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Terror In Budapest

Greetings from Budapest. I arrived here around noon on Thursday, crashed for a couple of hours, then met my friend Anna for a quick walk around town. She took me to this library near my hotel. She used to study there when at university:

And by the way, this is a local beer here [1], and I’m thinking about walking in and demanding a family discount:

But seriously.

Seriously.

Anna took me to the House of Terror [2], one of the most extraordinary museums I’ve ever been to. It is located in the headquarters of the former communist secret police. The museum is devoted to the Hungarian victims of fascism and communism. The building was used first by the Arrow Cross (Hungarian fascists) as party headquarters, then, from 1945 to 1956, by the communists as secret police headquarters.

It takes your breath away to see the propaganda from both the fascists — the Arrow Cross [3] movement installed by the Nazi occupiers in October 1944, and then their communist successors, who ruled the country until 1989, and to imagine what it was like to have to live with that. The museum has real artifacts from the police state terror. The general point is that Hungary exchanged one terror state for another.

change_me

From an informational handout in the exhibit about Hungary in the 1950s:

Finally in 1947 when the international political situation seemed favourable, the Communist Party began to introduce an open and total dictatorship in Hungary. Torture and intimidation became part of everyday life. When the communists became concerned that their desired objectives were not being achieved quickly enough, the Soviets intervened. On February 25th, the communists abducted Bela Kovacs, General Secretary and MP of the Smallholders Party, to the gulag in broad daylight.

The worst is the basement, where prisoners were kept and tortured. It is the most evil place I’ve ever been in all my life. I was not prepared for it. The bleakness, and the sense of a spiritual vacuum. Of defilement. I began to gag involuntarily, and tears came to my eyes.

“You know, the Romanian communist prisons were worse,” said Anna, whose grandfather suffered in these cells.

Cell at the Terror House

From the handout at the beginning of the exhibit. The AVO is the acronym for the secret police:

Interrogations took place in upstairs rooms. Armed AVO-men stood guard before each room. Interrogations — in line with Soviet practice — were usually held at night. Suspects were prevented from sleeping for several nights, and in many cases were held without food and water. They employed every possible method of physical and psychological pressure on their victims. Facing the wall with their noses rammed against it, or with arms stretched out horizontally, sometimes for 10-12 hours. Beatings with truncheons were everyday affairs, as well as “physical exercises”; some were tortured with electric current [I saw the machine and the wires used for this — RD], burning cigarettes, pliers. Detainees were not permitted to change their underwear, nor to take a bath, their daily ablutions could last a mere thirty seconds; they were not allowed to use towels, soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, tooth brushes, handkerchiefs. Prisoners were kept in cells with a lightbulb shining day and night.

They weren’t given blankets, or a change of clothing. Often they were not allowed to go to the toilet, nor were there any buckets in the cells. Prisoners had to lie on wet plank beds, or sometimes even on the bare floor. Sadistic warders beat the detainees at every opportunity with rifle butts and truncheons. They were fed once a day, their ration a cupful of bean soup with 150 grams of bread, altogether 490 calories a day. Prosecutors, carefully chosen by the AVO, demanded exemplary punishments for the prisoners, already suffering from hunger, horrible cold, constant lack of sleep, as well as physical and psychological harassment. The judges, who also enjoyed the confidence of AVO, complied. (They were always paid very well.)

Those who survived the physical and psychological terror of the AVO were locked into prisons administered by the AVO as well, where they could expect the same treatment. The prisoners’ hands and feet were bound like in the Middle Ages. Some of them were in chains with an 18kg iron ball attached to their feet. They received hardly any medical treatment or medication. They were thrown into disciplinary confinement for the smallest mistake, or were horribly mistreated.

That was what it meant to live under communism. More: [4]

In 1989, a lieutenant colonel in the AVO/AVH, Vladimir Farkas, described the work that he did with others in the AVO. Farkas admitted that the AVO pulled out fingernails during torture in an effort to get a confession and that when the AVO failed in what it set out to achieve, the Soviet MGB (State Security Police) was called in to achieve what the AVO had failed to do. Farkas admitted that men died as a result of torture including Istvan Ries, a member of the Social Democrat Party in Hungary. Farkas claimed that the motto of the AVO was “whatever it takes to make them confess”. In his statement, Farkas claimed that this included immersing a suspect in a vat of hydrochloric acid.

If you ever make it to Budapest, by all means to go the House of Terror museum [5]. To its great credit, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán opened this museum in 2002 as a monument to the victims and as a lesson in recent history. It is extremely important that we remember what human beings can do to each other, and what it meant to live under fascism and communism.

After having walked through rooms filled with propaganda posters denouncing enemies of the people, and demanding their violent suppression, you can imagine why I reacted strongly to seeing this abomination in the hallway of a US public school [6], propagandizing on behalf of those who would crush anything and anyone who stands in their way of creating a progressive paradise. Look at the photo that leads this blog post. It’s from an exhibition at the House of Terror called “changing clothes.” It posits a Hungarian Nazi uniform to one of the Hungarian Communists. The leather jackboots are the same. Which is the point.

85 Comments (Open | Close)

85 Comments To "Terror In Budapest"

#1 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 10, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

I don’t think you understand, Rod. This was a society where everyone was equal, where social justice was paramount… except for those who dared dissent… and thus it was among the most just and virtuous states to ever grace the earth, something to which we must aspire.

I mean, while I don’t support torture or cruel treatment of prisoners, I’d at least largely assent to that, but I’d qualify it a bit.

1) Hungary didn’t need the West to come in and bring capitalism and democracy for these extreme kinds of abuses to (mostly) end. As the link that Rod provides makes clear, the Communists in Hungary did that on their own. After the crushing of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, Kadar’s government realized that the mass imprisonment, torture and other abuses carried out by the secret police had contributed to the unpopularity of the government, and they chose not to reinstate the AVH/AVO. Seven years later they had a general amnesty.

2) Considering that imprisonment and torture of political enemies are nothing new in human history, and that the AVH/AVO abuses went on for well under half of Hungary’s history as a communist state, to view them as the essence of communism is no more fair and no more accurate than to view Medieval and early-modern persecutions of heretics, coercive conversions, sanctioning of judicial torture, etc. as “what Roman Catholicism is all about”.

3) The political repression and cruel treatment of dissidents in Hungary, and in other Warsaw Pact countries, have to be balanced against the achievements of these societies and their social order. Hungary was one of the most successful communist societies, with full employment, low inequality, a highly productive agricultural sector (in contrast to the Soviet Union) which employed a lot of people, and pretty good economic growth. At a time when extreme economic inequality, median wage stagnation, and the prospect of automation replacing productive labor are serious threats to the American capitalist order (some mostly-capitalist societies have dealt pretty well with inequality, but as far as I can see nobody has a solution to the underemployment problem that doesn’t involve some degree of heavy government planning and control), I’d suggest that maybe we should consider the possibility that the sacrifice of political freedom might be worth it.

#2 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 10, 2018 @ 12:20 pm

It wasn’t the communists who packed 450,000 Hungarian Jews into boxcars for a one-way trip to Auschwitz in mid-1944, when it was clear that Germany would soon be defeated. It wasn’t the communists who tied Jews together in threes, using only one bullet to save ammunition, and tossed them into the Danube in the heart of Budapest. It was the “national Christian” forces of Hungary, with the eager participation of the police and much of the population.

I entirely agree with you here. I’d make the caveat that I don’t think assuming ethnic nationalism “inevitably” leads to the Holocaust is any more reasonable than assuming communism “inevitably” leads to mass murder and Ukrainian famines, or African land redistribution “inevitably” leads to Zimbabwe. That said, you’re quite right that while the Hungarian fascists and communists both tortured a considerable number of people, one of them had a much, much higher death toll than the other.

#3 Comment By ludo On March 10, 2018 @ 12:25 pm

I think that what should not be overlooked is that the thesis of ´Communism´ was used by a revolted and brutal empire, the Russian, to recreate and reconsolidate itself following the calamitous default of competence made manifest within the governing structures of its traditional elites, to wit, the imperial Tsardom, during World War I. An incompetence rendered in effect indissociable from the latter and hence abnegative of the continuity and sustainability of the latter if the empire itself was to survive. And survive it did in the guise of the thesis of Communism, with the operant term being ´guise.´

#4 Comment By Hound of Ulster On March 10, 2018 @ 12:27 pm

And the Soviet system of state control/terror was just a re-purposing of the system of social control that was run by the Okrana, which was then exported to the states ‘liberated’ from the Nazis in 1944-45.

I will also point out that the vast majority of Stalin’s victims died in the course of an about 10 year period between 1931-1941, while the vast majority of Hitler’s victims were killed in a period of less than four years between 1941-1945. The Nazis and their Facist allies were also in power for a far shorter period of time, with the first Facist state found in 1922 (Italy) and the last collapsing in 1976 (Spain), while the first Communist state being found in 1917 (Soviet Union/Russia) and three are still extant today (PR China, Cuba, and DPR Korea). Given the long-term plans that Hitler and his allies had if they won the war, (‘The Hunger Plan’ to exterminate the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe and re-populate the region with ‘Germanic’ people being the most notable, but all of the Facist states had similar plans to violently re-draw the ethnic boundaries of Europe to their advantage), you would have had very similar body counts if the two systems had been in power for a similar amount of time, and this sort of genocidal state-building was a feature of most Facist regimes in one form or another, maybe with the exception of Salazar in Portugal, not a bug. The only Communist state that engaged in this sort of genocidal state-building as a form of official policy were the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In other cases, like the Holmodor, it was incidental to the state that whole peoples would die out when the policy was implemented, so, in a sense, genocide was a horrible cherry on top of a an ice cream sundae of Communist terrible. In Facist systems, the genocide WAS the whole sundae so to speak. I will also point out that many of Stalin’s victims were his fellow Bolsheviks, and assorted dissident leftists like anarchists, Social Revolutionaries, and leftist nationalists. The NKVD was also purged twice in the space of about 7 years in the 1930s, with the executioners becoming the executed at the drop of a hat, both Yaghoda and Yezhov met their deaths at the hands of their erstwhile subordinates, while Beria tried to get cute with a power play in 1954 and was executed on the personal orders of Khrushchev. All of the officials who planned and oversaw the Holmodor, except for Khrushchev, were executed in the Great Purge. Stalin probably killed more leftists than any Facist could have dreamed of killing, a historical irony that seems lost on many conservative and right-wing critics of Communism.

When discussing these two systems of terror, one must avoid speaking as if they are the same. They are not. The methods were similar, but the goals were radically different. Facism seeks to end class war by forcibly uniting society against a common culture and ethnic enemy and then destroying that enemy, while Communism seeks to end class war by forcibly replacing the capitalist ruling class with a worker-based ruling class. Both are violent, both are authoritarian by nature, but they are qualitatively different.

Stop conflated liberals democratic socialists with communists. It is just as facile and stupid as when leftists conflate conservatives and libertarians with facists. It is a cheap rhetorical trick that is unhelpful and counter-productive.
Rod, we both know that a certain sort of ‘conservative’ will oppose any attempt to give an honest historical account of the crimes of slavery and Jim Crow. Which is much the pity, because an honest reckoning of these historical evils would go a long way to towards healing a lot of the dysfunction in this country around race and class, and would help to sideline some of the craziness like that you have posted about at Stanford. It would not be a panacea, but it would help our society begin to come to terms with this deeply disturbing history.

#5 Comment By Antipaxos On March 10, 2018 @ 12:55 pm

I share your intuition about the jackboot image, but I take from some of your critics that it could use some precisification. I think that could come in part from specifying what most secret policemen do most of the time, which isn’t done in torture cellars. An outline in this article:

What do secret policemen really do? Insights from history and social science (Mark Harrison / U. Warwick / Hoover Institution)
[7]

And the full lecture (51 min.) contains more:

What do secret policemen really do? Insights from history and social science
[7]

Re. the (common) metaphor of ‘stamping-out’, see the lecture slide at about 17:22 (“So how can social science help us?”).

#6 Comment By dennis smith On March 10, 2018 @ 2:15 pm

re Hoosier: the new civil rights museum in Jackson, Mississippi is receiving raving national reviews because of its honest approach to the horror.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 10, 2018 @ 2:21 pm

For all the piece and light types thinking the boot on the poster is all about togetherness, what reaction do you think there will be to those who dare say transgenderism can be both disorder and sin, and consider the same to be true of the practice of sodomy? Yes, as the commenter wrote, you can have a semblance of a peaceful life under totalitarian ascendancy – only if you obey all their rules.

#8 Comment By FoolMeOnce On March 10, 2018 @ 2:48 pm

Furor:

I don’t know if you know this, but in 1944 german forces started to occupy Hungary and this is when this packing up of 450 000 hungarian Jews happened. Before that, no such thing happened

It is true that before March 1944, the Horthy regime did not hand over the Jews to Germany for extermination. But it did everything else to persecute, despoil and disenfranchise them, including forcing men into labor battalions where many died.

The German “occupation” of March 1944 was more like a redeployment of a force far too small to control the country. It took about a day, delayed only, as historians have noted, by welcoming speeches from joyful Hungarian officials.

The extraordinarily rapid destruction of Hungarian Jewry outside Budapest (probably including my relatives) could never have been accomplished by Eichmann’s small detachment alone. The Nazis knew the Hungarians would go along with it.

In July 1944, Horthy called off the deportations under stern warnings from the Western allies, sparing him trial and execution after the war. But by then the work in the provinces was complete. He could have intervened much sooner.

Miklos Horthy is now being “rehabilitated” and honored in Viktor Orban’s Hungary. (Orban and many of his cronies were Communist apparatchiks in their youth.)

And no, I am not denying or justifying the many atrocities of the Communists either.

#9 Comment By Furor On March 10, 2018 @ 3:19 pm

One could argue that Horthy was still better for the Jews than the german take over. Just like Petain was relatively better for the Jews than german occupation. In France 75% of Jews survived, while in Poland where there was no big central collaboration, 90% died

Anyway, the case is in my view quite clear, that it was the german take over that destroyed Jews, not Horthy

#10 Comment By Mark VA On March 10, 2018 @ 3:42 pm

BadReligion:

OK BadReligion, you are telling us that Antifa is anti-Communist. Perhaps I’m missing something, but then I’m reminded of something Marx said:

“Who are you going to believe, me, or your own eyes?”

At any rate, these are actors, I’m more interested in the ideas of the playwrights.

#11 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 10, 2018 @ 4:34 pm

Bad Religion,

The revolutionaries executed about 210-220 people in the couple months they controlled Hungary, which is comparable to the number of people executed after Kádár took over. I don’t think the revolutionaries would have, if they succeeded, been anywhere near as repressive as Rakosi, but they would probably have been as repressive as the post-1956 Kádár regime.

Anyway I’ve seen zero evidence that the Nagy government were ideological anarchists, where are you getting this from? Certainly not their public pronouncements.

#12 Comment By Peterk On March 10, 2018 @ 5:04 pm

Do read Michener’s Bridge at Andau. in that book he describes some of the torture techniques used by the secret police

#13 Comment By Mark VA On March 10, 2018 @ 5:20 pm

Hector_St_Clare, speaking of blind spots:

The conceit that the West practices “civic nationalism”, while Eastern Europe practices “ethnic nationalism”, has been debunked many times over (see link below);

Your friend who spent two years in Hungary in the 60s, and everyone he was in contact with there, beyond the shadow of a doubt, was followed by informers 24/7 (SOP). Of course everyone told him they were happy with Communism, disaffected Communists included. But then, why did the Hungarians got rid of that system so fast? Think about it, Hector;

But look, I have my blind spots too, and overall I like your posts. Listen from the 11 minute mark below:

#14 Comment By BadReligion On March 10, 2018 @ 6:20 pm

“OK BadReligion, you are telling us that Antifa is anti-Communist. Perhaps I’m missing something, but then I’m reminded of something Marx said:
“Who are you going to believe, me, or your own eyes?”

Most Antifa these days are anarchists or Libertarian Marxists, i.e. the two major tendencies of Libertarian Socialism. The authoritarian-left tankies glom onto every single relevant event, and while they are sincere, they are also sincere about their unhelpful cult-like behavior. They want to co-opt and take over every movement, peddle their literature, sign up more members, and generally have that look (you know the one) in their eyes.

We know that these people are bad news in power. The thing is, one of the Points of Unity of Anti-Racist Action is “Non-sectarian defense of other anti-fascists.” You could say that, for now, we’re co-belligerents.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 10, 2018 @ 7:31 pm

What Hector St. Clare said.

#16 Comment By minimammal On March 10, 2018 @ 8:11 pm

[NFR: I wish I could say the beer was good. But I cannot say that the beer is good. — RD]

Rats.

#17 Comment By ludo On March 11, 2018 @ 1:11 am

From the literary critic Terry Eagleton in his work ´On Evil´: ´Milan Kundera writes in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, “Death has two faces. One is non-being; the other is the terrifying material being that is the corpse.” Death is both a lack of being and an excess of it. It is portentously meaningful, but also as blank as an empty page. What these two dimensions of evil have in common is a horror of impurity. On the one hand, you can see impurity as the nauseating slime of negativity—in which case purity lies in an angelic fullness of being. On the other hand, impurity can be seen as the obscenely bulging excess of the material world, once it has been stripped of sense and value. Compared to this, it is non-being which signifies purity. The Nazis swung constantly between these two stances. They veered between the angelic and the demonic—between repelling chaos and reveling in it. As far as the latter goes, we have the testimony of the German theologian Karl Jaspers, writing in the shadow of Nazism, who speaks of its “delight in meaningless activity, in torturing and being tortured, in destruction for its own sake, in the raging hatred against the world and man complete with the raging hatred against one’s own despised existence.” It would be hard to find a more pithy summary of the diabolical. Evil is a conundrum or contradiction…It is austere, but it is also dissolute. It is spiritually elevated but also corrosively cynical. It involves a megalomaniac overvaluing of the self, and an equally pathological devaluing of it. Let us return, then, to the question of whether evil is best seen as a kind of purposeless…wickedness. In one sense, the answer is surely yes. Evil is not primarily concerned with practical consequences. As the French psychoanalyst André Green writes, “Evil is without ‘why’ because its raison d’être is to proclaim that everything which exists has no meaning, obeys no order, pursues no aim, depends only on the power it can exercise to impose its will on the objects of its appetite.”´

I do not know whether empires have ´appetites´ other than to rule over the countless multitudes they have conquered and inherited, in which case they are not true appetites but rather the exigencies of an empire´s continued existence, basic existential ímperial needs as opposed to what may be described as optative or non-objective wants.

The German empire had already existed in the form of a classic empire of disparately combined multitudes. The Third Reich genocidally aimed at creating an empire of the categorical ´one,´ of an immense, empire-wide, many millionfold mirroring of the most solipsistically fanatical, voracious, and insatiable, need for ´one,´ for the one of ´oneself´ reflected back in the most purified and perfected of exponential forms: a labyrinth of self-desire in self-identity without any human end outside of a dehumanized perfection, that is, outside of the perfection of the processes of dehumanization on the potentially widest of human scales. In short, a universal end to the universal category of the human, obtained in the death of the de-humanized Other without end (since eternally consecrated into a sort of Platonically perfect genocidal form consequent to the´historic´ achievement of the actual act).

#18 Comment By BadReligion On March 11, 2018 @ 11:33 am

Hector:

As I indicated earlier, they weren’t anarchists, but they definitely were somewhere under the Libertarian Socialist umbrella, in that they quickly tossed out the Party bosses in the workplaces and formed workers’ councils.

That, among other things, is a crucial point of unity with anarchists, but it might be closer to Libertarian Marxism of various kinds; but the point is, it’s under that umbrella.

#19 Comment By John Gruskos On March 11, 2018 @ 12:05 pm

FoolMeOnce,

I agree, the Holocaust and the Red Terror are *not* equivalent.

The Red Terror was much worse.

The Black Book of Communism estimates 21 million people murdered by the Bolsheviks in Eastern Europe 1917-1957, making the Red Terror 3.5 times worse than the Holocaust – unless you think that the lives of those murdered by the Nazis were more valuable than the lives of those murdered by the Bolsheviks.

Vhailor – 1956-1957 could be considered the Thermidor of the Bolshevik Revolution. Stalin was denounced, Rakosi was exiled, Kaganovich was removed from the Politburo, Solzhenitsyn was released from the Gulags, and the mass murder ended. But post-1957 Communism also committed some terrible crimes which every human being has the right to resent. For instance, the “zersetzung” psychological torture practiced by Markus Wolfe’s Stasi in Eastern Germany, and the Soviet Union’s support for Joe Slovo’s South African Communist Party’s “necklacing” terror campaign in the late 1980s / early 1990s.

Hector_St_Claire – Unlike traditional Marxism, cultural Marxism doesn’t have an economic aspect. Instead, the “enemy class” is now defined as 1) people of European descent, 2) men, and 3) non-perverts (“racists”, “sexists”, “homophobes”). Cultural Marxists are defacto allies of globalist billionaires who consider nationalism and Christian cultural conservatism to be impediments to maximum profits. The fact that Eastern Europeans prefer pragmatic populist economics over free market fundamentalism is one of the reasons why I consider them to be the world’s foremost opponents of *cultural* Marxism and globalism.

According to the 2010 constitution, Hungary is officially a Christian nation. Viktor Orban’s rhetoric is heavily Christian, and his party Fidesz receives, by far, the largest percentage of votes. Hungary may not be the Bible Belt, but there seem to be large numbers of people who identify as Christian.

BadReligion – The veterans 1956 disproportionately support national conservative Fidesz and radical nationalist Jobbik, not the Antifa-aligned left. In addition to being mask wearing cowards and liars, you Antifa are stooges of the billionaires and of the surveillance state. Your activities never so much as inconvenience, much less threaten, the powerful. Instead, your bullying, which exclusively targets nationalists, Christian social conservatives, and supporters of constitutional freedoms, is greatly appreciated by billionaires and the NSA/CIA/FBI etc who have the same enemies as you.

Everyone – Trotsky was much more bloodthirsty than Stalin. If Trotsky had won the 1920s power struggle, the 1930s bloodbath would have been even worse.

#20 Comment By Andy On March 11, 2018 @ 12:43 pm

Rod,

You need to visit Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh. It will make the Hungarian version appear like amateur hour in terms of cruelty.

Communist as well, of course.

#21 Comment By Josep On March 11, 2018 @ 6:20 pm

@ Hector_St_Clare
“also, outside of Poland, Eastern Europe isn’t a particularly socially conservative place in terms of sexual morality. Their type of cultural conservatism is focused much more on ethnicity and the integrity of the tribe. (The Czech Republic, just north of Hungary, is one of the few countries where you find higher public approval of gay marriage than Christian/Jewish intermarriage).”
Aw, that stinks. *sigh* I’m kinda disappointed now. I’m not sure about Russia, though.
Even then, I’m rather amazed that the Eastern European countries managed to get “immunized” from Western-style political correctness. Once bitten, twice shy.

#22 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 11, 2018 @ 8:29 pm

You need to visit Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh. It will make the Hungarian version appear like amateur hour in terms of cruelty.

Communist as well, of course.

Yeah, and so cruel and irrational that the neighboring communists found it necessary to police their own and end the Khmer regime. That was the worst pack of idealists who ever made a false claim to understanding dialectical materialism. Things don’t happen just because a committee of Sorbonne graduates imagine them. (A caution to fans of John Lennon as well).

Unlike traditional Marxism, cultural Marxism doesn’t have an economic aspect. Instead, the “enemy class” is now defined as 1) people of European descent, 2) men, and 3) non-perverts (“racists”, “sexists”, “homophobes”).

Which is precisely why “cultural Marxism” is an oxymoron. If the preamble doesn’t begin “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common…” its not Marxism. And this nonsense is resonating with the employing class, which should be a good clue.

Nobody really knows what Nagy’s ideology was. He didn’t represent a well organized party with a long pedigree, and he didn’t have much time to demonstrate what his long term policy would have been.

Bad Religion has the number of the standard text book western Leninist worklet parties. But they’ve never amounted to anything.

#23 Comment By JonF On March 11, 2018 @ 9:22 pm

Re: The Red Terror was much worse.

When horrors reach a certain magnitude it is a fool’s errand to argue which was worse, and generally the argument says more about the person making it than about history. Might as well as debate over whether it was better to die in the Black Death or the Plague of Justinian; at Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

#24 Comment By BadReligion On March 11, 2018 @ 9:41 pm

John Gruskos-

You’re really detached from reality. There is no such thing as “Cultural Marxism,” unless you refer to the work of the Frankfurt School, which does not match your characterization at all.

[8]

And then… billionaires? The NSA/CIA/FBI? What? This is getting into deranged Alex Jones territory.

#25 Comment By DanJ On March 12, 2018 @ 3:52 am

@Hector St Claire,

Always appreciate your thoughtful posts but have to differ here:

“The political repression and cruel treatment of dissidents in Hungary, and in other Warsaw Pact countries, have to be balanced against the achievements of these societies and their social order. Hungary was one of the most successful communist societies, with full employment, low inequality, a highly productive agricultural sector (in contrast to the Soviet Union) which employed a lot of people, and pretty good economic growth”.

Post-war Sweden and Finland had all those good things, while fully free and not pulling fingernails from dissidents. Any good administration should be able to do that. A modest achievement of common good is no excuse for persecuting those who disagree.

#26 Comment By Kanyamadar On March 12, 2018 @ 6:50 am

Hector_St_Clare
“but as far as I can see nobody has a solution to the underemployment problem that doesn’t involve some degree of heavy government planning and control), I’d suggest that maybe we should consider the possibility that the sacrifice of political freedom might be worth it.”

:Caught:
Unemployment rate as per Jan. 2018: 3,8% (tradingeconomics.com)

[9]

With a 5 year 3,14% IDI (Inclusive Development Index), where the USA has 0,71% 5Y IDI…

…without sending a million citizens to gulag and ripping out fingernails of opposition politicans (whose fathers and grandfathers actually did that).

Nope, the communism did not worth anything, except disgust.

#27 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 12, 2018 @ 8:28 am

As I indicated earlier, they weren’t anarchists, but they definitely were somewhere under the Libertarian Socialist umbrella, in that they quickly tossed out the Party bosses in the workplaces and formed workers’ councils.

None of that makes you “Libertarian Socialist”. Tito’s Yugoslavia had workers’ self-management too, and he was anything but a libertarian.

The public pronouncements of the revolutionaries indicate that they wanted a relatively more democratic socialist state, and one that was neutral in the cold war, but there’s no evidence they were interested in abolishing or greatly weakening the state itself.

#28 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 12, 2018 @ 9:23 am

I’m not sure about Russia, though.

Viking LS says Russia is less religious / socially conservative than the US, more so than Western or Eastern Europe (Poland excepted). Depending on your definition of social conservatism, I’d say that from what I’ve seen in terms of public opinion polling, news articles and anecdotal reports from people who have lived there, I’d guess he’s right.

#29 Comment By Woody On March 12, 2018 @ 11:36 am

For the Romanian prisons and what sometimes could occur there, see this (or any number of similar) account of the “Saint of the Prisons”:
[10]

#30 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 12, 2018 @ 8:09 pm

Alexis de Tocqueville had it right that totalitarianism can arise under any system, whether or not a democracy, a kingdom or otherwise, in which case, as he said, he would choose to live elsewhere under other laws.

#31 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 13, 2018 @ 9:46 am

Instead, your bullying, which exclusively targets nationalists, Christian social conservatives, and supporters of constitutional freedoms, is greatly appreciated by billionaires and the NSA/CIA/FBI etc who have the same enemies as you.

I mean, this is entirely because, today, ethnic nationalists are stronger than communists and pose more of a realistic threat to the billionarie’s favored social order. It has nothing to do with ideological compatibility. If it was the reverse (if Melenchon had outperformed Marine Le Pen in France, say), the establishment would be joining together with your side to crush the communists. They’ve certainly done so many times in the past. For that matter, they event joined together with conservative Christians and Muslims to crush communists in the past.

Unlike traditional Marxism, cultural Marxism doesn’t have an economic aspect. Instead, the “enemy class” is now defined as 1) people of European descent, 2) men, and 3) non-perverts (“racists”, “sexists”, “homophobes”).

Right, this is why “cultural Marxism” isn’t, well, Marxism. Any more than, say, Unitarianism (or maybe even the belief systems of some of the more liberal Episcopal and Congregational clergymen out there) isn’t Christianity. Marxism is first and foremost a method of analysis of the functioning of an economy, and a set of prescriptions for how to re-organize the economic basis of society. It isn’t about culture, except tangentially (and generally when Marxists tried to export their thinking in the cultural or non-economic realm it hasn’t worked out very well).

Just like you can’t remove Christ from Christianity and call it “Secular Christianity” or whatever, you can’t export the language of class to, say, race or sex and expect it to have it make any sense, or call it ‘marxist’. A class is defined by its relationship to the means of production. That’s not the case either for sex or for race.

#32 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 13, 2018 @ 9:53 am

DanJ and Kanyamadar,

Correct, which is why I said ‘underemployment’, not unemployment per se. Societies like the US have most of their population employed, but most of our jobs (not mine, thank God) frankly suck and aren’t ‘meaningful work’ in the sense that Rod’s post a few posts up the list is talking about. Working as a Wal-Mart greeter or in a steakhouse, or for that matter as an insurance executive, isn’t and never will be as meaningful or fulfilling as working in a factory or a farm. Rod talks a lot about agrarianism on this blog, and it’s worth pointing out that East Germany/Hungary/Czechoslovakia managed the feat of having highly productive agricultural sectors that also provided employment for a significant chunk of people (I think around 10% of East Germans worked in agriculture, compared to under 2% of the US population). That’s not a trivial accomplishment if you share the view of Rod, and myself, and for that matter Rod’s beloved Wendell Berry that not all jobs are, you know, created equal.

Also, I know you didn’t say this, but just to make clear: I don’t endorse torture, whether it’s done by a communist state, a capitalist state, or a state that rules in the name of the Catholic Church, the Church of England or any other faith.

#33 Comment By BadReligion On March 13, 2018 @ 1:38 pm

“None of that makes you “Libertarian Socialist”. Tito’s Yugoslavia had workers’ self-management too, and he was anything but a libertarian.”

Right, but he took a page from that playbook.

“The public pronouncements of the revolutionaries indicate that they wanted a relatively more democratic socialist state, and one that was neutral in the cold war, but there’s no evidence they were interested in abolishing or greatly weakening the state itself.”

Right. They weren’t anarchists per se.

#34 Comment By Josep On March 13, 2018 @ 7:37 pm

Viking LS says Russia is less religious / socially conservative than the US

I’ve seen comments around here (and elsewhere) say Russia is seeing a resurgence of Christianity while it is declining in the United States. That’s why I said I wasn’t sure about Russia.

#35 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 14, 2018 @ 10:27 am

Bad Religion,

The topic here wasn’t whether libertarian socialists believe in worker ownership, it’s whether the 1956 revolutionaries had anything to do with libertarian socialism. You pointed to support for worker ownership as evidence that they did. I’m telling you, on the contrary, that since some highly authoritarian regimes have also enacted worker self-management, this is evidence enough that worker ownership of factories doesn’t make you politically libertarian (or even politically democratic) in the slightest.

Again, the Hungarian revolutionaries executed a couple hundred people in the two months they were running the show, so I think it’s reasonable to say that they would probably have resembled the Kadar regime in terms of degree of authoritarian. Of course they wouldn’t have resorted to the pre-1956 degree of repression, but the Communists didn’t do that either.

I’m also going to say that at least hardline authoritarian socialism, unlike libertarian socialism, has a track record.