Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries > Hungary
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 798-799
HUNGARY: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

Hungary entered World War II as a German ally. The Germans later occupied the country, and in October 1944 the Horthy regime was overthrown by a pro-Nazi regime. The Soviet liberation in early 1945 caused the underground Communist Party to be revitalized, renamed (Hungarian Workers' Party), and given an important place in the coalition government led by the Smallholders Party following free elections the same year. Under Mátyás Rákosi, the Hungarian Workers' Party soon weakened its opponents and by 1947 seized control of the government. The multiparty system was abolished and the Communist leaders began the transition from capitalism to socialism. A new constitution was adopted in 1949, and Hungary became a People's Republic. Elections were reinstituted utilizing the single-slate process, with candidates nominated and running under the names of the Popular People's Front, which was dominated by the Workers' Party.

The move toward socialism was least successful in the agricultural sector. The initial land reforms, intended to engage the peasants' support for Communist aims, served mainly to bolster the popularity of the minister of agriculture, Imre Nagy. Nagy, who replaced Rákosi as chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1953, served until 1955, when Rákosi engineered his ouster and succession by András Hegedüs, with Rákosi remaining as first secretary of the party. Rákosi 's return to power was shortlived as he was replaced as first secretary by Ernö Geró in June 1956. Underlying tension, attributable to Rákosi 's adherence to rigid Stalinism and fed by opposition to Soviet intervention in Poland, erupted in October 1956 in a rebellion that paralyzed the country for several weeks and threatened the existence of the party. In an attempt to save it, Nagy was returned to the premiership within days and János Kádár became first secretary. Soviet troops arrived to put down the insurrection and János Kádár, supported by Khrushchev, then became premier as well as first secretary.

Whereas the first time period witnessed many political changes in Hungary (a Soviet-inspired Communist dictatorship, several covert power struggles, many purges, and a revolution), the 1957-1962 period was characterized by Kádár 's quiet, more determined style of rule. Though less doctrinaire than its predecessor, the party of János Kádár was basically the same through 1962. Despite promises of reform, Kádár made few significant changes in political life. The multiparty system and the increased civil liberties that accompanied the revolution were withdrawn when Kádár took power.

Continuity and Change since 1962

Since 1962, the close of our original time period, Hungary has undergone a gradual liberalization of its domestic policies. Hungarian economic reforms have been perhaps the most extensive in Eastern Europe. Political control has been loosened and somewhat decentralized within both party and government hierarchies. Despite this significant change in internal politics, Hungary remained a stable single-party state through 1978.

Original Party, Continuing

641 Socialist Workers' Party. Although he resigned his premiership in 1965, János Kádár continued in his longtime position as first secretary of the party. From his party post, Kádár engineered a decentralization of economic planning that resulted in greater efficiency and increased production of consumer goods. Despite its pragmatism in internal economic affairs, Hungary has followed the Soviet lead in foreign affairs, which may have accounted for its freedom in domestic affairs.


Throughout its period of liberalization, Hungary has maintained its system of a single party ruling within a People's Patriotic Front. One wonders, however, how long this arrangement can continue as people are acquiring the education to form different opinions and the economic resources to express them.

[For party politics since 1962, go to the essay by Michael J. Faber]

1. Our study of party politics in Hungary is based on a file of 1,213 pages from 59 documents, all of which are in English. The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (code 641) is the only one in our study. References to the party appear on 962 pages, constituting 79 percent of the total file. The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Judith Newsome Gillespie, Marcelino Miyares, and Donna Lehtinen. Patricia Sweeney used the file to code the Socialist Workers' Party on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework. Our consultants were William Welsh and Carl Beck.