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HUNGARY: Salami Tactics

3 minute read

With the Communists safely in power, Hungary’s bullet-headed top Communist Matyas Rakosi decided the time had come to tell everybody how they got there.Writing in the party organ Social Review, Rakosi is cynically candid. In the free elections of 1945, the Communists polled only 17% of the vote while the democratic Smallholders Party polled 56.5%, a clear majority. But with the help of the occupying Russian army (“Soviet ‘interferences’ in internal affairs . . . were of great value in strengthening our party”), the Smallholders were persuaded to make concessions.

The basic rule to follow in such a situation, Rakosi writes, is to keep the opposition split up, “perplexed and hesitating.

Join with non-Communists in a coalition and then proceed, by various methods, to take over.” What methods? “Salami tactics,” says Rakosi—”demanding a little more each day, like cutting up a salami, thin slice after thin slice.

“Take the banks for instance. First we requested only state control; later, the nationalization of only three big banks. In industry the same way: first we demanded state management of the mines; we gradually expanded this to the biggest machinery plants—and finally we shifted to nationalization.”

Farms of less than 171 acres were not subject to Red reform—at first. As for the churches, “we destroyed . . . this reactionary front of unity” by splitting Catholics and Protestants: the Catholic church was not touched until after the Protestants had been taken care of. Then came Cardinal Mindszenty’s arrest and trial.

Rakosi is just as frank about the police-state goal at the end of Communism’s road: “After the [World War II] liberation, we didn’t clarify this problem before wide masses of the party but only in limited audiences. Any discussion of the dictatorship of the proletariat as our final aim would have caused great alarm among our coalition partners and hindered our efforts to win over a majority of the petty bourgeoisie—even of the working masses.” In one field, Rakosi ignored salami tactics, insisting on the whole sausage right at the start: control of the Ministry of the Interior, with the State Security Office, or secret police. “We held this completely in our hands from the first day of its existence. Our party demanded the leadership and tolerated no respecting of coalition-proportion whatsoever . . . Under the conditions in our country when troops of the liberating Soviet Union were staying in our fatherland, no open armed revolt was possible.”

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