Initially, in the countries of Eastern Europe at the time of the transition from socialism to capitalism, the majority of the populations remained politically passive. People patiently awaited the establishment of a welfare society on the Swedish model. But after 20 years, with the closing of factories, the disappearance of efficient agriculture, the end of full employment and individual security and above all the re-emergence of endemic poverty, the grace period has ended.
Strongly influenced by the media, there are many demonstrations in Hungary these days. But there is nothing uniting these demos: On 2 January, for example, there was a demonstration of 100,000 people against the government, while on 21 January there was a counter-demonstration with at least as many people supporting the government. The concern shared by the two camps is primarily one about living conditions. The main slogans are: “defend the democratic system” – for one group – and “end our colonisation by the EU” – for the others.
The anti-democratic measures taken by the government against the freedom of the press, against the impartiality of the judiciary, against trade unions and labour legislation quite clearly indicate that the government knows it cannot improve living conditions for the majority and is already preparing to suppress all discontent, all popular demands, when the time comes. The current and future issue for the Left is to effectively explain that opposing foreign capital is not enough, that a nationalist letting off of steam does not do anything for us, and that national capital is just as voracious. Hungary is a former socialist country in which a big part of the population naively let itself be carried away in the turbulence that swept our region. Twenty years ago this people was still insufficiently mature to defend itself in the face of the flood of interests and large corporations hungering after profit. Although notions of politics are still deeply confused, in today’s crisis there are certain signs of hope that the population may yet acquire a new awareness, with the active involvement of a greater number of people.