Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hungary 50 Years On

Here is a piece on the reactions to the Hungarian Revolution and the Soviet invasion fifty years ago, from Saturday's Guardian. It's interesting to read how ideological rifts linger on when their immediate causes have long since died.

Daily Worker reporter Peter Fryer had been sent to Hungary to give first hand accounts of events.
Gollan [, the Party's new general secretary] had been reading reports in other papers and, MI5 recorded, "was particularly depressed by one about Russian tanks shooting down Hungarians. He called it blood-curdling. He expressed the hope that Fryer would be able to contradict that sort of thing ... These hopes were short-lived."

The problem was that Fryer (whom Campbell dismissed as "clearly out of his mind") completely contradicted the CP analysis that the uprising was a "fascist-reactionary" attempt to destroy socialism and restore capitalism. Two of his three dispatches were spiked and the third heavily edited.

"The events in Hungary, far from being a fascist plot, were a revolution by the vast majority of the people against the despotic rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy," Fryer wrote later. The Daily Worker played up reports of lynchings (mostly of the AVO secret police) and of communists being beaten to death. Fryer resigned and sent his letter of resignation to the Manchester Guardian.

Now 79 and in poor health, Fryer is reluctant to revisit these distant events. But Hungarian Tragedy, the book he wrote in 1956, still exudes the raw anger of a young man following his conscience to challenge party discipline. He went on to do much-praised work on race relations, but is still best remembered for his courageous stance on Hungary. "Peter's a nice man," says Max Morris, a neighbour in north London, "but he's an old-fashioned, unashamed Trotskyist". Old sectarian habits die hard.
Indeed they do.

If you're interested, here's a link to Fryer's book Hungarian Tragedy, including the preface from the 1986 edition.

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