New socialism for Hungary – A manifesto by Hungarian left-wingers

HFP’s readers may recall Szilárd Kalmár from earlier articles; he is the former President of the fledgling Left Party, a left-wing activist and by day a social worker in Budapest, reaching out to some of the most marginalized populations (especially Roma in the 8th District, as well as refugees and immigrants). A group of mainly young Hungarian left-wing activists, not affiliated with any of the major opposition parties, issued a manifesto for how they see the future of a more socially just Hungary and how they would like to prepare for the 2018 national elections. We are translating this manifesto for HFP’s English-speaking readers below.

Illustration: Mihály Bíró.

Illustration: Mihály Bíró.

The crisis of capitalism is becoming increasingly severe throughout the world. The unstoppable drive for profit has caused a seemingly irreversible social calamity for humankind, and an ecological catastrophe for the natural world. This system has become murderous in character and the younger generations are understandably dissatisfied. They are radicalizing and are searching for a new system to replace unsustainable capitalism.

Hungary stands out as a particularly intense example of this crisis, and of this sick economic and social order. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing to the West, in order to escape hopelessness at home, as they are unable to sustain a livelihood in Hungary. The majority of young Hungarians don’t even have a chance to obtain gainful employment, or to start a family. Even those who try to make a living from their modest salary are just barely getting by. There is an increase in the working poor. Our villages, which flourished a quarter century ago, are now becoming depopulated, or are turning into ghettos. Masses of people have lost their homes and many are adrift, living in inhumane conditions, living in underpasses or in decrepit shacks. It is fact, that over the past decades, we have witnessed a type of social genocide in Hungary.

Many of us have felt on our own skin, how capitalism really works and how rapidly it can sentence people, communities, neighbourhoods and even regions to death. All the while, those responsible for the economic collapse, the political and economic elites of the last quarter century, have used the crisis to relegate the majority of the country into ever deeper poverty.

The destruction of cooperatives, with the circus known as compensation, the mass shuttering of factories through privatization, the millions who have been tossed into a debt that will take a lifetime to repay and the large residential foreign currency loans are all about having a country where hopelessness rules. It is this that has made people indifferent to the corruption of politicians and their stooges, who rob the country blind of its remaining resources.

Many had hoped that membership in the European Union would help solve the ever deepening problems. But the deterioration and the rise in poverty has not slowed, but has rather increased in pace since joining the EU. The billions arriving from Brussels today disappear into the bottomless pockets of the political elite.

It is clear that we have reached a dead-end, and nobody has pointed to a clear and realistic way out. The government and its parliamentary opposition are throwing the people a bone, in order to deter their attention from the real problems and from finding solutions. It is not refugees travelling through Hungary en route to Germany that has made us a country of four million paupers. And being able to spend our modest savings on Sundays, thanks to opened stores and malls, will not improve our quality of life. The real problem is, in part, the inhumanity of capitalism, and also that a small political and economic elite has managed to gain unchecked powers. They have transferred billions to offshore tax havens. It is this elite that shamelessly manipulates the electoral system and individual voters, in order to retain power.

It is clear today, that we must find real solutions. We must confine our distorted capitalism within specific constraints, as it is in this capitalist system that a growing number of people are being labelled as redundant and are being forced to live in abject poverty. In Hungary, this is only possible if we first remove from power and also hold to account the political mafia, which has destroyed and enslaved this country. We have had enough of modern-day feudalism and of the Fidesz barons who rule entire regions. We need real change, but this can only come about if we fight simultaneously for democracy and for social progress–ultimately, for a new change in regime. We need a social and economic alternative, where the primary goal is to radically increase the social stability and guarantees of the majority. In order to achieve this, we must push back the financial system that is built on oppression. We must also put limits on personal wealth, we must make the accumulation private assets and property transparent and must provide cooperatives space to grow.

We are not afraid to declare that what we are fighting for is socialism. The is a social system which, using the achievements of capitalism, connects labour with ownership, as well as the producers with the tools of production. All of these were separated by the system based on capital.

We do not deny and distance ourselves from the positive achievements and values of the labour movement, both in Hungary and internationally. We are the proud heir of all political and social experiments that have aimed to achieve social progress through democratic or grassroots, revolutionary means.

Hungary needs a new system, where everyone is entitled to a basic, guaranteed income. Anyone should then be able to supplement this through gainful employment. Regular, on-going employment, a heated home, clean water, health care, education or the ability to have children cannot be the privilege of the wealthy. Decision-making and reaching out to the effected population cannot be relegated to a circus that is held once every four years. Democracy in the workplace, in the economy and locally is just as important as the democracy of political, public life. This is why we support democracy in production, local self-governance and the ability for workers and employees to keep institutions and companies accountable.

While today this may still appear utopian, we must aim for realistic and attainable change, in order to once again make social housing more available, to radically increase the wages of workers and to make public transit at first cheaper, and then ultimately free of charge. We must hand over lands recovered from corrupt transactions to newly-formed cooperatives.

These are not end-goals, but are important stops along the path to a more just world. We can already find the resources needed to reach these goals:

  • A progressive system of taxation
  • A decrease in the  goods and services tax
  • The taxation of luxury products and vehicles, large estates and major assets, as well as the taxation of major capital gains
  • Making the political and economic elites accountable
  • A renegotiation of debts that have been serviced, but not paid off in decades
  • The cancellation of the direct funding of churches
  • Ending corruption that has enveloped all
  • Decreasing spending labelled as being for the military or falsely presented as being for our  security, as well as removing ourselves from international military missions that have never solved crises; holding a referendum on continued NATO membership

Social progress in Hungary can only be imagined through sustainable development and by making environmental concerns a  central consideration. If we are to leave for future generations a livable planet, we must turn to sustainable energy, gradually replacing coal, natural gas, petroleum and atomic power.

Our movement is internationalist in perspective. Our comrades are coming out to the forefront in a growing number of areas around the world. They are declaring war against the oppressors and against the old political elite,  as well as against foolish nationalist propaganda. They bravely declare that the solution is New Socialism. Much like us, they too are fighting for equality between the sexes, in public as well as in private life, and in the workplace too. They are fighting for a diverse society, and the expansion of social and democratic rights. And they loudly reject sexism, racism and fascism, which aims to deter attention from the real problems.

We await all, who agree with what we have expressed in this manifesto and who wish to work to ensure that Hungary may finally move in the direction of a socially just and democratic social, political and economic system, which can bring about social well-being.

Endre Barát, Tibor Berta, Máté Ecser, Tibor Fogler, Ádám Galba-Deák, Szilárd Gulyás, Anna Hortobágyi, Szilárd Kalmár, László Nagy, Péter Róna, Attila Sólyom, Gábor Tamás, András Zollai

(Translated from Hungarian by: Christopher Adam)

10 Comments

  1. To the readers: The left wingers in Hungary are in minority. Hungary is doing good under Orban.

  2. The bullet points are OK, the other goals are pretty Utopian, but acceptable as guiding directions.
    The Communist slogans, however, are unnecessary.

    My impression is that these guys have skipped their modern history lessons.
    They don’t even mention people’s tribunes or trade unions or like. They might have studied the often abysmal failure of all sorts of “socialist”, “third way”, “people’s” and other economic systems. Might have learned about : the kibutz, Jugoslav worker’s councils, the Lybian people’s Congresses, etc. Might have studied North and South Korea, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, China and Deng Tsiao Ping, the roll back of the Swedish wellfare state, the decline if the US automakers, etc.
    I would specifically recommend Tomas Pickety’s Capital in the 21st Century.

    Once they see all these, they may start thinking again.o

  3. CAPITALISM IS A PRETTY BAD SYSTEM, BUT NOBODY HAS DISCOVERED ANY BETTER ONE!

  4. Avatar Charlie London says:

    The authors have conflated a ‘new world order’ with capitalism and a unique corrupt commocracy in Hungary.

    Just get ‘democracy’ right in Hungary first – with those bullet points.

    Then tackle your position in the EU.

    Then tackle a new world order.

    You can’t clean up the world with such a mess in your own back yard.

    I suggest you start your journey of a thousand miles with the single step of getting rid of Viktor Yanukovych-Orban.

  5. Avatar Robert Szucs says:

    And get who?
    Gyurcsany?

    • Absolutely agree.
      Gyurcsány or anyone, just bust this mafia sucking the blood of the nation dry.

  6. F*ck your socialism, there’s already 5 versions of it in the parliament
    ex-commie socialism
    liberal socialism
    progressive socialism
    corporate socialism
    national socialism

    How about trying the free market capitalism which died out on the planet a 100 years ago with the Federal Reserve Act.

  7. New? This is just a parody of 19th century socialism. What’s required is a total rethink of the project for the post modern condition. Not this silly kids’ stuff. It looks like they just did a high school course in politics.

    I too am a critic of neoliberlism. But from the right.

    These guys should read Paul Masons new left manifesto-type piece in The Gaurdian. It offers a fascinating vision. He is obviously well versed in 19th century political economy but uses this to say new and intresting things.

    Just a quick glance at the different graphics used to illustrate the pieces speaks volumes.

    The end of Capitalism has begun:
    http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun

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