June 10-16, 1919. Battle on the front, fighting in the party

Barkóczi Janka – Torma Galina

While the Governing Council was planning to celebrate the successful battle for Kassa, the Entente warned them to stop the attacks.

A congress was organized for June 12-13 to resolve the differences brewing in the Socialist Party, and the next day the National Assembly of Councils took place for the first and last time ever. 

The Northern Campaign – successful missions of the first week, taking Kassa

News about the early successful missions of the Northern Campaign quickly spread across the entire country. Military Commissar Béla Kun started the June 1, 1919 Farmers' Congress with the following words:

„Before I would begin my speech, I have to make an announcement. Today, the Soviet Republic's glorious red soldiers took Abaújszántó, the Emőd line and keep on pushing forward towards Tokaj and Kassa. By taking Tiszaluc, we managed to clear out the Boyar imperialist troops from this side of the Tisza. Our 30 ½s are working on the front and the proletarian soldiers of Budapest are protecting the united dictatorship of proletarians and farmers.”

MTI issued a short comment on June 2nd: „We broke the enemy defense on the Northern battlefield and keep pushing forward according to plan. No news from the other fronts.”

On June 3 afternoon – before it could be officially announced – Commander-in-Chief Vilmos Böhm was writing about yet another successful mission to Béla Kun:

„We took Szerencs and Léva.
I just visited Szerencs, our troops continue pushing forward on the entire line. The Czechs and Romanians realized they are outnumbered and started their retreat. We continue the chase.
Words can not describe our red soldiers' bright mood for getting to fight against the henchmen of the International Counter-Revolution. These are not insensible soldiers but self-aware, fighting proletarians. Hungary's proletariat can be proud of our red soldiers. The Red Army sends warm regards to those at home. We only ask for persistence, enthusiasm and support and we shall be victorious.
Hail the International Revolution of the Proletariat! 

The Military Commissar received another telegram from the front that night:

„It fills me with joy to share the great news that Érsekújvár, which was under the Czech imperialists' occupation for more then five months, is now liberated. Our proletarian troops from the occupied cities of Felvidék and Budapest entered Érsekújvár on Tuesday. We managed to take territories all across the entire line. On Tuesday I visited our fighting proletarian brothers on the Tiszántúl front and the Budapest regiments' eagerness and hunger for combat is simply indescribable.
On my way there, I also visited the newly liberated Rimaszombat, where the proletariat welcomed me with moving enthusiasm. Everyone is off duty at the moment, they held the Workers' Council's election on Tuesday, where all the city's proletarians voted. The morale on the front is rock solid. We would like to ask our proletarian brothers and sisters at home to support us with their work, enthusiasm and tenacity. We will be victorious.  Böhm.”

The day's events were summarized in next day's  military report:

„Our troops on Felvidék continue pushing forward. We beat down the enemy's counter-attacks. 
We took Tokaj and Érsekújvár.
We cleared out Romanian troops from all areas West of Tisza.
Our troops' attack in the Losoncpatak valley crushed the enemy's tough counter-attack and opened our way to Zólyom. 
No news from the other fronts.”

On June 4 the Red Army continued moving forward towards Kassa. They successfully made progress in several areas. 

„We continue pushing forward past Léva and Érsekújvár. 
We managed to take some territories around Zólyom, Kassa and Sátoraljaújhely.
Our brilliant soldiers brushed off the Czechs' desperate counter-attacks. 
Our armored trains are still doing a magnificent job. Special thanks to the proletarians of the 1st and 8th armored trains.
No news from the other fronts.”

The papers were also tight-lipped about the June 5 military news:

„We continue fighting and pushing forward on the Northern front. No news from the other fronts.” 

That is when the battle for Kassa started and ended with great results: the III. Corps managed to cross the frontline, and after taking Nagyida and the surrounding territories, they arrived directly below Kassa. Corps Commander Béla Vágó said the following about the early June 5 night events:

„Soldiers next to Nagyida went to sleep thinking they had a strong defense and great outposts. The Czechs brought reinforcements from Kassa, which frightened the outposts who then ran away. Some escaped to the town, where the red soldiers woke up and ran out the streets in their nightwear and bare feet to beat the enemy.”

The battles continued all day on June 6 and the Red Army managed to enter Kassa in the evening. Papers issued the following official report:

„We won the battle of Kassa. After days of exhausting fights, the tireless, fearless soldiers of our excellent 6th corps of Délvidék broke the enemy's defense and fought back their desperate counter-attacks with spectacular revolutionary impetus and entered Kassa at 19:00 last night. Every soldier and experienced, driven commanders deserve a huge thanks for this glorious victory.
Our 16th infantry on the left wing, consisting of mainly Tót proletarian brothers did a magnificent job again by taking Korpona and Selmecbánya. By breaking the enemy defense at several areas of the Northern frontline, we managed to occupy new territories and fight back all enemy attacks. 
No news from the other fronts.”

The victory was celebrated in Kassa and Budapest the next day. József Haubrich, Military Commander of Budapest issued the following order:

„I would like to ask citizens of Budapest to hang red flags across the entire city to salute the Red Proletarian Army's victory in Kassa, Korpona, Selmecbánya and Nagysurány. Businesses can stay opened until 01:00 Saturday, while theaters, ballrooms, cafés and movie theaters are allowed to operate until midnight. Prohibition is still alive. I also order all able bands to arrive at the Parliament square at 15:00 today in order to play some music at the workers' rally. I will personally oversee assignments on location.”  

Celebrating the take-back of Kassa

Commander-in-Chief Böhm Vilmos left to Kassa at night, the day of victory to thank the red soldiers' heroism in person. But the train was forced to stop right before Kassa at Bárca, as the tracks were destroyed by the retreating Czech soldiers. The Commander-in-Chief, the winning III. Corps' Commander Jenő Landler and Corps Commander Béla Vágó arrived to the city via car. Around 10:00 locals were already gathering on the streets. The car transporting all the commissars ran down the main street and was welcomed by the cheering crowd. Népszava's reporter was also driving with them, this is what he had to say about the event:

„The celebrating crowd significantly slowed down traffic on the road, where a gigantic, motor-driven monster moves ahead of us. It is already covered with flowers and people keep throwing bouquets at it... Red soldiers move along individually or in orderly lines, all receiving hugs and red roses from the people around them. Those who manage to chat with or shake a red soldier's hand seem ecstatic.
We hear cannon fire from somewhere far North, while down the valley in the sparkling whiteness of June the city laughs and cheers in happiness and embraces the revolution's beautiful red color...”

At 13:00 Kassa citizens gathered at the city hall to listen to Red Army leaders who asked them to „show their support of the liberating proletariat by joining the Red Army.” They started organizing a legion that night.

The commissars went back to Budapest in the afternoon to join the Budapest celebrations. Marching bands and theater musicians started playing all around the city early morning and elementary school students were given fresh pastries. Factories were opened until 14:00 when all machinery was shut down and thousands of workers headed to the Parliament. Commissars Sándor Garbai, Béla Kun, József Pogány, Dezső Bokányi and Mátyás Rákosi praised the Red Army at the rally. Bands continued playing until late into the night; a 100-member gypsy band played on Hotel Dunapalota's balcony for people on the Danube promenade. The Workers' - and Soldiers' Councils of Budapest, the Union Council and union- and party leaders held a special event at Városi Színház that night, during which Vilmos Böhm, Jenő Landler and Béla Vágó arrived and were welcomed with an endless cheerful applause.

Kassa's victory-celebration

Three days later on June 10 a large delegation traveled from Budapest to Kassa to celebrate the proletarian army's success with leaders of the Revolutionary Governing Council. The destroyed bridge and train tracks in Kassa were repaired in the past days, so the commissar's red-flagged train could arrive to the Kassa railway station without difficulty. The commissars, Sándor Garbai, Béla Kun, György Nyisztor, Béla Szántó and Jenő Varga were welcomed at 08:30 by a giant crowd, a special Red Army company and János Hirossik, Kassa's newly appointed Government Council commissioner. Vilmos Böhm welcomed them representing the army. The guests entered cars which were decorated with red garlands and flowers, and drove down Baross Gábor körút and Dobositzky körút to Hotel Schalkház on Fő utca for breakfast. They met with a cheering crowd along the way just like the military leaders did a couple days earlier. Locals stood in line and threw flowers at the delegation. The celebratory rally started at 11:00 and leaders gave speeches from the City Hall balcony. Rallies were held for workers in the afternoon, movie theaters held free screenings for the proletariat and Városi Színház also did a free-for-all special performance at night.

Népszava published a report on the festivities the next day. That issue also included other important news which had major effects on the Red Army's triumphal and the Soviet Republic itself.

„Clémenceau's telegram. 
For the Hungarian Government in Budapest. 
The allied and united governments would like to ask representatives of the Hungarian Government to appear at the Peace Conference to discuss Hungary's rightful borders. Hungarians are forcing unprovoked and aggressive attacks against the Czechoslovakians at this moment. The allies already demonstrated their desire to end all unnecessary hostilities by halting the Romanian army on two occasions that crossed the armistice- and neutral zone borders, prevented them from entering Budapest and also stopped the Serbian and French army on Hungary's Southern front.
Regarding the circumstances, we officially have to order Budapest's Government to immediately stop their attacks against Czechoslovakia, or the allied governments will have to force extreme sanctions on Hungary in order to end their hostility and respect the allies' orders.
This message has to be replied in 48 hours.
Clémenceau, President of the Peace Conference.”

Socialist Party congress in the House of Representatives

On June 12-13,
1919 the Hungarian Socialist Party held a 2-day congress to discuss urgent matters. They decided to change the party's name to Hungarian Party of Socialist-Communist Workers, which will continue operations with a new program and code. Béla Kun's suggestion to call it the Communists' Hungarian Party was rejected by the Social Democrats which caused further tension between the two groups.

The program began at 09:00 in the boardroom of the House of Representatives, which could be entered through the main entrance across Alkotmány utca. Delegates had to bring their IDs and those who wished to watch the event could buy tickets to the gallery. The news crew did not record the congress, as it probably would have been too difficult to properly light the Parliament hall, so we only have footages of the arriving commissars and leaving politicians. Dezső Bokányi Labor and Welfare Commissar appears, who was first to translate the Communist manifesto and invented the slogan „Proletarians of the world, unite!”, alongside journalist and Interior Commissar Béla Vágó and Mátyás Rákosi, Social Production Commissar. We can also catch a glimpse of Commissar József  Pogány, who organized and led the army. He remained active after leaving the country and organized a Communist movement in the US as John Pepper in the 1920s. The intertitles mention Ferenc Jancsik, Commander of the Budapest Red Guard and Jenő Landler Social Democratic politician, who was an Interior- and Trade Commissar and Commander of the 3rd corps. The politicians leave the building with a smile on their face and plenty look into the camera, except for one mysterious person, who covered his face with a newspaper.

Népszava published a detailed report on the event, in which they mentioned that the congress wanted to summarize the government's experiences of the past few months, draw conclusions and learn from their mistakes if there was any. The congress was led by Sándor Garbai - he opened the meeting. Béla Kun shared the party's new agenda, they elected new leaders, and speakers also talked about the ongoing battles. Vilmos Böhm objected the Czechs' tactics, and asked for permission to take the necessary measures. József Pogány thought that their problems were caused by a weak dictatorship: „People did not recognize the change yet, that the proletariat is the new ruling class, and they not only have to obey us but the entire proletarian nation.” There were lengthy ideological discussions, of which Béla Kun's were the most fascinating, who made a historically significant closing statement. He called for an intellectual purge to replace it with the new proletarian ideals, while declaring the newspaper Ma a product of bourgeois decadence, which was dismissed by Lajos Kassák in his open letter, A letter to Béla Kun in the name of art.

National Assembly of Councils

Right after the congress the National Assembly of Councils was held in Városi Színház (Erkel Színház) between June 14 and 23. This was the Soviet Republic's public parliament, which only met for 10 days in 133. Commissars, County and City Councils and union delegates were present: 378 people altogether of which were only 7 women. They discussed economics, foreign and internal policies, Jenő Varga, Gyula Lengyel and Jenő Hamburger talked about the economy, while Mór Erdélyi about public supplies and Vilmos Böhm about the military. They also discussed the Clemenceau manifest which called to seize the Red Army's attacks. While Béla Kun suggested that the army should retreat behind the borders determined in Paris, Tibor Szamuely argued that it would mean an unacceptable deal with the imperialists and treason against the world wide revolution. The National Assembly of Councils also approved measures such as establishing a 150-member Allied Central Management Committee, which would handle operations between meetings, and they also accepted the Revolutionary Council's new constitution that renamed the state to Hungarian Socialist Allied Soviet Republic.