The French magazine Esprit has an influential role in French intellectual life, with a current circulation of 10,000 copies. On the twentieth anniversary of the political changes in Hungary,1 the articles about events in Hungary, published between 1945 and 1990, provide a base for taking stock and making an assessment. Like a two-sided mirror, the texts demonstrate how things have changed around us, and how this influential medium viewed these developments, while its perspective also evolved. Relying on these texts, I attempt here to draw some conclusions concerning the events of our own recent political past and their evaluation in France.

To this end, it is necessary to make a brief survey of the intellectual path the magazine has followed since its creation. Esprit, founded in 1932 by the philosopher Emmanuel Mounier, initially became an important forum of nonconformist thought, if not of a nonconformist movement. Under the influence of Mounier’s personalist ideas, many of the authors sharply criticised individualistic materialism and fascist thinking, linking capitalism with Communism as the farce of each other. Personalism proclaimed that each person, without exception, has the right, even the duty, to develop his own personality. Adopting Mounier’s expression, it also proclaimed that the world is in a state of established disorder (“désordre établi”), a civilisational crisis that turns the individual, with all his or her education, into a slave of the world of money. A Catholic, the editor-in-chief believed in a revolution of the spirit, and not in the effectiveness of political solutions. As shall be detailed in the following, Esprit’s nonconformist circle later sought for a third way between socialism and capitalism, individualism and collectivism, idealism and materialism. The best-known authors of that period include Jacques Maritain, Jean Bazin, François Perroux or Denis de Rougemont.

Esprit’s personalist and Christian-socialist legacy was transformed after the war following the sudden death of Mounier (1950) and the series of vehement attacks it was exposed to from the 1950s.2 Several members of the authors’ circle, including Robert Aron, Thierry Maulnier, Michel Rocard and Jacques Delors joined the European federalist movements. Others, such as Paul Ricœur and Pierre Emmanuel, who frequently published here, continued their activities as independent intellectuals. In a later turn, Esprit also drew nearer to new left- wing trends, while from 1968, engagement for environmental protection and the influence of Christian democracy also came to prevail in the publications. Also, the crisis of the Communist system, especially the developments in Poland and Hungary, occupied the constantly growing team of authors, among which by this time eminent personalities like Claude Lefort, René Girard, Ivan Illich, later François Bédarida, William Pfaff, Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer or Tzvetan Todorov may be mentioned.3

Analysing the longer-shorter writings of Hungarian relevance on the basis of their subject, nature and the authors’ personality, in my opinion three periods can be distinguished in the course of these decades.4 Obviously, the editorial interest was selective, and as we have seen, the orientation of the magazine also changed over time. However, the Hungary-related writings clearly shed a particular light on the developments in the country, and of course, also indicate how those were judged by one of the representative organs of the Parisian intellectual elite.

The first period was characterised mainly by an interest for the show trials. In May 1949, the first Hungary-related writing is a report on the Month of Soviet Culture organised in Hungary, with some remarkably naive statements. For example, it stresses that the real Hungarian supporters of Western culture are not “class enemies” but are to be found among the intellectuals of the party. Party members attend the festival events in large numbers, while the masses demonstrate an almost total passivity. Thus, the art presenting the struggle of classes in today’s Hungary incites conflict within the Communist party, the chronicler writes, and at the same time the representatives of the Soviet culture inundate Budapest en masse, from writers to the Dynamo football team, from musicians, ballet companies, scholars of Michurin to Georgian singers and chess players. The author admits that the artistic education of Soviet workers does not produce new Raphaels, but it brings about eminent achievements in the performing arts. Perhaps the most charming phrase is the following: “Thus, we now better understand the success of the Russian people in the war, which can be also regarded as some sort of collective art.”

However, this more or less friendly tone changed after the publication of Ferenc Fejtő’s essay on the Rajk trial in November of the same year. Already with the length of his writing, Fejtő wanted to emphasise the extraordinary aspect of the situation. After all, it is rather unusual that a periodical dedicates 62 pages to a single article. Already in the title, Fejtő signals that the Rajk case is an international Dreyfus Affair. The essay is full of pathos as Fejtő seeks to demonstrate the moral crisis of the Communist world, but is difficult to follow due to its richness of detail. Nevertheless, the message to the left wing is clear, is repeatedly emphasised, and unequivocally stressed on the last pages: “In my view, the supreme virtue of Marx’s teaching is the categorical imperative for us to see clearly, and to be faithful to truth.” With dismay, Fejtő argues that lies are in contradiction to socialism’s conditions of existence. Later, Esprit reports about the Kostov trial in Sofia, the trial of archbishop József Grősz, and also about László Rajk’s rehabilitation in 1953. On the other hand, it published in 1954 an extensive report, illustrated with wordy citations from the contemporary Hungarian press on youth alienation both in cities and villages, and on gross behaviour and indifference of hooligans reaching an alarming level. In the short history of Esprit’s references to Hungary, this period lasted until the Revolution of 1956. At this time Hungary was more or less beyond the magazine’s horizon; there was only space for decodable lessons from events regarded as political.

The great impact of the 1956 Revolution can be measured on Esprit’s pages as well. The literary quality of the editorial Les Flammes de Budapest (“The Flames of Budapest”) and its unequivocal stance is an uplifting read because its qualities evoke some of the best contributors of the magazine. Already the motto, an Aragon quote, is captivating: “To read in the sky you need a major fire.” Even today, one feels that its thought, according to which in history there is no such known abstraction of tyranny as the Soviet power, is correct and worth considering. Esprit points out that the workers’ uprisings in Berlin and Potsdam were directed against forms of oppression and that these were not related to economic estrangement, which according to Marx is the driving force of revolutions. 1956 happened because of abuses and crimes committed against man, and because of human degradation to which the regime was indifferent. This brings Hannah Arendt’s conclusion about 1956 to mind, when she writes that the Hungarian ’56 was the first human rights revolution. Just about three weeks after 23 October, under the effect of the emotional experience, the journal writes that “between us and the people living in the East, a deeper spiritual community has come about”.

In fact, the magazine’s attention was modified by the revolution and its consequences, Hungary was, so to speak, “put on the map”. In the beginning of 1957, the editors publish a broadly illustrated analysis on Hungary’s destiny and the significance of its unlucky fate. Shortly thereafter, an excellent essay by Pál Ignotus, who had just fled to the West, brought French readers closer to the complex aspects of the revolution. In this same March issue, a certain G. P.’s Budapest chronicle contains the following pun (in original language and translated), which was unknown to me before, although I was nineteen years old at the time and quite susceptible to similar linguistic ingenuity: Magyar Szocialista Munkás Párt = Megint Szarba Megyünk Pajtás (Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party = Heading into Shit anew so We are, Pal)

Under the title The Hungarian Revolution and the Third Way, Esprit published in November 1957, following Die Presse, an abbreviated version of the memorandum about the Hungarian uprising, prepared by István Bibó for Krishna Menon, India’s ambassador appointed to Moscow by President Nehru, which earned Bibó several years in prison.5 Considering Esprit’s former personalist tradition, we could say that from the magazine’s perspective, Bibó’s interpretation of the essence of the “third way” is the most interesting part of the text. The French version highlights the conviction of the supporters of the third path who believe that socialism eliminates the exploitation of man by man, and thus may be regarded as a station on the way to ever more justice and freedom. Socialism cannot ward off, but rather must embrace the already tried and trusted forms of freedom and justice. The Western system, continues Bibó, offers such a concept and technique of freedom, which – at least at present – must be acknowledged for its objective value and superiority. The Hungarian Revolution tried to realise exactly this synthesis between socialism and freedom. Above all, it rejected the mendacious despotism of the one-party-system, and was oriented toward a multi-party system where socialism is the common denominator between the parties. To this end, it was necessary to maintain the socialist achievements (agrarian reform and nationalisations) on the one hand, and to reinstall the multi-party system and the rule of law (with the abolition of latifundia and the plutocracy) on the other.

Although Bibó’s views may suggest some affinity with those of the intellectuals belonging to the circle of Esprit, his understanding of the third way diverges from that of Mounier and his circle. Bibó attempts to create a clear-cut political synthesis; personalism, on the contrary, calls out for not a political, but rather a spiritual revolution against both Communism and capitalism. It is noteworthy that this parallel did not even emerge in the columns of Esprit, indicating that seven years after Mounier’s death this question was no longer relevant. In the introduction to his memorandum, Ferenc Fejtő expressed great sympathy and enthusiasm for Bibó as a person as well as for his intellectual achievements; the tone of his writing and the issues he raises are very different from those of the editorial Esprit published a year earlier.

Fejtő sees Bibó’s grandeur in the fact that, in his papers written between 1945 and 1947, he created a synthesis between nationalism, modern progression and socialism. This evaluation by Fejtő paved the path to fame for István Bibó, who at that time was still unknown abroad. Today, he is one of the most frequently cited Hungarian political thinkers in France. In his introduction, Ferenc Fejtő describes Hungarian nationalism after 1919 as racist, including the writers of the so-called Populist movement6. In French he calls them populists (populistes), giving also the Hungarian term (népiesek). “They were dreaming of a revolution”, Fejtő writes, “which would introduce paprika, onions and national virtues on the ruins of feudalism and capitalism.” He further notes that, before 1945, liberalism ended up in a spiritual ghetto, because the Horthyist right-wing made people believe that freedom and democracy were Jewish-Masonic ideas. On the other hand, social democracy did not pay attention to the peasantry and frightened off the intellectuals, while the Communists constituted only an insignificant sect. All this changed after the liberation, he adds. Thanks to Bibó and his friends, László Németh, Péter Veres and Lőrinc Szabó, the progress of the nation along the “Hungarian way” became a viable perspective.

This interpretation of the Hungarian folkish movement is a symptom of the still not subsiding resentment that fuelled former leading contributors of Szép Szó, who supported the so-called “urbanists” in their struggle against the “populists”. By using the word “populist”, which ever since in French has acquired negative connotations, Fejtő thus attached an ambiguous label to the names of Németh, Veres, Lőrinc Szabó, and in another part of the text to that of Gyula Illyés, all otherwise highly praised in his writing, whereas he should have known that this labelling was unfair and misleading. For them, for example, as for the intellectuals in our region, the word “folk” (nép) meant more and something different than peuple or people. Namely, the Hungarian word carried also the content which today is related to the sociological, cultural and moral consequences of the division of the society.7 Despite Fejtő’s enthusiasm for and sincere appreciation of Bibó, this biased interpretation contributed to the fact that the political-theoretical project of the “third way” did not receive further attention in the magazine. It was only ten years later that András Királykúti addressed it again in a short study.

As described above, it is commonly known that the 1956 Revolution brought about a decisive and positive turning point in Hungary’s assessment, and Esprit’s columns clearly demonstrate this change. Its subjects show new, more empathetic interest, the country is now better understood and is on the horizon so to speak, in contrast to the previous period. The execution of Imre Nagy and his comrades, the trial and the subsequent despair are described in detail in two letters addressed to the editors. From time to time, up to the tenth anniversary of the Revolution, politics come up again, in addition to articles introducing Hungarian poetry and film that create sympathy. Furthermore, a detailed situation analysis (1964), the discovery of the fate of Hungarian minorities in Transylvania, or a thorough critical review about one of the first summaries of the history of the Revolution by the French author Vincent Brugère-Trélat appear on the pages of the magazine. In February 1968, shortly before the Paris riots, the aforementioned study on the 1956 Revolution and the three previous years is published under a pseudonym. Királykúti’s original, well-written analysis is a remarkable in-depth study; besides Bibó’s idea of a “third way”, it also deals in detail with the originality of the workers’ councils of self-management created during the Revolution. The author elaborates on the numerous idealistic notions which were connected to them, without ever being tried out in practice. He sees one of the merits of the Hungarian Revolution in raising several economic and political questions concerning the workers’ self-management.

In this period, the authors of the Hungary-related essays comprised already several emigrants of 1956, while some of them were written by French authors. As I have indicated, the aftermath of the Revolution was very present on Esprit’s pages, and attention was mainly devoted to how the country experienced the consequences of the Soviet intervention.

In the 1970s, the nature of the articles changed, and new authors emerged. Overall, the level of interest for Hungary changed again. Also, it was easier to enter the country, and some authors published accounts of their travel experiences, for example of the exhibition that presented the life of Jewish people in Hungary (Ethnographic Museum, 1983), or the counter-congress held jointly (and semi- illegally) by renowned foreign writers and the Hungarian writers’ democratic opposition (1986). By comparison, Hungarian issues in general drew closer to the readers, who had now a clearer view of the country’s situation. The new opposition movements, the situation of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania and the Polish–Hungarian parallels were in the centre of interest. The new international developments triggered by the so-called oil crisis (inflation, lack of raw materials, rising unemployment) induced Péter Kende and Basile Kerblay to produce lengthy analyses of the situation of the Communist states, without agreeing with each other on all points (1975). Some authors even sent writings from Budapest, under the pseudonym of János Kovács or Mark Rakowski.8 Freshly arrived in Paris, István Kemény drew up a sociological comparison between the Polish and the Hungarian workforce (1982).

It was in the seventies that the breakdown of the Kádár regime started. It is difficult to determine the year itself, but there is no doubt that the excessive self- reliance of the Communist bloc during the oil crisis, the belief that “the more advanced socialist world order” cannot be threatened by anything, then the end of that illusion, the bursting of the balloon, and even the declaration at a party congress that the continuous rise of living standards is not automatic any more, added to the social and political erosion. But when and why did that dissension degenerating sometimes into hysterical hostilities begin, which then spread like an epidemic among the intellectuals forming the inner opposition of the Kádár regime? As late as 1989, the members of the opposition microcosm could not have dreamt about the turn which propelled a good few of them onto the stage of politics. This strange, fateful, long-lasting and rather harmful modification of the way of thinking that I witnessed and experienced remains mysterious and hardly understandable. How could it happen that old friends would turn against each other, how could distant respect, good companionship and friendship turn into bitter controversy, or even blind hate? I think that an incredible amount of unpredictable and irrational damage was done in this way. By the way, it seems that the protagonists themselves are the most afraid to look back at those events.

The least that can be said is that the phenomenon had a great number of components, of which we know but a few. Furthermore, that developments unfolded side by side, sometimes crossing, sometimes connecting to each other. Esprit’s aforementioned change of perspective, the unaccountable but sensible transformation of its attitude, the increase of its commitment also occurred in these years. The mutual reflection of Hungarian and French intellectual realities may convey some premonitions of the transformation preceding the division. It is not possible to perceive any causes and deeds, but vibrations and silences preceding them and pointing in their direction. In conclusion, I would like to expand on this, as highlighting some components through the perspective of Esprit might help to understand this development.

From this point of view, and also taking into consideration the entire third period, János Kis’s study, published in the February 1983 issue, is the most interesting. It was originally a Samizdat publication in Beszélő, and its intention was to formulate proposals to the Hungarian opposition. This explains why he partially links his argumentation to the consequences of the Jaruzelski coup in December 1981. More than 25 years later, the text can be read in various ways, as it contains several already forgotten details. The economic-political analysis, and the comparison between Polish, Czech and Hungarian realities are quite remarkable. It is from the perspective outlined above that I would like to discuss some of János Kis’s conclusions.

Kis believes that before 1975 no one in the Hungarian opposition thought that a revolution or reforms coming from the top could be expected in Hungary. Later, the situation changed, and around 1980 society was characterised by a general anxiety. A general movement started at that time, and Kis summarised its essence as follows: many people realised that a new public opinion focused on human and civil rights was emerging, and people deemed it was possible to exert pressure on the state in the new international atmosphere of the détente. Kis maintains that this unfolding Hungarian opposition has no programme and that there is no formal contact between its different circles. On the other hand, certain issues widely mobilise people; he names the Bibó Festschrift as an example, as well as the broadly successful SZETA [Szegényeket Támogató Alap: Fund of Support for the Poor] auctions, the numerous appeals and petitions in reaction to violations of law, or the protests of the editorial staff of one or the other literary magazine.

One of the main tenets of Kis’s article is that the democratic opposition, developed between 1977 and 1981, formed the core of the Hungarian resistance. According to him, there are many people in Hungary who share values, social ideas and political principles different from those of the Soviet regime, but only the members of that core believe that at least tiny amendments can be introduced into the system. He adds that behind the democratic opposition there are supporters of liberal democracy, minority autonomy, national independence and socialist traditions in great number. (He considers himself an adept of the socialist traditions.) Kis is convinced that the opposition needs an ideology to enable the formulation of a political alternative, to illuminate the ideas that it considers important and to elaborate the institutional solution that is needed for their implementation.

This last idea of Kis’s seems to be the cornerstone. In several passages of his article he refers to the need for the reform of the system. The country’s leaders, he explains, are not interested in ideological taboos, and are willing to listen to any advice. Furthermore, since 1948 there has been no such possibility to think as freely about alternatives to the economic system of the Soviet model as currently. He notes that the Hungarian leadership is more coherent and less corrupt than in the other Eastern European countries, and is more willing to accept the necessary changes. Moreover, the Hungarian people does not think that the leadership is incapable of governing and has no hostile feelings toward it.

Determined political will requires three conditions: a leader, a programme and allies. At first sight, Kis’s presentation of the situation of the Hungarian opposition, and his advice given to the opposition lack this political determination, as opposed to the 1957 Bibó memoir. However, in the French context, Kis’s argumentation seems to be quite an instructive document of the time. It also appears in a new light, since international correlations are better brought into relief in this context.

The fact that the “third way” or the question of workers’ self-management is not even mentioned in Kis’s argumentation, let alone is a subject of discussion or consideration, may be attributed to some judgement connected to the Hungarian past, or some other editorial consideration or political evaluation. It is more telling that there are at least two aspects of the Bibó Festschrift that he omits to highlight, although he was one of its editors. He does not mention that the 75 authors’ declared views on political and social matters were diverse, but when it came to conclusions about the system, the political personality of István Bibó united them in a spirit of consent. Kis also omits to indicate that there was a consensus among the authors of the memoir that in Hungary, the Soviet system was illegitimate, and that the Kádár regime, which came to power in 1956, represented a continuation and a renewal of this illegitimacy. The Knopp–Kornidesz report stated this fact in an assessment prepared for the party headquarters in 1981.

Thus Kis’s essay unambiguously affirms that the Hungarian opposition must reform the system from within, although it mentions that there were also other ideas concerning the political changes. The line of breakage, the fine crack, becomes visible here. The adherents of the various groups were active in an unorganised and hardly efficient way, but due to their leaders and their commonly shared ideas the outlines of the group called the “democratic opposition” were clearly delineated. According to Kis, the “democratic opposition” should achieve its goals by working from the inside, by integrating into the nomenclature, securing the acceptance of reforms necessitated by the modification of structures. Paradoxically, the “democratic opposition” eventually became more and more detached from the rest of the opposition. Nevertheless, the above-mentioned criteria of a resolute, self-serving and self-realising political intention could not develop because of that will of integration.

I have to add here that Kis also discovers a connection between two developments. He points out, among others, that the strengthened oppositional human rights movements of the 1970s exerted pressure on the Eastern European Communist party state (Kis simply speaks about the State), while on the international scene the détente resulted in a coordinated cooperation between the two blocs.

In my own words, this means that the political option which urges internal reforms and intends to integrate into the system, enjoys significant international recognition and approval, in contrast to those scattered radical groups which question the foundations of the system, and whose success could have brought about the disintegration of the Eastern European Communist system. It seems that in this situation, in unison with a rather wide-spread European public sentiment governed by a leftist mainstream, Esprit adopted the conceptions of the “democratic opposition” and became partial and insensitive toward other movements and personalities.

I would like to sustain my statement with a personal memory. Between 1983 and 1985, I taught at a university in France, and I came in close contact with Milan Kundera. I related to him how and why the party leadership disbanded the editorial staff of the magazine Mozgó Világ in 1983. Kundera’s idea was that this incident, which no one had heard about, should be reported, connected to its anniversary, in one of the prestigious literary organs. Through his mediation, I got to meet Paul Thibaud, then – between 1977 and 1988 – the editor-in-chief of Esprit. He was enthusiastic about the idea and said he would even be ready to dedicate a complete edition to Mozgó Világ, but certainly wished to secure ample space for the entire affair. He also mentioned the two Hungarian emigrants whose opinion and support would be involved. In autumn 1984, I travelled to France with 15 to 20 issues of Mozgó Világ hidden in my car. I told Thibaud that I would gladly get involved with selecting and translating, and I even confirmed this in a letter to him. However, there was never a continuation, and I received evasive answers to my calls. After my return to Hungary I did not dare to bring up the matter anymore, either by phone or by letter. Nothing ever appeared in the magazine about Mozgó Világ. In hindsight, I believe that that was the moment when the mirror was bent. It was in these years that Esprit got even closer to the Hungarian reality, made a choice and wound up with the “democratic opposition”. The wide-ranging spectrum of Mozgó Világ, which contained the full scale of the Hungarian opposition, did not fit into the picture. It was alien to Thibaud, or maybe he was given bad references about it. Strangely, later someone close to him commented about the matter to me. The person stated that in 1991, Ferenc Kulin, the editor-in-chief, had become the faction leader of the MDF. This sounded as if, already in 1985, something like that had been foreseeable in Paris.

Before the turn in 1990, on the eve of the elections, Esprit published the last Hungary-related longer essay. Péter Kende begins his analysis by pointing out that two Hungarian opposition groups are in the limelight. They are SZDSZ, which is rooted in the former “democratic opposition”, and MDF, which comes from the “populist” literary movement. As I have already said, “populiste” has a pejorative meaning in French. A little further, but still in the introduction, Kende remarks that the election results may force the two entities to form a grand coalition. Apparently, the title of the first part of his analysis already contains what he considers the most important issue of Hungarian internal politics: the rivalry of “populists” and “urbanists”.

The interesting feature of the argumentation prepared for a French audience is that Kende resorts to a half-a-century-old interpretational scheme of the “folkish”–“urbanist” controversy. Instantly, the problem of anti-Semitism arises too. In the Hungary-related publications of Esprit after 1945 (including Kis’s above-mentioned article), this problem is never mentioned. Emphasising his own external observer status, Kende writes that SZDSZ is neither more anti- national or nation-denying than MDF is anti-Semitic. If I interpret this sentence in the spirit of “political correctness”, then the use of the term anti-nationalism is nothing but an accusation of anti-Semitism. That is, using a complicated negative sentence, Kende reduces the dynamism of Hungarian domestic politics to the controversy between anti-nationalism (SZDSZ) and anti-Semitism (MDF). In short: according to Kende, Hungarian domestic politics is determined by the issue of anti-Semitism.9

It is not possible to examine all this in its historical context here. By the way, the genre of political analysis belongs to the short-lived ones anyway, as changing situations constantly require new analyses. Therefore, it is neither for the sake of dispute, nor to contradict or reprimand anybody that I evoke the above- mentioned facts. I would only like to illustrate how wide the gap became in a few years. Moreover, how early the accusation of anti-Semitism and the “politically correct” methodology emerged, which so fatally poisoned the recent Hungarian past, and divided people who were close to one another within the opposition – for example on the pages of Mozgó Világ and in the Bibó Festschrift.10 The revival of the “urbanist”–“folkish” dichotomy was the cause for growing differences, especially when these interpretations were reinforced with foreign judgements, as we can see in the case of Esprit.

In my view, Kende’s evaluation of MSZP is also interesting. Compared to the opposition movements, he writes, the reform Communists are not positioned right or left, but occupy the centre between the two. MSZP has a nationalist or populist orientation, but the party also harbours social democratic tendencies. According to Kende, it can also be said that MDF and its allies constitute the centre-right, SZDSZ and the social democrats the centre-left, and in this situation the former Communists are unable to define themselves.

Kende’s assessment of the situation is an interesting document, as it reflects the opinion of the extensive and influential intellectual circle of Esprit, which takes Kis’s views as its own. A more radical turnaround breaking with the Kádár regime or even the amendment of the imperfect system did not fit into this. This analysis creates the impression that a radical change is a frightening perspective for the author, and his anxiety is generated by the imagined possibility that anti-Semitism could emerge.

Today a disappointed view is spreading in Hungary, according to which 1989–90 did not mark a turning point in the history of the country. The writings published in Esprit seem to demonstrate that the most coherent part of the Hungarian internal opposition, the so-called “democratic opposition” enjoying strong international support, was actually not preparing for a radical turnaround. Nevertheless, despite these expectations, the regime change started in Hungary, and then, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the entire Communist bloc followed the same path. In addition to Esprit’s role, we might remember President Mitterrand’s official visit to the GDR shortly before its fall: neither he nor other European leaders were prepared for the turn. Their mirrors were bent, and after the fall of the GDR and the collapse of the Soviet system, the possibility of the German unification – at least for a time – looked like a nightmare for them.

Before or instead of formulating a conclusion and a judgement, it is appropriate to consider and ponder a very important circumstance. As it seems, we have just come to a turnaround. Now, twenty years after the economic, political, institutional and other changes a deep mutation in the way of thinking is taking place. We are witnessing that, in addition to many other things, the way of thinking which characterised the third period of Esprit, is also losing its relevance. It is fading away, just like other elements of the past, which are no longer part of our lives.

Translation by Erzsébet von Kontz


1 This article was originally published in Magyar Szemle in 2010.

2 Roger Garaudy, and then Bernard-Henry Lévi and Zeev Sternhell accused also Esprit with fascist collaboration, and attacked it violently (cf. Zeev Sternhell, Ni droite, ni gauche, Paris, Le Seuil, 1983, new edition Fayard, 2000).

3 Michel Winock (1975) and Goulven Bodick (2005) published a monograph about Esprit’s history.

4 With the participation of the former editor-in-chief, Paul Thibaud, the French Institute in Budapest organised a round-table discussion on 8 June 2009 about Esprit. Here I would like to thank cultural counselor François Laquièze for inviting me to this evening, thus enabling me to expand on the principal thoughts in my present essay.

5 The complete text was first published in Hungarian under the title Bibó, István: A harmadik út [The Third Way], London, 1960. “Emlékirat, Magyarország helyzete és a világhelyzet” [Memoir, the situation of Hungary and the world]. See also Bibó, István: Válogatott tanulmányok [Selected studies], Vol. 4, 1935–1979. Ed. Bibó István Jr, Budapest, Magvető, 1990, pp. 213–239.

6 The Hungarian “Populist” movement was founded by young reformist democrats in the mid- Thirties. They advocated, before all else, a land reform, equal opportunities and modernisation for the peasantry, the biggest body in Hungarian society. They were neither “populist” or “folkish” and they were anti-Nazi. (The Eds.)

7 Gyula Borbándi refers to Bibó’s interpretation of the word “folk” (“nép”) at length in: A magyar népi mozgalom [The Hungarian folkish movement], Budapest, 1989, Püski, pp. 497–498.

8 János Kis and György Bencze used the pseudonym Rakowski.

9 If he had wanted to express the opposite of what I suppose, the sentence would not make sense. In the original text, the complete sentence is as follows: “Une chose est sûre, en tout cas pour un observateur étranger comme moi, c’est que l’Alliance des démocrates libres n’est pas plus antinationale ou anationale que le Forum n’est antisémite.” Esprit, March 1990, p. 4.

10 In my essay, I develop my view in detail: “Zsidókérdés? A lelkiismeret fájdalma, vagy a harc eszköze?” [Jewish question? The pain of conscience or the means of combat?], in: Magyar Szemle, 2002, Nos. 11–12, and 2003, Nos. 1–2. Republished in: Mi történik itt? [What is happening here?], Budapest, Magyar Szemle Könyvek, 2003, pp. 217–259.

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