Monday, October 23, 2006

A Revolução Hungara de 1956 (XI)

Continuando o post anterior:

B. Authorization and encouragement of Workers’ Councils by Trade Unions, the party and the government

549. The Workers’ Councils were a spontaneous creation of the factory and other workers concerned to improve their conditions of work. The role of the Councils was recognized without delay by the Trade Unions, the Communist Party and the Government.

550. Prime Minister Nagy received on 25 October a delegation of a group of workers from Borsod County, who submitted to him twenty-one demands, several of which related to the situation of workers.(34) On 26 October, at 12.58 p.m., Budapest radio announced that the Prime Minister had accepted these demands and would embody them in the programme of the new Government.

551. On the morning of 26 October, the Praesidium of the National Council of Trade Unions announced a new political and economic programme.(35) The first point in the economic part of the programme read as follows: “Constitution of Workers’ Councils in every factory with the participation of factory intellectuals there. Installation of a worker-directorate parallel with the radical transformation of the centralized planning system and of economic direction by the State; workers and factory-intellectuals to take over the direction of factories. Immediate formation of workers’ councils, which should contact their trade union centres without delay to decide on tasks”. The announcement continued that the Hungarian trade unions had to become active again as before 1948, and they would have to change their name to “Hungarian Free Trade Unions”. Later on the Praesidium made the following appeal: “Workers! The desire of the working class has been realized. Undertakings will be managed by Workers’ Councils. This will complete the process by which the factories are taken over as the property of the people. Workers and technicians! You can now regard the enterprises as being entirely your own. From now on, you will manage these yourselves. The excessive central management of the factories, which has prevailed hitherto, will now cease, together with the faults arising from it. A heavy responsibility is laid upon the Workers’ Councils; therefore you must elect the members of such Councils with great circumspection and from the most experienced and best workers. The new Government will increase the pay of those earning low wages. The sooner you start production in the factories and the better our Councils work, the more speedily can wages be raised, and the higher will they rise. Therefore, support the new Hungarian Government in its efforts for socialist construction and a free and democratic Hungary.”

552. Later on in the evening of 26 October, the Central Committee of the Communist Party declared that it approved the election of Workers’ Councils “with the co-operation of the trade union organs”.(36) It added that wages and salaries had to be increased to satisfy “the lawful material demands of the working class”. In explanation of this decision of the Central Committee, it was stated later that the Party had “perfect faith in our working class”, in which it saw the leading force of socialism and on which it relied in all circumstances. Hope was expressed that, by the organization of the Workers’ Councils, the working class would lend its support to the new Politburo of the Communist Party and to the new Government.

553. On 27 October, the Praesidium of the National Council of Trade Unions proposed that Workers’ Councils should be set up “everywhere”, in factories, enterprises and mines, and issued directives for their “election, functions and tasks”;(37) “Members of the Workers’ Councils should be elected by all workers of the factory, workshop or mine in question. A meeting called to carry out the election should decide the method of election. Recommendations for Workers’ Council membership should be presented, as a general rule, by the shop committees or by a worker who commands respect. Depending on the size of the undertaking, the Workers’ Councils should generally consist of from 21 to 71 members, including proportional representation of every group of workers. In factories employing less than 100 workers, all workers may be included in the Workers’ Council. The Workers’ Council shall take decisions on all questions connected with production, administration and management of the plant. Therefore: (1) for the direction of the production and management of the factory, it should elect from among its own members a Council of Direction with 5-15 members which, in accordance with the direct instructions of the Workers’ Council, will take decisions on matters connected with the management of the factory, such as the engagement and dismissal of workers, economic and technical leaders; (2) it will draw up the factory’s production plan and define tasks connected with technical development; (3) the Workers’ Council will decide on the drawing up of the wage system best suited to the conditions peculiar to the factory and on the introduction of that system, as well as on the development of social and cultural amenities in the factory; (4) the Workers’ Council will decide on investments and the utilization of profits; (5) the Workers’ Council will determine the order of business of the mine, factory, etc.; (6) the Workers’ Council will be responsible to all the workers and to the State for correct management. The principal and immediate task of the Workers’ Council is to resume production and to establish and ensure order and discipline. The workers, through their representatives, should protect their livelihood, the factory.”

554. Additional directives were issued by urban and rural Revolutionary Councils in different parts of the country. For example, the Praesidium of the Revolutionary Council of Borsod County stated that the task of the Workers’ Councils was “to exercise control over the manager, the chief engineer, factory foremen and the workers of the plant”, and requested them to attend urgently to the maintenance of order at their respective places of work.(38)

555. On 30 October, the National Council of Trade Unions became the National Council of Free Trade Unions, and replaced its old leadership by a “temporary revolutionary committee” composed of “old trade union leaders who had been dismissed and imprisoned in the past, and new revolutionary trade union leaders”. One of the first actions of this committee was to declare that the Hungarian Trade Unions would leave the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and that, “for the sake of strengthening international workers’ solidarity”, they would be “willing to establish relations with any international trade union organization”.(39) In addition, the committee issued an appeal on 31 October in which it hailed the Workers’ Councils and “requested workers to return to their jobs and to create under the leadership of the Workers’ Councils, the conditions necessary to resume production”.(40)

556. The institution of the Workers’ Councils was enthusiastically supported by the Hungarian press and radio and by professional and other organizations. Thus the People’s Patriotic Front (PPF) declared, on 28 October, that this is “our revolution, because it abolishes the inhuman production norms and entrusts the factories to Workers’ Councils”.(41) The Revolutionary Committee of Hungarian Intellectuals stressed in its programme, on 28 October, that “factories and mines should really become the property of the workers” and that they should “not he returned to the capitalists”, but managed “by freely elected Workers’ Councils”.(42)

557. The institution of the Workers’ Councils, after having received the blessing of trade unions and the Communist Party, found its way into the programme of Mr. Nagy’s new Government. The Prime Minister stated on 28 October that the Government welcomed the “initiative of factory workers as regards the extension of factory democracy and approved the formation of Workers’ Councils”. He also said that the Government would take measures to settle, to the satisfaction of the working class, “long-standing and justified demands and to remedy old complaints”.(43)

558. On 1 November, the Workers’ Councils of the large Budapest factories and delegates of various revolutionary organizations and of the National Council of Free Trade Unions had two meetings with representatives of the Government, to discuss the “grave situation” created by the continuance of the nation-wide strike. At these meetings, speaking on behalf of Mr. Nagy’s Government, Ferenc Erdei appealed, through the representatives of the Workers’ Councils and the trade unions, to the workers of Hungary, pleading with them to resume work.(44) The next day seventeen large factories of Greater Budapest, among them the Csepel Iron and Metal Works, MÁVAG, Ganz Electric and Wagon Factories and the Láng Machine Factory, as well as the transport workers and “all the workers” of Districts XIII, XIV and XV of Budapest, appealed to all workers of Hungary to “take up work immediately”. They stated that, in their opinion, the Government had fulfiled the main demands of the Hungarian people: the repudiation of the Warsaw Treaty, and the declaration of neutrality. Furthermore, “there are guarantees that in the near future elections with secret ballot will be held”. The appeal stated that “continuous strikes would paralyse the economic life of the country” and that “resumed production will provide the strength our political life needs at this moment”.(45)

559. Witnesses stated to the Committee that further negotiations between representatives of the Government and the major Workers’ Councils of Greater Budapest had taken place on 2 and 3 November, and subsequently an agreement had been reached for the resumption of work in all Hungarian industries and factories on Monday, 5 November.

C. Conclusions

560. The Committee concludes from its study of the Revolutionary Councils that they were the result of a spontaneous, nation-wide movement to assert the right of the Hungarian people to assume the direction of their affairs and lives. This movement took shape, as did the uprising itself, at the local level and there was in the beginning little or no contact between the various groups. Nevertheless, as in the case of the students and intellectuals, a broad identity of aim underlies both the demands and the methods. It is clear that the formation of these Councils met a need widely felt by the Hungarian people.

561. The same is true of the Workers’ Councils. All witnesses confirmed that dissatisfaction with the trade unions of the régime was one of the most important grievances of the Hungarian workers. In addition, they demanded a genuine voice in the control of the undertaking in which they worked, and this they set out to obtain by electing Councils along democratic lines. These Councils at once assumed important responsibilities in the factories, mines and other undertakings, and they exerted a considerable influence upon the Government, with which delegations from a number of them maintained direct contact. The overwhelming support given by Hungarians to these Workers’ Councils confirms the impression that they were among the most important achievements of the Hungarian people during their few days of freedom.

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