrupulous respect of the Convention which would assure Karolyi's authority. In addition, he revived Karolyi's call for Allied occupation of Hungary to avoid conflict between the nationalities. [28.]
In reply to the complaints of General Henrys and Colonel Vix, Franchet d,Esperey sent some modified orders on handling the Hungarian question. Though Henrys was ordered not to permit Vix to negotiate with the Hungarians issues unrelated to the Convention, Vix was now authorized to accept Hungarian complaints and other communications, which were then forwarded to the appropriate authorities. Apparently Franchet d,Esperey received instructions on this matter from Clemenceau upon the advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry soon informed the Allies that France did not recognize the governments of defeated states but it did accept communications from them. [29.]
The Allied commander in chief also shared Henrys, apprehension about the possible collapse of law and order in Hungary upon the departure of Karolyi from the government. For this reason he called on Henrys to handle his relations with Karolyi with care and to be careful not to push Karolyi too far. Franchet d,Esperey was careful to explain the impasse in the Czechoslovak-Hungarian border question as he received no specific orders referring to a defined border. He claimed that such decisions had not yet been made in Paris. At the same time he noted that Henrys, request to occupy Hungary was rejected by Foch. [30.]
While Paris was still undecided on the outlines of the border question, direct negotiations took place between the Hungarians and the Czecho slovak representative in Budapest, Milan Hodza. [31.]
|Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...|