Where are those mysterious communists?

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.

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Paul
Guest

True. But, unfortunately, largely academic.
To the Fidesz faithful, the term ‘communist’ doesn’t carry any real political/historical meaning (as per Éva’s article), it simply translates as ‘the enemy’ or even just ‘them’.
It’s simply a useful term to bash the opposition with and to aid their black propaganda.
Much like Thatcher constantly referring to the ‘socialists’ (i.e the enemy within) in the 80s, when the Labour
party had never been a socialist organisation (hence the choice of name), and certainly wasn’t in the 80s.
But, as with OV’s constant use of ‘communist’, it worked. For a while, you thought before you called yourself a socialist in public, and often you shied away from it altogether.

Member

Eva, I found that comment also very interesting, as it perfectly demonstrates how misguided Hungarians are. THat simple comment is our key to understand why Orban remains the messiah in the minds of the more simple minded or the ones who are less willing to put on their thinking cap. THe kind of scare tactics mixed with the prediction of of doomsday makes even decent people leave their decency and logic behind. McCarthy in the USA used the “communist” scare while Stalin and Breshnev employed the same tactics crying “capitalists”. Orban uses the combination of both to try to work up Hungarians against some enemies. Orban uses the two words in tandem, depending of the audience.
WHy Hungary tries to find those hidden communists (like in Arthur Miller’s Crucible), they fail to see the real evil around them. THey do not see that the real problem is the one who stirs the pot. BY the way communism is very much what is currently happening in Hungary, as I posted in my reply to “bt”.

Paul
Guest

The communists, the Jews, the Gypsies, the homosexuals…
Where have we heard that before?

Kirsten
Guest

I would like to know how many people are scared of “communists” and how many think favourably of the “Kadar years”. (I suspect it might overlap…)

An
Guest

The biggest hypocrisy of all this (labeling MSZP, Gyurcsany, or anyone communist), that Fidesz does have some old comrades in its ranks or in Fidesz appointed government positions… but somehow they are not communists. Ridiculous.

Guest

I always have to laugh when right-wingers in the USA call Obama a communist or a socialist …
It’s the same with some Hungarians – sometimes they even speak of the “liberal left communists” …
PS: Postcommie is also a favourite of mine.

Paul
Guest

An – it doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is, it works. That’s all that matters.

Jano
Guest
While Gyurcsány is clearly not a communist and even more clearly doesn’t have much in common with Béla Kun, it’s true that according to genealogy, there is a descendance relation from MDP to MSZP. I could have accepted MSZP as fresh start had they given up the wealth and connective power MSZMP accumulated over the years of the dictatorship. Instead, they declared during their first conference that economically they are descendants, politically not. You might hate Fidesz enough so that your stomach can put this in a favorable right, but not me. There might have been a few reformer idealist in the party at the change of regime, but I’m pretty sure that most of the party elite consisted of ideology-independent opportunists. They didn’t put on the democracy&capitalism record to replace the glorious socialism because they believed in it so much but because they saw how unsustainable it was and wanted to be the first to surf the new waves as well using the economic/political influence they had gained as communists. Nowadays in Hungary, this is what the people are referring to (very stupid habit, I agree), even though they usually have no idea what exactly they are saying. This… Read more »
Sackhoes Contributor
Guest
Well, history is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. Of course, Gyurcsany’s current party is a far cry from Bela Kun’s party, just like the birds in my garden are very different from the dinosaurs of ancient times. But the line of evolution is easy to see. It is a fact, that in 1989 it was the last official congress of Kadar’s MSzMP that voted to dissolve itself and reconstitute as the MSzP. High ranking MSzMP officials, like MSzMP Foreign Minister Horn and Deputy Prime Minister Megyessy went on to even more important roles in the MSzP. The continuity is clearly demonstratable. Then there is the word “Socialist”. To western readers of this blog it evokes Willy Brandt, Swedish socialists, the English Labour Party. Those were far cries from their contemporary Hungarian Socialists, who in fact did they best to stamp out any remnants of the equivalent Social Democrats. They were comitted to the socialist road to Communism and were proud to call themselves Communist. Willy Brandt was not their comerade. He was their arch-enemy. Even after 1989 the MSzP overwhelmed and snuffed out any attempt for a true Socialist revival. 20 years later there are still many signs… Read more »
An
Guest

@Jano: “There might have been a few reformer idealist in the party at the change of regime, but I’m pretty sure that most of the party elite consisted of ideology-independent opportunists.”
Opportunists?? Fidesz is just as full of them as MSZP. Or has even more of them, as currently they have the power. So why hate old opportunists in MSZP more than the new ones in Fidesz (some of whom, as I already noted, started they career in the old communist party… and then joined the Fidesz bandwagon, taking opportunism to the highest level).

Member

Jano: ” it’s true that according to genealogy, there is a descendance relation from MDP to MSZP.”
How about Fidesz? How about even Jobbik? There will not be a single political party in Hungary that in some way had nothing to do with the “communists of Hungary prior to 1989” until all of us are dead who have born prior to that date. Even after, there will always be some political opportunists who dig up some documents about someone’s father, mother and second cousin twice removed who were related to some communist party officials in 1961.
Wake up! Move on!

Jano
Guest

“Opportunists?? Fidesz is just as full of them as MSZP. Or has even more of them, as currently they have the power.”
Excuse me, can you point out where I said otherwise or indicated that having been an involved member of MSZMP is OK in Fidesz???
The term involved is important above. Nobody is talking about ordinary party members who only got membership because it made their life a lot easier. I’m talking about central committee members, high ranking government officials etc.
We would all be better of had the Zétényi Takács law been passed.

Jano
Guest

Some1, my previous comment are for you too. You too are arguing with something I’ve never said.

Kirsten
Guest

Jano, an outsider is particularly surprised about the strength of disgust if he recalls that the “Communists” won free elections three times after 1989. Or when one hears that people wish back the Kadar years. This is not very honest, as it is not honest of Fidesz to overlook its own “Communists”.

GW
Guest
The genealogy of the present political parties in Hungary may be ugly in all cases, but pales in relevance next to the question of the actual policies put forward in program and in practice by those parties. An objective comparison of both programs and practices shows that that it is Fidesz which has more consistently and vigorously promoted policies which, however clothed in a populist/nationalist/christianist veneer tend toward the socialist, from uniformity and enhanced ideological content in schools, repurchase or appropriation of privatized assets, strengthened and centralized control over the media, disallowing private co-pays in medical care, increase in police forces tasked for control of public assembly, increased surveillance and control of foreign nationals (i.e. Tibetans), to criminalization of unemployment, homelessness and penury, etc.. In comparison, the policies of MSzP-led governments, for all their management faults and to my own great surprise, cannot be described as falling outside of the mainstream democratic, market-oriented consensus of the European Union. Kristen, the more important fact about MSzP in the post 89 era is not that they were elected three times, but rather that they twice professionally and uneventfully gave up power at the end of terms when the electorate had selected another… Read more »
GW
Guest

Some1 wrote:
“Even after, there will always be some political opportunists who dig up some documents about someone’s father, mother and second cousin twice removed who were related to some communist party officials in 1961.|
Unfortunately, the Fidesz government’s cavalier handling of Kadar-era documentation will make this impossible even in the most egregious cases; one can only assume that decision to allow individuals to remove their own files, thus destroying the integrity of the record, will, in many cases be done for the purposes of covering up damaging information that could be found in the files. Unless and until the government more strongly preserves and allows for objective examination of the record, all claims about personal or party affiliations and activities in the pre-89 era must be tainted by the suspicion of collaboration, no matter where someone has since landed in the political spectrum.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “This is not very honest, as it is not honest of Fidesz to overlook its own “Communists”.”
Even more than that. The “socialist period” existed in Hungary for forty-two years. Everybody but everybody was affected by it one way or the other. There were 800,000 party members. Some people, perhaps most, including the Orbán family, benefited from its existence. That history cannot be obliterated. No one can say, including Orbán, Németh, and the others that they have nothing to do with either the period or the ideology. They are all Kádár’s children. Even those who are now in their twenties.
This great anti-communism is an artificially whipped up emotion that simply didn’t exist twenty years ago. People lived in peaceful coexistence with the regime. That’s why I find the whole thing so disgusting.

GW
Guest

Eva wrote:
“People lived in peaceful coexistence with the regime.”
And those who heroically risked life and livelihood as active opponents of the regime are more despised and marginalized by the Hungarian right today than by the left.

An
Guest
@Jano: “Opportunists?? Fidesz is just as full of them as MSZP. Or has even more of them, as currently they have the power.” Excuse me, can you point out where I said otherwise or indicated that having been an involved member of MSZMP is OK in Fidesz???” You haven’t but presented this as a justification why Hungarians keep bringing up MSZP’s communist past. My point is, that Fidesz does not have the moral high round in this question, as there are ex-communists and opportunist among their ranks too. So Hungarians could and should be just as upset about that – not to mention the mentality with which they govern, which many ways resembles Communist times more than MSZP’s governance any time during its 20 something year of history after 1989. This indiscriminate labeling of MSzP and people on the left as communists “en masse” just serves Fidesz’s purpose and is being kept alive by Fidesz propaganda. The whole black and white picture of describing communists as corrupt, opportunistic vs. non-communists being the “good guys” is a false dichotomy. The Hungarian political elit, left and right, unfortunately is very corrupt, self-serving and opportunistic, regardless of their politicians’ personal or family history… Read more »
Member

Jano: “Excuse me, can you point out where I said otherwise or indicated that having been an involved member of MSZMP is OK in Fidesz???” Jano,THe article is clearly about how the fan-club of Fidesz and Jobbik keep rubbing the non-sense of hidden communists who are hiding in the closet of the MSZP. My reply clearly is about how each party have members that in one way or another “descendants” of “communists” or themselves benefited by being cosy with them. You comment about MDP to MSZP communist descendant relation is right there with those non-sense, so yes, it needed to be pointed out tat there is not one party who could fit your criteria. If I am wrong, please let me know about any party or any individual in Hungary who’s roots we cannot somehow trace to the communists or to the nazis.

Member

Off-topic, but I just needed to share:
“Katalin and Ferenc Jánosi, Imre Nagy’s grandchildren, said the new push to promote the constitution, part of which will feature paintings depicting the turning points of Hungarian history, reminded them of the Stalinist Rákosi period that preceded their grandfather’s term of office, and added that it was a blatant propaganda push.” Make the long story short, they do not want their grandfather’s memory to be used by Fidesz on such way that reflects the same values their grandfather died against for.

is orban a close ally of morvai?
Guest
is orban a close ally of morvai?

The FIDESZ-JOBBIK repeats the witch-hunt of the Nazis. All communist tyranny is crime, while the Nazi tyranny is acceptable.
Can the Hungarians end the stupid circle, time communist, time Nazi.
Two extremes linked by barbaric oppressions.
Centrist liberal policies have to be developed to allow some progress.

Member
@Eva “This great anti-communism is an artificially whipped up emotion that simply didn’t exist twenty years ago” I think it did exist 20 years ago and then it was perfectly justified, but nothing happened. Antall and his government was too weak to do something about it and set certain things straight. Mainly because the people of the old regime where everywhere in the new political line-up when the free elections came. The first parliament was full of communist informants and they didn’t do anything about it. But … now 20 years passed. The MSzp proved, in my opinion, that they are not communists anymore. They didn’t prove they are worthy or competent to lead the country, but they definitely didn’t do anything that makes them communist. Being incompetent or corrupt is not a communist treat. If it is, then Fidesz is the biggest communist party in the history of this genetically great nation. This anti-communist histeria today is clearly just part of the “enemy manufacturing” that is so typical for dictatorial regimes, to divert the attention away from problems they themselves are causing. Some people cannot define themselves by their greatness – they need to create an artificial contrast with… Read more »
Lutra lutra
Guest

If you read “un-Hungarian” for Communist then it fits in totally with FIDESZ rhetoric. MSZP are the successors to MSZMP, except they take orders from Brussels instead of Moscow.

Member

Lutra lutra: Did you read all the comments above, or you just feel like starting your own blog in Eva’s blog? In my definition by the way “un-hungarian” are the people who take their own, their family, and their friends interest instead of making sure that all of Hungary can benefit from their actions on the long term too. MSZP did not take directions from Brussels by the way. Fidesz does not take directions from Brussel as they have a better partner in China. You remember China? Hungary’s great new friend, the country who is investing in Hungary now, and getting some nice contracts? The country who ‘s example we should follow according to Orban? I prefer Brussel, you and Fidesz prefer China, but then who is the communist Lutra lutra?

Johnny Boy
Guest
Oh yes MSZP is not commies. Ildikó Lendvai, president not too long ago, was herself a censor in person for decades under György Lázár, the communist “culture-dictator”. Imre Szekeres, previous Minister of Defense, was one of the highest ranking and active party officials in Veszprém. And let’s not forget Gyurcsány himself who got into position by marrying Klára Dobrev, daughter of the Bulgarian “KGB” boss (whose task was to execute the Russian KGB’s liquidation orders). And they live in a villa that was robbed from a Jew by the Nazis, then robbed by the Russian communists from the Nazis. Gyurcsány entered the Apró family with this marriage, got access to all their connections, and those who think Antal Apró, whose granddaughter is Klára Dobrev, was not a communist, that simply needs a brain implantation. Oh no, they are not communists at all, and inheriting all party assets from MSZMP doesn’t matter at all, of course. And it is completely irrelevant that by inheriting this wealth that was robbed from the country, they got off to a flying start in the party competition in 1990. And the fact that Fidesz has a few members who were low ranking MSZMP members completely… Read more »
Member

Johnny, I think you misunderstand our point. Most of us agree with you, that those things you listed, well, not the nicest pedigree, more like rap sheet. But be pragmatic. We didn’t smack them 20 years ago and now it’s just election propaganda.
By the way, how do you imagine this heritage would manifest itself if they get the votes again? Will they introduce a party system, restrict our human rights, cozy up with communist countries, make really bad economic decisisons … you really think that you have to be an ex-commie for this?

Member

“introduce a one party system” that’s what I wanted to write ..

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Most of us agree with you, that those things you listed, well, not the nicest pedigree, more like rap sheet.”
I wonder if you’d use the same kind and gentle words if Fidesz had quite a few high-ranking members who were Nazi officials in person. I bet you can see my point here. Because that would be a mirror of what MSZP is today.
About the second paragraph, I think you are trying to talk about Fidesz, too bad reality proves you are talking about MSZ(M)P.

GW
Guest

Johnny Boy,
I have to call BS on you. What matters is not a party’s pedigree, but their policy. And a party that signs six secret treaties with Communist China, including, it seems, a 75 (SEVENTY-FIVE!) year lease on a Hungarian airport is conducting bad policies in cooperation with a communist state.

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