Politics in Hungary

By Peter A. Toma; Ivan Volgyes | Go to book overview
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2 State and Nation Building

The Hungarian Communist Party came to power in 1949, not under the circumstances predicted by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto, but under the singular conditions created by the postwar social, economic, and political disarray and the Soviet military occupation. There are, of course, different views and interpretations of when and how the Communist Party seized power; some writers claim it was in 1947, others maintain it was in 1948. Our claim of 1949 is based on the fact that not until the third postwar elections, held in May 1949, were all opposition parties eliminated from the contest, and not until after these elections were Hungarian Communist leaders able to establish the dictatorship of the Party.

The following factors contributed significantly to Communist political hegemony: first and foremost, the Soviet military command imposed severe limitations on the capabilities of the old ruling elite; secondly, non-Communist party leaders were unable to perceive and interpret correctly the environing conditions within which the rules of the game were constantly revised; thirdly, the atrophy of the role and structures of the old pseudodemocratic political culture induced many urban workers and landless peasants to seek economic security and social justice under a Communist-propagated people's democratic culture; 1 fourthly, Hungarians welcomed the opportunity to eradicate all vestiges of fascism; and lastly, Hungary yearned to participate in a credible international security system under the protection of an aggressive, neighboring power (the Soviet Union) instead of under the aegis of a distant and passive Western coalition. The protection secured by participation in the Soviet camp of the international power struggle was viewed by some Hungarians as a prerequisite for Hungary's continued existence and viability as a nation; this fact of political survival made the transition from one type of dictatorship to another more plausable for many Hungarians than a more complex and ambitious program of political development.

After the Communist victory in the 1949 parliamentary elections, the Hungarian Working People's


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