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Issue #1534      8 February 2012

Culture & Life

US on the outer, Hungary in turmoil

So far, 2012 has not turned out to be a resounding success for the USA, despite the way it likes to define itself as “the world’s only superpower”. Sure, it knocked off defenceless oil-rich Libya, but had to do so through NATO, with the unwelcome result that now it has to share Libya’s riches with European rival and periodic critic France.

Meanwhile, France’s European ally Germany has been lobbying the other EU states to accept a treaty that would enhance Germany’s economic position in Europe and automatically impose sanctions on countries that violated the terms of the treaty. The US felt this proposal did not assist US interests, and sent Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Europe to get the Germans to fall in with US preferences.

In a sign of the times, Geithner was ignored in Bonn and Chancellor Merkel’s government is continuing with its plans. As if that wasn’t ignominious enough, Cuba’s principal daily Granma noted that when the countries of the Western Hemisphere met in Venezuela to form the Community of Latin American and Carribbean States (CELAC), every single country in the region signed the agreement except for those that were not invited: the United States and Canada.

And closer to home, even Obama’s open challenge to China – issued in Australia – in the form of an assertion of America’s commitment to “devoting the necessary resources to maintain a strong military presence in the region”, fell rather flat when it received only a subdued reaction from China.

Australia eagerly jumped in to welcome hundreds (probably soon to be thousands) of US marines to Darwin, but China has simply continued with the low key modernisation of its naval forces, including the addition of a distinctive new aircraft carrier to its fleet of surface vessels.

Then there was the embarrassing case of the top secret US drone that apparently landed in Iran, having been hijacked by computer while in flight. The US says it is not possible, but Granma cites Debka, “the internet voice of Israeli hawks” as saying it is true. Apparently, Iranian scientists are now busy deciphering the workings of the deadly US remote-controlled flying weapons-systems.

And the year has only just begun!

As readers of this paper will know, the world’s first fascist state wasn’t Nazi Germany or even Mussolini’s Italy. It was Horthy’s Hungary, a clerical fascist state in which the Catholic Church enjoyed extraordinary power, wealth and privileges. It joined with its ally Hitler Germany in persecuting Jews and other minorities (as well as Communists and socialists, of course), and seized territories from its neighbours when Germany overran them.

It gleefully joined the Nazis’ invasion of Russia in 1941, with dreams of a “Greater Hungary” as part of Hitler’s new world order. Hitler’s defeat was also Hungary’s defeat, but although the country’s socialists were able to emerge from exile or hiding and take over the country, Hungarian nationalism remained a potent force and many pre-war fascists simply put away their green jackets and kept their heads down, waiting for the Reds to go away.

In 1956, with US support, a combination of Church and aristocracy tried to stage a coup and oust the Reds. Former landowners hurried back from exile to tell the peasants to return everything they had “stolen”. The peasants decided they preferred to keep the land they had been given by the socialist state and asked the army for guns to defend their farms.

The counter-revolution collapsed to the dismay of students in Budapest, who had been told by Radio Free Europe and The Voice Of America that they were part of something big and wonderful.

When socialism in Eastern Europe was eventually defeated in 1989, Hungary’s right-wing not only rejoiced, but set about imposing laws to make sure it could not resurface.

Today, with Hungary reeling from the effects of the European sovereign debt crisis, two-thirds of the deputies in the Hungarian Parliament are from the Right-wing Fidesz party (which won the last election on a lying platform promising full employment and social services). On January 1 they put a new constitution into effect. Naturally, they claim to be champions of democracy (and even passed a law equating Communism with fascism) so they were a trifle peeved when on, January 2, thousands of people took to the streets of Budapest to protest against the new Constitution.

Hungarian capitalism divides its support between right-wing social democrats and equally right-wing neo-liberals. The new constitution strengthens the position of the neo-liberals at the expense of the social democrats, who organised the protest rally. The Hungarian Communists (who are not allowed by law to display the red star or the hammer and sickle) denounced the protest as bogus. None of the trade unions supported the rally.

However, the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – whose schtick is to champion bourgeois democracy – felt obliged to break off negotiations on a bail-out for the country.

Whatever they decide to do is bound to be cosmetic rather than fundamental, but the Hungarian people seem determined to force some fundamental changes.

Finally, now that the last US troops have left Baghdad, how many US troops are still in the city? No, it’s not a trick question.

Officially, all the US troops have left. All that remain are US military advisers and instructors and a private army of military “contractors” – a mercenary force some 20,000 strong!

There is a lot of whinging in the US media and Congress about the deficit and European sovereign debt, but the mind-numbing expenditure by the US government on the military, the staggering waste of the country’s wealth and resources on this colossal distortion of an economy, is such an obvious source of financial instability and the main cause of impoverishment of the country as a whole. The question must be asked: how long can the US hold out before their economy turns turtle and we witness a collapse that will dwarf the Great Depression that began in 1929, that will in fact make the Depression look like a pleasant day out?  

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