Those who Are not Against us, Are They with Us? Cultural Policy of the Kádár Consolidation and the Opposition of the Political System in Hungary

Nora Szekér

When János Kádár and his government came into power in November 1956, after the October Revolution, it was terror deployed on a large scale that laid the foundations of Kádár’s so-called “consolidation” that followed the far from general amnesty, which was granted as a precondition of international acknowledgement. From the middle of the 1960s onwards, although Hungarian society did not come to like it, an increasingly large proportion of society came to accept the so-called “Kádárism” as the best that could be achieved in the given international framework. The dictator- ship’s Hungarian variant now resorted to a more refined complex of means, such as subversion, indoctrination, propaganda, and severe existential constraints, instead of the spectacular open terror of earlier times. The regime was becoming less repressive, politics were taken out of everyday life and cultural liberalism was gaining ground. The spiritual father of this variant of cultural liberalism was György Aczél. He exerted a very sophisticated form of power. He called this “federal policy”, while others spoke of “favour management”. This policy was based on the principle that the opposition or potential opposition must not be intimidated, but made to become the obligors   of the regime. In this playing field, free-thinking is not a narrow area of individual autonomy, but the result of a bargain. The study explains how the culture-politics of so-called Goulash Communism affected the operations of the Hungarian State Security, and how that affected the Hungarian opposition movements and the political changes in Hungary in 1989.

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