A History of Modern Hungary, 1867-1994

By Jörg K. Hoensch; Kim Traynor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Hungary under Kádár

'HE WHO IS NOT AGAINST US, IS WITH US'

After the crushing of the spontaneous popular uprising in 1956, Hungary's development became inseparably linked with the name of János Kádár. Quite unlike his predecessors, Rákosi and Gerő, he was neither a bloodthirsty Soviet governor nor an inflexible Stalinist. Krushchev's initially docile servant and executor of the Soviet military administration's instructions soon turned out to be a cautious reformer. Despite granting safe and marginal concessions, he knew how to win the population's grudging approval and toleration of the régime in the course of time and eventually became the affable pioneer of liberalisation. Despite his strict observance of Socialist law, the stiff punishment meted out to prominent participants in the uprising, the start of an efficient and eventually successful collectivisation programme and thorough purges of the party and bureaucracy widened the gulf between the new leadership, which was heavily dependent on the Soviet military administration, and a disappointed, demoralised and disillusioned population. Although a 'revisionist' course along Yugoslav or even Polish lines was as unthinkable as the continuation of Nagy's policy of national autonomy and neutrality, Kádár's personal experiences of the worst forms of Stalinism did, however, rule out a return to the earlier 'dogmatism' of Rákosi's personal dictatorship. The new party chief and prime minister had to pursue an unconventional 'centralist' policy, dictated by the prevailing circumstances, which also took account of national interests. His brand of 'centrism' was both eclectic and pragmatic. His first aim was to strengthen the régime by putting all his efforts into raising the standard of living,

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