On the 100th anniversary of the WWI the media is full of the great powers and countries like Hungary don't get into the centre of attention. So let's see some facts! How did Hungary get into the war and what were the consequences?
On 23 July 1914 the government of the Kingdom of Hungary led by its prime minister Count István Tisza held a session. It took notice of the fact that after the assassination in Sarajevo Austro-Hungarian ambassador baron Wladimir Giesl handed over an ultimatum to the Serbian royal government the answer to which was to be given until 6 pm. the 25 July. The ultimatum made the Serbian government and its authorities responsible for the assassination in Sarajevo. It also reminded of the previous obligations of the Kingdom of Serbia and accused the Serbian government of tolerating and feeding the Great Serbia Movement. It demanded that the government should publish in its official newspaper an announcement – with given content at a given time – which condemns the Great Serbia Movement. It should also be announced to the army as a royal daily order.
All propaganda against the Monarchy should be extinguished from education, public administration and the army. Nationalist and irredentic organisations, such as the Narodna Odbrana must be dissolved. But the 5th and 6th points were those that hurt dignity of the sovereign country the most. The Monarchy demanded that delegates of the Austro-Hungarian Government took part in the suppression of the subversive movement directed against the territorial integrity of the Monarchy and investigated on Serbian territory. No wonder these demands sound familiar and appear today at the disposal of some great powers!
Serbian prime minister Nikola P. Pašić turned to the Serbian people: „The Serbian government, aware that fulfills your desires and demands to save the world peace and those are the aspirations not only of Serbia but also – we are sure – of all the Europe, did the utmost to meet the claims of the Imperial and Royal Government, but there is a certain line over which no sovereign state can make any further concessions ”. Similar announcement could be published today and in many cases it is published.
On 28 July was published a manifest signed by Franz Joseph I, that announced declaration of war on Serbia: „The intrigues of a malevolent opponent compel me, in the defense of the honor of my Monarchy, for the protection of its dignity and its position as a power, for the security of its possessions, to grasp the sword after long years of peace. With a quickly forgetful ingratitude, the Kingdom of Serbia, which, from the first beginnings of its independence as a State until quite recently, had been supported and assisted by my ancestors, has for years trodden the path of open hostility to Austria-Hungary.” We don't insist on parallels but this arrogance of the great power still exists.
What did the WWI bring to Hungary? During the five years of war 4 million Hungarian soldiers fought in the joint army, 600 000 of them were killed and the number of wounded and prisoners of war reached 1,5 million. 18% of the population was asked to field service in the hinterland and in addition the armaments industry employed 800 000 people. The cost of the war for Hungary was – on 1920's rate – 7,82 billion dollars. This sum is thirty times as much as the state income of an average year before the war.
After the lost war Hungary found itself in such a deep economic, political and social crisis that it swept away the monarchy. The foundation of the Hungarian National Council was officially announced on 25 October 1918 and its president became Count Mihály Károlyi.
The Hungarian ruling class couldn't deal with the war caused crisis and the mass unemployment. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the Southern part of the country was occupied by the French and the Romanian army and the Northern part by the Czech troops and the Entente made bigger and bigger demands. In this situation the Hungarian ruling class proved to be impotent. The aristocracy handed over the power to the liberal bourgeous forces led by Károlyi. A few month later they forwarded the power to the social democrats. The social democrates couldn't deal with the situation either, so they took the communists into power and the Hungarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed.
The Hungarian worker-peasant power existed for 133 days. In August 1919 the counter-revolutionary forces of the Hungarian landowner class pulled it down with the help of the Entente.
For Hungary the WWI was closed by the Treaty of Trianon on 4 June 1920 which was part of the Paris Peace Treaties system. The imperialist war was followed by the imperialist peace. The Entente-powers weaked Germany and winded up its traditional ally, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
As the result of the peace treaty the Kingdom of Hungary has lost more than two thirds of its territory (which decreased from 282 000 km² to 93 000 km²). 3,3 million Hungarians have stuck outside the borders of the new Hungarian state so Hungarians became minority in their homeland. Regarding economy, 61,4% of the former Hungarian Kingdom's soil, 88% of its timberland, 62,2% of the railway system, 64,5% of the roads established, 83,1% of the pig-iron, 55,7% of the industry plants and 67% of the credit and bank institutions became neighbouring countries' property.
What is the Hungarian capitalist class awaiting from the centennary?
The Christian-conservative part of the Hungarian capitalist class attaches great importance to the centennary and this is formulated in the cultural policy of the Fidesz-KDNP-government led by Viktor Orbán which is in power since 2010. What is this about? „Instead of the Western-European perspective we should approach the events from an Eastern-European perspective” – struck the keynote Mária Schmidt, director of the House of Terror Museum, one of the „court historians” of the present-day political elite. „The goal is to create a healthy national identity and national memory” – added Judit Hammerstein, Deputy State Secretary for Cultural Affairs.
What does the Christian-conservative government want? First of all to free the public opinion from „the intellectual remnants of communist past”. For example, let us forget the thesis that the First World War was a great fight of imperialist powers, and those fallen in battle were the victims of murderous war! And it is absolutely indispensable to forget forever that the Russian revolution in 1917 opened a new era in history! As for Hungarian Soviet Republic, deal with it as if it had never been.
The Christian-conservative government at the same time wants to finish with liberal and social democratic views on the WWI and the afterwar treaties. The government keeps saying that Hungary is located not in the East, but in the Central Europe, but as far as the worldview is concerned Hungary is practically Western Europe. The government rejects the liberal view that Hungary should learn from the West. On the contrary they try to prove that Hungary always became a slave to the West the moment the country left its own national path.
According to the official Christian-conservative ideology the WWI was a patriotic war in defence of the nation. „I mean that the war was in the interests of Hungary because it – once the war had started – presented the possibility to defend Hungarian interests using the army. One must remember that political leaders of three neigbore nations ( Czechs, Romanians and Serbs) and intellectual circles that supported them already decades before openly talked about the need to part the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary between the neigboring countries. On this ground we can declare that for Hungary the WWI was a self-defence war in which Hungary was forced to enter.” – says historian Ernő Raffay. In 1990-94 years Ernő Raffay was Secretary of State for Defence in the Antall-government notorious for having helped the Croats to secede from Yugoslavia by the secret supply of arms in early nineties.
The Christian-conservative forces conceptualise the war as common national cause. They keep on emphasising that 3,6 million men were conscripted at the beginning of WW1 and 660 thousand of them were killed or disappeared. They also include the Hungarian Jewish community in the „big national unity”. Among the 932 thousand Jewish born citizens „up to 200 thousand Israelites joined the army, many held high ranks and their number was high among generals too” - emphasised Csaba Hende, present minister of defence. The Ministry of Defence publishes again the”Golden Album of Hungarian Jewish war veterans: in memoriumof the1914-1918 World War”. The more than 500 pages long work was first published in 1941 to counterbalance the growing anti-semitic sentiment.
The Christian-conservative forces interlink the issue of the WW1 with the Treaty of Peace with Hungary signed in Trianon in 1920, more then that - they emphasise that the injustice suffered by the Hungarian nation exerts its influence up to the present day.
The Christian-conservative government wants the centennial celebrations to play an important part in the Christian-conservative re-evaluation of the Hungarian history. The current Christian-conservative perception considers the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (1867-1918) a virtue with long-lasting effects on our age and praises that period as golden age of prosperity. The official perception of history regards the era between 1920 and 1945, identified with the personality of the then governor Miklós Horthy, as continuation of the „k.u.k.”-era (kaiserlich und königlich). According to the current official perception the Horthy-era was a successful period of consolidation of the bourgeosie, bourgeous development. The Orbán-government regards itself the successor of the Horthy-era.
Liberal forces blame for the WW1 the then Hungarian political elite. The crosstalk between past as present is obvious. According to the András Gerő, historian of the liberal bourgeous forces, war is „an event of destiny which people only suffer”. From the liberal point of view war is not a common tragedy of the whole nation, as the conservatives say, but only of the then liberalconservative-nationalist Hungarian elite”. According to them at the turn of the century the Hungarian political elite lost its flexibility, didn't carry out the agrarian reform, didn't settle its relations with the national minorities, didn't change the structure of the Monarchy and thus Hungary was dragged into the war and lost it.
On the other hand liberals – just like the conservatives – want to whitewash the then Hungarian ruling class, emphasising that Hungary was only forced into the war. They say that Hungarians didn't have territorial demands, didn't want a war, didn't want to conquer neigbour nations. Even István Tisza  himself opposed the war, but Hungary – as part of the Monarchy – couldn't stay out from the war. Acording to them from the Hungarian point of view it was a real trap.
The celebration of the centennary gives great space for nationalist manifestations. Many historians claim that „Hungary belongs only to Hungarians”. Regarding the neighbouring countries they again began to use the wording adopted until 1920, „the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown”. According to the official perception Hungarian soldiers were heroes in the war. By 2018, the end of the WW1-centennary should be ready the database of Hungarian military sacrifices and the WW1-monuments will have been rebuilt in every town. In many places there will be built „Heroic memorials” to commemorate the victims of the two world wars and the events of 1956 as well.
The centennials celebrations aren't free of anti-communism. Hungary, so they say, took over a great historic mission: after 1919 Hungary became the forefront stronghold of the fight against bolshevism. Many are trying to explain that communist ideas are alien from the Hungarian character but the „traumatizing effect” of the WWI resulted in the emergence of communist ideology and along with it - fascist ideology.
A notable part of the centennial events is the emergence of anti-Russian elements. The young liberal historian Péter Csunderlik explains the prevailing often negative world view of Hungarian politics as the work of Russians and Slavic nations. This negative picture is „mostly a result of the historic interpretation of Slavic nations” – says Csunderlik who claims not less than that Slavic nations „rose themselves to cultural nations by desreputing and demonising the Hungarians”.
The war 100 years ago and in our days
The WWI and the Hungarian participation in it under no circumstances was an accident or the result of any historic compulsion. Nor can today's wars and the Hungarian participation in them be explained like this.
100 years ago Hungary joined the WWI for three basic reasons.
- The WWI was triggered by the conflicts between the imperialist countries. The economical and political fight for dominance over the European area led to war. Hungary, albeit in a subordinate position, was part of the capitalist world system. Hungary – because of its situation and its allied obligations– couldn't stay out from the war.
- The Hungarian capital's expansion was only possible towards the Balkan which was the sphere of interests of other capitalist forces, other big powers. The war was in the interests of the Hungarian ruling class – though to varying degrees for the different groups – and that's why Hungary joined the WWI.
- The war – regardless of all its risks – meant a possibility for the ruling class to channel the inner tension of the Hungarian society.
How could the then Hungarian ruling class be described? After a few hundred years Hungary got partial independence in 1867. The Hungarian landowner aristocracy wasn't strong enough to fight out the full independence from Austria. That's how the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 was concluded between the Hungarian and the Austrian aristocracy. In the new Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the war ministry and the foreign policy was common as well as the person of the monarch – Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.
The main point of the Compromise was to integrate the market and the financial system, to preserve the semi-feudal capitalist system against the peasand and worker masses and maintain the Austrian and Hungarian rule over the Czech, Romanian, Croatian and other nations.
This way Hungary was integrated in the European capitalism at the end of the 19th century. The capitalist circles of the two countries welcomed this because the integrated market, the inner stability and the international weight of the Monarchy were favourable for the capitalist circles.
The special features of the Hungarian ruling class at the beginning of the 20th century emerged from this situation.
- The economic power of the Hungarian aristocracy and the capitalist class lagged behind their European rivals. This gave Hungarian politics a provincial, semi-feudal, „neo-baroque” character..
- Faced with the pressure of the German, French and English capital the Hungarian capital could expand on terroritories close to the Monarchy, especially the Balkan. Within the given structure of international relations the Austro-Hungarian capital could enforce its interests only through war. This fact determined the subordinate position of the Hungarian ruling class and its constant dependence on foreign capital and foreign powers.
- On Eastern-European and Balkanian territories the Hungarian ruling class collided with Russian interests. This fact made the policy of the Hungarian ruling class anti-Russian.
- The Hungarian ruling class could achieve its interests only by suppressing the interests of other nations and national minorities and this gave a strongly pronounced nationalist nature to Hungarian politics.
- The Compromise was possible also because the Hungarian ruling class wanted external guarantee to maintain control over the working masses, to preserve the semi-feudal capitalist system. This gave the policy of Hungarian ruling class a reactionary nature.
During the last 25 years Hungary took part in several wars. As a newly joined NATO-member Hungary gave its territory and airspace to the NATO-aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999. It took and takes part in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Present-day imperialist wars are consequences of the inner conflicts of the capitalist system and the struggle for the redivision of the world and they also are the means to channel the social tensions caused by the crisis of the capitalist system.
From the beginning of the 2000's a deep crisis shook the ruling powers of the capitalist world. This crisis isn't one of the cyclic, repeating crises of capitalism. This crisis derives from the inner substance of capitalism and that's why thea can not cope with it.The ruling capitalist countries want the weaker capitalist states to pay for their crisis. This on the one hand increases the inner conflicts of the capitalist countries and on the other hand it causes deep social conflicts in the less developed countries.
The United States – based upon globalisation and the achievements of information technology – mercilessly seek to subjugate the whole world. Seek to eliminate completely the communist movement, to subordinate Russia and China and by a war of civilisations impose the Jude -Christian civilisation all over the world. Under the cover of the war on terror the USA steps up against everything and everyone who – even if a little bit - differs from the behaviour which the USA expects. The USA wants to compensate its relative economic weakening with aggressiveness.
Hungary's participation in the present-day wars can to a great extent be explained by the particularqualities of the post-1990 Hungarian capitalism and the Hungarian capitalist class.
What characterises the present-day Hungarian capitalism?
- The Hungarian capitalist class is much weaker than its European counterparts. Hungarian capitalism came into being by selling most of the national wealth to foreign companies. The Hungarian capitalist class and Hungarian politics depends very much on foreign countries.
- Among ten million Hungarians only one million can be considered rich, those who benfite from capitalism.. Nine million is poor or anyway their situation has worsened with the arrival of capitalism.. This social tension is constant and the deepening of the European capitalist crisis can radicalise it. The Hungarian capitalist class is aware of that. They know that 24 years ago there was socialism in Hungary and the people still remember this. That is why the Hungarian ruling class is grossly anti-communist and reactionist.
- Even today, the Hungarian capital can expand mostly towards Eastern Europe and the Balkan. Moreover, Hungarian national minorities live in this region. This fact makes the Hungarian politics, and especially the conservative part of it, anti-Russian.
- The Hungarian capitalist class haven't given up on expanding its influence on the Hungarians living in surrounding countries and regaining its middle-power position in the Eastern European region.
What characterises the policy of the Hungarian capitalist class?
The Hungarian ruling class manifestates in two political groups. The Christian-conservative forces pursue a nationalist policy and are closer to Germany. The social-liberal group expresses the interests of the Hungarian liberal bourgeousie, the Jewish circles, they are characterized by liberal and social democratic thinking and stands closer to Israel and the USA.
Both groups of the capitalist class are interested in the maintaining of capitalism and its expansion to other European countries. The policy of the two groups differs only in the tones and methods.
The Hungarian capitalist class regards the Hungarian-American alliance, NATO and EU the main external assurance of Hungarian capitalism so the capitalist governments completely implement the policy of NATO and EU. The self-imposed obligations towards the USA and NATO have nothing to do with national interests or Hungary's defence, they serve the aggressive, great-power goals of the USA and the leading capitalist powers. Hungary's participation in the bombing of neighbouring Yugoslavia - including territories inhabited by Hungarians - for example widely infringed Hungarian national interests.
The Hungarian capitalist class is not in a position to play independent military role. The USA and NATO expects it to participate in the joint actions of imperialist countries. But it's not just that the Hungarian capitalist class has no other choice because of its NATO and EU obligations. The Hungarian ruling class finds it profitable to fish in troubled waters, to undertake wars with small risks.According to this Hungary participated in the NATO-aggression against Yugoslavia, the war against Iraq and Afghanistan, the manouvre against Lybia and now it's part of the actions against Syria too. Hungary hosts the NATO's Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) base and many American and NATO-institutions.
The Hungarian capitalist class finds it necessary to promote the „democratic transition” in Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia and other countries. Hungarian governments help it with methods of politics, economy and intelligence. This is a dangerous policy because due to its geographic position Hungary would be inevitably part of any land warfare in the Eastern European region.
The Hungarian capitalist class is aware of the fact that it can't fulfill its economic goals in the EU so it's looking for other ways of expansion for the Hungarian capital. Today it's mainly the Balkan, more precisely Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia and also Georgia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
The policy of the Hungarian capitalist class is anti-Russian in its nature, though its accents may vary depending on the governments. They still regard Russia a factor that can endanger the capitalist system in Hungary in a strategic sense. The policy of the Hungarian capitalist class on many specific territories (Balkan, Belarus, Middle East) objectively confronts with Russian interests. Hungarian governments try to reduce the energetic dependence on Russia in order to strenghten the elbow-room of Hungarian politics.
The Hungarian capitalist class haven't given up the plans to expand its influence on the Hungarians living in neighbouring countries. The social-liberal forces want to do it mainly by economic methods, the conservatives by granting the dual citizenship and integration of Hungarians living abroad into the Mother Nation. This policy is source of constant tension in the area.
The Hungarian capitalist class thinks foreign policy is a way to distract the society's attention from inner problems. And there are plenty of such problems from mass unemployment and poverty to the problem of the gypsies.
First and last we can conclude that the capitalist change of system in 1989-1990, the Hungarian membership in the political and military integration of capitalist countries didn't decreased but increased the danger of war. The peculiarities of the formation of the Hungarian capitalism and the characteristics of the present Hungarian capitalist class make this danger even greater.