Hungarian attitude toward the past

As I wrote earlier, on SZDSZ insistence a new committee has been formed to seek out and reveal the names of the thousands and thousands of informers active during the Kádár regime and even before. János Kenedi, the chairman of the committee and a well respected historian specializing in this area, believes that there may finally be the political will to make the names of the informers available. He would like to put the list on the internet. Surely, for some people, especially for the SZDSZ, this matter is critical. But how important is it for the population as a whole? It seems not that terribly.

Yesterday afternoon pollsters contacted 500 citizens nationwide by telephone. The results are interesting. Only 34% of those questioned thought that knowing the names of the informers, especially after so many years, was at all important. A small majority (55%) believed that new, important names of informants would emerge. There was not a significant percentage difference between those who thought the names should be revealed and those who thought the names should not be revealed (34% as opposed to 39%), but here party affiliation made a huge difference. Only one-fifth of the Fidesz voters thought that the list should be kept secret, while 49% percent of the MSZP voters opposed the release of the information. It is somewhat curious in light of the above statistics that 54% of the sample thought that one must confront the past while 34% would simply bury the whole archives. But confrontation need not entail consequences. About half of the sample thought that there should be no consequences for those exposed as informers; they wished them happy retirement years. Thirty-four percent claimed that they would hold the person in contempt. When it comes to politicians who were informers, the population is far less tolerant. Here 60% of the sample said that they should disappear from political life. Once again party affiliation made a huge difference. Seventy-six percent of Fidesz voters would ban them from politics while 60% of MSZP voters would let them continue their present political careers.

On the surface this political divide is logical. One would assume that the left would have more skeletons in its closet than the right. Yet those politicians whose names have surfaced thus far as possible informers are mostly right-wing politicians. Here are a few names identified by an earlier committee headed by Imre Mécs, then SZDSZ, now an MSZP MP. In alphabetical order: László Bogár (Orbán government, undersecretary), Imre Boros (Orbán government, minister), Szabolcs Fazakas (Horn government, minister), Zsigmond Járai (Orbán government, minister), Béla Kádár (Antall government, minister), János Martonyi (Orbán government, minister), Péter Medgyessy (Medgyessy government, prime minister), László Nógrádi (Orbán government, minister), Ferenc Rabár (Antall government, minister), Ernő Raffay (Antall government, undersecretary), László Sárossy (Antall government, undersecretary). One might also add István Csurka, head of the MIÉP, a far-right antisemitic party that supported the Orbán government, and the Fidesz mayor of Kaposvár, a former head of the Christian Democratic Party. A cursory look reveals that there are more names on the right than on the left. So, if I were a Fidesz supporter, I would be less sanguine in this respect.