Iosef Revai's reference for Bela Szanto. 10 November 1939.
11. XI. 1939
I copy a.k.
Trans[lated] from Hung[arian] Za.
ABOUT SZANTO Bela.[i]
He was one of the founders of the CP of Hungary. During the imperialist war, he was the chairman of the trade union of private employees and was one of the leaders of the left opposition in the Soc[ialist] Party of Hungary against the war.
He was a member of the CC of the CP of Hungary and, after the declaration of the proletarian dictatorship, he was People’s Commissar for Defense. As far as I know, he worked well.
In emigration, he was a member of the CC of the CP of Hungary from the time of the reorganization of the CP of Hungary.
At the outset of the factional struggle [of 1928-30], he behaved insincerely and double-faced. At first, he signed a protest adopted by the majority of the CC against factional activities of Kun, and then he joined Kun’s faction without any notice. During the factional struggle, he supported Kun to the end.
He disassociated himself from Kun only in the last years. He wrote a book about the history of the Hungarian workers’ movement[ii] which is undoubtedly a book with anti-Kun tendencies. Among other things, in his book he criticizes the role of the repatriated prisoners of war in creation of the CP of Hungary. The book correctly criticizes left radicalism of this group of Bela Kun, but, as far as I remember, this book contained an incorrect, opportunistic evaluation of the history of Hungarian Social Democrats and overestimation of the left opposition’s role in the Socialist Party at the time of the war and the creation of the CP of Hungary.
When I analyze the reasons for Bela Szanto taking anti-Kun positions [in 1935-36] (although he followed him for almost 10 years), I come to the following conclusions: there are objective and personal reasons.
1) The objective reason is the fact that, in 1929/1930, Szanto was indeed against the “left” policies of Bela Kun. This opposition was partially correct, because Szanto took a stance against the vacillations, against the personality and against the dictatorial attitude of Bela Kun. But it would be wrong to assume that Bela Szanto’s line was in many cases right-opportunist. He could not forgive Bela Kun for turning his back on him during the intra-party debates in 1929 when Szanto occupied a right-opportunist position (Szanto’s point of view was opportunely characterized as right-opportunist in an open letter from the ECCI to CPH).[iii]
2) The second reason is personal. I think that Szanto’s opposition to Bela Kun started because he thought that Kun had betrayed him and his supporters, left him out, removed him from the CP of Hungary, etc. Kun was, indeed, “ungrateful” to his supporters when it was in his personal interests. For a long time (1926-1928) Kun struggled to co-opt Szanto into the CC CP of Hungary; Kun protected Szanto when harsh personal conflicts between Szanto and Alpari began (1928). Kun protected Szanto when the ICC forbid him from conducting responsible work in the CP of Hungary following [his] slanders against Alpari.[iv] In 1928/1929, Kun took a conciliatory position toward the right-opportunist views of Szanto, so as to deflect attacks against him. But when Kun saw that Szanto’s situation in the party was becoming unbearable and that his support of Szanto could be harmful to him, he turned his back on Szanto, as for example in the Moscow Club [incident].[v]
Bela Szanto is a man with much political experience. I consider him a politically conscientious person, meaning that those questions with which he deals, he studies very scrupulously and carefully.
As far as I know, he is also very conscientious about organizational issues. At the time, he had a deep, practical knowledge of the Hungarian workers’ movement, mainly in the trade union movement, and this old experience has been strong asset for him. However, it is also a source of his weakness: administrative pettiness, overestimation of Soc[ial] Democrats, etc. He always had deviations[vi] against young, party cadres who had not passed through the school of old Soc[ial] Democracy. In the party and in emigration, he was not liked because he always gave himself airs and had a very high opinion about his former leading role. His main mistake was that he was prone to squabbles. His conflict with Alpari (who in 1928 protested his co-optation on to the CC and his transfer to work in the country [Hungary] based on his lack of ability) was a real “squabble” (I do not remember the details).
For a long time, he conducted international work, but I am not aware of details of this work, nor do I know anything about his work in the USSR and in the VKP(b), but I do not think that he belonged to any opposition. I never noticed in him any hostility towards the Comintern or the VKP(b) leadership. I think that he was unable to commit any hostile act. In connection with his squabbles, he was able to maintain personal relations with hostile elements, but I consider it very unlikely that he could consciously support the enemy or that he was an enemy himself.
10. XI. 1939.
RGASPI, f. 495, op. 199, d. 184(II), l. 73.
Copy in Russian. Typewritten.
[i] This reference for Bela Szanto was written by I. Revai in Moscow in German for the Cadres Department of the ECCI in connection of Dimitrov’s inquiry regarding Szanto’s arrest. The document is published from the text of typewritten Russian translation made in the ECCI.
[ii] On 12 February 1938, Bela Szanto sent Dimitrov a letter in which he suggested publishing in Kommunistichesky Internatsional a series of articles written by him on the Hungarian revolution and the reasons for the collapse of Soviet power in Hungary with the purpose of revealing Bela Kun’s anti-Bolshevik, sectarian and counterrevolutionary character and his supporters’ activities. No information about publication of this book is available.
[iii] The text of the “Open Letter of the ECCI” to the CPH was discussed at the meeting of the ECCI’s Political Secretariat of 26 October 1929. In this letter, “Robert” (B. Szanto) was criticized for opportunism and pessimistic view of the collapse of the revolutionary movement. That letter noted that he had recognized his mistakes.
[iv] In 1928, Bela Szanto wrote a letter to G. Alpari which contained a series of accusations. He also sent copies of this letter to several people in Berlin, Paris and Moscow. Alpari sent an appeal to the ICC which met on 2 April 1928 to hear the case. The ICC harshly reprimanded Szanto and decided to temporarily relieve him of all leading positions in the CPH. On 29 January 1929, the ICC revoked the ban on Szanto’s holding any leadership positions in the CPH, but the reprimand was not formally lifted.
[v] On 8 March 1935, a meeting of the Hungarian section of the International Club of Political Émigrés, dedicated to the 1919 Hungarian revolution, took place. At this meeting, Szanto gave a speech about the Hungarian Red Army. The discussion that followed took the form of mutual accusations of Trotskyism between Szanto and Bela Kun’s supporters.
[vi] The author used an inappropriate word. He probably meant “prejudices.” (Trans.)