The anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution: October 23

It is truly sad to see how the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 is being "celebrated" by the alleged new revolutionaries. For the second year in a row, a group on the extreme right attacked the institutions of democratic Hungary, Molotov cocktails in hand, in the name of the revolution. The real culprits are not those ignorant youngsters who set fire to cars, turned telephone booths upside down, urinated in the middle of Andrássy Street, or attacked policemen with rocks and anything else that they found lying on the streets. The real culprits are those politicians who lead these youngsters by the nose for their own selfish political purposes.

Let’s start with the ignorance. In 2000,  Péter György, a literary critic, wrote a book about the fate of the revolution after the Russian troops returned, followed by János Kádár, who had just arrived from Moscow. (How he got there, we still don’t know. Maybe he was kidnapped, maybe he went on his own.) The title of György’s book is Néma hagyomány (Silent tradition). People simply didn’t talk about the revolution. Parents didn’t dare talk about it in front of their children; moreover, most of the parents didn’t really know about the reprisals after the suppression of the revolution. One might add that a kind of amnesia also set in, perhaps out of self-defense. Whatever the case, for this ignorance we are now paying a price.

To the "forgetfulness" one must add the propaganda of the Kádár regime. They claimed that the October Revolution was a counterrevolution that wanted to restore the Horthy regime or worse. According to the propagandists of the Kádár regime, the "counterrevolutionaries" were not just ordinary Horthy sympathizers but outright Nazis. The youngsters out on the streets in 1956 were nothing more than common criminals. The propaganda worked very well. A few years after the change of regime, well over 30 percent of the people still considered 1956 a counterrevolution. And even today, to my utter astonishment, I hear from liberal people bits and pieces of this leftover Kádár propaganda. They don’t go so far as to claim that it was a counterrevolution but rather choose to emphasize the few atrocities that occurred during those days. In fact, surprisingly few atrocities occurred, especially considering the political situation of the period between 1948 and 1956. It was actually a very peaceful revolution, if one can use such a mixed metaphor.

To today’s confusion on the left let’s add the very loud, right-wing so-called former revolutionaries. I have no way of knowing what these people did or didn’t do, but one thing is sure: there are more "revolutionaries" than one can count. Everybody and his brother received some kind of decoration during the Antall government. And these people can tell stories about their accomplishments, their bravery, their punishment, and their ruined lives. Maybe these stories are true, maybe not. But these people have managed to turn away a lot of well-meaning liberal or socialist Hungarians. When they hear "1956" they have already heard too much. They associate the revolution with these people. I can understand that.

And now comes the most recent culprit, the Fidesz. This party, headed by Viktor Orbán, has (since they lost the election) been telling their followers that the Gyurcsány government is not really democratic, that this is post-communism, that it is not Hungarian (what they actually mean is that the country is led by Jews), that this government can be "chased away," and so on and so forth. Then comes Mária Wittner, marketed as the "quintessential" victim of the revolution, who tells them that the revolution is not finished. Today’s youth is predestined to finish the revolution. Here is this ignorant crowd that knows nothing about the revolution. Perhaps they really think that they are destined to finish the revolution.

So, who is really responsible? The ignorant 2,000 or 3,000 people? I doubt it.