Hungary:The Rise and Fall of Feasible Socialism

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Why did Hungarian socialism—the most innovative in the Eastern Europe—fade away so easily?

Why were Hungarians, including those who would be considered radical in the West, happy to see the introduction of a market economy? Why was there no real opposition to the dismantling of socialist achievements like universal free education and health care? Nigel Swain's topical book answers these questions through one of the most thorough analyses to date of a socialist economy in practice and dissolution.

Carefully tracing Hungary's postwar economic history, Swain shows why both Stalinist central planning and 'feasible' market socialism failed. He argues that these failures were caused not by imperfections in the Hungarian model, but by crucial problems inherent in the socialist project itself. Far from a eulogy to free-market capitalism, yet offering a sobering account of the consequences of socialist economic errors - technological backwardness, corruption and declining morale - Hungary will be a major contribution to political and economic debate on the left.


  • Nigel Swain offers an authoritative explanation for the unexpected demise of 'goulash communism'. If you are looking for the lessons to be learned by the Left from 1989, start here.

    Hugo Radice, Conference of Socialist Economics
  • Often regarded as the 'happiest barracks in the camp', Hungary was the pioneer of reforms in the communist bloc. Nigel Swain's book is the first serious and balanced attempt to analyse this experiment in 'socialism with a human face' and to ask what went wrong.

    Bill Lomax, University of Nottingham, author of Hungary 1956