Matyas Rakosi

Matyas Rakosi

Matyas Rakosi was born in Hungary in 1892. He served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War. He was captured by the Russian Army and spent most of the war in a prison camp in Russia.

Radicalized by his experiences in the war, Rajkosi joined the Hungarian Communist Party when he returned to Hungary in 1918. He was commander of the Red Guard in the Soviet Republic established by Bela Kun in 1919.

Admiral Miklos Horthy, commander-in-chief of the Imperial and Royal Fleet, returned to Hungary in November 1919 and led the overthrow of the Soviet Republic. Rakosi fled to Russia and with the support of Joseph Stalin became secretary of Comintern.

Rajkosi returned to Hungary in 1924 but the following year he was imprisoned by Horthy's government. On his release in 1940 Rajkosi moved to the Soviet Union and remained in Moscow for the rest of the Second World War.

When the Red Army liberated Hungary from the German Army in 1945, Rajkosi returned and became general secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party. In elections held in November, 1945, the Hungarian Communist Party won only 20 per cent of the votes. However, the communist filled all the important posts with Rajkosi becoming the most important political figure in Hungary.

The Hungarian Communist Party became the largest single party in the elections in 1947 and served in the coalition People's Independence Front government. With Rajkosi as prime minister, the communists gradually gained control of the government and when Laszlo Rajk, the foreign secretary, criticized attempts by Joseph Stalin to impose Stalinist policies on Hungary he was arrested, tried for treason and executed.

Rakosi now attempted to impose authoritarian rule. An estimated 2,000 people were executed and over 100,000 were imprisoned. These policies were opposed by some members of the Hungarian Communist Party and around 200,000 were expelled by Rakosi from the organization.

Rakosi had difficulty managing the economy and the people of Hungary saw living standards fall. His government became increasingly unpopular and when Joseph Stalin died in 1953 Rakosi was replaced as prime minister by Imre Nagy. However, he retained his position as general secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party and over the next three years the two men became involved in a bitter struggle for power.

He was removed from office in 1956 and in 1962 was expelled from the Hungarian Communist Party. Matyas Rajkosi died in 1971.

Primary Sources

(1) Peter Fryer, Hungarian Tragedy: PostScript (1956)

Look at the hell that Rákosi made of Hungary and you will see an indictment, not of Marxism, not of Communism, but of Stalinism. Hypocrisy without limit; medieval cruelty; dogmas and slogans devoid of life or meaning; national pride outraged; poverty for all but a tiny handful of leaders who lived in luxury, with mansions on Rózsadomb, Budapest's pleasant Hill of Roses (nicknamed by people 'Hill of Cadres'), special schools for their children, special well-stocked shops for their wives - even special bathing beaches at Lake Balaton, shut off from the common people by barbed wire. And to protect the power and privileges of this Communist aristocracy, the A.V.H. - and behind them the ultimate sanction, the tanks of the Soviet Army. Against this disgusting caricature of Socialism our British Stalinists would not, could not, dared not protest; nor do they now spare a word of comfort or solidarity or pity for the gallant people who rose at last to wipe out the infamy, who stretched out their yearning hands for freedom, and who paid such a heavy price.

Hungary was Stalinism incarnate. Here in one small, tormented country was the picture, complete in every detail: the abandonment of humanism, the attachment of primary importance not to living, breathing, suffering, hoping human beings but to machines, targets, statistics, tractors, steel mills, plan fulfilment figures . . . and, of course, tanks. Struck dumb by Stalinism, we ourselves grotesquely distorted the fine Socialist principle of international solidarity by making any criticism of present injustices or inhumanitites in a Communist-led country taboo. Stalinism crippled us by castrating our moral passion, blinding us to the wrongs done to men if those wrongs were done in the name of Communism. We Communists have been indignant about the wrongs done by imperialism: those wrongs are many and vile; but our one-sided indignation has somehow not rung true. It has left a sour taste in the mouth of the British worker, who is quick to detect and condemn hypocrisy.

(2) Matyas Rakosi, article in the Szabad Nep (19th July, 1956)

My comrades frequently mentioned in the past two years that I do not visit the factories as often as I did in the past. They were right, the only thing they did not know is that this was due to the deterioration of my health. My state of health began to tell on the quality and amount of work I was able to perform, a fact that is bound to cause harm to the Party in such an important post. So much about the state of my health.

A regards the mistakes that I committed in the field of the "cult of personality" and the violation of socialist legality, I admitted them at the meetings of the Central Committee in June, 1953, and I have made the same admission repeatedly ever since. I have also exercised self-criticism publicly.

After the 20th Congress of the CPSU and Comrade Khrushchev's speech it became clear to me that the weight and effect of these mistakes were greater than I had thought and that the harm done to our Party ,through these mistakes was much more serious than I had previously believed.

These mistakes have made our Party's work more difficult, they diminished the strength of attractiveness of the Party and of the People's Democracy, they hindered the development of the Leninist norms of Party life, of collective leadership, of constructive criticism, and self- criticism, of democratism in Party and state life, and of the initiative and creative power of the wide masses of the working class.

Finally, these mistakes offered the enemy an extremely wide opportunity for attack. In their totality, the mistakes that I committed in the most important post of Party work have caused serious harm to our socialist development as a whole.

It was up to me to take the lead in repairing these mistakes. If rehabilitation has at times proceeded sluggishly and with intermittent breaks, if a certain relapse was noticed last year in the liquidation of the cult of personality, if criticism

and self-criticism together with collective leadership have developed at a slow pace, if sectarian and dogmatic views have not been combated resolutely enough - then for all this, undoubtedly, serious reponsibility weighs upon me, having occupied the post of the First Secretary of the Party.