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Krisztián Ungváry “One Camp, One Banner”1 : How Fidesz Views History The historical memory of a society reflects its political situation. In the last two and a half decades, the political system radically changed in Hungary, and a reevaluation of the historical past is completely natural after such a change of regime. In a country where after 1945 the (first clandestine, but soon open) dictatorship of the Communist Party made any discussion of the past all but impossible, with the communist view of history being forced on the society, the years of the transition should have brought significant changes in symbolic memory. Yet, looking back on those years, it is surprising how little changed in the first decade after the regime change, and how much a decade later. The slow pace of the reevaluation of history can be accounted for by the peculiar situation of the Hungarian party state. As opposed to other countries in the Eastern bloc, in Hungary the party state played a leading role in dismantling its own dictatorship—not without interest, obviously.2 In the “happiest barracks” of the Warsaw Pact, in the 1970s there were spaces of freedom that would have been unimaginable in the Soviet Union or the GDR. A number of issues concerning historical memory were taken out of the set of taboo subjects during the dictatorship. Although certain limitations were still in force until 1990, many “embarrassing” topics of Hungarian history, including the country’s participation in World War II, the responsibility of the Hungarian administration in the Holocaust, or the situation of the Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries were discussed in certain fora and with certain restrictions. This did not mean, of i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 389 2016.12.07. 15:47 390 TWENTY-FIVE SIDES OF A POST-COMMUNIST MAFIA STATE course, that these issues could be discussed in the official state media, but it did mean that the party state enforced its will in different ways on different levels of public life. Only two topics remained completely off-limits: the memory of the 1956 revolution and anticommunism. The reason for this was obviously the fact that Hungary was a country occupied by Soviet troops and basically controlled by Moscow. Anticommunism and the 1956 revolution meant the rejection of that. For certain reasons, it was not in the best interest of the left–liberal opposition, who were among the leaders of the regime change, to revive anticommunist traditions. This, in spite of the fact that before 1991 the political force which represented these people, the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), seemed to be the most anticommunist of all political formations , which won them many voters with right-wing sympathies. This proved to be a historical mistake later on, as leaders of the SZDSZ were in fact representatives of an antitotalitarian rather than a right-wing ideology , their anticommunist leanings being “merely” a consequence of the fact that, as opposed to the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), which initially did not even conceive of itself as a political party and tried to establish a constructive relationship with the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (MSZMP) up to the beginning of 1989, SZDSZ openly defined itself as a radical opposition party, an antithesis of MSZMP. The victory of the conservative opposition (MDF) in 1990 did not mean a significant change of power relations in the media. For various reasons, left–liberal intellectuals continued to dominate public discourse. However, the anticommunist rhetoric that had characterized that political side before 1990 virtually disappeared. This change was due to the fact that in the new political system the liberal side considered the new conservative forces, rather than the successors of the Communist Party, their main political opponents. It is to be noted that although this decision is partly understandable , it was not wholly necessary. One thing is certain, however: there was no attempt to transform the interpretation of the past in the period before 1998. The legal basis of the new Hungarian republic was developed by the MSZMP, and the round table discussions did not change this significantly . That 1956 was in fact a revolution was explicitly claimed by the democratic opposition, with the rest of the organizations of the opposition joining only later. However, the MSZMP got to play a considerable role in this process by participating in shaping the canon of 1956 in the summer of i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 390 2016.12.07. 15:47 391 One Camp, One...


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