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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La mémoire éclipsée

by Guillaume Carré, special correspondent

Budapest, 1956. Eclipsed Memories

Translated Sunday 29 October 2006

Politically divided, Hungary fails to commemorate the 1956 uprising with dignity.

On the fringes of the official ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising, last Monday far right groups clashed violently with the police in the centre of Budapest, near the Parliament building. More than one hundred people were injured, eight of them seriously. For its part, the right-wing Conservative Party (Fidesz) which challenges the legitimacy of the Liberal-Socialist government of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, refused to participate in the official ceremonies (which were not shown on television) and held a separate activity.

For the last 15 years, the Right has often mentioned “1956” in its discourse against the Liberal-Socialists. Both parties have used the uprising as a point of reference. This angers Gaspar Miklos Tamas, the Hungarian philosopher of Transylvanian origin: “The two political camps claim to represent 1956, but in neither case is this justified!” The philosopher argues that the brief 1956 Revolution wanted to introduce real workers’ power, based on democracy and social equality, and that, in 1956, few wanted to go back to a capitalist system or return to a conservative type of government.

But he also says that it is difficult to predict the direction the Revolution would have taken, if it had not been prematurely stifled. “The Right refers constantly to anti-communism in its speeches, but this is irrelevant because in Hungary today, there is no political movement which is even remotely close to communism!”

According to Gaspar Miklos Tamas, this permanent conflict has roots in the Hungarian tradition dating from the Enlightenment - the confrontation between Modernists and Traditionalists. Nevertheless the economic and social options adopted by the two camps differ very little from each other. Both defend an ultra-liberal system and are systematically dismantling the public sector and the social system (increasing privatization of the hospital system, partial privatization of the pension system, introduction of university fees). In Hungary, many consider the Left to be absent from the political scene, the Liberal-Socialists presently in power represent the interests of the financial elites and the Conservatives (Fidesz), the interests of the more traditional bourgeoisie.

According to studies by the Hungarian Institute of Economic Research, the policies adopted by both parties - the Conservatives, in power from 1998 to 2002, whose “social” rhetoric is quick to denounce global capitalism, and the Liberal-Socialists - have increased social inequalities. The Institute argues that the austerity policies announced last June by the Liberal-Socialists and that the European Commission called on Hungary to adopt will be make life even more difficult for the most vulnerable social classes.

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