Politics and literature in Hungary

Nowadays one often hears the German noun “Einstand” or its Hungarian verbal form “einstandolni.” It means “to forcibly appropriate.” What is the origin of this odd expression? After all, if one looks at a German-English dictionary one can pick among several equivalents: entrance, first day, to celebrate the start of one’s new job, to make one’s debut, deuce in tennis, and finally entrance fee. Not very helpful. In any case, the expression “Einstand” comes from the Hungarian children’s classic, The Paul Street Boys or Pál utcai fiúk (1906) by Ferenc Molnár (1878-1952). Apparently, it is the most popular Hungarian book in world literature. I read not long ago that foreign visitors in Budapest often want to see the scene of the “grund” where János Boka, Feri Áts, Dezső Geréb, and naturally Ernő Nemecsek fought the “red shirts,” a rival gang led by the Pásztor boys.

A literary historian mapped out late nineteenth-century Budapest and was able to pinpoint the “grund” at the corner of Mária and Pál Streeets. They found the spot where the Nemecsek family lived. Literary historians reconstructed the route the boys took from their school to the Museum Garden and from there to the “grund.” The grund is gone but it was recreated elsewhere in District VIII or in Josephstadt as it was called in Molnár’s youth. Some of the children were identified. Nemecsek was Jenő Feiks (1878-1939), an impressionist painter and friend of Molnár. Árpád Pásztor (1877-1940) wrote children’s novels.

Apparently The Paul Street Boys is compulsory reading in grade five in all Hungarian schools. Indeed, one can read it as a simple children’s story. However, it can also be read as a description of European nationalism before World War I. The “grund” is the fatherland the boys defend but which is going to disappear soon: a new apartment building will be erected on the empty lot in the middle of Budapest. They fought for nothing to defend the plot from the red shirts.

The first mention of the word “Einstand” appears on page 6 of the book. Molnár explains that  “Einstand” in those days referred to brute force in children’s circles. The stronger boys picked on the weaker ones and took away whatever belonged to them. “Einstand” meant war booty or declaration of war.

The story of the famous “Einstand” in the book is described by Molnár in the following way. The boys have just left school and are wandering around on the streets of Pest when they find out that the “two Pásztors” used “Einstand” the day before. Five of the boys, including Nemecsek, went to play marbles in the Museum Garden, surrounding the National Museum, when the two Pásztor brothers arrived. They first just looked and looked rather darkly, and Nemecsek and his companions sensed that there would be “Einstand” soon. The Pásztors were strong and, although there were five boys playing marbles, Nemecsek knew that they couldn’t stand up against them. However, they were hoping that nothing would happen, that there would be no Einstand because after all they did nothing to the Pásztor brothers. But bullies don’t operate that way. They kept looking at the marbles and it was clear that they liked them. Eventually Nemecsek won all the marbles and was ready to pick them up when the younger Pásztor yelled: “Einstand.” Two of Nemecsek’s companions immediately ran away and the third was thinking about it. Nemecsek tried to be brave and said to the Pásztor boys: “You have no right to do this!” but the older Pásztor was already picking up the marbles. The younger one grabbed Nemecsek’s coat and yelled: “Didn’t you hear me? Einstand!” The Pásztors picked up all the marbles, didn’t say another word, and left.

 

Here is the statue that recreates the scene in the Museum Garden in front of an elementary school close to where the grund was.

Ferenc Kőszeg, one of the speakers at LMP’s demonstration on November 3, recalled the story: “Here is the end. The Pásztors are coming.” But one mustn’t run away. One must stand up against arbitrary action and illegality [of the Orbán government]. His speech can be read here.

Almost all adult Hungarians have read The Paul Street Boys, but most likely most don’t realize the deeper meaning of the “Einstand” scene. Perhaps today they will understand a little better what Molnár was talking about.

 

 

 

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Rigó Jancsi
Guest

Einstand really is what you do on the first day of your job, or at least during the first few weeks: You buy drinks and food for your colleagues, maybe bring a cake, to get to know everybody in a good atmosphere.
I could image that the “Einstand” in this case is used in an ironic way, the boys do not give voluntarily but are forced to have their Einstand and to give something nice to their new “friends”.
With Fidesz, it’s a bit different, I would say. Yes, they just take what they like, for example pension funds. But unlike the Pásztors, these bullies have been invited by the voters.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Rigo Jancsi: “Yes, they just take what they like, for example pension funds. But unlike the Pásztors, these bullies have been invited by the voters.”
But I doubt that the voters when they voted for Fidesz thought that Orbán and co. would take their pension funds, their severence pays and retirement packages that by law are entitled to.

mouse
Guest

Eva, “But I doubt that the voters when they voted for Fidesz thought that Orbán and co. would take their pension funds, their severence pays and retirement packages that by law are entitled to.”
You are right but I think they expected and were happy that this would happen to others, this is at least the case with the few I’ve discussed it with. One goes as far to deny that this borrowing (not to prejudge) on pensions is actually happening, it’s a conspiracy by the media to misrepresent the facts or so he chooses to believe. I could myself lucky that my pension is paid outside Hungary.
The same blindness is evident in my home country sadly. The expectation that harsh government action is necessary is generally coupled with the expectation that it wont affect us.
It’s a well trodden road unfortunately.
First they came for the communists….

Kevin Moore
Guest

“Fidesz thought that Orbán and co. would take their pension funds, their severence pays and retirement packages that by law are entitled to.”
Don’t be mistaken, those with severance pays surely didn’t vote for Fidesz at all.
Because they want to keep their loot and recollection of the severance pays was an emphasized election promise.
Calling taking the current pension funds a theft is a misnomer, these will be accounted for, as it has been stated many times.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
Mouse: “I think they [the Fidesz voters] expected and were happy that this would happen to others, this is at least the case with the few I’ve discussed it with.” Exactly! Too bad that you don’t know enough Hungarian to listen to some call-in shows. I daily listen to György Bolgár’s “Let’s talk it over” on KlubRádió. It is an unabashedly liberal program and therefore mostly liberals or socialists phone in. If a Fidesz-supporter phones Bolgár is so happy that he let the person go on and on. Sometimes too much so. Yesterday, we had two right-wingers. Both turned out to be teachers. The poor kids. The first one was yelling so hard that it was a miracle that the microphone didn’t crack! It was impossible to put in a word edgewise. Screaming on the top of the lungs. Upshot of it: legality? What legality? That is what the people want. The second one equally loud kept talking about pensions in general and Bolgár tried to explain to him that in twenty years or so there might not be enough money to pay pension the growing number of pensioners. For the caller that was no problem: take it away from… Read more »
Guest

I was really worried reading this, but then rigo jancsi made it clear:
The use of the German “Einstand” here is a kind of travesty – I’ve often given my Einstand as a round of beer for my “Stammisch” in my favourite kocsma or been to a “Einstands -Party” held by a new collegue.
OT: It really is remarkable how these pre-syllables can give a special meaning to a word: just compare Abstand, Anstand, Ausstand, Einstand, Verstand, Rückstand, Zustand, Umstand, Notstand etc …
I have similar problems with meg- fel- etc in Hungarian – sigh, I think I’ll never master that language …

kincs
Guest

O, ‘Kevin,’ why must you be a disseminator of lies? (For political advancement, perhaps?)
If I take your money it is theft, regardless of what I say I’m going to do with it. Or how many times I say it.

Kristian
Guest

Just a few more remarks on the word Einstand in German. There are a number of meanings, for example as a legal term (Einstandspflicht = the obligation to “stand in” for your responsibilities), then the above-mentioned first day at work which is closely related to the english “to stand in (for someone)”, meaning to fill a vacancy in a group or team, which nowadays is celebrated on the first day. The sports-term Einstand as in “deuce” was coined later. Again it originates from “to stand” (“the game stands at one to one”. But none of these seem in any way connected to the use of the word in the Hungarian novel. At least not to a native German like me. But possibly the word was simply a loanword used among youths that time with the original meaning lost, in other words a neologism. Still interesting that they would chose that word.

Kevin Moore
Guest

kincs, theft is when something is taken away from you and not given back.
In this case, pension money isn’t taken away, it is just handled differently. So it’s you disseminating lies.

kincs
Guest

Ho, ho ho, very funny, ‘Kevin’. No doubt you would be equally at ease were I to take your money with a promise to give it back. Someday.

Kormos
Guest

I am reading about theft of private money, and people who feel sorry about Hungarian pensioners under this Government.
Honestly, I do not understand the Hungarian “private retirement bank account” system.
I know it was not voluntary for some, it was voluntary for others.
I know that under the old system, part of the salary was automatically taken away for Medicare and government pension funds.
Could someone enlighten the readers of this blog, how all this evolved and what have changed?
Do pensioners get less pension money under the Orban Government?

Rigó Jancsi
Guest
Kevin: To give the money back, you have to use it to generate more money. But it is used to fill holes, so where should it come from in the end? And it’s also a question of interest rates. If the money would have been transferred to the companies that are supposed to take care of it, they would have used it to create their own profit, but also to generate profit for the owners. If the government only gives back what it took, then this is theft of interests. So which interest rate will they use when they transfer the money back? Will this be decided by an independent jury? The European Central bank might be able to say how much this money would have generated in the right hands, but then Fidesz might say this is not relevant, because the private pension funds are not the “right hands” and would not have managed to generate so much profit. So in the end, it will be up to the government to decide, and whatever they do, it will not be correct. Do you see the problem? Never take something from someone else before he agrees on the terms of… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest

I am afraid that the Hungarian Government is in the brown and smelly for withholding the money collected for private pension funds. It is called ‘Breach of Contract’. The Hungarian Government contracted to collect this money and pay it to the private pension companies. Failure to do so is not a ‘TORT’. The recognised recompense for ‘breach of contract’ is money and in this case lots of it!

Paul
Guest

I read today that Fidesz are putting a new law in place. In future, if you are burgled or mugged, as long as the burglar/mugger tells you (or leaves an explanatory note) that he is not stealing your money/property, but just keeping it safe for you for an indefinite period, and promises he will pay it back one day (sort of), then the incident is no longer classed as a crime, but instead will be recorded as a social service. There will be no need to call the police.
Thus, at one stroke, not only will the minor thefts section of the economy be boosted, with no drain on government budgets, but citizens will no longer have to worry about their money and valuables, and crime figures will be dramatically reduced.
All hail the Mighty One!

Paul
Guest

Odins – this lot isn’t going to worry about ‘breach of contract’. Just look at the new laws regarding mortgages.
We’re in breach of contract? No worries, we’ll just retrospectively change the contract. Or, failing that the law.
Law and democracy are no barriers to us. We have the support of people, that puts us above mere law and contract, we can do anything we like. We can even travel back in time and correct the crimes of those Communist bastards.
All hail the Party!

Kevin Moore
Guest

Rigó Jancsi: thinking along these lines, you can call all kinds of tax a theft. What is taxation? The state declares that it will take away part of your money to use it or certain purposes and will take it by force. Are you asked to agree on the terms? I don’t think so!
Welcome to the basic idea of why there is such a thing as “state”.
We (including me) were forced by law to become clients of one of the private pension funds. What does this mean? We were forced to deliver profit to these funds while they were handling our money with much less efficiency than what I, a layman, did myself with my own private investments. All the while denying this amount of money from the income side of the budget, as a result of which Hungary is paying hundreds of billions of HUF every year only for the increased interest burden.
What do you call that? I call that theft.

Paul
Guest

And black = white?

Kormos
Guest

Kevin PLEASE:
Could you enlighten the readers of this blog, how all this evolved and what have changed?
Do pensioners get less pension money under the Orban Government?

Kevin Moore
Guest
Kormos: how could I provide any information on undecided law proposals? Not much is known for sure at the moment. Check the news sources out. What we have currently at hand is the government’s promise that all money is going to be accounted for. That readers of this blog are completely convinced that the government is lying is no surprise, they’re used to it. What is sure so far is: * private pension funds in Hungary were so far a major disappointment, or rather frauds. They operate on enormously high costs and provided less yield in the last 10 years than what a layman could do. * due to the huge amounts of money not showing up on the income side of the budget, Hungary’s interest burden on debts is hundreds of billions of HUF higher than what would be without the private pension funds. This amount must be paid annually and is practically money thrown out the window. * the state’s current pension system is not sustainable as the demographic trend will clearly result in many more pensioners than payers (actually this is already the case now). * government seems to try to introduce a ‘mixed’ model where the… Read more »
Droid Troll
Guest

We all know what you are, ‘Kevin’.
I think you could have saved yourself quite a bit of typing if you’d just written “the government needed a lot of money if they were going to be able to keep their election promises, satisfy the EU and not raise taxes or cut services, so they stole it from the poor deluded buggers who voted them in”
Much more succinct, and far more honest.
And who’s supposed to have ‘trained’ me. Éva? GyF? Lenin?
The more rattled you get, the more rubbish you post.

Kormos
Guest

May I assume, that the Hungarian Private Pension Funds are not similar to USA 401K? It was decided earlier to put government collected pension money (tax) into the hands of investment companies. Those companies did not perform very well due to many circumstances and reasons. Now, this government stops feeding the investment companies, however pensioners do not receive less than before. Is this correct?

Kevin Moore
Guest

Kormos: here is what János Lázár, caucus leader said most recently:
http://www.portfolio.hu/cikkek.tdp?k=3&i=141180&is=1

An
Guest
@Kormos: No, they are not similar to 401Ks… very different story. The deal is as follows: Hungary used to have a pay-as-you-go type of state pension system until the mid 90s: a certain percentage of everybody’s salary was deducted and put into the state system. Pensions were paid from the money that was flowing in from the currently working population (kind of like social security in the US). As the population is aging this obviously creates a problem in the long run, as fewer and fewer workers should support a growing population of retirees. To remedy the situation, they introduced a mixed system in the mid 90s. Part of the original pension contributions from the salaries still went to the state system, but another part (I think 6 or 8%) went to private pension funds. (Imagine that you could send part of your social security contributions to a private fund instead of the state fund) At the beginning everybody had a choice whether he/she wanted to stay in the state system (and send all their pension contribution there) or switch to the mixed system and send part of their contribution to a private fund of his/her choice. These funds are… Read more »
An
Guest

@Kevin: ” private pension funds in Hungary were so far a major disappointment, or rather frauds. They operate on enormously high costs and provided less yield in the last 10 years than what a layman could do.”
They did yield an interest above inflation which is more than you can say of state pensions. So unless Orban really comes up with the 1 million missing children and the 1 million missing jobs, the pensions paid by the state won’t even be able to keep up with inflation , even if they start having individual accounts within the state system as the talk is now.

Kormos
Guest

Thank you An for your kind post. I understand the situation much better now and I hope other bloggers have a better view of it now.

kincs
Guest

@Kormos: There’s a good explanation of what the government is up to with its pension shenanigans here:
http://blogs.wsj.com/new-europe/2010/11/08/hungary-readies-to-nationalize-mandatory-private-pension-funds/
It’s an informative sequel to An’s admirably clear explanation.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

If we believe some bloggers, then in a few years Fidesz govt. Hungary will be a much better and happier country.
By the way I looked into the United Nations Human Development Report 2010, which can be downloaded and found to my great surprise under the well developed countries Israel on the 15th, Austria on the 25th and Hungary on the 36th place.
Why surprise? Because subjective feeling one criteria of measurement and is part of Human Development Report. Austrians like to complain therefore they are on this list lower than Israel.
But in the case of Hungary it is not only subjective feeling, but very objective things which put it on the 36th place on this list.

T.Sanyi
Guest
I’d also like to thank An for the illustrative post. I think the basic dilemma exists in many European countries with low birth rates and pay-as-you-go systems. Now, you have to pay the pensions for current pensioners out of current revenues (because nothing has been saved or invested in the past) + you know that isn’t going to work in the future due to simple demographic reasons. So somehow you also have to draw out revenues NOW to build individual accounts for the future pensions. If the government now also plans to introduce individual accounts, as Kevin has indicated, they will also have to create revenue for these savings that are not at the same time consumable for the pay-as-you-go pensions. So redirecting the private pension funds now doesn’t help at all. The government needs additional revenues, either to fill the current deficit in state pensions, to invest in their state-owned individual pension accounts or to pay back the “borrowed” revenues from the private investment funds. It doesn’t even matter whether the private pension funds will be abolished or not – the government will have to generate additional revenues in the (near) future. And I gues more than the “hidden”… Read more »
Kevin Moore
Guest

T.Sanyi: the difference between individual accounts in the state pension system and individual accounts in private pension funds is that the state system doesn’t lose the revenues on the income side of the budget.
And it can’t be emphasized enough that this means hundreds of billions of HUF annually in the form of interest burden.

T.Sanyi
Guest
@Kevin: I don’t think that makes a difference. If the state system is also based on individual accounts and not pay-as-you-go, there will have to be an equivalent to the revenues on the spending side of the budget, as the revenues should be investet for the future use as pensions. The pension revenues on the income side of the budget shouldn’t be used for other spendings, otherwise the idea of saving on an individual pension account would be abandoned and it would just be the “classic” pay-as-you-go column. So even if the income side of the budget would be larger, the DEFICIT wouldn’t change and that’s what the interest is paid for. If you want to establish (or keep) an additional column in the pension system (state or private) based on individual accounts, you have to save money now for the future use as pension. If you want to decrease interest rates you have decrease the current deficit (which not only results through deficit in the state pension system). So you have to increase taxes or social security or decrease spendings now. Taking the revenues paid for individual pension accounts (state or private) to decrease deficit now, is esentially spending… Read more »
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