Market economy or grab for power?


By Pat Brewer

A leader of the democratic left in Hungary will speak at the Socialist Scholars Conference in Melbourne, July 18-21. Historian and Sovietologist Tamas Krausz, a leader of Left Alternative, will discuss the political and economic processes unfolding in Hungary and other Eastern European countries.

Krausz was one of the founders of Left Alternative, which in 1988 emerged as Hungary's first anti-Stalinist left organisation since 1945. The group includes left activists from most of Hungary's main parties and community organisations. It is a forum for discussion of politics and tactics and tasks facing the left, particularly in the process of developing support in the trade union movement.

At the Socialist Scholars Conference, Krausz will critically examine the view that the East European transformations are everywhere a result of organic and democratic mass movements — revolutionary movements. He argues that there are serious obstacles to the restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe.

Several socio-historical preconditions are missing, not the least of which is a shortage of capital for the enormous task of privatising and modernising the economy. There is no democratic national capitalist class, and the population is psychologically not prepared to realise the free market dream.

Krausz thinks the attempt to introduce a Western-type market economy from above will degenerate into a grab for power by sections of the old bureaucracy attempting to become a ruling class. Politically, this will produce a new authoritarian regime.

Of course any analysis of each of the Eastern European regimes must take account of national specifics, and Krausz will concentrate on the Hungarian experience.

Krausz is one of the editors of the theoretical review Eszmelet, the only Hungarian forum of the new left thinking which is attempting to develop concepts of social self-management in the aftermath of the collapse of barracks "socialism".

At Budapest University in 1990, he participated in the foundation of the Hungarian Institute for Russian and Soviet Studies. He has published extensively on problems of socialist movements from a historical and theoretical viewpoint.

These publications, mainly in Hungarian or Russian, include Socialism in one country (1982), Ouvre and history: Debates on Lukacs' works in the 1920s (1985), From tsar to commissars: the two revolutions in Russia of 1917 (1987), Stalin (1988-9), Bolshevism and the national question 1917-1922 (1989), Party discussions and historical science: debates about the specific features of the Russian historical process in the Soviet historiography of the '20s (1991) and Martov and Socialism (1990). n