The young Ferenc Gyurcsány in Pécs

Considering the dullness of the day due to the long holiday weekend I think this is a good time to return to a topic that was the subject of a debate about Gyurcsány's role in the Communist Youth Movement (KISZ).

By the 1980s KISZ was functioning less and less as a political organization. Instead KISZ, especially at the university level, was more like a student union, organizing parties and outings. This seemed to be especially the case in Pécs, which was a more "liberal" place than many others in Hungary in those days. Apparently, this less strident political control was mostly due to the party secretary of Baranya county, József Nagy, father-in-law of László Sólyom.

Gyurcsany fiatal2

Young Gyurcsány was someone who managed to find ways of making an extra buck. He came from a very poor family and couldn't expect any financial help from home. When he arrived in Pécs as a freshman he immediately found a job as a supervisor in a dormitory for high school students. He received 800 Ft a month plus room and board. In the second year, he was persuaded to run for KISZ secretary and because he was very popular with the students he had no problem being elected. When the Pécs law school and the Pedagógia Főiskola, a teachers college, merged to form the Janus Pannonius University, the university was entitled to have a KISZ secretary, a full-time paid position. Gyurcsány was offered the job and he took it, especially because he received a monthly salary of 3,500 forints.

The young Gyurcsány, according to his own recollection, didn't spend too much time pondering political questions. At home politics wasn't a topic of discussion, just it wasn't in the Orbán family in Felcsút. Gyurcsány later admitted that in his case there was a serious lack of democratic impulses at home or elsewhere. He attended the reburial of Imre Nagy, but he was also there when János Kádár was buried a week or two later. His political thinking was unformed.

However, by 1988, he realized that KISZ was in no position to give appropriate answers to the political challenges. By that time Fidesz, MDF, and several other civic organizations were on the scene. He realized that "whether the party likes it or not, in the next few years the youth will create their own political organizations…. It is unlikely that the new political organization will accept either the concept of democratic centralism or a name that includes in it the word "communist."

By that time Gyurcsány was a student in the Department of Economics at Pécs, and it was commonplace by then in academic circles to view the economic problems of socialism as stemming from the lack of competition associated with a market economy. Economic competition cannot be maintained in the long run without a democratic multi-party system, but he couldn't imagine that one day in the very near future the whole system would simply collapse. He anticipated a long period of slow change via reforms.

In early 1988 the leadership of Fidesz issued a statement which openly advocated a pluralistic political system. Two weeks later the Central Committee of KISZ also came out with basically the same message. The head of KISZ at this point was a young man whose real aim was the organization of a non-political association representing the interests of college students. However, time left them, including Gyurcsány, behind. He and some others tried to organize another student association called Demokratikus Ifjúsági Szövetség which after about three months died a quiet death. In the middle of 1989 he planned another group called Új Nemzedék (New generation) which lasted about three weeks.

Meanwhile we must remember that Hungary is a small country and on a certain level everybody knows everybody. For example, Árpád Gógl, Viktor Orbán's minister of health, was the best man at Gyurcsány's wedding. He also naturally rubbed shoulders with members of the Fidesz leadership. He worked together with István Stumpf, who found Gyurcsány among those who "really wanted real change. He was a refreshing figure among the others" in KISZ. Stumpf admitted that in fact he had a very warm and close relationship with him. "He wanted such radical changes that he was too much for KISZ. In those days he was closer to the opposition than to those with whom he nominally belonged."

He also knew Tamás Deutsch quite well. Years later Gyurcsány recalled a long political conversation with Deutsch in the summer of 1989. Deutsch argued that János Kádár should be punished. Gyurcsány asked whether Kádár had a choice in 1956 or not. They agreed that he did. But Gyurcsány went further: did Hungary have a choice? Deutsch had to agree that Hungary had no choice. What is more important, asked Gyurcsány, adding that "the country shouldn't think that if it gets rid of a guilty man it can escape its own past."

The real break for Gyurcsány came one day walking in downtown Pest. A woman came from the other direction who recognized him from pictures that appeared in newspapers and on television. She stopped him and said to him: "you are a no good" (tróger). It was then that he realized that it didn't matter how much of a reformer he was within KISZ. What mattered was on what side he stood. He went home and retired from politics for almost fifteen years.

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Guest

Thank you for this – it must have been “interesting times” then in the late 80s.
I had to laugh about the word “tróger” (it sounded German somehow …), couldn’t find it in my dictionary, but then I found it in my “handbook of Hungarian slang”. Its origin seems to be the German “Träger” i e carrier of heavy loads, typically a rough guy, up to no good …

stevve
Guest

Hungary is rich in psychologists. Gyurcsany and the rest of the politicians, and even all ordinary citizens must undergo treatment, to learn humility, fairness, civility, and modern thinking, to end the civil wars of the cursed nation.
All have to sign a peace treaty, and modify their dysfunctional views.
When will it happen?

Eva Balogh
Guest

Wolfi: “Its origin seems to be the German “Träger” i e carrier of heavy loads, typically a rough guy, up to no good”
Correct but Mr. Országh gave such ridiculous equivalents that I had to come up with my own. My English vocabulary is pretty good but I either never heard of them or they didn’t fit the context.

Member

“[in 1989] he planned another group called Új Nemzedék (New generation) which lasted about three weeks.”
Well, this is difference between politicians and ordinary people. If I would launch a political organization it probably wouldn’t last for more then 15 minutes …

Lutra lutra
Guest

So, unlike Orbán, after he finished with student politics he got himself a proper job and became one of the 50 richest people in Hungary (according to Wikipedia). Is this another reason for the near-pathological hatred and suspicion of him from some parts of MSZP and FIDESZ?

LwiiH
Guest
@Lutra lutra, I know the Hungarian stereo type is they loath those that run into money. I, OTHO, believe that you must allow people to become rich. I have friends who have been lucky enough to see their companies, entities that they built from scratch taking years of toil, for 10’s to 100s of millions of dollars. And, I couldn’t be happier for them. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to have long discussions with Charles Simonyi who’s innovative industry changing innovations have earned him billions of dollars (MS Office Suite for those that may not know). This is a person that you can look up to and respect in his out look on like and how he treats and interacts with other people. All that said, the way people got rich during the chaotic years in Hungary appears to be by buying (effectively stealing) state property for literally pennies on the $$ and then finding a way to flip it. These opportunities were limited to the well connected. So the question is; how did the likes of OV, Gyurcsany, Bajnai, et al become so wealthy so quickly? If they were eating from the public trust, when did they quit, if… Read more »
Gyorgy Gereby
Guest

Just a piece of historical info for comparison: when I began to teach in Pécs in 1983 at the incipient Janus Pannonius University as an assistant professor my first salary was HUF 1,850. When did Gyurcsány begin to get the quite reasonable sum of HUF 3,500 as the Communist Youth Organisation secretary? (I remember it was a full job: “függetlenített KISZ-titkár”) If in those days, … well, it tells something about the context. (If I am not failed by my memory my parents as middle-age doctors made sth. around 4,000 in those days.)

Eva Balogh
Guest

LwiiH: “and especially after the infamous CNN interview, he comes of not much better than the rest (Zoltan Kovacs, OV et al)”
Which CNN interview? I remember only one mostly because his English was so bad.

Eva Balogh
Guest

György Geréby and the salary of a KISZ secretary.
Yes, he mentioned that it was an enormous amount of money. After he got the job he went home and “somewhat theatrically” thanked his parents for the financial support in the past and announced that from then on he is entirely on his own.
József Debreczeni mentions in his biography of Gyurcsány that he and his family lived a nice middle-class existence. A new house in a fashionable section of town.

LwiiH
Guest

@Eva, the interview where he called Nick Robertson an idiot just after the riots and the infamous tape. I didn’t think his english was all that bad.

LwiiH
Guest

Now this is fun.
Gyurcsány’s theses still missing, former PM says they’re “in a box somewhere”

petofi1
Guest

@ thesis missing…
The usual Hungarian, retributive nonsense. Who cares
about Gyurcsany’s thesis? He never called himself “Doktor”.
He never got more pay because of his title. He never lied
in defense of plagiarized work.
You want to find out about something interesting? Inquire
about the thesis of Kovacs Zoltan. When I wrote, twice, to get the title of his thesis from Debrecen U., they never even
bothered to reply. European standard, no?

An
Guest

@LwiiH: “Gyurcsány’s theses still missing, former PM says they’re “in a box somewhere””
Well, mine is in another country, in a box somewhere… I don’t keep my copy with me at all times. The weird thing is that the University cannot find it. Though having done research briefly at a Hungarian university’s depository of thesis works, even that I don’t find too surprising.

petofi1
Guest
@ ‘infamous tape’ That tape shows nothing more than the awful retribution of a corrupt element in MSZP; and the Fidesz (..let’s give credit: the Orban..) genius for mis-directing the hapless Hungarian citizenry. On part I: Nothing is worse for the corrupt members of a governing party than to find their pig-like showdown on the public purse hampered by the party leader. That certainly won’t do. And if they can’t steal; well, what’s the use of being in power, right? So the knives come out… On part II: No doubt, the thieving Fidesz partners of the thieving MSZP (after all, 30% of a vastly reduced amount is no good, is it?) knew well what went on behind closed doors. The revelation was probably a joint effort. I remember the brouhaha: “He lied! He lied to us all!! He admits it!!!!” And all I could think of was, “Gyurcsany practiced an extremely rare form of self-criticism and they’re tearing him to pieces for it! How strange.” I don’t remember many journalists defending him at the time, but back then I didn’t have the habit of reading 3 or 4 papers daily (which makes me thoroughly disgusted today, by the way.) All… Read more »
petofi1
Guest

Correction:
….”showdown” in para 2, should read “chow-down”.

Member

@LwiiH: “Gyurcsány’s theses still missing, former PM says they’re “in a box somewhere””
OK, O got it. I think Gyurcsany should resign for being a former Prime Minister until someone finds it, then he can become again a former Prime Minister.

Member

What I really want to see is Nemethne’s (Lászlóné Németh, Orban’s Minister of National Development) thesis!
Wait … she never had one.

Kirsten
Guest
LwiiH: “If they were eating from the public trust, when did they quit, if they have? How much to they have on each other to keep each other in line?” Last time you suggested “It’s time to put the past in the past and get on with the business of running the country.” I guess you meant it with regard to the Communist past but it would not be possible to make a cut in 1990. In Hungary it apparently cannot even be determined when a cut should be made. Fidesz did have a point when they said that the transition did not manage to replace the elites, but as I learned the problem is that such exchange is nearly impossible as most people including those in Fidesz were somehow related to the (Kadar) system and even benefited from it. The gains that some people made during the privatisation has often not been unrelated to the connections established during the Kadar times (not only in the political but mainly in the economic sphere) and then there were really people who were quick to orientate themselves and enter old or build own networks. Also, the legal system was hardly prepared for… Read more »
Member

@ Kirsten, I think I fully agree with the “starting fresh” idea, but honestly I think it was only the MSZP who was able to do that. THey are still comfortable to face their past, simply because they are not hypocrites, like most of the Fidesz and Jobbik.
So my new Hungary should have an “amnesty” but please they should pull out the hypocrites for good. So it is not about what someone did in the past but more about the lies they done to differentiate themselves from the same.

Kirsten
Guest

some1, that will be impossible and then the attempt at an amnesty gets unworkable, something that I also suspected. (Only some will admit not to be only a “victim”.) But it is not a current issue anyway so perhaps the idea of a “fresh start” could get more support over time.

Eva Balogh
Guest
Let me see what happened to the several essays I had to write for different degrees. I’m 100% sure that I threw out my senior thesis written at Carleton University. Part of it, on the other hand, was published in Canadian Slavonic Papers. Then came my M.A. dissertation in Russian and Hungarian Studies at Yale. I don’t have the paper I turned in, but again it was published, somewhat revised, in a collected volume on the Hungarian Soviet Republic. I do have my Ph.D. dissertation, all 500 some odd pages of it neatly bound. In two copies. One is in Hungary because I sent a copy to my parents. As for the diplomas. I have no idea where my B.A. diploma is from Carleton University. From Yale I received several: an MA in Russian and East European Studies; another MA in History, an M.Phil in History and a Ph.D. in History. The only one I still have is the Ph.D. diploma because I got it framed. The others I have no idea where they disappeared. So, if someone wanted me to produce any of the above mentioned essays and diplomas, I would be unable to oblige. I also very much… Read more »
GDF
Guest

Eva:”So, if someone wanted me to produce any of the above mentioned essays and diplomas, I would be unable to oblige.”
My guess is that all universities would be able to supply a duplicate of a diploma. I doubt that you need it, but I know that when I applied for some of my jobs in the US, they requested the name and address of my diploma issuing institutions and my assumption is that they requested confirmation of the authenticity of the diplomas.

An
Guest

@GDF: Yes, universities would send authentication of your diploma (showing that you actually earned the degree), but not a copy of your actual thesis (the longish paper you wrote as the final requirement for your degree).
In Gyurcsany’s case, it is not a question of authentication of his diploma… he put up his “leckekony” (gradebook) with the official records and grades showing that he indeed completed his thesis as part of his degree requirements.
It is the actual thesis (the paper he wrote) that has gone missing.
I think this is just an attempt to divert attention away from the Schmitt fiasco.. it’s actually very handy for Fidesz that Gyurcsany’s thesis is missing, as he cannot possibly clean himself from any alleged wrongdoing this way… but the rumors can be perpetuated.

LwiiH
Guest

@Kirsten, Two years ago I was one of 45,000 at Oracle Worlds appreciation held on Treasure Island in the middle of SF bay. Food was served in two large tents. In the first tent it was a free-for-all elbows flying, mayhem….. We looked in and decided to check out the second tent. To our pleasant surprise, everyone was queued and it was quite orderly. There was no apparent reason for the self organizing. And, Hungary feels a lot like like tent #1.
Gyurcsány was right about choice in 56. But now there is choice. Yeah it might hurt to see people getting away with bad things but amnesty of some sort could allow people to start doing the right things without fear.
I have my Maths degree from Carleton U. along with my diploma for Bio-Chemistry along with the supporting thesis neatly tucked away where I can reach them in a moments notice.

Guest

Totally OT:
This discussion made me look for my mathematics diploma and the paper I wrote around 45 years ago – and lo, I found them after only five minutes!
But I had the fortune of only moving twice in those many years …
Of course there are more important things in live and politics – but it was clear to everybody that the former president was not even a good figurehead. I still wonder why Orbán chose him. I didn’t particularly like Solyom, but he at least was an intelligent man.
Did Orbán get rid of him because he did not agree one hundred percent ?
That might one have appreciate Solyom a bit more …

Guest

Sorry, to make the preceding clear:
“Former president” means Schmitt, who really was a political non-entity …

Curiosa
Guest

Question. I read somewhere but I can’t find the same web page again, that Mr Orban Viktor was running for the leader of a Kisz group in high school? And that his father Orban Gyozo was in fact a party secretary for the Kadar?

Eva Balogh
Guest

To Curiosa, yes, both are true.

Curiosa
Guest

Wow, I’m a bit curious now, I will try to dig further just out of interest.
Thanks Mrs Eva for the help and the exceedingly informative blog, and the hard work that goes into it.

Vándorló
Guest

Couldn’t help but notice the obvious skirting around the ‘elephant in the room’ on the Galamus.hu website and this concerning recent events.
I’m very much looking forward to the balanced piece you are due to write on Gyurcsány’s plagarism of his brother-in-law’s thesis.
Those over at Galamus must be absolutely spitting feathers over Török Gábor’s stance on this: http://torokgaborelemez.blog.hu/2012/04/30/453_plagium_2_0
Be intersting to read what contrived casuistries you manage to string together for Feri’s sake.

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