A documentary film


‘Based on the requisite party resolutions, I have now filled the post of first secretary of the Central Committee for more than 15 years. This period is a measurable one in the life of the party and much more so in the life of an individual. This month I will reach the legally prescribed retiring age, in length of service and in age. On this basis, I therefore request the Central Committee to reach a decision on the question of relieving me of the post of first secretary and placing me in retirement.’

The letter from which this extract is taken was written on May 10, 1972 and addressed to the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party. It was written by János Kádár, first secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party at the time. Like all other letters to the Central Committee, it was treated as strictly confidential. News of Kádár’s application for retirement soon leaked out, but the letter was only made public after his death.

Several questions about this later may arise and may have arisen among its readers now and at the time. Who was the letter really addressed to? Was it Leonid Brezhnev? Was it the Soviet Union? Could it have been the internal opposition to him in Hungary? And who was the man who wrote the letter? Was he an elderly sixty-year-old, already exhausted by work, war, revolution and public life? Or was he a sly politician with an excellent sense of tactics? What was Kádár’s purpose in sending the letter? Did he really want to retire, in a way quite unusual in the Eastern bloc? Or was his purpose to extort from his external and internal opponents a declaration of loyalty that would secure him in power for the rest of his life? The film seeks answers to these questions, with the aid of available documents, witnesses and experts.

Of course the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party did not accept Kádár’s request for retirement. Here is an extract from the reply: The Central Committee ‘takes note of Comrade János Kádár’s letter and accepts the proposal of the Political Committee that János Kádár should continue working as the first secretary of the Central Committee, because the party, the working class, the working people and the country have need of his work. With this resolution, the Central Committee drops the question from the agenda.’

It is possible to speculate, of course, on how unanimous the unanimous decision by the Central Committee really was. Could there have been some people who really toyed with the idea of pensioning Kádár off? There might have been. One thing is certain: Kádár never resorted to this gambit again.

Director: Méry Zsuzsa
Camaraman: Góczán Flórián H.S.C.
Historian: Rainer M. János
Editor: Szabó Éva
Producer: Sárközy Réka
Cast: Huszár Tibor, Valerij Muszatov, Nyers Rezső, Rainer M. János
Lenght: 45 min.

Please send comments or suggestions.
Copyright © 2000 National Széchényi Library 1956 Institute and Oral History Archive
Last updated:  Wednesday, 2-May-2007

Search website