Sentenced to prison for being democratically elected

One of the most uplifting stories from the revolution is how the people democratically elected their self-governing organizations. The despised communist leaders were cast aside and new people were democratically chosen for the national committees as well as for the workers’ councils, which were modeled on the councils operating in Yugoslavia. Although the communist unions wanted to organize these elections, they were dismissed with disgust throughout the country. Consequently, a man such as Sándor Bali was democratically elected to be the president of the workers’ council at the Beloiannisz Telecommunications Factory. Bali also later became a member of the Greater Budapest Central Workers’ Committee.

Sándor Bali was born in 1923 in Újdombovár into a family of day laborers as the 12th child. In 1944, he was taken to the West as a member of the Levente pre-military youth organization and joined the Beloiannisz Telecommunications Factory in 1945, where he became a toolmaker and was recognized as a Stakhanovite (an exceptionally hard-working worker) on multiple occasions.

Like other members of the Greater Budapest Central Workers’ Committee, Bali was arrested December 11, 1956 in Parliament when János Kádár’s post-revolution government promised to hold negotiations. Bali received a sentence of 12 years for his role in the council. Released in 1963, his health had deteriorated while in prison, and he passed away in 1982. Bali’s burial turned into an anti-government demonstration, however, as 400 people participated, among them a large number of those who had been convicted for their actions in 1956.

The significance of Sándor Bali’s life is that he believed in worker self-governance and actually participated in it. The time he spent in prison was for the crime of having been democratically elected to one of these organizations, which tells you so much about the system that came after the revolution.

Eszter Zsófia Tóth