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Weeklies on Poland and 1956

October 23rd, 2023

The Hungarian revolution on 23 October 1956, started with demonstrations of solidarity with the Polish revolt against communism in Poznan. For a short time, the two peoples were on the same wavelength. Today that is not the case, since PM Orbán’s Polish allies were voted out of office in last Sunday’s elections.

The elections in Poland

In Mandiner, Mátyás Kohán writes that although the new Polish government will be formed by the allies of the European mainstream, conservative-minded President Duda will remain in office for almost two more years and may make life difficult for them. He may decide to veto laws that would reverse the controversial reforms enacted by the previous majority, and only a two-thirds majority in the Parliament could overcome his veto. The new majority, however, commands just a simple majority in the house, Kohán remarks.

In Demokrata, András Bencsik says he has reasons both ‘to cry and to rejoice’, as the allies of the Hungarian government won a relative majority but will find themselves in opposition. In Hungary, by contrast, he points out, the ‘patriotic camp’ is steadfastly supported by half the electorate or more. As long as that ‘kernel’ sticks together, he writes, ‘Hungarian’s unity is unshakeable’. He hopes ‘our Polish friends will perhaps also learn that’.

In Jelen, Ákos Tóth believes Prime Minister Orbán has plenty of reasons for concern, as he has lost his only ally within the European Union. Donald Tusk, the leader of the victorious coalition, he adds, is the Prime Minister’s old foe who has long ‘warned about the danger Viktor Orbán represents for Europe’.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Árpád W. Tóta predicts that the new Polish government will swiftly achieve the release of the European funds suspended over rule of law concerns, especially as courts were packed with new judges by the governing majority. People in their right minds, he says, don’t risk 100 billion Euros for such a silly thing. Hereafter, the liberal pundit adds, Hungary will hang in the European gym as the only remaining ‘punch bag’.

In its full-page weekly editorial, Magyar Narancs suggests that as the Polish allies of the Hungarian government fall out of office, the procedure under Article 7 of the Lisbon treaty may be reactivated against Hungary within the European Union. It has stalled, the editors explain, because a unanimous vote of all other countries is needed to deprive a member country of its voting rights for non-compliance with rule of law values – and so far, Poland would have blocked any such vote against Hungary.

In Magyar Hang, Zsombor György commends the Polish opposition for assembling an alliance capable of defeating the incumbent right-wing government. Unlike their Hungarian counterparts, he adds. In Hungary, György continues, there is not a single opposition party that could credibly represent rural areas and their inhabitants. Young people would be open to change, he suggests, but Momentum, the party that is supposed to represent them, is about to lose even the faintest chance of mobilising young voters, because it has chosen a leader who is ‘perfectly unfit for the job’.


The 67th anniversary of the 1956 revolution

In its last issue before October 23, Mandiner features an editorial by Milán Constantinovits who writes that Hungary cannot be satisfied with its accomplishments on the anniversary because it is still waging its struggle for liberation. It is fighting for self-determination in a Union that ‘overwrites national identity’ while it struggles for normality against a zeitgeist that is opposed to traditional values and stands up for peace against the masters of the madness of war. On top of it all, Constantinovits complains, such honourable objectives are not shared by left liberals at home. Nevertheless, he concludes, it is a duty to bring the job initiated by the revolutionaries in 1956 to fruition. ‘Even if after Moscow, our self-determination and culture are now being threatened from overseas’.

In Élet és Irodalom, veteran historian Éva Standeisky laments that politicians and ordinary citizens alike show scant interest in the 1956 revolution. Over the past decade, she explains, the revolution has lost its function of legitimising the political regime, while among the population there is no significant demand to unearth the contradictions, the positive and negative traits of the revolution and learn from them. In case of an economic collapse or threat from abroad, she remarks, the memory of 1956 could resuscitate and become an important element which bolsters national identity and social cohesion.

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