THE HUNGARIAN INDEPENDENT PEOPLE’S FRONT & THE 1949 ELECTIONS
1948 was considered the year of the “turning point”. The left had decisively gained the upper hand, the workers’ parties had merged and become the biggest party, the Three Year Plan was going better then expected and being fulfilled ahead of schedule, the largest industries and banks had been nationalized. Socialist construction was clearly on the agenda.
For the elections of 1949, the goal was to further improve the co-operation of the left bloc. This close unity was possible, now that the reactionaries had been expelled from the coalition parties. As a result, the Hungarian Working People’s Party, the National Peasant Party and the Smallholders created a united election organization, “The Hungarian Independent People’s Front”. Two smaller opposition parties (the Independent Hungarian Democratic Party and the Radical Party) also decided that they now wanted to join and work together with the coalition.
“Instead of the “more or less loose coalition” which existed until then, it took a stand for establishing the “political mass organization of the people’s unity”. It stated that the system of loose coalition
between competing parties “was favourable to the anti-popular forces, which took advantage of party rivalry for infiltrating the democratic parties and thereby hindered democratic co-operation and construction”.
What was actually in mind was the further development of the alliance of the socialist and democratic forces, and primarily the consolidation of the alliance of the working class with the individually working peasants… The alliance of the working class and intellectuals was also to progress within the framework of the new people’s front, winning over for the socialist goals an ever larger part of the intellectuals.
The programme stated that the new people’s front should be a mass organization headed by the Hungarian Working People’s Party. The allied parties, the trade unions, co-operatives and the organizations of women and youth would take part in the people’s front… The aim was clear: to end the party rivalry which resulted in a considerable waste of energy, and create close co-operation among the people’s democratic forces.” (Nemes, pp. 190-191)
“The people’s front declaration of the coalition parties and of the leading mass organizations that supported the country-building aims of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, was published on 1 February 1949. This considered the task of co-operation to “further guarantee the peaceful legal process of socialist social transformation with the inclusion of all the creative forces of the country”. The statement also announced that the political and social organizations comprising the people’s front
would “submit in everything to the decisions of the National Council and would carry them out”. The National Council of the People’s Front was established. Its members included 27 representatives of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, 9 of the Smallholders Party and 6 of the Peasant Party together with the delegates of the mass organizations. The two bourgeois parties which were outside the coalition, the Balogh party and the Radical Party, also announced their adherence to the People’s Front.
Parliamentary elections were held in May 1949. The parties making up the People’s Front decided, on the recommendation of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, to participate in the elections with a joint programme and joint list…” (Nemes, pp. 214-215)
Anti-communist historian Kovrig writes that anti-communists, and in particular the church, encouraged people to vote against the People’s Front, and this “in some districts accounted for over one-quarter of the vote” but “Of the eligible voters, 94 percent… marched to the polls, and 95.5 percent endorsed the [People’s Front] list” (Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary: from Kun to Kādār, p. 252)
The election was a landslide victory for the People’s Front. This election was a turning point, because the neo-fascist parties had been banned, the petit-bourgeois parties and even the bourgeois radical party had united with the People’s Front, under communist leadership.
Bourgeois historian Hoensch writes that already previously “the National Peasants’ Party drifted more and more into the Communist camp and began to advocate ‘the development of a people’s democracy’, the nationalisation of industry and agricultural collectivisation” (Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary, p. 168)
And that in 1949 the National Peasants’ Party dissolved itself to be incorporated solely into the People’s Front. (Hoensch, p. 168)
Rakosi could proudly state:
“At these elections only sons of the working people stood as candidates. Counts, big landlords, bankers and other enemies of the people were not included.” (Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953)
Rakosi also stated that in 1949 parties of the People’s Front nominated candidates, but further democratic progress should be made and “a special place must be reserved for the big social organisations—the trade unions, cooperatives and the organisations catering for women and youth.” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)
Four years later, in 1953, Rakosi was happy to announce that instead of separate parties nominating candidates “the candidates have been chosen directly by hundreds of thousands of workers in the factories, the producer co-operatives and machine stations, in the universities and other institutions from among their own best workers.” (Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953)
Rakosi described the results of the 1949 elections as follows:
“The composition of the House of Representatives elected at that time, shows how the People’s Front looks in practice and, within it, the alliance of workers and peasants. From the 402 deputies, 176 are workers, 115 peasants, and 92 progressive intellectuals. Amongst these are 72 working and peasant women, which is a measure of the equal rights of women.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)
“This election was followed eighteen months later by the election of the Local Councils when our working people elected 220,000 council members and supplementary members. This election, through which the working people took control of the local organs of the democratic State, has shown even more strongly the deepening of the worker-peasant alliance. To the 3,217 local councils, 23,016 industrial workers, 103,638 working peasants, 11,116 progressive intellectuals, and thousands of craftsmen, retail traders and others were elected as ordinary members. The inclusion of the working people into State administration has put the finish on the democratisation of our administration and put the entire State apparatus into the hands of the working people…
As a result of the battles fought by the united working people, under the leadership of the Party, the people’s democratic State was created, the State, with the help of which, and as a result of the victory of the Soviet Union, and supported by the Soviet Union, the working people, led by the working class, progressed from capitalism towards socialism. With regard to its functions the People’s Democracy is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)
The bourgeois local organs were dissolved and instead councils were created:
“Since 1950, the local organs of executive power and administration are the county, city, district, and village councils.” (Péter Gál & Gyula Németh, Hungary: A Comprehensive Guide)
What exactly People’s Democracy was, had been debated throughout the mid-late 1940s. Was it a political system between capitalism and socialism? By 1949 the Communists had come to the understanding that People’s Democracy was a united front of progressive forces, which would either move towards a dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism, or be defeated. By 1949 the dictatorship of the proletariat had come to power in Hungary. The capitalists, fascists and reactionaries were ousted from politics. Their organizations were no longer recognized, and served no productive purpose. Instead, people would vote for peasant, intellectual, worker or petit-bourgeois candidates, who were members of the people’s front.
5 YEAR PLAN (1950-1954)
The great Hungarian writer Zsigmond Móricz had written in one of his novels in 1934:
“…how to find work for the thirty thousand unemployed in the County? Thirty thousand men, agricultural workers, marvelous material. The country could be built with these thirty thousand. Roads, houses, schools, museums. All it needed was somebody to set the thirty thousand to work. A will, a power aiming at a goal. The whole country could be re-organised with just these thirty thousand.” (protagonist in Zsigmond Móricz’s novel “Relations” pp. 120-121)
Móricz did not live to see it, having died in 1942, but with the Five Year Plan, jobs would be found for all the unemployed and the country would indeed be transformed!
Bourgeois historian Jörg Hoensch writes that:
“By 31 December 1949… important sectors had even managed to exceed the [three year] plan’s quotas, with the result that on 10 December the National Assembly was able to launch the first Five Year Plan as from 1 January 1950.” (Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary, p. 204)
“Industrial development during the five years of the Plan will make as much headway as it did in all the fifty years up to World War Two. The result will be that our country will be transformed… into an industrial country with a developed agriculture. New industrial towns and districts will spring up.” (Rakosi, Strengthening the People’s Democratic Order)
New plants, more hospitals, schools, libraries and apartments – entire new cities were built.
“The Socialist cities established in Hungary at the beginning of the 1950s were Sztálinváros (today called Dunaújváros), Kazincbarcika, Komló, and Tatabánya.” (Zsuzsanna Borvendég & Mária Palasik in “In the Name of the Great Work: Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and its Impact in Eastern Europe” ed. Doubravka Olšáková, p. 135)*
*The original site for Sztalinvaros was to be Mohacs. The location had many benefits, but after construction had already started it was discovered the area was threatened by earthquakes, and making an earthquake proof city would increase costs massively. The location was also very close to the Yugoslav border, and when Tito’s treachery was discovered, and Hungary was threatened by Yugoslav invasion, the location of the all important industrial city simply had to be changed. This caused unforeseen additional costs. Dunapentele was chosen as the new location. Unfortunately Dunapentele also had bad unstable land, which was prone to landslides, and this created construction challenges.
“Between 1949 and 1951, the number of workers in construction grew by 125,000… In 1952, an additional 49,000 workers were engaged in construction, bringing the total to 244,000.” (Zinner, p. 121)
“The Plan took effect on 1 January 1950. Investment was already high (60,000 million forints) but was increased (to 80,000 million). Heavy industry had priority” (Stone, p. 415)
Hungary had been a small poor country, ruled by the feudal nobility and the church. Their industrialization and modernization was full of challenges. They needed help from Soviet and Czechoslovakian engineers, raw material had to be imported from the Soviet Union because Hungary’s own mining industry was not developed enough to meet the demand. Norman Stone mocks the idea that Hungary, a small and traditionally agrarian country could become a developed industrial power: “It was, of course, preposterous for a country such as Hungary to be attempting heavy industry, and to apply the Soviet planning system.” (Stone, p. 472)
However, he admits that “On paper [sic] the Plan did succeed, metallurgical products doubling, or, in the case of aluminum, trebling. The industrial workforce grew by 500,000.” (Stone, p. 416)
“As a result of the Three and the Five Year Plans industrial production trebled over the pre-war figure.“ (Nemes, p. 187)
“The results of the first year exceeded expectations, particularly in industry. Instead of the planned 21.4 per cent industrial output was 27 per cent higher than in the previous year. State industry expanded by 37 per cent, while the production of private industry decreased by 26 per cent… In 1950, the output of agriculture was by 5 to 6 per cent more than the previous year’s figure. In the meantime, the arable land of the state farms and the co-operatives both doubled in area, and by the end of 1950 the two together formed 13 per cent of the total arable land of the country.” (Nemes, p. 222)
According to Lazlo Borhi the economy during the First Five Year Plan had “phenomenal growth” (László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: between the United States and the Soviet Union, p. 214)
“The regime could claim a dramatic expansion of the industrial sector, an apparently favorable rate of growth in national income, and a state of full employment.” (Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary: from Kun to Kādār, p. 256)
Ernst Helmreich says about Hungary’s industrial development that “the increase is staggering” (Ernst Helmreich, Hungary, p. 306)
“the economy grew – by a staggering 13.8 percent per annum in the first half of the fifties.” (Shawcross, p. 136)
“…In Hungary, output of sugar in 1950 was 15 per cent above the previous year, cotton textiles eight per cent, footwear 50 per cent.” (Klugmann)
“Freight traffic, electric power generation, steel production, shoe manufacture, textile production, have already passed 1938 levels… that there has been any improvement at all is remarkable. Consider once again the unbelievably heavy losses Hungary suffered by the war.” (Behind the curtain, p. 182)
“Advance was made in the building of the Tisza dams; 150,000 new homes, several hundred schools and the People’s Stadium in Budapest were completed… Other achievements of the Five Year Plan included better health protection. The number of hospital beds had increased by more than 11,000 and exceeded 61,000.” (Nemes, pp. 224-229)
“In 1952 the natural birth rate increase per 1000 people was 47 per cent higher than in 1938… The number of marriages per 1,000 inhabitants is 20 per cent higher than it was in 1938. The infant mortality rate is down in 1952 to nearly half the 1938 figure. Tuberculosis which was called the “Hungarian disease” in the past is being gradually repelled and in 1952 fifty-seven per cent fewer people died of this disease than in 1938. In Hungary today more hospital beds are available per 10,000 people than in France or Belgium. As a result of public health activity, the death rate is lower in Hungary than in England or Austria.” (Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly)
Because of improvements made in nutrition and healthcare by the socialist government, life expectancy increased from 50 in 1930 to above 60 in 1950. (Source: Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 1993)
“Between 1949 and 1953 the urban population increased by 605,000 while the rural population [decreased by] 218,000” (Kovrig, p. 53)
Initially Hungary began importing trolley buses from the USSR “but since 1952 Hungary has been making its own” (Helmreich, p. 329)
Construction of a new express metro also began: “The first line, which was to be completed during the Five-Year Plan, was to run a distance of eight kilometers (five miles) from the People’s Stadium to Szell Kalman Square, crossing the Danube at Kossuth Square. The design was very ornate, in the style of the Moscow subway.” (Helmreich, p. 329)
“industrialisation, it was recognised long before 1945, was the chief thing that eastern Europe needed… and what it lacked was capital and the impetus to develop. The plans now provide both the impetus and the capital for transforming the agrarian half of Europe into an industrial economy. They are the framework for the industrial revolution.” (Warriner, p. 79)
At this time the United States imposed economic sanctions against Hungary and banned Americans from traveling there.
“The object of American policy in enforcing the embargo on trade… is to build up western Europe for strategic reasons, and to check the spread of communism. The use of the economic weapon against eastern Europe is a consequence of the revolution, and its purpose is to cripple the plans.” (Warriner, p. 164)
“From the east European standpoint, the economic weapon certainly does harm, in that it makes the plans harder to realise and slows down the rise in the standard of living. But it does not neutralise the really vital change, the fact that the people of eastern Europe have an economic future. To reverse that direction, to return to the stagnation of the past, would now be impossible. Looked at in terms of material resources the plans are what the region essentially needed. Looked at in terms of human life they are what the region needed too – they mobilise untouched resources of human energy and enthusiasm. They have brought material benefits to the mass of the impoverished peasants and workers; and not only material benefits; they have released an immense social potential…” (Warriner, pp. 170-171)
The table below gives an idea of the extent of the growth in construction (employees in thousands).
Source: Borsányi & Kende
Hungarian economy in 1930 according to Kovrig (p. 29):
Agriculture, forestry, fisheries 51.8%
Extractive industries 1.3
Commerce and finance 5.4
Public services and professions 5.0
Hungary’s own mining industry was not developed enough yet, so Soviet help was invaluable. At the same time, the Hungarians were able to sell their new industrial products to the USSR:
“The fact that Hungary belonged to the socialist world system became one of the essential conditions of her economic prosperity. In spite of the fact that Hungary is poor in raw materials, she managed to establish a fairly advanced industry founded upon the Soviet Union’s raw material basis. Related figures can help illustrate the point. In 1955, the share of the Soviet Union in Hungary’s annual import was 28.2 per cent, the corresponding figure for exports to that country was 32.2 per cent. The overwhelming majority of Soviet deliveries were raw materials. Of the raw materials used in Hungary in 1955, 71 per cent of the iron ore, 80 per cent of the pig iron, 30 per cent of foundry lead, 81 per cent of sulphur, 81 per cent of raw phosphate, 77 per cent of native soda, 30 per cent of synthetic rubber, 80 per cent pine timber and 55 per cent of raw cotton were imported from the Soviet Union. At the same time, machines and engineering products accounted for over 50 per cent of Hungarian deliveries to the Soviet Union, a figure corresponding to almost 20 per cent of the annual output of Hungary’s engineering industry.” (Janos Berecz, 1956 Counter-Revolution in Hungary)
Nationalists, Titoists and other reactionaries always claimed that the Soviet Union was oppressing and exploiting Eastern European countries but economist Warriner states categorically that even though Hungary paid war reparations to the Soviet Union “…certainly Russia is putting more into eastern Europe than it is taking out.” (Warriner, p. 166)
“Hungarian leaders actually requested Soviet advisors, rather than having them imposed by Moscow.” (László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: between the United States and the Soviet Union, p. 201)
“figures for road traffic since the war show enormous development, but it must be remembered that growth started from a very low level. Passengers carried in 1937 amounted to 44 million… In 1949, the total was 99 million, and it increased 192 per cent during the Five Year Plan to 290 million in 1953… volume of freight carried in 1953 was approximately ten times as great as in 1937, and nearly four times that in 1950… Streetcars carried 902 million passengers in 1953, almost two and a half times as many as in 1937. City bus lines carried 199 million passengers in 1953, an increase of more than 500 percent since 1937.” (Helmreich, p. 328-329)
Anti-Communist author Hugh Seton-Watson admits that: “industrial output doubled during this period… and labor productivity increased by 63 per cent” (Imre Nagy On Communism, p. xv)
Even highly anti-communist historian Helmreich admits that as a result of the Five Year Plan:
“Hungarian industry nearly tripled” (Helmreich, p. 395)
In the typical fashion, Pryce-Jones criticizes the plans for industrialization as too fast, but admits that “Industrialisation in itself was necessary and impressive” (p. 38)
“We must get down to the job of preparing a Five Year Plan of economic development, and a Ten Year Plan embracing electrification and irrigation. We shall reduce and, as far as possible, abolish income derived from exploitation” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)
In 1951 Rakosi said:
“the production of our factory industry has increased to nearly twice that of 1938… to-day a number of industrial goods are manufactured which were not produced in Hungary before the Liberation. The production of our Socialist industry was 35 per cent, higher last year than in 1949. It has developed more in one year than during twenty years of capitalism.
At our first Congress, I mentioned as a considerable success the fact that the living standard of the workers and employees had reached 97 per cent, of the 1938 level. Now, I can record that the workers’ and employees’ wage fund has increased by more than three milliard forints during 1950 and that the average wage of workers in December, 1950, was fifty-nine forints higher than a year ago. National income last year, the first year of the Five-Year Plan, has increased by 20 per cent., which is more than during two decades of the Horthy era.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)
“The Three Year Plan was fulfilled ahead of schedule… and the targets of the first year of the Five Year Plan (1950) were overfulfilled.” (Henrik Vass, Studies on the History of the Hungarian Working-Class Movement (1867-1966), pp. 327-328)
INCREASED PLAN TARGETS
“The Hungarian Five-Year Plan (1950-54) was planned to bring about an 86 per cent increase in industrial production over that of 1949 and an increase of heavy industrial production of 204 per cent during the same period. In five years the production of means of production was planned to increase 17 times. Hungarian industry, aided by the Soviet Union, will produce for the first time diesel engines, complex machine-tools and technically-developed mining equipment. But, once again, history has run ahead of even the boldest of perspectives. The first year of the Five-Year Plan exceeded all prevision and in the first months of 1951 the plan was radically revised – upwards.” (Klugmann, From Trotsky to Tito)
“During the Five-Year Plan we wished to double our output of steel, coal and electric power. We have realised these objectives not in five, but in three years. We have also realised our goal of transforming our country from an agrarian country with a developing industry, into an industrial country with an advanced agriculture. By the end of last year the output of our manufacturing industry was triple that of the last pre-war year… Our objective to increase the number of industrial workers by 300,000 in five years was attained in three years. Thereby, unemployment, the gravest threat to the working people, has been done away with… During the past four years the number of social insurance beneficiaries has risen by 1,650,000 and, at present, nearly 60 per cent of our population are covered by social insurance. We enacted a law on mother and child care. Family allowances for large families have trebled in three years. We have abolished the rationing system, a survival of war-time economy. In the first three years of the Five-Year Plan we built thousands of cultural centres, cinemas and public libraries in the villages and in the factories. Last but not least, we have built up our People’s Army, the guardian of our peace and socialist future.
I believe, Comrades, that the Hungarian working people have a right to be proud of these achievements.” (Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953)
“Now we are just about to complete the third year of our Five-Year Plan. On the basis of the present results it can be said that we have fulfilled the targets of our augmented Five-Year Plan, and in fact we have overfulfilled it in the case of coal.” (Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly)
“The rate of development of our coal production is rapid when compared with that of the capitalist countries. In Hungary per capita coal production has doubled as compared to 1938, but in Britain, whose mines were not at all damaged by the war, it has not yet reached the 1938 level. In Western Germany it is less than 75 per cent of the level of the last year of peace. This year per capita coal production in Hungary is 40 per cent higher than in France.” (Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly)
THE STAKHANOVITE MOVEMENT
“The Stakhanovite movement, a system organized by the Russian shockworker Stakhanov who exceeded his norms in record-breaking fashion, is widely used in Hungary. In fact, from only 5,000 Hungarian Stakhanovites in 1949, the number jumped to 63,000 in February 1953.
Among the several Hungarian movements are the Gazda movement (named for a Hungarian shockworker), aimed at saving raw materials by reducing the number of rejects; the Nazarova movement, a contractual system, aimed at making workers responsible for their tools and machines; and the Koznietzov movement, similar to the Nazarova.
There are movements: for improving methods of production (Innovation movement) and increasing production (Loy movement). The Roder movement, similar to the Soviet “experience exchange,” encourages shockworkers and Stakhanovites to take over less efficient workers and show them the methods by which they can increase production and decrease rejects. Two movements concern the voluntary extension of working hours: under the Ten-Minute movement, the workers pledge to arrive ten minutes early to set up their tools and machines; and under the Five-Minute movement, the workers stay five minutes later cleaning the workshops…
In bigger plants, Stakhanovite Schools press for “outstanding” results in production. There are Schools of Reciprocal Training, Schools of Outstanding Quality Production, Raw Material and Material Saving Schools, Schools of Quick-Processing Methods, Schools of Increasing Profitableness, and so on.” (Ernst Helmreich, Hungary, p. 279)
However, there were reactionary conservative elements too:
“Budapest Stakhanovite, Jozsef Kiszlinger… a skilled worker in the highly unionised heavy-engineering sector, had ‘endless problems with the older [workers]’ when he tried to improve his own work performance.” (From the vanguard to the margins: workers in Hungary, 1939 to the present: selected essays by Mark Pittaway, p. 65)
At the second congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, Rakosi said:
“The Soviet Union helps us in the building of our most modern factories, give us its best machines, most up-to-date manufacturing processes and, what is no less important, puts its best scientists and ace workers at our disposal. The best engineers and technicians of the Soviet Union, led by Academician Bardin, the world-famous foundry expert, have visited us, people whose advice and guidance means a service to us which cannot be overestimated.
Comrade Bikov was here and passed on his experience in the field of fast cutting. Comrade Zuravlyov taught our foundrymen the method of quick smelting. Comrade Petrov, the chief foundry-man of the Stalin Automobile Factory, passed on his experience in the fields of casting and foundry work. Comrade Dubyaga helped us to transfer to the multi-machine system in the textile industry. Comrade Annanyeva taught our spinning workers how to decrease scrap to the minimum in the spinning mills. Comrade Shavlugyin taught our bricklayers the fast bricklaying method. Comrades Maximenko, Koba and Zuyev developed a whole team of Stakhanovites among our building workers. Comrade Panin taught the Hungarian engine drivers to increase the average speed of our railways. Filimonov, Padgarov and Logvinyenko gave help to our miners in acquiring methods of handling mining machinery, and so on…
It is well known that the Hungarian Stakhanovite movement increased tremendously, following the passing on of work methods by the Soviet Stakhanovites. Their pupils are Imre Muszka, turner, who passes on his methods of work in the Matyas Rakosi Works; Ignacz Pioker, carpenter in the Egyesult Izzo Works; Lajos Kugler, rolling-mill worker in Diosgyor, whose brigade is the best in the country; Sandor Szoczei, the locksmith, who received the Kossuth prize; Mrs. Arpad Ormai, the weaver, who received the Kossuth prize; Mrs. Janos Makar, who works on sixteen weaving machines in the Hungarian Cotton Works; Erzsabet Piszkei, who works on twenty-two automatic machines in Gyor; Barnabas Varga, Tata-banya miner, who received the Kossuth award for his outstanding work; Jozsef Dietrich, Stakhanovite miner; Andras Tajkov, the best miner in Tatabanya; Zoltan Pozsonyi, the building worker, who received the Kossuth award; Jozsef Lengyel, the best engine driver; and hundreds and thousands of those Stakhanovites who form the vanguard of Hungarian Socialist industry…
The transplantation of the highly developed Soviet Socialist methods of production to Hungary is being speeded by visits of our engineers, workers and specialists to the Soviet Union, and by students studying at the universities of that country…
It must be mentioned that in the field of the exchange of experience and mutual aid, a similar relationship is being formed with the countries of the friendly Peoples’ Democracies. Experience acquired by the Peoples’ Democracies and its exchange is also important for the reason that the conditions of development in these countries are, by and large, similar to ours and, therefore, these useful experiences can easily be transplanted to our country.
The Council for Mutual Economic Aid [comecon] and the fact that an increasingly larger part of our foreign trade is carried on with the Soviet Union and the friendly countries having a planned economy, have greatly contributed to our peaceful development.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)
“Nationally, the state planned to recruit seventy-six thousand women into industry over the course of the first five-year plan. This drive to recruit women was combined with a campaign to subvert older gender hierarchies by breaking the male monopoly over certain skilled trades. A policy of affirmative action was introduced to ensure that a minimum of thirty to fifty percent of training enrolments for skilled work were filled by young women… [There was] furious resistance of male skilled workers rooted in gendered notions of hierarchy…“ (From the vanguard to the margins: workers in Hungary, 1939 to the present: selected essays by Mark Pittaway, p. 84)
Communists came out with slogans such as “women into university, technology, Parliament” (Árpád Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért)
Even according to anti-communists Aczel and Meray:
“the overwhelming majority of the new generation fully identified itself with that Party.”
(Aczel & Meray, p. 39)
“they went out on “house-to-house agitation,” did “cultural work,” lectured on Marxism-Leninism, delivered election speeches, and sacrificed all their spare time for the Party. Those who think that this was mere careerism… clearly ignore the feverish emotions burning in a young Communist.” (Aczel & Meray, p. 43)
“In this war-torn country, life returned to normal within a miraculously short time. The ruins, instead of depressing the people, seemed to serve as a challenge. Within a few brief months, the whole country hummed like a busy beehive” (Aczel & Meray, p. 40)
“The Communists’ popularity grew, and this was due to a large extent to the fact that, consciously and purposefully, they always presented programs that served the interests of the poorest strata but, at the same time, benefited the entire nation…” (Aczel & Meray, p. 41)
“The smiling faces and the overcrowded shops were arguments in favor of those who had now seized power and who were managing the country’s affairs…. The ecstasy of rapid and somewhat unexpected success was present everywhere. A kind of dizzy exaltation swelled the heart and numbed the brain.” (Aczel & Meray, p. 71)
“Opportunities abounded, particularly at the lower rungs of the ladder and in government employ: there were jobs to be had, apartments to be occupied at subsidized rents, places in schools reserved for the children of workers” (Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, p. 176)
“It is important… to keep in mind (much as you may dislike to hear it) that… non-Communists of the highest talent and experience play along freely with the Communists, and take part in their administrations.” (Behind the curtain, p. 40)
“Budapest is a totally different thing from Belgrade… The people on the streets are better dressed… My wife kept saying that she hardly dared go out, because she felt shabby in comparison to the enormously pretty young Hungarian women. The cafés are animated, and almost everybody makes jokes… Goods of excellent quality are available in the shops” (Behind the curtain, p. 165)
“We strolled up Vaci Utca… and Andrassy Boulevard… The shop windows are full of handsomely designed leather goods, women’s shoes and sandals, silk haberdashery, furs, perfumes. Antique shops had Florentine candlesticks and massive Hungarian hand-painted furniture… at a bookstore… The place of honor in the window was held by a translation of a new novel by Ludwig Bemelmans. And in addition to the inevitable Upton Sinclairs and Theodore Dreisers, we saw books by Pearl Buck, Somerset Maugham, Louis Bromfield, Evenly Waugh. The kiosks told us that a play by J. B. Priestley was a hit, and that you could see both Shaw and Shakespeare.” (Behind the curtain, p. 168)
“we visited a factory, the Manfred Weiss works on Czepel… The factory is completely nationalized… The average wage… was 700 forints a month ($60.00) for unskilled labor, and 800 up for skilled. Also a modified Stakhanoff system is in operation, with bonuses for piecework. If a worker becomes ill, he is on full wages for the first six weeks; then he gets 65 percent of his wages for a year” there are “twenty-five days of vacation at full pay, and eight holidays… The workers get free milk, and pay only a token fee for lunch; they get clothes and so on at sharply reduced prices. The plant has, on the Russian mode, a theater, free schools, a nursery, clinics for pregnant women, a college for adult education, various clubs and culture “corners”, and a large playground and athletic field. We watched two football teams scrambling together, and some tennis matches. Always, visiting a new city behind the Curtain, we would try to keep one question foremost in mind: “Is this regime really doing something for the people?” Visiting this factory anyway we felt that the answer was a fairly clear Yes.” (Behind the Curtain, p. 171)
Gunther spoke to a man named “Dr. Y.” who was briefly in jail for Nazi sympathies: “He was treated well enough in jail, and then released… He said that there was no “hot” terror, no violent excesses” but instead “No one will hire him since he is suspect”. “Several Hungarians we talked to gave us the same impression. Nonpolitical people go about quite freely without surveillance; there was little thought of a rap on the door at midnight, and the Gestapo bursting in. A professional man told me, “With my own eyes I saw women and children shot by the Germans as they ran down the streets in terror, and their bodies… hurled into the river!” Nothing remotely like this, he went on, goes on today.” (Behind the curtain, pp. 172-173)
“Jozsef Révai was not far from the truth when, speaking to an American journalist who inquired about the “terror” in Hungary, he said that such a contention was at variance with facts. “If as a seasoned reporter,” he said, “you walk the streets of our capital for only an hour, you find the answer yourself. No guards patrol the streets, traffic policemen are unarmed, you are not asked to identify yourself, not even if you travel from one end of the country to the other. Hungarian democracy employs 28,000 policemen and 12,000 soldiers. No other country in Europe has fewer. Our strength lies in our democratic workers and peasants.”” (Eric Roman, Hungary and the victor powers, 1945-1950, p. 198)
Journalist “Demaree Bess.. had no difficulty entering Hungary, “found very little mystery about what is going on,” and talked to everyone he wanted to meet” (Edgar Snow, Stalin Must Have Peace, p. 98)
“There were after all important empirical signs of improvement. The government could abolish the rationing of most of the foodstuff, the reconstruction of the destroyed cities was well on its way, people’s colleges were organized, the tertiary educational system was opened for all… cultural life was thriving.” (Agnes Heller, Legitimation Deficit and Legitimation Crisis in East European Societies)
In contrast “food rationing in Britain only ended in 1954… ‘It was queues for everything, you know, even if you didn’t know what you were queuing for… you joined it because you knew there was something at the end of it'” (Judt, p. 163)
Economist Warriner also wrote that in “Hungary… consumer goods are conspicuously plentiful and cheap.” (p. 116)
Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962*
Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary: from Kun to Kādār
Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary
Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953
Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary
Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party
Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly
Rakosi, Strengthening the People’s Democratic Order
Péter Gál & Gyula Németh, Hungary: A Comprehensive Guide
Zsuzsanna Borvendég & Mária Palasik in “In the Name of the Great Work: Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and its Impact in Eastern Europe” ed. Doubravka Olšáková
Zinner, Revolution in Hungary
Stone, Hungary: A short history
László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: between the United States and the Soviet Union
Ernst Helmreich, Hungary
Shawcross, Crime and compromise: Janos Kadar and the politics of Hungary since revolution
Klugmann, From Trotsky to Tito
Gunther, Behind the curtain
Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 1993
Warriner, Revolution In Eastern Europe
Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary*
Janos Berecz, 1956 Counter-Revolution in Hungary*
Hugh Seton-Watson, introduction to Imre Nagy On Communism
Henrik Vass, Studies on the History of the Hungarian Working-Class Movement (1867-1966)*
From the vanguard to the margins: workers in Hungary, 1939 to the present: selected essays by Mark Pittaway
Árpád Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért
Aczel & Meray, Revolt of the mind
Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
Eric Roman, Hungary and the victor powers, 1945-1950
Edgar Snow, Stalin Must Have Peace
Agnes Heller, Legitimation Deficit and Legitimation Crisis in East European Societies
See also Erno Gero’s discussion of theoretical aspects of Stakhanovism in Hungary: “About the Stakhanovite Movement in the People’s Democracies”
*Nemes, Borsanyi & Kende, Berecz and Vass are kadarist revisionist authors. They correctly describe the successes of the first 3 years of the Five Year Plan but falsely accuse the increased plan targets of being ultra-leftist and causing problems. This topic will be covered when we start discussing the rise of Hungarian revisionism.
2 thoughts on “History of the Hungarian People’s Republic (PART 8: The 1949 elections and first Five Year Plan)”
Keep up with good work. You doing very important research with these articles(eventually a book) on Magyar Népköztársaság.