The Revolution in Exile
Hungarian Emigrés and the Conflicting Visions of the 1918 October Revolution in the early 1920s
One still pays relatively little attention to the fact, that the collapse of the Dual Monarchy in WWI brought revolutionary changes throughout the whole territory of the former multinational Empire. The revolutionary wave was particularly strong in Hungary and especially in its capital Budapest where hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the proclamation of the Hungarian People’s Republic on November 16, 1919. Yet the so-called „Aster Revolution” or in its contemporary formulation the October Revolution of Mihály Károlyi and its bold liberal democratic aspirations soon fell because of internal hardship and international isolation. The Hungarian Soviet Republic which came into its place in March 21 1919 promised to make Hungary a Communist State in a fortnight and the flag-bearer of Lenin’s World Revolution towards the West. The „Red” Budapest in the eyes of the Hungarian communists and their sympathizers came to be the avant-garde of revolutionary proletarian future of the whole humanity. The daring bolshevik experience led by Béla Kun lasted only 133 days but the memory of the Red City and its almost messianic social hopes were mingled with the revolutionay terror too. The revolutionary upheaval ended in chaos and military defeat against the Romanian Army. When Miklós Horthy took power in the Autumn of 1919 White Terror raged and the newly found „counter-revolutionary” regime established its power and legitimacy on antisemitism, antiliberalism and the idea of „Christian Hungary.”
Recent scholarship has much dealt with the intriguing questions of the continuites and discontinuities of the imperial past and also with the problems and implications of postwar violence.The 100th anniversary of the 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty which ended the Austro-Hungarian Monarchyand „historical” Hungary also gave ample opportunity to critically reasses both the national and international contexts of the imperial transitions and their political and social impact not least because of the still virulent political uses of theirantagonistic memory.
In this respect my paper intends to examine a rather under-researched aspect of the immediate post-WWI transitional years: the often disputing memorial strategies and conflicting political visions es of the so called „October Emigration” a more and more incongrous group of those liberal and socialist and social democratic political leaders – like Mihály Károlyi, Oszkár Jászi, Ernő Garami, Zsigmond Kunfi and others – who had played an important role in the 1918 Aster Revolution of Hungary and who fled the country afterwards. Why and how the liberal and democratic ideas lost progressively their momentum and became heavily contested against the radical revolutionary – most often Communist – utopias of the day?Why they failed to agree on a consensual political program against the Horthy-régime and its antiliberal ideology?