- See also Tibor Szamuely (historian), the subject's nephew.
Born in Nyíregyháza, a city in the Northeast of Hungary, Szamuely was the oldest son of five children of a Jewish family. After completing his university studies, he became a journalist. He started his political activities as a member of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party.
Szamuely was drafted and fought as a soldier during World War I; in 1915, he was captured by the Russians. After the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, he was released. By then Szamuely had become a Communist. In Moscow he organized a Communist group together with Béla Kun among the Hungarian prisoners of war. Many of them, including Szamuely and Kun, joined the Soviet Red Army and fought in the Russian Civil War on the side of the Bolsheviks. Szamuely later went to Germany and in December 1918 he took part in the formation of the German Communist Party with Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.
Szamuely was militant in his views and violent and extreme in his choice of methods: in February 1919, as the communists in Budapest became emboldened to challenge the government, he wrote in the pages of the Vörös Újság (Red News): "Everywhere counter-revolutionaries run about and swagger; beat them down! Beat their heads where you find them! If counter-revolutionaries were to gain the upper hand for even a single hour, there will be no mercy for any proletarian. Before they stifle the revolution, suffocate them in their own blood!"
Six weeks later, the Communist members of a coalition government staged a coup and established the Hungarian Soviet Republic, under the leadership of Béla Kun. Tibor Szamuely became a prominent leader of the new government. He occupied a number of posts, but finally was made People's Commissar for Military Affairs. He is remembered as chief of the "Red Terror". Szamuely’s own personal guards were nicknamed the "Lenin Boys" or "Lenin Youth," were widely feared for their cruelty and random killings. They were freely used to suppress with violence any resistance to the Communist regime's new policies. Tallies of the number of victims of the terror vary; different sources generally count the dead at close to 600.
The Hungarian Soviet Republic only lasted for six months. On August 1, 1919, Kun fled as Romanian troops approached Budapest. Szamuely managed to evade the anti-Communist reprisals known as the "White Terror", which fully carried out in practice Szamuely's above-mentioned apprehensions of hos counter-revolutionaries would act if having power. He fled in his car towards Austria. But after making an illegal border crossing, he was seized by the Austrian authorities and killed. Other sources say upon discovery he committed suicide.
The Soviet barge carrier MV Tibor Szamueli was named for him.
- Vörös Újság, 11 February 1919
- Tibor Szamuely Alarm! - ausgewählte Reden und Aufsätze (Berlin. 1959).