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Competing claims for ’56

October 24th, 2014

On the 58th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution, commentators tend to claim the sole inheritance of the revolution for their own political families and deem the opposing side unworthy of the memory of the anti-Soviet uprising.

In Népszabadság, Sándor Révész compares the benevolence shown by the public towards the incumbent government to the relative popularity of the Communist regime from the 1960s onwards. The majority of the population enthusiastically supported the few thousand freedom fighters during the revolutionary days of 1956, he writes, and was swiftly bullied into submission shortly after the revolution was crushed by invading Soviet troops. Later on, however, people willingly conformed to the status quo and were irritated by the Poles who openly challenged Communist rule in the 1980s. Révész believes that tradition still lives on today and this is how he explains the government’s current popularity, despite what he sees as the serious limitations it has placed on individual freedom. But the anniversary of the revolution can only be rightfully celebrated “by those who have kept the flame of freedom alive – if it might only become a national holiday one day!”, he writes in a bitter concluding remark.

In Magyar Nemzet, György Pilhál thinks it is the Left that cannot rightfully claim the heritage of 1956. He recalls that on the 50th anniversary, under Ferenc Gyurcsány’s left-wing government, the police launched an all-out attack on people celebrating the anniversary in Budapest (see BudaPost 2011 throgh 2013). Meanwhile, Ferenc Gyurcsány has tried to pose as the successor of Imre Nagy, the prime minister executed in 1958 for having opposed the Soviet invasion. Pihál also condemns the West for having encouraged the Hungarian people in ’56 but letting them down “to be crushed under the caterpillar tracks”. Today, “the struggle is still underway”, “our fate has not been sealed yet”. “Those” are gone, “someone else is taking their place.” “We are not being left in peace”. “Tanks have been replaced by banks”, Pilhál quotes the late radical right-wing writer and politician István Csurka. “A giant is standing behind them”. “This is also a kind of struggle, just like the previous one” he concludes.

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