Hungarian proletarians fought the hardest

By RUSSELL JONES  |  December 10 1956
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LONDON, Dec. 10, 1956 (UP) - The greatest shock to the Hungarian Communists and their Russian masters must have been the type of people who fought the hardest.

Believe none of the stories that this was a misguided uprising fomented to restore the great estate owners of the Horthy regency or the industrial magnates. I saw with my own eyes who was fighting and heard with my own ears why they fought.

The first armed resistance came from students of the schools and universities, the youth who had been so carefully selected as the party elite of the future.

The fiercest fighters were the workers, the proletarians in whose name Communism had ruled. Even the Hungarian army, purged and repurged a dozen times, joined the battle for freedom or sat on the sidelines.

The two big names that came out of the revolt were Communist-Imre Nagy, a lifelong Party member, and Lieutenant Colonel Pat Maleter, who had deserted to the Russians in World War II and returned as a Red partisan.

Wherever came the spark, it found its tinder among the common people. The areas of destruction, the buildings most desperately defended and the dead themselves are the most eloquent proof of this. It was the workers' tenements that Soviet siege guns smashed, factory buildings that became forts and the tired shabby men with broken shoes and horny hands of the laborer who died by the thousands. The women with their hair bound with kerchiefs and the cheap and tawdry dresses of working people.

A seventeen-year-old girl, twice wounded at Corvin Theatre, told me she fought because "it isn't right that my father, with four children to feed, should get only nine hundred forints ($80) a month."

The chairman of the Workers' Council at the Csepel Iron and Steel plant with 38,000 workers, biggest in the country, said, "These are our factories. We will fight to the death to hold them. But we will continue plant maintenance because we want to work here again."

In Dorog, one of the coal centers, miners continued to work despite the general strike. But not to produce coal. They didn't want their mines ruined by flooding.

The same attitude is true in the country. The farmers want to get out of the collectives but they do not want the restoration of the landlords. They think everyone should have the right to own and till his own land. Something like 100 acres a family would be fair, they think.

It was for these simple, basic things that the Hungarian people fought. These and the right to speak and think freely, to elect men of their own choice, and to raise their children in their own way.

They will go on fighting for them.

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(Russell Jones was awarded the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his dispatches from Hungary).

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