The Ghosts of Hungarian Communism Haunt U.S.

Thomas Peterffy, who in 1965 fled Communist Hungary, recently put out an ad stating:

I grew up in a socialist country, and I have seen what that does to people. There is no hope, no freedom, no pride in achievement. The nation became poorer and poorer, and that’s what I see happening here. As a young boy I was fantasizing about one day going to America, making a success of myself, the American dream. America’s wealth comes from the efforts of people striving for success. Take away their incentive with bad-mouthing success and you take away the wealth that helps us take care of the needy. Yes, in socialism the rich will be poorer, but the poor will also be poorer. People lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs. I think this is a very slippery slope. It seems like people don’t learn from the past. That’s why I’m voting Republican and putting this ad on television.

Peterffy is more on the mark than he knows. This year just happens to be the 100th anniversary of the birth of Janos Kadar, the Communist dictator whose regime Mr. Peterffy had escaped from decades ago. To mark the occasion, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party (formally knows as Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, the Party Kadar, which ruled Hungary with an iron fist) has issued a statement celebrating “the heritage of Janos Kadar.” At one point this homage to tyranny proclaims:

The Kadar-era, the decades of socialism were the most successful period of Hungary in the 20th century. Everybody could work. All people had acceptable standard of living and one had to work for it only 8 hours a day. Nobody could become a billionaire but the majority of the people had acceptable life, secure present and calculable future.

This statement is an almost perfect reflection of the ideals of our Democratic Party. No greater confirmation of Mr. Peterffy’s warning could have been as stark as the words of Hungarian Communism’s shadow.

It is rare to find such a concrete example of how the same subject (in this case a time period) is seen both through the eyes of a man who truly values freedom and in the appeals of the siren song of those who love tyranny.

Spyridon Mitsotakis is a history student at New York University studying the Cold War and a research assistant to Professor Paul Kengor. Professor Kengor dedicated his latest bestselling book, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obamas Mentor, to Spyridon in appreciation of the invaluable assistance he provided that made the book possible.

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  • Billy Pilgrim

    Exempting the ultra rich from the results of their own poor gambling choices while asking the middle class to shoulder that burden is not collectivism, it is basic fairness.

    • robertpinkerton

      The above statement is a carboy of oleum-strength ironic acid.

    • jose

      How about every working person in America pay an income tax. Not half!

  • Chezwick

    For a fascinating and intimate look at the Hungarian uprising of 1956 and the tragic fate of the courageous Imre Nagy, read 'Thirteen Days that Shook the Kremlin' by Tibor Meray. You can access it on-line.

    • wingy

      I was in high school when Budapest fell, listening to it happen over short wave radio along with several escapees from Hungary. They were students whose parents sent them here to relatives who lived across the street from my friend Cora.
      She and I were over there that day and actually heard the tanks rolling down the street and people screaming…
      It was terrible…

      • Chezwick

        Indeed it was, Wingy. Meray's account shows the extent to which Nagy had been by-passed by events and then raced to catch up. He found himself in an impossible position…trying to reconcile the hopes and aspirations of the Hungarian people with the demands of the Soviets. He sided with his people…and he paid the ultimate price.

        Strange, the contrasts between the respective aftermaths of the Hungarian revolution in '56 and the Czechoslovakian revolution 12 years later: Nagy was murdered and dumped in an unmarked grave, and was replaced by Janos Kadar, who instituted a relatively moderate version of communism that allowed for a degree of small-scale private enterprise (known as 'Goulash Communism' for its uniquely Hungarian characteristics); In Czechoslovakia, reformist leader Dubchek had his power stripped, but retained the formal position of President for another year until he was consigned to the quiet life of retirement, and was replaced with Gustav Husak, who – in spite of the mercy shown to his predecessor, instituted a hard-line, Stalinist regime.

  • Geet Faar Ked Ded

    Those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The seismic fault running through that gospel of envy called socialism.

  • Schlomotion

    Thomas Peterffy ended his rousing condemnation of soci.alism with "that’s why I’m voting Republican and putting this ad on television." He could have just as easily ended it with "that's why I am eating Boston Cream Pie and having my legs waxed" because that has the same amount of validity as a conclusion to his spiel as voting Republican.

    • Ghostwriter

      You seem to be sympathetic to socialism,aren't you,Schlomotion?

  • Hedy

    The Hungarians have tried socialism – and fought against it. It ruined a prosperous country. The ever so powerful Hungarian ingenuity was stopped dead in its tracks. No inventiveness, no improvements, just a crumbling infrastructure, ever advancing poverty, lack of freedom and happiness. It was a very dark era under the Russian boot.

  • jose

    Half of working americans pay no income tax. Read it ,learn it, and understand that this cannot go froward.

  • Michael Vachon

    Mr. Peterrfy is either intentionally misstating the truth or doesn't really know what he is talking about. Hungary was a communist country from 1956 until it became a socialist country in 1989. So unless Mr. Peterffy is less than 23 years old (which he doesn't appear to be) he didn't grow up in a socialist country – he grew up in a communist one. The problems of communism, primarily the lack of private property ownership, have nothing at all to do with the issues in this election since no candidate is advocating communism.