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Márk PÁLYI, writer, sociologist, 1983


How did the change in regime influence your professional activity and interest?

Since I was six-seven years old during the regime change, I cannot separate the euphoria of the time from the liberal lifestyle and worldview of my parents. Seeing their way of life becoming the official paradigm pushed me towards believing that a liberal attitude will bear fruit. Thus, as I was growing up, I often relied on my feelings; I did only what I felt like doing. When I became a teenager, this approach resulted in great achievements. In my adult life, however, this attitude has mostly hindered my professional precision. My degree is in sociology. According to one of my acquaintances, I should admit that this was only because of the democratic opposition. During my teens – in surprising contrast with my peers – the euphoria of the regime change was a regularly resurfacing aspect of my worldview. I was an avid believer in the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) as the embodiment of honesty and guidance. During the 2002 campaign, I worked my way into a party office, where I was engaged in artistic activity. (Later I became an administrative employee of the organization.) In my early work, I connected my enthusiasm for the SZDSZ with artistic symbols. As a result of the general deterioration that began in 2003/2004, however, I began to experience a sense of aversion, although I retained my formal ties to the party until 2010. My disappointment in Hungarian politics began somewhere after the first year of the Medgyessy cabinet: the adverse effects of the “hundred-day program,” the strengthening of the opposition, the apparent weakness of the government, corruption cases, the SZDSZ turning into a party with the image of a washing detergent commercial… Truthfully, my disappointment also had to do with the state of my personal well-being, though the latter, in turn, was probably, at least partly, a result of these developments. So, in the end, I decided not to be professionally involved in politics.


What part of your role in the regime change do you consider most important today?

If I am to interpret this question in terms of myself, then what I consider most important is the fact that I made politically-themed children’s drawings, which were featured in Ex Symposion’s issue entitled “Change of Regime Through the Eyes of a Child” [Rendszerváltás gyerekszemmel], which I edited, as well as in my book published by Noran in 2009.


What cornerstone events or publications in art / politics / public life / the professional sphere do you remember, in which you participated, or to which you reacted in some way?

I made children’s drawings, sketches, typewritten doodles about the establishment of the first free literary journal Magyar Napló [Hungarian Journal]. As a reinterpretation of this, I also “founded” my own periodical; I drew posters depicting Gábor Demszky during the first local government elections, and, during the parliamentary elections, I wrote “campaign material” for Péter Nádas, Ferenc Kulin, and György  Konrád, as well as “flyers” for introducing the different parties.


What sources and experiences have determined your view of the transitional period – both during and in retrospect?

I have only made evaluations retrospectively. Until my teenage years, my father’s anecdotes served as the main source, as well as books that I obtained through him. Róza Hodosán’s book entitled Samizdat Stories [Szamizdat történetek] was a defining piece of literature, of which I wrote a critique in Magyar Hírlap (21-22 August 2004). I also held a discussion on Ignác Romsics’s book There Once Was a Change of Regime [Volt egyszer egy rendszerváltás] on the SZDSZ boat with Imre Furmann and István Szent-Iványi, during the first European parliamentary election campaign. As I already mentioned in answering the first question, I had an emotion-based response to the regime change, and it was in this spirit that I completed Ex Symposion’s “Change of Regime Through the Eyes of a Child” issue two years ago. Thus, I have always approached the topic from the standpoint of emotions; this has always been the aspect of my engagement. Lately, I have been reading Ervin Csizmadia’s interviews with former members of the democratic opposition. My experience is that the more intelligent portion of my generation, having grown up, have, in fact, begun to explore the turning point aspect of the regime change (as, when I was interested in this topic, my engagement was met with cool indifference and considerable cynicism). Nevertheless, I feel that there is far too little literature on the topic, especially when it comes to complex and comprehensive works. It is also possible, however, that the subject matter requires such extensive elaboration that individual disciplines cannot really be expected to undertake the task.


Has your picture of the regime change and its ideas been altered – if yes, in what way, and as a result of what – in the past 20 / 10 / 5 / 1 year(s)?

It unfortunately has. I too have fallen victim to the “twenty-year” wave also represented by the Politics Can Be Different (LMP) party, though they had managed to convince me, at least at the level of voting. My image of the regime change is largely connected with my picture of the SZDSZ. (It can, more or less, generally be said that the two are intricately linked.) After 2007, as of János Kóka’s presidency, it was difficult to trust this party – and the rug was pulled from under my own position a bit as well. Unfortunately, in my view, it was the “social referendum” that ruined everything to the point where I could no longer resist giving up and becoming weak. I could no longer keep fighting; I became apathetic and started developing a tendency towards the critique of capitalism. Ultimately, I cannot disregard the fact that socialism’s advantageous aspects must also be taken into account. At the same time, it doesn’t help matters, especially mentally and morally, to question the value of the promise of the free world. Of course, I am not saying that we shouldn’t be sceptical about the later apathy, dogmatism and bitter – often deliberate – mistakes of the former members of the democratic opposition. Still, in my opinion, this is not where the emphasis should be placed. Perhaps it is Václav Havel’s approach, who attempted to create a democratic socialism of sorts in the early 1990s, that is most favourable in this respect.

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