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Digital Archive International History Declassified

May 22, 1973

HUNGARIAN CENTRAL COMMITTEE REPORT ON FIGHT AGAINST 'HOSTILE PROPAGANDA'

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    This Central Committee report to the Hungarian Politburo reviews efforts of Party and government organs to analyze Western broadcasting and other information programs targeted on Hungary. The report indicates the extent of the resources devoted to analyzing "hostile" information programs, criticizes as inadequate the efforts to counter "hostile propaganda" claiming to "improve socialism," and urges better coordination of counterpropaganda. The resolution of the Politburo accepting the report follows. This resolution, adopted on May 22, 1973, was declared invalid ten years later by a resolution made on October 11, 1983.
    "Hungarian Central Committee Report on Fight against 'Hostile Propaganda'," May 22, 1973, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, MOL 288 f. 5/611 ő. E. Obtained by Csaba Bekes. Translated by András Bocz. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121500
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    https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121500

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[Report to Politburo]

May 22, 1973.

I.

1. Regular monitoring and evaluation of hostile propaganda targeting our country have been conducted by the Central Committee since the third quarter of 1969 on the basis of the resolution of the Politburo [establishing the department of Propaganda of the Central Committee]. Since that time 15 quarterly reports and 5 thematic evaluations have been prepared. The materials are prepared by the so-called Evaluation Committee that works as a body coordinated by the Department of Propaganda of the Central Committee. The Evaluation Committee is made up of members representing the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Public Administration, the Department of Science, Culture and Public Education of the Central Committee, and also includes representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, the Hungarian Press Agency, the Institute of Foreign Affairs and Hungarian radio. The six state bodies mentioned above analyze hostile propaganda in their own field and provide their own reports, which then make up the final report. This final report is sent to the members of the Politburo and the Secretariat, the heads of departments of the Central Committee and the leaders of the state organs concerned.

This work has become an integral part of the political activities of the above-mentioned bodies, constituting an established system today. It is especially the reports prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hungarian Press Agency, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior that show clear signs of regular data collection and deep analysis. The Hungarian Radio and the Institute of Foreign Affairs have been able to find the most suitable method only recently.

The evaluation in these reports is aimed at pointing out the main tendencies and changes. Therefore they can provide the political leadership with useful quarterly summaries concerning hostile propaganda and at the same time call attention to possible tactical changes, based on the comparison of data in recent and earlier reports. The reports also provide good grounds for drawing the necessary conclusions.

However, one shortcoming of these reports is that the collection of data is not comprehensive enough (it does not even utilize fully the technical capacity of the monitoring station installed in Gödöllő), and the analyses are not deep enough. They often fail to show how the division of labor is managed by the various outlets of hostile propaganda, they do not call attention to the characteristic features of bourgeois propaganda that influence the various classes and layers of society—especially the youth—and they do not investigate thoroughly how the policy of undermining conveyed by this propaganda affects the area of tourism. The level of synthesizing work is not satisfactory. Several of the bodies concerned are still trying to find the most suitable methods to participate in the analysis of hostile propaganda, and they replace their representatives engaged in such work too often. Most of the real work is done at the end of each quarter, it is not operative enough, and there are very few evaluations prepared in between the quarterly reports.

2. The main goal of the analysis of hostile propaganda has so far been to provide information for the leaders of the Party and the state. As a result, information flow has been directed upwards and we have failed to devote adequate attention to two important tasks: providing information for the lower Party organizations, which should be somewhat different from the reports sent to the highest leadership, and utilizing the experience gained through our fight against hostile propaganda in our political work, especially in our own propaganda activities.

3. Our fraternal Parties show a genuine interest in learning more about our experience in the evaluation of hostile propaganda. For instance, the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party has ordered the Counselor of the soviet embassy in Budapest to gather information from the Central Committee about our quarterly evaluation reports. Similar regular information is provided to the German Socialist Unity Party, and Polish and Bulgarian diplomats are given occasional information. It would be practical, however, to send our fraternal Parties a bi-annual report and request a similar evaluation from them.

II.

1. The main methodological and substantive experience gained through nearly four years of evaluation work shows that the hostile propaganda targeting our country intends to achieve the same goals by adapting methods and tools to the conditions of peaceful coexistence and the on- going ideological fight. This propaganda is less sharp in its tone today but much more extensive in its scope.

Some of the methodological and substantive changes can be demonstrated by the following:

– It was a striking feature of the period in question that hostile propaganda was not trying to incite the people directly to overthrow the system instantly. It took great pains to be viewed as an opposition rather than an outsider or an enemy. It criticized the system from the inside, so its tone pretended to be more “loyal.” It intended to relate very closely to the everyday problems of our public life, to exaggerate our troubles, and to support its messages by referring to facts and events of our daily life. These endeavors are manifest, e.g., in its intention to incite dissatisfaction towards the policy of the Party, to attack the leading role of the Party, to turn the various classes and layers of society against each other, and to extol apolitical technocracy. It also tries hard to frustrate our endeavors by trying to push our policy to the right, e.g. urging capitalist reforms in the economy, and liberalizing reforms in extending socialist democracy.

– Open, anti-Communist propaganda is more and more often replaced by campaigns heralding the “improvement” of socialism in which important issues of Marxism are also discussed, often using Marxist terminology. At the same time it frequently propagates so-called new models of socialism, overemphasizes the importance of the divergent national features of socialist development, incites nationalism and turns the socialist countries against each other. It also maintains—often with an openly anti-Soviet tone—that there exists a so-called Hungarian model.

– Foreign propaganda also paints a distorted picture of the domestic situation by setting domestic and foreign policy sharply against each other. It suggests that Hungary can continue to conduct its liberal, reformist domestic policy at the expense of an orthodox, Soviet-friendly foreign policy. It recommends the same to other socialist countries too. In this context its aim is to instigate distrust among our allies. Even the cooked-up potential clash between the “conservatives” and the “reformists” is represented as a proof of the instability of the socialist system. It talked about a “Hungarian dilemma,” a “crisis in the leadership,” and when—after the November [1972] Central Committee meeting—the desired “disintegration” did not materialize, it started speaking about “a tightening in domestic policy,” “shifting the goals,” and “putting the brakes on reforms.” It sticks to the same attitude even today. At the same time it carefully takes stock of the tactical situation, which is illustrated by its reaction to the events of March 15 or to the [anti-regime demonstrations] that took place in Balassagyarmat. It is also to be noted that it speaks differently about Hungary to the audience in capitalist countries than to the Hungarian audience.

– Within nationalist incitement, the main goal of the propaganda has become to instigate anti-Soviet sentiments and to break away from the Soviet Union. A standard topic of this propaganda is “Soviet pressure” on our domestic policy, “distrust on the part of Moscow,” the “superpower interests of the Soviet Union,” and the “Brezhnev doctrine,” as far as foreign affairs are concerned. It urges challenging this doctrine, and cites Romanian foreign policy as an example. It describes the advantages of a possible stronger orientation towards the West and Hungary’s ability to “play the role of a bridge.” The fact that most of the propaganda broadcasts to Hungary talk about the internal situation of other socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union, also demonstrates that the main goal is to set us against our allies.

– Imperialist propaganda pays increasingly more lip service to ultra-leftist views. It uses Maoist and Trotskyist “new leftist” ideas to demonstrate the “internal crisis of socialism” and attempts to exploit the conflicts in the international labor movement by exaggerating and sharpening them to an extreme degree. It encourages openly or potentially anti-socialist trends, various extremist groups, and the pluralism of Marxism.

– Utilizing the potentials of wide-ranging contacts between the East and the West, it creates a lot of illusions about the capitalist system and Western lifestyle, and promotes the system of values prevalent in the capitalist world. The changes that have taken place in the policy of some capitalist countries as a result of the changes in the balance of power are presented as if the nature of capitalist policy itself had changed, thereby giving rise to illusions about certain countries or politicians. This propaganda does everything it can to make the bourgeois mass media more appealing to a growing number of people.

2. The reasons for the changes in the content and methodology of hostile propaganda:

– the achievements of our domestic and foreign policy and the strengthened position of socialism which shattered any hope for a direct overthrow of the socialist system;

– the general crisis of the capitalist world, and the decrease in its appeal that has resulted from this crisis;

– accommodation to the tactics of undermining and selective gap-bridging;

– social changes in our country and the recognition of the developing socialist mentality;

– utilization of the potential for wide-ranging contacts between Hungary and the capitalist world.

3. Among the various tools of imperialist propaganda, the mass media continue to try to expand the range of people who tune in to their programs, especially by playing the role of acceptable and trustworthy channels of information. Though their messages are essentially the same, there appears to be a certain division of labor among them. For instance, certain things that the [Voice of America] is reluctant to say, for political reasons, are conveyed through the BBC or Radio Free Europe.

In addition to the mass media, an increasingly important role is played by the propaganda conveyed through cultural relations. The embassies of developed capitalist countries are becoming more and more active, and occasionally we also witness the propaganda activities of the right-wing emigration. Hostile propaganda makes use of the potential of tourism by training Western tourists visiting our country, as well as by trying to exert an influence on Hungarian tourists visiting [Western] countries.

The tools used by imperialist propaganda have undergone intensive modernization. The United States is already planning to introduce the use of satellites to broadcast television programs to socialist countries, and the Federal Republic of Germany is going to install new, high-capacity radio stations.

4. The evaluation of hostile propaganda targeting our country is an extremely complex task. Our society is constantly exposed to a wide range of concurrent effects. When weighing the impact of bourgeois propaganda, our essential starting point is that Hungarian public opinion is largely influenced by the achievements of socialist development and the major elements of socialist public thinking. However, we should not ignore—and overestimate or underestimate—the impact of bourgeois propaganda.

Bourgeois propaganda can achieve some results in issues related to certain internal tensions or problems in the country. For instance it has tried to create uncertainty and raise concern over the future of our economic reforms and the correctness of our foreign policy. This propaganda also makes use of the weaknesses of our information policy. For instance, it wasted no time grasping the opportunity that arose when we were silent about the Vienna [arms control] negotiations for quite a long time.

Its impact can be observed in three areas:

– Some unfavorable features of public sentiment and attitude—nationalism, cynicism, adoration of the West, disparagement of the achievements of the socialist countries—can partly be attributed to the impact of Western propaganda;

– Hostile influence occasionally shows itself by providing misleading in- formation for the people;

– Imperialist propaganda—as a major tool of ideological subversion—disseminates bourgeois ideas, conserves and revives bourgeois ideology.

This impact can be explained by more intensive contacts between the two world systems, the ideological situation in our country, and our objective difficulties and subjective mistakes. The weak points of our work play an important role in its success: the shortcomings of our analyses and the failure to utilize our past experience. For this reason, priority should be given to a more offensive and active fight against hostile propaganda in the proper framework, in addition to the ongoing evaluative and reporting activities.

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