61. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State1

430. Reports from diverse sources indicate that Rakosi’s May 18 speech2 has produced optimum situation politically and psychologically [Page 169] for type diplomatic offensive recommended by Legation and under consideration by Department for past several weeks.

Even pessimistic locals were willing give odds that some clear-cut break with past policies would be discernable in speech and that Rakosi would, at the least, be forced make some concessions of substantive nature in face pressures which have clearly been building up against him from below and in effort smooth out some of more striking anomalies between past year’s policies here and trends now observable in Soviet Union and in several of other satellites. Tone and content Rakosi’s speech has disappointed locals harboring even most cautious hopes and has given rise even greater general discontent and disaffection towards Rakosi. It has also greatly reinforced Legation’s conviction that only with Rakosi’s removal will road leading to genuine liberalization be opened and that our only means of assisting this is through pressure plus public exposure of realities Hungarian situation under Rakosi’s Stalinist rule.

Apart from these considerations, Rakosi’s pointed reference to “imperialist US which continues try smuggle spies and saboteurs into our country” and other gutter-like anti-US statements, particularly coming after Rajk trial disavowal, Grosz rehabilitation and admissions of run-away secret police activity, cannot in our view go unchallenged if US is to retain respect or prestige in eyes captive peoples.

Our conversations over past month have convinced us, moreover, that there are not only elements in Foreign Office but in party’s leadership as well who would welcome and silently acclaim a diplomatic offensive aimed against Rakosi and his secret police which they could use as leverage in their current efforts effect changes here (Legtels 4053 and 4084). There are many indications that dissension within central leadership is spreading and sharpening; we should lose no opportunity add fuel to fire and we are convinced that now is propitious moment.

While I have not since receipt Deptel 2715 discussed Tiedtke case with Foreign Office, I have referred to it without specific identification along lines recommended reftel in recent conversations with Foreign Office officials as well as with Acs (Legtel 405). Rather strong language has thus far failed provoke rejoinders and only response has been positive one that we submit note specifying our grievances (Legtel, 408). While appreciating considerations behind Department’s decision not make formal written protest dealing this case alone, I continue believe strongly that case (treated along lines suggested Legation despatch [Page 170] 4066 but with moderated language free of recrimination) should be included in general note we have been requested by Foreign Office to submit. . . .

While we cannot, of course, rule out possibility propaganda blast by Hungarians, above opinion now strengthened by fact that almost identical French and Italian cases recently given publicity have not aroused much furor in West and have received no mention here. Having these previous exposures on record might serve take some sting out Tiedtke case in event Hungarians attempt use it; . . .

On balance, therefore, I recommend early transmission note detailing our grievances which would include reference Tiedtke case. To fail send note after specific request would be equivalent saying US has no grievances. Like present circumstances, question publicity should be deferred pending Hungarian reaction.

We would earnestly hope see this note closely followed by one dealing Rajk–Rakosi complex with full and sustained publicity. Content Rakosi’s May 18 speech makes clear that our failure act promptly will result further US prestige loss and Rakosi gain.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/5–2456. Secret.
  2. Reference is to a major speech made before party activists in Budapest. The speech is analyzed and the translated text transmitted in despatch 446, May 25. The Legation noted that “the tone of Rakosi’s speech seemed almost like a throwback to the old Stalinist times. This was particularly noticeable in the section on foreign affairs, where he ranted against U.S. imperialism and spoke openly about alleged American support of spies and saboteurs in Hungary.” (Ibid., 764.00/5–2556)
  3. Document 57.
  4. See footnote 2, ibid.
  5. See footnote 7, Document 55.
  6. See footnote 2, ibid.