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Hungary-Government and Party Control

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Hungary Index

Ultimate responsibility for defense policy lay with the HSWP Politburo (see Party Structure , ch. 4). The party exercised several channels of control over the armed forces. The party officially controlled the army through the Government Administration and Administration Department of the Secretariat. The head of the Ministry of Defense's Main Political Administration reported to this party body and to the minister of defense. The Main Political Administration, in turn, controlled the political departments at the division level and the political deputies of the commanding officers at the subdivision level. Party cells were subordinated to the deputy commanders for political affairs. The Army Committee of the Central Committee of the HSWP supervised overall political work in the army.

During peacetime the Presidential Council, whose members were subject to the HSWP's nomenklatura (see Glossary) authority, oversaw national defense; the defense committee of the National Assembly also worked closely with the Presidential Council (see State Apparatus , ch. 4). At the government level, the Council of Ministers' Committee of Defense supervised the defense committees of Budapest and those of the counties. The minister of defense was a member of the defense committees of both the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly in peacetime. During wartime, the president would transform the Presidential Council into the National Defense Council, with the minister of defense leading the war effort.

In theory the Presidential Council appointed and dismissed officers, but in fact this responsibility was assumed by the minister of defense. The minister of defense had always been a member of the Central Committee of the HSWP, the highest ranking officer, and the commander in chief of the armed forces. He reported to the chairman of the Council of Ministers and to the HSWP Politburo in peacetime. In late 1989, Hungary's minister of defense was Colonel General Ferenc Karpati, who was appointed in December 1985 upon the death of his predecessor, Colonel General Istvan Olah. Karpati had joined the Hungarian Communist Party in 1945 at age nineteen. His chief of staff was Lieutenant General Jozsef Pacsek. At the same time, Brigadier General Istvan Bracsok served as secretary of the HSWP's People's Army Committee, while Lajos Krasznai served as chief of the HPA's Main Political Administration.

Party membership was essential for career advancement in the military; hence, party membership among officers was high; according to Karpati it was 80 percent in 1989. This high level of party membership among officers was another means of party control over the military. The party began recruiting prospective officers in the military academies, where students underwent a screening process to assess their political reliability.

By contrast, party membership among enlisted men and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) was relatively low. Estimates placed party membership at 0.5 to 0.8 percent of those persons drafted, compared with about 4 percent for the general population of the same age. In the late 1980s, however, party membership was seriously declining, and it can safely be assumed that the percentage of HSWP members among the military rank and file was dropping as well.

Data as of September 1989

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