|The Future of Freedom Foundation|
I was in Hungary shortly after the 30th anniversary of the uprising. There were no official celebrations then, perhaps because the Soviets still occupied the nation and were watching warily as the Hungarians made passive economic reforms intended to make socialism efficient.
The buildings in downtown Budapest appeared to have different sets of bullet holes -- the first from the fierce fighting in 1944 when the Red Army drove the Nazis out of the city, and another set from a dozen years later, from when the Soviets crushed the Hungarians' demand for freedom.
I have not forgotten the row of new black Mercedes cars parked outside Communist Party headquarters near the Danube River in Budapest. When I interviewed one of the regime's top trade officials, he was as smug as the day is long, oblivious to the cascading evidence of Hungarian economic failure.
Two and a half years later, it was the Hungarians who, more than any other Eastern Europeans, brought the Iron Curtain crashing down. In May 1989, Hungarian government officials cut the barbed wire on the border with Austria. A tidal wave of East Germans and other Soviet Bloc serfs were soon stampeding through the opening. The Soviet tanks did not roll -- and the rest is history.
The celebrations in Budapest of the 50th anniversary of the uprising have been riotous. This is in part because Hungarians again feel betrayed and oppressed by their government.
The socialist party -- the direct descendant of the Communist Party that tyrannized the country for so long -- now rules Hungary. The socialists secured control in elections this past April.
Last month, a secret tape recording made shortly after the election leaked out. Hungarians heard Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany summarize the party's election campaign: "We lied in the morning, in the evening, and at night. I don't want to do this anymore." Gyurcsany said that the government's claims about the economy were brazen falsehoods. The government now admits that the government budget deficit is almost twice as large as it claimed during the election campaign.
The tape's release sparked widespread protests that escalated with this week's anniversary. More than 100 people have been injured, including many hit by police rubber bullets. Hungarian state radio reported that "police beat some of the protesters -- including women and elderly people -- with rubber batons, and some had head injuries," according to the Associated Press.
Tibor Navracsics, one of the opposition leaders, warns, "Hungary is in a moral crisis. If people are deceived, then they can't make responsible decisions." The opposition is demanding a public referendum within five months on the government's policies. The government is scorning its demand.
Gyurcsany's defenders stress that he recently won a "vote of confidence" in Parliament. The fact that weasel-like politicians did not object to political lying is not exactly a moral clean bill of health for the government.
"Every day is 1956" read the graffiti painted by protesters in Budapest this week. Some of the protests have been violent, as has the government's response at times. Many commentators are lamenting that the big anniversary did not spur an uplifting display of Hungarian unity.
Maybe Americans should look at Hungary more closely. For decades, Americans have been far too docile to the lies of their leaders. Whether it is Nixon lying about Vietnam, or George H.W. Bush lying about Panama, or Clinton lying about Kosovo, or George W. Bush lying about Iraq and Afghanistan -- many Americans have responded as if they were born to be cannon fodder for the ruling class.
citizenry does not punish liars, then it cannot expect the truth. Hungary
again reminds us that we do not need to bow down to whomever manages to
capture political power.
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Scott McPherson is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Samuel Bostaph is head of the economics department at the University of Dallas and an academic advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Anthony Gregory is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy (Palgrave, January 2006) and Terrorism & Tyranny (Palgrave, 2003), and is policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
Benedict LaRosa is a historian and writer and serves as a policy advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Bart Frazier is program director at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog Free Association."
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.