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

31. Department also pass USIA, Army, Air Force. Preceded by spate unverified rumors during day, and reports of activity in Parliament [Page 223] building until near dawn previous night, radio Budapest last evening announced meeting yesterday of central committee at which Rakosi resigned as first secretary of CC and Politburo. Gero “unanimously” chosen successor. Kadar, Marosan, Revai and Kiss went into Politburo with Kadar named Secretary. (Alternates also elected were Gaspar and Revai.) New CC members: Former alternates Matusek and Molnar and new members Foldes, Hazai, Imre Horvath, Kadar, Kallai, Marosan and Imre Meso (secretary budget party committee).

Rakosi’s resignation said based on increasing poor health and errors in fields personal cult and socialist legality. Obvious however that party support had dwindled considerably in recent weeks probably to all-time low, and that opposition in party ranks was not weakened in its determination to force show down despite evidence Soviet support for certain of Rakosi’s policies. Recent press line, Pravda criticism of Petofi Club2 proceedings, reported visit last few days by Mikoyan, and preliminary information on proceedings at yesterday’s meeting point clearly to considerable Soviet intervention and unwillingness give unqualified support to either wing.

Choice of Erno Gero as new CC First Secretary suggests intent is to make Rakosi’s sacrifice more symbol than substance, and represents to Legation smallest sacrifice which could have been made. Nevertheless, disappearance Rakosi’s figure if not influence certain to be welcomed by Hungarian people, even though they may feel intense disappointment at Gero as successor. Both Hegedus and Gero’s speeches pointed specifically to continuing danger from right wing party elements. Legation understands that, particularly in foreign broadcasts, slight reduction in 5-year plan goals and further 15,000 man reduction armed forces been used in attempt to characterize change as major concession.

Further details and analysis follows,3 but suggest media handle question as first step or inter-regnum won by basic opposition to system. Obvious that no true Hungary [Hungarian] nor even right wing party group will be placated by this change of guard.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/7–1956. Limited Official Use; Priority. Repeated to Moscow and Munich.
  2. The Petöfi Circle or Club was formed and approved on March 17 as a debating club under the sponsorship of the Federation of Working Youth. Named for the 19th-century Hungarian poet, Sándor Petöfi, the club became a focal point for intellecual opposition and criticism of the Rákosi regime, and its impact within Hungary extended well beyond its immediate circle.
  3. See infra.