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An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution - Chapter XIV

CHAPTER XIV.

January 6th.

That ghost has been haunting us too long : it must be laid. Ever since I met this ever-recurring cause of our nation's defeat in the Franciscans' house, my language to the women has assumed a graver tone.

Those who have allowed the country to go to rack and ruin have not changed, and so a new future must be built up in the minds of the children. To succeed our own much tried generation we must raise up a new one which understands and holds in horror that bane of our nation, party strife, born of everlasting jealousy. We must start with the children, and see that in future no man says to his brother : " Why should it be thine ? Why not mine ? " Or : " If it cannot be mine, let it be rather our neighbour's child than thine... "

The women understand me. Our numbers grow more and more.

Cold rain was falling, slanting in the wind, as I crossed the town on foot, on my way to meet the leaders of the various organisations of Protestant women. The streets were emptier than usual, and as I approached the House of Parliament I began to feel rather nervous. The friendless streets, like the lairs of cut-throats, opened darkly into the ill-lit square. I had had enough of walking and wanted to get into a tram, but as usually happens nowadays, especially when one is in a hurry, the traffic had come to a standstill and no car appeared. Several people were waiting at the stopping-place where a constable, armed with a rifle, was standing on the edge of the pavement. I looked at my watch. The tram was due at five and it was already a quarter past. The constable cursed : " We might loaf here till midnight, " said he, and shifting his rifle on his shoulder he started to walk off.

" Can I go with you ? " I asked him. The man nodded and, taking two steps to his one, I walked along with him. " People will think you are locking me up, " I laughed.

" We are going away, from the police-station, " he laughed back. " As a matter of fact it is wise of you not to walk alone here. People are often attacked. But it won't last. The old order will be restored. We shall soon rid the country of this Galician ministry. " He began to complain bitterly, cursing the Government and all the various councils : " They ought all to be hanged, every one of them. "

" Do tell me, how did you come to join the revolution ? "

" I ? A few bribed scoundrels misled us. We didn't know what we were doing. "

When I left him I thought that the news that the police are drifting over to the counter-revolution must be true. It could hardly be otherwise, seeing that they are all brave, Hungarian, country-bred lads.

When I reached the meeting of the leading Protestant ladies I told them that so long as the various Christian creeds were fighting separately we should obtain nothing, but that if they joined hands they might still save the country, and they all decided to put all self-interest aside and to save whatever might still be saved. I felt that the unity which political parties were trying vainly to attain did already exist in the women's souls.

........

January 7th-10th.

This wretched town is continually being convulsed by riots, and between the riots it howls and destroys, starves and robs. Its streets are peopled with Communist demonstrators who march about under the red flag. From the opposite direction comes a crowd of patriotic youths under the national flag, and the two crowds go for each other, tear off each other's emblems and break each other's heads. And while the crowd is openly turbulent, astonishing things happen in secret.

Mackensen has been surrounded by Spahis in Fóth.

At dawn some French officers entered his room, made him a prisoner, and gave him half-an-hour in which to make his preparations, and then, before the sun rose, and without attracting attention, took him with his escort by car to Gödöllő. It is said that they are going to send him somewhere south. Károlyi's Government, although it is alleged that the arrest was made by the Government's request, has lodged a protest with the French. The organ of the Freemasons, Világ, remarked cynically that : " in the noise of great catastrophies the voice of little individual tragedies is lost... " Any tragedy is individual for them when it happens to gentile races, but whatever touches their race becomes a public calamity.

At noon another rumour spread over the town. Balthasar Láng, one of the props of the War Office, an old friend of mine, has been arrested.

Better news had been reaching us for some time. Counties in the north had begun to organise, and far from the treasonable Soldiers' Council, home-defence committees had been formed. The men folk of the north-western counties had stood to arms and opposed the advancing Czechs at Vágselye, but it had not come to a battle. As soon as the enemy heard that armed resistance was awaiting him, he turned in his tracks and retreated.

Hope rose. It would have been so easy for the armed Hungarian population to expel the intruders who refused to face a battle. Baron Láng was one of the organisers of this plan. It is said that the president of one of these home-defence committees, Szmrecsányi, spent the night before his departure at Láng's house, and that with traditional Hungarian carelessness he left his motor waiting all night in front of the house, so that the secret police of the Soldiers' Council got wind of his visit and reported the matter, and the Soldiers' Council insisted on action being taken. At the time, Count Alexander Festetich, Károlyi's brother-in-law, had been put at the head of the War Office to screen the little Jewish electrician who really ran the show, and this weak nobleman was obliged to have Láng arrested. He ordered him to appear before him, and had him detained on the spot.

It was the fate of one man only, but it affected so many...

The head of the Soldiers' Council, Pogány, and the leaders of the Social Democratic party had long ago decided the fate of any formal resistance ; they anxiously watched the organisation of measures for the country's defence. The Social Democrats had made it a special point that none but they should have any armed forces at their disposal. Károlyi and Festetich did not stand in their way in this matter, and the military administration withdrew all arms and munitions from the contingents which had risen patriotically in the country's defence. The trains carrying provisions for them were stopped by Pogány when ready to start; the troops fed themselves for a time at their own expense; but the Soldiers' Council of Pest would not have this either and sent a number of its agitators among them.

Suddenly, discipline began to slacken among the ranks; the soldiers dismissed their officers, raised the red flag, and withdrew without the slightest reason and left the country open to the invading Czechs, who became intoxicated with their easy success. After six thousand Hungarian soldiers had surrendered in Pressburg to one of their regiments, they crossed the Ipoly river at their ease and occupied the coal mines of Salgo Tarján. A detachment of forty men, without firing a shot, planted the Czech flag on the walls of the impregnable fort of Komárom...

These days have pierced the heart of the nation.

Now it is reported that the Czechs will not stop at the bend of the Danube. The only cowards of the World War, the perpetual traitors, are preparing to occupy Budapest, and nowhere do the bayonets of Hungarian soldiers advance, while Hungary melts away. They scatter without order, under the influence of that terrible eastern eye, which hypnotises our people and lures the unhappy nation to disgrace.

........

January 11th.

The sky is dark and threatening. On the great national road which runs from the Carpathians to the heart of the country the bayonets of Czech soldiers are advancing on the capital, and now for the first time Bolshevist posters have appeared on the walls of Budapest. " The Hungarian Communist Party will hold a mass-meeting... " It was under the shadow of these ill-omened signs that, this morning, we unfurled the flag of the National Association of Hungarian Women.

In a house on the bank of the Danube, in the rooms of the Christian Socialist Party, lent for the occasion, we gathered together without informing the police. The élite of both the Catholic and the Protestant world of women was present. Among those who attended we observed with astonishment some of Károlyi's closest relations, who were asking their acquaintances why we had met and what we were driving at. Some uneasiness was shown, and to prevent it spreading Countess Raphael Zichy took the chair at once and opened the meeting. With a brevity which admitted of no interruption she communicated the purpose of the association and informed us of the agreement between the Protestant and Catholic camps.

Consternation was visible among the relations of Károlyi. Words of discord arose, obviously meant to destroy the unity which was a threat against the Government. When the president called on me to speak I felt that our cause was at stake, and heart and head alike were possessed with the same inspiration. I forgot that I was a stranger in the world of politics, that I had not prepared my speech, that I had never spoken at a great public meeting before; I only knew that our cause must prevail; and all my love for, all my despair over, our people cried out from my very soul, in my words.

" I see on the soil of Hungary two churches, Catholic and Protestant, and over them the Christian sky of Hungary stretches in eternal majesty. The soil on which they stand, the sky that is above them, are our country, our faith. Let these form the bond between us, my sisters... "

Till that moment I did not know what marvellous wings words possessed, but now I was carried away by my own words, and they carried the others with me to a point where our souls met.

"... We cannot walk separate paths, we who seek to walk the path marked out by Christ ! Let us love one another and walk hand in hand, Christian women ! Hand in hand ! "

Eternal love and gratitude filled my heart at this moment, and my voice had more than mere words in it : " That which has never before happened in our country shall happen now—we, Protestant and Catholic women, shall be united this day, we whose sole desire it is that Hungary shall be Hungarian and Christian. "

The objections of the ladies belonging to Károlyi's party were lost in the general acclamation, and the National Association of Hungarian women emerged from the obscurity of weeks of struggle and came out into the open as the counter-revolution of the women, in defence of their faith, their country and their homes.

........

January 12th.

The papers that used to be Conservative published the news of our association and its manifesto, but made no comments on them.

I told Joseph Vészi, the editor-in-chief of the Pester Lloyd, that we were on the defensive and did not intend to attack. His sense of justice inspired him to say : " I shall publish your appeal, and I think it is natural that you should organise on a Christian and national basis, because Hungary was ruined by Jews—not by the Jews—but by Jews. Five hundred Jews... I say so, though I am a Jew myself. "

I noted these words, not as a testimony to me, but as an admission !

I have no doubt that there are many Jews who think the same. But surely they do a great wrong to their own people by not branding such among them as " black sheep, " especially at a time when they alone have the right to speak and protest in the interest of the country.

The Socialist press passed over the manifesto in silence.

When I started out a wintry storm was howling over the houses. Count Stephen Bethlen had convoked another meeting for five o'clock in the House of the Franciscans. Up in the dark sky black clouds raced along like fearsome witches. Only a few street lamps were alight, and the rattling of their panes in the wind sounded as if their teeth were chattering. The whole town was thronging to the first mass-meeting of the communists. Above the houses the eternal flags were flapping wildly, their green and white parts so begrimed that now only the red was showing like a blotch of blood. In the dirty streets scraps of paper and dirt were whirled about, and the wind almost blew people off their legs.

When I came to the big mansion, which faces on to two streets, armed soldiers were standing at the entrance, with red cockades on their caps. They stared hard at me, and when I got inside I was told that there were soldiers at the other entrance too. " They are watching us... "

Count Bethlen again raised the question of unity.

" Foreign bayonets are marching on the capital; don't let it be said that we couldn't agree until we were under their very shadow. "

Hours passed in hopeless, sterile discussion. All the time I could not help thinking how the socialists in the Workers' Council had by now practically joined forces with the Communists, and that while we were unable to come to an agreement they were probably howling in unison at their general meeting for the destruction of our country, faith and homes.

In all my life I was never more despondent. As a last hope I got up and said that the Christian women had already joined together, and that we were now all in one camp and only waiting to be able to join with the united parties.

" Long live the ladies ! " shouted the whole room, but again nothing happened, and the meeting dispersed without having come to any decision—just like the time before.

When I left, the soldiers were no longer loafing near the entrance. A rabble crowded the streets, and an acquaintance whom I met said to me :

" Do you see this mob ? It has come from the mass-meeting, where it has been listening to the Communists' speeches. "

The meeting started as a demonstration and ended by becoming the occasion for the unfurling of the Communist banner. At the request of Lieut.-Colonel Vyx the police had handed over nine Russian Bolshevik Jews to the French, and they had been expelled. A part of the population of Budapest now gets up a demonstration in favour of these nine foreigners, though it made not the slightest protest when Károlyi delivered several millions of Hungarians to the Czechs, Serbians and Roumanians. Jewish officers with red cockades organised the meeting, and the people of the ghetto were thronging there among disbanded soldiers, Galileist students, apprentices, and crazy women. The whole place was crammed with a human stream primed with hatred. The galleries creaked under their weight, and in the corridors a crowded-out throng shouted furiously.

On the platform the red phalanx of the Communist leaders surrounded Béla Kún, who opened the meeting and spoke of the revolution of the world's proletariat and the counter-revolution of the capitalist order, the two forces which, according to his materialistic views, are fighting a death struggle in Europe to-day. He attacked the Government because it had delivered up the red " comrades " and because it was hindering the westward advance of the Soviet Republic. Then he referred with enthusiasm to the struggle of the German Spartacists, speaking of them almost reverently.

" Long live the Spartacists, we're Spartacists too ! " the soldiers shouted frantically : " we're all Bolsheviks ! "

" Our first duty is to arm ! " shouted Béla Kún. Then he bellowed into the hall : " Lenin makes an appeal to you through me ! " At the mention of Lenin's name the whole gathering rose. Women applauded like furies. " Lenin sends you this message : ' change the war of imperialism into an international class-war !' "

Somebody shouted " Death to the Bourgeoisie ! " and the whole hall took up the cry. Then there was an interruption. The Red soldiery would not allow Garbai, the Socialist leader, to speak. Béla Kún, shouting from the top of the table, tried to make order : " If a bourgeois came to speak here, I should be the first to say 'throw him out of the window;' but Comrade Garbai has come from the other camp of the Workers, with whom we have yet to join up in our fight for freedom. "

Comrade Garbai said something to the same effect : " The Socialists and the Communists agree on every point : their aims and their enemies are the same, but the time has not yet come. "

Vágo shouted in a hoarse voice : " The Communists want no freedom of speech, no democracy; arm the whole proletariat, disarm the bourgeoisie, proclaim the Soviet Republic !... "

I thought of the meeting of Hungarian gentlemen I had just left.

The wind howled round me, the flags tore at their staffs and fluttered wildly over the dark streets; their folds became entangled and they struggled as if desperate hands were wrung above the people's heads.

........

January 13th.

I have been working the whole day long, at work that is new to me. In the office of our Association I have been racking my brain with details of organisation. I drew up handbills and wrote innumerable letters, though I hate writing letters. In the evening we met in the Zichy palace and decided that in any event we would prepare a memorandum of protest on the part of the women, so that it should be ready when the missions of the Entente arrived. Count Klebelsberg brought forward a draft, ready for translation into foreign languages... Time passed, and we started home.

Nowadays it is rare to get a cab, and if one happens to meet one one may well say one's prayers before entering it. During the last spell of darkness a soldier climbed on to the box of a cab in which were two ladies. He and the driver were accomplices. The horses were whipped up and the cab was driven at a mad gallop through lonely suburban streets, towards the cemetery. Fortunately the ladies jumped out, and so escaped; but goodness knows how that night would have ended for them if they had not.

Countess Zichy sent me home in her own carriage.

Klebelsberg got out in the Inner town and I drove on alone. When we reached the Rákoczi Road all the street lamps were suddenly extinguished. The dark street gaped and swallowed us up.

There was shooting everywhere, and the horses became restless. I could feel that the coachman was frightened : indeed the night seemed full of terror. We arrived at a gallop at my house, and I saw that my mother's window was open. Regardless of the cold she was sitting at it waiting for me, and now called down to the coachman : " There is a riot near the Popular Theatre, don't go in that direction. "

The man thanked her for the warning, and the clatter of hoofs died away in the opposite direction, turning so suddenly that it seemed the very horses were aware of the danger.

........

January 14th.

Our destiny has been decided for us in secret, in whispers within the walls of Pest. And the houses where this whispering has been going on have paid the penalty : their grimy fronts are branded with the mark of the beast. The very customs and manners of the times are designed for the masses, and obtrude themselves like prostitutes in the street. Modesty and discretion no longer exist. It is probably for the same reason that the world of art and letters now produces only works meant for the masses. Epochs are known by their arts. Our age has posters—and viler, baser posters than those of to-day, whether on paper or in the shape of men, have never existed.

As I stepped out into the street this morning it did me good, after all the pasted-up horrors, to see the posters of the League for the Defence of Territorial Integrity, showing on a red background the split-up map of Hungary. This map showed the ancient kingdom cut up into five pieces, and in the midst of the provinces despoiled by Czecho-Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Roumania and Austria, there appeared the tiny little land that remains to us, a land incapable of existence, the plain deprived of its forests and its mines. And underneath, as though the crippled land, robbed of three million Hungarian sons, were crying out, three words were printed : " No, no, never ! "

The streets, the houses, the walls proclaimed it, and after endless weeks I felt for the first time at home again in this town, which had denied everything that goes to make up my faith. Is Budapest recovering its sanity ? My hope was suddenly torn to shreds. Near a bare tree of the boulevard a well-dressed young man bent down and scooped up some mud with his hands; then... he walked up to the wall and flung it all over the poster.

The blood rushed to my head. " How dare you ! " I cried. The young man turned round. I shall never forget his face ; it was drawn in Palestine two thousand years ago.

" What are you talking about ? There's no such thing as ' my country,' " he said vindictively.

Instinctively I looked round—was there nobody to take this scoundrel by the throat ? But the passers-by went on unheeding. I don't remember what I said, but I don't think I have ever felt so angry before. It was all so humiliating. I had never realised so clearly, so frightfully, what it was they wanted. No country ! They have none, so they intend that we shall have none either.

Are the Jews going to outlive us too, because they will not die for the land ? All my national instincts rebelled. They shall not outlive us ! Their time will come. They are only mortal, for they want a country—they want our country. The life of peoples is like the life of individuals. They have their childhood, their youth, their manhood and their old age. Humanity has deprived the Jewish people of the flowering time of youth and manhood. Their race has aged unsatisfied while it has buried its contemporaries—Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians. It has seen Athens, Rome, and Byzantium die, though it was old when it stood at their cradles. Without contemporaries, alone, a stranger, it has remained among us, and it cannot yet die, for it must await its destiny. And now, even when the nations had begun to deal kindly with it, it celebrates its wasted flowering-time in a horrible dance of death.

The Wandering Jew paints his face young, and indulges in orgies on the edge of the grave.

........

January 15th-27th.

At the corner of a street I met a couple, a girl and a man. The fair face of the girl was familiar to me. She wore her hair after the Bolshevik fashion and her eyes stared curiously while she talked. Suddenly I remembered her : it was Maria Goszthonyi. She looked untidy, her boots were down at heel, her skirt was ragged and she wore no gloves though it was bitterly cold. Her companion had black gloves and was dressed entirely in black, and as he had black hair too he was a most mournful-looking object. His narrow shoulders bent forward and his back looked humped; he hadn't really got a hump, but his face gave one the impression of a hunchback as well. He was remarkably pale, and only his big, Jewish nose shone red in his face between his dark eyes. How did a girl like this come to be in his company ?

They had passed me while I was still thinking of them and casually I noticed the name of the street I was in, Visegr'd Street. The editorial offices of the Red News were in this street and it was a hotbed of Communists, who gathered here for their meetings.

I had heard a lot about Maria Goszthonyi lately. She had learned Russian within the last few years and had translated several Communist works, and under the influence of two Jewish friends, one of them the son of a rich banker, had professed Syndicalist principles. She had some trouble during the war because in the hospital in which she worked as a voluntary nurse she taught Communist doctrines to the wounded soldiers. It is also said that during the stormy days of October she made propagandist speeches in one of the camps of Russian prisoners. She had said one day to a friend of mine : " We shall soon be fighting over barricades in these streets. " Since then she had often been seen with Béla Kún at Communistic meetings. The last time I had spoken to her she had been a mere child. Her parents had brought her up in their castle, carefully guarded, spoilt, and she seemed an artistically inclined, bright young girl. Her mother is patriotic and fond of music, and the best musicians used to stay at their house; her father runs a model farm.

How could a girl like that fall into the company of the Communists ? There are epidemics of a spiritual nature too in this world ! The war itself was one epidemic, and Bolshevism is another. There is a serious spread of the disease at Berlin at present. Its two most violent propagators have been killed, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, and because the woman was the more gifted of the two and had a greater gift for hatred, her destructive spirit was more efficient than his. While Liebknecht organised the German Spartacists he was the link between the revolutionary Jews of Russia and Germany. These two combined with the criminal classes and stirred up the Berlin rabble against the townspeople, for they wanted civil war, and to be masters of ruined Germany. Now the rage of the mob has torn Rosa Luxemburg to pieces, and Liebknecht, who egged on others to face death while he hid under an assumed name, ran when his turn came to show courage—and was shot as he ran.

The Berlin papers said that neither of them knew the limit where political strife ended and criminal action began, but the Hungarian supporters of the Government wrote : " The fate of these two is perilously like to that of the Nazarene... This day two saints, with the halo of martyrs, have been enshrined in the history of communism... "

The whole existence, foundation, and teaching of communism is based on class-hatred, which means fratricide. Christ's teaching is love itself. There is no bridge over the gulf separating the two. His kingdom is not of this world, theirs is all of this world and brushes aside all that is not of this world. They take everything, He gave everything. The Nazarene died for them too, and now they crucify Him anew.

At the commemorative service organised by the Communists, Béla Kún and his comrades insulted the teachings of Christ. Foaming at the mouth, they pointed towards the portraits of Rosa Luxemburg and Liebknecht, carried about on poles, called on the crowd for vengeance and vomited such hatred as has never before been heard in this town. At first Béla Kún impressed the mob, then, all of a sudden, it turned against him. He shouted from the platform : " We too are threatened with their fate. But we vow that even if we are drawn and quartered we shall continue to walk along the road on which they led. "

Somebody in the crowd shouted : " Are you going to walk when you've been drawn and quartered ? " The crowd roared with laughter. It was no good after that to shout " Comrades, don't weep ! " for nobody was weeping, and the speech, meant to produce revolutionary fury, burst like a soap-bubble over the people's head.

To-day it bursts, to-day they laugh. But on the quiet the Government is playing the Communists' game. A short time ago a Communist agitator, Tibor Szamuelly, was arrested on a charge of murder. A Lieutenant-Colonel, back from captivity, deposed that this man, who as a prisoner of war in Russia had been one of Trotski's confidants, had ordered the execution of a hundred and fifty Hungarian officers because they refused to join the Red guards. This Communist Szamuelly had not spent three days in prison when, at the intervention of Károlyi, the proceedings against him were quashed and he was released.

Another chink in the screen behind which the devilish work is being carried on.

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