The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Hungary:
Nationalist Demagogy, Slave Labor Laws

Jan 21, 2019

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Thousands of people marched in downtown Budapest on January 5 to protest against a labor law reform they call the “Slave Labor Law.” Opposition groups and labor unions called for the march.

The law increases the number of hours of overtime bosses can require from 250 hours to 400 hours a year. That is the same as an additional two months of work. And the law lets bosses wait three years to pay! The legislature’s vote in favor of the law on December 12 set off a wave of demonstrations in the capital and in many provincial cities. “We don’t want to work more. We want to live decently on eight hours work a day,” many protesters said.

The government justifies this “reform” by the lack of workers in the country. Thousands of Hungarians left the country to try their luck in Western Europe. But actually the law is intended to satisfy big international companies attracted by the low wages in Hungary. The minimum wage is 149,000 forints a month, around $530. This especially concerns the automobile industry – Mercedes, Suzuki, and Opel – employing 155,000 people and producing 20 percent of Hungary’s exports.

Prime Minister Orban poses as the champion of a nationalist and anti-immigrant policy and claims to “protect the Hungarian people from foreign threat.”

But his demagogy just serves to establish his own power and to get the population to accept sacrifices. The current labor law reform shows the truth about his policies. He attacks the rights of workers and aggravates exploitation and poverty in order to meet the demands of the bosses, whether they are Hungarian or foreign. From anti-immigrant demagogy to attacks on workers is only one small step. It’s one and the same policy.