An Interview with Kadar

A Communist who does it his way candidly assesses his aims and achievements

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Kadar passed a signed copy of his written answers across the table. The General Secretary then lit a cigarette and leaned toward his visitors. "Now," he said, "I am at your disposal."

Q. If you had to choose just one achievement of the past 30 years that you would most like to be remembered for, what would it be?

A. I usually do not think about that, but if you ask me, two things come to mind. The first is not high politics, but a personal matter. When I was a young man I became a Communist at a time when they did not hand out awards for it. I joined the underground and the party because of my conviction. I believed in that ideal, but it was not certain I would live to see the ideal come true. Now I can say I have lived to that point, to the birth of a new Hungary.

The second relates to the very grave and difficult period that occurred in Hungary in 1956. It was a situation in which I felt I had to take a strong stand, to assume an important position. There were others who could have done the job, but it fell to me. I did not seek it.

At that time Hungary was in the forefront of international interest for a number of reasons. My purpose was to remove Hungary from the front pages, and gradually we succeeded. For my actions in those days I was widely denounced, especially in the West. I was called all kinds of unpleasant names. But we were able to put an end to a very bloody series of events that could have led to civil war. Things became normal and gradually another favorable approach emerged with regard to our country. This was due, among other things, to our efforts to avoid ready-made solutions, trying to see the world as it is.

Q. Gorbachev was here for a visit before the Warsaw Pact summit in Budapest two months ago. Did he come to teach or to learn?

A. At meetings of this kind, teachers and students do not negotiate. Of course there is an exchange of experiences, but it is impossible to apply those in a pattern-like manner. I think that many things we do in this country Gorbachev cannot accept, which is quite understandable. The conditions and possibilities of the Soviet Union are quite different from ours. I can definitely say the Soviets understand and appreciate that we search for new solutions to present problems. I would like to single out our system of economic management, which I would describe as a socialist planned economy that pays attention to the market. Our system has been operating for 18 years, and that indicates it is a realistic system. We have reorganized our agriculture completely in a way that has been accepted by the farmers. We do not interfere in how cooperatives are run. How should I know, for example, who should be leading a cooperative? They choose their own managers and decide what they should produce. The results are tangible, this is undeniable.

Q. In 30 years in power you seem to have avoided creating a cult of personality. Was this a deliberate strategy or simply the unintended result of your own personal style and instincts?

A. I have never been interested in rank and to a certain extent even in popularity. In my view, anyone who thinks he creates history is stupid. Everyone should attend to the job at hand. If it becomes a part of history, so be it.

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