|Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...|
The Allies had two weapons to contain this new and dreaded ideology. The first, already being tested in Russia, was intervention. This would mean using occupation troops to fight Bolshevism and, in fact, intervention to this end was already under way in Hungary. The purpose of the occupation of Slovak territories by Czechoslovak forces was to eliminate the threat of Bolshevism, for the Czechs insisted that Bolshevism only threatened from without, not from within. President Masaryk on his way to Prague was eager to prove this. ln Paris he declared that the Czechoslovaks were not afraid of communist contagion and cited as an example the fact that of 50,000 Czech troops in Russia only 218 had joined the Red Guards. [1.] Rumania claimed that Karolyi was using Bolshevik agents in Rumania to justify its intransigent attitude. The South Slavs, in the process of forming their own state of Yugoslavia, were also considered anti-Communist. British, American and French intelligence reports discounted any internal threat of Bolshevism in Yugoslavia and suggested that it existed only as an external danger. [2.]
Hungary seemed to be surrounded by states that claimed to serve as defensive barriers against Bolshevism. Their enlargement was argued to be in the Allies, interest. Conversely, the reduction of Hungary's size meant the reduction of Bolshevik danger. It is important to note that for this reason intervention against Bolshevism in Hungary began before the rise of Bela Kun's Soviet Republic. France's policy makers, in particular, favored this course of action, for it strengthened their potential allies in eastern Europe.
The second means to contain Bolshevism in Europe was more favored by the Anglo-Americans. They argued for lifting the Allied blockade, as they believed that it was creating unemployment, preventing economic recovery and fertilizing communism. [3.] When the Acting Secretary of State in Washington, Frank Lyon Polk, asked the President to make a public statement against the "growing menace of bolshevism outside of Russia," [4.] Wilson declined, explaining that "the real thing to stop bolshevism is food." [5.] The President held that aid ought to be supplied "not only to our friends but also to those parts of the world where it was our interest to maintain a stable government." [6.]
The French opposed this view. They feared that economic aid would revive the power of its defeated enemies. France's position was disapproved of by both the British and the Americans, and at one time Lloyd George accused a French representative of ranking with "Lenin and Trotsky among those who spread bolshevism in Europe." [7.]
After the Interallied Blockade Council had approved a plan to help the eastern European countries with food and raw materials, the Allies went on to set up an investigating commission to find out what the eastern Europeans' actual needs were. This interallied commission was under the direction of an American, Alonzo E. Taylor, an aide to Herbert Hoover, the chief of the American Relief Administration. Organized in Berne, it included four other Americans, two Frenchmen, and a Briton.
The Taylor mission arrived in Budapest on January 9, just in time for the government crisis. An Allied mission led by an American was thus especially welcome to Ka'rolyi and, in spite of the fact that its purpose was to gather information on the economic situation, the Hungarian leaders aimed to use the visit for political ends. Karolyi was the first to have an interview with the Allied representatives.
Dejectedly Katrolyi complained to the mission that he had been put in power in the belief that he could readily get in touch with the Allies but that in the last two months he had been unable to do so. This fact was weakening his position, he argued, and for this reason he was under attack by both extremes. The Social Democrats, whom Karolyi described as leaning toward Bolshevism, were asking for more offices, while the conservatives attacked him for being too radical. Alluding to the fact that Hungary had not been invited to Paris, Karolyi protested that it was totally unjust for Hungary's new borders to be determined at the Peace Conference without Hungary taking part and told the Allies that on this point he was supported by all political factions. 1n response, the commission took Karolyi to task because the Hungarian government had taken no steps to arrest communist leaders. [8.] The economic situation was not discussed until an evening reception that was given in honor of the Allied mission. Karolyi reported to the mission members the stringent new measures the government had introduced to save coal. Main-line rail service had to be cut to one train a day, and one train a week on branch lines. As for the food situation, Karolyi explained that in many parts of the country the potato harvest could not be brought in because the peasants had no boots or heavy clothing for
4 outdoor work. The most critical shortage, however, was of fats, Karolyi added.
While the American and, above all, the British delegate Sir William H. Beveridge listened sympathetically to the list of grievances, the French member of the delegation, Emile Haguenin, reproached Karolyi for using the mission for diplomatic purposes. He noted that, since no peace treaty had been signed, Hungary could not be recognized diplomatically. Haguenin dismissed the complaints of shortages, claiming that "whatever Hungary was suffering now, Belgium and northern France had suffered worse."
Karolyi found Haguenin's reply offensive. He dismissed as pedantry the comment that a peace treaty putting a formal end to the war was a pre requisite for diplomatic recognition. He pointed out that as Hungary had disbanded its army, it clearly could not fight in case of an unfavorable peace. Beveridge tried to soften the brunt of Haguenin's remarks by claiming that the Allies had no particular dislike for Hungary and were not making a deliberate effort to underrate it. He ascribed the Allies, lack of interest in Hungarian affairs to the fact that they "had many more important things to think about than the fate of ten million people in Hungary.,' For this reason, he argued, the Hungarians should wait their turn for the Allies' political attention. [9.]
The Taylor mission remained for two days. In its report it held that the food situation was less disturbing in Hungary that it was in Austria. The coal shortage, however, was considered very serious, for it was crippling Hungarian industry and creating unemployment that could make Bolshevik propaganda successful. The report noted Karolyi's pro American position but warned that his position was weak because of his lack of Allied backing. The report concluded that Allied support had to be given to the Hungarian government to insure its survival. [10.]
Sir William Beveridge shared Professor Taylor's view on Hungary. Upon his arrival in Paris Sir William went to see Robert Cecil, the Chairman of the Supreme Economic Council, and a member of the British peace delegation. During Beveridge's interview other British specialists on Austria-Hungary were also present, including Sir E. Howard and Harold Nicolson. In his report to his colleagues, Beveridge recommended lifting the economic embargo on Hungary and favoring an economic union of the east central European states. He also favored official contacts with Hungary and the delegation of a Foreign Office representative to Budapest. Beveridge even volunteered to lead a relief mission to Budapest which had the authority to enter into political negotiations with the Hungarian government. [11.]
On January 17, Beveridge sent a memorandum to Lloyd George, reiterating his impressions on the Hungarian situation:
It seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that in order to prevent a collapse of social order comparable to what occurred in Russia, the Allies must practically if not formally treat the war with all parts of Austria as finished and must give positive help in the reconstruction here To solve the problems of East Central Europe, the British economist recommended an equitable distribution of food, fuel and raw materials. He also stressed the need of the successor states to exchange supplies "without prejudice of political claims,, and "irrespective of any terms of military occupation under the armistice." [12.]
The response of Beveridge's superiors to his proposals that implied active support for Hungary was negative. Robert Cecil considered that political ties with Hungary were "altogether wild and injudicious," an opinion which was shared by Harold Nicolson, who was in charge of the Central and Southeast European territorial section of the British Delegation. [13.] In his memorandum on this matter, Cecil warned the prime minister that Beveridge's views were "not on the right lines and could not safely be pursued at this juncture.,, Though there is no record of Lloyd George's position on this matter, it is safe to assume that his influential secretary of the War Cabinet and of the British delegation to Paris, Sir Maurice Hankey [14.] spoke for the prime minister when he questioned why Hungary of all enemy countries should have official ties with Great Britain. Hankey favored, however, keeping abreast with Hungarian developments. [15.] 5 The prime minister's office thus reflected continued British non-interference in Hungarian politics.
The Hungarians profited little from the visit of the Taylor mission. Optimism in government circles continued since Sigray reported from Switzerland that the Coolidge mission was soon to visit Hungary. Hopes were raised by the fact that the Coolidge mission was an all-American undertaking. Archibald Coolidge was assigned by Secretary of State Lansing to "observe the political conditions in Austria-Hungary and neighboring countries.'' [16.] He was to report back to the American Peace Commission in Paris. Such information from diverse commissions became the basis for American policy. The commissions also served a political function since they were regarded as informal diplomatic missions by their host countries. [17.]
On December 26 Coolidge went to Switzerland to organize his team. In Berne he met Count Sigray who informed the American official of Hungary's position on the territorial question. He insisted that territorial solutions should be arrived at only through plebiscites, which should be supervised by countries that had no close interests in Europe, such as Great Britain and the United States. He insisted that France had to be excluded from involvement in them. Sigray told Coolidge that the Belgrade Convention was being flouted by France and the successor states. He mentioned the danger of communism which he said was becoming more popular because of the reversals of Hungarian foreign policy. He pointed out that Hungary had no forces to neutralize communism and that the presence of British and American forces in Budapest would greatly reduce the danger. He bitterly complained about the presence of the French military mission whose hostility to the Hungarians, he said, was conducive to red revolution. [18.]
Early in January the Coolidge mission transferred its headquarters to Vienna, and the Hungarian embassy there was informed that it expected to arrive in Budapest on January 15. The embassy, on instructions from the foreign ministry in Budapest, sent back a memorandum on what it believed the Hungarians should stress to Coolidge. Ambassador Oszkar Charmant advised Budapest to lay emphasis on the danger of Bolshevism in Hungary.
Our position is strengthened by the well-developed fear of the spread of Bolshevism, shared not only by the Entente powers but by the United States, which aims to raise a barrier against its spread by supplying food and consumer goods to the eastern European powers in dire need. [19.]
This ambassador's advice was no surprise to the Hungarian government, which was already resolved to impress on the Allies the Bolshevik menace to Hungary. The Hungarians hoped that by reminding the Allies of this very real threat the West would come to the aid of the Karolyi government. Captain Imre Csermak was sent to the neutral Netherlands in an attempt to influence the Allies. John Garrett, the United States ambassador in The Hague, looked on the Csermak mission as a mere publicity stunt, for he wrote to the American mission in Paris that Karolyi's representative had 65,000 florins for propaganda purposes:
From reliable information..., this man is attempting to take a prominent part in efforts now being made to impress the Associated Governments with the gravity of the Bolshevik menace. [20.]
The Hungarian leaders were convinced that this emphasis on the Bolshevik danger was the right line not only by the Taylor mission's preoccupation with communism but also by General Berthelot who visited Budapest in mid-January and inquired in detail about the significance and goals of the Hungarian communist movement. [21.]'
So important did the Hungarians consider the Coolidge mission that an ad hoc committee was formed to draw up a list of those whom Coolidge should see. The list included politicians and statesmen of every opinion inside and outside the government. It was hoped in this way to inform the Americans of the exact political situation in Hungary.
The Coolidge mission arrived in Budapest according to plan. They were welcomed by large crowds at the railroad station and posters put up by the government with a picture of Wilson that read: "We are for a Wilsonian peace only." When they met Karolyi, the Hungarian leader impressed on Professor Coolidge the American orientation of his government by reading to him the foreign-policy address he had made in December. [22.]
Zsigmond Kunfi, who also saw Coolidge, combined the two major possibilities and told Coolidge bluntly that Hungary had "two definite programs, Wilsonism and Bolshevism,, and that future developments would determine which was chosen. [23.]
In his memoranda to the American Peace Commission in Paris Coolidge reported the economic difficulties Hungary was facing because of the disregard of the Belgrade Convention. He emphasized that further deterioration of the economic situation due to the coal shortage would increase the government's difficulties. He concluded that the resulting unemployment would mean "a great danger of bolshevist revolution against a government which has no armed forces with which to meet it." [24.]
On the question of territorial integrity Coolidge noted that among politicians of all persuasions "there are almost no differences, except a greater or lesser insistence on the principle of a fair plebiscite and a willingness to abide by the result." [25.] Coolidge as an Inquiry member was concerned with territorial redistribution and sympathized with the Hungarian position.
While the Coolidge mission was in Budapest, another American visitor arrived--the chief of the Committee of Public Information, George Creel. His mission was to set up wireless receiving stations in Central Europe tuned to the C.P.I. news service in Paris. Arriving from Prague, Creel was welcomed by Karolyi. He listened to the Hungarian's complaints with sympathy and was surprised to learn that the Belgrade Convention was being ignored. [26.] Creel was much impressed by Karolyi and at a press club reception given in his honor, endorsed Jaszi,s pigeon-holed concept of a Danubian Confederation and expressed the opinion that Karolyi would make a better president of such a state than Tomas Masaryk.
At another reception, this one in honor of the Coolidge mission, Creel, too was present. Karolyi now approached him with a new complaint about Rumanian incursion at the demarcation line. Creel listened attentively and suggested to Karolyi that Hungary ought to alIy itself with Serbia against Rumania. He offered his advice with a view to the fact that Rumania and Serbia were embroiled in a controversy over possession of the Hungarian Banat. Creel suggested that Hungary should cede the Banat to Serbia in return from a Serbian pledge to help expel the Rumanians from Transylvania. Karolyi was taken aback by such an unexpected proposition and replied that any offers of alliance had to come from the Yugoslavs since they were the victors in the war. Creel then promised that, when he was back in Paris he would get in touch with the Serbians and urge them to contact the Hungarians on the subject. [27.]
During the time he was in Hungary Creel was otherwise busy setting up the wireless station and making arrangements for the establishment of an American propaganda press in Hungary. Because of the shortage of newsprint, however, he realized that the latter plan was impractical and sent instructions to the Prague bureau of C.P.I. to have all the Magyarlanguage material printed there. [28.]
Before he finally left the Hungarian capital, the American newsman sent a report to Paris offering his assessment of the conditions he observed in Budapest. In the report, Creel stressed the seriousness of the Hungarian situation. As a result of his friendship with President Wilson, he later claimed that it was in response to a telegram from him that the Council of Ten called on the successor states to refrain from military conquests and wait for the decisions of the Peace Conference. [29.]
On his return to Paris Creel decided to speak to President Wilson on Karolyi's behalf. His interview with Wilson took place on February 2. Creel told him that Karolyi's government was worth saving. He suggested that the President should insist at the Peace Conference that the armistice conditions be respected by all. Creel also suggested that a Presidential letter be sent to Karolyi, inviting him to send a delegation to Paris at the earliest date to present Hungary's case. The chief of the C.P.I. thought these two steps by the President would be enough to bolster the Karolyi government against all challenges, internal and external. Creel's proposals were presented in a written memorandum to President Wilson, [30.] but there is no indication that Wilson ever replied. It is clear, however, that the United States never took up Creel's second proposal and it is very likely that Wilson agreed with the American plenipotentiaries in Paris, who termed both proposals ''unrealistic." [31.]
Professor Coolidge, too, understandingly described the critical position facing the Katrolyi government. He emphasized the government's weakness and explained that Karolyi was able to remain at the helm despite the cabinet crisis only because of his immense popularity among the Hungarians. He reported that the new Berinkey government meant a new shift to the left. He also spoke of Hungary's plan of federalizing itself. Like Creel he thought it was in the interest of the United States to strengthen Karolyi's position by declaring that the armistice lines were not political frontiers, which could only be decided by the Peace Conference.
Charles Seymour, the chief of the Austro-Hungarian Division of the American Commission, took measure of Coolidge's reports. He praised Karolyi's federative plans as having great merits which would be in the best interest of Central Europe. He claimed that his opinion was shared by many. Nevertheless, he termed the project impractical noting that in Paris the representatives of the nationalities were hostile to the plan. The only thing the Americans could do, Seymour reported, was "to prevent the complete stripping of Hungary of all the economic resources which she requires."
In the final analysis, he voiced the need of informing Karolyi of the realities. He warned, however, that this could only be revealed in a piecemeal fashion; otherwise it would cause the collapse of the government and the rise of anarchism and communism. One way to wake the Hungarians from their dreams was to invite them to Paris, if not for participation, then for consultation. [32.] Seymour rightly assessed that such a traumatic experience would certainly make the Hungarians realize that Paris was not the forum for the international principles of Wilson. Implicitly, it was a recognition that in Paris high ideals lost out in favor of political expediencies. Fifty years later Seymour summed up these actualities:
But in a dozen spots along the Czech and Rumanian border the Americans were too polite or too timid to quarrel. The Americans were also unorganized as a group, so that their judgment was never effectively concentrated or forcefully exercised. Responsibility for failure in this respect was President Wilson's inability to organize and utilize the brains which were offered to him. [33.]
In contrast to the realities of Paris, the Council of Ten's decision on the border issue, coming soon after the departure of Creel and Coolidge, further encouraged Karolyi that his pro-American policy was bearing fruit. To try to improve relations with the Allies and in an effort to find a way to establish direct contact with the United States embassy in Berne, Karolyi recalled the Hungarian envoy, Bedy-Schwimmer, on January 18, the day a new cabinet was sworn in. The Times of London saw this as an admission of the Hungarians' failure to win feminist sympathies. Its brief report concluded that Hungary had "conspicuously failed in its object.', Bedy-Schwimmer was succeeded by a career diplomat, Baron Gyula Szilassy, who had been the Dual Monarchy's ambassador to Constantinople . The new envoy was accepted by the Swiss as Hungary's de facto representative. [34.]
Early in February, Katrolyi had another opportunity to display his pro-American stand. The government was eager to be represented at the Peace Conference, so it inquired of the American Commission whether Hungary was to be seated at the conference. In the hope of a positive response, Karolyi offered to let the American Commission choose the Hungarian delegates. [35.] Such an offer, which vastly compromised Hungary's sovereignty was wisely rejected by the American plenipotentiaries in Paris. [36.]
In the meanwhile, Karolyi went ahead with setting up a committee that would be ready to join the Peace Conference at a moment's notice. The new Foreign Affairs Committee, as it was called, was put under the chairmanship of Oszkar Jaszi, who drew up the main lines of Hungary's position to be presented at Paris. Jaszi would first put forward the concept of Hungary as an Eastern Switzerland which would be part of a larger Confederation of Danubian States. If the conference rejected this plan in favor of partitioning Hungary, Jaszi,s alternative was to offer two principles.
The first principle was strict adherence to the results of plebiscites in the disputed areas; the second insisted on the guarantee of freedom of trade between Hungary and its lost territories. If the Allies were to reject this second plan, Jaszi advised the government to refuse to sign a Peace Treaty:
If it is proposed to determine our fate by force, we will refuse to sign, appealing to the Wilsonian principles and to the higher sense of justice of the workers of the world. [37.]
Another of Creel's ideas, that of arranging a Yugoslav-Hungarian rapprochement, failed to materialize even though the Hungarians tended toward a pro-Yugoslav policy after Creel's departure. In an address on foreign policy given on February 8 Karolyi declared "that the two democratic nations could live next to each other in friendship and that their democratic spirit could win new strength from mutual help." [38.] In attempting to build contacts with Yugoslavia, the Hungarian government found itself on the horns of a dilemma: rapprochement with Yugoslavia risked antagonizing Italy, while conversely, Hungarian friendship with Italy threatened to arouse Yugoslavia's animus.
Of the two countries, Italy showed more willingness to develop closer ties with Hungary. The Hungarian commissioner in Fiume, Lajos Fulep, was informed by the Italian members of the Fiume City Council that in return for Hungarian support the Italians were still prepared to send occupation troops to Hungary to watch over the Hungarian government's interests. The Hungarians, however, were suspicious of any Italian occupation, [39.] probably because the Czechoslovak army occupying Hungarian territory was under Italian command. [40.] Furthermore, it was known to Budapest that the Italians attempted to woo Rumania by promising her parts of Transylvania that were still in Hungarian hands. [41.]
Early in February an Italian representative, the Marquis Tacoli, visited Budapest to offer Hungary a free port in Fiume in return for Hungarian support for Italy's claims to the contested city. The discussion was academic since Hungary had access to Fiume only through Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, Budapest continued these negotiations in the hope that they would secure Rome's support of Hungary on other questions at the Peace Conference.
In reality, Karolyi recognized the importance of ties with Yugoslavia. In a confidential letter to Baron Szilassy, the Hungarian President outlined his intentions:
In our interest, the only useful orientation is rapprochement with Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, however, we have repeated offers only from Italy. Karolyi believed that Hungary had nothing to gain from an Italian orientation, which he thought could serve only Italy's interests. He had to admit, however, that all Hungarian overtures to Belgrade had come to naught. [42.] however bleak the prospects, Karolyi encouraged his envoy in Berne to spare no effort to make contact with his Yugoslav counterpart. At the end of February a prominent member of the Yugoslav peace delegation, Kosta Stojanovic, finally approached Szilassy in Switzerland. The Yugoslav was highly critical of Hungary's relations with Italy. Claiming to have the approval of his foreign minister, Ante Trumbic, Stojanovic offered Hungary economic concessions if it would back Yugoslavia's claim to Fiume. Yugoslav rapprochement with Hungary was facilitated by the former's conflict with Rumania over the Banat. The Banat was occupied by the Yugoslavs in accordance with the Diaz armistice agreements and the Belgrade Convention. The Rumanians denounced both treaties and claimed the Banat for themselves. [43.]
To profit from the Yugoslav overture, Baron Podmaniczky, a state secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was sent to Trieste on a mission. Podmaniczky was to offer a partition of the Banat between Hungary and Yugoslavia. In exchange for Fiume, the Yugoslavs were to provide free access to the Greek port of Salonica. [44.] These proposals were seriously considered by the Yugoslav leaders, but further progress in this direction was frustrated by the collapse of the Karolyi regime in March. [45.]
The Coolidge mission was soon followed by a British military mission which, too, had its headquarters in Vienna. The Hungarians, encouraged by the friendly attitude of Messrs. Taylor, Coolidge and Creel, were determined to make a favorable impression on Colonel Cuninghame, the leader of the mission. The British officer reached Budapest on February 5 and was warmly received by the Hungarians. He was rather critical of the fact that the regime was divorcing itself from those whom he considered as moderates and he termed Karolyi's system "pink socialism." [46.] He also feared that further economic hardships and hostile attitudes of the successor states would create an air of despair favorable to communism.
Cuninghame as a military man was very suspicious of the Soldiers, Council and for this reason the president of the Council, Jozsef Pogany, took special pains to explain the difference between the Russian and Hungarian Soldiers' Councils. He stressed the point that in Hungary the Minister of Defense, Vilmos Bohm, had uncontested authority over the armed forces. At the same time Pogany warned Cuninghame of the communist danger, claiming that, unless there was a change of attitude among the Allies toward Hungary, it would go communist and "would set fire to a blazing trail of communism which would reach France and even Great Britain." [47.]
Bohm likewise drew a grim picture of the specter of Hungarian communism. He said that the encroachment on Hungarian territory by the forces of the successor states had weakened the socialists in Hungary to the profit of the communists. He advised Cuninghame that the deterioration of economic conditions and a further advance by foreign troops into Hungarian territory could provoke the declaration of a communist republic. The Briton replied that the rise of Bolshevism in Hungary and its aggression against Allied powers, such as Pogany depicted, would be crushed. In contradiction to the established hands-off policy of his government, Cuninghame ominously warned that if Hungary turned Bolshevik, it could expect no leniency but would be subject to general invasion by successor-state troops supported by the great powers. [48.]
When Cuninghame returned to Vienna, he gave his superiors a very grim report. He considered conditions ripe for a communist revolution. Like the Anglo-American visitors before him, he sympathized with Katrolyi. The British officer blamed the Czechoslovaks for the chaotic economic state of Budapest. He felt that not only Hungary but Austria as well was headed into a major crisis as a result of Czechoslovak interference. Cuninghame thus feared that the rise of communism in Hungary would spread to Austria. Concerned with the life of the erstwhile emperor in view of what happened to the tsar in Russia, Cuninghame visited Charles at Eckartsau in late February. During his audience with the former king of Hungary, Cuninghame recounted his experience in Budapest and his impression that Hungary would turn communist. He told the king that "there was not a dog's chance" that the Allies would do anything to rescue Karolyi's government.
The British officer, whose sympathies were royalist, warned Charles that communism in Hungary would endanger his life, as he lived so close to the Hungarian frontier, and advised him to move his court to a safer place. To point up the danger, Cuninghame asked Charles how he would feel if communist Hungarian cavalry were to cross the frontier and surround Eckartsau. To his astonishment, Charles replied that he wished it would happen but he doubted it ever would. [49.] It thus seems that even to Charles communism was preferable to the destruction of the frontiers of his former kingdom.
The Cuninghame mission, like the previous ones, had no executive power, and even though it prescribed the same cure for the ill of communism in Hungary, the Allies were unable to deliver it. American attempts to pressure the Czechs into selling coal to Hungary came to nothing because the Czechs insisted that coal deliveries to Austria prevented them from supplying Hungary. [50.]
While the Czechs were contributing to the rise of pro-Communist sentiment in Hungary, they were also interested in preserving their image as Bolshevik-fighters. General Milan Stefanik happened to be in Paris at the time of the Coolidge visit to Budapest. At Benes' request he called on members of the American mission and regaled them with tales of the Czechoslovak's heroic deeds against Magyar prisoners of war released by the Bolsheviks. [51.]' Just how much harm this kind of lobbying did to Hungarian interests is hard to say, but what is certain is that it did not help Hungary at all.
The blockade of Hungary continued even though Herbert Hoover, the chief of the American Relief Agency and a member of the Supreme Economic Council, expressed his disapproval of it several times, blaming it on the French. Finally on March 12, the Supreme Economic Council advised the Council of Ten to end the investment and heard proposals to set up a special Interallied Commission to deal with Hungary's economic plight. Serious discussion about lifting the blockade did not take place, however, until after the Karolyi government had collapsed. The proposals to establish a special commission for Hungary were rejected by the Supreme Economic Council on March 19.[52.]
While Hungarian officials were predicting communist victory to Allied visitors and talking about the international working class saving Hungary, the first attempts were made to enlist Western socialists in support of Hungary. They were made in the: wake of the international Socialist Congress, convened in Berne on February 6 and attended by 97 delegates from 26 nations. The aim of the congress was to mend the rift between the socialist parties and to effect a reconciliation. The agenda included discussion of the territorial question. [53.] The Hungarian socialists were represented by Mano Buchinger, Dezso Biro, Samu Jaszai and Zsigmond Kunfi.
At the meeting of the territorial commission, the Czechs took an altogether uncompromising attitude toward the Hungarians. While Buchinger presented the Hungarian position, which insisted on plebiscites in the disputed areas, the Czech socialist leader, M.V. Bechyne, rejected the plebiscites on the ground that the Slovaks were not mature enough to vote because they were under the influence of the Roman Catholic Clergy. At the same time Bechyne, who later became a vice-president of Czechoslovakia, also argued that the Slovak intellectuals wanted association with the Czech leadership. The Hungarians, reasoning drew the support of the British Labor leaders, Ramsay MacDonald and Arthur Henderson, and the final declaration of the territorial commission favored the Hungarian position. The declaration called for the settlement of territorial and nationality questions on the basis of self-determination, either by plebiscite or referendum. It also denied that territorial aggrandizement could be justified as the right of the victor over the vanquished. [54.] While the international congress was taking place in Berne, the Hungarian socialists were holding their own party congress in Budapest. The editor of Nepszava, Jakab Weltner, explained the support given to the Hungarian socialists by the majority at Berne by the fact that the Hungarians were the only socialists who were not splintered. Because of this unity the workers were always able to "oppose capitalist rule and not betray the principle of class struggle for a moment." Weltner claimed that this factor strengthened Buchinger's position in Berne, as he could declare with assurance that "the English and French comrades can shake hands with the Hungarian workers, as they have never associated them selves with chauvinistic slogans and warmongering." [55.] The declaration of the socialists in Berne was regarded by Karolyi as a victory and great publicity was given to the Hungarian delegates' speeches in all the Hungarian newspapers. On their return the delegates were welcomed at the railroad station like conquering heroes. [56.] The Hungarian government took great encouragement from the socialists' declaration, for it lent weight to the belief of many politicians that, if the Allied leaders abandoned Hungary, the Western working classes would still stick by it. This belief was a chimera and, even if the Hungarians took the Berne congress seriously, the policy makers in Paris certainly did not. After the congress ended on February 10, its executive committee took the socialist declaration to Paris. The committee did not succeed in seeing President Wilson, who left Paris on February 14, but did meet Clemenceau and Lloyd George who were given copies. [57.] Clemenceau paid little heed to its contents and advised the socialists to contact the respective territorial commissions and leave it with them. Not only were the socialists, representing the workers of the West, disregarded by Clemenceau, but Moscow, while claiming to wear the same mantle, also denounced the Berne participants. They called the socialists who endorsed the spirit of Berne "lackeys" and "social obscurantists." The Hungarian communists, likewise, concentrated their attacks on the Hungarian socialists for participating in the congress. They labeled them chauvinists and false internationalists bent on serving their own national interests. The communist journal declared: "The delegations in Berne represented their own states, but nobody represented the international proletariat." [58.]
ln spite of the communist harangue, the visits of various Allied missions in Hungary and the accomplishment of the Hungarian socialists in Berne seemed to revive the confidence of Hungarian leaders. lt rekindled hope that after two months of neglect, the Hungarians would receive positive responses from the Allies.
|Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...|