As I write these words, there is no way of knowing the final outcome of the Hungarian Revolution. It appears that the rebels have been crushed. But the Communists have lost; now Hungary must be occupied by Russian troops, and the revolt may flare up again any time; in this sense it was successful: it taught the world that the spirit of freedom can't be killed by tanks and superior guns.
How many times have we heard, and feared, in these last sorry years, that "times have changed" and all is now lost? That modem technology and modern weapons make revolutions impossible? That modern devices of tyranny and thought control, of terror and propaganda, pulverize the individual and make him, forevermore, a helpless and even willing tool of the state? That was the nightmare vision of Orwell's 1984, and it was a vision that seemed to be true.
The Communists seemed invincible. They appeared living proof of their own faith that history is on their side.
But now, after a decade of Communist rule, little Hungary rose up as one man and smashed the evil regime to bits. We know that without Soviet troops, the Communist regime would have been swept away in a couple of days. In the fight of the Hungarian people vs. the Hungarian Communists, the rebels won hands down. And if it can happen in Hungary, it can happen in Poland, or Russia, or in any country.
And so, revolution—that great and ultimate weapon of free men against tyranny—is not obsolete. The lover of freedom can be free, if he wants freedom enough.
Another important lesson for Americans: this uprising followed the historic pattern of victorious revolutions. As the frightened government granted concession after concession, the rebels' demands waxed ever more extreme. Contrast this triumphant march to the "realists" in this country who preach the necessity and merit of compromise. The movement that spurns compromise and multiplies its demands sweeps on to victory. The movement that grovels gratefully over every handout falls by the wayside. Though temporary beaten I do not believe the Hungarians will grovel.
The disappointing aspects of this struggle appear in America, not Hungary. How has America, how has Washington, reacted to the stirring news? A cautious call for freedom comes from the White House. But few words or deeds come from America to give the anti-communist Hungarians a spark of hope, to stir the other satellites to total anti-communist rehellion. Instead, we rose to the challenge by considering how to refer the "Soviet intervention" to the United Nations, as if the Soviets had not been occupying Hungary during the last ten years.
In this moment when revolt might spread to a tidal wave that will topple the Communist empire once and for all, you would expect the anti-communists to come forward. The private organizations that have, for years, solicited us on behalf of freedom in eastern Europe, will do something, perhaps. They haven't yet. The "crusades for freedom" and the "committees for the liberation from Bolshevism," the businessmen who support foreign aid and other measures ostensibly designed to "fight communism" could aid the Hungarian rebels, encouraging them to set up an underground, a non-communist, non-socialist, self-government.
I am not abandoning my long-standing opposition to intergovernmental war. I am not calling for World War III. What I am suggesting is that all the staunch anti-communist organizations and their publications which have favored conscripting and taxing us to fight communism, now voluntarily give money to the Hungarian rebels—or to any other revolutionaries in the satellite countries. Though they've 1ost a battle, they can revolt again.
The least anti-communists can do is to show their solidarity with the Hungarian rebels, and send them the aid they need. And they need far more than Red Cross supplies. Have we become so dependent on government that we cannot send private aid ourselves?
Fear Freezes America
The reaction from Washington has been worse than passive. Incredibly, high sources send out hints that the Hungarians have gone "too far," that they may make the Soviets angry and more tyrannical. Others warned that once the revolutionaries came out into the open, they risked being crushed. They were crushed, but didn't we once believe in "liberty or death"?
More disquieting is this New York Times dispatch from Washington: "The United States would be sympathetic to a free regime in Hungary. But Washington officials do not want to offer a major provocation to the Soviet Union, through recognition of a Hungarian government unfriendly to Moscow. Such a provocation possibly could lead to war, it is felt here. The view prevailing among United States officials, it appeared, was that 'evolution' toward freedom in eastern Europe would be better for all concerned than 'revolution,' though nobody was saying this publicly."
The "provocation" argument is specious. Recognition of a de facto government does not provoke war. Monetary aid to a friendly people, from non-governmental sources, is not a cause for war. There is no reason why we cannot aid rebels in Hungary as the Russians aided Communist rebels in China, Viet Nam, etc. We would have far better grounds for recognizing a free Hungary than for treating Chiang as the ruler of China. Neither action needs to provoke war.
Further, a successful satellite rebellion would weaken Soviet military strength enormously. Already, Soviet troops have begun to desert. Let the desertions grow to any great extent and the game would be up. Mass desertions and uprisings would crumble the Communist empire into dust.
The Shifting Middle
The most shocking comment came from noted columnist Walter Lippmann, who often reflects high-echelon thinking in the State Department. Lippmann actually said that Titoism would be better for our interests than freedom in eastern Europe, for, after all, the area must be controlled by someone. It is important, wrote Lippmann, that eastern Europe enjoy "freedom from anarchy" as well as "freedom from despotism." Consider what this implies.
Is this the new Washington line? We might ask: how many government officials, how many Americans, are really Titoists? How many believe in "national communism" as the best social system? How much "anti-communism" of recent years has simply been revulsion against Stalin's crude methods and Muscovite control? Are we seeing the germs of a new Grand Alliance between Washington and the Communist governments on behalf of Titoism?
We are possibly entering a new era in foreign relations. In the last few years, the main problem has been peace or war, and the libertarian task was to stem the interventionist call for an H-bomb debacle. From now on, the main challenge may prove to be revolution behind the Iron Curtain. The task of the libertarian may be to block any American-Soviet alliance for defense of Titoism against popular revolt.