chapter  4
11 Pages

The limits of reform

In the 1960s it was still possible to conceive of a communist rule that was not simply ‘national’ but based upon an accommodation with the society over which it ruled. The intervention of Soviet troops in Hungary had made it clear that no direct challenge would be permitted to the security of the bloc as a whole, in that country or elsewhere. But it did not preclude an attempt to broaden the basis on which communist governments interacted with their societies: Kádár, indeed, was of the first to begin a dialogue with his traumatised country on the basis of his celebrated principle that ‘whoever is not against us is with us’. There was no suggestion that the party’s leading role should be abandoned or qualified in any way, but its leadership became more tolerant and a dialogue developed between the party and other organised interests that allowed at least a cautious questioning of official policies. Hungary was also one of the first of the communist countries to establish an element of electoral choice, with the introduction of independent candidatures in 1967; it was a practice that became universal in the early 1980s.