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The Debt the World Owes Hungary

October 25, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

BUDAPEST – In 1956, Eastern Europe was unsettled. Joseph Stalin
had died and the Soviet Union was negotiating both a political
transition and a social transformation. Polish unrest had forced
the country’s communist overlords into liberal concessions
that were reluctantly ratified by Moscow. In July, the hardline
general secretary of Hungary’s Communist Party, Matyas
Rakosi, was ousted.

On October 23, some 20,000 students marched in Budapest,
demanding political reform. Along the way, their number swelled
tenfold. Protesters waved Hungarian flags from which they had cut
out the communist coat of arms. Marchers highlighted their demands
by tearing down the 82-foot Stalin monument, a “gift”
to the Hungarian people from five years before.

The protests set in motion a full-fledged revolution that
overthrew Hungary’s communist regime and triggered a brutal
Soviet military intervention. Thirty-three more years would pass
before Hungarians finally won their freedom.

They led Europe’s
liberation from communism. This month, the anniversary of their
revolution, we would be wise to remember.

This extraordinary history is captured by exhibits at the House
of Terror in Budapest, which commemorates Hungary’s suffering
under tyranny both right and left. The building housed the fascist
Arrow Cross Party and then the communist regime’s secret
police. Cells from those oppressive times are preserved in the
basement.

Like many of its neighbors, Hungary’s agony was rooted in
the end of World War I. The Austro-Hungarian Empire fell along with
the German and Russian monarchies. An independent state of Hungary
emerged from the ruins, but lost much of its territory, primarily
to Romania, under the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. Brief social
democratic rule was followed by a disastrous Soviet-style
“republic” and then semi-fascist rule under Miklos
Horthy.

Seeking to reclaim lost territory, Horthy joined the Axis and
Nazi Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union. Yet by 1943, he
was seeking a way out. Horthy was ousted the following year by his
erstwhile allies; the country would suffer next under the Arrow
Cross Party, modeled after the Nazis, until the Soviets conquered
Hungary. Although the fascists were in power little more than five
months, thousands were murdered and tens of thousands were deported
during that time.

After the war, many Hungarians effortlessly moved from fascism
to communism, a process represented in the House of Terror’s
“Change Room,” in which the party uniforms are
displayed back to back. The Hungarian people voted against the
communists, but the Red Army ensured the party’s ultimate
triumph. Rakosi took power in 1949. Tens of thousands were arrested
and hundreds of thousands sent to the Soviet gulag before
destalinization after the Soviet dictator’s death ended
Rakosi’s reign.

His successor, Erno Gero, rejected the demands of liberal
demonstrators and called for …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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