The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 3/Magyar Bolshevism
Karolyi’s voluntary surrender to Bolshevism did not come as a surprise to the neigbors of Hungary. They knew Count Karolyi for a demagogue, a man of extraordinary ambition and vanity, but small ability. At the time of the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, when he assumed the reins of power in Budapest, Karolyi had the impudence to imagine that by a few lofty gestures and eloquent words he could persuade the Allies not to look upon the Magyars as a conquerred enemy, but rather as a people who had been oppressed by the Hapsburgs and liberated through Allied victory—like the Czechoslovaks, Jugoslavs and Roumanians. And in fact Gen. Franchet d’Esperey, commander of the forces invading Hungary from the Balkans, did conclude an armistice with Karolyi early in November which recognized the territorial integrity of Hungary and the right of the newly established Magyar National Council of Budapest to rule over the Slovaks and Croats, Rusins and Roumanians of Hungary.
But the first success was also the last. Upon the intervention of Dr. Edward Beneš in Paris the Allied supreme command modified the hasty convention agreed to by Gen. d’Esperey. Slovakia substantially within the limits claimed by the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister was assigned immediately to the administration of the Czechoslovak Republic, as it would have been absurd to have half of an allied state continue under the control of defeated enemy. Soon the Roumanians of Transylvania declared their union with their kinsmen in the Roumanian kingdom and expelled Magyar officials from their national territory; the Serbians occupied those districts of southern Hungary which are inhabited by Serbians and Croatians. Before the fateful year of 1918 ran out, the Magyar government of Count Karolyi exercised authority over Magyars only and a few hundred thousand Germans of Western Hungary.
In vain did the Budapest government develop a tremendous propaganda in the occupied portions of Hungary against the new national authorities and in favor of an integral Magyar Hungary; in vain did Karolyi’s minister of nationalities promise full autonomy to the non-Magyar races; in vain did the aristocracy of Hungary play their arts on the local Allied representatives. The mob in the overfilled capital city held stormy demonstrations threatening to shed the last drop of their blood in defense of Hungary’s territorial integrity. In answer the Allies commanded Karolyi to evacuate certain portions of Eastern Hungary proper, bounding on Transylvania and inhabited by Roumanians. And then Karolyi out of spite turned over his authority to the disciples of Lenine.
He could not have kept order much Ionger in any case. During nearly five months of power his whole energy was devoted to foreign politics—saving Hungary for the Magyars. For any statesman-like dealing with the terrible internal troubles of his people he had little taste and small aptitude. To maintain himself in power he posed as a radical and did not hesitate to act against the interests of his own class. He consented to have the large landed estates expropriated and himself set the example by turning over his own land to the state. With unemployment, with the crowding of the discharged Magyar officials from the lost provinces to Budapest, with the threats and demands of demobilized soldiers he hoped to cope by printing more banknotes and giving people money, whenever they became troublesome. He was at the end of his rope both as regards the Allies and the population of Budapest, when he made his last theatrical gesture and sent for the bolshevik leaders, in order that he might put a scare into the Allies and perhaps poison with bolshevism the new national states which arose on the ruins of the Magyar empire.
Magyar bolshevist rule has been a peculiar combination of international communism and national madness. Whereas in Russia bolshevism had its roots in the soil and the people, in the very atmosphere of Russia, as every reader of Russian literature will readily admit, in Hungary it was artificially grafted by missionaries of Lenine on the dying tree of Magyar imperialism. Some of its leaders were undoubtedly sincere; probably Bela Kuhn himself believes in communism on the Russian style, and so do hundreds, if not thousands, of returned Magyar prisoners. But they would have never been allowed to grasp the power in Budapest, if it had not suited the plans of the old ruling clique to mask their bankruptcy by the red flag. The influence of the jingoes was seen in the very first decrees of the Magyar soviet, nationalizing all private houses in the cities and extending the scope of the decree to cities far within the confines of Slovakia. The propaganda, too, aiming at rebellion within the lost territories was carried on with even greater vehemence under the new regime. Millions of handbills were scattered from aeroplanes over Slovak territory calling on the people to rise against the bourgeois Czechoslovak government and fight for the rule of Soviets. Strong forces of Red Guards, armed with weapons, placards and money, brought great quantities of explosives secretly over the demarcation line to start insurrection and destroy means of communication. An attack was made at night on the garrison of Komarno by a force of 2,000 Red Guards as the culmination of a policy which indulged for nearly two months in surprise guerilla warfare carried behind the Czechoslovak lines.
Finally the Prague government was compelled to act. When the Red Revolution first broke out in Budapest, the Czech social democratic party under the influence of its more radical section demanded assurances that the government would not attack the bolshevists. This assurance President Masaryk gave at once, and until May 1 it was carefully observed. Not once during that time did the Czechoslovak garrisons in Slovakia cross the demarcation line or even pursue the Reds into their own territory. Delegations of Magyar bourgeois beseeched Masaryk to occupy Budapest; appeals came from Rusins of whose eventual incorporation in the Czechoslovak Republic there was no longer any doubt, appeals to save them from the barbarity and rapine of the robbers masquerading as Red soldiers. But the government made no move until May 1.
On that day General Hennoque, a Frenchman commanding a Czechoslovak division in Eastern Slovakia, issued a proclamation to the Rusins of Hungary: “I come at the head of victorious Allied Armies to bring you liberation from the cruel yoke under which you have suffered for centuries. You will no longer be slaves and victims of Magyar chauvinism, neither will you suffer by Magyar bolshevist disorder. My native France sent me here to give you a helping hand that you might be liberated and enter the family of free nations. Czechoslovaks come as your brothers. . . . By the coming of my forces you become free citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic. Stand under its banner, for it brings you freedom.”
In the peace treaty with Germany it is definitely provided that the Rusin part of Hungary shall form an autonomous part of the Czechoslovak Republic. Thus the Magyars lose their last helot race. As far as the Czechoslovaks are concerned Magyars may play the bolshevik game as long as they enjoy it; but they must play it in their own yard and at their own expense. In any case the end cannot be very far.