In 1989, the Stalinist: Hungarian People’s Republic collapsed. The stalinists of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party (MSZMP) abandoned their Marxist-Leninist ideology and replaced it with neoliberal capitalism. Reborn as the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), the ex-stalinists now agreed that the market was to be God, in a new capitalist Hungary. After four years of capitalist barbarism, the Hungarian voters choose massively for the MSZP. But the ex-stalinists (now social democrats) betrayed them and carried out the same market based neoliberal politics as the previous capitalist government. Massive disillusion led to the rise of conservative right-wing dominance over the nation!
”Refugees are invaders and have a leftist agenda” these are the words of right-wing premier Viktor Orbán. This conservative leader is ruling Hungary (formerly the Hungarian Republic) since 2010 and is becoming more and more authoritarian. Orbán is no stranger to Hungarian politics. He was the youngest prime minister at age 35, when he led a conservative coalition government between 1998 and 2002. Viktor Orbán was a strong supporter of Hungarian style moderate stalinism in his youth. Janos Kadar of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party (MSZMP) led the Hungarian People’s Republic from 1956 until 1988. His rule was less restrictive compared to the regime of Mátyás Rákosi, Stalin’s Hungarian puppet. But Viktor Orbán broke with ”communism” in the 1980’s and was a founding member of Fidesz, a nationalist conservative party!
The first democratic elections in 1990 were not won by Fidesz. Instead the nationalist populist; Hungarian Democratic Forum, the bourgeoisie-liberal; Alliance of Free Democrats and the right-wing nationalist; Independent Smallholders-Agrarian Workers and Civic Party won the elections. These three political parties would dominate the first four years of democracy in Hungary. By 1994, the voters had rejected their capitalist politics. People understood what was lost. Capitalism destroyed the welfare system, the pensions and most jobs. Angered and disillusioned by the reality of the market dictatorship, workers voted massively on the Hungarian Socialist Party, the former Stalinist state-party. The MSZP is the legal successor to the MSZMP which was build on the remnants of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, the first Stalinist party that led the Hungarian People’s Republic!
MSZP leader Gyula Horn carried out a full austerity program in 1995, which was a huge shock to most workers. It was clear that the heirs to Janos Kadar’s MSZMP, had fully abandoned the idea of a socialist sociery. Although capitalism was discredited, nobody realized how far the Hungarian Socialist Party had moved to the right-wing. Many were under the impression that the party was still socialist in some way. Therefore it comes to no surprise that the social democrats (ex-stalinists) lost the 1998 elections to Fidesz led by Viktor Orbán. The national conservatives were able outfox both the MSZP and the bourgeois-capitalist parties. Orbán was now able to introduce nationalist elements to the Hungarian government!
After four years in opposition, the MSZP had rebuild itself and was able to defeat the conservatives. But Orbán’s Fidesz did not lose any votes. The nationalist conservatives were becoming the main right-wing party in the nation. Hungary came under control of a social democratic-liberal government. Péter Medgyessy (MSZP leader) became prime minister and under his leadership; Hungary joined the European Union. As demanded by Brussels, the social democratic-liberal government made sure that the country sold its last state owned enterprises to foreign or domestic capitalists. After only two years in office, Medgyessy lost the support of his liberal coalition partner after he removed the Minister of Economy. Ferenc Gyurcsány replaced Medgyessy as prime minister and MSZP leader. Viktor Orbán and his conservatives still had to wait. By 2006 they were the main right-wing party of Hungary. Only the Jobbik Party was more nationalist and more racist!
Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary is a far-right nationalist party founded in 2003. From 2007 until 2009 they had their own Nazi style storm-troopers called the Hungarian Guard Movement. The uniformed group claimed to be a ”traditional patriotic organisation”, but in reality they intimidated opponents of Hungarian nationalism. In 2009, the social democratic-liberal government banned the group, because its members fiscally attacked ethnic minorities such as the Romani people. There are over 700.000 Romani in Hungary, who experience social exclusion, stigmatization and open rejection. Discrimination and hatred of this minority is the result of ignorance and prejudice. The Hungarian Guard Movement was supported in their bullying by many ordinary people, proofing the effects of ethnic nationalism!
Ferenc Gyurcsány’s MSZP won the 2006 elections and was able to continue the social democratic-liberal coalition government. But a leaked audio-tape showed him telling his supporters that the MSZP had lied to the public, which the nationalist Fidesz exploited. It abused the anger of millions to mobilize the Hungarians against the new government. Ferenc Gyurcsány refused to resign, which only fueled the rejection many Hungarians now had for the Hungarian Socialist Party. The local elections were a huge defeat for the social democrats and Fidesz was able to control many town and city councils!
Four years after the leaked audio tape, Fidesz was finally able to crush the MSZP and take full control over the Hungarian Republic. Viktor Orbán won 52% of the vote and got 263 out of 386 parliamentary seats. The social democratic MSZP lost almost 24% of their electorate as the voter turnout dropped to 64%. Now the national conservatives could enforce a right-wing agenda and they started with a frontal assault on liberal democracy. Viktor Orbán openly stated that he rejects liberal ideas such as same sex marriage, LGBT rights, tolerance of minorities. As a good conservative he is in favor of reactionary ”traditional” values such as promoting (ethnic) nationalism, economic protectionism and anticommunism!
A controversial decision was to lower the seats in parliament from 386 to 199. Many saw it as an attempt by Fidesz to take full control. Also the constitution was changed and the official name: Hungarian Republic was renamed to just: Hungary. The changes to the constitution were not liked by the opposition, who were completely excluded from the process. During the 2014 elections, the party of Viktor Orbán lost -7,86% of their voters. However because they had lowered the number of seats, Fidesz won a full two/third majority. With Jobbik winning 20% of the votes, the parliament is under complete nationalist domination!
The social democratic MSZP had tried to unite all none-nationalist parties in one big coalition called: Unity. But they failed to win more then 25% of the total vote. With so much mistrust against the social democrats and the fact the 39% of all Hungarians did not vote in 2014, the national conservatives remain in charge. The voter turnout now reached 61%, which was the lowest since 1998. MSZP leaders were unable to attract new supporters as the social democratic party is still regarded as untrustworthy. Revolutionary socialists agree with this widely spread idea. Many workers were giving the Hungarian Socialist Party a second chance in 1994. They were willing to see the ex-stalinists running a democratic nation. But the MSZP never carried out a socialist program and promoted austerity and deregulation. This is why the party scored only 25,57% during the 2014 parliamentary election!
There are two Stalinist parties in Hungary. The Hungarian Workers Party is the largest ”Marxist-Leninist” (Stalinist) party. Founded in 1989 by hardliners inside the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party, the new Stalinist party was first known as MSZMP until 1993, when it changed its name to Workers Party. Twelve years later the party changed it name again to Hungarian Communist Workers Party. Then in 2013, the anticommunist government of Orbán banned the public use of names associated with “authoritarian regimes of the 20th century” which forced the party to rename itself to Hungarian Workers Party!
In 2006 a second Stalinist party was founded called the Workers Party of Hungary 2006. This new party was created by opposition members inside the Hungarian Communist Workers Party, who were expelled. Both the present; Hungarian Workers Party and the Workers Party of Hungary 2006, support the legacy of Janos Kadar. This Stalinist leader was put in power by the Soviet-Union after it crushed the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Kadar was a pragmatic politician and not dogmatic. His Stalinist regime tried to win support by promoting Hungarian values. Called ”Goulash Communism” by western media outlets, Janos Kadar was never liked by the Brezhnev regime (1964-1982). But the Kremlin bureaucracy never removed him from power, fearing another workers uprising. Kadar died in July 1989, just before the collapse of the Hungarian People’s Republic. Some elderly have positive memory’s of his rule, other see him as a ”evil communist” dictator and a tool of Moscow!
The public support for two ”Marxist-Leninist” parties is very low. Their main electorate is made up of elderly people, who have positive memories of the Kadar period. In the 1990’s the Hungarian Workers Party (then called Workers Party) was winning about 180.000 votes, not enough for a single parliamentary seat. After 2002 and the rise of right-wing nationalism, they lost most of their supporters. The Workers Party of Hungary 2006, has not participated in a national election since its foundation ten years ago. It did promoted the established of Green Left, a green-socialist feminist party. Today the stalinists are a marginal force in Hungarian politics. They remain however the only true leftist forces, which is a sad reality. Like in the days of Janos Kadar, the stalinists remain nationalistic and proudly use the symbols of Hungary!
Revolutionary socialists in Hungary face a difficult situation. The conservative government of Viktor Orbán is using old style anticommunist rhetoric to keep Hungarians away from socialist ideals. Conservatives and their nationalists allies also play on the fact that ”communist Russians” crushed the Revolution of 1956. Viktor Orbán does not mention that the workers in 1956, never called for capitalism. The uprising of workers was a result of the deeply unpopular Rákosi regime. Stalinist Hungary in the mid 1950’s had purged almost 300.000 people and blamed all economic problems on ”reactionary” party members such as Imre Nagy. However after Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s legacy, the moderate stalinists moved against Rákosi and forced him out of office. Nagy replaced Rákosi, only to be removed by a Soviet invasion in November 1956!
Imre Nagy is a hero in capitalist Hungary, but the conservative government does not mention that Nagy remained a committed communist. He never denounced his believes in a socialist society free from capitalism. In capitalist Hungary however, the children at schools do not learn this. They learn about the ”evil (Russian) communists” who invaded their nation to keep ”communism” alive. Viktor Orbán does not want Hungarians to know that true socialism is not what Stalin and Rákosi called ”marxism-leninism”. He wants people to believe the lies that Hungary was a ”communist state” and that dictatorship and oppression are typical ”communist”. By claiming this every year at the 1956 uprising memorial day, many young Hungarians are raised with a wrong picture of communism and the 1956 uprising, which was far more communist then they realize!
Why has a right-wing party been able to win so much votes from workers and poor? The answer is simple. The Hungarian right-wing is (officially) against too much free market, while the ”left-wing” (MSZP) has carried out politics in favor of big business. The left-wing should be about opposition to capitalist greed, multinational corporations and the market economy. In Hungary the roles are reversed. Here the right-wings calls for state intervention and rejects EU imposed rules. Opportunistic to the core, but this led Fidesz to win working class votes as the ”official left-wing” carried out EU austerity. It was not Fidesz who called for the deregulation of the economy. The Hungarian Socialist Party and their liberal allies were the ones, who’s acted as the true forces of free market capitalism for many years!
Because of this fact, the right-wing in Hungary rejected many market based politics and calls for intervention of the state in some economic sectors. Many workers who suffered from capitalist exploitation in the 1990’s, started to look towards Fidesz. The MSZP and liberals did not see how their austerity cuts to social security and welfare, alienated them from their electorate. Although progressive on social issues, the official left-wing in Hungary has this reputation of supporting foreign big businesses and the troika of the European Union over their own people. Social democrats and liberals are the biggest supporters of the EU, while Fidesz and especially Jobbik reject foreigners!
To call for socialism is not easy. There is a huge stigma on socialist ideas and you risk alienating yourself from your friends and family. Worse, you could get fired or arrested for showing socialist symbols. Hungary is not a tolerant nation for revolutionary socialists and the right-wing government has arrested and jailed leftists for wearing a red star. The European Court of Human Rights rejected the ban on the red star, which fueled the nationalist propaganda of a ”foreign institution promoting communist symbols”. This is why Hungary is lacking a strong workers party. With Orbán shutting down a critical newspaper, it becomes clear that Fidesz does not care about freedom of speech. The nationalist conservatives were never champions of free expression and tolerance. They are architects of anticommunism, ethnic nationalism and racism as the Romani people have experienced!
In 2014, over four million Syrians fled their homeland as the Syrian civil war kept going. Many hundreds of thousands are trying to reach Great Britain, were they hope for a better life. They need to cross Hungary to reach northern Europe. Viktor Orbán and his nationalist conservative party are deeply anti-immigrant. Syrian refugees are detained and hold in prison, there are even stories of brutal abuses by prison guards. For those who fled the Syrian civil war, the brutality of the Hungarians must be a huge shock. They cannot understand why they are punished, beaten, arrested and jailed only because they flee war and terrorism. The EU has decided that Hungary should accept 1200 refugees, but the right-wing government finds this unacceptable. They exploit the ignorance of many Hungarians and their fears about potential Islamic terrorists!
The hostility of the Orbán government towards Syrian refugees has led to criticism and even calls to remove Hungary from the European Union. Viktor Orbán is no big fan of European integration, he coldly rejects any criticism of his brutal anti-immigrant politics. The capitalist class knows however that Hungary is linked to the common European market, this is why feel unease with their nationalist prime minister. Orbán however finds allies even among his enemies. The Stalinist: Hungarian Workers Party is agreeing with the prime minister’s anti-immigration politics. They say that the government is doing a good job and that it must protect ”European civilization”. Revolutionary Socialist Media would ask; ”protecting from who?” Is the Hungarian Workers Party saying that European civilization is superior to those of the middle east?
Viktor Orbán is also allying himself with other conservative leaders. He is joined in his hatred of refugees by the right-wing president of Poland: Jarosław Kaczyński. Both men have a deep hostility towards Islam and Muslims in general. Since most refugees from Syria are Muslim, the Hungarian leader rejects them. According to Orbán, the Syrians are invading his nation and that they have a leftist agenda. He therefore calls for an end to liberal thinking. In his reactionary opinion, all Europeans should rise up and reject Muslims. The conservative leader wants intolerance, racism, ignorance and ethnic nationalism. To show this, Orbán has ordered the construction of an iron fence wall. It is ironic that Hungarian border guards who once opened the Iron Curtain in 1989, now rebuild it to keep Syrian refugees out!
Hungarian workers need to understand that neither Fidesz nor the MSZP is a alternative. Social democrats and liberals have carried out brutal austerity cuts and the national conservatives of Fidesz are promoting racism, ignorance and Islamophobia. Conservatives, nationalists, social democrats and liberals are all part of the same capitalist coin. The European Union does not want to expel Hungary as Great Britain has already voted to leave. So Brussels tolerates Viktor Orbán and his racist politics towards Syrian refugees!
Revolutionary socialists do not trust the social democratic MSZP and the liberals. We call for the formation of a workers party on a socialist program. A party that stands in opposition to the legacy of the Hungarian People’s Republic and Janos Kadar. Only if the revolutionary left brakes with stalinism completely can we rebuild our strength. Hungary is a very unequal society where the average income is only 592 euros (661 dollars) a month. There is deep angry among youth and workers, so there is a potential of building a strong left-wing party. Unity of workers is also a must, both Hungarians and ethnic minorities such as Romani need to come together. In a society so poisoned with nationalism, ethnic unity seems difficult. Yet, the working class can change the course of history as Hungarian workers demonstrated in 1956!