Chapter

The Extraordinary Career of <i>Feketevágó Úr</i>

Karl Brown

in Communism Unwrapped

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199827657
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950461 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199827657.003.0011
The Extraordinary Career of Feketevágó Úr

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From 1948 to 1956, the communist regime in Hungary sought to transform the state into a centralized command economy on the Soviet model. It was largely unsuccessful in doing so—especially in the countryside, where peasants deployed the “weapons of the weak” against the state’s relatively poor surveillance and control. Wood theft, which had been practiced by Magyar peasants for centuries, continued in the communist period; pig-killing, previously a major element of peasant life and newly criminalized under the communist regime, was also widely practiced. Using the story of one successful black marketer in illicit meat and wood, Karl Brown demonstrates how most if not all Hungarian peasants were involved in these illicit practices, and how the rural social network transformed into a thriving black market in which even the Roma (or Gypsies) had opportunities for profit. In attempting to centralize the rural economy, the party-state actually encouraged a hyper-capitalist mindset among the peasantry as wood and meat—previously stolen for individual use or shared to strengthen kinship and local bonds—became commodified on the black market. To whatever extent the rise of a consumer economy in the Eastern Bloc enabled the eventual downfall of communism, this process began at the very outset of communist rule.

Keywords: Hungary; Communism; consumption; commodification; crime; peasants; resistance; pig-killing; Roma (gypsies); black market; wood theft; weapons of the weak

Chapter.  9315 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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