[Marxism] 72 percent of Hungarians say their economic situation was better under Communism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 3 19:27:11 MST 2009

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 4 2009

In Eastern Bloc, Wary View of Democracy

People who lived behind the Iron Curtain are substantially happier with 
life 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but express 
reservations about democracy, capitalism and their lot in the modern 
market economy, a new survey reports.

Fewer than a third of Ukrainians approve of the change to multiparty 
democracy, according to a wide-ranging poll by the Pew Research Center. 
In Russia, a majority mourns the Soviet Union, and nearly half say there 
ought to be a Russian empire. In every former Soviet bloc country 
polled, fewer people now support the shift to capitalism than in 1991. 
Seventy-two percent of Hungarians say their economic situation was 
better under the Communists.

The survey comes amid a financial crisis that is straining the 
adolescent market economies of the old Eastern bloc, and its findings 
reflect mixed -- and sometimes paradoxical -- attitudes in Russia and 
Eastern Europe.

Overall, majorities -- albeit some slender ones -- in every country but 
Ukraine approve of the shift to democracy. Ethnic hostilities, while 
persistent, have generally declined, and majorities or pluralities in 
all countries except Hungary and Ukraine welcome capitalism.

But significant worries remain about corruption, judicial fairness and 
the privileges of the rich and well-connected. Older people are far more 
wary of the new systems than their younger compatriots.

In one paradox, most nations are generally more favorably disposed 
toward immigrants than in 1991 -- but also support tighter immigration 

In spring 1991, amid the early, turbulent moments of the East's 
emergence from communism, Pew's predecessor, the Times Mirror Center, 
surveyed 12,569 people in nine countries (the U.K., Bulgaria, 
Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain) and 
three Soviet republics (Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine). This fall, the 
Pew center returned to those places.

In some ways, the Eastern countries have converged with Western ones. 
Opinions on the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty 
Organization are generally favorable everywhere except Hungary and the 
U.K., which are both sour on the EU.

In other areas, a gap remains. Roughly twice as many people in the East 
disapprove of ethnic and religious diversity as do their counterparts in 
France, Spain, Germany and the U.K. (Italy, where 84% have an 
unfavorable view of Gypsies, is a Western exception.)

In the former Eastern bloc, the financial crisis has amplified 
disparities: The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, which have 
weathered the turbulence relatively well, are most welcoming of 
democracy and capitalism. However, battered Hungary, Ukraine and 
Lithuania are still trying to claw their way back. Hungary is a notable 
outlier. Support for capitalism was 80% in 1991; it is now 46%. 
Recession has worsened discontent with the government.

"What people think of capitalism and democracy is very strongly linked 
to what people think of the government," says Márk Szabó of the 
Perspective Institute in Budapest. His firm's polls show more than half 
of Hungarians don't believe the government can handle the crisis. 
Hungarians' dismay with the market economy has been mounting for years, 
Mr. Szabó says, as it becomes clearer that promised social benefits 
can't be sustained.

—James Marson contributed to this article.

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