|Stephen Borsody: The Hungarians: A Divided Nation|
From Minority to Nationality
Summary of a Marxist Analysis
by Laszlo Rehak
Laszlo Rehak is the foremost Yugoslav-Hungarian Marxist authority on nationality questions. One of his studies, prepared for a conference sponsored by the United Nations on nationality rights at Ohrid in 1974, was published in English, Nations and Nationalities of Yugoslavia (Belgrade, 1974). The summary of the argument and the selections below are from his book, Kisebbsegtol a nemzetisegig (Belgrade, 1978).
In his books, Rehak presents the theoretical foundations of contemporary Yugoslav nationality policy. As usual, reality often contradicts theory. These theories are ideals. As far as practice goes, they are, at best, aspirations. This is obvious in Rehak's analysis, particularly in his discussion of territorial autonomy. As far as the Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is concerned, the introduction of autonomy actually amounts to a name change from i'statute" to "constitution." Essentially, the switch from so-called bourgeois "minority" to socialist "nationality," is also a name change.
Rehak is interested primarily in Vojvodina's Hungarians of the Serbian Republic. The conditions of the Hungarians in the Croatian and Slovenian republics differ somewhat from those in the Vojvodina. Few in number, ca. 20,000, the Hungarians in Slovenia have the most far-reaching cultural and social opportunities as a minority community. The ca. 60,000 Hungarians in Croatia, despite relatively acceptable treatment, are threatened most by assimilation because of their geographical dispersal. Of course, the future of the ca. 420,000 Hungarians in the Vojvodina is of the greatest concern.
The excerpts that follow are from Laszlo Rehak, Kisebbsegtol a nemzetisegig (Belgrade, 1978), 33-41, 107-115. For further excerpts from the Rehak analysis, see Annex III in Chapter 12, below.
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The Leninist Legacy
While reviewing the Leninist theoretical legacy, Laszlo Rehak focuses on Lenin's criticism of the pre-World War I Austro-Marxist views. He expresses agreement with one of the leading Yugoslav Marxist ideologues, Edvard Kardelj, who observed:
Lenin's polemics with the Austro-Marxists and other similar orientations within the international labor movement was based on the premise that the national question was basically an economic and political question and that it cannot be reduced simply to the question of cultural autonomy or some such issue. It is just on such premises that Lenin developed his position on the nght of nations to self-determination.
Lenin's position, and that of the revolution which he headed, opened a new era for the solution of the minority question. Lenin rejected the liberal bourgeois solution, which claims equality as an abstract ideal but is divorced from the "social inequalities created by an economic order based on exploitation."
On numerous occasions Lenin raised the need for territorial autonomy in multinational states:
Local autonomy is not precluded by the practice of democratic centralism. In territories with autonomy based on special economic and ecological conditions or the unique nationality composition of the inhabitants, it is imperative that autonomy and democratic centralism supplement each other. Too frequently we tend to confuse centralism with arbitrariness and bureaucratic despotism. Of course, the confusion of the two is not surprising in the context of Russian history; however, for a Marxist it is still unforgivable.
Lenin presented the need for territorial autonomy in a realistic and flexible fashion: "Why should territorial autonomy be granted only to nationalities numbering at least half a million, why shouldn't even an area with only 50,000 members of a nationality enjoy such autonomy - why not unite these areas with neighboring subdivisions of various jurisdictions within a unified autonomous region of the country, if this is advantageous or necessary from the standpoint of commercial or economic integration." Then Lenin observes: "While the national composition is one of the most important factors, it is only one of the factors and not the most important of all the factors. . . . To separate cities from the towns and countryside for nationality reasons is a
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foolish and impossible solution." In other words, Rehak concludes, the Austro-Marxist position is not acceptable because it stresses the importance of national criteria while ignoring the more significant factors of economic rationality and other factors relative to living conditions. As opposed to the "personal autonomy" of the AustroMarxists, which would guarantee ethnic cultural rights by separating nationalities from each other, the Leninist approach was "territorial autonomy" which integrated different nationalities on the basis of their mutual economic interests within a federal framework.
The Question of Territorial Autonomy
Two basic assumptions of socialist society in Yugoslavia are the ruling power of the working class and the equality and fraternal interdependence of nations and nationalities. The autonomous provinces are a significant component of Yugoslavia's federal constitution. They have a significant role in the realization of Yugoslavia's nationality policies. However, the justification of territorial autonomy is not based solely on nationality considerations. Nationality considerations are only one of the factors - together with historical, economic and general social considerations.
Territorial autonomy in the socialist sense overcomes the isolation of one nationality from the other by consciously fostering the interdependence of the various nationalities. This is the only true socialist way to regulate a minority society for the sake of equality. However, to achieve this objective the constitational institutionalization of territorial autonomy by itself is not enough, it must be supported by the revolutionary forces and policies of society. Socialist self-management facilitates the linking together of workers from various nationalities through their common territorial or regional interests. At the same time, this may also satisfy certain particular nationality interests.
The federal constitution of 1967 and the constitutional amendment of 1968 defined the role of autonomous provinces as social-political elements of federalism, with independent rights and responsibilities. On this basis, on February 21, 1969, the Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina adopted a "Constitutional Law" to replace its "Statute." The changes provide the opportunity for a greater role in our general economic and social-political development as well as for
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the continuing development of nationality relations within a socialist context.
The Bridge Role of the Nationalities
Yugoslavia has consistently rejected the view that a multinational society is a hindrance or a disadvantage. Yugoslavia's Communists believe that it is the balance of social forces rather than the multinational makeup of society that determines cooperation or conflict. The League of Communists of Yugoslavia, as well as other organized socialist forces, turned with confidence toward the national minorities. . . . This is a primary consideration in determining the so-called "bridge role" of the nationalities on the domestic scene.
However, this "bridge role" also has international ramifications. Edvard Kardelj wrote about this in the following way:
As long as state boundaries separate members of one and the same nation, we cannot claim that the problems of national minorities have been solved, that their conditions of existence are ideal. The final resolution of the problems of national minorities will be a consequence only of those historical and social developments which will lead, in general, to the elimination of state boundaries, without regard to the communities of which the minorities are now a part.... In principle we must fight for the right of minorities to maintain unhindered contact with their conationals beyond the state frontiers. Along some borders for political reasons these contacts are thwarted or at least restricted. As a socialist country, however, we must clearly state that we favor open borders with the countries that are our neighbors and that we favor a system whereby people have freedom of movement. . . . However, this kind of arrangement can be achieved only among friendly states and nations, which mutually accept the responsibility not to interfere in each other's domestic affairs.
These thoughts were cast into a resolution at the Eighth Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in 1964:
We must expand and nurture our friendly good neighbor policies, and many-sided cooperation between states with mixed populations. Such cooperation will guarantee that state boundaries will not become walls of separation between nationalities and the people whom they regard as their mother-nation. The free and many-sided contacts between nationalities will not become a source of tension and conflict, as in the past, but rather that they will become the reason for closer ties and cooperation
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National minorities play a significant role in transmitting the cultural values of neighboring nations. In this way, they enrich another nation's material and intellectual culture, or at any rate they contribute to the understanding of it. In this way, the common interests and the forms of international cooperation are strengthened and enriched.
The role of nationalities as bridges remains an aspiration. In the actual world we cannot realize it yet. For this role to become a reality, more time is needed. It is more likely to be achieved in a socialist society than under a capitalist social order. At least, this is the case in theory. Yet, despite the fact that basic to socialist conditions is the abolition of every privilege and the elimination of class and nationality advantage, there are examples in our age where socialist states utilize the worn-out intolerant assimilationist policies of capitalist societies, either openly or in disguised fashion. Also, in today's world, examples abound where states misuse national minority contacts to interfere in the internal affairs of others. This is the reason why Edvard Kardelj stresses that national minorities can fulfill their linkage, bridging role "only among friendly states and nations."
Building bridges among nations and countries is not a simple task. Still, the future peaceful development and social progress of mankind depends on it.
The Limits of Yugoslav Tolerance:
Reverberations of a Remark by Gyula lllyes
and the "Uj Symposion Affair"
Gyula Illyes, the internationally known Hungarian poet and writer, died in April 1983. Revered as the "grand old man" of Hungarian letters, he has been considered by many as the voice of Hungarian national conscience, especially because of his outspoken concern for the Hungarian minorities (see Chapter 14, below).
A few months before his death, Illyes gave an interview to Harry Schleicher of the Frankfurter Rundschau (December 21, 1982). Speaking of the minority Hungarians, Illyes expressed the view that "even those in Yugoslavia are threatened," mentioning specifically the
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"de-Hungarianization" taking place in "urban centers." He also termed Hungary's Trianon frontiers "unjust," indirectly urging greater Western interest in the fate of the Hungarian minorities because, as he put it, the "political responsibility" for the territorial settlement that created these minorities lies originally with France and Great Britain.
Two months after the Illyes interview, the Hungarian-language daily of the Yugoslav Communist party, Magyar Szo, published a reply (February 20, 1983) by a highly respected member of the Vojvodina Hungarian community, Imre Bori, a professor at the University of Novi Sad (Ujvidek). Bori paid tribute to Illyes's literary greatness but criticized the "unreality" of his ideas bearing upon the realm of politics - such as his "Swiss model" for solving the Danube region's nationality problems, or his poetic metaphor comparing the literature of the dismembered Hungarian people to "five reeds" of a shepherd's pipe. Condemning his Frankfurter Rundschau interview for "releasing the genies of irredentism from the bottle of the past," Bori charged Illyes with "revisionist views." Furthermore, he rejected Illyes's interference in Yugoslavia's domestic affairs, calling him a "self-appointed spokesman" for Yugoslavia's Hungarians. Translated into Serbian, the Bori article was simultaneously published in the Belgrade Borba (February 20, 1983), while the Zagreb Vedernji list (February 25, 1983), approving Bori's reply to Illyes in an article of its own, condemned Illyes's "rude interference" in Yugoslavia's national and international affairs.
The Illyes affair came to be entangled in another affair, indicating the limits of Yugoslav tolerance. That other "affair" concerns the avant-garde Hungarian periodical Uj Symposion, a literary forum of some of Vojvodina's most original and talented Hungarian writers and poets of the postwar generation. Controversial ever since 1965 (when out of a supplement to an official youth publication it became an independent magazine), Uj Symposion had more recently been accused by the authorities of politically inadmissible transgressions against Yugoslav interests. In particular, it was resented that in 1982 the magazine published a poem expressing feelings of solidarity with the Serb poet Gojko Djogo, imprisoned for defaming Tito's memory.
In December 1982, on the occasion of Gyula Illyes's eightieth birthday, Uj Symposion republished his famous 1956 poem, "A Sentence on Tyranny." Although it happened before the Frankfurter
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Rundschau interview which triggered the Illyes affair, it is believed that the two almost simultaneous occurrences provided the last straw as far as the Yugoslav authorities' tolerance toward the controversial magazine was concerned. Charging Uj Symposion with "ideological insensitivity and political immaturity," the Presidium of the Regional Council of the Vojvodina Socialist Youth Association, by its decision on May 9, 1983, dismissed the magazine's editor-in-chief and its entire editorial staff. Elaborating on the charges, the decision expressed objections to the magazine's policy of publishing poems "containing ideologically inadmissible messages," as well as writings "of the same kind" by foreign authors. In general, Uj Symposion was found guilty of spreading views which are "alien to us" and permeated with "a certain degree of oppositionism" (Magyar Szo, May 12, 1983).
The dismissed editors protested publicly, charging that the decision violated the rules of "self-management" guaranteed by law. The effects of the Uj Symposion affair have also spilled over into Hungary. Eighty members of the Hungarian Writers' Association requested that the issue be discussed by the association because it affects not merely the Hungarians of Vojvodina but Hungarian cultural life as a whole. The presidium of the association rejected the request.
For a detailed account of the affair see Irodalmi Ujsag, Supplement on the "Uj Symposion Affair," 34/4 (1983): 11-14.
|Stephen Borsody: The Hungarians: A Divided Nation|