József Révai ( 1898-1959)

Born into a lower middle-class family in Budapest, Révai went from commercial secondary school to university in Vienna and Berlin. He was a member of the Galilei Circle. Révai worked as a bank official before joining in 1917 the staff of the internationalist, left-wing, anti-war periodical Tett (Deed) and its successor Ma (Today), run by the avant-garde writer and artist Lajos Kassák. Révai took part in the inaugural meeting of the Hungarian Communist Party in November 1918 and then joined the staff of its paper, Vörös Újság (Red News). During the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, he was a member of the Central Workers' and Soldiers' Soviet in Budapest. He emigrated to Vienna in the autumn of 1919, where he contributed to communist publications and joined the faction led by Jenő Landler, a senior figure who had commanded the Red Army in the final weeks of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. At the first congress of the Hungarian Communist Party, held in 1925 in Vienna, Révai was elected head of the Secretariat and took part in drafting the congress resolutions. He set up the illegal paper Kommunista in Budapest in 1928. His pupil-teacher friendship with György Lukács deteriorated in 1929, when he criticized the Blum Theses of the Marxist thinker and politician. Révai was arrested in Hungary on December 31, 1930 and sentenced in 1931 to three-and-a-half years' imprisonment. On his release in January 1934, he left for Prague and then for Moscow. There he became a member of the Comintern Executive and taught at the Lenin School. In early 1937, he began to take part in the work of the Hungarian Communist Party Central Committee in Czechoslovakia, but had to flee from the German occupation through Poland and Sweden to the Soviet Union. During the war, he ran the Hungarian-language Radio Kossuth in Moscow and edited the paper Igaz Szó (True Word). He was also a member of the Foreign Committee of the Hungarian Communist Party. In the autumn of 1944, Révai and Ernő Gerő drew up an action programme for the party. He returned to Hungary on November 7, 1944 and took part in establishing the Hungarian Communist Party Central Committee. He was then in Szeged, where he edited the paper Délmagyarország (South Hungary), which was controlled by the Hungarian National Independence Front. He headed the communist group in the National Assembly. From January 26 to May 11, 1945, he was an alternate member of the National Supreme Council, and then until September 27, a full member of it. He remained a member of Parliament for the rest of his life. In the Hungarian Communist Party, he was on the Central Committee, joining the Political Committee in May 1945, having become head of the Central Committee Propaganda and Press Department in the previous month. From 1945 to 1950, he was editor-in-chief of the central party daily, Szabad Nép. He was the Political Committee member supervising the Intelligentsia Department of the Central Committee in 1946-7, and until 1949, the Education and Foreign Affairs Department. He drafted the manifesto for the merged HWP , and on March 15, 1949, received the Kossuth Prize Gold Grade for the 'publicist struggle against reaction', in other words, journalism and publicity attempting to counter anti-communism. Révai served as minister of public education from June 1949 to July 1953. He attacked György Lukács sharply in the so-called Lukács debate in 1950 and both Lukács and Tibor Déry in another controversy in 1952. However, he was dropped from the Political Committee in June 1953. From July 3, 1953 to November 26, 1958, he was a deputy president of the Presidential Council , and from October 1953 to July 1954, editor-in-chief of the journal Társadalmi Szemle (Social Review). The July 1956 meeting of the Central Committee returned him to the Political Committee. On the afternoon of October 23, 1956, he and István Frisch tried to control the coverage by the Szabad Nép , but without success. He was re-elected to the Political Committee at the Central Committee meeting that night. Shortly afterwards, he was taken to Moscow. Early in 1957, he wrote a lengthy article entitled 'Purity of Ideas' (published in the Hungarian party daily Népszabadság (People's Freedom) on March 7, 1957), arguing that the criticisms of the Rákosi leadership were exaggerated. He was recalled to Hungary in February 1957, as an adviser to the Provisional Executive Committee of the HSWP , and elected to the HSWP Central Committee. The debate continued in June as a clash between the adherents of János Kádár and those of Révai at the national meeting of the HSWP, where he was defeated. He then ' accepted the majority view' and was re-elected to the Central Committee. He was a member of the Presidential Council until his death.

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This page was created: Wednesday, 3-Dec-2003
Last updated: Wednesday, 3-Dec-2003
Copyright © 2003 The Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

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