Grandfathers and grandsons: Rewriting the communist past

János Lázár, who seems to enjoy the utmost trust of Viktor Orbán, occasionally flies off the handle. In fact, he is often described as a loose cannon who in the long run may cause political damage to his party and his boss.

Lázár was born in 1975 and thus was only 14 years old when democracy arrived in Hungary. As a result, his first-hand knowledge of the communist dictatorship he talks so much about is meager. And this lack of experience hasn’t been supplemented by any reading to understand the Kádár regime better.

His ignorance of recent Hungarian history became evident again when he attacked András Schiffer, one of the leading politicians of LMP, on account on Schiffer’s grandfather. I already mentioned Schiffer’s great grandfather, Árpád Szakasits, a social democrat who belonged to the group within the party that opted for cooperation with the Magyar Kommunista Párt (MKP) of Mátyás Rákosi. He was not exactly rewarded for his decision and in 1950 was condemned to life imprisonment. After his release in March 1956 he held minor positions in the Kádár regime. At one point he was head of the World Federation of Hungarians that was as much a joke then as it is now.

Lázár finds other ancestors of Schiffer objectionable as well. Szakasits’s daughter, Klára, got married to a social democratic activist, Pál Schiffer, who also ended up in jail. Rákosi must have especially disliked him because of all his social democratic victims, Schiffer received the worst treatment. He was first condemned to death and it was only three years after the verdict was handed down that his sentence was commuted to life. Meanwhile his wife and five children were deported from Budapest to the Hortobágy region. Some of the children were forcibly put into orphanages as attested to by one of the sons, János Schiffer. According to András Schiffer, his grandfather decided after his release that he would never again get mixed up in party politics. So, he was second-in-charge of the State Insurance Company and later served as ambassador to Oslo.

Family tree

Lázár calls the people who held any position more important than some lowly clerkship “operators of the regime.” Schiffer’s father was the CEO of a bank and therefore to Lázár’s mind he was an operator of the regime. According to him, these people should have been punished in some way after the regime change. He put it this way: “After 1990 these grandfathers and fathers could live their lives undisturbed and for their children and grandchildren the road was paved.”

If one takes Lázár’s words at face value not only high-level party apparatchik should have been removed from their positions but practically anyone who was in a higher position anywhere. The CEO of a bank in the Kádár regime should definitely have been removed from his job and his children’s careers blocked. That sounds frighteningly similar to the situation in the early 1950s when managers lost their jobs and the children of the intelligentsia were barred from entering even high school. Rákosi, Gerő and Co. wanted to have a brand new set of people running the country.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the young Turks of Fidesz think similarly to Lázár. After all, if all the people who achieved status in the old regime had been removed, the opportunities for the new crew would have been much greater. And perhaps this also explains the Fidesz boys’ resentment of those who, simply by virtue of being older, were higher up on the social ladder in 1990. I really wonder how much envy is mixed up with this new fanatical anti-communism.

But, as Endre Aczél rightly pointed out, life in general is more complicated than the picture painted by Lázár. Aczél reminded his readers that while “the regime operator” Schiffer was waiting to be executed, the father of future Prime Minister József Antall (1990-1993) was serving as a member of parliament during the worst dictatorship Hungary has ever experienced.

Lázár’s attack was followed by a counterattack by Schiffer in an interview he gave to Népszabadság. Then yesterday Anna Schiffer, the aunt of András and daughter of Pál, wrote an open letter to János Lázár in Galamus which was to the point: “You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Well, Lázár is not the kind of man who leaves such a letter unanswered. A few hours after the appearance of Anna Schiffer’s letter he wrote a scathing and very unfair letter to her. At the beginning of the letter he quoted Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s opinion of the communist psyche. I couldn’t easily find either the original or the English translation, and I don’t want to translate it from Hungarian. The upshot of the passage is that “there is no more noxious and dangerous” creature than a communist. Communists are cynical, power-hungry, unscrupulous; they only destroy, they are against culture; they have no idea about Christian ethics. And they lie if it is useful for the “movement” or it is good for the personal careers of the comrades.

To tell the truth, this description reminded me of some other people, like the leadership of Fidesz. But, I guess Lázár doesn’t see the similarities. In any case, given the nature of the communist, “a decent man cannot be a communist.” Especially not after November 4, 1956. After citing some figures that might not be at all accurate, he seems to make Szakasits and Pál Schiffer practically responsible for the 200,000 civilians deported, the 70,000 interned men, the 60,000 who were incarcerated, and 700 executed–all while Pál Schiffer was happily living in Oslo and his son running a bank.

I must confess I heartily dislike András Schiffer and I have the lowest of the lowest opinion of János Lázár. But I consider punishing children for their fathers’ sins or alleged sins unacceptable. I don’t like András Schiffer not because he is the great grandson of Árpád Szakasits and grandson of Pál Schiffer but because I don’t respect him and because I suspect his political motives.

Exchanges like the one between Lázár and Schiffer are distasteful, but I’m glad that this particular one took place because I think I managed to detect something hidden in the Fidesz anti-communist rhetoric that I didn’t notice before. A huge frustration with all the remnants of the intellectual and managerial elite of the old regime. Twenty some years later they even turn against the descendants. How do they dare to say anything? The children and grandchildren of regime operators should simply disappear and hand over their positions to the up and coming Fidesz supporters. I think this is how their minds work.

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An
Guest
@Eva: ” I think I managed to detect something hidden in the Fidesz anti-communist rhetoric that I didn’t notice before. A huge frustration with all the remnants of the intellectual and managerial elite of the old regime. Twenty some years later they even turn against the descendants. How do they dare to say anything? The children and grandchildren of regime operators should simply disappear and hand over their positions to the up and coming Fidesz supporters.” Not exactly, this is again the “their communist is bad, our communist is good” thinking. Lazar comments are outrageous, for several reasons. One, is making the children responsible for the fathers’ “sins”. Second, making people like Szakasits and Pal Schiffer into villains , who, if anything, were victims of the communist regime, as well as (or rather than) beneficiaries (in other words he is grossly simplifying and distorting the truth about these people). (Oh, and wait, wasn’t Orban Gyozo, Orban Viktor’s father a party functionary? … BTW, that’s not what is wrong with OV.) Third, what about all those Fidesz-related people, who were actively involved in politics/business/culture under the communist regime? (Schmitt Pal, current President, Andras Bencsik, Kerenyi Imre, Szeles Gabor, Csanyi Sandor, Pozsgay… Read more »
An
Guest

On a second thought, a wild idea, I know, but maybe Lazar is planning a coup and trying to take Orban’s place? As Orban’s father used to be a party secretary in the Kadar era, so that would make OV persona non grata according to Lazar’s logic.

An
Guest

If anybody interested, this article (in Hungarian) has a shortlist (not exhaustive) of prominent Fidesz people who had party-related positions under the communist regime (scroll down for list).
http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=496741

Population One
Guest
@An I don’t see Lazar doing a coupe alone, but definitively with Navracsics at the head. Navracsics has been stretching his statements a bit to much lately, rather trying to please the EU, domestic and international media, both in the case of Lazar vs Schiffer and OV vs EU, almost to the point where he sides with Schiffer and the EU. However, OV created a Francis Ford Coppola, a la, Godfather party structure, where loyalty comes first and last, but even Don Corleone, the Godfather himself eventually got betrayed. To end my Hollywood analogy, I think Navracsics will attempt a coupe just as the OV vs EU will be at it’s peak as far as verbal battles goes, and OV will be vulnerable both within the Fidesz party, vs the EU and internationally. Navracsics strategy will be to first seek the international communities approval, and agree to almost every point to please the EU and get to the IMF immediately to please the internationals and investors. Once he has the blessing, he will reason with the Fidesz that this fight can’t go on and go for the kill, that is the PM position. Of course, this is all pure speculation,… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
I have some comprehension for anti-communist rhetoric. And I seriously believe that it would be very beneficial if the positive and negative aspects of the Communist era including the Kadar years could be discussed more or less related to the facts. Also to make it clear that Fidesz thinks in the same manner of right-evil, historical truths, collective fate, and too obviously has a number of people in important positions who out of belief or opportunism were members of the CP. My guess is still that this aggressive anti-communism also stems from the fact that people connected to the “old” regime kept their positions e.g. in the economy, which then could not be easily filled by those with worse starting positions. The amazing opportunities created by the privatisation of state property, by “private” responsibility for public money etc., the weakness of the public infrastructure, was in my assessment used (in the early years) mainly by those who were closest to the most important information, ie the earlier management of state-owned firms and some people in the respective ministries. A party without a proper programme, which I assume that Fidesz was in 1989 given its flexibility in programme afterwards, perhaps saw… Read more »
Petofi
Guest

Anyone have a details of Lazar’s background: education, accomplishments etc.?

Member

Laser Johnny is trying to appeal to the clueless peace marcher 50+ crowd. A man who was riding in a 100k dollar Audi 8, payed by the taxpayers. The car was also equipped with a radar detector, also payed by the taxpayers. Never mind the laws.
This is the same bozo who said “if you stayed poor – this is what you’re worth” (“aki nem vitte semmire az életben, az annyit is ér”). The average Hungarian patriot’s attentions span is incredible short.
I sincerely hope that 10 years after the FIDESZ pushed Hungary off the Taygetos nobody will bully Laser Johnny’s descendants for being his offspring.
Ok, Lazar is just another FIDESZ scum. The problem is again the Hungarian society. This calculating scheming dick is saying these things because they still work.

T. E.
Guest

The reason why you couldn’t find the original of the alleged Solzhenitsyn quote is that it doesn’t exist. This is a Hungarian hoax. Viz. http://konzlib.blog.hirszerzo.hu/entry/9486
and
http://konzlib.blog.hirszerzo.hu/entry/9534

dvhr
Guest

Eva: It was Antall Jozsef senior, the father of the future prime minister, who was a member of Rakosi’s parliament, while Schiffer Pal was waiting his execution.

Population One
Guest
(I just want to apologize for my above comment where it says “coupe” instead of “coup”. It seems my smartphone likes cars, and I failed to double check my spelling before commenting.) @Mutt Damon Mutt Damon, I have a question, do you really think that Lazars rather childish rhetoric’s work on more than a very small segment of the population? @Blog Post and in General. What function does Lazar even fill? This is the guy that went around saying something similar to; if you have nothing in your life, than that’s what your worth. In other countries they would have kicked him so far… He is like a Gordon Gecko wannabe that failed the Hungarian equivalent of Wall Street and joined politics. Now he uses politics to benefit his family’s CBA chain, which of course is in dispute in the EU, and also accused of tax evasion, and abuse of power in regards to food stamps, cigarettes etc. His attacks on Schiffer are at best childish, and no one with half a brain pays any attention to them. I don’t like Schiffer in many regards, but I would pick Schiffer over Lazar any day of the week and twice on… Read more »
Kingfisher
Guest

Janos Lazar is not related to the Lazar family who owned CBA.

Population One
Guest

@King Fisher
I never said they were brothers. I said: “Now he uses politics to benefit his family’s CBA chain”. CBAs are owned by the people that run them, only a percentage goes to the corporate entity, diregarding the stock, and expenditure related to group adverts.
For instance Lázár János and Rogán Antal, around October 2010, established a law that would seperate the taxation of grocery chains. The progressive taxation was then established in such a way that it benefited the CBA chain while others paid huge amount of tax.
In 2011 December, Lázár János handed in a new law for approval that cigarettes should be orchestrated by the government, and guess what chain would be the only one that would be selling them? Yes, CBA.
And this is how the story continues, but luckly the EU is looking into it.

Kingfisher
Guest

Population One, I thought you were alluding to the Lazar brothers who own CBA. Janos Lazar is no relation.

Population One
Guest

@Kingfisher
Just because Vilmos and Zoltan have the same last names, has nothing to do with Janos. For all I care they could be called Smith.
I’m saying that there are other vested interest and instead of running the city of Hódmezővásárhely and improving the 40,000 peoples population he is running around promoting CBA and also benefiting them through legislation, which benefits him, and his family.

Population One
Guest

@Kingfisher
I also want to add for the sake of interest an image of a beautiful horse. On the left side of the horse is Orban Viktor, on the right side non-other than Lazar Vilmos, of CBA.
comment image
Vilmos has been chummy with the Fidesz since approximately 2009. However, this is nothing compared to the Godmother Tunde Hando.

Kingfisher
Guest

Population One, sorry for the misunderstanding. I hadn’t realised that Janos Lazar’s family has a string of CBA stores, which is what you seem to be saying.
Lazar is so hyperactive that there are probably ten other “affairs” the one could associate him with – the Erste Bank affair being the most shocking.

Member

“After 1990 these grandfathers and fathers could live their lives undisturbed and for their children and grandchildren the road was paved.”
As with many of His Master’s comments, that could be interpreted in a number of ways. Indirectly having a pop at others in the regime? Putting the boot into Schmitt?
Towards the end of the week, the economic storm clouds have started building up again- one of the moneymen has suggested a 310/315 HUF to the Euro is on the cards; another saying default is a distinct possibility. Coupled with the fact that Schmitt’s plagiarism descision is soon, interesting times ahead- perhaps Lazar is doing a little bit of subtle pre-emptive positioning?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Petofi: “Anyone have a details of Lazar’s background: education, accomplishments etc.?”
I wish I had but he says nothing about his family background in his official biography.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Thanks dvhr, I left out the crucial word: the father of … and I didn’t notice.

Population One
Guest

@Petofi, Eva
This is the official version:
http://www.hodmezovasarhely.hu/oldalak/83
The Lazar parents were predominantly working with agriculutral land (150 hectars approximately) and foodstuff.
No one really knows where Lazars initial wealth came from, except his own remarks, from family members and inheritance, uncles and grandparents.
This man is sucking out money from every inch he can find.
In 2007, Lazarus was criticized because of the 2002-2006 parliamentary term, where he had the highest self-expenditure of any other person.
He replied with a cool: “I took as much as the law allowed me.”
He takes corruption to a whole new level, with his signature touch of arrogance.

Joe Simon
Guest

Re Landeszman’s patronizing comment, it is a seemingly ‘echt’ Hungarian Szemeredi Endre who received the prestigious international Abel prize for mathematics.

enuff
Guest

Re: Mutt “A man who was riding in a 100k
dollar Audi 8, payed by the taxpayers.”
Laser is spending the country’s money as if its his father’s! Yet when the news of his luxury car expenses came out, as a foreigner I’m baffled at the lack of reactions from Hungarians!
I don’t really understand how he achieved to this high position. To me, the man is just a vainpot and fake tan.

Population One
Guest
@Kingfisher Kingfisher, I re-read my replies, and I feel that I owe you two things, an apology for being short and snappy in my replies and also not being clear enough. So to make it up to you, and I hope you will like it, we will do some detective work ourselves, just one out of many examples on what I meant with my above comments. We will start with a little story. Please indulge me! Pictures it Hungary 2002! (RIP Sophia Petrillo) The sun is shining, and things are looking bright, but we are hungry for some good old Hungarian Gyulai or Csabai sausage! But how do we make that sausage? Well a key ingredient is of course the mighty and may I say lovely and central to cooking, Hungarian paprika! So where do we get this paprika? Fear not! We will find a distributor of Hungarian Paprika! Just look at Lazar Janos CV right here http://www.hodmezovasarhely.hu/oldalak/83 on his official page, and scroll down to where it says: “2003- Gorzsai Mezőgazdasági Rt. Igazgatótanácsi tag”. Ah! We found it, our new paprika distributor! Thank you Lazar Janos! Let’s Google the paprika company! The first link we get from google.com is… Read more »
enuff
Guest

Interesting info., Population one.
I’ll finally listen to my MIL’s advice to avoid shopping at the chain as much as possible.

Member

T.E. : “the alleged Solzhenitsyn quote is that it doesn’t exist. ” bahahaha maybe Pal Schmitt wrote it. THe only original work he could come up with in his life. Where did Lazar get it from? Someone should ask him, if he read the original. THe whole Fidesz consist of “half-baked” individuals with questionable educational backgrounds, and with questionable educational credits. MAybe the reason they want to reform the education, as they know how easy their marks came by….
As for Lazar’s background. Here is an interview on HVG in English from 2007 “My ancestors were Greek orthodox sheepfarmers who arrived in the region of Hodmezovasarhely and Mindszent in the 18th century,”
http://hvg.hu/english/20070504_janos_lazar_major

Population One
Guest

@enuff
Well, usually to do what Lazar Janos is doing, you will have to be genetically inclined to lack empathy, and on top of that be raised or influenced by parents or relatives.
It is a psyhological condition in the brain:
http://www.physorg.com/news164382270.html
For instance some people make better guards at a labour camp in a war. The ones that don’t have empathy are ideal, as they can follow through with higher ups commands.

Population One
Guest

@enuff
You shouldn’t have to avoid shopping at the chain enuff. It’s not you that has to change, it’s the system. At least that is my opinion.

An
Guest

@Population One: “You shouldn’t have to avoid shopping at the chain enuff. It’s not you that has to change, it’s the system. At least that is my opinion.”
I agree with enuff. So much political opportunism going on with CBA. Its management supports an antidemocratic government unconditionally to secure financial gains… this makes CBA deplorable in my eyes. I wouldn’t shop there.

Member

@Population One “do you really think that Lazars rather childish rhetoric’s work on more than a very small segment of the population?”
Yes, but of course the question is what is small. I think the peace marchers like this. The older generation definitely. But they are like the classic old age joke: ” You are still chasing women, but you can’t remember why.” My worst fear is that in the Hungarian society there are many who don’t know yet they like this rhetoric. I see Herr Goebbels nodding at me … Verstanden.
@Joseph Simon
(I wanted to comment on you post, but I changed my mind. It’s more polite.)

An
Guest

@Population One: “For instance some people make better guards at a labour camp in a war. The ones that don’t have empathy are ideal, as they can follow through with higher ups commands.”
Unfortunately, lacking empathy is not just a some kind of brain dysfunction (though there could be a few people who lack empathy because of some kind of brain injury). The really scary part is that even normal people can show shocking lack of empathy in certain circumstances. You probably heard of the famous Milgram experiments to test human obedience to authority.
“If a person in a position of authority ordered you to deliver a 400-volt electrical shock to another person, would you follow orders? Most people would answer this question with an adamant no, but Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of obedience experiments during the 1960s that demonstrated surprising results.”
http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm