The Kadar Regime

by Shauna Mulcahy







                   Janos Kadar was a very influential leader in Hungarian politics in the 20th century.  He was a non-Stalinist and dedicated long-time Communist functionary whose leadership helped Hungarians live freer and better lives than citizens of other Soviet bloc countries.  His powerful reign as Premier began after the Revolution of 1956 which altered the government and society of Hungary violently and rapidly.

         The dynamic force behind the 1956 Revolution was a student rally in Budapest on October 23 in support of Polish efforts to win autonomy from the Soviet Union.  These rallies, in turn, sparked multiple mass demonstrations.  The Soviet officials in Budapest summoned the future Prime Minister Imre Nagy to speak to the crowds but the violence continued.  This led to the deployment of Soviet troops into Budapest on October 24, which pushed enraged Hungarians into battle.  It is at this time that Janos Kadar enters the picture by becoming the new party first secretary under Prime Minister Nagy.


         Nagy formed a new government consisting of both communists and non-communists and began negotiating with Soviet officials on the prospect of the removal of their troops from Hungary.  An agreement was reached with the Soviet Union, but Nagy soon learned that more Soviet troops were moving into Hungary.  In response, Nagy announced Hungary’s decision to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and declare Hungary neutral.  He appealed to Western powers but they were so caught up in their own crises, they did not respond.  (Keylor, 295)

A quick strike against Hungary was then pursued by the Soviets on November 3.  At this time, Kadar, who had fled to the Soviet Union on November 2, assembled the Temporary Revolutionary Government of Hungary just across the border on Soviet territory.  On November 4 at 5:05 am, Kadar broadcasted through the facilities of the Soviet army’s radio the formation of the Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government and the program of this new government, led by Premier Janos Kadar.  He then returned to Hungary in a Soviet armored car, just as Nagy fled to the Yugoslav embassy, and 200,000 Hungarians escaped to the West.  (Felkay, 87)


The program of the new government, called Kadar’s fifteen-point program,  was as follows:
-         To secure our national independence and our country’s sovereignty
-         To protect our people’s democratic and socialist system against all attacks

-         To end fratricidal fighting and to restore internal order

-         To establish close fraternal relations with every socialist
country on the basis of complete equality and non-interference
-         Peaceful cooperation with every country, irrespective of its social order and form of government
-         To raise quickly and substantially the standard of living, in particular that of the working class
-         The modification of the Five Year Plan, changing the methods of economic management, taking into consideration the capacity of the country, so that the standard of living may be raised as quickly as possible
-         The elimination of bureaucracy and broadening of democracy in the interest of workers

-         On the basis of the broadened democracy, management by the workers must be implemented in factories and enterprises

-         To develop agricultural production, abolish compulsory deliveries and grant assistance to individual farmers
-         To guarantee democratic elections in hitherto existing administrative bodies and the Revolutionary Councils
-         Support for retail trade and artisans

-         Systematic development of Hungarian national culture in the spirit of our progressive traditions

-         The Hungarian Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government, acting in the interest of our people, requested the Soviet Army Command to help our nation smash the sinister forces of the reaction and restore order and calm in the country

-         After the restoration of peace and order, the Hungarian government will begin negotiations with the Soviet
government and with the other participants of the Warsaw Treaty about the withdrawl of Soviet troops from Hungary  (Felkay, 87-88)


In first few weeks of his regime, Kadar made many promises to the people of Hungary through his fifteen point program.  It is also important to state that his program was very much in line with the demands of the people before the uprising that led to the 1956 Revolution.  Point fourteen, however, was not accepted by the Hungarians.  Throughout Hungary there was overwhelming support for the anti-Soviet uprising and this point in the program made it obvious that Kadar was speaking in the interest of the Soviet Union and giving legitimacy to their invasion.  It was at this time that the people of Hungary realized that Kadar was the new mouthpiece of the Soviet Union.  (Felkay, 89)

The larger hopes of the Hungarians were dashed also when representatives of East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and most importantly the Soviet Union, conferred with those of Hungary in Budapest in the year 1957.  A new program was issued through these meetings that stated Hungary was a dictatorship of the proletariat, which relied on the Soviet Union and Soviet bloc in foreign policy.  It went further to state that the Soviet garrison was in Hungary to protect the nation from imperialist aggression. (Britannica Online, <…>)  This showed how Kadar went to great pains to secure Hungary’s relationship with the Soviet Union and therefore cause no uneasiness over Hungary’s loyalty to the Soviet bloc.  


  The goal of the Hungarians for sovereignty from the Soviet Union in the post-war era was lost under the leadership of Kadar, but nevertheless, conditions within the country changed for the better during the Kadar regime.  Kadar erected the principle that “he who is not against us is with us” which meant that “ordinary people could go about their business without fear of molestation or even much surveillance and could speak, read, and even write with reasonable freedom.” (Britannica Online, <…>)  The standard of living in Hungary began to rise substantially due to many new cooperatives and policies enacted through the Kadar regime.  These include more scope allowed to private small-scale enterprise in trade and industry and the creation of the New Economic Mechanism (NEM), initiated in 1968, which introduced the profit motive into state-directed enterprises.  Also, “agricultural cooperatives were allowed to produce industrial goods for their own use or to sell on demand, while the private plots of their members supplied a large proportion of fruits and vegetables for the rest of the population.” (Britannica Online, <…>)  Contact with the West was also largely encouraged through slightly relaxing travel restrictions, though passports valid for more than one specific journey abroad, to the West, were in general not issued until 1988. Therefore, during the post-war period, Hungary was nicknamed “the most cheerful prison block behind the Iron Curtain.”  (The Last 75 Years, <www.users.zetnet…>) 

Up until Kadar’s loss of power in 1988, Hungary was recovering very well economically.  Tourism developed as a significant industry and with the large influx of foreign visitors, particularly from the United States, Canada, and western Europe, income from tourism increased dramatically.  The NEM, however, was only partially successful during its two decades of life.  Productivity failed to increase as much as expected, government restrictions remained in many areas, and the economy remained geared to Soviet-led policies.  (Britannica Online, <…>)


In conclusion, it can clearly be seen that the Kadar regime greatly helped the nation of Hungary.  Kadar put Hungary on the right track toward social and economic regorm.  Today, half of all Western investment in Central and Eastern Europe is in Hungary – and half of that is US investment.  Hungary is also leading Central and Eastern Europe toward democratization, but still faces many severe economic problems on the way there.  (Hungarian History, <…>)










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