Andics, Erzsebet (1902–1986)
Andics, Erzsebet (1902–1986)
Hungarian Communist militant. Born in Hungary in 1902; died in Hungary in 1986.
Joined the Communist Party of Hungary at its inception (1918); narrowly escaped imprisonment or death (1919) and fled to Soviet Russia; arrested (early 1920s) and imprisoned by Hungarian regime but exchanged for Hungarian captives; returned to Hungary after World War II and served as one of the few women ever elected to the Politburo; even after the failed revolution of 1956, remained a hard-line Marxist-Leninist up to the time of her death (1986), a scant three years before the collapse of Communism in Hungary.
During World War I, the teenaged Erzsebet Andics discovered the Marxism that would sustain her both intellectually and emotionally the rest of her life. The horrors of the world conflagration and the incalculable suffering she witnessed at first hand were explained for her by the Marxist theory of class struggle and the inevitability of proletarian revolution. As it did to many of her generation, to Andics the Bolshevik revolution led by Lenin in Russia in November 1917 represented a beacon of hope for a world mad with war and nationalistic frenzy. The ideal of international working-class solidarity was for Andics and other idealists a solid foundation on which to build their lives. She joined the Hungarian Communist Party at its birth in the fall of 1918 and, despite her extreme youth, was an active participant in the Hungarian Soviet Republic that ruled Hungary briefly in the spring and early summer of 1919. With the collapse of the Soviet regime, a bloody anti-Communist reaction took place, and Andics was fortunate in escaping the wrath of a White Terror that took vengeance against the Reds. Andics took refuge in Soviet Russia, which was struggling to survive against foreign troops, internal anti-Bolshevik armies, famine, and general chaos.
After a course of indoctrination and training, Andics was sent back to Hungary by the Communist International as an underground operative. The time for revolution had already passed, however, and the workers were much less receptive than they had been a year or two earlier. More important, the secret police of the right-wing regime was highly efficient and soon arrested her as a Bolshevik agent. The charge of Marxist subversion was a serious one in the Hungary of the early 1920s. While Erzsebet did not get a death sentence, she received 15 years but spent only one of them in prison. She was released in exchange for several Hungarian military officers who had been imprisoned in Russia since World War I and retained as hostages by the Bolsheviks. A grateful Andics went immediately to Soviet Russia, where she witnessed the drama of collectivization, Stalinization, the bloody purges of the 1930s, and the near collapse of the Soviet Union during World War II. During these decades, she remained a dedicated Communist, believing that one day she would return to Hungary.
Her opportunity came in 1945, when she returned with the Soviet forces that liberated Central Europe from Nazi rule. One of the few women among the cadre of veteran Communists, she quickly joined the inner circle. Between 1948 and 1956, Andics was a member of the Hungarian Politburo. Although she wielded little, if any, substantive power, her prestige as a proven "party veteran" shielded her from some of the stresses of internal party factional struggles. Surprised and shocked by the national uprising that convulsed Hungary in October and November 1956, Andics approved of its suppression by Soviet forces and, in the aftermath of the crisis, accepted the position of departmental chair of humanities at Budapest's Eotvos Lorand University.
In the next decades, she continued to lecture and publish in defense of the Socialist system as it evolved in Hungary. As an old-line prewar Communist, Andics took a hostile position toward new ideas, including the flexible and pragmatic "Goulash Communism" that appeared in Hungarian political life in the 1960s as the government of Janos Kadar asserted itself. After growing up in the revolutionary age of Lenin and surviving the terrors of Stalinism, Erzsebet Andics died in 1986 still believing in the historical correctness of her lifelong Marxist beliefs. Three years after her death, Communism in Hungary simply collapsed of its own contradictions.
Aczél, Tamás, and Tibor Meray. The Revolt of the Mind: A Case History of Intellectual Resistance behind the Iron Curtain. NY: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959.
Held, Joseph. Dictionary of East European History Since 1945. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.
John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia