Originally I wanted to write about LMP's madcap idea of placing a moratorium on building new shopping centers. Perfect timing! While in the region building shopping centers has kept the construction industry alive, in Hungary no new shopping center was built in the last year and a half. A few days ago MTI reported that in the next five years one hundred new shopping centers will be built in Germany. Next year already twenty-six will open their doors. But in Hungary where the construction industry is in ruins LMP suggested that no more shopping centers be built. That was in March of this year. I decided to postpone a discussion of this crazy idea until those members of parliament who have so much business sense vote on the bill.
But instead I will write about something that caught my attention this morning, a comment by "bt" who wrote in connection with Ferenc Gyurcsány's intention to establish a party tentatively named Demokrata Párt: "Another name change. How many times has the Kommunisták Magyarországi Pártja changed its name again? They do this every time they are discredited, which is apparently every few decades. And, there are always people buying it. Döbbenet." This last word can be translated as "horrifying" or "stupefying." I guess our contributor thinks that Ferenc Gyurcsány is the direct descendant of Béla Kun. And the Demokrata Párt is the replication of Kun's Kommunisták Magyarországi Pártja of 1918. How simple. One doesn't have to spend any time learning about the history of Hungarian social democracy and its offshoot, the Hungarian communist movement.
This way one can equate Mátyás Rákosi with János Kádár and Béla Biszku with Rezső Nyerges because, after all, they were all communists. The trouble with this view is that (1) facts don't support it and (2) with this simplified generalization one misunderstands current Hungarian reality.
Mind you, this kind of primitive thinking is typical of some of the Fidesz leaders. A couple of days ago I mentioned Zsolt Németh, currently undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry. He is considered to be one of the more polished and sophisticated men in the upper echelons of Fidesz. The staff of the U.S. Embassy had a fairly good opinion of him. They considered Németh to be less provincial than some of the others in the Fidesz leadership. Yet Németh's worldview is very simplistic. There were the communists in a "monolithic MSZP" and the only people who were "post-communists" were members of and voters for Fidesz. According to him the MSZP's leadership realizes that the "present conflict is for the survival of the communist elite" and that Fidesz's goal must be the "ultimate destruction of the communists."
The staff of the U.S. Embassy was stunned. In the comment added to the above conversation in November 2006 they remarked that "even Németh, who the party often uses in its contacts with the international community, is often more visceral than intellectual in his views. As with many in the opposition, he is quick to reduce the present situation to a caricature of 'communist oligarchs' who 'learned at Kádár's knee,' while seemingly blind to Fidesz's own mix of populism and paternalism."
Populism and paternalism. The Americans expressed their surprise that Fidesz promises to take care of people from cradle to grave while they claim to be enemies of state socialism.
As for the name changes of the different communist parties, that is the real communist parties as opposed to either Attila Mesterházy's MSZP or Gyurcsány's possible Demokrata Párt. Kun and his friends called the party Kommunisták Magyarországi Pártja because in 1918 they had no idea that Greater Hungary would collapse. So it was important to call it the "Communist Party of Hungary." In 1945 Magyar Kommunista Párt (MKP) reflected the homogeneous nature of post-Trianon Hungary in ethnic terms: Hungarian Communist Party. In 1948 they again changed names. They called the party Magyar Dolgozók Pártja (Hungarian Workers' Party; MDP), but this change just as the earlier ones didn't stem from failure. On the contrary. The communists managed to eliminate the Magyarországi Szociáldemokrata Párt, and thus the new name was intended as a kind of gesture to the social democrats.
It is true that the two last changes–from MDP to MSZMP (Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt) and from MSZMP to MSZP–came in the wake of failure. But again MSZMP was different from MDP and MSZP was established from the reform wing of MSZMP whose members realized that the socialist regime couldn't be reformed and that the one-party system together with the planned economy based on state ownership had failed.
In MSZP there are still a few older folks who were active reformers in MSZMP, but Gyurcsány himself and the people around him, including a number of people who were never members of MSZP, simply cannot be called communists. To do so is to falsify history and distort Hungarian politics today.