Monday, October 23, 2006

"Never glad confident morning again"

It seems that I have used that quotation before, though not in the title, when writing about Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech to the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU. Still, it can be repeated, for it was that speech that started the chain of events, which culminated in the Hungarian Revolution that began 50 years ago today.

The celebrations in the country have been marked by ferocious disputes and worse; angry accusations of bad faith then and now. Some survivors, like General Béla Király is filled with some gloom; others like the former student leader, quoted by the BBC, appear to think that the fight against globalization is the same as the fight against Bolshevism. At best, that shows certain lacunae of knowledge.

David Rennie spoils his good deed of bringing General Király to the attention of the readers of the Spectator by his almost inevitable arrogant silliness. The suppression of the Hungarian Revolution could have triggered off World War III. Oh really? Between whom and whom? Exactly who was going to move in there to help the Hungarians? Apart from anything else, there was the little matter of the Suez crisis going on and it absorbed most of the energy and attention of the Western powers.

David Pryce-Jones, who has written a book about the Hungarian Revolution says this on his blog today:
Help Hungary. Help!” was the final appeal on the radio, put out by Gyula Hay, the playwright and in his day a veteran Communist too. In sad fact, the United States did nothing, making it plain that the Soviets could do their worst. On hearing that a revolution had broken out, President Eisenhower limited himself to saying, “The heart of America goes out to the people of Hungary.” Heart is all very well, but what about muscle? Robert Murphy, then undersecretary of state and an experienced trouble-shooter, summed up Washington’s failure: “Perhaps history will demonstrate that the free world could have intervened to give Hungarians the liberty they sought, but none of us in the State Department had the skill or the imagination to devise a way.
Could the West have helped? Who can judge that fairly now? But we do know (well, most of us do but David Rennie has special information): it was not going to. As Professor Jeremy Black writes in his latest book, “The Dotted Red Line”:
Indeed, appeasement was as much inevidence over Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, as over Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938.
With the difference that Hungary in 1956 showed herself willing to fight unlike either of the victims of Nazi aggression in 1938.



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