On this day in 1956, an escalating national uprising brewing for 12 days in Hungary is viciously crushed by Soviet tanks and troops. Thousands were killed and wounded and nearly a quarter-million Hungarians fled the country in the crack-down.
The crisis in Hungary began in October 1956, when thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding a more democratic political system and freedom from Soviet oppression. In response, Communist Party officials appointed Imre Nagy, a former premier who had been dismissed from the party for his criticisms of Stalinist policies, as the new premier. Nagy tried to restore peace and asked the Soviets to withdraw their troops.
And then it gets sinister. After announcing a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Politburo reversed course and moved to crush the revolution. On November 4, a large and lethal Soviet force featuring armor invaded Budapest and other regions of the country; the Hungarian resistance vainly fought on until November 10. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter, and by January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all public opposition.
These Soviet actions, while strengthening control over the Eastern Bloc, were a reputational disaster, alienating many Western Marxists, leading to splits and considerable losses of membership for communist parties in capitalist countries, and causing the Cominform a devastating loss of steam.
So here the lesson of deadly overreach and its vagaries endeth.
A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan.
Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.