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Following the heritage of Janos Kadar to the new socialist society

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Following the heritage of Janos Kadar to the new socialist society

(Contribution of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party on the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Janos Kadar)

Janos Kadar was born 100 years ago. He was statesman, prime minister, outstanding personality of the Hungarian and international workers’ movement. The most successful period of the 20th century’s Hungarian history, the decades of socialism are closely connected with his name.

Kádár János I. The implacable enemy of capitalism

Janos Kadar was born in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and he became an implacable enemy of capitalism in the Horthy-regime.

By the first decade of the 20th century the Austro-Hungarian Compromise concluded in 1867 as a historic compromise of the Austrian and Hungarian ruling classes exhausted its possibilities. The Compromise itself contains the danger of a great war:  the political frameworks of the Compromise are not able any more to guarantee the further economic boom; the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy cannot restrain any more the rising social dissatisfaction, not speaking about the aspirations of the Monarchy’s people to get independence. The Monarchy sees one way out - the war, and no one suspects that the first world war in the history of the mankind will destroy the Habsburg-dynasty and the Monarchy as well.

World War One changed the position of Hungary. It became an independent and sovereign state, but with a territory which was less than on third of the territory of the historic Hungary. The authority which Hungary had enjoyed as a member-state of a great empire is nothing more than a historic reminiscence. Hungary turned into a small country, and this situation did not change during the whole century.

The Hungarian capitalist class and the feudal classes were under pressure from different directions. Capitalism achieved its highest point of development, the stage of imperialism. The financial capital obtained decisive position towards the producing capital. Transnational companies took over the control over the world. The Hungarian capital got into subordinated position.

Kadar 1957 BEijing Mao Zedong Zhu De The year of 1917, the Russian Revolution demonstrated the possibility of a new way. For the first time in the world history the working masses, workers, peasants, millions of poor and exploited people defeat their exploiters, and can begin to construct a new society where all power belongs to the working people, and factories, land are in the hands of the working people. Capitalism faced its first strategic defeat.

The Hungarian ruling class was not able to handle the consequences of the war, poverty, unemployment, and was not able to defend itself against the revolution which announced a new world. In the spring of 1919 the working classes took the power and held it for 133 days. It is only one moment from historical point of view but it became clear that the Hungarian capitalist system was vulnerable and it could be defeated.

The Hungarian capitalist and feudal circles tried to survive by establishing the nationalist, reactionary, conservative and extremely anti-Communist regime of Miklos Horthy. They created a new middle class. The price paid for it was very high: the poverty of millions of people. The regime paid high price for it in foreign policy as well. The Hungarian capitalism was not able to create alone the external guarantees of its existence and to take back the territories lost during World War One. Hungary became an ally of the fascist Germany, and it led directly to World War Two.

The Hungarian working class, all toiling masses declared war on the Hungarian capitalist-feudal regime which was turning more and more into a fascist system. The social democratic movement was the decisive factor of the workers’ movement. The Hungarian Social Democratic Party (MSZDP) was well known in the society and had a widespread system of organisation and infrastructure. During the Horthy-regime all members of the trade unions were at the same time members of the MSZDP, the leaders of which concluded a compromise with the capitalist regime.

The communists were the most consequent enemies of the regime but they worked illegally or in emigration. Their number was never more than a few hundreds. It became clear that the forces in Hungary are not enough to destroy capitalism and to complete socialist revolution. The future of Hungary depended on the basic events of world history.

Janos Kadar was one of the members of the Hungarian Party of Communists (KMP) working in Hungary. In the period between the two world wars he was at home, and never immigrated to the Soviet Union as many other activists of the KMP. He was a young activist of the metalworkers, a fact he would be proud of all his life. He was a worker like many others in the workers’ district of Budapest, Angyalfold. Later he worked as operator-mechanic in a factory producing office-equipment. He could feel himself, what exploitation meant.  He and his comrades used to start from the factory of hemp and jute to join the demonstration of First of May. He was an organisator with considerable experience, participated also in the demonstration of 1 of September (1930) which turned out as the largest demonstration of the period between the world wars. At this time he was known in the workers’ movement as Janos Barna, and he adopted the name Kadar only later. The Communist Party sent him later to work in the social democratic party. He became one of the leaders of the youth movement. Many leaders of the Communist Party were arrested, and by February 1943 Janos Kadar became the de facto leader of the KMP. He was 31 years old.

Kádár János 1976 Kadar was closed from the outside world. The Communist International (Comintern) which united the communist parties since 1919 was dissolved by the Soviet leadership in 1943. By this time one could already foresee that the war would be ended later or sooner and it would be ended with the victory of the Soviet Union, but people had to survive these two years yet.

Under these circumstances it was decided to dissolve formally the Hungarian Party of Communists (KMP) and to create a new party named Peace Party (Bekepart). The main idea was to defend the KMP against the anti-Communist attacks and to turn it into an organisation which was able to play a more active role in organising the united anti-fascist alliance. The activity of the Bekepart will be criticized later by many forums but it remains a fact that this way the communists could join the anti-fascist Hungarian Front. Not only the Bourgeois parties but even the social democrats weren’t ready to speak with the communists directly. But a cover organisation was something else. It was not able to change the situation fundamentally, it could not organise an armed uprising and Hungary did not exit the war.

The history of the Bekepart was short and Janos Kadar and his comrades could not know yet that the liberation of Hungary would be begun in the autumn of 1944, and the small communist party of few hundreds would have 30 thousand members by the February of 1945. But in 1943 communists could only believe in it and they did believe.

II. Janos Kadar – politician devoted to the cause of working class, all toiling masses, fighter for socialism

In 1944 – 1948 the Communist Party became the engine of the society. Its political slogans were effective and attractive for the society. In 1948-1949 the Communist Party and its allies took over the power. Socialism triumphed in a peaceful way. The new system nationalized the majority of capitalist private property; the majority of the economy became collective ownership. In cultural field the new system opened the way for the masses to get education, and even university diplomas. There was a change of foreign political orientation too. The socialist East, and first of all the Soviet Union became the main ally of Hungary instead of the capitalist West. In 1949 the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the economic integration of the socialist countries was founded.  Their military organisation, the Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance came into life in 1955. Hungary entered the way of socialist construction.

Janos Kadar participated in the false and wrong decisions of the first half of the 1950s. He was aware of them and finally he himself became a victim of those mistakes. Kadar was on the top of the power - minister of internal affairs, deputy secretary general of the party (Matyas Rakosi was the secretary general). One can see his signature on the most important documents of the Hungarian Working Peoples’ Party (MDP).

In June 1949, on the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the MDP he was the rapporteur on the case of Rajk, the most notorious trial of the 1950s. Kadar gave information about the results of the investigation. According to the investigation Laszlo Rajk, minister of internal affairs and Tibor Szonyi, chief of the department of cadres of MDP were accused of organising spy organisation and fraction in the MDP. At that time only one of these accusations were enough to sentence somebody to death.  Rajk and the others were executed.

Kadar was a member of the leadership but he never belonged to the narrow group of leaders coming from Moscow. Rakosi and Kadar represented two different worlds. Their conflict became a time-bomb in the political life of the 1950s. Rakosi was 20 years older than Kadar. In 1948 Rakosi was 56 years old, Kadar only 36. Rakosi was a living legend. Everybody knew that he was the youngest people’s commissar, minister of the Hungarian Republic of Councils (Hungarian Soviet Republic) in 1919. He was in prison for many years during the Horthy-regime. Kadar did not play, due to his age he could not play any role in the Hungarian Republic of Councils. He was imprisoned too, but he case did not attracted special attention.

Kádár János 1977Rakosi lived in the Soviet Union until the end of World War Two. Kadar lived in Hungary. Rakosi knew many members of the Soviet leadership. Kadar was not known in the international movement. Rakosi brought to Hungary the political culture of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Kadar was brought up in the pre-war Hungary.

Kadar’s way of thinking was different in many ways from that of Rakosi and the narrow group of leaders. He expressed his opinion, shared it with others but he did not organise any opposition against Rakosi and his group.

Kadar finally became victim of the mistaken policy of the MDP. In March 1951 he made the report about the social structure of the membership of the MDP.  One month later he was arrested. Rakosi said on the meeting of the leadership that „we began to suspect Kadar at that time when Rajk was unveiled, and we remarked that his behaviour was abashed.”  Kadar supported the trial against Rajk, but without any enthusiasm or at least without enthusiasm demanded by Rakosi. Kadar was also accused of having dissolved in 1943 the small communist party without permission and of having established the Bekepart which had the possibility to work legally.

In June 1953 the Central Leadership of the MDP disclosed the mistakes of the party. Kadar was in prison at this time. Kadar supported the decision of the MDP and he always considered it as a great but failed chance for the revival. Until the end of his life he considered that the mistakes and errors made on behalf of socialism can be corrected because they come not from the essence of socialism but they are consequences of  the mistakes of certain individuals. Communists fulfil their duty if they serve the working class, the toiling masses and when they fight consequently against capitalism, for the society of working people.


III. The Kadar-era

The MDP made a historical mistake: it did not respect its own rules, violated the ideas of socialism, and that is why it was not able to defend socialism. The events of 1956 swept the Hungarian Working Peoples’ Party. All his life Kadar felt deep sorrow for these events and thought that it would have been possible to avoid them.

Kadar was a realist. He knew that there were only two ways: either return to the capitalist system or move forward to a better socialism free of mistakes. Working people lose a lot if capitalism is restored. We must not go back!

Kádár János 1979He knew also that socialist world was interested in the consolidation of socialism in Hungary. At that time the agreements of the great powers about the post-war structure of the world were still in vigour. He realised that the US did not want to get into war with the Soviet Union just for the sake of Hungary. Imre Nagy did not understand it. There was only one realistic way: to live in alliance with the Soviet Union and to find at the same time the possible largest freedom of action for the realisation of the national interests of Hungary.

Kadar’s way of thinking was different from that of many of his contemporaries. He did not hesitate. He did not begin constant moralising. In autumn of 1956 he united the Marxist-Leninist forces of the party and announced class war. He organised a new party, the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party. He became the leader of defending and consolidation of workers’ and peasants’ power.

Under the leadership of Janos Kadar Hungarian people entered the way of construction of a new socialist Hungary. Everything that happened in Hungary after 1957, arouses the anger of capitalist classes and believers of capitalism. The reason is simple. The capitalist forces were defeated in 1956. The majority of the Hungarian workers and the Hungarian society generally did not support the unrealistic plans of capitalist restoration. Regardless of their ideology, religion, past they considered socialism as the realistic way of realising their dreams of happy life.

The Kadar-era, the decades of socialism were the most successful period of Hungary in the 20th century. Everybody could work. All people had acceptable standard of living and one had to work for it only 8 hours a day. Nobody could become a billionaire but the majority of the people had acceptable life, secure present and calculable future.

Under the leadership of Janos Kadar industrial production grew 10 times, GDP 7 times. 400 thousand new flats were built.

National industry got new impulses to develop. The Hungarian engineering industry including such large companies as MOM (Hungarian Optical Workshops) became famous all over the world. The factories of the heavy industry, like the Diosgyor Machinery Factory, the RÁBA (Hungarian Railway Carriage and Machine Works Plc), and the Ganz-MÁVAG Machinery Works were well known everywhere. The Medicor Medical Equipment’s Manufacturers became popular in many countries of the world by constructing hospitals. The Hungarian Ikarus Body and Vehicles Works produced 13-15 thousand buses every year, and was among the first factories of the world. The Hungarian clothing industry with such large companies like Majus 1, Vörös Október, Zalaegerszeg gave work and secure life to thousands of people and made the Hungarian industry famous all over the world.

Kádár János 1984The Hungarian agriculture united such large companies like Bábolna, Mezőhegyes and Nádud­var which were well known in all countries.  The combination of household plots and large scale agricultural production was a great invention of Hungarian socialism and it covered the needs of Hungary with cheap food products and contributed to the flourishing of the Hungarian village.

Hospitals, schools were built in order to open the way for everybody to healthcare and education. Retiring meant solid pension and respect. Young people had the courage to found their own families because they knew that they would have job and flat.

The decades of socialism had changed Hungary. All what happened during the time of socialism, is not the result of the work of one party or some leaders. It is the result of the common work of the majority of the Hungarian people. One can really understand these achievements if we compare them with the devastation made by capitalism during the recent 20 years. One can lie as much as he wants but it remains a fact that the majority of the Hungarian people lived better in those decades than today. Janos Kadar has undisputable merits in this field.

There were a lot of mistakes in the construction of socialism in Hungary and they cannot be fully estimated without taking into consideration the role of Janos Kadar. He knew that the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (MSZMP) as a party with hundreds and hundreds thousand members, was not a single united party but it was rather an alliance of different currents.  In the leadership of the party there were two currents at the same time: a petty-bourgeois - social democratic - liberal tendency and a revolutionary-Marxist line. In 1956-57 Kadar consciously accepted the compromise of these currents because he was convinced that it was necessary in order to strengthen the power of workers’ and peasants.

However this compromise made possible that the petty-bourgeois - social democratic - liberal current gained positions and that it became stronger from the 1960s. They were the main representatives of the economic reforms. Kadar himself accepted the reforms but he understood that reforms meant the application of capitalist methods. He knew that some groups of the society would be richer as a result of the reforms and social differences would become larger. Nevertheless he thought that these conflicts could be accepted and handled.

Kádár János 1985 Május 1The revolutionary-Marxist part of the leadership was losing its alertness step by step, and Kadar could not stop this process. The party and the public opinion were attracted by the successes of the economic reform. Kadar knew that the capitalist West paid more attention to Hungary because it followed a bit different way than the other socialist countries. Kadar hoped that the party was strong enough to face the attempts of the capitalist forces to undermine socialism in Hungary. But unfortunately it was not the case. The new generations which lacked the experience of class struggle of 1945 or 1956, introduced pragmatic, technocrat behaviour. The weakening of the intellectual and political influence of revolutionary Marxist forces continued. At this time socialism got into danger and the leadership did not want to recognize it.

From the 1970s the leadership of the MSZMP – seeing the achievements of socialism –, came to a mistaken and catastrophic conclusion:  the triumph of socialism was definite and irreversible. Due to this strategic error the socialist system began to open the way for liberalisation. The MSZMP neither took seriously the Bourgeois opposition which was being organised at this time, nor considered dangerous its foreign supporters.

Kadar was a very modest, puritan man. He saw that some of the leaders of the party and the state began to live in a way characteristic for petty bourgeois, used their positions to become richer, and sometimes they even became arrogant petty tyrants. Kadar fought against these phenomena, but he did not have enough force to stop this process.  It caused great damages to socialism, to the communists and its consequences can be felt until now.

The strengthening of democracy improved the atmosphere of the Hungarian society and contributed to the international authority of Hungary. Nevertheless it had negative consequences too. The leadership of the party neglected the task of explaining to the communists and generally to the toiling masses the meaning of  class-struggle. Working people forgot that the achievements of socialism became possible only because the workers had the power and socialism existed.

Kadar was a politician, neither an economist, nor a financial specialist. He used to accept the opinion of others when taking decisions on these issues. The petty-bourgeois - social democratic - liberal forces inside the leadership used this fact and – together with other intellectual circles –, deceived Janos Kadar. The leadership of the party including Kadar agreed to take more and more credits from the Western countries. The credits alone did not mean a great problem because the achievements of the Hungarian economy were enough to give secure cover. The real problem was that Hungary accepted more and more the demands of the Western capitalist forces and took over more and more the elements of capitalist economy.

Kadar Gorbachov 1986Janos Kadar as the number one leader of the party was responsible for the mistaken personal decisions. The leadership of the party did not know what to do with young generations. The new leading personalities of the party were chosen from the cadres of the political apparatus. They expressed loyalty towards the power of workers and peasant only because they wanted to make a carrier.  A group of leaders was born which later played key role in the capitalist counterrevolution.

In 1985 Kadar Janos realised that socialism could get into danger. He knew that the forces of the Western world wanted to destroy the Soviet Union and socialism generally. He did not exclude the possibility of a counterrevolution but he considered it possible to prevent such developments.

Kadar elaborated a new concept to save socialism. We must proceed from the realities and not from our dreams, when deciding the most important tasks!  Let’s consider the reforms as historic bypass, and let’s make some steps back! Let’s use our national resources, special national features better! Let’s renew the cooperation of socialist countries!

Kadar realised that the Gorbachev perestroika was a danger for socialism. He hoped that the socialism in China would become stronger. He considered China not only as an economic partner but as a strategic ally in the struggle to build up a new socialism.

Kadar’s concept was correct but it came late. The Soviet leadership did not share his views. They spoke already about capitalism. In this situation China decided to concentrate on strengthening its own country. The MSZMP was already undermined by this time. It lost its Marxist-Leninist character. The revolutionary Marxist forces gave up step by step their positions, and backed out from socialism. Without a strong leadership the Hungarian working class was not able to defend socialism.

The Soviet Union, the socialist world, the military balance between socialism and capitalism meant the external guarantee of the existence of socialism in Hungary. It is a fact. The leadership of the Soviet Union is responsible for making more and more concessions to capitalist world, giving up the military balance and “write-off” of socialism. Socialism in Hungary, the idea of Kadar did not collapse, but were overthrown.

IV. The Heritage of Janos Kadar

The name of Janos Kadar is closely connected with Hungarian socialism of the 20th century. The achievements of socialism demonstrated that the Hungarian working class, the working masses are able to use power and to create better life for millions, to guarantee the survival and development of the Hungarian nation.  The Hungarian workers can be proud of these results even today, and they can get fresh energy for further struggle against capitalism. It is the heritage of Janos Kadar.

There were a lot of good things in the socialism of Kadar, and there were also a lot of bad things. But it is a fact that there were more success and achievements than failures. And it is also a fact that in spite of all its problems and mistakes socialism was better, more successful and more human that the contemporary capitalism.

We, the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party want a new socialism. We have learnt form the history of former socialism. We are convinced that new socialism would give more than its predecessor. Let’s follow the heritage of Janos Kadar and let’s start on the way leading to a new socialism!


Central Committee
Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party

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