Archive for the Hungary Category

Mummified Buddha shown in Hungary stolen from China: government [Xinhua]

Posted in Buddhism, China, Hungary, Netherlands on March 23, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

FUZHOU, March 22 (Xinhua) — Chinese relic experts have determined a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue containing a mummified monk, which is now in possession of a Dutch private collector, is a relic stolen from an east China village in 1995.

The Cultural Relic Bureau in east China’s Fujian Province said on Sunday that judging from research and media reports, experts have confirmed that the statue on show in Hungarian Natural History Museum was a relic stolen from Yangchun Village in Fujian in 1995.

The bureau will continue the relic investigation in the village and search for more information while reporting to the national cultural authorities in order to identify and trace the stolen relic in compliance with normal procedures, said a bureau spokesman.

The statue was on a “Mummy World” exhibition at the Hungarian Natural History Museum that opened in October last year and was originally scheduled to be on display until May 17, but was pulled from the exhibition on Friday as the museum said “the Dutch owner withdrew the statue without giving any reason.”

Villagers in Yangchun burst into tears while other [sic] lit fireworks after seeing the statue via Chinese TV news earlier this month.

The bureau immediately dispatched experts to the village to investigate the issue. Through the research, experts found a large amount of photos, relics and historical records including a pedigree suggesting the mummy was a…former ancestor (or Zushi in Chinese) of the local clan.

The statue, formerly housed in the village temple, was stolen in 1995. It wore a hat and clothes when sitting in the temple, and was worshiped as an ancestor…

Excerpted/edited by Zuo Shou

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Anti-communist propaganda crushed — Review of Anne Applebaum’s “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956” [ /]

Posted in Anti-communism, CIA, Czech Republic / Czechoslovakia, GDR / East Germany, Hungary, Nazism, Poland, Stalin, US imperialism, USA, USSR on February 18, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

by Eric Walberg

Feb. 17, 2013


The period following WWII in eastern Europe is considered to be a black one, best forgotten. All the pre-war governments had been quasi-fascist dictatorships which either succumbed to the Nazi onslaught (Poland) or actively cooperated with the Germans (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria). The Soviet liberation was greeted with trepidation by many – with good reason for the many collaborators. Within a few years of liberation, eastern Europe was ruled by austere regimes headed by little Stalins.

As in France and Italy, women who consorted with the Germans were treated with contempt. There was a rash of rape as millions of Soviet soldiers filled the vacuum left before the post-war occupation structures were established. The Soviet soldiers had been motivated by an intense hatred of the Nazis, and their revenge was worse than that of the American, British etc soldiers, none of whom at lost their loved ones and homes or had faced invasion of their homelands. The chaos did considerable damage to post-war relations and soured the prospect of building socialism to many who otherwise would have given the new order that was imposed on them a chance. ‘Imposed’ is certainly the operational word, as the Soviets gave security and policing to their local communist allies.

As in all wars, there were no winners (except those lucky soldiers who emerged unscathed with lots of booty). The east European communists had been decimated by Stalin’s pre-war purges. The liberal and rightwing forces were persecuted. War does not discriminate between good and bad property. As in all upheavals, farsighted bad guys step forward, play along on the winning side, and reap their rewards.

Given this deadly scenario and the subsequent Cold War, it is surprising just how much positive resulted from the Soviet occupation of eastern Europe, and despite author Anne Applebaum’s unremitting anti-communism (her “Gulag” won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003), it keeps peaking through her Iron Curtain.

Applebaum focuses on Poland, Hungary and East Germany, clearly because they experienced uprisings following Stalin’s death in 1953 (sparked by liberal reforms that spun out of control instigated by – of all people – NKVD chief Lavrenti Beria). They are very different cultures and their post-war experiences are very different, despite following a scenario written in Moscow, including both the good (social welfare and anti-capitalism) and the bad (‘red terror’ and dogmatic imitation of Stalinism).

She drew on dozens of personal interviews of east Europeans who were either key figures in the period of ‘high Stalinism’ as she calls it or simply people who lived their lives, worked and supported (or didn’t) the regime they lived under, and now in their waning years, were glad to reflect on what happened, how they functioned. Appelbaum’s husband is Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, and her treatment of Poland is particularly detailed.

Yes, people were persecuted unjustly, though it was mostly leading political figures who suffered, or people who refused to read the writing on the wall and spoke out (heroically or foolishly, a judgment call) during the wave of purges which began in the late 1940s…

…What comes through in the interviews is just how positive the whole post-war period was for the majority of the people, how the communist program gave great opportunities to the vast majority in education, work and health care. How despite the ‘high Stalin’ show trials and inanities of the period, such as the slavish naming of a new socialist town Sztalinvaros in Hungary, a then-young worker on a woman’s brigade now remembers trudging through the mud and living in damp barracks “with immense nostalgia”, though she later became somewhat disillusioned as an activist. (She protested – and was chastised for it – against the campaign to convince workers to go into debt to buy ‘Peace Bonds’ which she saw as just a hidden tax.)

Just as the communists created myths and enshrined them in their history books at the time, the victors in the Cold War are now writing their own version of history. Yes, Warsaw’s wedding cake Palace of Culture, a ‘gift’ from Stalin, and nearby dreary apartment blocks, spoiled the skyline. But the communists also had the old city in Warsaw meticulously reconstructed.

And how to explain Alexander Dymschitz, head of the cultural division of the Soviet Military Administration in post-war Berlin, who insisted that artists get the coveted “first” ration card, a larger piece of bread and more meat and vegetables? Asked why, Dymschitsz declared, “It is possible that there is a Gorki among you. Should his immortal books remain unwritten, only because he goes hungry?”

The whole socialist ‘experiment’ in eastern Europe lasted only four short decades, and considering the animosity of the West (and many locals), was a remarkable success in raising economic and cultural standards. Applebaum sneers at the trials of “wreckers” and saboteurs, but from day one, the US and its by-then subservient client states in western Europe repressed their own communists, and the CIA waged an undeclared war on the socialist bloc, parachuting in émigrés to blow up bridges, wreck equipment and even spread crop diseases.

Applebaum’s meticulous research stopped when it comes to any of this, though there is lots of documentation. For example, the CIA funded Ukrainian fascist leader Mykola Lebed (a Nazi collaborator and murderer of Jews and Poles) from 1949–91 to carry out black ops against the Soviet Union from his front organization Prolog in New York. According to CIA director Allen Dulles, he was “of inestimable value to this Agency and its operations”.

The most spectacular instance of US subversion in the Cold War was the 1980s CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union. A KGB turncoat gained access to Russian purchase orders and the CIA slipped in the flawed software, which triggered “the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space”. The KGB never practised this kind of black ops, despite hysterical propaganda to the contrary.

Neither does Applebaum admit the real state of opinion in eastern Europe about this whole period. An October 2010 poll in Berlin among former East Germans revealed that 57% defend the overall record of the former East Germany and 49% agreed that “the GDR had more good sides than bad sides. There were some problems, but life was good there.” Only 30% of Ukrainians approve of the change to democracy (vs 72% in 1991), 60% of Bulgarians believe the old system was better. The disastrous effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union on life expectancy, especially of men, which fell from 64 to 58, is well known.

Compare this with the 60% of Americans in 2010 who said they feel the country is on the wrong track (albeit down from 89% in 2008 during the closing days of Bush II rule).

Iron Curtain also ignores the devastating effect of the collapse of the socialist bloc had on the world at large. By unleashing the free market from the 1980s on, inequality between the richest and poorest nations increased from 88:1 (1970) to 267:1 (2000). The US was henceforth able to invade countries everywhere at will, as indeed it has done, killing millions of innocent people and patriots now dismissed as the ‘enemy’. But this is of no concern to Applebaum from her comfortable perch in Thatcherite London at the Legatum Institute, nor of her staunchly anti-communist hubbie in Warsaw. Nor of other rewriters, financed by the likes of Soros’s Open Institutes.

What is most irritating in Iron Curtain, apart from its cliched Churchillian title, is its assumption that all readers will accept that the term ‘totalitarian’ applies – uniquely – to the socialist bloc, that “totalitarian education would eliminate dissent; that civic institutions, once destroyed, could not be rebuilt; that history, once rewritten, would be forgotten.” A 1956 US National Intelligence Estimate made just months before the collapse of the Hungarian communist order, predicted gloomily (and a tad enviously) that over time dissidence in eastern Europe would be worn down “by the gradual increase in the number of Communist-indoctrinated youth”.

The alert reader, unburdened by “Intelligence”, will find many such glaring hints that ‘totalitarian’ really has much more to do with the West, with its seductive materialist ‘me’ culture, fashioning people oblivious to the welfare of their society. Post-WWII western Europe was promised apple pie in the sky, and got it thanks to the Marshall Plan aimed at winning the new Cold War. Once the socialist bloc was no longer, the apple pie disappeared, as we see in the collapse of living standards across Europe (the US as well), there being no competition anymore to the real totalitarian system, where protests are easily absorbed.

Not so the dictatorships of eastern Europe, which were brittle, far from totalitarian. The spontaneous re-emergence of unsanctioned institutions in Hungary after the death of Stalin is particularly impressive. The “totalitarian personalities” that Applebaum conceives of are rather found every day in Walmart queues or on 4th of July celebrations.

While young Poles, Germans and Hungarians were at the forefront of their new socialist orders, they were also – just as in the West – at the forefront of rebellion against what many saw as the stifling status quo. For the most part, Polish bikiniarze or Hungarian jampecek, the counterparts of American rockers and British teddy boys, hadn’t experienced the horrors of the war, had little sense of the 1930s as a period of communist ferment, and found western mass consumer culture much more appealing than the modest socialist one stressing personal responsibility and solidarity with the victims of imperialism around the world…

…When the baby boom hit especially Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, it resulted in an explosion of creative energy, and a delayed unraveling of the by-then tattered ‘high Stalinism’ there, but once again context intervened. In retrospect, if the Prague Spring had been allowed to blossom, Czechoslovakia would have been quickly absorbed by the West, and the Cold War eastern dominoes would have fallen much sooner.

But 1968 was the high point of European social democracy, and who knows what might have resulted from a melding of the two systems at that time? That the fall came in 1990 at the height of neoliberalism meant that capitalism at its totalitarian worst called all the shots, and there is little to crow about by the 99% of us – East or West. Alas, this is far from the minds of the neoliberal victors as they churn out their history books.

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Global Stocks Drop 20% Into Bear Market [Bloomberg / Strategic Culture Foundation]

Posted in Canada, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, China, Economic crisis & decline, Economy, EU, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, U.K., USA on September 28, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手


Stocks fell, pushing the MSCI All – Country World Index of 45 nations into a bear market for the first time in more than two years, after the worsening European debt crisis and threat of a U.S. recession erased more than $10 trillion from equities since May.

The MSCI index, which slipped 0.3 percent as of 1:33 p.m. in Hong Kong today, has lost more than 20 percent since peaking on May 2, meeting the common definition of a bear market. It tumbled 4.5 percent to a 13-month low of 277.38 yesterday. The MSCI World (MXWO) Index of shares in developed nations also fell into a bear market yesterday, plunging 4.2 percent. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index reached the 20 percent threshold on Sept. 13.

The world is poised for a financial crisis, Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., said in Washington yesterday. Finance chiefs from the Group of 20 nations pledged late yesterday to address “heightened downside risks” to the global economy, echoing language used by the Federal Reserve on Sept. 21 when it announced a $400 billion plan to spur growth as the recovery from the worst contraction since the Great Depression falters.

“The market is pricing in a recession,” said Ng Soo Nam, the Singapore-based chief investment officer at Nikko Asset Management Co., which oversees about $154 billion. “Stocks are looking cheap, but it will take a lot of courage to believe that. Things could get worse. The risk of a sovereign-debt default in Greece is the most significant concern.”

* Valuations Sink *

The MSCI All-Country World Index has retreated 19.8 percent since July 22. It fell after Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S. credit rating following a debate over raising the nation’s borrowing limit, speculation Greece will default intensified, and Chinese inflation accelerated to a three-year high. The slump pushed the price-earnings ratio for the index down to 11.4, the lowest since March 2009 and 46 percent less than the 16-year average, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index extended its drop since its peak on April 29 to 17 percent. The gauge has retreated even as analysts raise projections for 2011 profit to a record $99.34 a share this year from $98.73 on April 29, according to the average analyst estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

Benchmark measures for five out of 24 developed markets haven’t posted a 20 percent slump from their highs: the U.S., U.K., Canada, Singapore and New Zealand, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Eight out of 21 developing nations aren’t in bear markets, including South Africa. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has retreated 27 percent since its 2011 high on May 2.

Europe, Asia

The 15 national stock gauges with the biggest losses since the MSCI All-Country World peaked on May 2 are for European countries. Greece’s ASE Index has lost 42 percent, Italy’s FTSE MIB Index has plunged 40 percent and Hungary’s Budapest Stock Exchange Index has retreated 38 percent.

Policy makers are “committed to a strong and coordinated international response to address the renewed challenges facing the global economy,” G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors said in a previously unplanned statement in Washington. Many urged Europe to implement a July promise to expand the powers of a rescue fund, Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi said.

The Euro Stoxx 50 Index has tumbled 28 percent since July 22 as Greece edged closer to defaulting on its sovereign debt and the cost of insuring western European countries’ loans rose to records. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index has fallen 19.7 percent since its 2011 high on May 2. China’s Shanghai Composite Index has tumbled 23 percent since its peak in November, and Japan’s Topix has slumped 25 percent since April 2010.
Bad Ending

“Europe is going to continue to unwind and eventually end up badly for the global economy,” Matt McCormick, a money manager at Cincinnati-based Bahl & Gaynor Inc., which oversees $4 billion, said in a telephone interview. “There are so many questions, so many uncertainties.”

The 20 percent decline in global equities ended the bull market that began in March 2009. The MSCI All-Country World Index climbed as much as 107 percent during the rally. The measure avoided a bear market in 2010, when it fell 16 percent between April 15 and July 5. The index rebounded after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke foreshadowed $600 billion in bond purchases meant to prevent deflation and stimulate growth at an Aug. 27, 2010, meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Financial stocks, which posted the biggest losses in the last bear market, are leading declines again amid growing concern that European banks will have to write down their holdings of government debt. Banks, brokerages and insurers in the MSCI All-Country World have collectively lost 31 percent since May 2.

* SocGen’s Slide *

Societe Generale SA of Paris has retreated 66 percent since May 2, the second-biggest loss among financial stocks in the MSCI All-Country behind Athens-based EFG Eurobank Ergasias. UniCredit SpA, based in Milan, has retreated 62 percent. Banks in Europe hold 98.2 billion euros ($132 billion) of Greek sovereign debt, 317 billion euros of Italian government debt and about 280 billion euros of Spanish bonds, according to European Banking Authority data.

Financial companies in the worldwide index sank 77 percent during the last bear market as government bailouts rescued the biggest U.S. banks from collapse and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., once the nation’s fourth-biggest securities firm, filed the nation’s largest bankruptcy in September 2008.

More than $37 trillion was erased from global equity values in the previous bear market that lasted for 16 months after the MSCI All-Country World peaked on Oct. 31, 2007. The index fell as much as 60 percent amid the first global recession since World War II and more than $2 trillion in losses and writedowns at financial companies worldwide after housing prices dropped.

“We could be on the eve of the next financial crisis,” Barton Biggs, managing partner and co-founder of hedge fund Traxis Partners LP in New York, said during a Bloomberg Television interview with Matt Miller and Carol Massar yesterday. The firm has $1.4 billion in assets. “We shouldn’t be because there are things that could be done to avert it, but they haven’t been done. There’s no signs that the authorities are going to do them.”

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IMF chief Strauss-Kahn charged with New York sex attack [China Daily]

Posted in Brazil, China, France, Hungary, Iceland, IMF - International Monetary Fund, India, Ireland, Portugal, Sarkozy on May 15, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

May 15, 2011


NEW YORK/PARIS – IMF chief and possible French presidential contender Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged on Sunday with sexual assault, including an attempted rape, on a hotel maid in New York City.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, a key player in the response to the 2007-9 global financial meltdown and in Europe’s debt crisis, was taken off an Air France plane about to leave for Paris from John F Kennedy International Airport on Saturday.

One of his lawyers, Benjamin Brafman, told Reuters that the chief of the International Monetary Fund, the main overseer of the global economic system, “will plead not guilty”.

The news rocked France, where latest opinion polls ranked Socialist Strauss-Kahn as front-runner for the nation’s presidential election next April and May…

…The IMF declined to comment and IMF board officials told Reuters they had not been informed officially of the incident.

…Strauss-Kahn and (far-right leader) Le Pen have led recent opinion polls ahead of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

New York police spokesman Paul Browne said Strauss-Kahn was arrested at 2:15 a.m. (0615 GMT) on Sunday on charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Continue reading

The Tragic Failure of "Post-Communism" in Eastern Europe []

Posted in Albania, Anti-Arab / Antisemitism, Anti-communism, Anti-fascism, Bourgeois parliamentary democracy, Bulgaria, Czech Republic / Czechoslovakia, Egypt, EU, European Union, Fascism, GDR / East Germany, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, IMF - International Monetary Fund, Latvia, Libya, Poland, Police State, Roma people, Romania, Russia, Tunisia, USSR on March 16, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

by Dr. Rossen Vassilev

(Note:  the writer generally uses the term “democracy” in its limited bourgeois sense, failing to distinguish between [Western] bourgeois democracy, aka oligarchy; and centralized socialist democracy, aka socialism / communism. – Zuo Shou 左手)

Just before Christmas Day in 2010, a distraught public-television engineer protesting the government’s controversial economic policies hurled himself off a balcony in the Rumanian parliament during a speech by the country’s prime minister.  The man, who survived the suicide attempt, reportedly shouted before jumping: “You took the bread away from the mouths of our children!  You killed the future of our children!”  The hospitalized protester, dressed in a t-shirt declaring “You have killed our future!”, was later identified as 41-year-old Adrian Sobaru, whose autistic teenage son had recently lost government assistance as part of Bucharest’s latest budget-cutting steps. His attempted suicide was broadcast live on Rumania’s public TV as Prime Minister Emil Boc spoke ahead of an unsuccessful no-confidence vote against his conservative cabinet.  The fiscal and wage austerity measures that Mr. Sobaru was protesting included a 25% pay cut for all civil servants like him as well as severe reductions in social-assistance payments to parents with disabled children, which he had also been receiving until recently.  According to Rumania’s Agerpres news agency, the man’s desperate cries in the parliamentary hall were painfully echoing those heard during the 1989 anti-Communist revolution that toppled Rumania’s maverick and generally pro-Western regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu.

Economic turmoil

Mr. Sobaru’s tragic leap, later telecast all over the world, struck a sympathetic chord with many Rumanians who saw it as a symbol of the savage inequities and injustices of the post-Communist period.  Rumania is mired in a severe recession and its battered economy is expected to decline by at least 2% in 2010, after contracting by 7.1% the previous year.  Instead of trying to assist the unemployed and the socially weak, the Bucharest government, which is reportedly riddled with corruption, cronyism and nepotism, has slashed public-sector pay by one-quarter and trimmed all social expenditures, including heating subsidies for the poor as well as unemployment, maternity, and disability benefits.  At the same time, the national sales tax was hiked from 19% to 24%, as the authorities are striving to hold the national deficit down to 6.8% in order to meet the stringent fiscal requirements of the European Union (EU), which Rumania had joined in January 2007.

These harsh austerity policies have angered millions of Rumanians who are barely making ends meet in a nation where the average monthly per capita income is about $400.  Angry street protests that have gathered tens of thousands of Rumanians reflect the deep dissatisfaction with mass poverty and the continuing economic crisis, which took Rumania to the edge of bankruptcy.  “This isn’t capitalism, in capitalist countries you have a middle class,” one Bucharest-based convenience store manager told an Associated Press reporter.  But Rumanian society, she complained, is divided between a tiny minority of very rich people and a vast impoverished underclass.[1]

While the human tragedy witnessed in the Rumanian Parliament on that pre-Christmas day is quite symptomatic of the Balkan country’s pervasive misery and crushed hopes for a better life, it could have easily taken place in any other of the crisis nations of the ex-Communist world who are equally suffering from high unemployment, massive poverty, declining wages, and severe cuts in public spending and living standards.  At about the time of Mr. Sobaru’s desperate suicide attempt, many of the Czech Republic’s 20,000 hospital doctors were quitting their jobs en masse to protest the decision of Prime Minister Petr Necas’s cabinet to cut all public expenditures, including healthcare spending, by at least 10% in order to keep the country’s troubled finances afloat.  These mass resignations were part of the “Thanks, We Are Leaving” campaign launched by disgruntled physicians across the country aimed at putting pressure on the Prague authorities to increase their low wages and provide better working conditions for all medical workers.  Confronted with the worst healthcare crisis in the ex-Communist country’s history which was endangering the lives of many patients, the Czech government threatened to impose a state of emergency which would force doctors either to get back to work or face harsh legal and financial penalties.

One may also recall the largely unreported 2009 food riots in Latvia, the much lauded “Baltic miracle” darling of the mainstream Western media, where the deeply unpopular incumbent Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was re-elected in 2010 despite having severely cut public expenditures and Latvians’ already meager living standards (the election campaign focused instead on the nasty clash between Latvian nationalists and the country’s sizeable and restive Russian-speaking minority).  According to Professor Michael Hudson, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, as sharp government cutbacks in social welfare, education, healthcare, public transportation, and other basic social-infrastructure spending threaten to undermine economic security, long-term development, and political stability across the ex-Soviet bloc countries, young people are emigrating in droves to better their lives rather than suffer in an economy without any employment opportunities.  For example, more than 12% of the total population of Latvia (and a much larger percentage of its labor force) now works abroad.

When the “neo-liberal bubble” burst in 2008, Professor Hudson writes, Latvia’s conservative government borrowed heavily from the EU and IMF on punishing repayment terms that have imposed such harsh austerity policies that the Latvian economy shrank by 25% (neighboring Estonia and Lithuania have experienced an equally steep economic decline) and unemployment, currently running at 22%, is still rising.  With well over a tenth of its population now working abroad, Latvia’s guest-workers send home whatever they can spare to help their destitute families survive.  Latvian children (what few of them there are as the Baltic country’s marriage and birth rates are plunging) have been thus “left orphaned behind,” prompting social scientists to wonder how this small nation of 2.3 million people can survive demographically.[2]  These are the results of post-Communist austerity budgets that have cut ordinary people off at the knees while international creditors and local bankers are bailed out.

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