On 23 August, a delegation of Young Communist League and Communist Party of Britain members were invited to meet with leading members of the Hungarian Workers’ Party, at their offices in Budapest. The following interview was with the Party’s Chairman, Gyula Thürmer, joined by Vince Lisztes, a young comrade from the Party’s International Department. The first part of the interview can be found here.
EW: My next question is about Hungarian politics today. So, on the one hand, we have Fidesz and Viktor Orbán. Is he popular among Hungarian working-class people? Then, on the other side, you have a coalition of lots of different parties. In the West, we hear that they are very democratic and they’re very good for Hungary. What’s your view?
GT: You know, when I go to Western Europe to participate in some conference or another, my Western European comrades usually look at me in awe: ‘You’re free? You’re not in prison? But, how? How could you live under such circumstances? It’s a fascist country! A dictatorship!’ And so on… I think that, unfortunately, the Western European population is under the influence of liberal mass manipulation of public opinion, but we have Hungary as it is now. It’s not ‘fascism’, it’s capitalism. A special type of capitalism called state capitalism.
Mr. Orbán realised that under the conditions of Hungary, it was impossible to continue the recipe proposed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. What did they tell us? ‘You should liberalise everything! You should sell everything to the market and the market will solve everything!’ I don’t think the market can solve everything in Western Europe either, but in Eastern Europe, it’s impossible. That’s why the Hungarian Government decided to follow the way of state capitalism. This means that the basic branches of the economy now belong to the state: the railways, the arms industry, the energy infrastructure, etc. During the social-democratic government, the energy system was sold to Western capital, but then Orbán renationalised it.
Secondly, the Hungarian state gets involved in the market. Now, for example, during COVID-19, if the government hadn’t got involved in the market, a lot of people would have lost their jobs, but they stopped this, and now they’re trying to stop radical inflation. This is also the aim of state capitalism. From the point of view of the people, it has some positive consequences, because, as you can see, we live in a more or less stable country.
As I told you, the second element of this government was Fidesz’s decision to give to the people. As the Hungarian poet Petőfi said in the 18th century: “You should give to the people and not wait until the people demand it.” If the people go out on the streets and demand it, it will be worse. So, they give a better salary, a lot of help to families, to young people, and a lot of other things. This deal, this state capitalist policy which is negative for us, is accompanied by the three elements of clear nationalism, clericalism, and anti-communism.
Yes, we should defend national interests, this is absolutely clear, and we should do something about the Hungarians living abroad. But sometimes, I think that nationalism also has negative consequences. Anti-communism exists. They denounce the socialist period of Hungarian history, they declared that it was a period of crimes and that everybody from that time was a criminal who should be sent to court. But unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, the legal system cannot solve this problem and, as you can see, we are not in prison and we are free. Yes, we are isolated from the media, we cannot use the red star, we cannot use a communist name, and a lot of other things, but we are not followed by the police or any secret organisation. There are no prohibitions like the ones in Poland or the Czech Republic, not to mention Ukraine or elsewhere.
I think that it’s for these reasons that the Orbán government has already won five elections. Yes, he has led the country since 2010 and in every election he gets two thirds of the votes. It’s clear that the people understand him and he is especially supported in the villages and in the provincial towns and cities. Why? Because Hungarian society has always traditionally been divided between the conservative and liberal parts, and liberalism has always been stronger in Budapest and the big cities. There are different reasons for this, but it’s a fact. Now, the problem is that there are no bridges between the two tendencies. Thirty years ago, when socialism was destroyed, there was an agreement between the liberal and conservative forces. They decided to implement a system of government change. The first four years it’s your turn if you win the election, then the next four years I come in and so on, like in other countries. Yes, this was able to continue until 2010, but the Hungarian Socialist Party couldn’t solve the crisis, and in 2010 the conservatives won with two thirds of the vote. And with two thirds of the vote they said: “I don’t need to compromise. I can lead the country alone.” And that’s what they did.
Yes, it would be better to find a common language, to find a common solution, but I think that the current liberal position doesn’t want it. They tried to destroy this government to win the election, but they couldn’t. Why? The Hungarian Socialist Party was the main political force of opposition for many years, but it has lost its ‘left character’. Now, it’s a completely liberal party. The new force is the Democratic Coalition led by Mr. Gyurcsány. They tried to unite all the liberal forces which exist in this society, and I cannot deny the possibility that at the next election, they will make a united liberal party and try to fight the conservative party.
And one more thing: I think that the Western countries are trying to undermine the current government for political and ideological reasons. As I’m sure you know, there is currently not only a political competition and struggle in the world, but also a very clear ideological conflict. The conservatives think that yes, capitalism is in crisis, but we can save capitalism by strengthening national states, national traditions, culture, religion, and so on. The liberals say that no, we don’t need that. We need a United States of Europe. We need the triumph of liberal values everywhere. And this is the main contradiction in the fight between these two forces. But if you want the short answer, then yes, the government enjoys popularity. It’s a fact.
EW: Thank you. My next question is about the war in Ukraine. What is the position of the Workers’ Party and what do they call for?
GT: My comrade is preparing to go to Lisbon, to the Avante festival, and we are preparing some materials and you can see that our party started to speak about the danger of war back in 2014, 9 years ago. Why? Because everybody could see that NATO wouldn’t stop here in Hungary, that NATO would continue going east, to Poland, and would pretty much try to regroup all the countries of Eastern Europe. We could also see that the United States was sending more and more troops, technology, and military installations to the Eastern European countries. Why?
You could say that they were starting to prepare the so-called “military theatre” of Eastern Europe, and that’s why we saw that, yes, we should really think about the danger of war. We could also see that the Western countries wanted to destroy the independent and developing Russia, because Russia became a competitor for them, and as the Western bloc was nearing Poland, to the Russian borders and the Balkans, it was very clear that sooner or later, these two camps would meet and, if they did, there wouldn’t be a peaceful solution to this conflict and it could progress to a war both in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe. That’s why the war in Ukraine was not an unexpected thing for us.
We also recognised that after 2014, the political system of Ukraine had changed. Last time I was in Ukraine in 2018, the Communist Party was a legal one. Before 2014, it was one of the main parties of the Ukrainian parliament, but the system has changed and they were kicked out of the parliament. They were demonised in Ukrainian society which meant that Ukrainian capitalism went over to fascist methods to liquidate all political enemies and political opposition.
We could see the same for the Hungarian national minority in Zakarpattia in Ukraine and we understood that yes, it was a dangerous thing. We could also see that the capitalist world doesn’t want to accept Belarus. I used to go to Belarus very often and I was also there in 2020 during the elections and I could see what was happening. Lukashenko won that election because people supported him. It is not socialism, but it is not clear capitalism and the Western world doesn’t want to accept it, and that’s why they wanted to try to overthrow him, although it was unsuccessful. All these things, I said, led to the war. And the Western countries, NATO, and the United States are using this war to destroy Russia, to undermine everything which is not Anglo-Saxon, which is not American, and in the far future, they plan to gather all their forces against the main danger, China.
This is absolutely clear. That’s why we supported the defence of Russia, we expressed our solidarity with the Communist Party of Russia, with the Communist Party of Ukraine, with the Communist Party of Belarus, all of these forces. I went to Belarus and personally met Lukashenko. I’ve personally expressed our support to him and we think that it’s a mistake to think that this is a fight between two capitalist forces. Some political parties, even communist parties, think that it’s a fight between capitalist forces in Europe. No, it’s not. It’s ultimately a fight between America and Russia. It’s a fight between NATO and everything which is not like NATO, and it’s a fight against China and a fight of liberalism against all non-liberal values. That’s why we have this position.
And, if you come to Hungary, you can see that Hungary could very well become involved in this war because Hungary is very near to Ukraine. I don’t think that NATO will need Hungarian soldiers. They have enough soldiers, but they will need our territory, our airbases, our airspace, our hospitals, our energy resources, and I don’t think it’s an accident that NATO generals and even leaders of the NATO supply system are coming to Hungary and consulting with the Hungarian military hospitals and factories, because they need a very well organised supply system. The current Hungarian government doesn’t want to join the war. This is clear, but they don’t have a very stable position. They vote for everything which serves the war against Russia. They vote for the resolutions of NATO, of the European Union. You know, afterwards, they criticise it, but the fact is that they voted for it in the first place.
Secondly, a lot of things don’t depend on the Hungarian government. Unfortunately, they have allies who are baying for blood. By this I mean Poland, Romania, etc. They’re looking for a chance to change history and destroy Eastern Europe, I think. But we need peace and that’s why we propose that we should sit down and talk about peace. But peace cannot be reached without concrete respect for the security interests of Russia. Otherwise, there will be a new war.
EW: I also want to know about the young communists in Hungary. What is the state of the young communists in Hungary? Are young people interested in communism in Hungary? What work are you doing?
GT: Let’s give the floor…
VL: I would say that communism is not very popular among the Hungarian youth. I would say it’s even less popular than among older people. Younger people don’t have the same kind of reference for the communist era, and they mostly know about the socialist period from textbooks, from history lessons, from exams. If the answer requires that you say ‘socialism is bad‘, then you will write ‘socialism is bad‘! Because you want to do well.
I would also say that now, at least in Budapest, the most popular current of political thought among the Hungarian youth is, unfortunately, liberalism. So, just before you arrived here, we saw that a lot of young people had planned a strike against the government regarding the education system. On the one hand, it’s really good that the youth are trying to understand politics and affect politics, but on the other hand, they are basically confused by liberals and those who want to sell out the country to Western interests. And also, unfortunately, these liberal youth are the ones who are most likely to want to leave Hungary after getting their degrees and work outside of Hungary instead of improving Hungary. So, we also have a kind of brain drain situation.
But, I would say that liberalism is not the only kind of thought among the youth. There are also some nationalist elements, and of course, we have difficulty communicating with them as well, but at least they are not actively trying to sell out the country, so that’s something. I’m happy to say that the party now has at least some membership among the youth. Of course, more would be better, but for the last month, we’ve really tried to expand in that direction and these young people are very active. Some have even been on foreign missions– one went to China recently.
Of course, every individual is different when it comes to how well they understand socialism, how well they can adapt to the policies of the Workers’ Party… But the Workers’ Party is also trying to organise educational events for these young people, and also some of these youth are part of a separate organisation from the Workers’ Party called MIKSZ, a Hungarian youth organisation. It’s kind of small and it has problems with activity, but they are also trying to organise educational events, for instance, or some kind of community-building events. That organisation is not officially part of the party, but they are working together with the party for the same goals.
EW: Thank you. And finally for Mr. Thürmer, do you have any last words of advice for young communists or socialists in Britain?
(After a pause) GT: Many years ago, Marx said that socialism would triumph in the developed capitalist countries, like Great Britain. It is our wish that the young communists realise this prophecy of Marx. We believe that, now, we are coming to a changing world, and we should use this possibility to really change the world, to fight for our common socialist ideas, and we wish you success. Every success achieved by British young Communists means real support for us here in Hungary.
Eben Williams is a member of the YCL’s Glasgow branch