April 22-28, 1919. Factory workers in the Red Army

Torma Galina

On April 8, 1919 a decision was adopted, making it mandatory for all healthy ex-servicemen factory workers to join the reserve army of laborers. Inspection of the eight regiments took place on April 23 on Andrássy út.

Organizing factory workers' battalions

"To strengthen proletarian power against counterrevolutionary attempts from both sides, and to protect the revolution's achievements and further development” the Revolutionary Governing Council made a decision to arm factory workers, put them in battalions and train them for the Red Army. The Governing Council appointed Military Commissar József Haubrich to build the factory workers' corps. On April 8, 1919 Tuesday morning commissars visited 18 Budapest factories to give lectures on the importance of a working class army. Commissar Haubrich spoke to workers at the Schlick-Nicholson factory, Vilmos Böhm was sent to the Csepel ammunition factory, while Béla Kun went to the Ganz wagon factory, Sándor Garbai visited the First Hungarian Agricultural Machine Factory, Mátyás Rákosi was at the Vulkán machine factory and Tibor Szamuely at the First Hungarian Screw Factory. Factory workers then accepted the following proposal at a meeting: „Factory workers unanimously decided on an April 8, 1919 meeting to form factory workers' squads for the reserve laborers' army. It is mandatory for all healthy factory workers who previously served to immediately join the army. We assure the Revolutionary Governing Council that armed factory workers are ready to protect the achievements of the proletarian revolution against all attacks.”

In two weeks, the Military Commissar had two armed factory workers' squads of 8 regiments, 15.000 people altogether. The squads had to take 4 hours of physical and mental training a week. Artillerymen, machine gun squads, pilots, drivers, cyclists, technicians and mortar squads received special training. For training in their own clothes they received 3 crones per hour for damages. Everyone who finished boot camp had to be ready to serve and go to the front, and indeed they did after the Romanians' April 16 attack. A couple days later, the 22nd red regiment's 1st battalion of Csepel with full battle equipment, machine gun squad and medics were waiting for command at the Józsefváros station, ready to leave. 

Training proletarian soldiers

The Revolutionary Governing Council inspects workers' battalions

It was important for proletarian leaders to emphasize that the thousands of workers were not only to fight against aggressors coming from outside the country, but also fight the disruptive voices who wish to destroy the order from within inside. They could not stress the threat enough with their propaganda, as in the armed working class „can find the enemy inside, and their fists of revenge will thump so hard it will pulverize those who speak against the Internationale. Let the bourgeoisie realize, if the counter-revolution's white hydra appears, the torrent of hatchets will cause bloodshed.” They also did not forget to mention that these battalions were enforcers, vested with all the power and strength of the Revolutionary Governing Council, and organized a parade on April 23 at Andrássy út for demonstrative purposes.

In the afternoon the armed workers' regiments marched from their workplaces to meeting points, then to the scene of inspection. Meeting points were scattered around Budapest, located at Közvágóhíd, Nagyvásártér, Orczy tér, Margit rakpart, Műegyetem rakpart and at the Parliament. As a newspaper reported at the time: „Masses of armed workers started pouring out at 13:00 from the factories on Váci út and about. They were marching in 4-people lines to Jancsics tér. There were no glorious uniforms and bourgeois glitz. Instead, people were walking down the street in work uniform with rifle on shoulders and cartridge pouches on their leather belts.” The 8 regiments marched to Andrássy út from different directions, and lined up behind the 1st regiment of Csepel who were waiting for them at the Opera. The end of the line was at Millenium Memorial. When the regiments reached their destination, they lined up in a square, waiting for the commissars and speakers with their weapons held close. People were still getting in line, when airplanes appeared above Andrássy út and circled around for a while dropping flyers which praised the dictatorship and the Red Army. Meanwhile, marching bands played the Marseillaise and the Internationale.

Speakers with the workers' battalions

Shortly after 16:00 the commissars and speakers left the Socialist Party's building on Andrássy út 4. The march was led by the leader of the Revolutionary Governing Council, Sándor Garbai and commissars Béla Kun, József Haubrich and Béla Szántó. When they arrived at the Opera, the 1st regiment's commander signed "Attention!" and workers lifted their weapon on their shoulders. Council members walked past them and carried on to the 2nd and 3rd regiments on Andrássy út, all the way to the 8th regiment at Millenium Memorial. They were welcomed with orderly salutations. While passing by, speakers joined the regiments one-by-one to inspirit the workers. Commissars Dezső Bokányi, Antal Dovcsák and Mátyás Rákosi spoke at the Opera for the 1st regiment. Then council members went back to Andrássy út 4 and stood on a podium to watch the 8 regiments marching before them. It was way past 18:00 when the last units vanished on Váci körút (Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út). Attendees wanted to hear what the leaders were going to say, who gave speeches from the balcony. Béla Kun mentioned that now all the weapons are in the hands of the proletariat, but they are not alone, as all the world's proletariat is on their side. Sándor Garbai called the Soviet Republic a pioneer state, and if they can show how powerful they are, a lot of proletarian states will be following their model. Zsigmond Kunfi was the last one to speak. He also emphasized how necessary it is for workers to join forces all around the globe, if they want the proletariat to be victorious. The event ended around 19:00.

Organization of the laborers' army did not stop at that point. By April 30 the Military Commissariat reported on 14 factory workers' regiments, and the trained units who were dispensable from work were immediately sent to the Red Army to join divisions fighting on the front.