Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 14, 2015

Syrian refugees, Hungary and the “axis of resistance”

Filed under: Hungary,immigration,mechanical anti-imperialism,Soros,Stalinism,Syria — louisproyect @ 5:41 pm

Viktor Orban: member in good standing of the “axis of resistance”

It seems that a week does not go by without some incident in Eastern Europe involving the inhumane treatment of people who have fled Baathist terror in Syria.

For example, in the Czech Republic, cops wrote numbers on the arms of refugees in order to identify them, a chilling reminder of how Nazis tattooed such numbers on the arms of Jews in the death camps.

But it is Hungary that takes the cake apparently.

  • It put a razor-wire fence on the border with Serbia to keep refugees out.
  • It put up billboards (in Hungarian no less) warning anybody who made it through the razor-wire fence that “If you come to Hungary, don’t take the jobs of Hungarians!”
  • A TV news photographer kicked and tripped refugees running away from the police. The station she worked for was connected to the far-right Jobbik party that lines up with the “axis of resistance” on Syria, opposing “the systematic attempts of the West to find a casus belli for an armed intervention against the Assad government.”
  • At an internment camp for refugees in Hungary, cops threw bags of food to them as if they were hungry animals.

Since the refugees are only interested in making their way to Germany or Britain, the xenophobia is likely a strategy to mollify Hungary’s burgeoning ultraright groups like Jobbik and their voters. Key to success is the ability of President Viktor Orban to exploit simmering discontent over dire economic conditions. In fact this is exactly how German fascism succeeded. When economic disaster ruined Eastern European Jewry, the largely working class and impoverished small proprietors fled to Germany. Hitler then blamed “the Jews” for taking away German jobs.

It must be noted that Viktor Orban has recently joined the “axis of resistance” after the fashion of Jobbik. All across Europe ultraright parties with zero exceptions have showed solidarity with the Kremlin in its ostensibly “anti-imperialist” struggle against NATO, the EU, and Washington. This Red-Brown alliance is a revival of the National Bolshevist tendency of the early 1920s when a faction of the German CP advocated a united front with the incipient fascist movement.

Orban is now Putin’s closest European ally. While the bonds involve mutual economic interests, including Hungarian access to Russian natural gas at bargain prices and a willingness to back Putin’s pipeline project that would bypass Ukraine, there are also ideological affinities. He has nationalist pretensions casting himself as an enemy of neoliberalism. He has also followed Putin in cracking down on NGO’s and pressuring Hungarian media to follow his strong man rule.

For a fascinating account of Orban’s political evolution, I would recommend the Intercept article by Adam LeBor titled “How Hungary’s Prime Minister Turned From Young Liberal Into Refugee-Bashing Autocrat”. It seems that early on he was not kindly disposed to Russian domination, speaking at a Budapest rally in 1989 commemorating the death of Imre Nagy, the leader of the failed 1956 revolution. In his speech he demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Hungary.

You don’t have to understand Hungarian to know that he was lambasting “Communist dictatorship”. Understanding which side of the bread was buttered, Orban hooked up with George Soros just before this speech was made. LeBor reports;

Orban was born in May 1963 in Alcsutdoboz, a small village 31 miles from Budapest. After graduating from high school he moved to Budapest to study law at Eötvös Loránd University. There he co-founded Századvég, a dissident social science journal.

He graduated in 1987 and joined the Central-Eastern Europe Study Group, which was funded by George Soros, the financier who had emigrated from Hungary after World War II. The following year Orban became a founding member of the Alliance of Young Democrats, known in Hungarian as Fidesz. The outspoken radicals quickly became the darlings of the Western media. They were young, smart and scruffily photogenic – Tamas Deutsch, another founding member of Fidesz, was a model for Levi’s jeans. Fidesz in its early years was a broad coalition, from near anarchists to nationalists. They all had one aim: to get rid of the Communists. Once that was achieved, like all revolutionary groups, the party began to fracture.

Having been born and raised in Hungary, Soros took a particular interest in his native land. He spent millions on cultivating a following among ambitious young politicians like Orban, paying for airfare and hotel costs in the USA where they were afforded red carpet treatment at Soros’s Open Society conferences. Soros was also shrewd enough to pay for photocopying machines that anti-Communist activists found crucial in their attempts in the late 80s to create a liberal pole of attraction against the Stalinist bureaucracy. Michael Lewis, by no means a critic of neoliberalism, traced Soros’s steps in a 1994 Guardian article:

IN 1984 Soros opened his first office, in Budapest, and began all manner of subversive activities for which he is temperamentally very well-equipped. “I started by trying to create small cracks in the monolithic structure which goes under the name of communism, in the belief that in a rigid structure even a small crack can have a devastating effect,” he wrote in Opening The Soviet System. “As the cracks grew, so did my efforts until they came to take up most of my time.”

Says Liz Lorant, who worked with Soros from the start: “It was the excitement of what we got away with [that is irreplaceable]. We got away with murder. [For example] at that time Xerox machines were under lock and key. That was the way it was. In Romania you had to register a typewriter with the police. Well, we just flooded the whole damn country with Xerox machines so that the rules became meaningless.” In short, by the time the dust settled over the Berlin Wall – boom! bust! – Soros had accumulated a highly-charged portfolio of gratitude. The Great White Gods of Eastern Europe – Havel, Michnik, Kis, Haraszti – were all in his debt. So were all sorts of lesser-known, highly motivated people wending their way to high political office.

For most people on the “anti-imperialist” left, Soros is a kind of archenemy symbolizing globalization, neoliberalism and all the rest. He is also a convenient symbol of liberal ignominy for the far right as the supposed puppet master behind Obama and the secret plans to transform the USA into a European-styled socialist state. Of course that is the paradox of George Soros. Like Fay Dunaway telling Jack Nicholson in “Chinatown” that a woman was both her daughter and her sister, Soros is both a neoliberal shark and someone favoring European style socialism, which is in reality nothing but a welfare state and incapable of being realized today.

With Soros’s record of intervening in Hungarian politics through his well-funded NGO’s, it is easy to understand why Orban would have a free hand in cracking down on them. Many Hungarians must have gathered that Karl Popper’s philosophy probably had more to do with a fast buck then it did with promoting civil society and equal opportunity.

Five years ago Soros’s firm was fined $2.5 million for illegal bank stock transactions in Hungary (a mere slap on the wrist.) It was his exploitation of short sales and other shenanigans from 2007 to 2010 that prompted the billionaire and major donor to my alma mater to confess that he was having “a very good crisis”, referring to the stock market crash that is still impacting countries like Hungary.

Like Greece, Hungary had huge debts when the crisis broke and like Greece has been scrambling to nurse the country back to health—a dubious prospect given the world economic situation. In late 2008 Hungary pleaded with the International Monetary Fund for $25 billion in emergency financing. In 2010 unemployment reached 11.4 percent while the economy shrank by 6.3 percent. It was such suffering that convinced voters to back Orban’s party that promised to wave a magic wand and make things right.

For those who think that a Grexit would solve Greece’s problems, it is worth mentioning that Hungary’s failure to be part of the Eurozone was no silver bullet as the NY Times reported in 2012:

Zoltan Zsoter, an 80-year-old retiree, would seem to be about as far from the world of currency speculation as a person can get. Yet he is an example of how the workings of the global financial system, amplified by the policies of a single political leader, can have a devastating effect on ordinary people.

Mr. Zsoter is one of hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who took out home loans that must be repaid in Swiss francs or other foreign currencies like the euro. Such loans offered seductively low interest rates when times were good. But then the Hungarian currency plunged, causing Mr. Zsoter’s monthly payment to almost double.

“I live day to day,” Mr. Zsoter said. After defaulting on his loan, he pays 40,000 forints, or about $163, out of his monthly pension of 51,000 forints to stay in his modest Budapest apartment as a renter. “Sometimes I have to choose between buying either food or medicine,” he said.

Hungary serves as a cautionary tale for those who argue that Greece could regain competitiveness by reintroducing its currency. The drachma would plunge against the euro, the theory goes, and allow Greek products to compete on price with countries like Turkey.

So if Viktor Orban is facing intractable economic problems, why not scapegoat Syrian refugees or the Roma who have been the target of persecution for a number of years now? And meanwhile, the left that admires Putin would have all the reasons to back Orban who after all is sticking it to the EU.

According to anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, our species homo sapiens has a tendency to think in terms of binary oppositions like life and death or good and evil. This would likely explain the eagerness for so much of the left to divide the world between those forces aligned with the West and those with the East. Like a plot out of a Tolkien novel, the Evil West is always seeking ways to destroy the Good East. Instead of elves with bows and arrow, we have people like Pablo Escobar, Mike Whitney and Eric Draitser rallying around the “axis of resistance” to the fire-breathing dragons of the West. And god help any decent folk in the East who managed to get on the wrong side of an elite in their neck of the woods. Everybody had to understand that it was their half of the world, love it or leave it.

Ironically, Hungary was a symbol of this binary opposition way of thinking in 1956 when the population rose up over Russian domination. In the same way that sections of the left make all sorts of excuses for Assad today, the CP justified the invasion of Hungary in order to “defend socialism”.

But in fact it was Russian tanks that created the animosity in Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Hungary that made it possible for George Soros, NATO, the CIA and the US State Department to get a foothold. By reinforcing bureaucratic rule in the name of “socialism”, ordinary people began to think positively of its opposite. In the most extreme example, Ukrainians regarded Stephen Bandera as a hero for opposing Soviet domination even if he was a fascist.

The bottom line is that the encroachment of NATO at the doorstep of Russia is a direct outcome of the encroachment of the Red Army on nations throughout Eastern Europe.

There was one Communist who was able to see through the lies. The Daily Worker, the British CP newspaper with the same name as the American paper, sent Peter Fryer to Hungary in 1956 fully expecting him to write articles that echoed the party line that Russia needed to quell a CIA-inspired plot. In other words, he was expected to write the same kind of crap that Max Ajl, Patrick Higgins and Adam Johnson are writing about Syria today. But Fryer obeyed his conscience rather than party bosses and filed reports that any radical journalist would be proud of. You can read Peter Fryer’s “Hungarian Tragedy” here. This excerpt shows that it doesn’t take much effort to see the similarities between Hungary in 1956 and the Arab Spring in Syria in 2011, no matter how it has been slandered in places like Jacobin, WSWS.org, MRZine and elsewhere:

But the crowds spoke also to me of their lives in this small industrial town, of the long years of grinding poverty, without hope of improvement, of their hatred and fear of the AVH [Hungarian secret police]. ‘I get 700 forints a month,’ said one. ‘I only get 600.’ said another. [1] They were ill-dressed, the women and girls doing their pathetic best to achieve some faint echo of elegance. They spoke to me about the AVH men. ‘They were beasts, brutes, animals who had sold themselves to the Russians.’ ‘They called themselves Hungarians and they mowed our people down without hesitation!’ ‘We shan’t leave a single one of those swine alive – you’ll see.’ They asked me what the West was doing to help, and some asked outright for arms. I for one do not regard these as counterrevolutionaries. If after eleven years the working people, goaded beyond bearing, look to the West for succour, whose fault is that? If the Americans are guilty of seeking to foster counter-revolution with the Mutual Security Act, surely the Rákosis and the Gerös are a hundred times more guilty for providing the soil in which seeds sown by the Americans could grow.

There was a general movement in the direction of the hospital, where an immense crowd had gathered, clamouring more and more insistently with every minute that passed for Stefko to be brought out to them. The German journalist and I were admitted into the hospital, where we met the director’s wife and a French-speaking woman who had volunteered to help with the nursing. It was here that I got for the first time reasonably accurate figures of the number of wounded. There had been about 80 wounded brought here, of whom eleven had died, and about 80 had been taken to the hospital at Györ. The need for plasma and other medicaments was desperate if lives were to be saved and so was the need, said the director’s wife, to end the tumult outside. A deputation from the revolutionary committee was interviewing her husband to demand that Stefko be handed to the people.

A few minutes later the director was forced to give in, and we saw a stretcher carried by four men appear out of a hut in the hospital grounds. On it lay Stefko, wearing a blue shirt. His legs were covered by a blanket. His head was bandaged. He was carried close enough to me for me to have touched him. He was fully conscious, and he knew quite well what was going to happen to him. His head turned wildly from side to side and there was spittle round his mouth. As the crowd saw the stretcher approaching they sent up a howl of derision and anger and hatred. They climbed the wire fence and spat at him and shouted ‘murderer’. They pushed with all their might at the double gates, burst them open and surged in. The stretcher was flung to the ground, and the crowd was upon Stefko, kicking and trampling. Relations of those he had murdered were, they told me, foremost in this lynching. It was soon over. They took the body and hanged it by the ankles for a short time from one of the trees in the Lenin Street. Ten minutes afterwards only a few people were left outside the hospital.

I wrote later in my first, unpublished, dispatch:

After eleven years the incessant mistakes of the Communist leaders, the brutality of the State Security Police, the widespread bureaucracy and mismanagement, the bungling, the arbitrary methods and the lies have led to total collapse. This was no counter-revolution, organised by fascists and reactionaries. It was the upsurge of a whole people, in which rank-and-file Communists took part, against a police dictatorship dressed up as a Socialist society – a police dictatorship backed up by Soviet armed might.

I am the first Communist journalist from abroad to visit Hungary since the revolution started. And I have no hesitation in placing the blame for these terrible events squarely on the shoulders of those who led the Hungarian Communist Party for eleven years – up to and including Ernö Gerö They turned what could have been the outstanding example of people’s democracy in Europe into a grisly caricature of Socialism. They reared and trained a secret police which tortured all – Communists as well as nonCommunists – who dared to open their mouths against injustices. It was a secret police which in these last few dreadful days turned its guns on the people whose defenders it was supposed to be.

I wrote this under the immediate impact of a most disturbing and shattering experience, but I do not withdraw one word of it. Much of the rest of the dispatch was never received in London because the call was cut off after twenty minutes, and the first ten had been taken up by three different people giving me contradictory instructions as to the ‘line’ I should take. Mick Bennett insisted on reading me a long extract from a resolution of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party. I had had enough of resolutions. I had seen where eleven years of terror and stupidity had led Hungary, and I wanted to tell the readers of the Daily Worker the plain unvarnished truth, however painful it might be. But the readers of the Daily Worker were not to be told the truth. The day after I had sent this dispatch they were reading only about ‘gangs of reactionaries’ who were ‘beating Communists to death in the streets’ of Budapest. The paper admitted in passing that ‘some reports claimed that only identified representatives of the former security police were being killed’. Next day Hungary disappeared altogether from the Daily Worker’s front page.


  1. Germany is making a big deal about accepting tens of thousands of refugees. That is not a big deal. Germany could accept 500.000 refugess without breaking a sweat. None the less the refugee problem that Europe faces is much more troubling than that faced by the USA and Canada.
    Europe is much more densely populated than North America. Europe is far more threatened by rises in the sea level than North America.
    Sure we can handle a lot more refugees now than what we have taken so far. But once they report back how good the life is here in Europe more refugees will want to come.
    The USA and Canada on the other hand have room not only for millions more immigrants the have room for hundreds of millions more immigrants. Of course that would be a bit of a problem if they all try to live the life of an American suburbanite. But if Amrica were to implement zonning for European type high density cities taking in 500 million people should be a piece of cake. Just in case you are unaware of it China is the same size as the USA and if the USA added 500 million people it still would not be as densely populated as China.
    Ergo the Germans should put all refugess that it does not grant asylum to, on to planes flying to the USA whether the USA likes it or not.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — September 14, 2015 @ 6:33 pm

  2. Hungary joined Nazi Germany in the invasion of the USSR. Whatever crimes or mistakes made by the Soviet Union in postwar Hungary, pale in comparison to the crimes committed by fascist Hungary. it’s not hard to imagine the kind of punishment Western powers would have inflicted upon Hungary if she had for instance attacked the US. They certainly would not have offered free health care, free education etc..

    Comment by Georges — September 14, 2015 @ 8:41 pm

  3. Georges, I know that you are probably too stupid to answer this but what evidence do you have that the 1956 revolt in Hungary sought to restore fascism? Imre Nagy was the Communist head of state in 1956 and executed for treason 2 years later. Do you think that the charges were credible? Here is something on his background from Wikipedia:

    Nagy (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈnɒɟ]) was born in Kaposvár, to a peasant family and was apprenticed to a locksmith. His father, József Nagy (1869–1925) was a manorial servant, a county worker, and was later post assembly worker, and his mother, Rozália Szabó (1877–1969) served as a maid before she was married. He enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I and served on the Eastern Front. He was taken prisoner in 1915. He became a member of the Russian Communist Party and joined the Red Army. Some historians claim that he might have been a member of the firing squad who executed the Tsar and his family in 1918, since one of the executioners was indeed named Imre Nagy.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 14, 2015 @ 8:52 pm

  4. I didn’t say they wanted to restore fascism because I did not address the question in any way. However, they probably wanted the treatment West Germany got: gradual rehabilitation and reintegration of elites within the the framework of a capitalist Europe overseen by NATO/US. I’m sure honest communists and ordinary workers rebelled, but only someone oblivious to political realities would think that the USSR would allow that to happen.

    Comment by Georges — September 14, 2015 @ 9:43 pm

  5. but only someone oblivious to political realities would think that the USSR would allow that to happen.

    Well, Lenin advocated the right of secession of Soviet Republics without prior conditions. I am for Lenin whatever you are for.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 14, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

  6. Hungary was more a defeated, occupied belligerent than a Soviet republic.The Soviets were trying to create a socialist state. It’s hard to say what Lenin would have thought; he didn’t live to see the horror of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Being a student of Clausewitz, I somehow doubt he would have acted differently. For what its worth, the Chinese communists supported the Soviets, and I believe Ho Chi Minh did too, although I’m not sure.

    Comment by Georges — September 14, 2015 @ 10:15 pm

  7. The Soviets were trying to create a socialist state.

    Really? Is that why they charged Imre Nagy with treason and executed him? A man who had been a Communist and worker his entire life? Because he was a secret fascist like Leon Trotsky trying to subvert socialism? Gee whiz. The things you can learn on the Internet.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 14, 2015 @ 10:21 pm

  8. Fine, have it your way if it makes you happy: they were trying create a degenerated bureaucratic state capitalist Asiatic absolutist Bonapartist Stalinist etc…etc…Whatever they were doing took away the property of a lot of wealthy people and they were pissed about it.

    Comment by Georges — September 14, 2015 @ 10:44 pm

  9. Why are you evading my question? What kind of socialism entails arresting Imre Nagy for treason and having him executed? Also, it was not rich people who constituted the bulk of the rebels but ordinary workers. You need to read Peter Dryer who was just by coincidence the reporter for the Communist Party of Great Britain’s newspaper.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 14, 2015 @ 10:56 pm

  10. They were building the kind of socialism that nationalized industries and estates,that had a policy of full employment, that provided free day care and education, that provided pensions for the elderly, that provided free health, that encouraged arts and sports. In 1956 it was incredibly difficult to provide the basics for the people of the Soviet Union, never mind meeting the needs of a former enemy state. The poor and working classes often do the fighting for the rich . The Soviet Army that crushed the counterrevolution was full of workers and peasants, commanded by veterans of the war, who fought on the right side, not like the Hungarians.

    Comment by Georges — September 14, 2015 @ 11:15 pm

  11. I see I am wasting my time asking for your opinion on Imre Nagy going on trial for treason and then being executed. Why are some people on the left so evasive? Oh, I know. It is because their ideology is full of crap.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 14, 2015 @ 11:26 pm

  12. Imre Nagy abandoned the pro Soviet forces to side with a counterrevolution. Maybe he thought he had good reason; maybe he thought he was being true to his communists ideals. But he lost. The Bolsheviks made plenty of mistakes, but allowing counterrevolution to benefit from their errors was not one of them . When it came time to crush the Kronstadt revolt, they did not flinch.

    Maybe, Lou you can answer something that has puzzled me about the Hungarian revolutionaries. Hungary was part of the Axis. Hitler trusted the Hungarians; they were considered so loyal that there were no German troops stationed in the country till 1944, and that was because of the deteriorating war situation. There were no uprisings against the fascists, the people never found the courage. And yet somehow they decided to revolt against the pro Soviet communists because of 11 years of misrule. Well only an intellect like Timothy Snyder could consider Soviet rule as being as cruel as the Nazis (unless there were crematoria during the Soviet regime that I haven’t heard of) , so what gives there ? Why this discrepancy ?

    Comment by Georges — September 15, 2015 @ 12:12 am

  13. “Imre Nagy abandoned the pro Soviet forces to side with a counterrevolution.”

    Wikipedia states that Imre Nagy’s New Course called for the following:

    Although certainly not radical, Imre Nagy’s “New Course,” introduced in 1954, promised an easing of social tension between co-operatives and the state. First, the compulsory deliveries were abolished, alleviating much stress for farmers. Second, the government devoted nearly one quarter of its national investment to agriculture and in just one year “more tractors were put into service than during the entire 1950-3 period.”[7]

    So what exactly is counterrevolutionary here? Or are you one of those people who think that opposition to what Stalin and his minions thought “revolutionary” is objectively counterrevolutionary? I have to admit that you do seem that way.

    In terms of Hungarian fascist inclinations, I have a different approach than you, largely influenced by my training in Marxism rather than Stalinist propaganda. Fascist rule in places like Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Hungary had the effect of pressurizing workers into following the regime. In fact, more or less the same thing happened under Stalin as ordinary workers probably agreed with the Kremlin that the Crimean Tatars had to be expelled from their homeland in order to defend socialism. That is the whole purpose of totalitarian regimes, to break the will or workers.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2015 @ 12:46 am

  14. You haven’t answered the question as to why there was a revolt against Stalinists but not against Fascists? Surely a regime that was involved in a murderous foreign war and sending Jews to gas chambers would have moved freedom loving people to repulsion and revolt, but nope, our Hungarian revolutionaries seemed pretty cool with things.

    I don’t know what your Nagy point is supposed to show. He had some program, so what? The people he threw his lot in started to kill communists, police, government officials etc…I guess if he figured the Soviets were going to hold back, he guessed wrong.

    By the way, you live in New York, so I’m sure you’ve met Hungarians who fled in 1956. Can you honestly say you met one who fled because the Workers Party was not interested in real socialism ? The ones I met were inevitably virulent anti-communists, racist russophobes and supporters of the US in Vietnam.

    Comment by Georges — September 15, 2015 @ 2:15 am

  15. I can see that I am dealing with someone who has little knowledge of Hungarian history. There was a bid for a proletarian revolution that was misled by Bela Kuhn in 1919. The botched attempt resulted in a rightwing “White Terror” that led to the left being driven from the country and Jews victimized. In some ways Hungary began to look like Chile under Pinochet. You might as well ask why there wasn’t a revolutionary struggle against Pinochet. When leftwing movements are badly beaten and when the participants are either killed or driven into exile, the movement loses its ability to mount counter-offensives. The monarchic rightwing state that emerged out of the defeat of the 1919 revolution was displaced by a Nazi puppet state. By that point, Hungary was in such a miserable state of fear and political atomization that it was fairly easy to serve Hitler’s goals. You obviously have an agenda in demonizing the disorganized and vulnerable Hungarian working class. Too bad that it is so transparent.

    In terms of Hungarians starting to “kill communists”, you obviously have the same inability to understand (or are simply lying) about Hungary as about Syria. When students in Budapest protested peacefully against state repression and other forms of bureaucratic misrule, the cops broke up their protests with bullets. It was the same sort of thing that happened in Mexico City in 1968. Apparently people like you give their blessings to Mexican students but not to those in Hungary or Syria because some idiot in the NY Times op-ed pages sides with Hungarians or Syrians. You need to read an article by Leon Trotsky titled “Learn to Think”. It was written for people like you.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2015 @ 12:32 pm

  16. “You haven’t answered the question as to why there was a revolt against Stalinists but not against Fascists? Surely a regime that was involved in a murderous foreign war and sending Jews to gas chambers would have moved freedom loving people to repulsion and revolt, but nope, our Hungarian revolutionaries seemed pretty cool with things.” Silly argument. The working class in Hungary was utterly terrororized by White Terror , first under Horthy, then under the nazis themselves. Under Stalinism, the working class was terrorized as well, but in 1954-56, the regime relaxed a bit and started reforms. Nagy became prime minister for his first term, Rakosi had to retreat. That is when workers regained a bit of confidence, space to move, freedom to breathe again.

    When the regime tried, during 1956, to end the reforms, pushed Nagy aside and put a Rakosi clone, Gero, in power, the genie of revolt had already left the bottle. Revolt usually does not come when terror is at its wordse. Revolt comes when a regime starts reform and repression becomes less all-encompassing.

    The passivity of workers under fascist rule has nothing to do with “Ḧungarian revolutionaries seeming very cool about things” . They werre simply too terrorized to move. Besides, many of the revolutionaries of 1956 consisted of young people. Did Georges expect toddlers and the unborn to revolt against nazi terror?

    Comment by Peter Storm — September 15, 2015 @ 1:23 pm

  17. The Hungarians were terrorized by the fascists, and so meekly submitted to Horthy! The Hungarians were terrorized by the fascists, so they sent their sons to slaughter Soviet citizens ! Well the Chinese were terrorized by the Japanese and the Guomindang, but they resisted and won; the Soviets were terrorized by the Nazis and their Hungarian allies,but they fought all the way to Berlin: the Vietnamese were terrorized by the Japanese,French, and Americans, but beat all three; Italy was terrorized by Mussolini but the communist partisan movement grew and grew.The Hungarians rebelled because a devastated Soviet Union could not provide them with the good life! Give me a break.

    Comment by Georges — September 15, 2015 @ 5:13 pm

  18. It is not a question of being “terrorized”. It is a question of living in a society that has suffered a brutal counter-revolution that leaves working class organizations in a state of disintegration. There were powerful revolutionary movements in Spain but after Franco’s triumph, Spain was quiet for decades. The same thing was true in Italy after Mussolini’s consolidation of fascist power and in Salazar’s Portugal. When Suharto overthrew Sukarno and killed a half-million Communists, Indonesia became as quiet as a tomb. This is what happens when the ultraright triumphs. You can’t imagine that the same thing happened in Hungary because you are a Stalinist hack and a pathetically uninformed one at that. “The Hungarians rebelled because a devastated Soviet Union could not provide them with the good life!” Maybe people got pissed off because the bureaucracy had the good life. If you think that socialism and social inequality go hand-in-hand, that’s completely understandable given your craven apologetics for a system that discredited the good name of socialism for an entire historic period.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

  19. Stupid Stalinist hack Georges dismisses the impact that this had on Hungarian society. 100,000 leftists were driven out of Hungary just as the Chilean left was driven out of Chile. But because Allende was friends with Fidel Castro and because he has an agenda of demonizing Hungarians who were sick and tired of bureaucratic oppression, he can’t make the connection.

    1919-1921 – Horthy’s White Terror

    A militantly anticommunist authoritarian government composed of military officers entered Budapest on the heels of the Romanians. A “white terror” ensued that led to the imprisonment, torture, and execution without trial of communists, socialists, Jews, leftist intellectuals, sympathizers with the Karolyi and Kun regimes, and others who threatened the traditional Hungarian political order that the officers sought to reestablish.

    After a lapse of almost eighty years suddenly the Magyar gentry was back in the seat of supreme power, unchallenged. It was a return with a vengeance – only too literally so. Their leader and standard bearer was Admiral Nicholas Horthy. A militantly anticommunist authoritarian government composed of military officers entered Budapest on the heels of the Romanians.

    The serfs paid their tithes and their taxes, worshipped God and the landlord, and bred and died like cattle. The aristocrats were absentees, mostly at the Vienna court, in whose atmosphere they were slowly denationalized. In the seventeenth century most of the great noble houses were reclaimed from Protestantism by Hapsburg counter-reformation. This fact accentuated the cleavage between them and the gentry, which remained Calvinist to a large extent. In contrast to the Austrianized nobles, the squirearchy preserved intact the old national customs and traditions, including a thorough contempt for the national language.

    These gentry lived in their manors a life of idleness tempered by a little husbandry, a good deal of hunting, eating and drinking, and peppered by occasional outbursts of rhetoric which they called politics. Upon culture they looked down as something alien and therefore detestable. They seduced pretty peasant girls and administered corporeal punishment to indignant peasant fathers. The gentry were in eternal opposition to the central government, which they denounced as alien oppression. This also was a convenient arrangement, as it afforded an excuse for dodging public service and for glorifying passive resistance and political ca’canny as patriotism. Even their “stiff-necked” Calvinism became by and by not so much a matter of religious fervor as a political tradition, a mode of teasing the Catholic court.

    The “white terror” led to the imprisonment, torture, and execution without trial of communists, socialists, Jews, leftist intellectuals, sympathizers with the Karolyi and Kun regimes, and others who threatened the traditional Hungarian political order that the officers sought to reestablish. Estimates placed the number of executions at approximately 5,000. In addition, about 75,000 people were jailed. In particular, the Hungarian right wing and the Romanian forces targeted Jews for retribution.

    Searching for and punishing Communists, the officers raided and plundered villages, outraged women, maltreated and killed Jews and whomever else incurred their displeasure. The brutality of the acts committed and the flimsiness of the excuses proffered surpasses belief. Old grudges were settled in a summary fashion. Years ago a distressed squire may have sold his harvest to a Jew for what he thought was a bad price. Now the squire came back, chief of a Communist-hunting squad ; he seized the Jew, hanged him and took his property. Or else an officer would see a Jew wearing a new suit of clothes. He would shoot the Jew and expropriate the suit. In several places the Catholic priests themselves tried to protect innocent Jews; they were hanged on the spot. Ultimately, the white terror forced nearly 100,000 people to leave the country, most of them socialists, intellectuals, and middle-class Jews.


    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2015 @ 5:25 pm

  20. But because Allende was friends with Fidel Castro and because he has an agenda of demonizing Hungarians who were sick and tired of bureaucratic oppression, he can’t make the connection.


    I’m not demonizing the Hungarians, their actions do that pretty well on their own, as your extract about Horthy shows. Your demonization of the Soviet Union is far more sickening that anything I’m attempting.

    Comment by Georges — September 15, 2015 @ 5:38 pm

  21. When you refer to demonizing the Soviet Union, you must be referring to my strenuous objection to tanks pouring into Hungary or Czechoslovakia to defend hated dictatorships. On his death bed, Lenin was writing sharp attacks on Stalin for his Great Russian chauvinism directed against member republics of the USSR like the Georgians. His fight reflected the real outlook of Marxism, not the creation of “buffer states” that imposed “socialism” by dint of the bayonet. When Stalin used CP’s in the West as bargaining chips at Yalta and Potsdam, he created 2 disasters. In the West, revolutions were aborted in France, Italy and Greece to placate Churchill and FDR while in the East the people who lived under the Stalinist yoke became susceptible to Western subversion. It was this fucked-up geopolitical arrangement that left the world in such a terrible state in the long run.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

  22. I wish that socialism had to come to Eastern Europe as a result of indigenous revolutions, but the war forced the Soviet Union to improvise. I guess you feel that the people of the Soviet Union should have been ready to endure more wars and suffering while waiting for “pure” socialism to emerge, but I’ll accept buffer states with “bayonet” socialism any day.

    The idea that Western Europe was ready for successful revolutions is ,in my opinion, fantasy. There were millions of well fed and equipped American, British and Canadian soldiers throughout the continent, the populace was exhausted, and the electoral strength of the strongest CPs was probably 20-30%. The Allies could have also easily used demobilized German troops. They could have bought off much of the population by just offering care packages.I don’t see how any armed rebellion (and it would have to have been armed) could have succeeded. So Stalin gave nothing away, because he was in no position to give anything.

    As for Soviet interventions in Eastern Europe, well if you think there is/was anything positive about the Prague Spring movement, Vaclav Havel, Solidarity, Gdansk shipyard strikes, Charter 77 etc… i guess it’s up to you explain how none of their extravagant dreams of a prosperous open eastern Europe never came true. It’s now a certified NATO cesspool.

    Comment by Georges — September 15, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

  23. I think my debate with Georges has gone as far as is necessary. His last comment reflects a profound pessimism about the possibilities of revolution in Western Europe. But even worse is his endorsement of “bayonet” socialism. Suffice it to say that Marx, Engels, Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky et al never advocated such measures. They believed that socialism could only come about through the self-aware and politically conscious efforts of the organized working class. When you impose “socialism” through bayonets, you end up with a prison house of nationalities that will cause endless problems both within its borders and for the Kremlin. The Marxism of the post-Stalinist era seems to have had little impact on Georges’s thinking. I would urge him to go to a library and look up copies of New Left Review, Socialist Register, New Politics, Socialism and Democracy because it is simply not worth my while to repeat the arguments made better within their pages about what was wrong with Stalinism.

    Signing off for now.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2015 @ 6:51 pm

  24. Unfortunately attitudes to refugees in Europe are generally of the sort you see in Hungary (Hungary is not a special case by any means). I would say the UK is as bad and the UK is not part of the axis of resistance. So another tenuous link in your mission to bring your puppets to power.

    I think the authoritarian leader of Russia, Mr Putin, is correct when he says that if the West had got rid of Assad when they wanted to the refugee problem would be even worse. And I think he is correct to lay the blame for this state of affairs squarely at the feet of US imperialism.

    If there is to be a revolution in Western Europe then Proyect can finally kiss goodbye to his puppets coming to power. You see the socialists in Western Europe generally don’t share your absolute faith in the power of the imperialist war mongering machine to bring about satisfactory conclusions.

    War is a product of the ruling class mentality, as you say with fascism, when workers are involved in war they are pressurized into fighting. So a revolution would see an immediate stop to the war mongering mentality. And if that wasn’t the case it wouldn’t be much of a revolution!

    A revolution really would be the worst thing that could happen for Mr Proyect, judging by all his propaganda output.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — September 15, 2015 @ 7:55 pm

  25. I would say the UK is as bad and the UK is not part of the axis of resistance.

    I think logic has escaped you. The axis of resistance is defined as friends of the Kremlin like you, Georges, Jobbik, Golden Dawn, Marine Le Pen, et al. One certainly understands that Viktor Orban might be forgiven for his bestial treatment of refugees since he is helping to defend the Soviet Union. Ooops, I meant Russia. So easy to mix the two social systems up when I am being swamped by Stalinist trolls.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2015 @ 8:02 pm

  26. Louis, et al. Check out DialogInternational.com, about German politics. It’s not at all a Marxist blog, but very liberal (as in pro-Obama). It regularly highlights the German right’s and left’s enthusiasm for Putin.
    Louis, this has nothing to do with the above topic, but I thought you’d be interested in this article from my hometown paper about the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s annual meeting, now being held in Keauhou.


    Comment by Poppa Zao — September 15, 2015 @ 10:27 pm

  27. “The axis of resistance is defined as friends of the Kremlin like you,”

    i am well aware of that and was being ironic (or possibly sarcastic!)

    My point is your attempt to link the axis of resistance with antipathy toward refugees is a tenuous piece of propaganda and doesn’t stand up to real scrutiny. It is not so much an argument as an act of desperation.

    Those who you consider outside the axis of resistance are just as anti refugee, and if they are not Syrian, especially so.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — September 16, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

  28. Louis if there is popular opposition to Assad why are there millions of Syrians running to here in Germany instead of joining the secular opposition.

    Cubans against Batista didn’t flee Cuba en masse when Castro launched his armed struggle – – they joined and supported him.

    This seems to be a battle between gangsters that workers and farmers want nothing to go with.

    Comment by Noel — September 16, 2015 @ 8:12 pm

  29. Maybe this will answer your question:

    There was nothing remotely like this in Cuba during the revolutionary war.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2015 @ 11:57 pm

  30. Poor argument. Batista killed 20,000 civilians in a country of a few million. America bombed Vietnam and Korea to dirt – – didn’t stop the revolts against them. Even in Cambodia those who escaped the killer Khmer Rouge did so to form an army of resistance and almost immediately poured back across the border to drive Pol Pot from power with Vietnamese help.

    These people we see here in Germany didn’t join any resistance, they don’t see anything for themselves in the fight, they just want to flee as far away as possible and never come back.

    Comment by Noel — September 17, 2015 @ 7:17 am

  31. I wonder how mutts can come to this blog and spout such rubbish with hardly any concern for intellectual rigor. Wikipedia, citing scholarly sources, says that there were 5,000 killed in the revolutionary struggle against Batista–that is combatants and civilians included. So let’s speculate not unreasonably that half were civilians. This means that you have increased the number of civilians killed by nearly a factor of ten. Where did you get that 20,000 figure from anyhow? The back of a Corn Flakes box?

    Comment by louisproyect — September 17, 2015 @ 11:18 am

  32. Louis, what do you think explains the focus of Counterpunch on views basically contradictory to yours? It would seem to me that Chomsky can be relied on to put all this into perspective. We are Americans. Our government is a serial criminal. We are responsible for out government’s policies. Isn’t that what should we be talking about? http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/17/rogue-states-and-diplomacy-a-conversation-with-noam-chomsky/

    Comment by David Green — September 17, 2015 @ 3:12 pm

  33. From Wikipedia: By the end of Batista’s rule, later described by U.S. President Kennedy as “one of the most bloody and repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression”,[38] many claim that up to 20,000 Cubans had been killed.[75][76][77]
    This figure likely includes the entire reign, beyond the revolution itself.

    Comment by David Green — September 17, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

  34. It is clear that counter-terror became the strategy of the Batista government. It has been estimated by some that as many as 20,000 civilians were killed.[64]


    64.Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives—A Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence Volume 2, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969, pg 582

    Comment by David Green — September 17, 2015 @ 6:45 pm

  35. Even based on the 20,000 figure, there is no comparison. There are roughly proportionately three times as many deaths in Syria over a four year period as there was in Cuba during decades of Batista’s rule. Plus, Batista never had an air force comparable to Syria’s that has turned vast stretches of the urban landscape into something resembling Stalingrad in 1943.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 17, 2015 @ 7:01 pm

  36. Now you change the game. My source was suspect until it was the same source that you use, then the source didn’t matter nor did the number which first was way too high and exaggerated and now is too low to compare with Syria.

    You’re right that there is no comparison. In Cuba, China, Cambodia and even Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan under total invasions from the most powerful military in world history a huge number of people joined popular armed resistance.

    In Syria the FSA has remained tiny and insignificant. Most people have hid out or run away. The few who have joined rebellions signed up with the bloodthirsty IS.

    I think we must examine why this is. Your answer seems to be “Assad has bombs” or “Obama isn’t helping” but those things could be applied to any of the above mentioned situations. Korea was bombed into rubble and the Pol Pot regime killed 20% of the population and totally destroyed the country, yet people fought back more than they ran away.

    Comment by Noel — September 18, 2015 @ 9:34 am

  37. By the way I am here in Germany meeting these people every day. You needn’t question my credentials or pass off your over the Internet analysis by Wikipedia as superior.

    Perhaps you should lobby your government to accept as many refugees as we had since Washington destabilized the Near East starting with Afghanistan in the 70s and leading up to the bombing of Libya which you seem to support!

    Comment by Noel — September 18, 2015 @ 9:36 am

  38. Noel, the FSA was nothing ever more than locally based militias using small arms, plus there was never a mass revolutionary movement in Syria like there was in Cuba or Vietnam. In Cuba there were opportunities to organize radical alternatives to the Batista dictatorship that included, for example, a student movement that became an important sector of the July 26th Movement. You have to remember that Fidel Castro started out as an electoral candidate for the Justicialist Party. People had open and public meetings where they could exchange ideas. By contrast, Syria was a totalitarian dungeon. With respect to Vietnam, there was a nationalist movement for the better part of a half-century that led to the formation of the Viet Minh. I understand that you are dismissive of the Syrian people. I only hope in your interaction with them in Germany, you can at least keep your shitty “revolutionary” pretensions to yourself. (Btw, I just looked up your IP address. You are in England, not in Germany.)

    Comment by louisproyect — September 18, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

  39. the sources provided in this thread are not primary – you’d need to follow the links to the sources and there judge the methodological validity of the numbers. “many claim” and “It has been estimated by some” are not sources – who are the ‘many’ and the ‘some’?

    Comment by jp — September 18, 2015 @ 2:03 pm

  40. I think the most important thing is to have a familiarity with both Cuban revolutionary history and what has taken place in Syria over the past four years. All you need to do is read Che’s memoir on the war against Batista to figure out that Cuba did not endure the level of wanton destruction and sectarian madness as Syria. The Assad dynasty had no counterpart in Cuba. Keep in mind that Batista had trade union and CP support in the 1930s and was compared to FDR, believe it or not. It had a lively political culture that was not that different from Mexico’s. Castro launched a revolution because of structural defects in the Cuban economy that left the countryside in desperate conditions.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 18, 2015 @ 2:10 pm

  41. Get a new IP tracker or whatever you use comrade. I’m in Germany on a LYCAMOBILE. I don’t even think they operate in England.

    I don’t dismiss the Syrian people. I question why they don’t fight instead of flee. Obviously they knew something the FSA didn’t?

    Comment by Noel — September 18, 2015 @ 3:30 pm

  42. You are a very exacting critic. It must make you feel superior to these cowardly Syrians. Can you send me your autograph to Box 321, Yorkville Station, NYC, NY, 10128? I will put it next to Roger Ebert’s in my scrapbook.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 18, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

  43. Louis, you should get involved with the Roger Ebert film festival here in Champaign/Urbana, which is in late April and is known as Ebertfest. You should recommend that they play some of his favorite documentary films, and then you should come to comment on them. Always big crowds, and they’d pay for your trip and lodging. We need an unrepentant Marxist around here once in a while.

    Comment by David Green — September 18, 2015 @ 4:20 pm

  44. According to Focus Magazine Germany is not being overrun by Syrian refugees.


    According to the report 22% of the Refugees are from Syria. More than 25% are from Albania and Kosovo which some people would consider one entity. Do I need to provide a link for that assertion? Then 10% total are from Iraq and Afghanistan. Another 15% come from other countries in the Balkans. That means 40% of the refugees who have so far this year sought asylum in Germany are from non EU European countries that are not even involved in a war. A figure for Ukrainians was not given in this report as you can plainly see.

    This tells me that many people are taking advantage of an opportunity to flee from countries with devestated economies rather than staying to redevelope or rebuild their countries. I certainly do not blame them. The results of such an effort are uncertian and lay in the future. Living a lower class Geman life could be seen by many as preferable to waiting for something that might not ever happen.

    This 22% figure of Syrian refugees may also be a sign that most Syrians who are capable of it are actually staying and fighting for their country.
    May the best side win. I propose a toast. To the best side in the Syrian Civil War.

    May the best side succeed with out any help from the US military industrianl complex. If the best side wants to start an NGO called the Lincoln Battalion and staff it with volunteers be my guest.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — September 18, 2015 @ 8:29 pm

  45. “Baathist Terror.” No need to read past the first sentence. This coupled with the excellent pat on the back to Soros albeit couched and the red herring Saudi 28 page rebuttal also couched with “the arabs did it,” yes I know they were really “Yemenized,” all wrapped in I was in Nicaragua therefore I got street cred along with the fairy tale that a certain Middle Eastern country does not support ISIS can leave one yet once again disappointed in their search for a provocative writer and thinker. Do I need to read the obligatory article(s) on Chomsky? Thanks, but I already got it. It’s just so sad.

    Oh, what happened to that young man that listened to that other young man with the the tire smoke wafting?

    Comment by raskolnikov paine — August 28, 2016 @ 4:06 am

  46. Well, I was in Nicaragua and you were probably in your parents’ basement writing this crap. Why is that every fucking troll uses a fake name? Because they are hiding the fact that they have never DONE anything political except write rants on someone’s blog. A search for your real name (Irving Shmendrick) would reveal the fact that you are work in your father’s real estate brokerage and that you are a political virgin in terms of activism. I guess that’s what the Internet has made possible. The New Yorker cartoon depicts a dog sitting at a computer telling another dog that nobody can tell if you are a dog on the Internet. The same thing applies to “revolutionaries” using “Paine” as a tag. Raskolnikov? The psychopathic killer in Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”? That’s more like it.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 28, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

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