November 4, 1956
Stenographic record of a 4 November 1956 meeting of Party activists
KHRUSHCHEV. Comrades, we members of the CPSU CC Presidium have decided today to invite members and candidate members of the CC, members of the Auditing Commission, all ministers who are not CC members, senior officials of the Party Central Committee and the Moscow [City Party] Committee, and secretaries of the Moscow City rayon [Party] committees in order to inform them of the state of affairs in Hungary and other issues associated with it. That is the purpose of the meeting. Are there any other proposals?
VOICES. Very good. No.
KHRUSHCHEV. The CPSU CC Presidium has charged me with reporting this information.
SPEECH OF COM. N. S. KHRUSHCHEV
You know about the events that have developed in Poland and Hungary from the press. It is hard to say where these events began first because they came to a head simultaneously in both Hungary and Poland. The issues about which these events came to a head and also the methods of their organization were almost one and the same for both Hungary and Poland.
In Hungary events began to develop especially rapidly on 23 October and spilled over into a counterrevolutionary uprising against the government and the leadership of the Hungarian Communist Party, and spilled over into an unbridled anti-Soviet form, against the Soviet Union and against the Soviet Army.
Then the Hungarian government turned to Soviet troops for assistance and this assistance was given. Our troops were introduced into Budapest and took part in military operations against armed counterrevolutionary groups. A new government was formed in Hungary and Imre Nagy, a Communist and, it needs to be said, an old Communist, became head of it. Many other Communists joined the government, even members of the previous government of Hungary against whom there were strong hostile feelings.
Events developed quickly. The counterrevolutionary armed forces were almost suppressed by our troops; only one group remained that had not been neutralized, but it was the strongest. By agreement with the new government of Hungary, our forces were to have concluded their operations to liquidate the counterrevolutionary groups, but Imre Nagy objected to this and demanded that they not open fire against the group that had not been liquidated. He organized talks with the rebels, who came to the parliament. Among the rebels, they say, there were even Communists, part of them were workers who had been deceived, and many were students. They say that the organizer of this affair was some sort of engineer; some say that this engineer had been an officer in the Hungarian Army at one time and was even a Communist expelled from the Party at one time.
At one point it seemed that the new government was sort of coming to grips with the situation, somehow influencing the course of events, and taking control into their own hands. They asked that we withdraw our troops from Budapest, explaining that the withdrawal of Soviet troops would create conditions of trust in this government among the rebels and the people and give them an opportunity to guide events into a certain channel in order to preserve socialist achievements in Budapest. We did this and Soviet troops were withdrawn from Budapest.
But this not only did not improve the situation but, on the contrary, unleashed the counterrevolution further. The latest government, whose composition was announced yesterday, was the fifth or sixth. Revolutionary members, the most steadfast Communists, are thrown out all the time with each new government. Communists still remain there, for Imre Nagy himself also considers himself a Communist, but more and more it becomes those who were organizers of counterrevolutionary acts and instigators of the masses toward discontent. The reactionaries began to take over. As the reactionaries themselves then recognized, they did not have enough patience and restraint and they quickly began to reveal their true face; they took off the mask of defenders of the people and began a bloody terror. Murders and executions began, and Communists and honest workers were hung in the squares. They began with counterintelligence officers [chekisty] and then began to hunt for the leaders of the Hungarian Communist Party and the Hungarian workers' movement who were the most revolutionary and devoted to the cause of the Revolution.
The Communist Party of Hungary has been demoralized and disheartened by these events; they have turned out to be unable to fight. This was the result of the Party having obviously been poorly put together. It had 900,000 members among Hungary's 9 million population. You can imagine how many there were in this Party who were horse manure and bystanders [sluchaynyye lyudi]. Everyone and everything were in this Party, and therefore the rebels said that Communists also participated in the revolt they unleashed. But what kind of Communists were they? They were only counted as Communists because they had Party cards in [their] pockets, but essentially they were people who had no relationship with the Party and had essentially never been associated with the Party. At first they were against Rakosi, Gerö, and the others, then against the Soviet Army. All these elements sort of joined together under the flag of a national movement.
When we withdrew [our] troops from Budapest we agreed that the troops would withdraw only from Budapest, but they were quartered on its outskirts, [they] surrounded the city of Budapest, and were situated so that these forces could be used quickly when necessary. I have already said that the reactionaries quickly revealed their [true] face. When Imre Nagy began to throw people out of the government who were the most devoted to the cause of the Revolution, some began to flee from Budapest under the protection of our troops or went underground. Many who had the opportunity came to the headquarters of our troops. For example, the most important government leaders of Hungary were in the Main Staff.
[Translator's note: it is not clear what “Main Staff” Khrushchev is referring to. Normally only a branch of the armed forces has a “Main” staff. The probable command referred to may have been what later became the Southern Group of Forces, which would have had only a “staff”].
We in the Presidium thought a great deal about the situation in Hungary and were very concerned that the events playing out in Hungary did not spread to other countries. We were very concerned about Romania and Czechoslovakia because there are about 500,000 ethnic Hungarians among the population in Romania and about 400,000 or even 600,000 Hungarians in Czechoslovakia, located in areas near the borders. In addition, these countries have elements that were dissatisfied with the existing order in the people's democracies and who very much wanted to change it and return to the capitalist system.
In the CC Presidium we discussed the situation that had developed in Hungary many times. Of course, we had enough forces even in the first days to defeat the counterrevolutionary forces, but we thought that if we used armed force to brutally put down the rebels, the Hungarians would not understand this and it might end up that they would all unite against us. Events might grow into a national uprising against the Soviet Army and against the Soviet Union. In such an event, defeating the counterrevolutionary forces, even if they had not shown all their fascist nature, would have brought us very great political complications. There was no doubt of military success, because our superiority goes without saying. But another aspect worried us: the overall international situation. What also worried us was how our actions would be understood in the countries of the socialist camp and how they were assessing the situation that had been created.
It needs to be said that the mistakes that we made, which we made inside the country, were also carried over to countries of the socialist camp. In a number of cases, incorrect relations had developed between the USSR and these countries, which caused several even honest, devoted Communists to very much dislike our interference in the internal affairs of these countries. And not only for reasons of principle, but [because] the leaders of these countries were straightened out for even minor things. Unfortunately, this all occurred. Therefore we decided to consult with the leaders of the countries of the socialist camp.
When alarming conditions arose in Poland and a PORP CC Plenum was prepared, we were also very concerned about the events in Poland. The CC Presidium decided then to send its representatives to Poland to meet with representatives of the Communist Party of Poland and talk with them. You know from the press that four members of the CPSU CC Presidium went there. We held pointed conversations there. The nature of these conversations did not completely correspond with the communiqué that was published. It said in the communiqué that “the conversations proceeded in an atmosphere of Party and friendly openness [otkrovennost'].” About openness [otkroveniye] it can be said that we talked openly, but it was not the case at all that there were friendly conversations. However, we agreed with the Polish comrades to publish this communiqué. We wanted there to be friendship between us. Personally speaking, we went to Warsaw for there to be friendship. But when we talked there the expressions that were permitted, especially from our side, were often rude. I would say that we behaved rudely there since the alarming events in Poland were perceived very passionately and we assessed them in our own way.
When we met with Com. Wladyslaw Gomulka and other members of the PORP CC Politburo and held a very long conversation with them, we understood that we were nevertheless insufficiently informed about the feelings of Com. Gomulka and other Polish leaders and that we, personally speaking, are still living somewhat under old ideas of fraternal relations between our Parties, fraternal relations in which one brother is subordinate to another. But this brother now says: I have outgrown Pioneer pants and already wear long pants but you nevertheless regard us as if we were going around like little Octobrists or in a Pioneer group. We need to admit this. When we parted with the Polish comrades our relations were stretched to the limit. We told them all the time: you want to break with us, your actions are those which contradict friendly relations between Communist parties. We said that what you're doing will harm the Communist movement, that it puts our obligations according to the Warsaw Pact in a serious position. We told them that not just the Soviet Union was interested in the preservation of the Warsaw Pact, but also Poland, for Poland is no less interested than we. If the West or if militarist Germany attacks, then it will be across Poland. Gomulka looked at us, turned his head, and said:
Why are you telling us all this? We need friendly relations with you, we need friendship with you, and we understand all this. No Pole will raise the issue of the withdrawal of your troops. We, too, need your troops because they strengthen our positions. We also understand this.
We need to tell you that during our stay in Poland, military exercises were conducted by our troops that are stationed there and this was used by reactionary forces, which brought the mood of the people to a white heat. Gomulka requested that the troops not move any more and that they return to their camps and barracks. It was all done. When we left Warsaw two days later, Com. Gomulka called the CC in Moscow and said: Your troops have still not returned to [their] barracks, which I am very much requesting. But we had already decided about this beforehand and I told Com. Gomulka that there would be no more troop movements after two days and that all Soviet troops in Poland would be in the areas set aside for their disposition [according to the Warsaw Pact Treaty]. And it was done. The Polish comrades took all this well and told us that they would come to us in Moscow in order to discuss all pressing questions about relations between our Parties and our countries in a quiet situation. Not everything in the statements of the Polish leaders is acceptable. We assess a number of situations somewhat differently than the Poles but the CPSU CC members maintain the position that Poland had apparently survived the crisis, the assault from which it had suffered. And this needs to be taken into account. But right now the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party has taken hold of the state of affairs in the country, and is directing this movement and guiding it.
It needs to said that Com. Panteleimon Kondrat'evich Ponomarenko, our Ambassador in Poland, was poorly versed in all matters, and if several steps had not been taken during our delegation's trip to Poland, there would have been an enormous protest demonstration against our arrival. When we were in Warsaw the PORP Central Committee and Com. Gomulka personally appealed to the students, blue-collar, and white-collar workers to be at their proper places and not go out into the street, in order to give the Polish United Workers Party an opportunity to quietly hold the VIII PORP CC Plenum and talks with the CPSU CC delegation. The masses listened and no one went out onto the street to participate in anti-Soviet demonstrations. This indicates that there are other people and another approach here.
I won't talk right now about Com. Gomulka's speech at the VIII PORP CC Plenum; it was completely unacceptable to us since there were a number of positions there that cannot be called correct. In our conclusion, there is possibly something opportunistic, maybe, as they say, some expressions there are explained by an “inflammation of the brain” at the time; possibly he said what he himself did not completely share. We have talked to him about this. At the time we said that we mainly agreed with him and we could say anything against his speech as a whole, but all the same there are isolated incorrect and disputable positions in this speech. We said that we would not sort it out right then; life itself should make everything clear.
Com. Gomulka was planning to come to us with a delegation on 8 November. We later had one more meeting with him and agreed that the Polish comrades would come to Moscow in the middle of November.
Thus, we think that our subsequent work here should be to normalize our relations with Poland. Right now our position is that of support of Com. Gomulka in order to build normal relations with the Polish leadership, which is headed by Com. Gomulka.
Of course, it is easy to talk and condemn the current position of the Polish leadership. But the position of Com. Gomulka also needs to be understood, for he had been in prison for seven years until recently. In a conversation with him, Coms. Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Mikoyan, and I told him that we were personally against his arrest and that Stalin also was against his arrest. He looked at us, smiled, and said:
“Comrades, understand me. You're saying that Stalin was against my arrest, but that Boleslaw Bierut didn't listen to Stalin and arrested me. Could this really have been?”
I could not answer him that, of course, it could not have been. I said to him,
“Understand, there were different stages. We argued with and convinced Stalin that Gomulka needed to be kept in the Polish leadership and Stalin agreed with our arguments, called Bierut, and advised him to elect Com. Gomulka a member of the PORP CC and leave him in the leadership. This is a fact.”
But then, comrades, they arrested him nevertheless and he spent seven years in prison. This is also a fact.
It is very difficult for us to explain all this right now, of course. But we need to understand these people more deeply, put ourselves in their position, feel everything necessary ourselves, and build our relations with these people accordingly.
It's the same situation, too, with Com. Janos Kàdàr, the prime minister of the newly-formed government of the Hungarian People's Republic. He spent five years in prison and was arrested by Matyas Ràkosi. Of course, it's not easy to build relations with him now. He has been completely rehabilitated in the Party, was a very honest man, waged a serious struggle with enemies, and headed the underground Communist Party of Hungary. Then he was subjected to the most brutal torture and was imprisoned for five years. Now he is the leader, the premier. Except Ràkosi couldn't have done anything himself without Stalin. Can anyone deny this? We cannot deny it. It actually was so. This is a conglomeration of the mistakes of the past, this is a difficult legacy, and this is a terrible matter. Now we're disentangling ourselves.
So that's how, when the situation developed in Hungary, we decided that it was necessary to consult with the fraternal Communist Parties. We sent a letter to Com. Mao Zedong and wrote: A difficult situation has arisen in Poland and Hungary. We want to meet and exchange opinions. We want the Communist Party of China to send their representatives to Moscow. They named Coms. Liu Shaoqi and Zhou En-lai. The Chinese comrades answered us quickly: we consider such a suggestion correct and we will send you not one representative, but an entire delegation. And they sent a delegation composed of Com. Liu Shaoqi, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China; Com. Deng Xiaoping, candidate member of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo; Com. [Lu Di-ni], who handles propaganda questions; and Com. Wang Jiaxiang, chief of a Chinese Communist Party CC department. As you can see, this is a very high-ranking delegation, these are all senior Party officials.
The Chinese comrades spent a week here. We had several meetings with them and exchanged opinions well. They were very interesting conversations, useful both to us and them. We found out that the views and assessment of the events occurring in Poland and Hungary were the same for us and the Chinese comrades. We did not have different approaches.
It ought to be said that the Chinese are able to make their comments delicately. For example, they expressed their thoughts about the wave of anti-Soviet sentiments and our advisers in the countries of the people's democracies. They said they all are looking for how this occurred, that anti-Soviet sentiments surfaced in several countries. What caused them? Why do some demand that Soviet advisers be withdrawn? For these advisers help them, but they say, withdraw them. At first they express gratitude for the aid given, and then are dissatisfied. What's wrong? They say that everything needs to be looked at closely and the reason for such occurrences analyzed. Now, the Chinese comrades say, the countries of the people's democracies have grown up and changed. These are sovereign countries which have no small experience of their own independent development. They cannot be viewed, if one is to speak figuratively, as adolescents, that they are still going to school, but they have already graduated secondary school. This needs to be taken into consideration. But some of the countries of the people's democracies think that they have not just graduated secondary school, but are finishing a higher educational institution. We think that they are still in elementary school [oktyabrata]. The Chinese comrades told us this.
I think that this is one of the main aspects in rectifying our relations with the countries of the people's democracies. Hence the attitude was appropriate - they've begun to pull [away] on every occasion. Some leaders of the countries of the people's democracies say: Since we're the head of the country, an entire people, a Party, why are you our guardian, do you want to teach everything? Let us work ourselves without petty tutelage.
It should be said that earlier we exhibited this sin in very rude forms, but right now we still have not abandoned this ailment. We still have vestiges of this illness and we suffer badly from it. We will have to do a lot of work inside the Party to correct this situation.
During the time when the Chinese comrades were in Moscow, the counterrevolution in Hungary flared up to the utmost. We discussed the question of the situation in Hungary with the Chinese comrades a great deal and, it needs to be said, often took different positions. It occurred that we would take one position and the Chinese another, somewhat different from ours. The next day we came to the conclusion that the position that the Chinese were proposing needed to be adopted. and they were already proposing a new position. And this is understandable. We were sitting in Moscow, but the Chinese Politburo is in Beijing. They had the necessary communications with their delegation located in Moscow all the time. Thus, we discussed the Hungarian question several times.
You know that during this period a Declaration of the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics about the principles for the development and further strengthening of friendship and cooperation between the Soviet Union and other socialist countries was published in the press, which talked about the readiness to withdraw Soviet troops from Hungarian territory after suitable talks with the Hungarian government and other Warsaw Pact members. When we made this decision it was not yet clear to us when and how to withdraw them. It was not clear because we had no inner desire to withdraw our troops from there. To withdraw troops meant to give Hungary over to being torn apart by the forces of counterrevolution and give the Americans an opportunity to approach our own borders. This is what it would have meant.
On the day the Chinese comrades were to fly out of Moscow, we agreed to meet with them again. But it happened that they had still not yet received directives from their Politburo and therefore Com. Liu Shaoqi proposed meeting with them [Translator's note: nimi (them); probably nami (us) was intended] immediately before their departing flight. This meeting was held. At this meeting we firmly held to the position that we would not surrender Hungary, that we had decided to commit our troops there again and bring revolutionary order to Hungary, and crush the counterrevolution. We said this to our Chinese comrades firmly. It needs to be said that they had different opinions about this in their delegation. But when we exchanged opinions with them, they also came to the same conclusion. Com. Liu Shaoqi informed us that Com. Mao Zedong had called him and said that, in his opinion, under no circumstances could Hungary be surrendered and that Hungary needed to be fought for, since otherwise this would be a colossal loss for the entire socialist camp. When he told us about this during the last meeting, this question had already been decided in the CPSU CC Presidium. Com. Georgiy Zhukov had already been working on ensuring the fulfillment of this decision with troops. That's how the talks with the Chinese went, securing the support of the Chinese People's Republic.
Afterwards we decided that we also needed to meet with other representatives of fraternal Communist Parties. We decided to talk with Com. Gomulka and meet with the Polish leadership. When I called him, he initially received our suggestion for a meeting coldly. He declared that he could not come because was very busy. Then I told him that if he was busy then we could come to him. But he took this even worse, it needs to be noted. It would have turned out that this was our second trip to Warsaw. He didn't agree to this. Then I told him: let's meet in Brest or we can cross your border; you pick the place where we meet. He said that such a proposal suited them.
Having agreed in principle to a meeting with the Polish leaders, we in the CPSU CC Presidium chose a delegation composed of Cdes. Malenkov, Molotov, and Khrushchev. The Polish comrades chose a delegation composed of Gomulka, Ochab, and Cyrankiewicz. We held such a meeting. This time the conversation was quite open, comradely, and friendly. But during the talks, Gomulka, the Polish leader, nevertheless talked very cautiously. Of course, we did not disclose our own plans, but only said: Let's make a thorough assessment of where events are going in Hungary, for a real counterrevolution is happening there. The Polish leaders told us that, in their opinion, we should not intervene in the affairs of Hungary, since if we did, this would create incredible difficulties for them in Poland. We asked them:
“Well, what is it going to be? What are we going to do, look on quietly while bandits run loose in Hungary hanging Communists? How are they going to smother the Hungarian People's Republic?”
“If Soviet troops intervene”, the Poles said, “then the workers will not understand us.”
“When the workers understand everything, when they look at everything, it will then be too late.” We declared, “The Hungarian counterrevolution is terrorizing the workers.”
“The workers need to be supplied with weapons,” the Poles suggested.
To this we replied that if the Hungarian workers are supplied with weapons right now, the reactionaries would take them away. For if the reactionaries win, these weapons will be used against the workers themselves. This cannot be done, we said. Our duty is to help the Hungarian people and the Hungarian workers to defeat the counterrevolution right now.
We saw that we would not be able to reach total agreement with the Polish comrades on this question. True, we didn't expect that we would reach agreement. We wanted only to ascertain their attitude. They agreed that the government of Imre Nagy was traveling on the path of reaction, that a serious threat to the gains of the Hungarian working class has been created, that the Hungarian workers needed to be helped, and they should be given aid to arm themselves. Let them fight for weapons themselves, let the class struggle develop, and the class consciousness of the workers of Hungary arise and victory over the counterrevolution be gained as a result. If elections are held in Hungary, the Poles said, the Communist Party of Hungary would lose. They would get no more than 5-10% of the vote. We didn't deny this. Moreover, we said, if the reactionaries prevail, the Communists in Hungary wouldn't get 5% of the vote. This is a fact.
This is how the talks with the Polish comrades went. We parted with them warmly and they returned home. According to an agreement in the CPSU CC Presidium, we decided to consult with the Czechoslovaks, Romanians, Bulgarians, and Yugoslavs about all these questions. Com. Molotov returned to Moscow and Com. Malenkov and I were charged by the Presidium with flying to Bucharest where a Czechoslovak delegation was to arrive.
Coms. Antonin Novotny and Viliam Siroky flew into Bucharest. We had a conversation there with the Czechoslovak and Romanian leaders. There was no hint of a different understanding of the events in Hungary between us and the Czechoslovak and Romanian comrades. Both the Romanians and the Czechoslovaks displayed complete understanding of the entire importance of these events. Both they and others said that it was necessary to act decisively and act as soon as possible. The Romanians even declared that they would also like to take part in this business and send two divisions. I jokingly said to them:
“You have experience! For the Romanians made short work of revolutionary Hungary in 1919. Now what, you want to wage combat on another basis. This hardly needs to be done. It is necessary to decide here in principle, but military assistance is not needed.”
The Romanian comrades agreed with this.
I was somewhat disturbed about the situation in Czechoslovakia, but Coms. Novotny and Siroky told us that the forces of counterrevolution there wanted to expand somewhat, but the Czechoslovak leaders had taken tangible, strenuous measures and now feel strong.
The Romanian comrades said that students had wanted to organize a demonstration back in Cluj where there is a large Hungarian population but we, the Romanians said, sent our people there who beat some in the face, arrested 200 or 300 students, and had a good talk with them. Then they summoned the parents of these students and talked with them.
As Com. Gheorghiu-Dej related it, the conversation with the students went approximately like this:
The students were asked, “Do you receive a stipend?”
“Yes”, they said.
“Do you have a dormitory?”
“Yes, there is a dormitory.”
“Do the professors read you lectures? Do you study?”
“We study,” the students agreed.
“So study well. If you don't want to study, we'll give you a shovel, and you go work. When you get calluses, you're working well in production, then you'll understand life, you'll understand what democracy is and what studying means.” (Laughter in the hall)
“Well, how do you now understand what this means?” They asked the students.
“We understood, we understood,” replied the students. It needs to be said that the Romanian comrades did good educational work among the student with these conversations”
We told them:
“Watch that these thugs don't organize something for you.”
But Com. Gheorghiu-Dej replied that in Transylvania there are 2.5-3.5 Romanians in such big hats for each Hungarian.
Each will just hit [one] with a fist and then, he said, we will beat all such fascist thugs. (Laughter in the hall) In a word, the Romanian leaders are very confident in their strength and confident that the forces of counterrevolution will not be successful in getting organized there.
We flew from Bucharest to Sofia, to Bulgaria. Everyone was also incognito. We flew there and talked for four and a half hours with the Bulgarian comrades. The conversation with the Bulgarian leaders was like that with the Romanian and Czechoslovak comrades. They said that their volunteers wanted to take part in suppressing the counterrevolution in Hungary but it was too bad we didn't have a common border with Hungary. We told them that this evidently would not be needed.
The Bulgarian comrades said, “We have great excitement in the country right now.”
“Why?” We asked them.
They replied, “they've been broadcasting on the radio that Imre Nagy has declared a protest to the Soviet against the introduction of Soviet troops into the country. Therefore, they said, we have excitement. Evidently you will introduce your troops into Hungary and it means that the counterrevolution in Hungary will be halted and defeated.
Actually the Hungarians from the government of Imre Nagy had protested the introduction of Soviet troops but we had not given them an appropriate explanation, yet the troops continued to come in.
The conversation with the Bulgarians occurred at our place [Translator's note: presumably the Soviet Embassy] and ended very well. As they say, with complete mutual understanding of both sides.
On the same day, we flew to Pula and from there to Brioni to see Com. Tito, who was feeling unwell; he was sick. They had been expecting us in Yugoslavia a day earlier when were still in the area of Brest talking with the Poles.
The Yugoslavs organized the meeting with us very secretively. They set the arrival of our plane in Pula for nighttime. Com. Malenkov got so nauseous in the plane, even worse in the car, when we were driving along the back alleys to the port, and then on the launch to the island of Brioni. The sea was stormy. I said to him:
“Look how clear the sky is, how bright the stars are. Not like down here.”
“Yes,” he replied, “the stars are good!”
But I think that he didn't see these stars because he was sick from such a road. (Laughter in the hall)
We arrived at Com. Tito's. Coms. Rankovic, Kardelj, and Yugoslav Ambassador to the Soviet Union Com. Veljko Micunovic were already there. The conversation with the Yugoslavs lasted all night. I told Com. Tito:
“Maybe you want to sleep since you're ill.”
“No”, he replied, “we [SIC] didn't sleep even one night.”
Their mood was very indifferent. We had the impression that they had a big hand in the Hungarian events but, as they say, we thought one thing but it turned out another. We said this to them directly.
They probably were thinking of weakening Hungary's ties with us and strengthening their ties and their influence there. But when ties with them in Hungary were weakened, such forces came to power who were thinking not only about weakening ties but about breaking with socialist construction, breaking away from the socialist camp, and leaving the socialist camp. I think that this frightened the Yugoslav leaders and therefore they didn't sleep at night.
We asked them:
“What do you think? Is this a counterrevolution?”
“Yes,” they agreed, they didn't start to argue.
It was very dangerous for Yugoslavia to have a border with even one capitalist country and they obviously understood this.
Our conversation with the Yugoslav leaders went very well. We had no particular differences in the assessment of events in Hungary. But, of course, there were different shadings and some people had a different assessment. When the question arose of what the government in Hungary might be and who would be in the government, they named one name. I told them:
“This is a scoundrel of the first order!”
But he, this person, maintains ties with them. For us he is a scoundrel, but the very best person for them. I don't remember, but I sort of said that he ought to be hanged.
As a result of the conversation we and the Yugoslav leaders came to the conclusion that decisive action was needed and armed force should be used. The conversation there didn't go like it did with the Poles.
That's how the talks in Yugoslavia went.
Thus it was clear that steps needed to be taken to put down the counterrevolution in Hungary. The question now was to do this quickly. Political preparations needed to be made in order to rally the Hungarian Communists together, organize the workers of Hungary, and form a government which would actually be revolutionary and enjoy the trust of the workers and peasants.
When we informed Tito that Ferenc Munnich and Kàdàr had come to us, he said:
“If Munnich and Kàdàr have split with Nagy then Imre Nagy's government is finished. This is a reactionary government,” said Com. Tito, “Since Imre Nagy has ended up in the grip of reactionary forces.”
The Yugoslav comrades agreed that a triumph of reactionaries in Hungary could not be permitted. We talked with the Yugoslavs until 5 in the morning. We flew to Moscow yesterday. Even before our trip, the CPSU CC Presidium decided to conduct preparations for an attack on the counterrevolution in Hungary. Com. Zhukov thought that three or four days were needed to prepare the troops and two to three days to conduct the operation. Yesterday we held a meeting of the CPSU CC Presidium at which the final decision was made.
I think that we have acted correctly, having exchanged opinions with the leaders of fraternal parties and Yugoslavia. It would not be a bad thing if they found out about these events from the newspapers. Friends have told us: this is not only your affair, this is ours, too. We too are Communists and therefore we should not just be bystanders but we also want to take an active part in the measures which you are carrying out and which affect the entire revolutionary movement. We have performed this duty. This was taken very well by our comrades for we had never asked their advice before.
Yesterday the plan of operations was finished and approved, the Hungarian comrades created a Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government, and all the documents were prepared. I don't know whether you have read the Appeal of the government headed by Com. Kàdàr or heard it on the radio.
VOICES FROM AROUND THE HALL: We've heard it! They broadcast it on the radio several times; they've been broadcasting it all day.
KHRUSHCHEV. So you don't need it read?
VOICES FROM AROUND THE HALL: We've heard it, it's not necessary.
KHRUSHCHEV. Have you read the open letter of the four?
VOICES FROM AROUND THE HALL: We've heard it on the radio. We didn't hear it all. It needs to be read aloud.
KHRUSHCHEV. It is a very interesting document. When we exchanged opinions with Com. Kadar we expressed the idea that it would be good if he and his comrades would appeal to the workers and peasants of Hungary and explain why they had broken off ties with the government of Imre Nagy. They found good words and wrote an open letter to the Hungarian workers. I'll read this letter.
“Our compatriots! Brother workers and peasants!
We ministers and former members of the government of Imre Nagy, Antal Aprò, Jànos Kàdàr, Istàn Kossa, and Ferenc Munnich, declare that on 1 November 1956, having broken off all ties with this government, we have left the government and have taken the initiative of creating the Hungarian Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government.
The awareness that the government of Imre Nagy has come under pressure from reactionaries and become powerless prompted us to take this serious step. We had no other opportunity to resist the counterrevolutionary danger that is manifesting itself more and more and threatening the destruction of our People's Republic, workers' and peasants' power, and our socialist achievements.
They [the reactionaries and counterrevolutionaries] have killed our respected fighters of the working class who fought for decades: Imre Mezö, Secretary of the Greater Budapest Party Committee; Com. Kalmar, a senior fighter of the worker's movement in Csepel; and Sàndor Sziklai, Director of the Museum of Military History. Besides these, they have killed others en masse, all of them respected sons of the working class and peasantry.
As members of a government that has lost the ability to act, we cannot regard with indifference the fact that under the cover of democracy the counterrevolutionary terrorists and bandits have viciously killed the best brothers of the workers and peasants, kept peaceful citizens in fear, created anarchy in the country, and for a long time have placed all our people under the yoke of counterrevolution.
Hungarian workers, compatriots, our brother workers, comrades!
We have decided that we will fight with all our strength against the threatening danger of reaction, fascism, and bands of murderers of the people
We call upon all loyal sons of our People's Republic, all supporters of socialism, Communists, workers, miners, the best sons of the peasantry and intelligentsia first of all, to support all measures of the Hungarian Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government and the entire popular liberation struggle.
This is a very good and necessary open letter. We think that the published appeal of the government that the Hungarian comrades have written is also good. The composition of the government that has been formed, headed by Com. Kàdàr, is good in our opinion. Of course, this government needs to be given all possible aid and we will give it.
VOICE. Who is in the government besides Communists?
KHRUSHCHEV. The Hungarian Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government that has been formed consists of Communists. Right now the government is incomplete. It is intended to recruit non-Party people into it. The Hungarian comrades themselves will do this in the very near future.
MIKHAIL SUSLOV. There are two former Social Democrats in the government.
KHRUSHCHEV. Yesterday I met with Com. Kàdàr for the first time. He made a good impression on me. He is a worker himself. When the Hungarian comrades were discussing the question of appointing Com. Kàdàr as premier he said: The workers and miners know me. I am confident of their support, but the peasants do not know me well. Will they support me? During an exchange of opinions everyone said that a Hungarian government headed by Com. Kàdàr would also be supported by the peasants if the government pursued well a policy in the interests of the working class and peasantry.
In the Appeal of the Hungarian Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government that was adopted by the Hungarian comrades, there are places about which I would like to express my opinion. The Appeal harshly condemns Ràkosi and Gerö, and their leadership is called a clique. Some comrades might not agree with such an assessment, thinking that it is too harsh, that it results from a broad generalization. Some might say that in accepting such an assessment we are condemning the 12-year phase through which Hungary, has traveled, throwing out everything that was done under the leadership of Rakosi and Gerö.
I think that the question cannot be posed this way. We are not throwing out the gains of the people's democratic system in Hungary since we are extending aid with our troops to defend these gains. If this mistake is not made, then what will happen is that Kàdàr would need to come in under the slogan of approving what Ràkosi did. But what caused the uprising in Hungary? The mistakes, the big mistakes that were made by Ràkosi. These mistakes were used by the counterrevolutionary elements. Therefore I think we need to agree with the assessment given in the Appeal.
If “A” is said, then “B” also must be said. One cannot oversimplify and insist on what is unacceptable to the people. If we abandon the previous slogans, then few will now come into the Hungarian government when the reactionaries are put down. The system that predominated under Ràkosi's and Gerö's leadership cannot be reestablished. I think this should be clear to us and we should build our relations with the Hungarian comrades based on this situation.
Yesterday we talked with Coms. Kàdàr and Munnich. We know Munnich, who lived for several years in the Soviet Union, better. In the 1930s I served 45 days together with Munnich in the Proletarsky Division, lived with him in the same tent, and ate from the same pot. Munnich occupies the post of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Armed Forces and Public Security in Com. Kàdàr's government. This is a Communist and we hope he will cope with the task. We know Kàdàr less well but he has made a good impression on me and the other members of the CPSU CC Presidium. His comments about relations between the CPSU and the Hungarian Workers Party deserve attention. We asked Com. Kadar why, when we advised them to rid themselves of Ràkosi, and this actually was the case, they unanimously voted to elect Gerö. He said: We understood that's what you wanted. Why did you maintain ties through only four people before the plenum and during the plenum when we were holding elections? We didn't see, didn't notice, and didn't believe other Communists. Therefore we thought that if you were recommending that we remove Ràkosi, then you probably wanted Gerö elected. We voted for Gerö to maintain friendship with you, although we were against him in spirit.
I don't know what Hungarian word “Gerö” comes from, but if you were to give him a description in our language, Russian, then one could say that would be the word “gore [misfortune].” Gerö, like Ràkosi, was an honest worker. I don't know what kind of speaker Gerö is, but as a leader he is very bad. God save us from such leaders. Everything was seething and boiling in Hungary at the time he was elected as CC First Secretary. What did he do? He apparently gave thanks for the confidence [placed in him] and went right off to the Crimea on vacation.
MIKHAIL PERVUKHIN. For two months.
KHRUSHCHEV. Gerö rested on the shore of the Black Sea while demonstrations were going on in Hungary at which people demanded that he be forced out, that the Politburo be smashed, and the government overthrown. A grandiose burial was held for Laszlo Rajk, which was used by the reactionaries for their purposes. The truth is, Rajk needed to be [re]buried somehow, but why was there such a massive demonstration during the funeral? This demonstration was for all practical purposes a mobilization of strength against the leadership of the Hungarian Workers Party. It is natural what Gerö's wife was concerned about; she called from Budapest and persistently requested that her husband not show his face in Budapest on the day of Rajk's funeral since she was afraid that Jewish [sic] pogroms might be organized and they might kill him. For his part, Gerö advised his wife to take the children and leave Budapest. If everything gets settled, come back.
After the vacation, Gerö returned to Budapest. At this time a delegation was being organized there for a trip to Yugoslavia and all the main leaders were going to Yugoslavia and roaming through the Yugoslav mountains. They even stayed two extra days after the end of their planned stay in Yugoslavia. We said to ourselves here: why did they go away for so long; did they really expect that there would be an uprising without them and then, without going back to Budapest, they would come to Moscow and live as emigrants? And actually as soon as they arrived, the demonstrations [vystupleniya] began on the same day and they were thrown out. There's leadership for you.
Of course we bear responsibility for this because we supported the former Hungarian leadership and need to admit that we supported it well without knowing whom we were supporting. It is not enough for leaders to be honest Communists; in my opinion, Ràkosi and Gerö were honest Communists. They told us that none of them had been to an enterprise. They were afraid of going to the workers. What kind of leaders were they?
In a word, I think that Ràkosi and Gerö deserved this characterization given by the Hungarian comrades. We should not argue about this question with the Hungarian comrades but support them. Alright, we'll shield people who have failed the cause and caused difficulties in the country, leading to blood being spilled. We cannot support a failed leadership. They have not proven themselves as Communist leaders and therefore are worthy of condemnation.
What is the situation in Hungary today? Com. Zhukov promised to end the operation in three days and finished it in three to four hours. (prolonged, unceasing applause). The counterrevolution in Hungary has been defeated.
When we were talking with Tito he criticized us, saying: why have you not closed the border with Austria? Such criticism pleases us because this was support and approval for our measures. For the Poles had not agreed to our introducing our troops. They thought it advisable to withdraw the troops, but Tito said: Why did you not close the border with Austria; Hungary's border with Yugoslavia is closed. I replied that I don't know why it turned out that way and I don't know who got it in their head to close the border with Yugoslavia when of course the border with Austria needed to be closed.
Our troops were well prepared. All the airfields were closed last night and the troops were brought to their forming-up places, a plan of operations was developed, and today at 6 in the morning Moscow time, 4 [a.m.] Hungarian time, at the signal, the troops began operations. By 9 or 10 o'clock the main work was concluded. The rebels were disarmed in all provinces and all district centers. Resistance has been crushed where it was offered. For example, in the city of Miskolc a Hungarian anti-aircraft regiment resisted. Our troops disarmed them. Wherever troops offered resistance or tried to offer resistance they were disarmed, weapons taken under guard, and the troops sent to the barracks. All radio stations were seized with the exception of Budapest Radio, which was taken later. The border with Austria that concerned Com. Tito was closed yesterday. Seven US diplomats tried to drive to Vienna but they were unable to because our troops were already at the border.
There were three Hungarian divisions in Budapest whose command had been taken over by counterrevolutionary elements. They organized a resistance. They understood that our troops would act and were prepared to resist. Our troops acted very well when they arrested the leadership of the Hungarian Army even before the attack on Budapest: the Minister of War, the Deputy Minister, the Chief of the General Staff, and the Chief of the Operations Directorate.
Among them was the main ringleader, the organizer of the uprising in Budapest. When he got caught he immediately got smart and even began to issue orders for Hungarian units not to offer resistance to our troops and gave instructions by telephone.
Resistance in Budapest has mainly been put down. Serious resistance was offered at the Parliament building, where Hungarian tanks were arrayed, but our troops dealt with, defeated, and disarmed them. There is only a hotbed [of resistance] remaining in Budapest in the area of the Korvin movie house. Units that are set up in the artillery school are actively resisting there. Our troops have received an order to crush the resistance and evidently this hotbed will be crushed in the very near future.
We think that a great thing has been accomplished, comrades. Today before we met with you the members of the CPSU CC Presidium exchanged opinions and decided to give appropriate awards to the participants in the defeat of the counterrevolution in Hungary.
VOICES. Right (prolonged applause).
KHRUSHCHEV. Today I called Com. Pavel Yudin, our ambassador in China, in order that he send Com. Mao Zedong information about the defeat of the counterrevolution in Hungary. Yudin then called and informed [me] that Com. Mao Zedong had summoned him and said that he had gathered all the members of the Politburo. Com. Yudin's report was briefed at the meeting of the Politburo. This report, said Com. Yudin, was greeted by the Chinese comrades with rejoicing. Mao Zedong said: Tell the Russian comrades and leaders that they have done a great thing. By defeating the Hungarian counterrevolution they have performed their revolutionary duty.
VOICES. Right, (Prolonged applause).
KHRUSHCHEV. Now, said Com. Mao Zedong, we will celebrate the anniversary of the October Revolution in a fitting manner, with even better good feelings.
VOICES. Right, (Prolonged applause).
KHRUSHCEV. Regarding the conversations about the withdrawal of our troops, Mao Zedong said: The troops should not be withdrawn. Comrades, I am saying this for you. Don't be tempted to tell this to others. Soviet troops, said Com. Mao Zedong, need not be withdrawn from Hungary. Com. Zhou En-lai remarked after this: American troops are in Western countries; the troops need to be kept until they [the Americans] withdraw. But Com. Mao Zedong said in reply to this: but if the Americans withdraw then it would be useful if the Soviet troops remain afterwards. (Laughter, applause). This would be useful for the entire socialist camp.
KHRUSHCHEV. That's how the Chinese comrades greeted our report about the situation in Hungary. We were waiting for such reports, they said. When they left, they asked us when we were thinking of beginning to crush the reactionaries in Hungary. We told them, in about three or four days. And that's how it turned out.
Afterwards I decided to call Com. Gomulka. It was interesting to know how he reacted. It was important not only how he reacted, but to somehow tie it in with our conversations.
When I called him he was at a meeting and then he called me himself. I told him: Com. Gomulka, I want to inform you about events in Hungary. And I told him that the counterrevolution in Hungary had been defeated. Of course, it was a lot of work, but the first thing, crushing an armed counterrevolution, was accomplished.
VOICES. Right, this is the main thing.
KHRUSHCHEV. Gomulka asked, what, it's all been done already? (laughter.) Yes, I said, everything. I told him that the airfields were taken yesterday, the border with Austria closed, and the troops that tried to resist were disarmed, the weapons taken under guard, and the soldiers sent to the barracks.
I then said: we are very happy about this. I asked: may I congratulate you, Com. Gomulka, on this success? He said: I congratulate you and your friends. I said: permit me to congratulate you, too, and your friends. Send them greetings. (applause.)
This conversation about the assessment of events was important for us in order that we develop a common opinion. I don't know what they will say and write tomorrow, but nevertheless this statement somehow tied this in.
I talked with Com. Novotny, the CC Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. He asked again: was the crushing of the uprising over? I said: it's over. He repeated several times: very good, very good! We informed the Bulgarian, Romanian, and German comrades about this, and also sent a cable to Com. Tito.
We think that the first stage of the struggle to crush the counterrevolution in Hungary is over. The Workers and Peasants Revolutionary Government of Hungary has now been created.
We need to draw sober conclusions from the events in Hungary. I want to touch on several issues today in connection with this. Comrades, we need to vigorously correct shortcomings with respect to the representatives of fraternal parties, eliminate bad habits, not be rude, not be boastful, not represent ourselves as if we were smarter than everyone else, as if we don't miss anything. We need more modesty. We need to develop friendly relations not just in words, but in deed. Sometimes we say “you're my friend” and then treat this friend unceremoniously. One cannot act this way. We are Communists, but we have the weaknesses inherent to many people. And often friends judge us by how we exhibit these weaknesses. Sometimes trivial things corrode friendly relations and lead to deplorable results. It's easier to correct a mistake in personal relations if a person is at fault. But in relations between Parties this is very difficult. The Chinese comrades said: When you correct any Communist Party, especially one in power, then you need to think how this correction will be taken by the people and the Party of this country. We sometimes give orders completely unceremoniously. This can never be permitted, for this can cause enormous harm to our cause. We need to show more sensitivity, listen more to the opinion of comrades, and influence them more rather than order them.
VOICES FROM THE HALL. Correct.
KHRUSHCHEV. But we need to admit that we are still not accustomed to such relations and do not always behave correctly. But I think that we have the ability in both the Presidium and the CC to put an end to these shortcomings. When necessary, the comrades will also have their say about this issue. We need to build relations with fraternal Communist Parties so that they are actually built on the basis of the decisions of the 20th CPSU Congress. The decisions of the Congress were not a declaration, and not only a desire: they are the political line of our Party. We should be guided by these decisions of the Congress in our practical work. We think that the process of the further revival and strengthening of fraternal Parties should begin after the defeat of the Hungarian counterrevolution. The defeat of the counterrevolution in Hungary will exert a positive influence on developments in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and all the countries of the people's democracies, and especially on the German Democratic Republic. If we hadn't offered aid in the cause of defeating the counterrevolution in Hungary, then other countries would cease to respect us.
VOICES. Right, right! (Stormy applause)
[KHRUSHCHEV] It would be incomprehensible if, having so many troops and so many capabilities, we would look on while a counterrevolutionary gang seized weapons and created the government of Imre Nagy, which was not in a position to rule the country and to which the gang was not subordinate, but instead tolerate this band committing outrages against revolutionary workers in broad daylight and do nothing. It would turn out that we would be proceeding from some bourgeois concept of morals and stand aside, granting an opportunity to defeat the revolutionary forces and facilitating the creation of a reactionary government that might lead Hungary into the NATO camp. Could this really be permitted?
If the counterrevolution were victorious in Hungary, then the process of stirring up reaction in the entire world would proceed onward. Then enemies would begin to judge us from a different perspective. In judging our behavior, enemies could reason this way: either they didn't have enough strength, or they had enough strength, but they weren't able to use the strength, but if they weren't able, then why not give them a jolt. It is clear that relations with an enemy need to be built skillfully and built on a different basis than we build relations with our friends. We are confident that our actions to help defeat the counterrevolution in Hungary are very useful in strengthening the camp of socialism.
Take Poland, for example. Com. Gomulka said: there will be incredible difficulties. He did not understand the essence of the question. What do you want, for the fascists to take power, the reactionaries to execute workers and Communists, for the blood of the workers to be spilled? But now many have seen and felt that it's not safe to play at counterrevolution; they can get their knuckles rapped. This arms our friends and disarms our enemies, and they need this. We should skillfully pursue such a policy and [we] need to skillfully use [it] as a weapon.
You know that events came to a head in Poland before they did in Hungary. You know from the press that we went to Poland then. The conversation with the Polish comrades was very heated, but weapons were not used there and we parted as friends. But it was a different situation in Hungary. The Party turned out to be weak, a different situation developed, and we had to take steps.
When the events began in Hungary, the British and French imperialists, the socialist government of France, and the government of Britain made a piratical attack on Egypt. Maybe they would have attacked Egypt without the events in Hungary, but evidently they thought that when the hands of the Soviet Union were tied by events in Hungary, when public opinion was being mobilized against the Soviet Union for the withdrawal of [our] troops, the most favorable moment had come to seize Egypt. And they attacked at this time. And we would have been fools if they had also seized Egypt, which would have given the imperialists a prize besides Hungary. Then they would have said that these are asses, not leaders. They have such capabilities, such forces, but they aren't able to use these forces and defend themselves. Today they will assess us differently.
Yesterday I talked with US Ambassador Charles Bohlen at a reception. He asked: how do you assess the situation in Egypt? I replied: You can judge for yourself. He asked again: but will you withdraw your troops from Hungary since they've demanded this there? I told him: This is our business with Hungary. We'll think and decide ourselves when they need to be withdrawn and when they need to be introduced. Today this question no longer arises. He has already received an answer to it.
Comrades, of course all this is an unpleasant phenomenon for us. We need to draw lessons from these events and step up work in the Party and in the country. We need to step up Party and political work among the masses and improve ties with workers, collective farm workers, the intelligentsia, and among youth and students especially. Students shed blood in Hungary and spoke against us. They were deceived by reactionary elements because there was no political work among them. Work needs to be pursued patiently and the masses need to be led correctly. It is understood that the government needs to display authority when it is needed.
Comrades, it is necessary to further strengthen our Soviet Army. We need to put an end to the situation where secretaries of oblast' [regional] committees and CC Secretaries of the Communist Parties of the union republics look at the army as a source of manpower. Get the army to harvest corn, get soldiers to dig the potatoes. If this is not corrected then soon they will ask soldiers and officers to fatten suckling pigs. The army cannot be demoralized; it needs to be taught and educated for specific purposes.
KHRUSHCHEV. There are many people on collective farms who take little part in public production and labor is poorly organized. Some comrades, instead of working with people and organizing them, write letters to the CC and the Council of Ministers in order to extract a decision about assigning soldiers to harvest corn. Having harvested the corn with the aid of soldiers, they then write a report [that] under the leadership of the CC or a Party oblast' committee the corn was harvested, but the Army harvested it. Comrades, this business needs to be ended.
KHRUSHCHEV. Comrades, the work of the militia needs to be improved. There is much petty crime. This also arouses the people's displeasure.
KHRUSHCHEV. The level of activity of trade union and public organizations needs to be increased. We have enemies and therefore vigilance needs to be increased. At the same time, the work of the state security agencies needs to be improved. The work of these agencies has been criticized. The abuses and distortions that were committed in the past, when these agencies were directed against the Party and against the working class, cannot be permitted. The state security agencies need to step up work against enemies, spies, and the agents of imperialist intelligence agencies. The sharp sword needs to always be kept at the ready.
Thus, comrades, I repeat that we need to draw all the necessary lessons from these events, intensify intra-Party activity, and improve political work among workers, peasants, and the intelligentsia. We should also draw lessons and correctly build our relations with fraternal Communist Parties and with socialist countries. We need to look at everything anew, clean all the wheels and screws, and remove the rust where it has accumulated so that our relations are built on correct Bolshevik, Marxist-Leninist principles. We need to correct comrades who just shield themselves with the decisions of the 20th Congress, but interpret them in their own way and continue to work according to old methods.
We need to think over the decisions of the Congress and understand them correctly. Guided by the decisions of the 20th Congress we should strengthen the might of our country, strengthen ties with fraternal Communist Parties and with all the countries of the socialist camp, and on the basis of this unity we will with even greater energy shake the capitalist world and achieve its destruction. (Stormy, prolonged applause).
Will we open a debate?
KHRUSHCHEV. Are there questions?
KHRUSHCHEV. Then let's conclude the work of our meeting with this.
Khrushchev describes the events of the counterrevolution in Hungary and the crisis in Poland. He recounts the CPSU's consultations with other communist parties in the socialist camp to determine their attitude toward Soviet intervention, particularly in Hungary. Leaders from China, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia agreed with the Soviet position, but Polish leaders opposed the presence of Soviet troops in Hungary. Khrushchev reports that following these meetings, the CPSU CC Presidium decided to prepare for an attack on the counterrevolutionary forces in Hungary. He then reads aloud an open letter which declares the Hungarian Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government. He gives details about the suppression of the counterrevolution by Soviet armed forces and the positive reaction of the socialist countries. He states that the lessons of the counterrevolution are to improve relations with the fraternal parties and the socialist countries and to treat them with respect; to improve political work among students and the masses so that they are not mislead by counterrevolutionaries; and to strengthen the Soviet Army.
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