Reds Running Central Europe? Well, Never Mind...
'Good Business' Brings Shifting Sympathies
by Istvan Lovas
August 15, 2002

Never mind if a country – a member of the NATO Alliance – is now led by a Communist-era secret police agent who worked against everything the West stood for in the Cold War. Never mind if the newly-named top cop of that same country is also a former secret police agent who had spied in the service of the Communist Party on such "subversive elements" as some of the nation's most prominent poets and essayists.

Never mind if, during a peaceful demonstration last month, the heads of several journalists were banged against the pavement and smashed with police batons, and that at least one other peaceful demonstrator was threatened by police at gun-point – a first since the bloody 1956 revolution and certainly since the non-violent change of system in 1990.

Never mind if the new Prime Minister, unmasked by Magyar Nemzet (the only opposition daily newspaper) as secret agent "D-209" just weeks after the election, first denied everything then the next day confessed under the weight of the incontrovertible evidence. Never mind if that same paper, on the day of his confession, revealed that the Prime Minister was not only working in Communist counterintelligence but also against potential "counter-revolutionaries" (a.k.a. anti-communists) at the Ministry of the Treasury. Never mind if the Prime Minister's office, in retaliation against the newspaper that broke the story, ordered termination of its contract with the printer of Magyar Nemzet, in a country that has only a couple of printing houses equipped to print newspapers with large circulation.

Never mind if the party of the Prime Minister, the Socialist Party – legal successor of the Communist Party – has entered into a formal alliance with the Stalinist Worker's Party for the upcoming local elections. Never mind and never mind... Foreign diplomats and their governments do not seem to mind. Foreign journalists stationed in the country all seem to have taken a vacation.

Meet Hungary and its newly elected Prime Minister, Mr. Peter Medgyessy, a.k.a. "D-209," the Communist secret agent working for the Hungarian Communists and their Soviet puppetmasters.

Indeed, these remarkable and bizarre developments are hardly making news outside the country. Hungary, all of a sudden, has ceased to be interesting. This after four years of such intense scrutiny that not less than nine reporters from tiny Holland alone were stationed in the country. And report they did – prior to the April elections, won by the former Communists in the face of all polls giving a 10 percent lead to the governing right-of-center coalition.

Almost all the reports in the foreign media prior to the elections focused on a single issue: the imaginary march of the Hungarian "far right," the "growing popularity" of the Hungarian Justice and Life Party, rampant anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. Hungary, if one read the work of these foreign reporters, was on the verge of exploding into a full-fledged Nazi dictatorship and marching on into the Rhineland.

As it turns out, the "far right" that apparently scared the goulash out of the Dutch and French correspondents stationed in Budapest did not even make it to the National Assembly. This while the far right became the second largest force in the Netherlands – no worries and cries about that in Europe – and captured 20 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections in France.

The results – the dismal failure of the "far right" Hungarian Life and Justice Party – so outraged the doomsayers who predicted a center-right/far-right coalition that The New York Times rushed to print an article in which it declared Viktor Orban, the young center-right prime minister voted out of office, as – no joke – the new and genuine extreme right menace for the whole of Europe. These absurd journalistic lies, however, gain an air of respectability because they are repeated so often and in so many venerable papers.

There are many people in Hungary who think, rightly perhaps, that the Western media is like the German press before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. As a leftist German daily put it after the disappearance of the Communist half of Germany, only a single right-wing paper, Die Welt, told the truth about Communist Germany in its columns, but, as it turned out, the facts were much worse than the picture painted in its pages. Hungarians are convinced that the truth is not told about them in the West. And they also believe that Hungary's April elections were rigged. And these are not just participants in the ongoing demonstrations, but also the best and brightest of the country's mainstream conservative establishment. These people – natural allies of the United States and especially a Republican Bush Administration – attribute the unexpected victory of the post-Communists and their left-liberal allies, the Alliance of Free Democrats, not only to dubious voting practices, outright cheating, and a media almost completely in the hands of the post-Communists – but also to the influence of the American government.

A strange proposition, perhaps, but a closer look reveals plenty of disturbing evidence of U.S. favoritism toward the renamed communists. Just weeks prior to the first round of the April 7 elections, Jackson Diehl writing in The Washington Post, approvingly quoted unnamed sources who claimed that the Bush Administration was helping the former Communists to victory and turning against the conservative incumbent government. Any conversation with a State Department or other Administration official working on Central Europe will confirm this and more.

After the first round of the elections, the American Ambassador to Budapest was, indeed, in such a hurry to hand-deliver an invitation from President Bush to the renamed Communist party's prime minister-designate that she did not even wait for an official announcement of the results. So, while the final result was still undetermined, Ambassador Nancy Goodman Brinker's first stop on the first round election night was the party headquarters of the Socialist Party to congratulate the former communists on their victory. She stopped again on the evening of the second round bearing an invitation from President Bush.

These gestures spoke more than a thousand words – they sent a shockwave through the entire Hungarian conservative movement. Just as the fact that, from the moment the ex-Communists were returned to power, all fears expressed in the Western press about the "anti-Semitism and racism" of the Hungarian people disappeared overnight. As Investor's Business Daily's Brian Mitchell quotes in an article last month: "When you want to do a country down, you turn on the tap of concerns about their minorities. When you've got the government in place that you want, you turn the tap off again."

According to Mitchell, ex-party members, apparatchiks and spies run the countries of Eastern Europe: "Ex-communists today are the preferred rulers of the former Warsaw Pact. Ex-anti-communists are the new enemy." Why? Because they have no compunctions, no "nationalistic feelings" about selling all the remaining public assets to foreigners at below-market rates – for a generous kick-back, of course.

Mitchell's poignant analysis applies painfully to Hungary. Here, at least one-half of the 10 million-strong population – those who hated the one-party state of the Communists, the Soviet occupation, and who at the same time worshipped everything Western and American – has come to hate the U.S. government. How could this happen? It appears obvious to them that this same U.S. government has been instrumental in helping its former torturers back to power twice since the collapse of Communism. What else could they think? What a tragic and unnecessary course of events, that the United States – and particularly the conservative Bush Administration – would alienate its most natural allies in the former communist world.

The U.S. government seems to have consciously tried to antagonize its former, and natural, allies not only in Hungary but throughout the former communist world. Since 1990, the State Department viewed the center-right governments in the region as a menace to stability, while considering the post-Communists as guarantors of peace and stability. Does it not matter that real economic progress has always been achieved in the countries of the region when the center right rules, such as Mr. Klaus in the Czech Republic or Mr. Orban in Hungary?

The U.S. made every effort to defeat the center-right wherever they held power in Central Europe. Look at the USIA's list of journalists who received coveted invitations to the U.S. Those journalists so honored from Hungarian papers came exclusively from publications run by former-Communists-turned-left-liberals overnight – who now serve the interests of their new masters in Washington with the same servility that they served the interests of Moscow and their local Communist henchmen prior to 1990.

The Americans set up institutions in the former Communist bloc countries that have been assisting only left-liberals and it has condemned right-of-center governments with general, unproven, and trumped-up charges. At the same time they have not uttered even the faintest whisper of protest when the post-Communist governments commit the most atrocious acts or curb media freedom in a manner unheard of in Western countries. When these are pointed out – such as the Hungarian Socialist government's instilling fear in potential advertisers in order to deprive popular conservative papers to have advertising revenues – the response from the U.S. is always the same: a yawn.

In a world of global terrorism where sympathies do count, a huge chunk of the better part of Eastern Europe has turned into America-haters. Has the fire sale of public assets to Western business interests really been worth it? Is there a way to repair this tragic falling out between the United States and its natural allies in Central Europe? Is anyone in Washington listening? Oh well...never mind.

Mr. Lovas is a Hungarian journalist and best-selling author.

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