Relations between the Communist and Social Democratic Parties in Hungary in 1945

By Felak, James | East European Quarterly, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Relations between the Communist and Social Democratic Parties in Hungary in 1945


Felak, James, East European Quarterly


On April 4, 1945, the last Nazi combatants were driven out of Hungary by the Soviet Red Army, marking the end of more than a decade of Hungarian cooperation with Nazi Germany as well as thirteen months of German occupation of Hungary. Behind the Hungarians stood six months of fierce combat, as the front between the Nazi and Soviet behemoths passed through their country from one end to the other. Ahead of the Hungarians stood the daunting task of reconstructing a political, social, and economic order in the face of serious material and moral devastation, social turmoil, and occupation by a traditionally hostile foreign power. The relief and hope felt by many Hungarians at war's end was tempered by an anxiety over just what sort of Hungary might emerge from the recent cataclysm, and at what price.

One place where popular hopes and anxieties focussed at this time was the Left end of the political spectrum. At the time of her liberation, Hungary had, for the first time since 1919, a legal Communist Party. With their reputation enhanced by their role in the struggle against fascism, their confidence bolstered by the Soviet occupation of their country, their numbers swelled by a very successful membership recruitment drive, and their hopes raised by the collapse of the old regime and public pressure for serious social, economic, and political reform, the Communists were a force to be reckoned with. Their partisans hoped and their adversaries feared that the Hungarian Communist Party (MKP) would take advantage of the situation by seizing power and installing a Soviet-style dictatorship of the proletariat. The Communists were not alone on the Hungarian Left, however. Alongside them were the Hungarian Social Democrats, whose party could compete with them effectively for support among the Hungarian working class. Just how these two parties would get along was a major question. Would the Communists re-adopt their policy of the 1920s and early 1930s, when they sought to isolate and undermine the Social Democrats by contemptuously branding them as "social fascists" and treating them as their greatest enemy? Or would they adhere to the party line of 1934 to 1944, when they attempted to woo the Social Democratic Party (SDP) into cooperation on a broad front against the common fascist adversary? Would the Communists respect the right of the SDP to exist as an independent Marxist party, or would they seek to dominate it or even absorb it into some sort of Communist-controlled "party of worker's unity?" And what about the Social Democrats? Would they retain the deep-rooted suspicion of the Communists that characterized their party for the past quarter century? Or would the new post-war situation lead them toward genuine cooperation with the MKP in pursuit of common goals in the face of common opponents?

This article will examine the issue of Social Democratic cooperation with the Communists in Hungary throughout the course of 1945, examining its context, implications, and consequences. It will endeavor to place the relationship between the two parties into an historical perspective as well as within the context of post-war developments in Hungary. This relationship will be examined in connection with developments within the parties themselves, relations between Hungary's Marxist and non-Marxist parties, and the policies of the Great Powers, namely the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain, towards Hungary. The focus will be on the period from the liberation of Hungary in the early months of 1945 through November 1945, when Hungary held her first post-war elections and named a permanent government in their wake. The relationship that developed during this time, in terms of its motivations, problems, implications, and consequences, set the tone for much of Social-Democratic-Communist interaction through to the Communist destruction of the SDP and establishment of a one-party dictatorship in 1948.

There were a number of sources of cooperation between the Communists and Social Democrats in Hungary. …

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