Hungary announces 1956 is a "People's Uprising"
On 23 June 1988, the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (Communist) Central Committee established a committee to analyze Hungary's political, economic and social development during the preceding thirty years. The issue of the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary became a political flashpoint. Was 1956 an attempt to establish an independent Communist movement separate from Soviet authority, or was it a counter-revolution against the Communists? As it had challenged Soviet authority in Hungary, it had been labeled a "counter-revolution" since 1956. However, on 27 January 1989, the Historical Subcommittee of the Hungarian Communist Party declared 1956 a "people's uprising," officially rejecting the label of "counter-revolution." This established a precedent for open criticism of past political decisions and Soviet influence in Hungary. The following is an excerpt from a Hungarian Politburo debate about the recent approval of 1956.
Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party Central Committee, Minutes of the Meeting of the HSWP CC Political Committee, 31 January 1989, Hungarian National Archives, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
Rezso Nyers: The problem is greater, and we have to widen its scope. Is 1956 really the foundation of the Hungarian communist movement? If 1956 is our foundation, I will not expect the movement to hold out very long, because it is a weak foundation indeed. Our decisions and historical assessment of 1956 were driven by the spirit of the time and not without controversies. While things were going smoothly, people tolerated all this, but when times are hard, the same people seem discontent with what they tolerated before. Therefore we should not consider 1956 as a foundation. 1956 was a tragic event, a moment that manifested the prevailing crisis, and today we have to conclude that in fact 1956 signified a more serious crisis than we thought at the time, or even in 1957. We belittled the problem, but now we all agree—and I think there is a consensus about it in the Party—that it was the materialization of a historical mistake.
As to whether it was a "people's uprising" or "counter-revolution," my opinion is that a definition without controversy is impossible on this issue. Personally, I think that it was a people's uprising; our declaration in December 1956 acknowledged it in the first paragraph, labeling it as the rightful discontent of the people. I do maintain, though, that hostile enemies gradually joined in, and they could have turned the wheel of history backwards, so the danger of counter-revolution was imminent.