Author:Eszter Bartha (Eotvos Lorand University)
Paper long abstract:
The paper analyzes and compares workers' experience of postsocialist change and its impact on their social and political attitudes in Hungary. It presents the results of an oral history project conducted in Rába MVG in North-western Hungary between 2002 and 2003. Rába belonged to the large enterprises of the socialist period and was considered to be a "model" factory. It survived systemic change but with considerably reduced personnel. Twenty-twenty life-history interviews were made with an equal number of people who were still employed there, and with those who had lost their jobs during re-structuring. The selection of the interview partners had two main criteria: 1) equal number of men and women; 2) the age of at least 40 so that the interview partners have work experience in the socialist regime. To find interview partners, I used the snowball method and newspaper advertisements.
The workers did not only find themselves in an increasingly difficult financial situation but they also had to learn to live with the constant fear of unemployment, and to accept the loss of prestige of working in a "model" factory. These "narratives of decline" did not, however, challenge capitalist order as such. The contradiction between experience and expectation was resolved with the argument that something went wrong with the implementation of capitalism leading to the search for "enemies" and the support of the ideology of the strong state.
Class as a subtext to neonationalism after 1989