6. THE PARTY AND POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS

POLITICAL TRADITION BEFORE 1945

Political Trends, 1800-1918

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Hungary was politically still far behind the countries of Western Europe. The intransigence of the Hapsburg Monarchy was largely responsible for this, especially since it regarded the French Revolution of 1830 as a signal to strengthen the status quo. However, there were other factors as well.

The fact that Hungary had still not developed any large-scale industry and commerce had serious results beyond economic dependence on Austria. Hungary had most of the attributes of agricultural backwardness, and lacked a middle class. The middle nobility, a numerous class of landowners who managed their own farms and were concerned in their own interests, provided the cohesion necessary for concerted political action. The magnates, the leading members of Hungarian society, on the other hand, lived in Vienna, totally unaware of the problems of management. The inflation and slump in agricultural prices following the Napoleonic Wars left them in a confused, helpless state, unable to adjust to the new situation.

The two remaining classes were the minor nobility and the peasantry. The minor nobles were economically little better off than the peasants, although their pride often made them oppose reforms which would have benefited them and the peasants. However, Lajos Kossuth, the Hungarian nationalist leader ( 1802-94), swung them into the Hungarian revolutionary movement. The peasants, on the other hand, were too deeply mired in their own economic troubles to display any political consciousness. Even such measures of reform as had been taken weighed on them. For example, if new roads were built, they had to supply the labor. In the absence of industry, there was no significant working class until relatively late in the nineteenth century.

The founder of modern Hungarian political consciousness was Count Istvan Szechenyi ( 1791-1860). After studying the economic and po

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