on the World today
HUNGARY is in the grip of a terror perhaps unequaled in any of the other Soviet satellites. The Premier is a Conservative., not a Communist. But Istvan Dobi of the Small Landholders Party is merely a convenient fron for Deputy Premier Matyas Rakosi, who runs the counin as a one-man show. Kakosi comes from a fairly well-to-do smalltown middle-class family; he turned comnumist while a prisoner of war in Russia during World War I; he later met and deeply impressed Lenin, who became his powerful protector. Rakosi was sent to the Central Party office at Moscow, had a prominent part in Bela Kun’s short-lived dictatorship of 1919, acquired Soviet citizenship, and has remained the Kremlin’s top man for Hungary ever since.
But he likes to operate from behind the scene, though there is no doubt as to his dominant position in the country. He has used his power mercilessly and the unmasked brutality of his regime has aroused world public opinion in recent months as details of mass deportations from the capital of Budapest have become known outside the country.
Either late at night or early in the morning people are notified that they have to report to a railroad station within a few hours. They are never given more than a day. Most of their belongings except hand luggage has to be left behind and is confiscated by the government.
The luckier ones among the deportees are then taken to small villages far off in the country and “boarded” with farmers. This means that the farmer has to house and feed them. Conditions on small Hungarian farms being what they are, the newcomers are put in stables, barns, tents, windowless lean-tos without heat or light, and even compelled to camp out in the open regardless of the weather. Most farmers are very sympathetic but they are fighting a desperate struggle against the communist regime themselves.
Even less fortunate are deportees who are shipped to forced-labor camps; there is practically no hope for those who are being taken to slave labor camps in the Soviet Union. The treatment is universally brutal and no regard is paid to sex, age, or health. One famous deportee is known to be the 102-yearold mother of a former Mayor of Budapest; another is a woman in her seventies, the widow of former Prime Minister Count Stephen Bethlen. Made to work in the fields she collapsed, was dressed in rags and “employed’ as a scarecrow".
There are no reliable statistics on the number of deportees. Last August, the Hungarian Communist Party newspaper Szabad Nep tried to brush off the deportations as a minor reckoning with fascists and reactionaries. “We are now deporting,”wrote the paper, “aristocrats, bankers, and gendarmerie officers as hazards to our public order, while strictly observing humanitarian considerations.”It gave the number of such deportees as 4281.
Exterminate the middle class
The truth of the matter is that several hundred thousand former political opponents and aristocrats had been deported to the U.S.S.R. up to a year ago. Fascists and reactionaries have been pretty well wiped out. The present wave of deportation started last May. It has swept away at least 70,000 men, women, and children. Most of the victims were politically nondescript; about one third of them were Jews. But the move is not a pogrom even though there have been outbursts of anti-Semitism here and there. (Incidentally, Dictator Rakosi is Jewish himself, and so are other prominent members of his Cabinet.)
Perhaps there are several motives for this latest example of Communist barbarism. The most obvious purpose behind it is the dislocation, dispossession, and eventual extermination of the middle class, who constitute the country’s intelligentsia.
Rakosi, who comes from that group himself, knows only too well that it provides the only pool of potential leaders of a democratic movement. Besides, the regime has been anxious for some time to reduce the housing and feeding difficulties in the capital. Severe restrictions have been imposed in order to keep away permanent or even temporary new residents. Deportations of those city-dwellers also accomplishes other purposes: it puts another burden on the haled farmers, who have to feed the newcomers, and it provides faltering slave labor in agriculture and industry.
Finally, it permits expropriation of upper and middle class art treasures, which are offered for sale abroad. the regime sells only for hard currencies and expects to “earn” about 60 million dollars, a pretty substantial amount fora small, poor country like Hungary. This amount is about equal to the so-called Peace Loan floated in 1950.
The State Loan
The cynicism and tightness of this totalitarian dictatorship were revealed appallingly in the 1950 and 1951 State Loan drives. The minimum expected of every worker and employee was the equiv - alent of a full month s wages, to be paid in twelve installments over a period of a year. The amounts are taken out of his pay envelope. The final installment on the 1950 loan was due last September.
The new loan drive began in the same month, with the first deduction coming in October. In other words, workers and employees have been made to pay an extra pay-as-you-go tax of 12 per cent and more. Farmers have to sign up for 25 per cent of their cash returns, payable in full before the end of the calendar year, and businessmen had only until November to pay up in full.
On top of this loan, employees lose about 7 per cent of their income at the source for various similarly “voluntary" contributions, Party membership dues, and subscription fees for compulsory publications. No wonder luxuries are unobtainable for all except a small elite.
Prices are so high most people have been reduced to a minimum diet in a country which used to be famous for its abundance of food. A worker’s monthly income, before loan and other deductions, would buy 60 pounds of pork or 30 pounds of butter. In other words, it has the purchasing power of roughly $30 in the U.S.
The hardship hits everywhere. Coal, wood, and oil have become precious. Central healing in apartment houses or offices must not be turned on unless the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and not before 11 a.m. or after 9 P.M. Out in the villages kerosene is strictly rationed and frequent unavailable even for coupon holders.
The leaders of the regime have produced various and contradictory explanations of those shortages of food and consumers’ goods. In recent months, however, they have more and more openly blamed workers and farmers.
Discipline for the worker
Deputy Premier Rakosi assailed coal miners at Tatabanya for falling “20,000 carloads short of their goal. The mining industry, he said, was 10 per cent behind schedule. Then he made1 some rather pertinent revelations. “We have not,” he said, “dealt with the problem of work discipline with the gravity it deserves. . . . Up to now our comrades and Party officials in the mines and outside them have only tackled it reluctantly and with kid gloves.
They were afraid of becoming unpopular if they raised the problem of undisciplined workers who interfere with production. . . . Idlers and loafers and lazy people must be automatically branded.
The managing director, the chief engineer, and the foreman are all personally responsible. . . . We grant them the necessary authority to turn the system of individual management into reality.”
A front-page editorial in Szabad Nep said of labor conditions, “Absenteeism is on the increase ... at present the number of absentees is double that of a year ago. . . . The number of workers drawing sickness benefits is growing steadily because sickness benefit fraud is becoming a frequent practice.“ In many mines the real working time is only six instead of eight hours a day, the Communist. Party newspaper complained.
The farmer’s failure
Terror and force have not much success in agriculture either. Only 20 per cent of the arable land and about 200,000 families belong to the 4200 farm collectives in a largely agricultural country of more than 9 million people. Production failures—obvious in the poorly supplied stores — had to be admitted.
Imre Nagy, Minister of Food, disclosed that grain and animal production on state-owned farms is below the national average: even the best among them do not exceed production of the average peasant holding. They have fallen 25 per cent short of schedule while spending much more money than was foreseen in their budget. Minister Nagy concluded : “The State Farms have not delivered enough foodst uff to towns and villages and have failed to make sufficient use of the means at their disposal. With very few exceptions state-owned farms do not pay their way.”
In agriculture− unlike industry — there is a scapegoat on whom failures can be blamed, the “kulak.” ‘That term can be stretched to cover anybody from the onetime big landlord to the small farmer who refuses to give up his plot and join a collective.
“Our beloved MOSCUOW”
The regime sees only one way out of the growing difficulties: more pressure, more terror, and closer emulation of the Soviet example. Sovietization is being pushed not only in the army, legislation, and administration but in every phase of life.
A few weeks ago, for example, Szabad Nep solemnly declared: “We are striving to follow the Soviet example even in the construction of [subway] stations. The pattern we follow is not the dirty, dark, ugly entrances and stations and the uncomfortable equipment of the subways in Paris, London, and New York. Our subway system is not the pattern of the Capitalist world, our pattern is the Métro of our beloved Moscow .”
Magyar Nemzet reports that the most favored toy of the year is called “Tower of the Kremlin,”a set of colored bricks which, if put together in the proper way, will build a miniature model of “the residence of the Great Stalin.”
The Party is determined to cut the nation off from any outside influence and press it into the mold of the Soviet pattern. Lately they have borrowed a trick from the late Dr. Goebbels in order to present people from listening to foreign radio stations. Goebbels introduced the telephone radio, where the set is hooked up with the telephone and can receive only what is piped in from a central station. Szabad Nep put it this way: “The popularity of telephonic broadcasting is rapidly growing among the peasants on collective farms.“
A tight grip on the Churcth
An important victory in this struggle for the mind of the people was achieved with the Communist dictatorship’s triumph over the Catholic Church, which has the devoted allegiance of almost two thirds of the nation. Since the show trials against Cardinal Mindszenly, who was given a life term in 1949, and his successor Archbishop Groesz, who was sent to jail for fifteen years last summer, the regime has achieved its purpose at least on paper. The Hungarian Catholic clergy is cut off from Rome; it cannot communicate with its congregations without permission from the local communist boss; Church appointments require approval by the government; the Church itself is forced to prosecute in special courts any clergyman who dares criticize the dictatorship.
In this as in many other instances the Hungarian Communist regime has attained a tighter grip on its unfortunate subjects and more ruthlessly suppressed all opposition than perhaps any other Soviet satellite state. The only escape routes are across the mine-studded barbed-wire enclosures along the Austrian frontier — or suicide. ‘Thousands chose the first during the past year. Some succeeded, many failed; they were killed either by mines or by border guards.
There are no reliable statistics on the number of people who preferred death to life in the communist state. But conservative observers put the number of suicides at roughly 25,000 for the past year. ‘This gloomy report may well be borne out by a recent decree of the Budapest Town Council, which forbids funeral corteges through main streets and permits bodies to be taken to cemeteries only between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M. Communist rulers can ban the procession of hearses from the streets of Budapest, in daylight. But how will they ban the grim testimony of those who find safety and peace only in the grave?