Ágnes Erdélyi

* 1944

  • "After the ’79 Charta signing the situation escalated rather quickly. The Opposition got decentralised, a couple of hubs emerged, it turned out that there were others, too, e.g. artists, Miki Szabó’s seminars, sociologists, research into the Roma. So out of the blue it became obvious that there were a lot of things going on, which we either were or were not aware of. To put it in another way, after the second signing, the oppositional circle extended manyfold. There started to be more than one hubs. Quasi institutional forms of it like the Fund for Supporting the Poor took shape in no time. What’s more, the second Charta was followed by heavy reprisals, which led to the launch of the Support Group of Unemployed Degree Holders, the Institute Seeking Sacked Job-Seekers (KUKI) and the Institute Seeking Jobs (MUKI) For example, we raised money with Vili (Sós Vilmos). We had a pretty good clientele. We managed to collect money not only in our own circles but also from people who didn’t sign anything or get involved but still supported us. And they donated generously towards this cause. […] Some of them donated on a monthly basis, some of them gave us large one offs. It turned out that we had quite a few supporters. Having a wide audience, Radio Free Europe provided us with excellent publicity. At this point we were already aiming for an institutionalised opposition. The Open University meant that there was a fixed program on Mondays. Its venues alternated between Óra Street, the vicinity of Batthyany square and there might have been events near Visegrádi utca, too. Tamás Gáspár’s lecture took place there, I’m sure but I don’t remember any more who who the actual host was. I frequented the Open University while Janos Kis gave talks about soviet type societies; they were rather inspiring. In those days the History of Ideas in Russia was my specialty. Also, the Fund for Supporting the Poor had fund raising campaigns on a regular basis. I wasn’t a member. I went to their classical concerts and did fundraising for them, though. Later on, when Gábor Iványi broke away from the Methodists and organised seminars in theology for themselves, I gave philosophy workshops. These sessions took place in flats, too. Let me tell you a story about money. Our flat had been broken into. They didn’t take too much stuff. In one of the drawers there was our savings along with the money raised, i.e. the ’public’ money next to it. The private savings remained intact,the public money had been taken. The slip of paper with a record of donations was lying next to it. I only put the amounts on the slip without any names, just for the books: date and amount, as we received them. That had been taken, too. But the one who carried it out lacked discipline and took some other things as well, which he obviously wasn’t allowed to do. I was rather parsimonious and cigarettes weren’t cheap in those days. The burglary happened some time in February and I’d got a carton of cigarettes for Christmas, and I still had a few boxes left. The burglar took them too."

  • "The Bibó Memorial Book was of seminal importance. It was about diversification, the whole Hungarian intelligentsia got involved. Even the organisers covered the whole spectrum. Also, it was very important for us. We participated in the logistic aspects, too. There was an editorial committee comprising 12 people, which we weren’t on, but once the studies were ready, we were involved in having them typed and even more so inthe binding . We have had some of the materials in our pantry ever since. An stack of Bibó pictures that were to be on the cover. We stored the manuscripts and we took them to the binder. We had a car. Jancsi Kenedi gave us the address of the binder, which was somewhere onthe Main Boulevard (Körút) between Baross and Üllői Street. His name was Szvetozár Lakatos and had twelve children. He had fixed prices. The way he bound our books was how he did theses. First he made between ten or twenty of them and read one. Then he reduced his prices. It was quite moving how he did the maths to learn his cost price and how much he would charge for a minimum of labour costs as he had to put food on the table. We did this in secret but they learnt about it, nevertheless. We may have been followed. It was a pretty thick book, about 1000 typed pages. We called on the woman typist who worked for the Statistics Bureau and who typed these pages working long hours. Then we put the copies into the car outside the Statistics Bureau. We delivered 10-12 copies at a time. That adds up to 12 thousand pages. We got into the car and drove to Körút (Main Boulevard), then, we took them out and carried them up to the second floor. When they learnt about it, they threatened the binder. When we saw them next time, he said that he would do that last lot but won’t take on any more. He said he just couldn’t possibly. K: How could you finance the publication? You had to pay the typist after all? V: All the authors whose study had been accepted paid us some money. There was no upper limit. In addition, the books were sold for money by our helpers."

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    Budapest, Hungary, 16.06.2005

    duration: 03:25:37
    media recorded in project Oral History Archive - Budapest
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68 was the turning point for my generation

6182-portrait_former.jpg (historic)
Ágnes Erdélyi
photo: Erdélyi Ágnes

Ágnes Erdélyi was born on 15 February 1944 to Jewish parents in Budapest. Her father was a doctor, her mother was an accountant. Ágnes applied for a place at the Eötvös Loránd Universty (ELTE BTK) to major in Philosophy and French but she was offered one as a French/Spanish major. However, she took on Philosophy as a third major. In 1967 she became a member of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (MSZMP) and earned her degree in Spanish/French Studies and Philosophy. In 1967-68 she worked for Társadalmi Szemle, while she was also a part time Professor of Philosophy at the Philosophy Department of Semmelweis Medical University (SOTE) until 1969. Then she worked alongside philosopher György Lukács. She married philosopher Vilmos Sós in 1976.Between 1970 and 1992 she worked for the Philosophy Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Science. In the 1988/89 academic year she was a guest professor in the USA (Rutgers University, NJ, Department of Philosophy). From 1991 onwards she has been a professor at the Philosophy Institute of ELTE BTK. In 1992/98 she was the Head of the Invisible College. In 1996 she earned her a DSc degree in philosophy (Max Weber in America).As a member of the so called Lukács Nursery she participated in voluntary seminars held in participants’ flats from 1964. In 1973 following the so called Philosophers’ Trial, she discontinued her MSZMP membership. She belonged to the circle of the Democratic Opposition. In 1977 she contributed to the publication entitled Marx in the Fourth Decade. In January 1977 she signed the first manifesto against the arrest of Charta 77 members. In October 1979 she signed the document protesting against the trial of the representatives of Charta 77. She took part in the fundraising campaign for the victims of the reprisals following the 1979 signings. She was affiliated to and assisted the activity of the samizdat Beszélő Journal as well as the Fund for Supporting the Poor. She was one of the co-writers of the samizdat Bibó Memorial Book in 1980. In 1984 she was a member of the committee for the release of Miklós Duray, a Slovakian human rights fighter. In 1987 and 1988 she actively contributed to the foundation of the Democratic Trade Union of Scientific Workers and its running.