May 6-12, 1919. „We want to see nothing else but soldiers”

Torma Galina

Hinting on ex-Defense Minister Béla Linder's infamous line („I never want to see another soldier again!”), after the May 1st crisis the Proletarian Dictatorship was heading towards the opposite direction and ditched the Károlyi-era's peaceful approach to foreign politics.

The Red Army at the front

Viewers of Vörös Riport Film only saw the first footages from the frontline a month after the April 16, 1919 Romanian invasion, as the Proletarian propaganda was unable to report on any real military successes until then. The Revolutionary Governing Council organized a spectacular May 1st celebration in an effort to show the power and irrefutability of the new order in and outside the country. However, in the meantime, they were dealing with a major crisis.  

The Romanian army's offensive in mid-April was first and foremost directed against the Székely division in a 130 km area on the Eastern front, which was forced to retaliate for being overpowered. The 39th brigade and 6th division on the South followed their lead, and the Székely division's commander, Colonel Kratochvil decided to capitulate. But even at that point, most of the commissars still refused to acknowledge how serious the military situation was. They all wanted to fight, so they gathered all the workers of Budapest and its agglomerate, who made up one third of the Red Army by the end of April. But farmers, people of the lower middle class and intellectuals were not keen on joining the army, and several counter-revolutionary movements started in the Tiszántúl area. Meanwhile, the Romanian army was pushing forward and crossed the borders of the neutral zone.  

 Aurél Stromfeld Aurél

The Governing Council established a joined Army HQ on the Tiszántúl in Szolnok with Lieutenant-General Vilmos Böhm. Böhm managed to get one of the best Hungarian generals, Aurél Stromfeld as his chief of staff, who was urging the army to be determined, have active defense, and be ready for an immediate counterattack in case of another offensive, but it wasn't time yet. Although the "great powers" did not publicly take responsibility for the intervention they inspired, at this point the Revolutionary Governing Council still thought that the solution was to get into a diplomatic game of tactics. Béla Kun promised to rearrange the government by leaving out ultra-communists, such as Szamuely, Pogány and Vágó, hoping that members of the peace conference would then reopen negotiations with the Hungarian government, acknowledge the Hungarian Soviet Republic and halt all military interference. By the end of April, the Romanians reached Tisza, and the Red Army was forced to call back its troops from the Tiszántúl and set up a defense line at the Tisza. On April 27 red troops on the Northern and Southern fronts were attacked, and Hungarians were concerned, that if the neighboring troops were to join forces they could completely annihilate the Hungarian army, take the country's capital and maybe the entire country.   

Béla Kun wrote a letter in the Governing Council's name for the Czechoslovakian, Romanian and Yugoslavian governments, in which he assured them of acknowledging their national and territorial demands, and asked them to immediately give up this hostility in exchange. While the Budapest working class celebrated May 1st with a wonderful parade, the Szolnok bridgehead was taken, and news of Romanians crossing the Tisza and taking the city reached the capital. On the Northern front Miskolc, Diósgyőr and Ózd were evacuated the same day. At night, right wing union leaders demanded the Revolutionary Governing Council to step down in Budapest. At a meeting next day, the Social Democrat Commander in Chief Vilmos Böhm proposed to start armistice negotiations, but the Communists wanted to send the armed workers to the front. At the May 2nd meeting they seriously discussed the Governing Council's resignation. In the end, the left won the argument, who sided with keeping the Dictatorship and continuing the fight. Factory workers were called to join as reinforcement. In an effort to defend the city, Military Commissar József Haubrich was appointed to command all armed forces of Budapest. Several workers' battalions marched to the front - about 15 thousand soldiers. Another 8 workers' regiments were recruited in Budapest for reinforcement, and by mid-May the Red Army had 44 thousand new members.  

The Czechoslovakian government's main goal on May 1st was to take Salgótarján. Czech troops occupied the Karancsi magaslat on May 7 and also tried to take the city. But the defense made of miners and factory workers were successfully fighting them off until the 6th division arrived for a counterattack to retrieve the Nógrádi-medence. Vilmos Böhm, who was leading all armed forces, personally took part in liberating Fülek, where red troops arrived on May 12 and pushed the Czech way back to Rimaszombat.