HUNGARY AT THE CROSSROADS
AN ADDRESS BY DR. NICHOLAS R. DOMAN, M.A., Ph. D.
Chairman: The President, Dr. F. A. Gaby
Thursday, November 30, 1939
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen: We are indeed pleased to have with us today as our guest-speaker, Dr. Doman, a native Hungarian who has considerable information on European affairs and also on American affairs, due to his sojourn in the United States as a student in the University of Colorado, from which university he received the degree of M.A. He was also a student at the Universities of Milan and Paris and is a Ph.D. of the University of Budapest. He has studied Political Economy at Oxford, so he has a very wide knowledge of the affairs of these nations from his studies. He is a native Hungarian and during the recent Czech episode he served in the Hungarian army, and he will probably be able to tell us something of the situation that developed on that particular occasion. It is particularly opportune at this time, in view of the active diplomacy in the Balkan States, and also what has taken place in the Baltic States, as we have learned from our newspapers today, that we have this address from Dr. Doman. I have great pleasure in introducing to you Dr. Doman, whose subject will be "Hungary at the Crossroads". (Applause)
DR. NICHOLAS R. DOMAN, M.A., Ph.D.: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I feel very obliged for the kindness of your Chairman. I should say I feel a little embarrassed. I feel like a Capitalist who was accused by a Communist of receiving an unearned income, but, as according to the Communist the Capitalist likes the unearned income, I like the unearned compliments, and I thank you very much. Before starting to discuss my topic, "Hungary at the Crossroads", I want to tell a story, from which you will know that you won't be able to understand everything I say. Nine years ago I was at a meeting of the League of Nations and I heard President Benes of Czechoslovakia speak. He was supposed to deliver a fine English talk. I was in the gallery with an English newspaper reporter and my friend the English reporter, expressed his surprise that the English language and the Czech language were so similar that he knew most of the words.
I have to tell that story because I have a strong accent and when I speak English I want you to know I don't speak Hungarian, and if you don't understand me that is not because I speak Hungarian.
I am sorry to speak in the form of a lecture. I wanted to avoid it but the dignity of the occasion required it. I want to state categorically that a lot of things that were not true yesterday are true today, and we are not quite sure whether they will be true tomorrow. But this freedom may make my progress easier.
Before starting to discuss my topic I have to discard some fallacies that might be present in the minds of many of you. Frequently somebody coming to this hemisphere is accused of being a propagandist. I admit the suspicion is justified many times. I am not in propaganda today. I am here in a private capacity, and not in the interests of any administration.
Now let us approach the subject today from the perspective of history, which will lead us up to the present, and then a word or two about the future. Outside forces have often created a difficult situation in the Danube Basin. Central forces and geographic factors always prevailed in Central Europe and most of the time Hungary was a large and strong entity. I say one of the greatest wonders emerging out of the invasion of the Mongols and the Turks and the heroic resistance of the German pressure and persuasion is that the Hungarian state and the Hungarian nation as such has never ceased to exist. The Goths, Gepides, Avars, the Huns, and many other Slavonic and German races succeeded only in establishing a temporary regime in the Danube Basin, and it is an historic and a political wonder that in spite of internal as well as external troubles and destructive forces, Hungary could have resisted all forces and the Hungarian kingdom did not cease to exist.
The present occasion does not permit even a brief survey but I want to present my topic from the historic point of view. In the 11th century, Hungary became established as a kingdom. From the 12th century on, Hungary became a great province with its borders washed by three seas-the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Adriatic Sea. At that time Hungary was a uninational state. Now, I want to explain how Hungary became a multinational state through those destructive forces and external factors in Central Europe. Two major factors can account for the development. One factor was the Turkish invasion which started in Hungary in the 15th century. The Hungarian army from that time on resisted heroically the Turkish attacks and Hungary was the guard of western civilization against Ottoman destruction.
I do not want to speculate on what the situation in Europe and especially of Central Europe would be today if Hungary had not resisted the Turkish invasion. At the beginning of the 15th century the population of Hungary was four million and the population of England was four million, also. Four hundred years later the population of England was twenty million, and the population of Hungary was less than three million. Hungary did make a large sacrifice in defending the country against the Turks. For 150 years, one third of Hungary was subjected to Turkish rule and the Hungarian population was decimated.
Hungary, in the 16th century, had chosen Ferdinand of the Hapsburgs as King, and from that time on Austria and Hungary had the same ruler. This lasted until 1918 and was responsible for many troubles in Hungary. I don't want to say that Hungary would be better off today if she had never joined Austria. Hungary was very much in the position of the young man who wanted to know whether he should get married or not. His father told him, "If you get married you will regret it; if you don't get married you will also regret it". That is the situation of Hungary regarding the Hapsburg problem.
When the Hapsburgs came to the throne of Hungary, the German and Slavic races were invited to settle in the outskirts of Hungary. The Germans established industries and the Slavic races were occupied in agriculture. They were usually faithful servants of the policy of the Viennese administration to decrease Hungarian influence in Hungary proper. There was fierce resistance to the attempts to Germanize Hungary, which finally burst forth in the revolutions of 1848, when Hungary fought against the Hapsburgs and the Slavic races and the Germans.
The history of Hungary from the 16th century on until the World War consisted of recurring struggles for freedom. Today Hungary's foreign policy, as well as her interior policy is dominated by two main factors: one factor is for independence, the other is for the German alliance. Now, I am going to discuss with you the effect and the influence of Germany in Hungary, partly on interior policy and partly on the foreign policy of the country.
Hungary, in my eyes, is even more exposed to Naziism than was Germany. Her social and economic problems were graver after the war than those of the Reich. The last war and its consequences played havoc with her economic life and damages suffered by her were considerably higher than those of Germany. While Germany lost only 13 per cent of her territory, Hungary's losses amounted to 71 per cent. She lost 3/4 of her iron ore production and almost 100 per cent of her mineral wealth and 88 per cent of her timber. The large domestic market of pre-war days was reduced to about 8,000,000 impoverished consumers.
Hungary's international position after the war was definitely worse than that of Germany. Germany, by concluding the Rapallo Treaty with Russia in 1922 emerged out of her isolation, while Hungary was completly isolated and surrounded by four neighbours who all grabbed territory from her. The peacemakers, in order to antagonize Austria and Hungary, have allotted a few counties of Western Hungary to Austria. Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Jugoslavia soon formed a Little Entente, for the purpose of adopting a common policy against the revisionist demands of mutilated Hungary.
In view of the events in Germany, it would have been quite natural if Hungary had also adopted a similar course, The friendship between the two countries is today anything but sincere. If it were not for the common inclination to ward a grievance policy, the Germans and the Hungarians would be in opposite camps. The Germans were the historic enemies of Hungary and Hungary knows from the 11th century on until the latest date we had to fight against the Germans and to defend our independence, and Hungarians of historic sense are not oblivious of this fact. The unfortunate post-war conditions in Hungary were the main motives for the Nazi tide in the interior and for the ambiguous foreign policy which the country has to follow today. The Nazi policy may be suited for the Germans who are used to a gregarious spirit, but it is certainly alien to the Hungarians whose whole mentality and constitution cannot digest the lessons of National Socialism.
Perhaps a short survey of national socialist movements in Hungary would help to understand the national policies of the country. Hungary was perhaps the first country which proceeded to outlaw Communism. Her experience with Communism and the economic as well as international consequences of the four month old rule of Bela Kun in 1919 have discredited the Communist movement, and forced Hungary to adopt a very strong anti-Communist rule. In 1921 a law was enacted by the Hungarian Parliament which, though not mentioning Communists explicitly, was primarily directed against them. The Act of Parliament, bearing the title, "Act for Increased Defense of the State and Social Order", threatened with criminal procedings and heavy terms all activity which would fit under Communist classifications.
Hungary, after the war, became a purely agricultural country. Deprived of her natural resources and industries, she had started to rebuild her economic life. By gradual work, a sane economic policy and application of the Chinese wall of high tariffs, she succeeded in a remarkably brief time to change her aspect which today is semi-agricultural and semi-industrial. During this period of economic transformation, the Communist movement had lost its foothold. A movement of economic recovery is never a propitious moment for social revolutions. Furthermore, the Government applied drastic measures against every isolated Communist attempt. Communism was not only outlawed on the statute books, but was also tabooed by the whole population which still remembers the nightmare of the short-lived Bolshevik regime. When the depression had set in, the aspects were definitely different. The economically distressed classes, owing to the outlawry of Communism, sought a panacea somewhere else than in Moscow. The ultra-national elements rejoiced at the military slogans of the National Socialist Party, and tried to imitate them. A few even were not unfriendly toward the idea that the wagon of their nation should be hitched to that of Germany.
The terrible blow inflicted on Hungarian pride by the peace treaties and the economic consequences of the mutilation of the country couldn't have other results than those which they have necessarily entailed. The Hungarian army officers and a considerable proportion of the middle class pinned their hope on Germany's resurrection. Displaying a surprising blindness toward historic forces and geographical factors, they have enthusiastically advocated closer ties with Germany and have wanted to share the fate of the Reich.
The first Nazi party in Hungary was founded in 1932. Its leaders fortunately were career-hunting desperado politicians, whose unsuccessful career in parliamentary, democratic channels drove them toward an adventure with Naziism. The poor leadership in the first Hungarian National Socialist Party, and the fact that quite a few of them had some Jewish blood in their veins, rendered the Nazis until 1937 ridiculous. Many middle class members refused to join the party because they did not want to share the comical aspect of the Nazis. The parliamentary elections in 1935 were still not fulfilling the hopes of Nazis who became represented with only two deputies in the Chamber of Deputies, consisting of 245 members. Furthermore, these National Socialist parliamentarians had intellectual qualifications which approached the ridiculous. The contents of their speeches were reported in the funny section of the daily papers. Their activity has for a long time discredited the National Socialists' success in Hungary.
In March, 1935, Germany publicly repudiated the military clauses of the Versailles Treaty, and announced her huge armament race. Austria followed suit in April, 1936, while Hungary was still silent. The danger of a possible invasion by the Little Entente states precluded the Hungarian Government from openly introducing conscription, and from embarking upon the same policy as Germany and Austria. The nationalistic element started to lose confidence in the government which advocated moderation and had not thought of leaving the League of Nations. Germany for at least ten years after the war had not seriously considered a territorial revision of the peace treaty. In Hungary, agitation for revision had never stopped since the Treaty of Trianon was added to the statutes on June 4, 1920, and I should say that the Hungarians are definitely more nationalistic than Germans. Nevertheless, Hungary's policy was definitely less aggressive than that of Germany.
As you know, the European university has been so often the hot-bed of extreme right political movement. The students in Hungary and the small bourgeoise became the bulwark of the different national socialist parties. If Hungarians were just as gregarious as the Germans, Hungary today would not be any more a constitutional, parliamentary state. The eagerness for leadership caused many national socialist parties to spring up, which first of all attacked each other while the government took the role of onlooker. Today, after the general elections of May, 1938, the number of national socialists in the Hungarian Parliament is 49. There are others, however, who for some reason or another have not adopted the Nazi emblem but are registered as supporters of the Government party. The 49 National Socialists belong to nine different parties and there are still others who have not succeeded in getting parliamentary representation.
There is very little Prussian in Hungarian Naziism. The individual Hungarian does not want National Socialism and if he adopts it he does it only temporarily as a means of liberation from an economic and international stranglehold.
There is much similarity between the English and Hungarian political history and the social structure of the two countries. Therefore it is not a surprise to me that our Nazi leaders are not of the German type but resemble more the British Sir Oswald Mosley. Major Szalasi, the Leader of the powerful Arrow Cross party, which is the biggest Nazi party in Hungary, a few years ago offered his services to the Social Democratic Party and only when he was refused he started to build up his own National Socialist Movement which today is a large factor in Hungarian politics.
The Government was for some time at a loss with the National Socialists. Their patriotic slogans supplied them protection and it was only since 1937 that far-reaching police measures were started against them. The so-called Communist law of 1921 was put in force against them and they were tried under that law, destined for the protection of the State and social order. The same treatment was allotted to them as to Communists, and Major Szalasi, the Hungarian Hitler,, is now serving a term of three years. The fact that they were advertising Anti-Communist slogans, was irrelevant to the firm determination of the Government to strike on them. Their wholesale promises had effects also on industrial workers, many of whom joined the Nazi parties. In the industrial centres of Budapest the National Socialists emerged as the largest political group after the general election this year. Former Communists joined the Nazi ranks a long time before the Hitler-Stalin Pact was officially announced last August. Many of the little Fuehrers in Hungary served long sentences for Communistic offences or were active under the Communist regime of 1919. The industrial workers, losing confidence in the Socialist Party, expected to realize their aims with the National Socialists. The Socialist Party, in order to avoid the threatened dissolution, proceeded to a meek and sterile policy. The advance of the Nazis is especially conspicuous in those districts which were socialist strongholds before. The activity of Communists got new vigour in Nazi ranks as they have realized that the wearing of Communist emblems is suicide. It is remarkable how the young apprentices, the former guarde de reserve of the Communists are now conspicuous in the Nazi street demonstrations. Except for Jewish Communists, the rank and file of the former Communist party is now reorganized within the National Socialist hierarchy.
Nobody can venture a prophecy as to whether the Nazis will come to power in Hungary. I personally abhor the possibility because they represent the most shallow strata of our political and social life. Their activity has already caused grave displacement in our economic life. Capital, and not merely the Jewish one, is extremely timid and, spending investments are at a dangerous low point. Our reputation is disparaged abroad because a Nazi regime in Hungary will have to make a strong alliance with Germany. Of course, in Hungary the Nazis have embarked on propaganda against the Jews and have tried to stress the differences among social classes. Many of the landless farm labourers and even the low-salaried and embittered middle class men will remain dissatisfied by the reforms of the Government, because these reforms are running short of the irresponsible Nazi promises. A wing of the Government party, some members of the Cabinet, have espoused the Nazi ideology in the expectation that the Nazi movement will lose ground if some of the Nazi promises were . carried out by the party. However, the Government has adopted more of the ideology of the Nazis than social programmes. It seemed more convenient to make concessions in slogans than in practice.
The anti-Jewish law forced upon Hungary mainly by German pressure had satisfied only that minority group of middle class Nazis who blamed the Jews for their low income. The great masses had very little use for these laws as limitation of Jews in professions, trades and industry of course does not effect the millions of toilers whose chief motive in joining the Nazis was desire for more adequate social and economic conditions. Even if millions and millions were among the revolutionary forces, which is not so true today as last year, the Nazis wouldn't have any hope for revolution if they are not supported by the army and the police. While the police as a whole in Hungary is a faithful servant of the regime, the loyalty of many army officers is generally doubted. Army officers of a vanquished country have as a rule more affinity with an extreme movement based upon aggressive spirit and international radicalism.
If the Nazi movement were purely a lower class one it would have very little chance for a triumph as modern mechanized weapons have turned odds definitely to favour the cause of those in power. I am more than convinced that revolution can be successful only if countenanced by at least a certain minority of the armed forces. Taine, the French historian, may have been right a hundred years ago when he said that there are some moments when possibilities of revolution are lying ready on the street. Today, they are in the barracks, in the broadcasting stations and in the easy chairs of Government officials.
Being a scholar, and perhaps also a good Hungarian and a good European, I have to be opposed to Naziism which is based on mob psychology and ancient tribe philosophy, and which emphasizes the most despicable features of our age. Some of the aristocrats in Hungary, though only a few, are desirous of reviving their old glory and are dreaming of the day when they can march before ragged masses toward the much coveted power.
Hungary was always a land of paradoxes. We remember that in 1918 the social and political revolution was led by one of the wealthiest aristocrats in the whole of Europe, Count Michael Karolyi. We also remember that not quite a year ago it was a part Jew Prime Minister, Dr. Imredy, who sponsored the anti-Jewish legislation in which he consciously or unconsciously (I don't know which) tried to persecute himself and deprecated his own ancestors. The fate of the Nazis in Hungary in the eyes of many observers is tied up with the future of Nazi Germany, and the more bolshevik Nazi Germany becomes, the sooner will be accomplished the reddening process in Hungary, too. It is typical of the Nazi parties that they are financed by the German Government or the German Nazi Party. No reasonable person has any doubt that the largest Nazi Party in Hungary is a subsidiary of the Nazi Party in the Reich. Even the Prime Minister of Hungary who usually has very little use for forceful language, has publicly branded the Nazi Parties for having accepted funds from abroad. The subsidiary Nazi movements in Hungary are servile disciples of the great party in the Reich and the well practised methods of the latter are copied by their representatives in Hungary. It is noticeable that very few full blooded Hungarians are engaged in leading capacities in the Nazi parties and the little Fuehrers in Hungary are mostly of Slavonic descent or Germans. Those whose ancestors a few centuries ago migrated to Hungary are more liable to succumb to the Nazi spell than the pure Hungarian. So these parties have achieved the greatest Asults in the districts which are populated by the German minorities; they have been more successful there than in the purely Hungarian districts. The German minority, although loyal citizens of Hungary before Hitler came to power in Germany, particularly most of the young Germans in Hungary have succumbed to the Nazi spell and want to see the day when they will greet Adolf Hitler on his triumphal march into Budapest. The older generation of Germans is not very friendly toward the Nazi propaganda. The Government has been very lenient toward these disrupting elements and in the last election the Hungarian Government has invited some of the leaders of the German Nazi minority to take a Government party ticket. I think that the policy of the government was not very successful and not very desirable, because the Nazis in parliament and in the Government Party have more voice than they had before.
Ever since Hitler came to power in 1933, particularly since his reconciliation with Mussolini, Hungary's position has been described as tragic and hopeless. Voices were heard all over the world saying she had become a subsidiary of Germany and had lost her independent will. The press of the world felt inclined to discount Hungary as an independent nation and to treat her as an annex of the Third Reich. When Austria was still indulging in her independence and Czechoslovakia scheming in the Little Entente, Hungary was regarded as being already within the German orbit. Austria, whose independence was guaranteed by the League of Nations and the great powers-Italy, Great Britain and France-was anything but independent in spite of all the safety valves. Czechoslovakia, overlooking the weakness of the Little Entente, and the multinational character of its political structure, embarked upon a policy to which she was not measured. France and Russia had not guaranteed integrity of Hungary, she was not protected by anybody, and she could not expect help from the League of Nations either.
The statesmanship in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland was exalted, while the world press has always treated Hungary as an easy prey for German expansion.
Today these three countries have been unfortunately swept off the map. Hungary, whose epitaph has been prepared for a long time, has struggled and has not only safeguarded her former independence but also many features of her thousand year old constitution and parliamentary structure. Hungary, a small country, a shadow of her former strength, mutilated, deprived of more than half her territory, population and resources, facing potential enemies on every inch of her border, is still master of her soul.
Jugoslavia is in the nut-cracker of Italy and Germany and any German advance there would be at the expense of Italy. Hungary, not being contiguous to Italy, is more attackable by the Germans, since Italy's interests, at least geographically, are not immediately concerned. "Swastika over Hungary"-headlines of that sort are abounding, yet the state of St. Stephen is still a major factor in European politics. The resistance and diplomacy displayed there shows the realistic sense which the people have always possessed; otherwise, they would have been a long time in the depth of the abyss. The temptation to which the Hungarian state is exposed cannot be overstated. Everybody had expected that Hungary, destitute after the World War, would sell out to the first bidder. She was weakened in population and territory but not in resistance. She was deprived of more than half of her territory, without plebiscites which were refused, because though secret treaties, various parts of Hungary had been promised by Britain and France to the lesser Allies in 1916 and 1917. The racial problems were dexterously fanned into flame largely by promises made to a group of nationalities and small races.
But you cannot know, not being Hungarian, what it meant, when with one deep scratch of the pen, Poland was reunited, while the map of Hungary fluttered into six fragments. The country which for a thousand years had been an entity was dismembered. The economic unity of the Hungarian kingdom was destroyed. Hungary was completely isolated until 1927 when Italy offered to Hungary an outstretched hand, which Hungary still has not forgotten. When Hitler came to power he espoused the cause of Hungary, which became a close collaborator of the axis of the now badly bent, if not broken instrument. Hungarian foreign policy since the war has two major concepts: to safeguard her independence against the host of threatening elements an to recover those territories having in majority . a Hungarian population of which she was deprived at the table of the Peace Conference.
The Government, not very skilfully, tried to persuade the Hungarian public that the Germans are our friends, filled with great sympathy toward us. I don't know to what extent these words were dictated by conviction, and to what extent by the necessity to counteract public opinion. The former Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the veteran Kanya, knew how to escape entangling alliances and avoided every commitment which would line up Hungary irretrievably with the axis. While Hungary feels friendlier to the democracies than to Germany, as a neighbour of Germany she has to live up to the facts. If I can express myself in one sentence I would say Hungary is in love with the democracies, but she is wedded to Germany. She is very anxious to get a divorce, she wants to go to Reno, and if she gets a divorce, she wants to get remarried. Hungary couldn't have joined the Allies because France, especially, had committed herself to the preservation of the status quo in Central Europe.
The Allies realize today that Hungary had no other choice in her foreign policy than the course she has followed, which has been her natural course. Even I, whose political and personal sympathy were definitely with the Allies, have to admit that an alliance with the Western democracies today or in the recent past, is not in line with Hungary's political aspirations. The best intellectuals in the country are opposed to the ties of Germany, but the rigid attitude of the Allies toward our frontier problem does not afford another choice.
The difference in character, in political ambitions, conflicting national interests and traditional opposition, are all against the German friendship. If it were not for that unfortunate treaty question, Hungary would certainly back the Allies today.
Today both the French and British Governments know that Hungary is threatened by Germany, and though Hungary is not guaranteed by the Allies, the Allies would like to go to the help of Hungary, although due to the unfortunate geographic situation, they would not be able to support Hungary if she is attacked. The sabre rattling of Hungary against Russia at the beginning of this year was very unfortunate. Nobody in Hungary suspected that Russia would become our neighbour in a very few months. Today, Hungary as a double historic duty, has to resist the western invasion on the part of the Germans and the easterly invasion of the Russians. If the Hungarians do not stand up against the Germans, nothing can stop them from reaching the Black Sea, and if they reach the Black Sea the life-line of Britain on the Mediterranean Sea will be greatly endangered. Furthermore, if Hungary cannot hold back Russia, and if there is not enough assistance on the part of the other countries, the Russians will not stop until they reach the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, the Italo-Hungarian friendship today is stronger than ever before. There is a plan for escape by which the Italian King might become the King of Hungary. The scheme might be accepted by many Hungarians, even by those who have Republican inclinations. If the King of Italy became the King of Hungary, in the event that Hungary was attacked by Germany, Italy might come to the help of Hungary. That might bring Italy in on the side of the Allies. This possibility, though not discussed publicly yet, was a matter of consideration by the diplomatic Corps of Hungary and Italy. That is the reason that today Mussolini is not very enthusiastic about the restoration of the Hapsburgs, because if the Hapsburgs are restored the Italian influence in Central Europe would not be so strong as it is today. Futhermore, the Jugoslavs are very strongly opposed because if Hungary had a Catholic King, there might be a Croat attempt to secede from Jugoslavia and join Hungary, or the Croats might adopt the same policy as Hungary and choose Victor Emmanuel for King.
The solution in Hungary and Central Europe is bound up with the establishment of the Federated States of Central Europe, or a Union of Central Europe, of every country in Central Europe, which will involve sacrifices in order to attain the ultimate objective. It is rather unfortunate that the spirit of Central Europe today is not ripe for a union of the Central European States, and I would say it is the duty of the great powers to force the small central European countries to unite. I would say that most of the central European races are still minors in the family of nations. They still need some tutoring. I hope that that tutoring will not come from Germany, but from Italy, France and Britain, who have no designs on the small countries. If the small countries do not hold together they will have the same dilemma to face that Voltaire warned the French peasants of-if they don't hold together they will hang separately. If the small countries do not hold together Germany will eat them, one after another. The lesson of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland should be instructive to Rumania, Jugoslavia and Bulgaria and unite them with Hungary as well. They should be more clever than the bourbons who, after the French Revolution had not learned anything, nor did they forget anything either. (Applause)
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests: Dr. Doman has given us an excellent address on the historical development of the kingdom of Hungary, its present state, its foreign and internal policies, the experience of this little country and the effect of the many "isms" on its political and social economy, surrounded as it is by what they feel are many enemies.
I take much pleasure on your behalf in extending to Dr. Doman the thanks and appreciation of the Empire Club for his excellent address which has enlightened us on the serious problems that confront Hungary at this time. (Applause)