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Mass protests over 'lies speech'
HUNGARIAN POLICE used tear gas and water cannon against thousands of protesters in Budapest, on 18 September after a rally demanding Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's resignation. It had been revealed that his government lied during last April's general elections. Protesters were prevented from handing in a petition at the state television building, youths stormed the offices. Hundreds of protesters were injured.
Hungarian radio played a tape of the prime minister's speech to his 'Socialist Party' members, made weeks after his governing coalition won the elections. Gyurcsany said harsh economic 'reforms' are needed. "There is not much choice... because we screwed up. Not a little, a lot. No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have. Evidently, we lied throughout the last two years".
Politically aware workers and young people know that capitalist politicians, like Gyurcsany, lie routinely. But to hear it publicly from the prime minister reveals the complete disdain in which the ruling elite hold working people.
There were immediate protests. Demonstrations were already planned against government cuts. Gyurcsany aims to limit the budget deficit to 10.1% of GDP and announced unpopular spending and unemployment cuts, as well as higher taxes and direct fees for health services and university tuition.
Popular outrage forced him to go on TV and claim the "lies" he referred to were by those politicians who told the people they could have "happiness as a gift".
However, when the old Stalinist regime collapsed, pro-capitalist politicians sold Hungarians the lie that the profit-driven market economy would transform living standards for the majority. After a decade of capitalist policies, gross national income per capita is only US $10,030, joblessness is high and welfare services massively deteriorated.
Following last April's election victory of the 'Socialists', (the misnamed party that developed out of the old ruling communist party), Gyurcsany's severe 'austerity measures' led to the coalition's support plummeting.
For the ruling elite, however, the last capitalist decade was a bonanza. Gyurcsany is a typical greedy, ruthless 'establishment' figure, a former communist youth leader who became a millionaire through buying state assets after privatisation following the fall of the Stalinist system. Gyurcsany unveiled plans to cut public-sector jobs and raise taxes, ahead of euro-zone membership in 2010.
The Hungarian government was hailed as a 'model', a 'Blairite' East European regime. But Hungary's opposition parties also follow capitalist policies and would not be fundamentally different to the present coalition government.
The days of street demonstrations led many people to draw comparisons with the uprising against Stalinist rule in October 1956. The new generation should learn the lessons of the heroic workers and youth, who in 1956, fought to overthrow the rotten bureaucratic elite and fought for a workers' solution to society's problems before Red Army forces cruelly crushed the revolution.
After Stalinist suppression, the ruling elite introduced aspects of the market economy, to try to stabilise its rule and to boost the economy. But only genuine workers' control and management of the planned economy could have transformed workers' lives.
Capitalist restoration was a disaster for workers, with half of Hungary's economic enterprises privatised within four years, leading to mass unemployment and a dizzying fall in living standards.
Now Hungarian working people are asked to, once again, suffer more "austerity measures" with massive cuts as the entrance fee to EU membership and 'eventual' Euro-zone membership. But for Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and other former Stalinist states, the EU club has meant widespread cuts and shipping off their youth to Western Europe as cheap labour, while living conditions at home remain miserable.
Ultra-nationalist sentiments were on display amongst some Hungarian workers and youth protesting against outside the TV studios. Sections of the ruling elite regularly whip up Hungarian nationalist moods.
But nationalism and obscurantist reactionary ideas will bring no solution and must be rejected. Through mass struggles, and a studying of past heroic workers' struggles, like 1956, working people in Hungary will draw far-reaching conclusions and fight to change society.
This entails building genuine, independent workers' organisations, such as combative trade unions, and a real political alternative; a mass workers' party, with a bold socialist programme.
In The Socialist 28 September 2006:
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