MSZP: Legal successor of former communist parties?

I will not be terribly original today. I was so struck by the logic of an article about the Orbán government’s plan to make the Hungarian Socialist Party and its leaders collectively and individually responsible for all criminal activities of the communist parties that existed in the past in Hungary that I decided to share it with you. The article appeared yesterday in the on-line publication Galamus and was written by Ferenc Lendvai, a professor of philosophy.

Lendvai looks at the question from a strictly legal point of view. The basic thesis of the proposed bill is that the communist party and its related establishments during the Kádár period were criminal organizations. This category is not unknown in history. For example, during the Nuremberg trials certain organizations were considered to be criminal formations. Hitler’s National Socialist Party fell into that category. But the proposed Hungarian bill goes one step further when it claims that the leaders of this criminal organization are individually responsible for the upkeep and guidance of an oppressive regime and for the betrayal of the country. No statute of limitations can be applied.

This is problematic proposal. No one was condemned at Nuremberg for simply being a member, even a leading member, of the Nazi party. Everybody who was punished was sentenced for specific crimes committed. The second problem is the vagueness of the charges. How can anyone formulate specific crimes from the perspective of general historical or moral value judgments? How could anyone active in Kádár’s party in the 1970s or 1980s be charged specifically “for the liquidation of the multi-party system with Soviet military assistance after World War II”? Even more bizarre is the contention that present members of MSZP might be responsible for ordinary crimes committed for political reasons. In legal terms all this is nonsense. The claim that in this case the statute of limitations does not apply is also on shaky legal grounds because earlier the Hungarian Constitutional Court ruled that these crimes were neither war crimes nor crimes against humanity.

Lendvai also finds it ridiculous that the Orbán government wants to reduce retroactively the pensions of people in leading positions in János Kádár’s party and use that money for the mitigation of injuries caused by the existence of a dictatorship. The two things have nothing to do with one another. The benefits these people receive were allotted on the basis of existing laws. In West Germany everybody received state pensions without looking at his political past or without moral judgment of his behavior.

But the most important problem is the question of “legal continuity.” MSZP indeed considered itself to be the legal successor of MSZMP but only as far as the party’s property was concerned. It is quite a leap to claim that just because MSZP inherited some, though not all, of the property of MSZMP it is also criminally responsible for whatever MSZMP did. The way the bill is written, the authors try to make the following argument: if the party received some of the property it will have to share the blame as well. This is sophistry, says Lendvai. If I receive a piece of property I’m responsible for what? For the property. Both West and East Germany were the legal successors of the Third Reich and they paid war reparations and compensation for damages. But they were not responsible for Hitler’s war crimes and crimes against humanity. The socialist party in fact divided up the former party’s properties. Fidesz received part of it as well. At the time, the distribution of MSZMP properties was settled to everybody’s satisfaction.

MSZP logoThe only question that still must be settled is whether MSZP is the heir to MSZP. To make it clear in the Hungarian context. The Hungarian bill talks about “jogutód” (legal successor) but the question is whether it is “utódpárt” (heir) or not. The question is not whether MSZP inherited some MSZMP property or whether some current members of the party were also members of MSZMP but whether the two parties are similar in outlook and mentality. Clearly, MSZP and MSZMP in this respect are miles apart. There is a party, the Magyar Kommunista Munkáspárt, that is definitely an heir to MSZMP. Its leaders proudly accept the heritage of János Kádár. On the right, there is Jobbik which is a new party but which shares the ideology of neo-Nazi parties which were banned in Germany and some other western European countries. Interestingly enough, the Orbán government threatens with extinction a party that has nothing whatsoever to do with the spirit of MSZMP while it doesn’t seem to be bothering either the Munkáspárt or Jobbik.

And while the young Fidesz members are busily trying to find culprits there are at least three ministers in the current government who were party members: János Martonyi, György Matolcsy, and Sándor Pintér.

Here is a far from complete list: Viktor Orbán, high school and later university KISZ secretary; István Stumpf, MSZMP member and deputy chairman of the Patriotic People’s Front; Sándor Pintér, MSZMP secretary; János Martonyi, MSZMP member; Zsigmond Járai, MSZMP member; Mihály Varga, KISZ secretary; György Matolcsy, MSZMP member; Imre Boros, MSZMP secretary; István Mikola, vice chairman of the Patriotic People’s Front; Péter Harrach, MSZMP member; Béla Turi-Kovács, MSZMP member; János Fónagy, MSZMP member; Tamás Deutsch, KISZ secretary; László Kövér, KISZ secretary and research associate at the Social Policy Institute of the MSZMP; Imre Kerényi, MSZMP secretary; Rózsa Hoffmann, MSZMP member; Imre Pozsgay, MSZMP Central Committee and later Politburo member; Mátyás Szűrös, Secretary of MSZMP’s Central Committee.

It will be difficult to be even-handed in this dirty business. But, it is unlikely that the currrent holders of power want to be even-handed. Brick by brick they are trying to build a dictatorial regime where this piece of legislation might be pulled out from the desk drawer when the Orbán government feels threatened, which might be sooner than we think. However, it is hard to imagine that they would be allowed to ban a perfectly legitimate democratic party in the middle of Europe and within the European Union. Although they may try because by now I’m convinced that they have completely lost their sense of reality.

 

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Paul
Guest

“it is hard to imagine that they would be allowed to ban a perfectly legitimate democratic party in the middle of Europe”
Here I go again, I know, but who is going to stop them? The EU, the US, the IMF?
No one.
They can, and will, do what they like.
In as much as “reality” is as defined by ‘us’ – liberal/progressive democrats – they never had a sense of ‘reality’ to start with.

Member

This is insane. I never voted for them, but this party won 3 elections during the past 20 years. It was in power for 12 years.
Is it technically possible (or does it make sense) to ban a party in a multi-party, democratic system, that doesn’t practice anything at present that is illegal? I don’t think so. The next day a party can be formed under another name and the members just re-join the new party. The only “problem” would be of course the confiscation of the properties of the party on the grounds that it came from the MSzMp. But in this case the other parties also have to give up their chunks of MszMp property.
I think this is a bluff. Or it comes down to the fact that they want to introduce a hardline dictatorship or not. The rest is just legal hocus-pocus. Nobody will take it seriously. Or is this the end of the Weimar republic?
As I said I never voted for them and I don’t think they did good in their last 8 years, but if I lived in Hungary I would consider joining them now and be a cardholder party member to protest this madness.

Paul
Guest

Off-topic (although not as much as it might seem, as this too deals with OV getting himself into hot water for no apparent reason) – quite what is he up to here?
“Hungary proposes Visegrad Four talks to discuss Slovakia’s doctor crisis”
http://www.politics.hu/20111201/hungary-proposes-visegrad-four-talks-to-discuss-slovakias-doctor-crisis/
Briefly: state of emergency declared in 15 Slovak hospitals, as doctors submit mass resignations in protest over lousy pay. Hungarian government offers to get involved under the guise of Visegrad Group meeting “to ease the “human resources crisis” hitting Slovakia”.
Why? What on earth can this bunch of clowns possibly hope to gain from this – except to make relations with Slovakia even worse??

Gabriella
Guest
Paul: “Why? What on earth can this bunch of clowns possibly hope to gain from this – except to make relations with Slovakia even worse??” Paul, what is even worse, Hungary has its own problems with the ever decreasing number of doctors, it would be impossible to ease the Slovak crisis. They just have to have a finger in everything. When I look at pictures of what they do in the parliament, I always have this flashback of this group of students I belonged to, who spent endless afternoons discussing large human issues at the corridors of the University Library. We knew everything, we had opinions about everything and we were sure, we could change the world for the better. We had it all. Whoever had the lighter could speak and we passed the lighter around and around. This is what fidesz does in the parliament without the lighter. They are playing, they are messing around with everything, know everything and want to change everything. There seem to be this youthful energy with very little thought of the consequences, they jump from here to there, change their mind midstream, or drop the project completely. Sometimes it also seems to me… Read more »
An
Guest

Gabriella, I think they are a lot less innocent than just playing with ideas and see how they work out.
I think there are two reasons why Fidesz legislation works this way: one is sheer incompetence (they come up with ideas that are not well thought through) and the other is that they are testing how far they can go and working the public sentiment.
Many times they first throw out an outlandish idea, and after a public outcry they take back from it… the idea is still outlandish, but since it is not as outlandish as the original one, it becomes more acceptable.
Also, many times they just pretend to back out, then in the last minute when the bill is in the Parliament, they add tons of modifications so in the end nobody knows what is going on… and the law ends up being closer to their original intent.
It is also a very tiresome game for the public (meaning those people who actually care about these things): after to first wave of protests, people just get too tired to get worked up every time Fidesz presents new variations of its crazy plans.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Professor you write ** “The basic thesis of the proposed bill is that the communist party and its related establishments during the Kádár period were criminal organizations.” **. They can and no doubt pass that law. They will then declare that MZSP and anyone else they do not like are the heirs to the communist regime and are also guilty of and responsible for the crimes of their predecessors. ALL members of MZSP (both past and present – even the dead-) therefore bear the responsibility for those crimes. The Parties will be dissolved and their property/money confiscated. The party members (even the lapsed and dead members) will be required to pay back monies granted to them before the party(s) became illegal organisations. Since the party members are guilty by Act of Parliament there can be no resort to the courts and via that to route there can be no appeal to the ECH or the European Court. The idea that any statute of limitation having any effect can be ruled out since the members of those party(s) currently bear, collectively, the responsibility for the past. It is tortuous but these ‘loonie toons’ are geniuses at twisting logic. It would not… Read more »
peter litvanyi
Guest
Dear Fellows, this is what I think WE need to do. Set aside our ongoing vendetta /there will be time for that later/ and WRITE A CLEAR COMMON LETTER OF SUPPORT to EVA TETENYI of Esztergom. Oh, common now, all of you. Don’t be a moron. An?? Paul?? Some1?? Kristen?? Ron?? Odin’s?? Simon? Pete H?? Mutt? Jano??….etc. I trust our dear Eva of the illustrious Yale could and hopefully shall pen that letter in a heartbeat. All we need to do it is to sign it with our names. And how about we all pitch in and send $100 a piece? If thirty of us steps up to the plate…well it’s still a ridiculous amount of money. Yet this is a mere gesture that I think can help a very brave person to go on with her good cause. I think it will make her smile: something that she probably didn’t do for months now. Just to make it clear: this letter /or possible donation/ is not for the EU, IMF, Washington or The Hungarian Gov. etc. but to Tetenyi Eva personally. We need to start somewhere. Let’s do the little bit we can. This letter seems to be a… Read more »
flogger
Guest

has anyone seen this “Állj meg Gyuri!” on youtube?
http://youtu.be/V_AgElep8zE
you can have a good laugh 🙂

Joseph Simon
Guest

Antall József decided not to pursue the crimes of the communist regime. Officers of the ÁVH who gave the order to open fire on defenceless people in ’56 got off scotfree. Horn Gyula proudly declared that he stood by Rákosi, Kádár and the repression of the revolution. People in Hungary had no real knowledge of Kádár’s role in the execution of Nagy Imre. They voted for the MSZP three times, bringing back Kádár, as it were. This is the first time that people hear the word ‘criminal’ describing the Kádár regime. Denying the Holocaust will result in a prison sentence. Couldnot the same principle apply here? If Orbán goes too far, he will be punished at the ballot box next time.

Paul
Guest

“bringing back Kádár, as it were” – or, in the real world, not.
“This is the first time that people hear the word ‘criminal’ describing the Kádár regime” – only in your fantasy world.
“Could not the same principle apply here?” – are you seriously equating the holocaust with the Kadar regime??
Why do you bother to post such rubbish, JS?

Member

@ Joseph Simon: Can you tell us about your political activity prior to 1956? How were you involved with 1956 that you had to flee the country? Were you applied as political refugee in Canada? Have you been back in Hungary after 1956 prior to 1989? WHat were your experiences if you did? Were you arrested if you went back? It is hard to take you seriously, if we do not know about your motivation.If you could answer to those questions, maybe we would be able to see your points.
Thanks.

Member
@Joseph “Denying the Holocaust will result in a prison sentence. Could not the same principle apply here?” Sure. Whoever denies the the Rakosi or Kadar are atrocities can be apprehended like the Holocaust deniers. I actually disagree with both, because I think it’s free speech, but law is a law. I guess you are trying to skew this and use it to explain why is it legal that Orban the 5th and his gang is going after the MSzP which is the “heir” to the old commie party. That is because they share their views on the communist crimes or even deny them. So shouldn’t the “same principle” be applied to the FIDESZ the KDNP and especially the JOBBIK who seems to gladly share the views of the Arrow Cross party and more or less openly anti-Semitic? I guess you will come with the good ol’ “not the same thing” argument here. So who sets the criteria? The FIDESZ and you? Don’t preach me about applying same principles … By the way the Hungarians voted twice for the MSzP because they were shocked during the arrogant FIDESZ rule between 98 and 02. Unfortunately the attention span of the inhabitants of… Read more »
Joseph Simon
Guest

Some 1: You can read my memoire ‘Emlékezés 1956’, that I published in a monograph form.
As to my comment, Horn, Biszku and others are ‘communism deniers’, the same as denying the Holocaust. Of course, this whole issue is not so simple. Take Horn, for example. He almost single-handedly detstroyed he regime that he so faithfully served up to then. I think I am far more objective on this and other issues than you all are.

Ron
Guest

Off-topic: Paul Rosenmuller, ex-communist, ex-green party leader, nowadays Board member of Dutch railways and program maker for IKON television made a four part documentary about populism.
The first part is about Hungary, and especially with regard to the events of October 23, Gyongyospata, interview with, among other people, Dora Polgar and Gabriella Selmeczi.
The program is partly, in Dutch (dutch subtitles), but also in Hungarian and in English.
http://www.ikonrtv.nl/
click on Paul Rosenmuller en het populism in Europa

Member

Joseph Simon: “You can read my memoire ‘Emlékezés 1956’, that I published in a monograph form.” Great. How can I get a copy?
Joseph, you should be careful to say that you are “far more objective on this and other issues than you all are”.
For that matter you are not objective either with Orban , Kover or Schmitt. You like them and support their thinking very much. What you saying is that being a “communism denier” is a crime, but serving the communist system, taking benefits from it while it existed, often at the expense of those who actually fought against it, and now living off from all that they gained from it is OK?

Ron
Guest

Off topic According to the FT, IMF is going to set full conditions to Hungary.
http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2011/12/02/hungary-and-the-imf-not-so-fast/
And about the telecom tax, VO is saying f… you about the telecom tax. Most likely the EU will going the same to VO during the negotiations.
http://www.realdeal.hu/20111202/hungary-denies-european-commission-call-to-scrap-telecoms-tax/

Joseph Simon
Guest

Some 1. Give me your email address.
Some former communist officials like Biszku should answer for their deeds. It would be very informative for the public just as the Nurenbeg trials were. At the same time, Orbán should go easy on this issue, after all Hungary is a ‘jogállam’, human rights ara paramount, even though Biszku, along with Kádár, is a mass-killer.

Member

Joseph Simon: I do not feel comfortable to share my email address on an open forum. Maybe you can upload a copy to http://www.mediafire.com/. It is a free file sharing service. You can give us the link after, and you would be able to remove it in a day or two.
Thanks.

cheap Timberland Boots
Guest

Some 1. Give me your email address.
Some former communist officials like Biszku should answer for their deeds. It would be very informative for the public just as the Nurenbeg trials were. At the same time, Orbán should go easy on this issue, after all Hungary is a ‘jogállam’, human rights ara paramount, even though Biszku, along with Kádár, is a mass-killer.

Kirsten
Guest
To Peter Litvanyi: I like your enthusiasm and I understand that given the seriousness of the situation, some kind of support might be more than worthwhile. But this blog has a different purpose, this blog is mainly about “debating”. There are numerous possibilities how to get in contact with dissenting organisations in Hungary, such as the Egymilioan a magyar sajtoszabadsagert or the Negyedik köztarsasag, you can also “like” Eva Tetenyi on facebook or on her own website, you can even get in touch with her (team, I suppose), through her website. We here on the blog, sitting in diverse places throughout the world, will not be able to change things materially through writing letters. And yet a debate makes sense and could be of use even for Hungarian readers, if it reveals the diversity of opinions and ideas. You have specific ideas, which very much contribute to the broad picture of ideas related to the current situation in Hungary (or other things). That alone is a great contribution as is shows that a debate between people of diverse opinions is possible, and does not end in insults. And, of course Eva’s blog alone will not remove OV from his position,… Read more »
peter litvanyi
Guest
Dear “Kirsten”, thanks for your answer. re:”But this blog has a different purpose, this blog is mainly about “debating”.” It’s a nice white lie. I doubt we are really debating anythig here in merit, it’s a bit sad really. We really should and that is part of my point. I have no idea what the purpose of this blog is. re: “There are numerous possibilities how to get in contact with..” -trust me I am part of those movement you mentioned and more. re: “not end in insults”-not really, I am too old for real insults. re: “That means support for those brave people who actively defend what is left of democracy and who work on establishing the “fourth republic” (not meant only with regard to the party).” – that is simply not true. A nice personal communal letter from us letter and a largely symbolical $100 a piece might do that. Those “brave people” actually don’t give hoot so far about what is written on this blog daily. Neither do their opponents. re: “And in that, also, the blog obviously supports what Eva Tetenyi does in Esztergom. Which Eva (‘our’ Eva) has also proved in her earlier contributions on… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

I am not inclined to share much, including writing letters, with people who tell me that “I know that I wrote bullshit” and who – despite that – expect me to cooperate in their interests, ie to do what they suggest. The truth is that I am not cooperating on such basis.

peter litvanyi
Guest

Dear Kirsten,
it’s not about you or me. It’s about Tetenyi Eva. If only half of the municipalities in Hungary followed her example then Mr. Orban’s nightmareish regime would be “POOOF” gone. Am sure Eva would find something else amusing to write about in her daily blog. Which is good.
I quite like you. I like your posts. I have no ill feelings towards you. If the word “bullshit” offended you I am willing to find another less offensive substitute. Forgive me, I am just a simple carpenter and this is how we say it on a jobsite.
Who and how you cooperate with: it is called conscience. Your call.
Yours&mine.
You are not acting in my interest. That would be: send me a $100. This is not what I asked /would be nice/. “their interests”? Like who do you mean? What would Dubcek /did I spell it right, sorry it’s late/ think about this? Or Bohumil Hrabal? You might be surprised but we are the “their interests”.
Sincerely:
Peter Litvanyi

Kirsten
Guest

To Peter Litvanyi: I actually meant that writing to Eva Tetenyi and sending her money in support of her defence of Esztergom is your interest, which you ask other people here on the blog to support. I fully share the view that what Eva Tetenyi does is worthy of support, but it is still ALSO the interest of the person who suggests that. There are many other groups and people who also do very worthy things currently, and one may prefer to donate to these. That is why I wanted to argue whether we are all ‘morons’ if we do not support your suggestion. But I understand that you did not mean it as an insult.

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