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23 October

Tens of thousands of people joined what turned into a national uprising against Soviet control on the streets of Budapest, in Hungary, on 23 October 1956. Soviet troops initially withdrew from Budapest, but on 4 November they returned in a full-blooded invasion.

October 23, 2009
2 min read

The use of Soviet tanks to crush Hungarian workers provoked a crisis from which the international communist movement never fully recovered. The Italian Communist Party, the biggest in the west, lost 300,000 members in 1957 as a result of the invasion.

In Britain, where many thousands also quit the Communist Party in disgust, the party leadership took disciplinary action against the Daily Worker journalist, Peter Fryer, whose dispatches from Budapest were censored for being critical of the Soviet action. Fryer, who published his reports in the New Statesman instead, had his party membership suspended for ‘publishing in the capitalist press attacks on the Communist Party’.

‘That I am ostracised by the petty Stalins in the British Communist Party is of no consequence. What is important, and what must be stopped without delay, is their dragging Socialism in the mud.

‘The writing is on the wall for them. Once too often they have lost an opportunity to speak out in ringing words against oppression. This time their shame is so obvious that anyone who has not retired into a fantasy world can recognise it. Thousands of British Communists in these past few weeks have seen this sickening betrayal of Socialism by leaders who put their faith in T54 tanks rather than in the Hungarian people, who are prepared to spit on a nation’s agony and grief rather than venture even the mildest doubt about the infallibility of Soviet policy.

‘For many Communists this tragic betrayal by their leaders has brought a poignant personal dilemma, and they have resolved it by leaving the Party. Their decision is regrettable, for it strengthens the Stalinist hard core at a moment when the chance of removing them has never been so strong.’

Postscript to Hungarian Tragedy by Peter Fryer, first published December 1956 by Dobson Books

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