"Hungary might have had a Todor Zivkov, or that asshole in Prague, ... What was his name?" Horn defends General Secretary and 1956 Soviet collaborator, János Kádár.
Photo: János Kádár, first as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, later as General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (MSzMP - essentially the communist party post 1956), he was Hungary's leader from 1956 - 1988. Originally a member of the Nagy government in 1956, Kádár later swapped sides to become the Hungarian political figurehead of the Soviet-led forces which crushed the short-lived revollutionary government, an act for which many never forgave him. However, after 1960, he presided over a regime which evolved into the famous "goulash communism" of the 1980s. He stepped down in May 1988 and died on July 6, 1989.
Gyula Horn speaking to the Hungarian International Press Association, in The Passage restaurant, Budapest, 14th December, 2005. Part 3 Duncan Shiels, Reuters: I'm going to go back to the 1980s. Mr Kádár, the end of Kádár in May, 1988. The general view of that in 1988 was that János Kádár was as surprised as everybody else that he wasn't still in the Politburo, along with János Berecz. Was Kádár genuinely surprised?
And jumping on to early '89, I think in February the political committee accepted publicly the idea of free, democratic elections. I think the time scale was within five years. The MSzMP [the communist party] was the only government to do so in Comecon without people going into the streets. Did they calculate that they could win the elections?
So, Kádár – wa Kádár s he pushed or did he go? Secondly, that five year time scale, why did it accelerate?
Gyula Horn: Kádár was not in a physical or mental condition to assess what's going to happen, and was not able to form policy.
Many people, well, not too many, but some of us, were afraid of seeing Kádár drop dead, on the spot. He had no idea about the outside world.
Let me add, there were [important] developments going on, for example the accession to the IMF, and to the World Bank. This was 80 -81.
There was not a single day when one of the Soviet leaders did not call Kádár, trying to convince him to make this accession null and void. You have no idea, he was put under enormous pressure and threats.
Kádár was a person who was looking for some individual liberty, but equally keen on keeping a balanced relationship with the Soviets.
But when they [the Soviets] realised that they were not able to change Kádár's mind, then they looked for another method. He told me about this. Listen, Comrade Horn, this is what happened. The Defence Minister sent his first deputy at that time, with the idea of having to overhaul the entire Hungarian military system.
<Editorial note – unfortunately, side A of the tape ends here, and about 45 seconds of the meeting is missing – although it would appear that Brezhnev was seeking to interfere in Hungary's move towards a more liberal order by imposing further Soviet control over the Hungairan military hierarchy.>
At the same time, we were also confronted with several ultimatums, such as one that we should not participate in the Olympic Games in 1984.
I submitted a proposal at the time that we shouldn't worry about this [ie we should ignore it]. Kádár also said that it was a very nasty demand for them to tell us us not to participate in the Olympics.
Those of us who were playing a role in this in the Party were scolded on many occasions.
But those who criticised us at the time only forgot one thing: if Kádár had opposed boycotting the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, another threat would have arisen - the Supreme Soviet would have turned to the Warsaw Pact allies - [remember] this was the middle of the 1980s - with a demand for us to freeze our relations with the western world.
There was one man in the Socialist world who was opposed to this idea, and that was János Kádár. On top of this, he tried to persuade the others to collectively resist such demands.
[And another point] there was only one man, here in the Warsaw Pact who did everything possible to abstain from invading Czechoslovakia in 68.
He was put under immense pressure. I told János Kádár that we had established a working group in the foreign affairs department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, that elaborated and discussed how to co-operate with the European Community, now the European Union.
He went to meet Helmut Schmidt, he was chancellor at the time, and told him what we were trying to do, to bring about a rapprochement with the European Community. The answer came back that we shouldn't do that because it would irritate Moscow.
Qn (unknown) - Schmidt said that?
GyH: What should I say? We didn't want anyone else to know about our preparations for the establishment of relations with the European Community. Kádár would have had the right to freeze everything on the spot, but he didn't! He didn't do that!
And this is what brought Hungary to be [among] the first to join the European Union, [because] Hungary was the first to start developing relations and starting preparations [for this].
He had only one precondition for us, and nobody else was supposed to know, but us, that this should remain in complete secrecy.
I'm sorry, but those were the times we were living in. I have to tell you sincerely Hungary has had few politicians of such qualities as Kádár. For all his mistakes, and the crimes he committed, he …. created the happiest barracks of the Soviet camp.
Hungary might have had a Todor Zivkov, or that asshole in Prague, forgive the expression, what was his name?
GyH: Kádár was the only human-faced politician in the bloc at the time.
While I have to stress, once again, this is not to forget about the crimes he committed.
[Special thanks to SN for language clarification.]
<To Be Continued>