Há 55 anos, na Hungria... - a luta pela gestão operária

III. Workers’ councils in factories

539. Since 1947, trade unions in Hungary had become instruments of the Government and eventually agents of the Hungarian Workers’ (Communist) Party. From then on, they were exclusively used to establish production standards, working conditions and wage scales in such a way as to serve the interests of the State. Their leaders were appointed by the Government, under the direction of the Party, and the chairman of the shop committee in each plant picked the committee members from workers trusted politically by the Party. Only one candidate was put up for election, and he was elected by show of hands. In these circumstances, as witnesses stated, workers ceased to consider the trade unions as their true representatives, but looked toward the establishment of genuine workers’ organizations which would not remain indifferent to their complaints and their demands.(24) This criticism of the unions had become widespread before the uprising, and Népszava, the central organ of the National Council of Trade Unions, (Szakszervezetek Országos Tanácsa) (SZOT), declared on 9 September 1956 in an editorial: “Trade union activities in Hungary became distorted and for years have been run on the wrong lines. The time has come now for the trade union movement to become, once again, a workers’ movement”.

540. Hungarian workers were aware that in neighbouring Yugoslavia, the economic and social status of workers was superior to their own, and that Yugoslav workers had some say in the running of factories through the agency of Workers’ Councils. Hungarian workers, according to witnesses, were especially attracted by the Yugoslav system whereby the factory manager was elected by the Workers’ Council and not imposed on them as was the case in Hungary. For some time before the revolution questions relating to worker-management relations in general and the Yugoslav Workers’ Councils in particular had been widely discussed in the trade unions and in the Petőfi Club. Articles were published - including one by the Deputy Secretary-General of the National Council of Trade Unions, Jenő Fock - suggesting changes in the status of trade unions and factory bodies. A well-known economist, János Kornai, a convinced Communist, made a critical study of the “scientific Marxist-Leninist planned economy” and, among the new methods which he proposed to help in solving the problems of State-managed industry, he stressed the role of Workers’ Councils. During the summer and fall of 1956, leading economists and trade union leaders - among them Professor István Friss, Zoltán Vas and Sándor Gáspár, the latter Secretary-General of the National Council of Trade Unions - went to Yugoslavia to study the functioning of Workers’ Councils, and reported on them at public lectures and in the press.

541. Some of the demands put forward by student organizations and other intellectual bodies on the eve of the uprising related to the situation of workers and included proposals for the setting up of Workers’ Councils. The Petőfi Club of the Communist League of Working Youth (DISZ), in a resolution adopted on 22 October, suggested that the Central Committee of the Party and the Government should promote “the development of a socialist democracy in Hungary… by satisfying the justified political demands of the workers, and by establishing factory autonomy and workers democracy”.(25) A statement issued by the Hungarian Writers’ Union on 23 October included the following point: “Factories must be run by workers and specialists. The present humiliating system of wages, working norms and social security conditions must be reformed. The trade unions must truly represent the interests of the Hungarian workers.”(26)

[relatório da ONU - páginas 166-167]

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