Entire party leadership threatened with two years’ jail sentence A Hungarian court is taking action against Communist Workers Party chairperson Gyula Thürmer and six other members of the party’s Presidium for « contempt of the court ». They are threatened with a two years’ jail sentence. Solidair, the weekly magazine of the Workers’ Party of Belgium [PTB], interviewed Gyula Thürmer.
Gyula Thürmer: As early as the spring of 2005, the former vice-chairman of the party, Attila Vajnai, demanded to change the line of the party to become a reformist party. For that reason, a party Congress decided to exclude his faction from the leadership. He went to a Budapest court to challenge that decision, and the court decided that he and his followers should be re-allowed into the party and even in the leadership. « You don’t function according to democratic norms », opined the court. It also declared all our Congress resolutions null and void. But we say that they simply can’t do that. The law on political parties allows intervention only in the case of material or financial damages, or when crimes have been committed against party members. We publicly stated that this was a political discussion, and that the court’s decision was a political one.
Solidair: What kind of reformist party line Vajnai wanted to impose?
Gyula Thürmer: In words they are against capitalism, but in fact they want to join forces with the social-democratic Hungarian Socialist Party, which is in government since 2002, together with the conservatives. The government is implementing neoliberal policies that have nothing in common with a leftist programme.
Solidair: Why is it that the court intervenes in this matter?
Gyula Thürmer: There is no difference between the social-democrats and the liberal conservatives. The court’s action impeded us already from participating in the 2006 elections. Later, we again held a Congress, and since then the Vajnai group is definitely out. But we lost one year and a half without having been able to function as a party. Which has had consequences for the election results: the social-democrats and liberals won once more.
Solidair: What is your party’s reaction to the court’s decision?
Gyula Thürmer: We call it an unprecedented political decision. We also call it revenge for the referendum that we initiated against the privatisation of the hospitals. In 2004, almost two million Hungarians voted against the privatisation of health care. The Budapest Court demanded that we retract our words, which we refused of course. Upon which the Court persecuted us on the ground of « public contempt », and the police investigated the affair… right before the 2006 elections.
Solidair: And what does the Hungarian public opinion think of this?
Gyula Thürmer: The media keep quiet about the issue, because they want to isolate us. They are intimidating people, with an anticommunist campaign. And yet, the people’s sympathy with us is growing. Not because we are communists, but because this issue constitutes such a blunt violation of the right to free speech – article 61 of the Constitution. Also journalists and members of other parties understand that they may be the next victims. It is a mockery of the norms that are in force in Europe. The Organisation for Human Rights is supporting us and has provided us with lawyers to defend us in court.
Solidair: On 6 November there will be another session in court. What can we do, from Belgium?
Gyula Thürmer: We received the solidarity message of the Workers’ Party of Belgium, thanks a lot. Also in other countries, letters have been written to the Hungarian embassy with the request to stop the court case. Press conferences are being planned in Greece and Italy. If that could be done in Brussels as well – the capital of the European Union – that would be highly significant.
Solidair: How do you look at the 90th anniversary of Russia’s October Revolution?
Gyula Thürmer: The ideas of that revolution remain highly relevant. The defeat of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is only temporary. We will announce that everywhere. We are planning activities at various levels: solemn celebrations, but also an exhibition of stamps of Lenin.