Eastern Europe

Jenö Landler 1875-1928

Submitted by SJW on 6 June, 2018 - 3:04 Author: John Cunningham
Jenö Landler (left) on his way to Moscow for the Third Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) with György Lukács (right — hands in pockets).

It is 90 years since the death of the Hungarian Communist Jenö Landler.

His is not a name that will evoke much response today. He did not leave a written legacy but he was one of those who work tirelessly behind the scenes and never occupy the spotlight. Without him and countless thousands of other unsung activists where would we be today? They too should be remembered and honoured along with the “big names”.

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LETTERS: Two states? & What next for the left in Hungary

Submitted by SJW on 1 May, 2018 - 9:22 Author: Andrew Northall, Martin Thomas and John Cunningham

For a single democratic Palestinian state

I would like to express some thoughts relating to the article ‘Gaza mobilising for an internationalist response’ by Martin Thomas and your editorial ‘For an independent Palestine alongside Israel’ (Solidarity 466)

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Caesar marches on in Hungary

Submitted by martin on 10 April, 2018 - 6:58 Author: John Cunningham

On Sunday 8 April 2018, Viktor Orbán’s FIDESZ party (Hungarian Civic Alliance) and his partners, the Christian Democratic Party, won 134 seats out of the 199 in the Hungarian Parliament.

This is Orbán’s third victory. He has the two-thirds majority he needs to run roughshod over the Constitution.

Comments

Submitted by martin on Tue, 10/04/2018 - 19:03

According to a 2004 academic study (www.jstor.org/stable/1601607) of "the Hungarian voter", Hungary shows a strange "redefinition of the left-right spectrum".

"Namely, party elites on the left [this refers to the Socialist Party, legatee of the old ruling party] are more in favour of classical neoliberal economic policies, such as rapid privatisation, foreign investment, and tuition fees, while the rightist elites are more disposed toward protectionist policies..."

The "left" is defined as left only by a more liberal and moderate attitude on church-and-state, civil liberties, and immigration.

This picture of a left which is, on some economic issues, more right-wing than the right, must be a big part of the reason why the strident and self-proclaimed right wing has dominated in Hungary since the 2010 election, held in the wake of a big slump in 2009 (7% decline in GDP), following the 2008 world crash.

John's recommendation of a united bloc of the sort-of-liberal parties against Fidesz is no answer to this.

It is like the 1930s "Popular Fronts", except in those there were parties at least somewhat based on the working class and at least in principle, at least for the "next stage", advocating socialistic policies, which chose "for now" to bury themselves in alliances with discredited bourgeois liberal parties.

In this case the "Popular Front" is to be made only by the anti-socialist liberal-ish parties. So the task of whatever small socialist groups exist in Hungary is to try to lobby the anti-socialist liberal-ish parties - not receptive to left influence, since on John's own account they suffer from "utter political bankruptcy" - into sinking their differences?

And will the socialists then sink what differentiates them and join the "utter political bankruptcy" in the name of unity?

For socialists in Hungary to propose independent politics and independent organisation is surely not a quick fix. But then there is no quick fix. In the short term, as John says, "things can only get worse".

Given the conditions in Hungary, socialists should surely seek to join with, say, the Socialist Party, or Greens, in demonstrations or such to defend civil liberties and migrant rights - but at the same time, I would argue, they should build an autonomous political force left-wing both on economic and on civil-rights issues.

Submitted by AWL on Sun, 15/04/2018 - 14:27

On the whole I take on board Martin Thomas’s criticism of the conclusion in my article ‘Caesar marches on in Hungary’ (Solidarity No. 446). In fact, I wanted to avoid the idea of a united bloc of ‘sort of liberal-ish parties’ by using the expression ‘left-oriented coalition’.

Clearly the situation in Hungary is extremely discouraging. I haven’t been back to Hungary for something like 5 years and it is difficult to write about this kind of political landscape when you no longer have your ‘ear to the ground’ as it were. Indeed it is indicative of the problems in Hungary that most of the people I once knew have left the country or retreated into a kind of ‘silence of the lambs’ or internal exile.

One of the big questions is: where will the forces of an autonomous left-wing opposition come from? The Socialist Party, as I said in my article, is utterly bankrupt, mainly because of its appalling record when in office – a number of its most prominent members are out-and-out Thatcherites – and the stench of corruption which permeates the top and middle levels of the party; all of which has contributed enormously to the national drift to FIDESZ (who are, of course, just as corrupt!). There are some in the ranks of the Socialist Party who still believe in the basic ideas of socialism and it is quite possible they could be drawn into some kind of anti-FIDESZ united front but, as an organisation, the Socialist Party is part of the problem not the solution.

When I lived in Hungary (1991-2000) I occasionally met with a group called the Left Alternative and attended a few of their conferences (at one of these Ken Livingstone was a keynote speaker). They were mainly a discussion group which, I hasten to add, is not to be sniffed at – there was a lot to discuss and since 1989/90 the situation for the left has been monumentally difficult. I don’t know if they still exist but I mention them to demonstrate that the idea of centres of resistance, however small, is not an impossible dream even in the unfavourable conditions prevailing in Hungary.

If an anti-FIDESZ united front could be built by left-wing activists it would, I’m sure attract some Greens and possibly some of the better liberals from the ‘liberal-ish’ parties. Nor should it be ignored that, at the level of fighting for civil-rights, some of these individuals have honourable records, going back to the 70s and 80s. I know little about the situation of the trade unions in Hungary today but I suspect it is not good. Even by the early nineties the trade unions had seriously fragmented.

Again I agree with Martin – ‘there is no quick fix’. Last point – the academic study Martin quotes is very interesting and the redefinition of the left-right spectrum is indeed ‘strange’ at first sight. I think there are few places in Europe (Northern Ireland is one that springs to mind) where history weighs so heavily on the present as it does in Hungary. I hope that the editors of Solidarity would consider a longer more in-depth article from me in which I would like to explore this history and why/how this ‘strange’ situation has arisen and also try and say a bit more about ‘Christian nationalism’ and ‘Orbanism’ in Hungary.

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LETTERS: Pseudo-political Disneyland & Corbyn's International Friends

Submitted by SJW on 14 March, 2018 - 12:18 Author: John Cunningham & Dan Katz
Seumas Milne

Pseudo-political Disneyland

I really enjoyed reading Dan Katz’s article on pulling down statues. He makes a number of valid points.

Maybe I can add a few details. After it was pulled down, Stalin’s statue in Budapest was smashed up and one part of it was used as an improvised public urinal. Pretty soon after, all parts of the statue disappeared including the boots which initially remained stuck on their plinth. Rumour has it that everything was melted down.

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Poland: women’s rights, not church law!MatthewWed, 28/02/2018 - 10:04

The ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party is backing a law to further restrict abortion in Poland. Polish feminist Magdalena Zielinska spoke to Solidarity.


Currently abortion is only legal in three cases: when it is the result of rape or incest; where it threatens a women’s life; or when the foetus is sick or damaged.

This set-up is described as a “compromise”. But it is not a compromise with women: it is a compromise between the church and the state. We have church law!

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Lukács legacy suppressed

Submitted by Matthew on 8 March, 2017 - 12:01 Author: John Cunningham

On 25 January, the Metropolitan Council of Budapest decided (by 19 votes to 3) to remove the statue of the Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács from the 13th District and replace it with a statue of King Stephen, the founder of the Hungarian nation. The proposal was put by a member of the neo-fascist Jobbik Party, Marcell Tokody.

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Romanian anti-corruption battlesMatthewWed, 08/02/2017 - 11:11

The attempts by the Romanian government to weaken anti-corruption laws have been pushed back by mass protests.

A proposed decree would have lifted criminal sanctions from public officials including MPs who benefitted from abuse of office, if their gains were less than 200,000 Romanian leu (£38,000). The government said this was necessary to comply with anti-corruption court rulings. Opponents believe this will just legalise corruption up to that level. Romania is ranked as the fifth most corrupt country in the EU.

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History minus the workersMatthewWed, 11/01/2017 - 13:25

Normally I wouldn’t have bothered with Sebag Montefiore’s three-part documentary on Vienna (broadcast December 2016). His approach to his topics is somewhat predictable and conservative. But when I lived in Hungary for nine years I tasted some of the splendours of the architecture and the cultural inheritance of the Hapsburgs, not to mention its many contradictions and unpleasantries, in Budapest, Pécs and elsewhere.

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Miłka Tyszkiewicz needs help!

Submitted by martin on 21 November, 2016 - 6:42 Author: Marek Krukowski and Jόzef Pinior

Some comrades will remember Miłka Tyszkiewicz speaking at meetings in the UK in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The appeal below on her behalf is from Marek Krukowski and Jόzef Pinior.

Marek is a Director of the Warsaw based Foundation for Freedom and Peace. The legendary socialist Solidarity underground leader, Jόzef Pinior, later served terms as a Member of the European Parliament and the Polish Senate, elected on different party lists, but retaining his independent left status.

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