October is the fall weather cycle and a month of famous changes in many countries. The two October revolutions that come to mind are the Hungarian Revolution 1956, and the 1917 Revolution in Russia with the Bolsheviks. October in history is the color of bloodshed, or the deep reds of the changing Sumac tree. October revolts often led to later war and bloodshed.

Hungarians gather around the head of the toppled Stalin Monument in BudapestHungarian Revolution of 1956Credit: The American Hungarian Federation

The Hungarian uprising of October 1956 set the ideals for the successful 1989 political breakthrough to end communism control finally. Soviet repression with Khrushchev's iron fist was coming down hard in Eastern Europe. Imry Nagy was the Hungarian leader who is largely considered a hero of the Hungarian Revolution 1956. Communism and Stalinistic police had created much hatred from the Hungarian people. They were dissatisfied with with the terror tactics and economic difficulties the Soviets had reigned on them. Nagy had been dumped by the communists a year earlier for his liberal policies. He was re-instated (Hungarian Worker’s Party) to pacify the growing unrest in the country. Two days after his new leadership the pro-democracy rally took place in Budapest with nearly 100,000 students and workers. The protesters were unarmed yet that didn’t stop the order for Soviet tanks to move into the street. Police had already begun firing point blank into the crowds of peaceful demonstrators. Although 100’s of casualties resulted, the Hungarian people remained. The tanks turned away from them. Nagy promised a return to a free elections multi-party system, and announced Hungary's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact.

The Warsaw Pact was a military and political Soviet response to NATO that had formed in 1955. It ended in 1991. Obviously, Khrushchev wasn’t going to let this freedom from Communist rule really happen even though the tanks began to pull out on October 30th. They returned on November 4th, Nagy was imprisoned and later executed in 1958. The sad story of this spirited and inspiring plea for independence stayed alive with the very brave Hungarian people. I find this last statement of Imry Nagy to be worth citing here.

November 4, 1956:
“This fight is the fight for freedom by the Hungarian people against the Russian intervention, and it is possible that I shall only be able to stay at my post for one or two hours. The whole world will see how the Russian armed forces, contrary to all treaties and conventions, are crushing the resistance of the Hungarian people. They will also see how they are kidnapping the prime Minister of a country which is a Member of the United nations, taking him from the capital, and therefore it cannot be doubted at all that this is the most brutal form of intervention. I should like in these last moments to ask the leaders of the revolution, if they can, to leave the country. I ask that all I have said in my broadcast, and what we have agreed on with the revolutionary leaders during meetings in Parliament, should be put in a memorandum, and the leaders should turn to all the peoples of the world for help and explain that today it is Hungary and tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, it will be the turn of other countries because the imperialism of Moscow does not know borders, and is only trying to play for time.”

Perhaps this moving speech could be applied to the current state of affairs with different countries in the realm.  Even the brave peaceful revolution has been repeated in different countries since October 1956, and horribly squashed, with the whole world watching. It is worth taking note of past history and also noting whether there has been any growth in less imperialism.  

Russia 1917
The 1917 revolution with Lenin and his merry band of Bolsheviks (soon renamed the Communists) became a formidable force to seize power in Russia. He liked Marxist theory yet remained firm in his “April Theses” that Russia could skip the bourgeois revolution and get right into socialism. At the time, the tsarist regime had collapsed, and a provisional government was in place. The two major authorities were the Constitutional Democrats (middle-class, liberal aristocratic folks providing a liberal agenda to pass reforms for civil equality, universal suffrage and even an 8 hour workday), and the Soviets (representing interests of the lower classes, socialists of various kinds). The latter split into 2 different groups, the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks.  Soon the Bolsheviks became known as the party devoted to killing the capitalist system via a violent revolution.  

Over the spring and summer months the Bolsheviks had gotten through to the peasants to seize property on their own. They left the provisional government army and began seizing property. They had been inundated with the Bolshevik slogans:

  • “Peace, land, bread”
  • “Worker control of production”
  • “All power to the soviets”

and they were joining the party. By late October they had a majority of the soviets.  Next the planning of a proletarian revolution to overthrow the the provisional government took place.

Amazingly enough the takeover wasn’t too bloody. On November 8th, Lenin announced the new Soviet government. The Communist regime had begun.

The cataclysmic Russian upheaval continued to policy making that allowed the communists to succeed in control of Russia from 1917 to 1991.  A long wild ride for the Communists.

Other October Revolutionary Events
One event a little closer to home is the famous Wall Street stock market crash that occurred on October 29th of 1929, commonly known as Black Tuesday. The unfortunate crash began the Great Depression which lasted for 12 years. Many people believe we are in another depression, and so it goes.

A great event that slightly preceded the fall of communism was the re-unification of Germany on October 3rd, 1990.  I recall witnessing that via television and being so happy for the German people.

Lastly, the Cuban Missile Crisis mainly played out during a tense October, 1962.  Once again Khruschev was the communist leader wreaking havoc.

The month of change will surely hold more surprises in the future. More revolutions of a kinder nature, too, hopefully.