Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Imre Nagy, Alexander Dubček, and "Socialism with a Human Face."

As SzélsőFa reminds us, today is a national holiday in Hungary. October 23 marks the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which led to a brief restoration of a moderate socialist governmnent under Imre Nagy. The rebellion, which began with peaceful student protests, ended with the brutal suppression of the rebellion by Soviet troops. A hard-line Stalinist government followed.

A little more than eleven years later, moderate Communists in Czechoslovakia displaced the Stalinist regime there. The "Prague Spring" of 1968 did not begin with student demonstrations, but with a decision in the nation's Politburo to oust First Secretary Antonín Novotný and replace him with Alexander Dubček . Unlike the Hungarian revolution, the Czech reforms began at the top. Dubček tried to reassure the Soviets that he was still a loyal Communist and a Soviet ally. He did not withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, as the Hungarian government did. (Actually, Hungary withdrew from the Warsaw Pact after the Soviets decided to invade, so that didn't affect the outcome.) And for a few months in the spring and early summer of 1968, Dubček's "socialism with a human face" promised a new birth of freedom for Eastern Europe. But it was too much for the Soviet Union's leadership. This time, the invaders were Warsaw Pact troops from Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and East Germany. Dubček urged people not to resist the invaders, and the suppression, though brutal, did not result in the heavy casualties of the Hungarian uprising. And Dubček continued to serve in the government, as ambassador to Turkey. Later he was expelled from the Communist Party and worked in the forestry service. He had a better fate than Nagy, who was executed after the Hungarian uprising was put down.

As the Eastern European nations broke from the collapsing Soviet Union, it seemed there might be a rebirth of "socialism with a human face." Dubček was rehabilitated in Czechoslovakia (which later broke into the Czech Republic and Slovakia), while Nagy was reburied with honors in Hungary.

But with the rise of the European Union and the Euro, the ideal of socialism with a human face has faded. While most of Europe has more of a social safety net than the United States, Europe seems to be moving toward more privatization. American-style laissez-faire capitalism seems to be the goal. And American corporate capitalism has no human face.


SzélsőFa said...

Accept my congratulations from a Hungarian, living in present-day Hungary.
You have said it so well, I especially like the way to bend the meaning towards the end.
What you refer to is something some of the Hungarians really fear and wish to avoid.
We don't have many choices and means at our hands, though.
It makes some of us sad, some rebellious - who knows what is better?

Charles Gramlich said...

Capatilism does have a human face, only it is generally a miserable one. still, most economic systems and political systems service a segment of the population at the expense of other segments.

SzélsőFa said...

Seve, I let myself heard on this issue: on what we face and how we can fight...?
Kind of clueless here, you know.

steve said...

Szelsofa--Thank you for praise and thoughtful comments. I've left a comment on your blog that, I think, speaks to your second comment.

Charles--What you say is true, and idealistic movements, when they do succeed, do not always fulfill their promise. I've just finished reading The Lost City by Alan Ehrenhalt, a study of two Chicago neighborhoods and one suburb in the 1950s, which argues that we have lost our sense of community because we have too many choices. I think he's wrong, but he does tell of us of a time when American capitalism did have a human face.

SzélsőFa said...

Yes, I' have read that, too.

Community, the sense of community and why and how we lost it is very interesting to me as well.

I don't know about this book you mentioned but the overpresence of choices as one potential reason (in your answer to Charles) of loosing communities, might not be THAT bad a reason.
If we are in need of food/shelter/whatever, we have to rely on each other more.
That MIGHT increase the sense of community of belonging together...?
Do you suggest that need only increases competition?

Sustenance Scout said...

I'm finding that as we become better able to provide food, housing, security to our families, our biggest need is to connect with others outside our immediate families, especially as so many of us live far from our extended families. This need fuels my own sense of community, at any rate.