Central Europe and Central America: Will there be a historical convergence?


During October 1956 Soviet tanks rolled into the capital of the Hungarian People’s Republic, Budapest. Much has been written about the event. Discussions have ranged from Communist Party congresses, Fourth Internationalist gatherings, academic forums, and discussions in bars and over kitchen tables — essentially wherever lefties hang out in Europe and beyond.

A young English reporter, Peter Fryer, working for the Daily Worker, witnessed the event itself and the immediate aftermath. That paper was the forerunner of today’s Morning Star, which today proudly and justifiably claims to be the world’s only English language, socialist daily newspaper.

The story of what Fryer witnessed in Hungry can be read in his short book, Hungarian Tragedy. It makes harrowing reading.

Fryer was dispatched to Hungary as there had been reports of a student demonstration. As is often the case for reporters, initial glimpses of information were conflicting: “hundreds killed”, “student demonstrations”, “A few nationalist slogans, but everything is good-humored.”

The Daily Worker was published by the People’s Press Printing Society, a reader-owned cooperative, as is today’s Morning Star. Back then the strongest party political influence on the paper was the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). Today it is the Communist Party of Britain.

However, back in 1956, the Daily Worker and the CPGB leadership suppressed Fryer’s reports from Hungary. His colleagues at the paper were even denied the opportunity of seeing his copy.

Fryer had an interview in Budapest’s Duma Hotel with English Communist Charlie Coutts, the English language editor of World Youth. The interview was “taken down as Coutts told it” by Fryer and dispatched to the Daily Worker.

On arriving in London it was subjected to “normal editing and subbing” and printed, though 450 words shorter than the original. Insidious changes were inserted. Instead of “Mr. Coutts said” it read “Mr. Coutts asserted” and “Mr. Coutts believed.” Tellingly, the word revolution appeared as uprising — a ploy not lost today on some Nicaragua commentators.

Hungarian tragedy 

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