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(en) The Hungarian Anarchist Movement in World War I and the Budapest Commune (1919) - book criticism

Date Wed, 27 Sep 2006 19:31:38 +0300

Critical remarks on Martin Everett's brochure entitled War and Revolution: that
is chocolate for bourgeois, salt for proletarian -- Kate Sharpley Library 2006.
Prelude -- We received our common acquaintance's work from the comradely
publisher. We read it and saw that compared with the former scheme
fundamental amendments in the text were not taken. In the preface Everett
mentions that this theme is usually neglected by the movement just as the
broad sharing of experiences. The author did the same mistake because in
despite of that we had indicated our publications to him, he leant on the
ideological works of the bourgeois historians instead of the publicatons of
the anarcho-communist movement. Our critique, of course, is not driven by
pique or egoistic resentment but by the following problem: why the
approaches of class-struggle experiences on the basis of internationalism
are written if they are neglected, despised by proletarian activists. It's
Everett who, in his preface, writes about the nihilist attitude which results
in that "contemporary anarchist thought often appears subject to a form of
cultural imperialism". Thus instead of self-organizing centralization
regional movements which are divided by cultural-lingual federalism
paddling in the "capitalist Canaan". Everett also maintains and strengthens
the state of division of the movement when he writes up the episodes of the
history of our struggle on the basis of bourgeois patterns. The lay-out of his
brochure adopts the false, liberal approach of the book Anarchism in
Hungary: Theory, History Legacies written by the two Hungarian
politologist-Titans, Andr?s Boz?ki and Mikl?s S?k?sd. It's also truth, with
few exceptions, that in general he based his work on bourgeois sources. So
let's rake over the brochure.

About late 19th century anarchists

If somebody writes up the history of anarchism in Hungary in late 19th
century just on the level of individuals and groups it's not more than the
development of the "ideological history" of anarchism during the mentioned
period. If the author doesn't only play at being a historian but wants to
strengthen the proletarian movement then he should have written about the
general conditions of the working class in Hungary within "residual
feudalism" and expanding capitalism as well as the relationship between
these factors. He should have criticized social democracy, should have
emphasized that in this region it had affected the masses very massively and
should have written more about the social backgroud of the working class
movement. Instead of all these the author only mentions Andr?s Szalay's
group, but doesn't go into details about these comrades and doesn't criticize
the errant points (demanding general votes, liberty of press, etc.) of their
Then he begins to analyse the counter-revolutionary Tolstoyian-Gnostic
Jen? Henrik Schmitt's course of life, who was a bourgeois pacifist mystic
and was condemned to be an anarchist by the liberals because of his
anti-statism. It's as much as saying that Nietzsche was an anarchist, just as
Jesus or Buddha and all the other liberal faithfuls of capital were anarchists.
Forsooth? Ervin Szab? had already pointed out in that time in connection
with Schmitt's one lecture that "in my opinion it has nothing to do with
anarchism". Schmitt was a dilatory Gnostic, an anachronistic heretic who
would have been thrown to the other-world as a blood-sucker even in
Thomas M?nzer's time. Why is a left-wing mystic pacifist among the
revolutionaries on the pages of class struggle history? In fact there is no
"Christian anarchism" nor anarcho-capitalism in the reality lied to be
postmodern world order. Moreover anarchism has never confined itself to
opposing the state and still less to propagate pacifism. The proletariat have
to eject the priests of the class peace from itself! Anarchism is not the
champion of anti-statism but the dictatorship of theoretical-practical
dialectic of the proletarian world revolution over capitalism.
It's clear that Everett writes about V?rkonyi and his group but he should
have criticized this agrarian proletarian movement because of its eclectic
(religious, social democratic and anarchistic) features. The author writes
half-truth about S?ndor Csizmadia since as an engaged member of the
Social Democratic Party he had published a brochure against anarchists
about 1900, entitled Revolutionary Means and in this way had worsened the
opportunities of class organization. Popular protest-poet, popular social
According to Everett's view-point all the individuals and groups which
regard themselves as anarchist are to be anarchist. It's no doubt that it
comes from his indefensible ideological approaches which are very bookish.
He is totally uncritical in this question and thus becomes the propagator of
"anarchist popular frontist" ideas.
Class struggle view-point publications pertaining to this topic: 1. Andr?s
Szalay: About Anarchism, "Against Tyrants All Means Are Lawful", 2005.
June (Barricade Collective, website: www.anarcom.lapja.hu) 2. Radical
Socialists (Barricade Collective)

About Ervin Batthy?ny

The development of the relationship between the two revolutionary Ervin
Szab? and Batthy?ny is missing. Everett should have emphasized that
within the faint working class movement they had been among those few
people who, in their interactive connection, had been attacking the political
corps of reformism. Contrary to the authors' statement the journals entitled
A j?v? (The Future) and T?rsadalmi Forradalom (Social Revolution) were
not only financed by Batthy?ny but he was taking part in their establishing
too. Ervin Batthy?ny was an anarcho-communist activist who, in despite of
his frequent mistakes, was the militant of the proletariat under the
theoretical influence of Bakunin, Marx, William Morris and Kropotkin.
In details: Ervin Batthy?ny: Socialism and Anarchism, 2005. summer
(Barricade Collective, website: www.anarcom.lapja.hu)

About Ervin Szab?

The things written in the brochure about Ervin Szab? are mostly sound. On
the other hand Everett should have written more about Szab?'s scribal
activity, because in despite of his several divine realizations, due to his
undialectic historical approach he had often fallen back to social democracy.
The author doesn't mention that it was Ervin Szab? who wrote the
programme of the Syndicalist Propaganda Group. In addition he should
have focused more attention on Szab?'s theoretical activity and on the
history of his brake with social democracy. It should have been emphasized
that he had been one of those few people who "had been propagating the
sameness of Marxist communism and Bakuninist anarchism", and in this
question had been much more class-conscious than the average working
class activist. The working class movement in Hungary, be it remembered
that it was during the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, was under the
influence of the Hungarian social democracy and the latter was the copy of
the German social democratic movement. All because of these it's clear
why the comrades in Hungary were emphasizing the critique of social
Selected bibliography: 1. Ervin Szab? and the Syndicalist Attempst in
Hungary, 2006. summer 2. Ervin Szab?: Marx and Bakunin, 2005. June
(Barricade Collective, website: www.anarcom.lapja.hu) 3. Tibor Forg?cs:
Ervin Szab? et la R?volution In: La Revue Anarchiste 1922. no. 9.

"The anti-war movement", that is class struggle movement

In despite of that this chapter is developed more lively than the others
Everett is still very glacial and aloof. The whole text is based on the aim to
be objective. The author doesn't criticize and doesn't take up a positionon in
the question. It may be necessary for the historians, in the reports of the
Oxford Historical Society, to justify their "noble" existence, but it's
precious little from an activist. Everett writes very little about Kass?k and
his circle and mythicizes him because, contrary to the author's statement,
Kass?k hadn't organized strike at his age of 12 as well as we don't know any
of his works in which he declared this. Moreover Ervin Szab? was not a
friend of him. Therewith he polarizes the role of the journal A Tett (The
Act). Within the wartime atmosphere when most of the people were for the
war it was very important to publish a journal like A Tett and it's not
enough to declare that it was "idealistic". This statement is compendious
and simplificates reality. Several revolutionaries, earlier had come from the
Kass?k-circle, became organic members of the contemporary movement
and broke with the ideas of "revolutionaries of art, artists of revolution".
They finished with subjective idealism and aesthetical gestures.
But in Kass?k and in his circle had always been a kind of "overman
extraneous" attitude which watered down their radicalism. Kass?k's one
sharp-sighted critic mentions that he had never been able to escape from a
paradox situation: "he wanted to speak about the very historical-political
situation and its change but the artistical language what he possessed, due
to its expressive style and dynamics, pushed him towards generalities and
visions." In despite of that the bombastic style and high-keyed
expressiveness of the journal A Tett pushed them towards idealism it was a
brave act within the conservative wartime atmosphere to publish an
internationalist journal against the bloodshed. This internationalism was
not absolute, had pacifist features and in this way was not equal with the
class-consciousness of the Zimmerwaldists but their latter radicalism based
on this.
Apart form small mistakes Everett's historical representation is authentic.
On the other hand we have to criticize his point of view. In progress of time
the movement of Revolutionary Socialists can't be regarded simply as an
anti-war movement. Due to the radicalizing events from early 1918 in the
center of their activity was no longer the propagation of the slogan "Peace
or Revolution!" but they were demanding revolution. In their leaflets "Let
us do!" (1918. February) and "To everybody!" (1918. March), for instance,
which were free from circumspection (which earlier had been the effect of
Ervin Szab?), left-wing pacifism and opposed proletarian revolution to war.
So it's obvious that the members of Revolutionary Socialists, due to the
dynamic coming out of Ott? Korvin and further activists, were agitating for
the proletarian revolution from 1918. ("When the small anti-war
propaganda group of Galileists were arrested in Budapest, it was Korvin
who gathered some of us, young people, workers and students. He sought
out the connections with the proletarians of the factories and continued the
revolutionary agitation." - wrote Imre Sallai in the journal Proletarian in the
December of 1920.)
This group was not separated from its class. They formed connections with
shop stewards and workers' councils on their own initiative. They knew
only superficially the Bolshevik thoughts and these didn't affect them
seriously. Contrary to these they were affected very much by the behaviour
of the Spartakists and the revolution of Russia. Considering their
class-consciousness this group was one of the most brilliant party-cells in
that time which "did active propaganda and technical work" together with
thousands of proletarian militants. They were agitating among the soldiers
on the front lines, in the barracks, were organizing strikes in the factories. It
was the most conspirative group working in illegality, being under the
influence of the communist revolution of Russia and the proletarian events
of Germany. From this brochure, however, the representation of the activity
of the proletarians is missing. Instead of that Everett would have brought
back the vitality of proletarian self-organizing in the ironworks, mines, at
the schools, on the front lines as the revolutionizing masses, with ecstatic
delight, had been attacking the capitalist order he wrote up the history of
different groups. In this brochure the are only revolutionary montages and
the working class and the movement are separated from each other.
Further reading: Lajos Kass?k, A Man's Life?in the Proletarian Movement,
2006. spring (Barricade Collective: www.anarcom.lapja.hu)

The fall of the government and the formation of the Hungarian Party of

At first, a factual error: the republic was proclaimed not at 29th, but at 31st
of October. The agony of the ancient r?gime seemed to accelerate. This
period was marked by a strange matrimony within the movement: Kun and
his company brought "the spirit of Bolshevism", which was alloyed with the
anarcho-syndicalist/anarchist cell. Curiously enough, the "conservative
anarchists" usually furiously inveigh against the party, diligently throwing
dirt on the organizational level which hasn't been understood by them, and
at the same time they totally ignore the fact that the first communist parties,
in that area as well, were created with the effective contribution of the
anarchists. We would also like to draw the reader's attention to the fact that
the fusion of the HPC and SDP (which took place in order to maintain the
social democratic bourgeois power) had numerous opponents among the
members of the communist party. From Tibor Szamuely to Gy?rgy Luk?cs,
a lot of militants deplored this "centaur fusion" and expressed their
dissatisfaction - but the mad party discipline was stronger than the
consequent revolutionary activity. (We mention here, that the Western
class-struggle analyses, speaking about Szamuely, "forget" to tell about his
participation in the crushing of the SR-uprising in 1918, when a lot of
revolutionaries - who, according to the Bolsheviks, "rised against the
revolution" - were killed or imprisoned. We aren't speaking about the SR-s,
but about those Russian proletarians who opposed Bolshevism already in
In one of his excellent writings entitled Az ?t (The road), which deals with
the revolution of 1919, Ervin Sink? recalls the unification of the two parties
as follows:
"The news about the formation of the governing council and its
composition was brought by a people's commissar during the night. Some
of us decided that we will demand a governing council with purely
communist members. I didn't believe in the social democrats and I was
convinced that only the pressure of the situation made them decide to
support the dictatorship and to participate in it. I was afraid that during the
first crisis, the petty bourgeois Realpolitiker will stand out and they will stab
the dictatorship in the back. I agitated in this sense at the mass meeting at
23rd of March on the Parliament square which was called together on the
occasion of the two party's unification, and on the next few days in various
conferences and districts.
Of course, this behaviour created confusion, and most of the leaders didn't
like it. An old leader who was from the communist comrades (he is B?la
Kun - Barricade Collective), who had attacked earlier the social democrats
in the most spiteful way and now sat with them in the same governing
council, summoned me because of this agitation. The conversation took
place in the former royal palace, in a huge and lustrous hall, where the
people's commissariat of the comrade in question was situated. The
comrade spoke shortly and fast. He told me that the subversion against the
composition of the governing council means sedition against the
dictatorship, and this leads to revolutionary court of law.
The voice was so haughty and it differed so much from the voice which
was used in the communist party before the victory, that its unexpectedness
totally embarrassed me. I referred to the fact that I hadn't feared from the
bourgeois state's courts of law, so I wouldn't be deterred by the menace
with the proletarian court of law from struggling and working for the case of
the proletariat according to my own conviction.
- We don't have time now to deal with convictions, party discipline dictates
- that was the answer, and he added: - Now you can go."

The proletarian revolution in Hungary and the Bolshevik power

By limiting the events to Budapest, the author already starts on a false
basis. The revolution spread over the whole country. After the proclamation
of the Soviet Republic, divergences emerged soon within the movement.
The left wing of the party believed in the company of Kun, and at first they
didn't go further than making threatening critical remarks. The history of
the rebellion of the revolutionaries against Kun is less known, so it's
important that Everett treated this historical part in his work.
But he didn't deal in its totality with the essence of the differences between
the anarchists and those revolutionary elements who remained in the party.
The object of their polemic was exactly the question of the collaboration
with the state-party (Szamuely, Korvin, the Lenin Lads). The anarchists
criticized those who critically supported the Bolsheviks, who had never
broke really with the council power - in spite of this, the latter scorned
social democracy and critically regarded B?la Kun. The anarchists went
further, opposed every form of collaboration with the council power and
started to organize themselves against it. But earlier - though critically -
they also supported the power organs of the Soviet Republic. This can be
seen in the issues of T?rsadalmi Forradalom. The whole story bears an
uncanny resemblance to the history of the relationships between the
Bolshevik power and the Petrograd and Moscow anarchists, who played the
same role in Russia.

Continuation and closure

The author would have had to describe the proletarian revolution must
more vividly, with the Lenin Lads, Korvin, Luk?cs and his circles in it, and
with the whole series of events. More profoundly and exhaustively. The
writing does not contain the analysis of the revolutionary period's economy,
the description of the capital movement and its crisis, of the fall of
capitalism from a class point of view. It creates a one-sided picture - an
ideological map. Another error - another part of the analysis' weakness - is,
that the whole story focuses on the distinct groups as they fight their
factional struggles against each other. The movement as such, the masses
remain absolutely invisible. So the writing doesn't deal with the question:
why the Bolshevik tendency could success during the Soviet Republic, if
the anarchists had had such a determinative role before? It doesn't analyse
the role of Korvin and Szamuely. As we could see, it says, that they - as
"left communists" - supported the anarchists, but he doesn't speak about
the question, why they didn't break with Kun, who tried to do the
anarchists in.
The absolutely misleading use of concepts is related to this problem.
Everett consequently calls the Bolsheviks - communists, for him Korvin
and Szamuely are left communists, which has simply no reason. When he
uses the term 'Marxists' to describe the social democrats, this is also
inaccurate. It would be right to talk about 'social democracy', bolshevism is
a part of which. Or to clarify the character of that direction of Marxism
which he deals with, pointing out the subtle differences but organic
connection between "social democratic Marxism" and "Bolshevik
Marxism". On the other side, he would have had to show that the militants
who gathered around Kun couldn't simply be called Bolsheviks, which is
proved by their activity in the anti-war movement, by their polemics and
behaviour in the party, and by their participation in the organization of the
planned anti-Bolshevik uprising. So, these elements created the basis of
their revolutionary activity earlier somewhere else, and the HPC didn't
become homogenous during the Bolshevik dominancy.
The analysis of the Soviet Republic is totally absent. The critique of the
author is confined to pointing out the factional struggles of the period. For
example, the anarchists and syndicalists objected to the governing council's
extreme power, and he also mentions the land question and the problem of
censorship. Nothing else. But it is worth mentioning that Martyn Everett
breaks with the bad tradition of the stereotyped, demagogic
anarchist-picture, and in his writing, the Marx-oriented class struggle
militant and the anarchist element fuses to a certain degree. This tendency
in his views begins with the chapter about Ervin Szab?.
But Luk?cs appears in the text as an "ethical" Marxist. If we take into
account the harm, which was done to the movement by the mixture of his
correct insights and his Jesuit party discipline, than these are empty words,
even for this period. The communist tendencies of Luk?cs can be found
mostly in the years between 1919 and 1922, but these are no more than
tendencies. They express themselves in those analyses and polemics - and
in their effects in the movement - which deal with the dialectics of party and
class, of class consciousness and revolution. His so-called ethical Marxism
in this period is not just ethical Marxism, but he goes beyond it towards
communism, but gets stuck and rots into Leninism. Luk?cs got to know the
theoretical writings of Lenin and the Bolshevik politics in Russia, and
incorporated them, suppressing his much more radical insights - at the
expense of the movement.
Everett says no words about the cynicism of Luk?cs's cited article, in
which "our ethical Marxist" says that those who remained in Hungary were
"romantically overstrained", "engaged in adventurous day-dreaming", while
Everett himself writes, that the company of Kun willfully left them behind
and this way sentenced them to death, and those died, whom they most
wanted to see in coffin. About the statement, that Luk?cs sided with the
workers in 1956, we only say: that means, that Imre Nagy was also a
revolutionary. Luk?cs - as the reviving artery of Bolshevik democracy -
continued his capitalist politics together with Imre Nagy and his
companions. The statements about Duczynska are also untenable, since as
the former revolutionary girl gets out of the atmosphere of the revolutionary
whirlwind, she starts to vegetate and social democracy absorbs her more
and more.
Concerning the defeat of the Commune, the historical facts in the brochure
are correct, but maybe it's not the best way to finish the work by telling
where escaped the various survivors (although this is also important), but
by describing how the proletariat managed to reorganize itself in the period
of white terror, at the decline of the revolutionary wave. This also reveals
that the treatment of the author is untenable, it is made of spectacular
elements in the style of the boulevard press. We cannot find even the
smallest sign of an attempt to clarification. Everett's work is a historical
shadow play, it remains on the surface - so, it is related to the exhibitionist
bourgeois historiography. What we expected from a militant is radical
attitude and a work which points ahead, on which it is possible to build, to
swing further. We don't get these from this pamphlet. We hope that Martyn
Everett is committed to anarcho-communist struggle; but if somebody
turns the leaves of this publication, he/she enters to the usual working-class
movement sideshow of an ordinary historical study, where mirage and
illusion mix with proletarian reality. Comrade, really that was your aim?
Literature to read: 1. Spontaneous Proletarian Organisation During the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy 1918-1919. Barricade Pamphlets. 2. The
Anarchist Group of Budapest - History and two documents. Barricade
Pamphlets, 2006 spring. (Both are present on www.anarcom.lapja.hu.) 3.
Groupe Communiste Internationaliste: 1919 R?volution et
Contre-R?volution en Hongrie. www.geocities.com/paris/6368/.

Barricade Collective
2006, autumn
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