“Third way” development politics and culture war in Hungary after 1945

Check out our panel at the ASEEES Summer Convention in Zagreb in 14-16 June 2019, to be held at the Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesUniversity of Zagreb.

Organizer: Zoltán Ginelli

How did Hungarian politics, in the name of “catching up” to the West, construct visions of development amidst structural change and global (re)integration, and how did these spark “culture war” and affect cultural solidarity and exchange? How did the idea of a “third way” political economic development in Hungary generate alternative and competing visions of cultural solidarity and alignment? How can we conceptualize these intertwined structural and discursive processes in Hungary by considering transnational and centre-periphery relations on various geographical scales? Our panel aims to address these questions by empirically exploring the role and relationship of intellectual experts and the state in Hungary after 1945, how their networks (re)organized along new alliances and conflicts due to wider political economic and discursive shifts.

The panel focuses on three main aspects. First, how state representatives, reformist intellectuals and ideologues tried to construct an alternative “third way” development politics in reaction to global restructuration and as a maneuver between East and West to reposition Hungary and Eastern (Central) Europe. Second, the “third way” is also a contested epistemological field in the analysis of the Hungarian path of semiperipheral development between accepted Western dichotomies (such as neoliberalism and authoritarianism, state and market, socialism and capitalism, East and West). Finally, the panel seeks connections between political economic shifts and cultural rearrangements, how new cultural politics were formed and how new forms of cultural solidarity or distinction evolved regarding space, class and race.

Keywords: Hungary, culture war, post-WWII period, third way development, intellectuals

  

SESSION 1

Chair: Gábor Danyi

Discussant: Stefano Bottoni

Anti-Germanism, and the definition of „New Hungary” 1945-46 – A special brand of „third world nationalism”?

Csaba Tóth

1945 was described at the time as a revolution and later as simply a „turning point” or „year zero” in the case of Soviet occupied Eastern European countries. As in Czechoslovakia or Poland, anti-German sentiments defined the first explanations of what happened and how to go forward in Hungary immediately after the Second World War. Those who then gained power were tasked with a difficult objective: reorganizing not only the state and its apparatus, but offer a new, credible identity to the people of Hungary itself. My presentation argues that they did so, mainly by importing anti-colonial sentiments, and trying to utilize them in a way that would legitimize Soviet occupation and the new regime as one that liberates Hungary from centuries of German domination. (Szekfű 1947; Révai 1948.) This interpretation invoked an early form of third world post-colonial sentiment known at the time from Indian and Chinese anti-colonial powers. Stalin himself oftentimes emphasized the pivotal importance of “national front struggles” against imperialism in China and India (Radchenko 2012) and this view and approach was strikingly similar to the Soviet Politburo’s standpoint on Hungarian and more generally, Eastern European struggles against Fascism and German domination. This approach had an effect on Hungary on the official level: not only in the form of the creation of a first and foremost nationalist “popular front” in 1944, and the definition of independence as “liberation”, but also on the focus on the expulsion of ethnic Germans, the rhetoric against Germans and “pro-Germans” (made similar to “Fascists”) during the first post-war years. Following previous ideas of “ethnic symbolism” (D. Smith 1987.) and ethnic myths as a nation-building historical force and the recognized effect decolonization made on Eastern European Consciousness as well as criticism of the established geographical restrictions on post-colonial studies (Owczarzak 2009; Spivak 1999) my study argues that a special kind of “Third Worldism”, anti-imperialism, and anti-colonialism is essential to understand the origins of post-1945 Hungarian “democratic” nationalism, prevalent to these days.

 

Geographical narratives as key elements of the culture war in Hungary

Péter Balogh

This contribution will show how a number of historically deeply rooted but competing geographical narratives exist in Hungary, which orient the country towards different geographic and ideational directions. Indeed, the gradual demise of consensus politics, which focused on European/transatlantic integration and market economy, has by the turn of the millennium given way to a culture war of some sort in several countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Trencsényi 2014). Yet despite being a small and ethnically relatively homogenous country, according to Janke (2013: 56) for instance Hungary appears more divided along ideological and geographical lines than e.g. Poland. Hungary is burdened by the conflict between the folkish and urbanite traditions, for instance, which goes back to at least the interwar period (Trencsényi 2014: 139). The notion of ‘Central Europe’ served pro-European aims and integration with the West in the 1980s and 1990s (Balogh 2017). There is a centuries-old image of the ‘Christian bulwark’ (Száraz 2012) against Muslims etc., recently mobilized during and after the 2015 refugee crisis. There is also a completely competing Turanian tradition since at least the beginning of the past century that emphasizes the Asiatic and Turkic roots of ancient Hungarians, and which was then as is nowadays deployed for hoped commercial and political benefits in Asia (Balogh 2015). It is argued that these narratives are both geographically and ideologically irreconcilable and form essential elements of the Hungarian culture war(s).

 

Post/colonial Hungary: Opening socialist Hungary to the “Third World”

Zoltán Ginelli 

Eastern Europe is the “black sheep” of postcolonial studies, which focuses either on the global centre or the periphery, but silences Hungary’s complex historical relations and experiences to coloniality, colonialism and imperialism. This paper introduces the historical project of “post/colonial Hungary” in order to conceptualize Hungarian post/colonialities in semiperipheral development relations. This new approach criticizes constructivist approaches to postcolonialism in Eastern Europe by “speaking back” from the Hungarian semiperiphery and unearthing the forgotten density of local historical contexts and epistemological trajectories. The paper focuses on the post-1945 global realignment of Hungarian foreign policy, namely how Hungary’s turn towards Afro-Asian decolonization and the “Third World” induced a “cultural war” intertwined with visions for “third way” development under state-socialism, drawing parallels between postcolonial and Hungarian development history. Anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist solidarity contested previous civilizational and racial fault lines, but went hand-in-hand with the socialist civilizing mission in development assistance and pragmatic foreign economic maneuvering between East and West. Hungarian assistance to Non-Aligned Ghana led to founding the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963) under the economist József Bognár, who propagated export-oriented growth based on development experiences in postcolonial countries under the New Economic Mechanism. From the 1980s, the pro-West “back to Europe” turn and postsocialist market-liberal transition in Hungary silenced these historical relations with the postcolonial global periphery. Finally, the paper offers new insights into how a new “coloniality discourse” was based on complex historical experiences and appropriating postcolonial critique in the geopolitical maneuvering and “cultural war” of Viktor Orbán’s government after 2010.

 

SESSION 2

Chair: Péter Balogh

Discussant: Stefano Bottoni

The Prosecution of the Central Eastern European Neomarxist Opposition

Richárd Zima

The paper deals with the philosophers’ groups, which represented the Marxist alternative of the state socialist ideology and created the leftist opposition in countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Most of these philosophers participated in the 1956 and 1968 movements, and in some cases, influenced them. Their philosophical and sociological research pointed out the real nature of state socialism. On that basis, their common aim was to find the ‘tertium datur’, the third way in opposition to the capitalist and the state-socialist order. The theoretic prosperity of the ‘60s ended with the prosecution of these groups as they fell victim to the cultural war initiated by their governments. This paper aims to provide insights into the intelligentsia’s prosecution caused by their critical description of the state socialism and, as a result of their attempt to seek alternatives, into the similarities and differences between their Neomarxist theories of the ideal society. The dissolution of this theoretical wave was a result of the political response to the aftermath of the Eastern European movements of 1968 as well as the dynamics of Soviet and world politics at the time. The differences among the processes of prosecution in the aforementioned countries will lead us to a deeper understanding of this Neomarxist opposition’s place in the complexity of Marxism itself. This would lead me to briefly introduce the rise of a new form (and generation) of leftist oppositional thought at the late ‘70s, which turned out to be less and less Marxist.

 

Transnational “Solidarity” in Poland and Hungary

Gábor Danyi

From the 1970s onwards, the transnational diffusion of ideas, techniques and strategies has helped to develop simultaneously the dissident movements in the Soviet-bloc countries. At this time the Hungarian democratic opposition from the establishment of the Polish Workers’ Defence Committee (KOR) sought contact with the Polish opposition. As a consequence the knowledge of alternative printing and the strategies of legalism, conspiring and non-violence were transmitted to small dissident circles in Hungary and under the influence of „new evolutionism” Hungarian intellectuals created parallel institutions, such as a flying university, legal aid service or alternative publishing houses. The tightening unofficial contacts between dissidents led to the emergence of a transnational dimension of solidarity in the bloc. However, it must be acknowledged that the very limited import of Solidarity movement in Hungary resulted in an asymmetry between these countries regarding the extension and patterns of cultural resistance and opposition. The paper interprets the new dissident practices and parallel institutions emerging in the 1980s in terms of “culture war” as far as they helped to form diametrically opposed ways of political and economic programs, geopolitical imagination and collective memory. Focusing on the history of Hungary and Poland the paper analyzes structural differences of the opposition movements and highlights the patterns of transnational/global solidarity.

 

German and American Political Assistance in Hungary: Western Development Models, Cultural Politics, and the Crises of Democratic Capitalism

Kyle Shybunko

When German political foundations and American “democracy promotion” outfits such as AID and the National Endowment for Democracy arrived in Budapest to help build a liberal democracy, they arrived in a country that was undergoing rapid political and constitutional change after years of party dictatorship. The chief tasks at hand were the democratization of politics, the promotion of an independent civil society, and the establishment of a market economy. Hungary would be returned to Europe. They also arrived in a society with a history of kulturkampf dating to the late 19th century when Hungarian liberals and Catholic nationalists spoke of a war for Hungary’s sovereignty fought on the terrain of culture, ethnicity and confession. Hungary’s new pluralistic politics was implicated by a revived version of this “culture war” which, like both its fin-de-siècle and interwar versions, was fundamentally tied to competing ideas of Europe and Hungary’s European-ness. How did these West German and American organizations navigate this Hungarian landscape which was otherwise understood to be the most promising and fertile in the New Europe with its rich tradition of reform economics? By examining the grant-making practices of these organizations in the 1980s and 1990s I show how funders approximated the political orientation and programs of civic organizations and incipient political parties, and how they understood cultural politics to be epiphenomenal to the urgent work of democratic capitalist transformation, missing in-fact the geopolitical and political-economic valences of these “culture wars” which are only so apparent at the current juncture.

 

The Ghetto as a Mobile Technology: Problematizing Gettósodás/Ghettoization in Budapest’s Eighth District after the Neo-Liberal Turn

Jonathan McCombs

This paper explores the transnational connection between racial regimes in the United States and Hungary to highlight how urban scholars and policy experts have sown racial and cultural divisions through the discursive concept of the ‘the ghetto.’ Inner city areas in the United States in the 1970s saw an increase in the concentration of very low-income, highly segregated black communities. In a bid to make sense of the worsening condition for inner city blacks in the US, scholars began describing these new urban spaces as ‘ghettos’ to account for the strong majority of racialized minorities (over 90%) living in these spaces and the limited life chances that ghetto inhabitants were afforded. Twenty years later, as Hungary underwent its own form of neo-liberalization, the discourse of ghettoization was picked up by scholars and policy makers to describe the conditions of inner-city Budapest districts that had come to be inhabited by a large Roma population and had been badly disinvested during state-socialism. In this presentation I focus on the Eighth District, which has been heavily stigmatized by experts as a ghetto since the early 1990s and has undergone state-led gentrification projects to curb the so-called ghettoization process. I show how the ghetto narrative was articulated in Hungary as a mobile technology of racial government, describing how it inflamed existing racialized divisions, igniting a culture war waged by policy makers and the local Eighth District government against Eighth District residents.

Reklámok

Magyar úti leírások és regényirodalom a gyarmati világról

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Összegyűjtöttem egy kb. 800 könyvnyi adatbázist a (poszt)koloniális világról szóló, magyar szerzőktől származó vagy magyar nyelvre lefordított úti leírásokból és regényirodalomból – kiadási adatokkal (szerző, fordító, évszám, kiadó, oldalszám, sorozat, link) és borítóképekkel. Köztük vannak ponyvák és tudományos munkák is, 19. század közepi írások és egészen a rendszerváltásig (1989) megjelenő szövegek, illetve másodlagos irodalom is erről a témáról. A legtöbbet ebben az antikvarium.hu adatbázisa segített! Ezekből is fogok mazsolázni a Magyar Kritikai Geográfusok Fóruman indított blogsorozatomhoz, amely Magyarország és a gyarmati világ viszonyával foglalkozik!


– ENGLISH VERSION –

HUNGARIAN TRAVEL AND NOVEL WRITING ABOUT THE COLONIAL WORLD

I compiled a database with around 800 books about the (post)colonial world, mostly travelogues and novels written or translated by Hungarians – with book covers and pubication details (author, translator, date, publisher, length, series, link). These books range from pulp fiction and scientific studies, mid-19th century writings up until the system change (1989), and include secondary literature on the topic. My greatest help in this work was the database of antikvarium.hu! I will present some of these books in my blog series shared on the Forum for Hungarian Critical Geographers, which is about how Hungary related to the colonial world!

Gyarmati tudást termelő magyar geográfusok

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1935-ben a neves geográfus, Kádár László jelentetett meg egy tudományos ismeretterjesztő magazinban, a Búvárban cikket Afrika gyarmatosításának a történetéről. Néhány évvel később a magyar gyarmati tudástermelés az olasz és német gyarmati érdekek propagálása felé fordult, és élesszavú geopolitikusok (mint a németbarát Kalmár Gusztáv) kezdték mérlegelni, hogy Magyarország hogyan tudna ezen hatalmak afrikai térnyerésének farvizén érvényesülni. Ugyanabban az évben Kádár egy másik cikket is írt az olasz gyarmatosításról és Abesszíniáról, amit nemsokára lerohant az olasz hadsereg. Még Kádár viszonylag leíró és mértéktartó elbeszélését, amelyben olykor-olykor felbukkan az afrikai népek szabadságával szembeni halovány szimpátia is, lényegében nagy eurocentrikus narratívák uralják. Minden történelmi eseményt pusztán az európai hatalmak racionális és felvilágosult “döntéseire” vezet vissza, miközben az afrikai népek érdekeit, cselekedeteit és ellenállását elhallgatja. Afrika gyarmatiság előtti történelmét félreteszi, és az európaiak késői területi gyarmatosítását (a 19. század végétől) mindössze éghajlati és földrajzi tényezőkkel magyarázza, holott a valóságban az európaiak erős ellenállásba ütköztek a felfegyverzett afrikai államok részéről:

“Ennek az oka elsősorban a kontinens felszíne és éghajlata: partjai majdnem kivétel nélkül meredek, magas partok, amelyekre nehéz felkapaszkodni, a folyók is vízesésekkel zuhognak alá közvetlenül a torkolatuk előtt is, és így víziúton sem lehet a szárazföld belsejét megközelíteni. Északon a Szahara széles sivatagja is megközelíthetetlenné teszi az értékes Szudánt. Délen pedig a gyilkos trópusi klíma is erősen hátráltat. Ez magyarázza meg azt, hogy amikor Amerikában és Indiában már virágzó ültetvények voltak, Afrikát csak munkásembert szolgáltató kontinensnek tekintették és tovább nem érdeklődtek iránta.” (681. o.)



– ENGLISH VERSION –


HUNGARIAN GEOGRAPHERS PRODUCING COLONIAL KNOWLEDGE

In 1935, the noted geographer László Kádár published in a popular scientific magazine, Búvár about the history of colonizing Africa. A few years later Hungarian colonial knowledge production turned towards propagating Italian and German colonial interests, with rabid geopoliticians (such as the pro-German Gusztáv Kalmár) calculating how Hungary could follow up on the their promising trajectories in Africa. In the same year, Kádár also wrote another article about Italian colonies and Abyssinia, a country which was soon occupied by the Italian army. Even in Kádár’s rather descriptive and moderately toned account on African colonization, which was sprinkled with traces of distanced sympathy towards African independence, we can see grand Eurocentric narratives unfold. All historical events are simply based on the rational and enlightened “decisions” of European powers, without any account of the interests, actions and resistance of African people. The precolonial African history is sidelined, and the late territorial acquisitions of colonies in the continent (from the late 19th century) is explained by climatic and geographical factors, while Europeans met with the strong resistance of militarized African states:

“The main reason for this is the continent’s relief and climate: its shores are almost exclusively high and steep, which are hard to climb, and rivers plunge down in waterfalls even near the mouth, thus the internal lands cannot be reached through waterways. In the north, the wide desert of the Sahara makes the valuable Sudan inapproachable. In the south, the devastating tropical climate also forms an impediment. This explains that while in America or India there were already blooming plantations, Africa was seen as a continent offering manpower and remained of no further interest.” (p. 681)

How the Polish gold train got stuck in French Africa during WWII

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I just read about the Polish banker and economist Leon Barański (1895-1982), who worked as an expert and permanent representative of the World Bank in Ghana during 1962-1964. Then through his biography, I bumped into this epic story of how the Polish Bank tried to save its gold during World War Two, a process which Barański organized as the bank director. This was a truly geographical history: the plan was to evacuate the gold from France to the United States of America. In August 1939, the Polish Central Bank had gold resources with a value of 463.6 million zlotys, ca. 87 million USD, weighing 79.5 tonnes. Most of the bank’s treasury got transported to Romania, then from Constanza to Turkey to Syria to Lebanon (then French colony) to France. But the Romanians left 4 tonnes in the National Bank of Romania, where it survived the war. The Communists who ruled Poland had no knowledge of the gold in Romania, which was hid in the Tismana Monastery on Starmina Mountain, and this news only reached Warsaw in October 1945. A complicated lawsuit and negotiation commenced until the gold finally arrived in Warsaw on 18 September 1947.

But in France, as the Germans occupied the country during 1940, the Polish gold was only sent out from the country on 17 June, and not to the USA or the French Antilles, but to Dakar in West Africa, and further to Fort Kayes (Mali) deep in the French Sahara. After the French surrendered on 22 June, the emigré Polish Bank’s demands to retrieve the gold from the French proved effortless, and de Gaulle’s Vichy Government, which promised to return the gold, failed to take possession of Dakar. Since the French later denied that the gold was still in West Africa, the Polish made the US government sue the Banque de France and seize its assets in New York. In the fall of 1942, after the invasion of North-West Africa by the Allied Forces under operation “Torch”, one of the directors of the Polish Bank, Major Stefan Michalski, was sent on a mission to Algiers on 13 February 1943 to find out if the Polish gold was still in West Africa. Eventually the French admitted it was in Kayes, and after Polish inspection the gold was transported back to Dakar in 1944, so it may head off to the USA. However, the French Committee of National Liberation debated the release of the gold by arguing that if the Polish government-in-exile were not able to return to Poland and a Russian-backed government were established there, then this government would undoubtedly ask for the return of the Polish Bank’s gold. Eventually the gold was taken over by a special committee of the Polish Bank led by director Michalski in February and March 1944.

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The Sahara in Algeria. Photo: National Digital Archive

You can read more about this history here:

https://www.nbp.pl/…/Bankoteka_4_September_2014_internet.pdf
Rojek, W. (2000): Odyseja skarbu Rzeczypospolitej. Wyd. Literackie, Kraków.
https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Bara%C5%84ski_(bankier)

The Ghana Job: Opening Socialist Hungary to the “Developing World”

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17 April 5:30 PM

Rutgers_University_with_the_state_university_logo.svgSeminar Room
Department of Sociology
Rutgers University
26 Nichol Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

facebook event

Why was Hungary interested in the decolonized “developing world”? What does this episode of Eastern European history tell us about shared postcolonialities, transnational interconnectivity, and semiperipheral positioning or development strategies? My talk introduces why and how socialist Hungary decided to develop foreign economic relations with decolonized countries, which in turn facilitated a new orientation towards the world and the emergence of Hungarian development expertise towards developing countries.

My study investigates the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (CAAR) founded at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1963 (in 1973 renamed as the Institute for World Economy, IWE) parallel to similar institutions founded internationally at that time. CAAR was established as a government think tank by József Bognár, who was a close friend to Prime Minister János Kádár and a hugely important figure in socialist era Hungarian reform economics and foreign economic policy-making. The associates of CAAR and IWE promoted export-oriented growth and fabricated new geographical development concepts as alternatives to the dichotomous Cold War categories of “capitalist” and “socialist” worlds in order to reposition Hungary in the world economy. The institute evolved out of the “Ghana job”: during his Eastern European round-trip president Kwame Nkrumah asked Bognár and his team of economists to develop the First Seven-Year Plan of Ghana in 1962.

During the Nkrumah period, the pan-Africanist, African socialist and Non-Aligned country of Ghana became a transnational hub of various experts and intellectuals, and a contested site not only of conflicting and intertwined “socialist” and “capitalist” views on development, but also of intensive cooperation and competition between Eastern Bloc countries in asserting their influence in the decolonized world. With Bognár’s assignment, the issue of “poorly developed countries” ignited the comparative reconceptualization of development histories in Hungary and led to exporting the Hungarian development model to the “Third World” based on the discourse of anti-imperialism, socialist solidarity and shared postcolonial histories.

In this context, I interpret the “Ghana job” from a postcolonial and world-systemic perspective as situated in a complex web of transnational relations, and point out Ghana’s decisive role in opening semiperipheral Hungary towards the global periphery during the 1960s by generating a field of development expertise, which enabled entrance into a new market of transnational development consultancy.

Download flyer (.pdf).

This research received support from the “NKFIH K No. 115870” project entitled “Contemporary theories of space and spatiality in the Central Eastern European context” (“Kortárs térelméletek közép-kelet-európai kontextusban”) funded by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NRDIO) in Hungary.

Two new abstracts sent to ICHG2018 and AAG2018

My latest plan is to send two abstracts to the 17th International Conference of Historical Geographers in Warsaw, July 15-20 and one – the latter abstract here provided – to the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in New Orleans, April 10-14 in 2018. In the first case, the first abstract will hopefully be part of the following session:

– SESSION –

Global Histories of Geography 19301990

Convenors: Ruth Craggs (King’s College London) and Hannah Neate (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Reflecting on the key centres associated with the emergence of geography as a spatial science in the 1960s Barnes (2002, 508) remarked: “Why are places in Africa not on there, or Asia, or Australasia?” thereby highlighting significant gaps in disciplinary histories and accounts of geography’s development in the second half of the twentieth century. By way of response, this session aims to highlight work into the ‘global’ histories of geography in the period 1930-1990, a period marked by geopolitical transitions including WWII, decolonization and the end of the Cold War.  We are looking to make links with scholars who are carrying out research on the history and practice of geography, specifically in submissions that explore scholarly communities of geographers whose contribution to the development of geography in the twentieth century often goes unrecognised in the ‘canon’ of geographical research.

Possible themes for papers:

  • Papers focusing on geographers from the global South, Indigenous geographers in settler states, Asian geographies and geographers, geographers from the former Eastern Block
  • Biographies of individuals or groupings of geographers
  • Accounts that highlight how geography was being pursued in other ‘centres’
  • The role and development of national and international disciplinary associations and networks
  • Geographical knowledge, expertise and intersections with decolonization and the end of the Cold War

– ABSTRACTS –

Historical geographies of the “quantitative revolution”: Towards a transnational history of central place theory

Geography’s “quantitative revolution” has been a true textbook chronicle in the discipline’s canonical history. However, historical research has only recently seriously begun to unravel the geographical contexts of its emergence, which is complicated by the simplified narratives that emerged in critical revisionism from the 1970s. This paper offers an interpretative framework from the perspective of the historical geographies of scientific knowledge (HGSK), by focusing on Christaller’s central place theory (CPT) to deconstruct the common Anglo-American narrative, arguing that it has concealed other contexts in the “Second” and “Third” worlds. Early applications (especially in Germany, Poland, Netherlands, Israel) and the wider European discourse of “central places” call for a reevaluation of the canonized narratives of CPT. The globalization of CPT is interpreted through the rising American hegemony in the early Cold War era, which led to the Americanization of German location theories in modernization theory discourse. Networks behind the American, British and Canadian centres show the importance of European locations, such as the Swedish hub in Lund, and the “planning laboratories” of Asian, South American and African contexts after decolonization. Soviet and Eastern Bloc reformism and the institutionalization of regional planning from the late 1950s summoned CPT in the service of centralized state planning, and ignited debates of adaptability between “socialist” and “capitalist” contexts. By reflecting on some of these cases, this paper argues for a transnational history of CPT by readdressing issues of narrativity and historical periodization, and shows the need for provincializing and decolonizing dominant Anglo-American geographical knowledge production.

 

“The Ghana job”: Opening Hungary to the developing world

Based on interviews, archival and media sources, this paper looks at how post-WWII socialist Hungary developed foreign economic relations with decolonized countries, by focusing on the emergence of Hungarian development and area studies and development advocacy expertise towards developing countries. The paper’s case study is the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (CAAR) founded at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1963 – from 1973 the Institute for World Economy (IWE) – parallel to similar institutions founded in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc states. CAAR was established as a government think tank by József Bognár, a close friend to Prime Minister János Kádár and perhaps one of the most important figures in socialist era Hungarian reform economics and foreign policy-making. The institute rose as a consequence of the “Ghana job”: Hungarian economists led by Bognár developed the First Seven-Year Plan of Ghana in 1962. The associates of CAAR and IWE promoted export-oriented growth against import-substitution industrialization and summoned geographical development concepts such as “poorly developed countries”, “dependency”, “semiperiphery”, “open economies”, or “small countries” as alternatives to the Cold War categories of “capitalist” and “socialist” world systems. This shift in geographical knowledge production is connected to the geopolitical contexts of the Sino-Soviet split, the Khrushchevian “opening up” of foreign relations, the emergence of the “Third World”, and also the 1956 revolution in the case of Hungary. The role of Ghana and the Eastern Bloc is connected to the 1960s wave of transnational development consultancy and strategies of “socialist globalization”.

Hungary and Ghana, 1950s-1960s

21083554_1409636279072924_5180471301300472123_oMy research report to the Open Society Archives turned out to be a draft of a lengthy working paper that summarizes some of the materials I have been working with. You can read about my OSA research proposal here.

Even from this vastly text I had to leave out a lot of other materials. Unfortunately I will only have time to work again on this later, so I decided to share here some thoughts that could not be included.

One of the books that were very influential to me (but haven’t included into the draft) gave me a great overview of the early Eastern European relations towards decolonizing/ed Africa (the “Third World”). What I find most interesting is not only the relative autonomy of the Eastern Bloc in developing their foreign relations, but also the continuities between previous colonial era and postcolonial relations. Another issue is the role of China, not only how the Sino-Soviet split influenced the Soviet Union to maintain the relative autonomy of the Eastern Bloc, but also China’s early postcolonial trajectories in gaining a foothold in Africa.

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“By 1958, well before substantial new opportunities arose south of the Sahara, East Europe’s trade with Asia, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa was already greater than that of the Soviet Union; ithad more than doubled since 1954 and amounted to approximately five per cent of the area’s total trade. Some of this commercial activity, of course, was no more than a partial return to normal trade patterns that had been interrupted by the war and later inhibited for political and ideological reasons. Yet the very fact that old patterns existed and could be resumed was important, since the arrival of East European traders and governmental representatives in Africa did not appear to the new states as a novel or menacing overture, but rather as a natural resumption of established policies.”

— Robert and Elizabeth Bass: Eastern Europe, in: Zbigniew Brzezinski: Africa and the Communist World, Hoover Institution, 1963, p. 88.