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A little rebellion now and then - Thomas Jefferson
A little rebellion now and then - Thomas Jefferson

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October 23rd in 1956 was the spark that touched off a revolution, much to the surprise of everyone involved. It began with a student demonstration in Hungary, which attracted thousands of protestors as it marched through Budapest. Before the Parliament building, the crowd chanted the censored National Song (“We vow, we vow, we will no longer remain slaves!”) and cut the communist coat-of-arms out of their Hungarian flags. First Secretary Gero broadcast a speech denouncing the demonstrators as a reactionary mob, and tempers flared. Working together, the 200,000 protestors pulled down a 30-foot statue of Stalin and stuffed the empty bronze boots with their Hungarian flags. Increasingly threatened, the Security Police unwisely fired into the crowd and killed several. Violence erupted and the Security Police called for backup from the army. The local Hungarian soldiers, however, tore the red stars from their hats and sided with the protestors. Suddenly the entire country, all at once, was at war with communism.

Hungarians organized into militias, battling the Security Police and the Soviet troops, and the puppet government fell. A new government of rebels formed in its place, pledging to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and initiate free elections. By the end of October, fighting had almost stopped and a sense of normality began to return. For a single precious week, the Hungarians actually thought they had won their freedom.

The empire, of course, struck back. On November 4th, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest. The Hungarians resisted, but lost, and thousands died or fled the country. The government arrested thousands more, deporting many to Siberia. By January, the new puppet government had suppressed all opposition, and the revolution was finished. At least, publicly. For thirty years afterward, the Soviets tried to pretend the revolution never happened and censored any mention of it. But people don’t forget freedom. In 1989, with Soviet power crumbling and the satellites reasserting their independence, the new Hungarian Republic declared October 23rd a national holiday.

None understood the importance of rebellion more so than Thomas Jefferson, and the other founding fathers.