Author: Zoltán Kész

Not a day goes by without someone asking the legitimate question about the legacy of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution which was brutally put down by the Soviets and present-day Hungary. How is it possible that a country that suffered so much under the yoke of communist Soviet Union has become the biggest ally of Vladimir Putin in the European Union? How come that a NATO country that is also an EU member is playing the Trojan Horse of the aggressor? All in all, where are the children of the Revolution? 

The answer is both short and long. Briefly put, Hungarians today are not the children of the revolution, but rather the descendants of those hundreds of thousands that marched to salute the communist system half a year later, on the May 1 parade in 1957.

János Kádár, Chairman of the Central Committee of the MSZMP, speaks in front of 400,000 people in Heroes’ Square on May 1, 1957.

A lot has changed after the fall of communism: digital revolution, a more globalized world, and the spread of liberal values. Yet, in Hungary, most of the people have not changed. The freedom fighters either left the country in 1956 or were persecuted. Those who remain are not their children but the descendants of the faithful collaborators. Nowadays, the anniversary of 1956 looks more like a May 1 parade, with blind masses cheering on a cruel regime. (Except for this year, when for the first time there is no state parade, as it would be awkward for the leaders to echo the slogan of ’56, which is “Russians go home”.)

Although the Russians left at the beginning of the ‘90s, the spirit of servitude, betrayal, suspicion and fearmongering has stayed with us. Let alone statism, as it has never left. People expect the state to take care of all their problems, because Hungarians can’t handle the responsibility of liberty (never really been shown how). They believe that the state is omnipotent and has infinite wealth to benevolently hand out some change to everyone. This notion is what drives party-politics. Parties compete over who can promise the biggest handout. This promise will of course be broken, and the handout will only go to the cronies.

“Russians go home!” in Hungarian and Russian on a tank trap in October, 1956. The slogan is still relevant today.

If you are a successful entrepreneur, you don’t compete to have better services for your consumers, but to have the best government contacts in order to win either EU money distributed by the government or state money. If you are a small business owner, you will find it difficult to stay afloat due to all the taxes and regulations, not to mention punitive and retrospective taxation, which makes serious investors turn away. However, when we look at the services delivered by the state, reality slaps us in the face as basically everything that is provided by the state is catastrophic. Whether it is health care or schools, roads and other infrastructure, the state fails the average Hungarian.

What is worse is that people are brainwashed by the state-run propaganda machine and turn a blind eye to the consequences of the highest inflation since the 1940s, the highest sales tax in the EU (27%), or the price caps. They have a pro-Russian stance on the war in Ukraine and oppose liberal democracies. Funnily enough, or rather tragically, state-controlled propaganda has succeeded in turning the very electorate that was harshly anti-Russian decades ago into the biggest fans of Putin. The government can spew forth from their mouthpieces how much money they give away, and the truth that none of it reaches the average citizens, only the cronies, matter no more. 

There is, however, an almost equally large number of innovative citizens that will one day turn the fate of the country from miserable to hopeful. Several famous inventions and products have been developed by Hungarians. Prezi, the ballpoint pen, vitro-transcribed mRNA, hologram and the list can go on endlessly. All we need is a combination of their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit with the rebellious attitude of the freedom fighters, in order to become the true heirs of the freedom fighters. Their job is hard, but they are used to hardship: save Hungary.

Zoltán Kész is a former independent member of the Hungarian Parliament. At present, he is Government Affairs Manager at Consumer Choice Center, and also serves as adviser to the Civitas Institute. 
Twitter: @KeszZoltan
Photo credit: Civitas Institute