The young Ferenc Gyurcsány in Pécs

Considering the dullness of the day due to the long holiday weekend I think this is a good time to return to a topic that was the subject of a debate about Gyurcsány's role in the Communist Youth Movement (KISZ).

By the 1980s KISZ was functioning less and less as a political organization. Instead KISZ, especially at the university level, was more like a student union, organizing parties and outings. This seemed to be especially the case in Pécs, which was a more "liberal" place than many others in Hungary in those days. Apparently, this less strident political control was mostly due to the party secretary of Baranya county, József Nagy, father-in-law of László Sólyom.

Gyurcsany fiatal2

Young Gyurcsány was someone who managed to find ways of making an extra buck. He came from a very poor family and couldn't expect any financial help from home. When he arrived in Pécs as a freshman he immediately found a job as a supervisor in a dormitory for high school students. He received 800 Ft a month plus room and board. In the second year, he was persuaded to run for KISZ secretary and because he was very popular with the students he had no problem being elected. When the Pécs law school and the Pedagógia Főiskola, a teachers college, merged to form the Janus Pannonius University, the university was entitled to have a KISZ secretary, a full-time paid position. Gyurcsány was offered the job and he took it, especially because he received a monthly salary of 3,500 forints.

The young Gyurcsány, according to his own recollection, didn't spend too much time pondering political questions. At home politics wasn't a topic of discussion, just it wasn't in the Orbán family in Felcsút. Gyurcsány later admitted that in his case there was a serious lack of democratic impulses at home or elsewhere. He attended the reburial of Imre Nagy, but he was also there when János Kádár was buried a week or two later. His political thinking was unformed.

However, by 1988, he realized that KISZ was in no position to give appropriate answers to the political challenges. By that time Fidesz, MDF, and several other civic organizations were on the scene. He realized that "whether the party likes it or not, in the next few years the youth will create their own political organizations…. It is unlikely that the new political organization will accept either the concept of democratic centralism or a name that includes in it the word "communist."

By that time Gyurcsány was a student in the Department of Economics at Pécs, and it was commonplace by then in academic circles to view the economic problems of socialism as stemming from the lack of competition associated with a market economy. Economic competition cannot be maintained in the long run without a democratic multi-party system, but he couldn't imagine that one day in the very near future the whole system would simply collapse. He anticipated a long period of slow change via reforms.

In early 1988 the leadership of Fidesz issued a statement which openly advocated a pluralistic political system. Two weeks later the Central Committee of KISZ also came out with basically the same message. The head of KISZ at this point was a young man whose real aim was the organization of a non-political association representing the interests of college students. However, time left them, including Gyurcsány, behind. He and some others tried to organize another student association called Demokratikus Ifjúsági Szövetség which after about three months died a quiet death. In the middle of 1989 he planned another group called Új Nemzedék (New generation) which lasted about three weeks.

Meanwhile we must remember that Hungary is a small country and on a certain level everybody knows everybody. For example, Árpád Gógl, Viktor Orbán's minister of health, was the best man at Gyurcsány's wedding. He also naturally rubbed shoulders with members of the Fidesz leadership. He worked together with István Stumpf, who found Gyurcsány among those who "really wanted real change. He was a refreshing figure among the others" in KISZ. Stumpf admitted that in fact he had a very warm and close relationship with him. "He wanted such radical changes that he was too much for KISZ. In those days he was closer to the opposition than to those with whom he nominally belonged."

He also knew Tamás Deutsch quite well. Years later Gyurcsány recalled a long political conversation with Deutsch in the summer of 1989. Deutsch argued that János Kádár should be punished. Gyurcsány asked whether Kádár had a choice in 1956 or not. They agreed that he did. But Gyurcsány went further: did Hungary have a choice? Deutsch had to agree that Hungary had no choice. What is more important, asked Gyurcsány, adding that "the country shouldn't think that if it gets rid of a guilty man it can escape its own past."

The real break for Gyurcsány came one day walking in downtown Pest. A woman came from the other direction who recognized him from pictures that appeared in newspapers and on television. She stopped him and said to him: "you are a no good" (tróger). It was then that he realized that it didn't matter how much of a reformer he was within KISZ. What mattered was on what side he stood. He went home and retired from politics for almost fifteen years.

56 comments

  1. @Vandorló – I’m curious that you find a plagiarism case from 25 years ago “sickening”. With all the things that are happening in the country, this is the one that makes you sick?
    Anyway, you said if Gyurcsány was innocent he would sue. He is suing.
    It looks very suspicious that the two theses just happened to disappear. The obvious flipside is that anyone could have taken the two theses, knowing that it would look very suspicious.

  2. Dubious: and the extremely thoughtful thief stole Gyurcsány’s own copy too, right? 🙂 How else could the thief have been sure that Gyurcsány will not show up his own instance to prove the claims wrong?
    It’s not a suprise that you believe all this but it’s quite striking that you think everyone else is exactly that stupid.
    Moreover, it seems that ESBalogh hasn’t been notified of Gyurcsány’s alleged plagiarism as several days went by already and there’s still no article of it. 🙂

  3. Johnny Boy: fair point. But if Gyurcsány finds his, then they lose nothing – no big deal. Muddy the waters a bit, distract from all the new taxes they just introduced, and then it passes.
    I have no idea where my own thesis is – possibly in an old shed where my parents live with some other books, but if it isn’t there, then I wouldn’t be surprised, and wouldn’t know where I should look next. To be fair, it contributed nothing to scholarship in any field and deserved to be lost to posterity.

  4. Johnny Boy just loves to find something that he can distract form the real issues, like Orban is sticking up for his handpicked cheater, plagiarizing, fraudulent friend, Schmiit who actually represented Hungary (as the best we can offer) to the International community. Well the charges against the Fidesz clown were proven, so it would be nicer to read some well supported comment from Johnny and Vandorlo on that subject.
    This mud throwing against Gyurcsany, David and anyone who does not roll on their back for Orban is such a Fidesz cliché. But of course, if we read back the postings of Johnny Boy, he fits the cliche.
    If you have some hard proof Johnny and Vandorlo “show us the money” or go on to the “independent” portals, like Budapest Analyses (paid by tax payers) , they would applaud your every word.
    http://esbalogh.typepad.com/hungarianspectrum/2012/05/budapest-analyses-fidesz-propaganda-2009-2009.html

  5. Johnny Boy,
    Although it’s probably too much to hope for, please look at the facts: Dr Balogh waited to write about the Schmitt dissertation until there was concrete evidence of the plagiarism to write about. She has done nothing more or less here. Yes, the missing Gy. F. thesis is problematic and that should be investigated as there are motives on several sides for making such paperwork disappear, but no, any claim about plagiarism at this time is pure unfounded speculation until we have both the thesis and ostensible uncited sources to compare. When such documentation is available, if it should prove a plagiarism, then Gy.F. should definitely do the noble thing and resign from elected office, but until we have such documentary evidence, we should be wise and suspend judgement.
    Meanwhile, we should discuss the mounting evidence of the massive corruption in the present government, starting with the agricultural land leases giving hige profits to government-connected large holders and turning small Hungarian farmers, the people who actually work the soil, into tenant farmers and sharecroppers, a topic which you have not yet dared to comment upon, and one assumes that this is because even you cannot defend it.

  6. @GW I believe this is up to the DK (Gyurcsany’s party) to make him resign. He only represents them. If they keep him, he should stay.
    Without condoning plagiarism, the voters these people represent may still want to keep them, if they do a good job. It would be foolish to waste a talent for a misstep (well, depending on the misstep). In the army half of my platoon did time for something.
    Schmitt was a dumb puppet. He had to go.

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