Remember, remember, not the 5th of November,
This is more complex than that.
In 1956, the people of Hungary rose up and rebelled against the occupying Soviet forces.
The rebellion was encouraged by the Americans, who sent messages to the Hungarians telling them to hold on. That promised help never materialised. The British were up to their necks in the Suez crisis, and events conspired that rather let the Soviets off the hook. Things were going pear-shaped elsewhere, so the world sat back and let the Soviets bring in the army and set about crushing the revolt with all the finesse and sophistication we’ve come to expect of the Soviets. Sledgehammer to crush a nut? Hmm…haven’t we got anything bigger?
So, that was the situation. The Soviets played the Hungarians, appearing to retreat, before storming back in with reinforcements. As a special touch, the soldiers they sent to restore Soviet control in Hungary were, for the main part, not from Europe and, as such, had no idea what was going on. The soldiers were told a story that they, knowing no better, could easily swallow that the Hungarian revolutionaries intended to eliminate Khrushchev with a new syphilis bomb, or something along those lines, something believable which would lead to fewer questions from the ranks.
So, got the picture? Hungarians subjected to communist rule by from abroad. A student demo' which seeks to draw attention to the displeasure this creates. This protest tapped into the vein of extreme discontent in the general populace. Demands, or requests, met with nothing other than violence. As history has taught us, the CCCP weren't the sort to talk things over with people. The ÁVH (State Protection Force, the internal secret police) opened fire on those who went to demand the release of their student colleagues, and things kicked off properly.
The crappy Hungarian government, held together with bits of Soviet string and Sellotape, came apart at the seams. Militias were formed, and people left the comfort of their homes in order to fight the despicable secret police and Soviet troops.
Initially, as a tactic, the Soviets suggested that they were, in fact, open to a negotiation of a withdrawal of their troops. Blind optimism then had its eyes put out once again, and the idea of anything blooming other than violence and bloodshed was borne in upon the Hungarians.
Back came the Soviets, refuelled, reinforced, and ready to put the boot in. And they did. The revolution was brutally crushed.
Now in a dreary reminder that old communists can never be relied upon to shuffle off this mortal coil without a well-timed shove from someone with the true interests of the human race at heart, we should just take a peek at the man who was the Soviets' man in Budapest at the time that all of this was kicking off.
Yes, the man on this end of the hotline when the Kremlin rang day or night, was none other than Yuri Andropov, who Andro-pop-pop-pop-popped up in order to step into the dead man’s shoes bequeathed to him a few decades down the line by none other than Leo’ Brezhnev, him of the outlandish, frankly almost too flamboyant to be Soviet eyebrows.
Here's Yuri in 1984, looking, if we're being brutally honest, a little bit on the peaky side.
and here's Leo', on the verge of winning the “Who’s got the silliest hat competition?” with Gerald Ford, in 1974.
Seen again here, looking very much like he’s going to kick off the karaoke party of Bonn's very first karaoke bar in style, with his famous rendition of the Volga Boat song.
And seen here, of course, in one of the most famous photos of the cold war, about to tuck into a shared tongue sandwich with East German leader Erich Honecker.
Anyway, back to Hungary. The revolution was crushed, people, the young and old were killed, people were rounded up and sentenced to death or imprisonment.
Now, Imre Nagy, the man who served as the leader of the Hungarian revolution of ’56 was an intriguing man in his own right. A committed communist as of the Russian revolution, it has been claimed, although of late, doubt has been cast on the veracity of the claims, that he actively took part in the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Maybe, maybe not, but he certainly informed for the Soviet NKVD secret police from 1933 to 1941, thereby ensuring the deaths of a fair number of colleagues who presumably lacked his commitment to the cause.
Nagy might not have been an angel, but in Hungary he was seen as a viable alternative to the more hard-line elements in the Soviet-controlled Hungarian regime.
He was entrusted with the role of prime minister as a central demand of the revolutionaries and general population. He started the reform train rolling; disbanding the detestable secret police, and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact, but was deposed with force by the Soviets when they returned, beefed up, to kick the Hungarians where it would hurt most.
Now, Nagy then escaped into the Yugoslav Embassy to seek sanctuary, but was subsequently lured out under false pretences, and promptly arrested and deported to Romania.
In June 1958, he was tried and executed for treason, his body buried in an unmarked grave. Now, although it’s true that Nagy Imre’s fate was decided in Moscow, one person who was active in the Hungarian Communist Party at the time deserves to be singled out. That man was a certain Antal Apró. He was one of those who didn’t raise a finger in any sort of protest when it was revealed that Nagy was to be put to death.
That, however, isn’t too much of a shock given his opinion of the Hungarian revolutionaries as “fascist scum”. Now he may not have tightened the noose around Nagy’s neck, but he had a hand in the noose being placed around his neck.
Anyway, I digress. The fact that Apró did nothing to stop the death sentence from being carried out, barely merits him for attention above the others who likewise did nothing. No, the reason we’re interested in him is down to his family.
Apró had three children: two boys, Antal and János, and a girl, Piroska. Now, Piroska had a daughter, Klára. Do you all know what Klára looks like these days?
Yes, that’s her, standing next to her husband,Ferenc “Fletó” Gyurcsány, one-time prime minister of Hungary.
Now, why am I banging on about this? Well, because, once again, the historical connection is key. The history can’t be ignored. Her grandfather was a key figure in the “cleanup” following the Soviet crushing of the ’56 revolution.
And her husband, when prime minister, not only oversaw, but actively directed some of the worst state-organised violence seen in Hungary since the ’56 revolution, occurring on the 50th anniversary of the ’56 revolution.
A bit of a mind bender, isn’t it? Pull one thread, and see what, or rather what it’s not connected to! Who remembers “Kerplunk”? Well, Hungarian political life is a bit like that. Pull an innocent-looking, coloured little plastic stick, and watch as a mass of marbles fall about the place like a load of old shoes falling out of the attic only with the power to make your ears bleed.
So, and now we arrive…at 2006. The 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution. But earlier that year, at the government holiday home in Balatonőszöd, Fletó, prime minister at the time, delivered a speech to his underlings which was subsequently leaked and played on state radio.
Now, in this screaming, shouting, abusive tirade of his, because in reality that’s what it was, not a speech as such, Fletó pointed out what everyone with a brain had already noticed; namely that his government (The Hungarian Socialist Party in coalition with the Free Democrats) had nothing to show for the past four years, as they’d done nothing but lie, morning, noon, and night, to the electorate, hiding all evidence of the fact that they'd done absolutely nothing.
He told them that the moment of truth had arrived, and that they had nothing to show, other than the hundreds of tricks that they had employed to hide the fact that they had done nothing. Nothing.
I need hardly say that it also touched a nerve that this, this prime minister of the country referred to the country as "this fucking country". Classy and sophisticated, eh?
Fletó further complains that he almost died from the effort of having to pretend for a year and a half that they were governing the country. Personally speaking, I know my heart's bleeding, and I suspect that yours is, too.
Now, having stated that they'd lied morning, noon, and night, he stated that he didn't want to carry on like this. Now, this is an important line of the speech, given that this has been his point of spin regarding the leaked speech ever since. Ever since the speech was leaked, Fletó and his team have been trying to put a positive spin on it.
I know, I know, you'd have thought that even they'd have known that you can't polish shit, but these are communists, turned socialists: they've got a long history of trying to polish not only shit, but of also trying to smarten up diarrhoea.
Anyway, the speech is important, but is not of primary importance for us today. The point is that the speech provoked outrage. Understandable outrage. People looked to the opposition, to Fidesz, but Viktor Orbán wouldn't countenance the use of any less than 100% legal methods to change the government, arguing that once we start down that path, then no democratically-elected government would be safe.
So, the people started to demonstrate their anger with their government. Fletó cared little, remarking that you didn't have to worry about demonstrators as they'd always go home in the end.
And all the while, tension was building at the fact that Fletó refused to resign, voting for himself in a vote of confidence in parliament, showing everyone how to lead by example.
And so, to the 50th anniversary of the '56 revolution. A few days before the anniversary, a small group of protesters left the main group at Kossuth tér in front of the parliament building, and walked the few hundred metres to the state TV headquarters. Once there, two delegates were chosen to ask for the demonstrators' demands to be announced on the airwaves. This request was refused, and it all kicked off.
Fletó was in direct control of the actions of the police that night as a riot developed at the TV building. The police sent to protect the building were hopelessly under-equipped. There was video footage of riot shields shattering when hit with a stick, for example.
A water cannon turned up, looking as though it had just been dusted off and despatched from the police museum. It either caught fire or was set on fire.
From a professional point of view, the police initially seemed to have lost the plot. But, that turned out to not be the case. From radio transmissions from the police commander inside the TV building, it has been established that there were other police units, equipped and ready, very close to hand. They were never ordered in. Instead, the commander inside resorted to stating that he was leaving taking all his officers with him, and hang the consequences.
What he and they didn't realise is that Fletó had decided that a sacrificial lamb was required. It was a tactic: let the troublemakers and rioters run...well, riot and beat the police, then stoke the police up for the next encounter. Simple and effective. Not the sort of thing one would expect from the head of government, but there you go.
The next big meeting of the two sides of the dispute was on the 23rd of October 2006, the 50th anniversary of what can be regarded as the start of the Hungarian Revolution.
Fidesz had organised their traditional rally to commemorate the uprising against the Soviets. Not far away, groups of troublemakers and also groups of innocent commemorating crowds were beginning to realise that the police, having blocked their way home, were now steadily pushing them towards the rally.
A chance for a double-whammy; beat the troublemakers, and, in the confusion of the two, mingling groups, press your advantage and give those uppity, superior Fidesz supporters as many cracked heads as you can.
This was the plan. This is what they'd decided earlier; allow the police to get a bloody nose at the hands of the first, spontaneous riot, so that their backs would be up. Damaged pride is a fine way to stir people up.
So, the police, having been offered that first evening as a sacrificial lamb, having had their noses bloodied, and their pride dented, were now ready for a rematch.
Oh, my, were they ready? Mounted police charged the crowds, hitting people on the head and upper body with their sabres in their scabbards.
Whereas the first night of disturbances we witnessed a water cannon that appeared to date from the Soviet-era, now the police had a jeep, with a tear gas launcher mounted on the back. From a Soviet piece of crap that dribbled water, would have had trouble putting out a smouldering fag end, before catching fire, we suddenly leap into the 25th Century with Buck Rogers firing multiple tear gas canisters as his partner drives the jeep! What's going on?!
Rubber bullets were fired, but not in a manner that would ever have been acceptable. We've all seen enough video footage of riot police to instantly recognise the correct way to fire rubber bullets. That wasn't the way the Hungarian police did it. No angled shots into the air, slowing as they fall, no, not a bit of it. The police were firing from the shoulder, aiming straight into the crowds. Head and shoulder height.
16 people were severely wounded by rubber bullets fired by police "marksmen" that night. Chest wounds, open neck wounds, rubber bullet wounds to the stomach, injuries that necessitated on-site, emergency finger amputations, foreign bodies lodged in eyes as the rubber bullets broke up on impact, and skull fractures.
Two people lost the sight in an eye as a result of being hit in the eye by a rubber bullet fired by the police.
And vipers. Who can forget the fact that some of the police were carrying not traditional truncheons or batons, but vipers, extendable steel rods. Universally recognised as dangerous weapons and, as a direct result, normally only authorised to be carried, let alone used when a credible terror threat has been established. Needless to say, there was no such terrorist threat. As might have been expected, authorisation was easily forthcoming.
And one last damning detail; the police, having determined that they were going to hold nothing back, knew that they might have to deal with the odds of ending up in court, charged with criminal acts which might not sit too well on their CVs. So, what's the simplest solution? Easy – remove all identification, all indications of rank, file, number, whatever, just take them off and leave them in the police station. And, having determined that that might not cover all the bases, every member of the police on duty, whether in a riot helmet or not, made sure that they were wearing a balaclava.
Just try to identify us now! Go on, we'll wait.
Now, we could just blame the police, but no. The police don't decide to attack people indiscriminately, the police don't decide to hide their identities en masse, the police don't presume to charge men and women indiscriminately. Unless, of course, they're told to. Unless, of course, they're lied to. Im retrospect, it seems clear that the police, like the general public, were taken in. We all bought the line that Gyurcsány fed us. We, but most importantly, the police fell for the idea that they'd been targeted that night at the TV headquarters. This, followed by encouragement from their own leaders, both political and tactical, contributed to the state of mind that they were in, desirous of vengeance.
Certain people knew what was going on. One of those people, the architect of the whole sorry mess, was Gyurcsány. He planned this attack on his fellow Hungarians, an attack which he saw as the solution to the fact that he had been caught in a lie. His plan was, obviously, to resort to the sort of tactics better known in the days of his wife's grandfather.
Gyurcsány acted in a calculated manner to mete out wholly undeserved punishment beatings on innocent members of the Hungarian nation. For that he deserves nothing but contempt from the rest of the human race.
But this, sadly, has yet to come to pass. He continues to lead a political party. Arguably, a party of clowns, true, but a party nonetheless with a parliamentary presence. He hasn't retreated to the shadows. Just as his wife's grandfather remained in public life until a grand old age, Gyurcsány and his wife, following in the footsteps of the communists who preceded them treat the whole, sorry affair as though it didn't happen.
To this day, in place of apologies, we are treated to the pitiful spectacle of Gyurcsány repeatedly trying to convince the world of that his leaked speech was, in fact, the only honest declaration of any Hungarian politician since the change of regime which began in 1989.
Obviously, only the mentally deranged would ever consider his attempts to excuse his disgraceful behaviour as anything other than what they are; more lies from a man for whom the telling of lies comes as naturally as breathing.
He is responsible for the damage, physical and mental, that people suffered when they were trying to commemorate a terrible period in Hungarian history.
The fact that he has not and further, does not intend to ever apologise for what he did to the people of the country he was leader of, gives us an x-ray view into his mind. And what we witness there should convince us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this man has no place in public life.
This man is dangerous. This man has no compassion. This man should be excluded from society and exiled. Even the blind can see that this man and his wife, having eagerly studied and committed to memory the tactics of her grandfather and his comrades, can never, never be trusted. If this man ever tells you what time it is, check with someone else to make sure.