Gábor Havas

* 1944  

  • Gábor Havas: The history of the samizdat Beszélő encompasses the drawing up of the Social Contract, which was a particular product, as, although it started out insisting that „Kádár has to go” – which was the idea of Miki Haraszti, another pillar of the Beszélő editorial board – despite the radical nature of the opening sentence the text suggests that even at that point they couldn’t imagine the party state tumbling down or any of the things happening that actually did happen, or that a western style market economy and parliamentary democracy can be on the agenda. So, they tried to draft a program within this framework, including the bit naive concept of workers’ self-management as well as a certain amount of negotiation with the Party in order to gain certain favours and concessions. So in hindsight, it looks strange that not long before the change of the system the things that happened not too much later, seemed to be so unlikely. László B. Révész: How did the program take shape ? Gábor Havas: Well, if I may say, Jancsi Kis was obviously the editor-in-chief and Ottilia and Kőszeg were the co-workers. Basically, it was drawn up by the three of them. Ottilia articulated various concepts about the reshaping of socio-political allowances and about the ones that should be introduced so the poor could be given support in an effective way. And Kemény, who had been living in Paris for ten years by then, continuosly kept a keen eye on what was going on in Hungary, what’s more, he ven had some first hand information about it as well thanks to the co-patriots from Hungary calling on him. Kemény got hold of a copy of the Social Contract immediately and he kind of sent his comments back home on the FreeEurope Radio. While acknowledging merits of the document, he attacked the workers’ self-management and Ottilia, saying that her ideas are completely out-of-touch, simply aren’t feasible, and he argued very clearly backing up his statement with arguments. Ottilia was deeply impressed and she accepted Kemény’s views, she realised that you can’t be so out of touch with reality, cause it is unnrealistic and these are just pipedreams. Therefore, when we were working out the program for the change of the system together, and particularly the welfare section of the Free Democrat’s election manifesto, we were bearing all these commens in mind.

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    Budapest, 16.10.2009

    duration: 01:55:37
    media recorded in project Oral History Archive - Budapest
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There was no need for a better school than that of Kemény’s

Havasportre_anno.jpg (historic)
Gábor Havas
photo: Havas Gábor

Gábor Havas’s father, Endre Havas worked together with Mihály Károlyi, the prime minister of the First Hungarian Republic, in exile in London and Paris. He returned to Hungary in 1949 and was arrested on trumped up charges. He was beaten to death in prison in 1953. Gábor was born on 14, October, 1944 in London. He earned a degree in Hungarian language, literture and adult education in 1967. Then he worked as an adult educator and later as a secondary school teacher. From 1971 onwards he is a member of the sociology research team led by István Kemény. Between 1973-1990 he is a full time academic fellow of sociology at the Institute of Adult Education, his main areas being rural poverty and the lifestyle of the Roma. Moreover, he established a network of amateur theatre. From 1982 onwards, he was the leading fellow of the film directory program entitled The shifting lifestyle of peasants’. He was a member of the democratic opposition from the very start. In 1979 he was one of the founders of SZETA, from 1986 and 1990 onwards he is the editor of the samizdat Beszélő and the Beszélő weekly, respectively. He was the editor-in-chief of the latter between 1994-95.In the first Parliament he was the MP of the liberal party. Between 1995-99 he was a lecturer at the János Wesley Pastor Training College, Budapest. In 1995 he also started working as a research fellow at the Institute of Sociology of MTA. In collaboration with István Kemény and Ilona Liskó, he was conducting research on the situation of severely disadvantaged and Roma children in education. From 2001 until his retirement in 2008 he was the Director of Studies at the Romaversitas Foundation.