BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ Politburo reformer Imre Pozsgay says Hungary must not flinch from discussing falsification of history even if it means provoking dispute within the Communist Party, an official newspaper reported Wednesday.

Pozsgay set off a bitter debate in the party Jan. 28 with his statement that Hungary's 1956 anti-Soviet revolt was a popular uprising rather than a counterrevolution.

The Central Committee called that assessment ''premature.'' It officially conceded that the revolt at least began as a popular uprising, however, adding that ''counterrevolutionary elements'' became too strong during the revolt.

In an interview with the weekly newspaper Oetlet, Pozsgay defended his remarks as producing a necessary ''catharsis'' in Hungary among people who share his view on the 1956 uprising.

''My statement shook many people,'' he was quoted as saying. ''It was a liberator for many people.''

Pozsgay said Hungary must honestly face up to the past while carrying out planned democratic reforms, Oetlet reported.

''A country must reject any falsification of history. You must never give up the search for historical justice,'' he was quoted as saying.

''A country cannot find scope for (reform) movement if it is trammeled by erroneous formulated theses.''

Pozsgay said it is important to maintain unity within the party, but it is also crucial that disagreement should not be avoided, according to Oetlet.

''Neither the Central Commitee nor the level-headed majority of the (party) membership wants a mere semblance of unity in the party.''

Pozsgay was quoted as saying he welcomed the Central Committee's compromise on assessing the 1956 revolt. ''In this compromise, we have avoided a party split while maintaining the free expression of opinion. ''

The debate comes as Hungary plots its course for major political reforms to include a multiple-party system.

On Tuesday, officials said the party has appointed a commission to examine possible rehabilitation of those involved in the 1956 uprising.

Official figures put the uprising's death toll at 5,000 to 6,000. Western estimates put it as high as 32,000.