Like in the 1980s when the Polish activists of the Solidarity movement cooperated with the opposition in Hungary, we have now re-established contacts with our Hungarian friends. They have supported the Committee for the Defence of Democracy since its very beginning. During the demonstration in January 2016 in Warsaw, Balázs Gulyás warned us against the Hungarian scenario of Viktor Orbán, while Betram Marek, a student of political sciences, created a Facebook group called Dwa Bratanki, a name which alludes to a well-known proverb about Polish-Hungarian friendship “Pole and Hungarian brothers be, good for fight and good for party”. In March 2016, KOD and Gazeta Wyborcza daily organized a panel discussion with the former and present Hungarian opposition, entitled „Budapest in Warsaw, or Warsaw in Budapest”. One of the panellists was Róza Hodosán, a sociologist, who in the 1980s wrote and disseminated samizdat texts and publications and several times visited Warsaw trying to learn from the example of the Solidarity radio, which she wanted to organize in Hungary. Bertram Marek and Balázs Nemes spoke about the contemporary, young activists who are now in opposition to the Orbán government.
Last year, a few hundred Hungarian people expressed their solidarity with the Poles and support to the KOD activity, organizing demonstrations in front of the Polish embassy in Budapest.
To offer our readers a more analytical approach to the issue, we are pleased to be able to publish on our website a comparative study written by Bálint Magyar and Miklós Mitkovits. We wish to thank the Authors for this in-depth analysis of the Polish and Hungarian history, which may be very helpful in the context of the present political and economic situation in both countries. The study draws a parallel between the Polish and Hungarian history, showing similarities and pointing out significant differences, which may lead to interesting conclusions.
Since the text covers a wide spectrum of historical events, we will be publishing it parts. We welcome your comments and ideas. It is the authors’ intention to start a discussion about the activities which could be undertaken together to prevent Poland from the Hungarian scenario coming true.
If you wish to contact the authors personally, please write to us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
|The social foundations of anti-regime politics, or its absence|
The lesson Poland took away from 1956 was that unless demands concern commitments that stem from a country’s international position, it is possible to compel changes. At the same time, the system did not ensure the masses with ways to individual happiness: it restricted the peasantry in its role of private farmer, it shut the labor force up in large state enterprises. Due to the lack of reforms and continuous decline in living standards the groups that can be considered as opposition already appeared by the mid sixties, with the seventies bringing masses to radical manifestations of social discontentment.
1968—the series of protests by students, brutal action by the regime against intellectuals.
1970—violent repression of strikes in Gdansk that protested drastic hikes in food prices, with 44 fatal victims, and over a thousand wounded. Edward Gierek replaced Gomułka at the helm of the party in the aftermath.
1976—protests broke out in a number of cities due to rising food prices, these were brutally repressed by the regime, and many workers were imprisoned. It was in the aftermath of these events that an organization of intellectuals aiming to help those who suffered the repression was established, it was called the KOR (Komitet Obrony Robotników).
The relationship between the radical workers and the system-critical intellectuals was thereon institutionalized and permanent in Poland. The KOR was not only an aid organization, but through a work by Adam Michnik, A New Evolutionism, it was also formative of ideology and strategy. As such it ditched the dilemma, whether to improve the operation of the system while staying integrated in it, or to try to overthrow it from outside. Instead it proposed the building of parallel civil structures, thereby also demonstrating that it had understood the geopolitical power situation that kept the communist system in place for the moment, but did not recognize or legitimize it. The institutions of the parallel society generated by the intellectuals were the so called flying universities and independent publishers. Both were mass based and multi-centered.
1980—Solidarity Movement, growing out of the Shipyard of Gdańsk under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa was no longer just a parallel society, but also an embodiment of a parallel political power. The Solidarity Movement was unique in the region not only for its size (10 million members), but also its heterogeneity. It joined individuals and groups of various world views, of different social positions, and was strongly supported by the Catholic Church as well as Pope John Paul II, former archbishop of Cracow. A constellation of this sort was unimaginable in any other socialist country. In the course of the one-and-a-half-year existence of Solidarity it became clear that this deadlock could not be sustained and would have to go in one direction or the other. Though Jaruzelski’s coup defeated Solidarity at the cost of significant sacrifices, but was not able to reinstate the legitimacy of the regime even to the level it stood at before.
After the introduction of a state of emergency, the Jaruzelski leadership fell into complete international isolation, though it would have severely required western loans. On the other hand, the economist intellectuals of Solidarity had had enough of collectivist illusions, and a program of the liberalization of the economy increasingly grew popular among them. After joining the IMF in 1986, no other course was left open for the leadership of the party either.
In Hungary the reprisals that followed 1956 taught society that resistance to the power establishment was futile, and that they would have to make their lives more comfortable within the framework of the communist system. At the same time the leadership of the Kádár regime learned from 1956 that a peaceful society could not be sustained through total repression. Free rights, the improvement of living standards and conditions could not be dismissed. The Kádár consolidation and “compromise” embodied in part by the constant growth of general consumption established those safety valves for the release of social tensions, that serve any energies critical of the regime with private means of escape through individual accumulation of wealth and other deals within the framework of the system. All of this ruled out mass support for any initiative critical to the regime. Society was immunized to opposition thinking, so the opposition movements critical of the regime were limited to rather small circles.
1968 – a small group of philosophers protested against the occupation of Czechoslovakia.
1977 – a few scores of dissident intellectuals acclaimed the formation of the Czechoslovak Charta ’77.
1979 – approximately 250 individuals, largely intellectuals, signed a protest against the imprisonment of Václav Havel. This event can be considered the first step towards the institutionalization of the anti-communist dissident movement.
The Hungarian anti-communist dissident movement led by János Kis followed the Polish opposition’s strategy, without it gaining any form of broader social support. For in Hungary the sort of social deadlock arrived at by constant conflict with the regime in Poland had never come into existence. Society, with its peculiar compromise not only tolerated, but accepted the soft dictatorship ruling over it. In the spirit of the adopted Polish strategy the “flying (underground) universities” and samizdat literature began to spread quicker with the greater visibility of the Solidarity movement, though it remained always more restricted, single centered, and had less copies in circulation.
Though the Hungarian communist party observed the rise of Solidarity with some concern, its fall in 1981 only resulted in a temporary surge of repression against opposition movements. Nonetheless, while avoiding imprisoning dissident intellectuals, every effort was made to get in the way of the logistics of the samizdat publications and the material wellbeing of the couple of scores of opposition leaders. The contact of the isolated, small opposition movement with the broader “masses” was ensured by Free Radio Europe, which reported opposition actions and publications. Hungarian society at large did not participate in the system-critical movements and was, at most, an audience.
Apart from the system-critical anti-communist dissident movement, from the 80s onwards there were also the environmental-protection groups taking action against the dams of Bősnagymaros, who however kept their criticism within the “paradigm of public policy”. Others involved in politics included the activists of the peace movement Dialogue, who kept a distance from the radical opposition groups, and the Catholic grass-roots community, which came into confrontations with the Catholic Church. The circle of, so called, népi (folk) writers did not think in system-critical terms either, but wholly in terms of protecting the rights of the Hungarian minority across the border within the system, remaining undecided between joining the opposition and bargaining with the reform-communists even in the last third of the eighties.
In Hungary, in spite of the economic crisis, few concrete propositions for the transition materialized. A “social market economy” grew to become a popular formula.
|1989–1990: the two peaceful, negotiated regime changes of the Eastern Bloc|
The demolition of the communist party in the Soviet Union was carried out by the communist party itself, with the leadership of Gorbachev, as a continuation of Perestroika—a process beginning in the second half of the eighties and lasting over many years. In the rest of the East-European countries with a hard dictatorship—the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria—regime change took the form of a sudden break, without negotiations. Among the satellite states of the Soviet empire a negotiated regime change was only conducted from 1989–90 in the two soft dictatorships of Poland and Hungary, between the ruling communist parties and the actors of the political opposition. In both countries, the part of the communist party ready to be compromised by the talks was the one ready to face realities. In neither country was transition or a change of regimes the aim of these members of the communist party, but rather the legitimization of measures required to deal with the economic crisis made it seem worthwhile to involve an opposition they believed was weak. Of Solidarity they thought that seven years after the state of emergency it would not be capable of the show of force it had in 1980–81. The Hungarian democratic opposition lacked broad social support. One must add that these events did not unfold simultaneously in the two countries, but the Hungarians (both the reform communists and the opposition) followed the Polish developments. The adoption of the form of roundtable talks and then the results of the semi-free Polish elections, along with the Soviet response to it showed that the change of regimes had become a real possibility.
In Poland it was the broadly supported Solidarity, as trailblazer of the process and a movement gathering the actors critical of the system who negotiated with the regime—with the mediation of the Catholic Church. Peaceful transition and regime change was meanwhile guaranteed by a conditionally free electoral system, which ensured the Polish communist party and its allies power in the Sejm, while opening the reinstated Senate fully to free political competition. This is where the first semi-free elections of the eastern bloc took place in the summer of 1989. Solidarity set out to win 35% of the mandates in the Sejm, and the seats in the Senate under the name of Citizens’ Committee. Though neither the LEMP, nor Solidarity believed that the latter could win a landslide victory, this did occur. In the two-round election system Solidarity won everything it could. So Solidarity ran for the elections as a heterogeneous movement, but unified nevertheless, with the existing internal divisions only bringing about permanent differences after the elections.
Following the elections, Solidarity succeeded in splitting earlier followers of LEMP, the Democratic Party, and the United People’s Party away from the alliance, which meant a coalition was necessitated. Adam Michnik came up with the proposal: “we will delegate the prime minister, and you delegate the president”. Thus in exchange for Jaruzelski being elected president by a majority of one vote in the Sejm and the Senate, in September 1989, Tadeusz Mazowiecki could become the first non-communist prime minister in the region since 1947. After the elections a number of parties came to be formed out of the Solidarity Movement, while Solidarity began to function as a real labor union.
The program of the democratic opposition in 1987, the Social Contract, still represented the Polish strategy of power sharing. However, after the international thaw and transformation in Poland, the opposition parties established in 1988 brought about the Opposition Roundtable in the spring of 1989, unifying the opposition for talks with the communist party to ensure a peaceful transition. But the Hungarian opposition parties, lacking real links with the masses, represented the various trends in the opposition intellectual elite. The two most significant formations were: the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), grouped around the népi (folk) writers and representing a popular-national-Christian ideology under a conservative identity; and the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), which had grown out of the anti-communist dissident movement, had a western orientation and a leftist, liberal approach that represented radical system-criticism. So in this case the differentiation and institutionalization of the opposition forces with different ideological foundations had concluded even before the free elections.
In the course of the negotiations the reform-communists no longer had the chance to ensure themselves a guaranteed powerbase unaffected by political competition, as the Polish Sejm did, but aimed instead to have a semi-strong presidential position installed with similar authorities vested in it. A separate deal between the MDF and the reform communists was forestalled by a referendum at the end of 1989 initiated by the SZDSZ, that preceded the first free elections in the spring of 1990 and resulted in the victory of the MDF, leading to the formation of the national-Christian coalition.
|The intersecting cycles of economic growth in Poland and Hungary (in percentage of annual growth of the GDP)|
|Hungary 2010, Poland 2015: the second regime changes|
|The first time Viktor Orbán came to power, in 1998, he already summed up his goals in the campaign slogan: “More than change of government, less than change of regimes”. The PiS led by the Kaczyński brothers voiced a similar demand from 2005. Orbán’s government remained for one term, while Jarosław Kaczyński’s stayed for less than two. Their return to power took place eight years later. Orbán defined Fidesz’s return to power in 2010 as a ballot box revolution, and his government as a second change of regimes, while Kaczyński also made claims of a regime-change on similar scale upon his return to power in 2015. They consider themselves the keepers of a tradition of Polish-Hungarian historical friendship. Poland symbolically supported the peace procession in Budapest, demonstrating loyalty to Orbán by transporting Polish PiS activists to Budapest for the occasion, and Orbán also ensures the new Polish government of his solidarity through exercising his veto against any EU sanctions it is threatened by. In spite of the similar ideological models and political language however, the immediate antecedents of these governments and their natures are quite different.|
|Antecedents: the electoral defeat of the Polish government parties and the collapse of the third Hungarian republic|
|The effect of the different electoral systems on the concentration of power and the extent of the conversion of regimes|
Bálint Magyar (b. 1952) is a sociologist and a liberal politician. He graduated from Eötvös Loránd University, where he obtained a degree in sociology and history, and then a doctorate in political economy with the dissertation about the post-war history of Polish agriculture. His first job was as a scientific researcher at the Institute for World Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, specializing in East Europe. From 1979 he became a human right activist within the developing “democratic opposition” and was involved in the production of the “Beszélő” samizdat periodical. In 1981 he was expelled from Poland because of his contacts with the activists of Solidarność. In 1988 was among the founding members of one of the major oppositional political parties in Hungary, the SZDSZ (Alliance of Free Democrats), consequently took part in the architecture of the new democracy and negotiating with the Communist Party the peaceful transition at the “National Roundtable” discussions. He served as an MP of SZDSZ from 1990 until 2010, and was part of the party’s leadership (president between 1998–2000). From 1996 until 1998 and from 2002 until 2006 he held the position of Minister of Education.
Miklós Mitrovits (b. 1978) historian, Polonist. He graduated from the History Studies of Eötvös University in Budapest and parallel with his M.A. studies he completed specialization courses in Historical Russicistics and Modern Sovietology. In 2009 he was granted his PhD in the 19th and 20th Century Eastern European History Doctoral School. Between 2004 and 2008 he was studying at the Polish Studies and Central European Studies of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University. Since 2014 he has worked as a research fellow at the Department for Contemporary History of the Institute of History at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
His main research field is the contemporary history of Eastern Europe after WWII, principally the history of Poland, the Polish-Hungarian relationships and the characteristics of the political, economic and cultural development of the East-Central European countries. The comparative research of the countries of this region, mainly the entanglement history of these countries after WWII: relationships, interactions and attempts for integrations between Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. He has several publications concerning the foreign policy of the Kádár era in Hungary, particularly the Hungarian-Polish and Hungarian-Czechoslovakian relationships. He has edited numerous collections of studies and documents. His main books: A remény hónapjai… A lengyel Szolidaritás és a szovjet politika 1980–1981 [Months of hope. The polish Solidarity movement and the soviet politics between 1980 and 1981], and Lengyel–magyar “két jó barát”. A magyar–lengyel kapcsolatok dokumentumai, 1957–1987. [Pole and Hungarian, “two good friends”. Documents on the Hungarian–Polish relationship, 1957–1987.]. In 2014 he received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.