As SzélsőFa reminds us, today is a national holiday in Hungary. October 23 marks the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which led to a brief restoration of a moderate socialist governmnent under Imre Nagy. The rebellion, which began with peaceful student protests, ended with the brutal suppression of the rebellion by Soviet troops. A hard-line Stalinist government followed.
A little more than eleven years later, moderate Communists in Czechoslovakia displaced the Stalinist regime there. The "Prague Spring" of 1968 did not begin with student demonstrations, but with a decision in the nation's Politburo to oust First Secretary Antonín Novotný and replace him with Alexander Dubček . Unlike the Hungarian revolution, the Czech reforms began at the top. Dubček tried to reassure the Soviets that he was still a loyal Communist and a Soviet ally. He did not withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, as the Hungarian government did. (Actually, Hungary withdrew from the Warsaw Pact after the Soviets decided to invade, so that didn't affect the outcome.) And for a few months in the spring and early summer of 1968, Dubček's "socialism with a human face" promised a new birth of freedom for Eastern Europe. But it was too much for the Soviet Union's leadership. This time, the invaders were Warsaw Pact troops from Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and East Germany. Dubček urged people not to resist the invaders, and the suppression, though brutal, did not result in the heavy casualties of the Hungarian uprising. And Dubček continued to serve in the government, as ambassador to Turkey. Later he was expelled from the Communist Party and worked in the forestry service. He had a better fate than Nagy, who was executed after the Hungarian uprising was put down.
As the Eastern European nations broke from the collapsing Soviet Union, it seemed there might be a rebirth of "socialism with a human face." Dubček was rehabilitated in Czechoslovakia (which later broke into the Czech Republic and Slovakia), while Nagy was reburied with honors in Hungary.
But with the rise of the European Union and the Euro, the ideal of socialism with a human face has faded. While most of Europe has more of a social safety net than the United States, Europe seems to be moving toward more privatization. American-style laissez-faire capitalism seems to be the goal. And American corporate capitalism has no human face.