History of the Hungarian People’s Republic (PART 4: The 1947 elections)

These days, anti-communists often claim that in the Hungarian parliamentary election of 1947 there was some kind of election fraud, just like they claimed about the 1945 elections. However, there is absolutely no proof of this. On the contrary:

“Such newspaper correspondents, however, as those representing Le Monde in Paris and the Times and Herald Tribune in New York, reported that, in general, so far as they could see, “there was neither violence nor abuse,” and that elections went off rather quietly and fairly… the general verdict, even of anti-Left observers, was that on the whole the election was quiet, free and bona fide.” (Aptheker, The Truth About Hungary, p. 56)

This is going to sound absolutely ridiculous when I spell it out, but the “strongest proof” of election fraud, is that people who were working or for some other reason, away from their home district, were still allowed to vote. Blue ballot tickets were given to people who were away from their home district but still wanted to vote. According to anti-communist mythology, communists gave out a lot voting tickets to these people, who then supposedly voted in many different places. However, there is actually no proof for this. This is mostly based on rumors and eye-wittness testimonies of reactionaries.

If a right-winger saw a stranger who wasn’t from there, vote, how exactly would he know this person had voted many times? Of course he couldn’t know that. Right-wing conservatives simply saw strangers that they didn’t know, and being hostile to outsiders, immediately invented these lies. Of course its a nice story: “Communists arriving from outside, to vote here”, but its only a story.

Anti-communists claim that communists believed they would get an absolute majority through this kind of fraud, but anti-communist historians have actually never agreed how many extra votes this should have gotten the communists. They don’t agree, because there is no proof for this, and thus it is naturally impossible to calculate. They usually suggest merely tens of thousands of votes, which might sound like a lot, but considering that the communists got more then a million votes, it really has very little significance. If more then five million people vote, how exactly would tens of thousands of fake votes supposedly get you an absolute majority? Its absolutely ridiculous. Naturally no documents about rigging of elections have ever been found, despite the communist archives being available to right-wing researchers today.

This myth about the 1947 election has become very famous these days, but back in the day people didn’t really care about it much. Instead they had a completely different argument for why they considered the election to be rigged. What was their reason? It was because nazis were not allowed to vote. However, it should be kept in mind that in most countries immediately after WWII, nazis were not allowed to vote. Hungary wasn’t in any way different in this.

The Clerical Fascist Cardinal Mindszenty complained that fascists were not allowed to vote. However, while in 1945 5,100,000 people voted, in 1947 the number of voters had not decreased but increased to 5,400,000.

American journalist Howard K. Smith wrote that “only some 300,000 Hungarians were disqualified from voting on suspicion of having had Nazi affiliations… The proportion of disqualifications [of Nazis] was the same as in the elections of democratic Belgium, where there were certainly far fewer Nazis than in Hungary” (Smith, The State of Europe, p. 303).

So the truth is, only a relatively small number of people (actual Fascists) were disqualified from voting, while in reality the voting in 1947 was even more representative then earlier, and even more people voted then ever in the past.

After the ousting of reactionaries the Smallholders party was being taken over by the Left-Wing. A core of the most Right-Wing deputies left, to create a new even more Right-Wing party:

“Zoltan Pfeiffer, led another fifty deputied from the Smallholders, this time as the Independence Party.” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, p. 395)

“The right-wing forces organized new parties in order to campaign in the elections. Under the leadership of Zoltan Pfeiffer, a lawyer ousted from the Smallholders Party, a party was formed which subscribed to the ignominious cause of neo-fascism. Istvan Barankovics, a conservative politician, organized a clerical party, and there was a party, headed by Margit Schlachta, which received support

from the various orders of nuns. Father Istvan Balogh a former leader of the Smallholders Party, also organized a new party. In addition, the Bourgeois Democratic Party and the Radical Party contested in the elections as they had in 1945.“ (Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962, p. 153)

All these new reactionary parties ran in the 1947 elections, against the Popular Front coalition.

The Communists emerged as the largest party with 22%, the Social-Democrats lost some of their votes and now had 14%, since the reactionaries of various types had now left the Smallholders their support was reduced to 15% and the National Peasant Party increased its support to 8%. The biggest right-wing parties were the Barankovics clericals with 16% and Pfeiffers neo-fascists nationalists with 13%.

Communists won 22% of the votes. “Making a common list with the parties of the Left they could claim a majority.” (Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution, p. 28)

Its worth noting that at this point even the Smallholders had accepted the Communist proposal for a Three Year Plan of reconstruction, nationalization of the biggest banks and state control of key sectors of the economy. The Social-Democrats and National Peasants also supported this in their programs, together with other Communist demands such as purging of fascists and punishment of war-criminals. So although the Communist Party still did not get the absolute majority of votes, the other parties of the coalition had moved to the left and accepted the main points of the Communist program. Of course it would’ve been somewhat unrealistic to imagine that all Hungarians would become Communists in only two years, but it is evident they still supported Socialism in all practical questions:

“the total voting for the two parties standing for Socialism came to about 38% of the entire electorate… In addition, many of the planks of the other parties included more or less complete adherence to Socialism; it seems reasonably clear that, by 1947, a majority of the Hungarian electorate was voting in favor of Socialism, of varying modes and degrees.” (Aptheker, pp. 57-58)

“The entire coalition polled 61 percent.” (Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 67)

Some anti-communist have claimed as usual that communists used some type of election fraud. However, no evidence of this has ever been produced. And besides, the communists gained a moderate increase from 17% to 22%. Meanwhile Social-Democrats lost 3% and the Smallholders lost much more. Is it not more logical that the Communists simply attracted some new voters from these parties, due to their achievements?

I’ll give some examples. The anti-communist historian Paul E. Zinner writes:

“…Communist mayor of Budapest… won respect for the dramatic and efficient supply of the capital with food in the fall of 1945, when famine threatened. The Communist Minister of Transportation, Erno Gero, won plaudits as the chief architect of the rapid rebuilding of the Danube bridges in Budapest and elsewhere. (A popular slogan in Hungary at the time was “Eljen Gero-Hidvero: “Long Live Gero the Bridge Builder.)… Finally, the Communists received credit for stabilizing the Hungarian currency in the summer of 1946 after a runaway inflation… the Communists made a favorable impression by both their agricultural and their industrial policies.” (Zinner, Revolution in Hungary, pp. 51-52)

“between 1945 and 1947… all major social groups benefited from the economic upsurge. The workers scored impressive social gains. The middle class was able to recover losses dating back to the closing phases of the war. But the most striking social and economic advances were made by the peasantry. Communist economic policies contributed significantly to maintaining “alliances” with the peasantry and the middle class.” (Zinner, p. 55)

Special correspondent in southern Europe for the Nation, Hilde Spiel, wrote from Budapest: “The wildest inflation in history has ravaged Hungary during these last few weeks.” She writes that the “feudal landlords” and “a number large financiers left in Hungary, besides a large and bloated bureaucracy” are hindering the governments effort to stop the inflation. She writes:

“The only danger to the country seems to lie with those citizens who are determined at all costs to prevent economic stabilization. They are to be found among the few remaining big financiers and industrialists, the disgruntled state officials, and the landed gentry deprived of their property. Aided by their social standing, and their undeniable charm, they try to influence members of the Western Allied missions against the government, hoping to obstruct the financial reconstruction and thus unseat the present regime. ” (The Nation, August 24, 1946, pp. 211-13)

Despite this obstruction by reactionaries the communists had succeeded in stopping the inflation, as I mentioned in part 2.

“the Communists’ call for the country’s reconstruction fell on fertile ground. Their slogans advocating equality, land reform, and the punishment of war criminals had a significant appeal, whereas their attempt to include formerly disenfranchised social groups in political affairs brought them genuine popularity.” (Apor, The Invisible Shining, p. 37)

“the reconstruction plan launched by the Communists and supported by the other parties, was an undisputed success.” (Molnar, A concise history of Hungary, p. 301)

“Erno Gero, Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction… was the hardest worker at his office, always the first in the morning and the last at night…” (Karolyi, p. 326)

“Their competence, energy, and at times, a wise sense of diplomacy… were recognized by everyone… The bourgeois parties were of little consequence, having no definite programme, and no leading personalities.” (Karolyi, p. 334)

“According to opinion polls, in 1947, especially in the countryside, he [Rakosi] was by far the most esteemed Hungarian politician, and he was considered the most suitable for the post of prime minister.” (Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért)

“Rákosi enjoyed remarkable popularity among the Hungarian population in the postwar years, especially among the petty bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia, and the industrial workers of Budapest. In January 1946 he was the country’s second most popular politician… and he rose to first place a year later. He was considered the most skillful leftist orator in May 1948, and an August 1947 poll showed that the majority of respondents regarded him as the person best qualified to be prime minister… Rákosi’s… popularity… is normally attributed to his—and the MKP’s—role in reconstruction after the war. The Party’s popularity was partly reflected in the sudden growth of its membership after the war. Many of the newcomers joined the Party because of the role it played in reconstruction: land distribution, the introduction of the new currency, and price reductions for basic commodities were popular measures… Rákosi’s relative popularity seems genuine enough” (Apor, pp. 185-186)

But no! Even after such achievements, if the Communists grow their support even by 5% anti-communist immediately accuse them of election fraud!

The results of the 1947 election were somewhat similar to the 1945 elections, the government still needed to be a coalition, but as a coalition it had a comfortable majority. The most noticeably change was the split between the left and right. The amorphous ‘big tent’ Smallholders had split, and half of them were now in opposition to the government. While the left had become more united, the right-wing was becoming more disunited. They worked together, but were clearly divided into two different groups: Pfeiffer’s nationalists who were more urban, and Barankovics’s catholics who were rural. The Catholic Church also got into conflict with the Barankovics Party, because it wasn’t considered conservative enough.

“Signs of disintegration began to appear in the Barankovics Party… Although this party had won the vast majority of the Catholic vote, it was unable to come to an agreement with [extremely conservative-MLT] Cardinal Mindszenty, Hungary’s Archbishop Primate. Because of the conflicts between the Church leadership and the leadership of the Barankovics Party, the clergy withdrew their support from the party. After this the organizations of the Barankovics Party, most of which had been set up during the election campaign, rapidly fell apart. The party leadership, too, was affected by these developments. Many left the party altogether.” (Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary, p. 120)


“The collapse of this party was precipitated by the fact that Jozsef Mindszenty, head of the Catholic Church, was dissatisfied with the party’s activity. On the one hand Mindszenty distrusted Barankovics, who had established contact with left-wing circles during the war… Mindszenty stubbornly insisted on the restoration of the Habsburg dynasty, which he expected to result from a third world war and from an American military victory in that war. Thus, the Barankovics Party came under attack from both right and left. Realizing that his situation was hopeless, Istvan Barankovics left the country and his supporters in Hungary announced the dissolution of the party.” (Borsányi & Kende, p. 125)


SOURCES:

Aptheker, The Truth About Hungary
Smith, The State of Europe
Stone, Hungary: A Short History
Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962
Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution
Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic
Paul E. Zinner, Revolution in Hungary
The Nation, August 24, 1946
Apor, The Invisible Shining
Molnar, A concise history of Hungary
Memoirs of Michael Karolyi: Faith without Illusion
Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért
Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary



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