Comrades’ Obsession - 11.06.2022. (László Bartók)

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  • 2022. June 22.
Photo: MTI/ Attila Manek

Thirtythree years after the dissolution of the Workers’ Militia we can finally learn whom the professional strength of the army of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party consisted of, thanks to the Committee of National Remembrance in Hungary. Ont he website we can readt the biographies of those 760 commanders, who held leading offices at the Workers’ Militia during its 32 years of existence. We can observe what kind of ’talented’ figures were at the highest posts, which gives us a flabbergasting diagnose on the operation of the socialist state.

There are several readings of the late prime minister József Antall’s saying: ’if only you have made a revolution’ Thanks to the great powers the regime change was performed peacefully but without any euphoria. No-one was called to account among the members and beneficieries of the oppressive vassal state of the Soviet Union. They even got the chance to come back to power due to their embedment into the deep state and their economic power. The transgressors, abettors and ’useful idiots’ were forgotten. Thanks to the researches of the Committee of National Remembrance in Hungary we can finally get a glance into the working mechanisms of the socialist one-party state.

The archives of the Workers’ Militia, dissolved in 1989, was preserved almost in a whole. The military workshop of the Committee, led by the historian István Ötvös, associate professor of Pázmány Péter Catholic University, worked for four years to create the digital data base of the highest leaders of the Workers’ Militia. The research group consisting of the historians Szilárd Baráth, Attila Gáll, Péter Illésfalvi, Roland Maruzs, Péter Trieber and Dávid Kiss used the personal data sheets as primary sources. Although before the dissolution of the party army a government decree made it possible for the serving members of the militia to exchange their biographies in the registry. It was not useful for them, though, the historian Roland Maruzs said. The overlaps uncover everything.

First of all we had to reveal who exactly had belonged to the leaders out of the twohundredthousand militiamen of the organization’s thirty years, István Ötvös said. He also outlined that there had been a major difference between the motivation of the professionals and the so called societals. In the latter case entering was often due to the pressure of the workplace, especially in the first one and a half decades: ’you are the young in the brigade, if you do not want to get into trouble you become a militiaman. Who dared resist, it was applied on his personal data sheet which accompanied him in his later life.

During the revolution factories were watched by so called factory militiamen connected to the workers’s councils established spontaneously. These belonged to rather the National Militia and did not want to stand for socialism. The Kádár regime also realized that during the revolution every armed force refused the service. These to phenomena gave the idea that an armed force of solely trustworthy communists were needed. Kádár had to manoeuvre inside the party, since in 1957 the Stalinist clique was still influential. He on the other hand along with those who stood beside him had an experience of the prisons of the State Protection Authority. They feared from the revival of this organization, therefore they did everything that the new party army should belong not to the Ministry of Interior, but tot he Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’s Party. Both the Czechoslovakian militia and the former vigilantes of the Communist Party served as examples. It was not a coincidence that the former leader of the latter, Lajos Halas was entrusted to organize the Workers’ Militia.

There were no further requirements but trustworthyness for a ’societal’ militiamen. Moreover it was enough to take some courses, like the marxist ’university’ brainwashing, nicknamed as ’foximaxi’ (the Hungarian title of the ’Huckleberry Hound Show’) to become a commander.

The Party Congress in 1963 brought a change also in the recruitment of the Workers’ Militia: the most radical commnists were sent into retirement. In the partisans’ union Béla Janikovszky former lieutenant-colonel of the State Protection Authority (the former confidant of Gábor Péter) even complained that ’we are not used for anything’.

By the end of the 1960s the number of the militia was doubled, it grew to 60 thousand. In the meantime the People’s Army consisted of 120 thousand soldiers. This also testifies for the importance of the Workers’ Militia, although among the armed forces they did not belong to the elite, Roland Maruzs said. From the sixties they were used mostly for urban peacekeeping, securing the itinerary of delegations, guarding military objects, borders, citizens etc. They had small arms, machine guns, grenade launchers, commander land rovers and motorcycles with side carrieges.

Even if there was such opinion among the militiamen in 1988 that the ’fruits of socialism’ should have been protected even by force, inside the party only a minority wanted to continue the socialism. In 1986 and 1987 the change of the Kádárist party leaders started, Miklós Németh as prime minister exchanged 28 of his generals, and there were changes in the leading of the police, too. According to István Ötvös in 1989 the party elite has been thinking of transforming into capitalism for a long time. Most importantly the planned to stay in leading positions due to privatization.

We also cannot disregard the fact that the economic policy of socialism brought the country near to bankruptcy, Dávid Kiss said. Although according Miklós Németh’s memoirs the secret service had knowledge of some phone calls in Borsod counti of militiamen who urged an armed offensive, but these movements died away. What would have been the point in putting back some kádárist politicians for a short time by executing a coup, when the country was almost bankrupt, and even the Soviet Union could not be relied on any more?

Sándor Borbély as the commander of the Workers’ Militia made some hopeless attempts to preserve it under another name, but political and financial considerations led to the legal dissolution of the organization without a successor. The Németh government tried to make the so called ’four yes’ referendum unnecessary, since one of its questions were if we had wanted the dissolution of the Workers’ Militia.

The Militia, not having received further instructions from the party, started to orderly give its weapons and real estates to the police and the military. The weapons were collected at the depository base of the Hungarian Defence Force in Táborfalva, the grey uniforms were put into wardrobes, the professionals were sent into retirement. They quietly vanished from view, and we, as we know did not make a revolution. Instead we overstepped the Kádár era’s ’useful idiots.

Photo: MTI/ Attila Manek (1.), MTI/Sándor H. Szabó (2.)

Article: Elvtársi becsípődés (Magyar Nemzet Lugas,, 2022.06.11.)