Opening the Semi-Periphery: Decolonisation and Socialist Hungary

Research Plan for the Open Society Archives

Following the line of recent studies on global socialisms and postsocialisms (Apor and Iordachi 2005; Tulbure 2009; Gille 2010; Éber et al. 2014), “socialist globalisation” and “the other globalisers” (Mark and Apor 2014; Bockman et al. forthcoming), this research argues for a global perspective in understanding the interconnected development of the post-WWII Eastern European semi-periphery and the global periphery, by focusing on the case of reform economists and foreign policy in Hungary (Éber et al. 2014; cf. Petrovici 2015).

After de-Stalinisation, the détente period saw an economic upturn in the global economy, the opening up of global diplomatic and trade relations, the international impact of the 1956 revolution, and the process of decolonisation. These developments facilitated “opening up” export-oriented growth strategies, and the simultaneous reconfiguration of transnational networks and global development imaginations in several Eastern European countries, especially Poland and Hungary. More particularly, decolonisation ignited contradictory Hungarian reflections and actions towards affected regions. Behind the facade of ideological fight against imperialism there evolved a realpolitik of manoeuvring between Western and Soviet influences in order to reap the benefits of bilateral trade agreements, and the exporting of expertise, technology, and Hungary’s own models of development. Resulting ideological ambivalences are shown, for example, in that despite the anti-racial condemnation of apartheid, early secret trade negotiations between Hungary had already begun with South Africans in 1960. Semi-peripheral manoeuvring is also evident in the rise of joint development projects between Hungary and Western partners in Africa and the Middle East in the 1970s (Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Syria), with a simultaneous shift from communist countries’ pro-Zionist politics towards heavy anti-Zionist propaganda (as facilitators of neocolonialism), which led to Eastern European countries’ breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel due to the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Foreign political pragmatism is also well captured in the ambivalent Hungarian discourse of Third Worldism, both as a spatial development category and as a “third way” alternative of economic development connected to the Non-Aligned Movement (1961). In the Non-Aligned country of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah negotiated a vast network of capitalist and socialist experts, especially from Eastern Europe, and assigned a Hungarian delegation of economists led by József Bognár to develop Ghana’s first seven-year plan in the early 1960s. Due to this assignment, Bognár – a close friend of János Kádár – could establish the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963/65), whose staff wrote regular reports to the Foreign Ministry, worked on various assignments in international organisations and promoted an active foreign policy and the export-oriented development of Hungary, and a turn towards the decolonised global periphery.

Using contemporary literature in critical geography and international relations, and specifically in postcolonial, decolonial theory and world-systems analysis, this research aims to reassemble the local knowledge production of global geographical concepts and foreign policy information flow in the context of Hungary’s semi-peripheral relations. The reports and collected materials of the Radio Free Europe and the Radio Liberty Research Institute on foreign policy, trade and diplomatic relations offer a glimpse into how concerning actors in the West perceived Hungarian trajectories connected to formerly colonized and “underdeveloped” regions. This should offer clues into their focus and available information, and allows for the comparison of their monitoring activities with official foreign policy documents (e.g. national strategies, delegation reports). With the aim of reviewing delegations and international projects of experts, education, trade, and media coverage until the end of the 1970s, this research wishes to focus on three main aspects.

First, it aims to understand how Hungarian reform economists and politicians after de-Stalinization developed alternative geographical concepts of socialist globalization. Breaking off from Cold War conceptual dichotomies, they opted to reposition their country in the global development hierarchy of centre-periphery relations and reap the political economic benefits of decolonisation, in order to tackle increasing global competition and world economic restructuration, and to enable the successful integration into the world economy. By the late 1960s and the 1970s, new comparative analytical concepts such as “semi-periphery” (Szentes 1971), “small economies” (Kádár 1971), “open economies” (Kozma 1980) had emerged at the CAAR and its successor, the World Economic Institute (1973–) and related institutions and ministries. It is worth noting that most members of the research staff conflicted with Party orthodoxy, and used their scientific activities to propose policy reforms under Bognár’s political “shield”. The OSA materials provide a fruitful empirical ground to scrutinize the political efforts of these reform economists (especially József Bognár), and their strategies to influence and develop connections with politics and media, mediating between Hungarian and Third World political events.

Second, this research aims to unravel the much-overlooked global historical interconnectivity of the Second and Third Worlds, and the foreign economic connections and exchange between semi-peripheral development models (Chari and Verderi 2009; Ward 2010; Mark and Apor 2014). As Eastern European reformers pushed towards “market socialism”, the acquiring of advanced technology and foreign currency from the West implied finding ways to finance development either through foreign loans or export-oriented growth. This facilitated strategies of exporting expertise and investments into the Third World, gathering raw materials to downplay Soviet resource dependency, and to seek or exchange state-led development models, such as in the cases of Francoist Spain, Allendist Chile, and the authoritarian models of the “East Asian Tigers” (Bockman et al. forthcoming).

Third, reformist ambitions generated virulent debates connected to the country’s shifting foreign trade policies and lobbying activity in international organizations (UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNITAR, GATT, Third World Forum), manoeuvring the semi-peripheral country between “East” and “West” to gain investment and trade benefits. In the context of decolonisation and the opening up of global politics with the participation of new geopolitical actors, Eastern European socialist countries used various strategies to reposition themselves between “developed” and “undeveloped/developing” countries in their individual urge to “catch up” with the West. Thus Hungarian negotiations of trade relations with decolonised countries aimed to transcend Soviet influence, CMEA integration, national political regimes and boundaries.

The output of this research aims to contribute to recent literature on the theoretical and methodological approaches of transnational or global history (Conrad 2016), postcolonial and decolonial theory (Moore 2001; Chakrabarty 2007; Boatca and Costa 2012), and world-systems theory (especially the works of Wallerstein, Frank, and Chase-Dunn) in order to understand the emergent strategies of Hungarian knowledge production in the interconnected transnational networks of centre-periphery relations (Powell 2007; Ward 2010; Keim 2014). It also aims to highlight the very early trajectories of reform economists’ “market socialism” in a global perspective (cf. Bockman 2011), and how Hungarian reformist thought was influenced by postcolonial contexts and the transnational exchange of geographical development models, which had important intellectual and political continuities into the post-1989 era. Moreover, Hungarian foreign policies and investment strategies of the 1970s in the Third World had a huge effect on the economic crisis after the 1989 system change; for example, Middle East countries indebted to Hungary became insolvent after constant war and the fall of their authoritarian regimes. The above historical contexts are also illuminating with regards to the post-2010 “global opening” proposed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, which curiously referred to the historical accomplishments of Hungarian foreign policies, consequently following the semi-peripheral path of manoeuvring between “East” and “West” and strategically investing capital and exporting expertise in the countries of the global periphery.

References

Apor, P., Iordachi, C. (2005): Társadalomtörténet Kelet-Közép-Európában: Regionális nézőpontok globális összefüggésben. Korall, 23.: 187–195.
Boatca, M., Costa, S. (2012): Postcolonial Sociology: A Research Agenda. In: Rodríguez, E. G., Boatca, M. (eds.): Decolonizing European Sociology: Transdisciplinary Approaches. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.

Bockman, J. (2011): Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bockman, J., Feygin, Y., Mark, J. (forthcoming): The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Alternative Globalisations 1950s–1980s. Manuscript.

Chakrabarty, D. (2007): Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chari, S., Verdery, K. (2009): Thinking Between the Posts: Postcolonialism, Postsocialism, and Ethnography after the Cold War. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51(1): 6–34.

Conrad, S. (2016): What is Global History? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Éber, M., Gagyi, Á., Gerőcs, T., Jelinek, C., Pinkasz, A. (2014): 1989: Szempontok a rendszerváltozás globális politikai gazdaságtanához. Fordulat, 21.: 10–63.

Gille, Z. (2010): Is there a Global Postsocialist Condition? Global Society, 24(1): 9–30.

Kádár, B. (1971): Kis országok a világgazdaságban. Budapest: Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó.

Keim, W., Celik, E., Erche, C., Wöhrer, V. (eds.)(2014): Global Knowledge Production in the Social Sciences: Made in Circulation. Corchester (UK): Ashgate.

Kozma, F. (1980): A nyitott szerkezetű gazdaság. Budapest: Kossuth.

Mark, J., Apor, P. (2014): Socialism Goes Global: Decolonization and the Making of a New Culture of Internationalism in Socialist Hungary, 1956–1989. The Journal of Modern History, 87: 852–891.

Melegh, A. (2006): On the East-West Slope: Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest: CEU Press.

Melegh, A. (2015): Globális ötvenes évek. Eszmélet, 27(105): 182–191.

Moore, D. C. (2001): Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique. PMLA, 116(1): 111–128.

Petrovici, N. (2015): Framing Criticism and Knowledge Production in Semi-peripheries: Post-socialism Unpacked. Intersections, 1(2):

Powell, R. C. (2007): Geographies of Science: Histories, Localities, Practices, Futures. Progress in Human Geography, 31(3): 309–329.

Tulbure, N. (2009): Introduction to Special Issue: Global Socialisms and Postsocialisms. Anthropology of Eastern Europe Review, 27(2): 1–18.

Szentes, T. (1971): The Political Economy of Underdevelopment. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.

Ward, S. (2010): Transnational Planners in a Postcolonial World. In: Healey, P., Upton, R. (eds.): Crossing Borders: International Exchange and Planning Practices. London and New York: Routledge. 47–72.

Reklámok

Speaking from the Semi-Periphery: Decolonizing Geographical Knowledge Production in Socialist Hungary, 1960s to 1980s

In recent months I’ve prepared a new research plan/paper on the stuff I’ve been doing, connected to my work in the 1989 After 1989 project:

The “spatial turn” in the history of scientific knowledge has called into question abstract notions of scientific development and specifically national disciplinary and institutional narratives. The past two decades has seen a growing number of studies in the historical geographies of scientific knowledge (HGSK), aiming to understand where knowledge is produced and disseminated, and how the content of knowledge changes in motion and adapts to local contexts and social interests (Livingstone 2003; Powell 2007; Withers 2009). Recently, increased globalization has summoned an upsurge of research focusing on interconnectedness through knowledge networks and circulations, transnational histories and global comparative studies, arguing against the “methodological nationalism” of previous research in favour of alternative transnational concepts (Keim et al. 2014; Conrad 2016).

On the other hand, postcolonial and decolonial approaches have contested Eurocentric or Westcentric epistemological frameworks and discursive formations, providing a reassessment of multiple or alternative modernities and elucidating the hierarchical orders of knowledge regimes (Chakrabarty 2007; Boatca and Costa 2012). However, much of this original literature on postcolonialism focused either on the global centre or the former colonial world, silencing in-between semiperipheral contexts such as Eastern Europe under transitory and provincialised terms such as “postsocialism,” while there has been little theorizing between the “posts” (Chari and Verdery 2009). This marginalization process has also led to the concealment of Second-Third World relations and the interdependency of centre and periphery contexts in an interconnected global context (Ward 2010; Mark and Apor 2014).

While the perceived non-colonial background of Eastern Europe provided excuses for many in the region to distance themselves from postcolonial studies (Moore 2001), historical studies have nevertheless shown the existence of long-term structures of hierarchical dependency and East-West “civilizational slopes” even since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment (Wolff 1994), which have well endured into socialist and postsocialist times (Melegh 2006). This continuity is well captured by the self-Orientalizing development and geographical concepts in social science, geography and economic history (Petrovici 2015). These can be exemplified by various contexts: the enduring dichotomies of “Eastern” and “Western” development (Éber et al. 2014), the “catching-up” neoliberalist transitology (Stenning and Hörschelman 2008), the “civilizing mission” of European Union accession (Böröcz and Sarkar 2005), the subaltern adaptation of development policy models, and the uneven reproduction of Western academic hegemony.

This research argues for “decolonizing” diffusionist and neoevolutionist theories that have been appropriated as the dominant narrative of the global centre and imposed upon the Eastern European context (Boatca and Costa 2012). Simultaneously it argues for a global perspective of transnational interconnectedness in understanding Eastern European developments in the production of geographical knowledge. It does so by using contemporary literature in critical geography and international relations, and specifically in postcolonial, decolonial theory and world-systems analysis to deconstruct internalised structures of dependency and global hierarchies inherent in Eastern European geographical epistemologies. By “speaking from the semiperiphery,” it aims to reassemble local knowledge production on global geographical concepts, in light of overlooked global historical interconnectivity between “East” and “West.” The research aims to apply these theoretical insights to understanding how Hungarian reform economists tried to position the country in various global imaginations between the 1960s and 1980s in the context of integrating into the world economy and thus breaking away with Cold War concepts amidst increasing global competition and economic restructuration due to crises.

After World War II, the imperialist and nationalist-revisionist ambitions of the Hungarian state elite crumbled with the demise of the previous “high imperialist” era. The Communist takeover and the process of Sovietization created a new setting under the imperial and colonial influence of the Soviet Union, and a rise of economist experts succeeding the pre-WWII primacy of geographers. Stalinist orthodoxy summoned a dichotomous Cold War imagination of separate “capitalist” and “socialist” worlds, soon to be called “world systems,” while the production of geographical knowledge and textbooks on regional geography also followed this essential dichotomy. But the détente period after de-Stalinisation and the gradual opening up of diplomatic and trade relations due to an economic upturn in the world economy and the process of decolonisation led to reconfigurations in global geographical and development imaginations.

The maintaining of the Eastern European “buffer zone” necessitated the Soviet Union to foster trade relations both with the West and the so-called Third World. Eastern European reformers in Poland and Hungary pushed towards “market socialism”, as acquiring advanced technology and foreign currency from the West implied finding ways to finance development either through foreign loans or export-oriented growth, and facilitated exporting expertise and investments into the Third World and searching for state-led development models abroad, such as in Spain, South Korea and Chile (Bockman, Feygin and Mark forthcoming). These reformist ambitions generated a virulent debate and the emergence of new geographical concepts connected to the country’s shifting foreign trade policies and lobbying activity in international organizations (UN, UNCTAD, GATT) in order to manoeuvre between “East” and “West.”

While the concept of the “Third World” was disregarded by Eastern European socialist countries, they aimed to reposition themselves between “developed” and “undeveloped” countries in an urge to “catch up” with the West. By the 1970s in Hungary, some new concepts such as “semi-periphery,” “small economies” (Kádár 1971), “open economies” (Kozma 1980) had emerged in the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1965-) and the Institute for World Economy (1973-) at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which consequently developed the new field of area studies. In turn, some Western concepts, such as Wallersteinian world-systems analysis and the concept of “semiperiphery” were influenced by Eastern European economic historiography. In later developments, the series of Fejlődés-tanulmányok [Development Studies] published in 1978–1989 and journals such as Világtörténet [World History] introduced the new fields of development studies, world-systems analysis, centre-periphery thinking and postcolonial theory into the fields of area studies and international relations.

This research thus aims to understand through historical materials of scientific publications and policy papers connected to these institutions how alternative geographical conceptions of socialist globalization emerged and permeated global imaginations in area studies. The theoretical-methodological novelty of this research lies in connecting the approaches of transnational or global history, political economy and the history of ideas: Hungarian semiperipheral knowledge production is conceptualised in the interconnected contexts of centre-periphery relations.

References

Boatca, M., Costa, S. (2012): Postcolonial Sociology: A Research Agenda. In: Rodríguez, E. G., Boatca, M. (eds.): Decolonizing European Sociology: Transdisciplinary Approaches. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.

Bockman, J., Feygin, Y., Mark, J. (forthcoming): The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Alternative Globalisations 1950s–1980s. Manuscript.

Böröcz, J., Sarkar, M. (2005): What is the EU? International Sociology, 20(2): 153–173.

Chakrabarty, D. (2007): Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chari, S., Verdery, K. (2009): Thinking Between the Posts: Postcolonialism, Postsocialism, and Ethnography after the Cold War. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51(1): 6–34.

Conrad, S. (2016): What is Global History? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Éber, M., Gagyi, Á., Gerőcs, T., Jelinek, C., Pinkasz, A. (2014): 1989: Szempontok a rendszerváltozás globális politikai gazdaságtanához. Fordulat, 21.: 10–63.

Gille, Z. (2010): Is there a Global Postsocialist Condition? Global Society, 24(1): 9–30.

Kádár, B. (1971): Kis országok a világgazdaságban. Budapest: Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó.

Keim, W., Celik, E., Erche, C., Wöhrer, V. (eds.)(2014): Global Knowledge Production in the Social Sciences: Made in Circulation. Corchester (UK): Ashgate.

Kozma, F. (1980): A nyitott szerkezetű gazdaság. Budapest: Kossuth.

Livingstone, D. N. (2003): Putting Science in its Place: Geographies of Scientific Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mark, J., Apor, P. (2014): Socialism Goes Global: Decolonization and the Making of a New Culture of Internationalism in Socialist Hungary, 1956–1989. The Journal of Modern History, 87: 852–891.

Melegh, A. (2006): On the East-West Slope: Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest: CEU Press.

Moore, D. C. (2001): Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique. PMLA, 116(1): 111–128.

Petrovici, N. (2015): Framing Criticism and Knowledge Production in Semi-peripheries: Post-socialism Unpacked. Intersections, 1(2):

Powell, R. C. (2007): Geographies of Science: Histories, Localities, Practices, Futures. Progress in Human Geography, 31(3): 309–329.

Stenning, A., Hörschelman, K. (2008): History, Geography and Difference in the Post-Socialist World: Or, Do We Still Need Post-Socialism? Antipode, 40(2): 312–335.

Ward, S. (2010): Transnational Planners in a Postcolonial World. In: Healey, P., Upton, R. (eds.): Crossing Borders: International Exchange and Planning Practices. London and New York: Routledge. 47–72.

Withers, C. W. J. (2009): Place and the “Spatial Turn” in Geography and in History. Journal of the History of Ideas, 70(4): 637–658.

Wolff, L. (1994): Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment. Stanford University Press.

Hungarian bilateral trade agreements with Australia (1968)

“A kontinensnyi Ausztrália éppúgy rá van utalva a külkereskedelemre, mint Magyarország. Éppen ezért érdekelt a kelet-európai országokkal – így Magyarországgal is – folytatandó kétoldalú kereskedelem minél erősebb fejlesztésében.” (1968)

“The continent-sized Australia is just as reliant on foreign trade as Hungary. That is why she is interested in strongly developing bilateral trade with Eastern European countries, like Hungary.” (1968)