Church & Society in Communist Hungary
AN EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT
According to all reports I gathered in Hungary about the neighboring communist countries, Hungary is absolutely atypical of the general situation in Eastern Europe. While Rumanians lack food, Poles are in despair, and Czechoslovaks live under monolithic suppression, Hungarians eat very well, the shops are abundantly supplied (neighbors, including Austrians, do their shopping in Hungary), and the regime is rather discreet about enforcing stricter economic measures.
The future could go either way: Moscow could stop the Hungarian mini-economic miracle, or the liberalization could continue. The chief worry of the population at present is whether the current situation will last. Most agree that it will last, even though it may displease the many Russian tourists (always in controlled groups) to compare the good life in Hungary with what they experience daily at home.
Regarding the revolution that turned Hungary upside down after 1945: My immediate impressions after a very long absence were absolutely clear and they were subsequently confirmed at every step: the peasantry and the proletariat have been the winners, while the old bourgeoisie has been the great loser — except those who, by conviction or opportunism, have rallied if not actually to the regime (there are many of those too), at least to the new way of life and the new value system. On the streets, in shops, in public parks on Sundays, in restaurants, and in elementary human relations, the manners and tone and style of the earlier lower classes dominate. Hence the many shabbily or carelessly dressed people even in the best places, the coarseness of language, the crowdedness, and the lack of courtesies.
Hungary now lives its own post-revolution, and the ascendant classes are still far from having adopted the old bourgeois style, if they ever will. The public tongue is that of equality. A though the old polite formulas are still in use, they cannot be expected. One reason is, of course, that the state owns almost everything: land, buildings, stores, restaurants, bookshops, cafés. Those who work there become negligent, at times brutal, although pleasant and charming exceptions abound. The second reason is a certain degree of scarcity relative to the West (one could argue that scarcity is the logical consequence of state ownership), which subordinates the customer to the seller. Often bribes are passed to the supplier, at all levels, including between large state enterprises. The situation of customer dependency certainly does not create an agreeable climate.
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