November 8, 1956 – The situation in Hungary was quickly spiraling out of control, calling for an emergency session at the United Nations in order to figure out what recourse to take in light of the darkening picture.
The revolt began as a student protest, which attracted thousands as they marched through central Budapest to the Parliament building, calling out on the streets using a van with loudspeakers. A student delegation, entering the radio building to try to broadcast the students’ demands, was detained. When the delegation’s release was demanded by the protesters outside, they were fired upon from within the building by the State Security Police, known as ÁVH (acronym for Állam Védelmi Hatóság, literally “State Protection Authority”). One student died and was wrapped in a flag and held above the crowd. This was the start of the revolution in Hungary. As the news spread, disorder and violence erupted throughout the capital.
The revolt spread quickly across Hungary, and the government collapsed. Thousands organized into militias, battling the ÁVH and Soviet troops. Pro-Soviet communists and ÁVH members were often executed or imprisoned, and former political prisoners were released and armed. Radical impromptu workers’ councils wrested municipal control from the ruling Hungarian Working People’s Party and demanded political changes. A new government formally disbanded the ÁVH, declared its intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and pledged to re-establish free elections. By the end of October, fighting had almost stopped, and a sense of normality began to return.
After announcing a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Politburo changed its mind and moved to crush the revolution. On 4 November, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. The Hungarian resistance continued until 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter. By January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all public opposition. These Soviet actions, while strengthening control over the Eastern Bloc, alienated many Western Marxists, leading to splits and/or considerable losses of membership for communist parties in capitalist states.
Here is a half-hour snippet of the day-long proceedings from the UN, as broadcast by NBC Radio on November 8, 1956.