Politics in Hungary

By Peter A. Toma; Ivan Volgyes | Go to book overview

10 The Distribution and Problems of Welfare

Since a major premise of Communist ideology is that the state should take care of the basic needs of all citizens, the provision of medical care, education, housing, and various other social services is a fundamental part of all Communist social welfare programs. In addition, the equitable distribution of welfare and a continuous improvement in the standard of living are key objectives of most Communist regimes. The legitimacy of the present Hungarian regime depends on the Government's ability to supply the population with goods and social services that were not available to nearly 70 percent of the citizenry before the Communists came to power. In fact, the very survival of the Kadar regime depends, in part, on the leadership's ability to both satisfy the demands of the population and raise the general standard of living through an equitable redistribution of the national wealth.

Contemporary political scientists define welfare as the "allocation of goods, services, honor, status, and opportunities of various kinds from the political system to individuals and groups in society." 1 The distributive capability and beneficiaries of a system are determined by the decision-making elite, which allocates goods and services in accordance with its own values and goals. Our examination of the allocation of welfare in Hungary will include a brief discussion of the background of current problems, a survey of the types of welfare provided, a description of the present standard of living, and an analysis of the impact of recent economic reforms.


Origins of Existing Welfare Problems

In 1945, a progressive democratic coalition, whose main goal was social reform, replaced the bankrupt social and economic system of the Horthy regime, which had failed to provide adequate benefits to the vast majority of the citizenry. Prior to the democratic revolution of 1945, Hungary still had a semifeudal social and economic structure. The vast Hungarian peasant population was for the most part barely

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