Saturday, May 01, 2010

Éljen május elseje!


video: szolnokinaplo

A very happy May Day!

To mark the occasion here’s some great footage of the 1970 May Day parade from Szolnok in Hungary. Watching it, and hearing from my wife Zsuzsanna, about how much people enjoyed these socialist-era May Day parades and the spirit of camaraderie they engendered, I am reminded of that wonderful old One Nation Tory Sir Ian Gilmour’s views about neoliberalism.

economic liberalism, a la Professor Hayek, because of its starkness and its failure to create a sense of community, is not a safeguard of political freedom but a threat to it...'

Dave Cameron, who next week may well become British Prime Minister, can talk all he likes about building a ‘Big Society’ in Britain, but so long as we cling to an ultra-competitive, dog-eat-dog capitalist system, we can only expect further atomisation and social unrest. The neoliberal economic order which all three of our main parties support, doesn’t build solidarity or a sense of community- it destroys it as it puts profits before people and encourages us to see other human beings as rivals, not comrades. And we are all the poorer for it.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's a mixed feeling to see the 1970 May Day celebration in Hungary... I lived there then, and hated the compulsory "procession"... On the other hand, I was young, just a teenager, so watching this today can still revoke some nostalgic feelings...

Mr. Piccolo said...

Wonderful post! I can't add anything here since Mr. Clark's post is pretty much perfect so I will just say Happy May Day to everyone out there!

Krakow's New Dragons said...

The word is probably "Ostalgic" and though Hungary was the "merriest barracks in the camp" the brutal repression of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 which perpetuated nationalist versions of authoritarian communism ensured that these parades had an edge of what Milan Kundera called "totalitarian kitsch" about them.

Those who rose up in 1956 against the violent regime of Rakosi were mostly democratic socialists and they had 12 days of liberty which were harking back to the liberation struggles of 1848. The presence of a fringe minority of fascists in the rising so valued by the repulsive David Irving should not blind people to the fact that freedom was snuffed out in 56.

The retrospective Ostalgia for Communism in Hungary needs explanation and not just the usual condemnation that some people value security over freedom. The 1956 Revolutionaries wanted both but the Soviet Union would not have it.

The Stalinist period in Hungary was truly dreadful with people living in fear of AVO. During the Krushchev Thaw after Stalin's death, there was the belief that 'reform communism' could prevail, what was later in Czechoslovakia called "socialism with a human face".

The Revolution of 1956 was a workers and intellectuals revolution, with students from the Petofi Circle demanding that Rakosi go and new leaders who did not treat Hungary as part of the Soviet Union's Empire be installed.

Even the armed forces rebelled and Imre Nagy wanted withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact signed in 1955. Hungary had been treated as a defeated nation due to the Arrow Cross's activities.

Yet it is forgotten that the Staninists were quite happy to bribe Arrow Cross Fascists to become part of AVO: many torturers at utca Andrassy
60 were former Arrow Cross.

Enforced collectivisation was never wanted. Now it's true that conditions did improve after 56 as Kadar, regarded as the Judas of Hungary, was given special preference by Moscow with cheaper oil and managers were given more freedom and materian incentives increased.

A New Economic Mechanism was introduced whereby elements of a market economy were introduced and living standards did rise, as did social care and Kadar allowed for individual enterprises and a limited freedom of the press.

Compared to the bleak interwar period of the 1930s Hungarians had never had it so good as Balaton became atrendy holiday spot and camping and swimming became popular leisure activities.

Krakow's New Dragons said...

he question was by the end of Communist rule not just one of political freedom, which is still and essential prerequisite of a free society, but why careerist politicians had to chose the neoliberal model.

It is a pity that Hungary could not have just left the Comecon and the Eastern Bloc after 56. Like Austria it could have flourished even better... See More and the sad thing about the moment when liberation from Moscow came is that the best period of capitalism with its social provisions had already come to an end.

What needs to be stressed is that neoliberal dogma in many ways , as imposed by Bokros, was Market Bolshevism, retaining the globalist aspirations of Communism through international capitalism and rapacious asset stripping and insider dealing.

Dissidents like Gabor Demsky turned out to be a wash out and Gyogy Konrad has even been called by Tony Judt a medocrity whose only claim to fame was his self presentational pose as a freedom fighter who didn't right particularly much of enduring interest,

By 1990 the Leninist idea of there being no alternative than what the Party decided yielded to the idea that leftist parties ought to serve global corporations from elsewhere and not put those who had wanted economic AND political freedom first.

The scale of the betrayal was epitomised when Gyurscany admitted he had "lied morning noon and night" about the debt fuelled economy just to get re-elected.Those with historical memories remember similar culture of political lying at the time of the 56 Revolution.

The crude economic determinism abs subjection of Hungary to uncontrollable forces and the political lack or real choice is a continuity with early Utopian Leninism not an alternative where the people could decide.

Only the commissars could do that. They knew what the people really wanted in accordance with idea that, as with Communist propaganda, admass capitalism was simply more effective as a brainwashing project detaching people from their history and culture.

Anonymous said...

When is Zsuzsanna Clark's "Goulash and Solidarity" going to be published?

Neil Clark said...

Mr Piccolo, many thanks.
Karl- good to hear from you. Demsky actually criticised Kadarism from an ultra-leftist, Maoist position, he's now a fanatical globalist and believer in capitalism as well as being an extreme social liberal. In short, he's always been an extremist. I would say that you need to differentiate between the principled Kadarists- who went on to form the Munkaspart after the events of 1989, and the cynical careerists like Gyurcsany, who turned the MSZP into a neoliberal clone of New Labour.

Neil Clark said...

anonymous: shortly- thanks for query. if you send in your name and postal address, we'll make sure you're put on the mailing list.

vladmir gagc said...

If I could sadly add that in the US, May Day, a world wide celebration of worker's rights (the most important and basic civil right), has been stolen by open border extremists who want to convince ordinary Americans that cheap, illegal labor under dangerous conditions is a good idea. Arizona's new SB 1070 law, which these open border extremists hate, is about providing a decent, livable wage for working Americans. Thus, it's no wonder the establishment news media and business elite hate it. It's absolutely not true Americans are unwilling to do the backbreaking work illegals do; Americans expect to earn a decent wage under decent working conditions, which are things the illegal workers can't demand.

Mr. Piccolo said...

@Mr. Clark,

Thank you. And I would like to say I am also interested in Mrs. Clark's book "Goulash and Solidarity." I read an article by Mrs. Clark about her life growing up in Hungary and I thought it was very interesting. Usually in the West you only hear about the bad aspects of communism while the media glosses over the terrible impact of neoliberal shock therapy.

@Mr. Gagic,

I agree with you 100%. In the U.S., if you say you are anti-immigration people just assume you are a racist, but a person can make a perfectly logical argument against open borders from a pro-worker standpoint.

Also, the media in the U.S. rarely talks about why immigrants from places like Mexico are so eager to cross the border. For example, there isn't a lot of discussion about how free trade allowed subsidized American Big Agriculture to dump cheap agricultural products onto the Mexican market, ruining many of the small Mexican farmers, prompting them to either go work in the maquiladoras or try to find work in the United States.