Month: May 2024

The Need for Roots by Simone Weil (Book Review)

Born in Paris on the 3rd February 1909, Simone Weil was the youngest of two children born to an intellectual and non-observant Jewish family. Stricken by appendicitis as an infant, Weil suffered from ill-health throughout her short life. Academically brilliant, intense and morally uncompromising, Weil intimidated and bemused those she encountered – her tutor, Emile Chartier, dubbed his otherworldly charge ‘the Martian’. Restless, and intent on understanding life outside of her natural, bourgeois, milieu, Weil spent time as a factory worker and fighting (briefly and ineffectually) for the anarchist CNT/FAI during the Spanish Civil War. Following a series of mystical experiences, Weil found herself drawn to the Catholic Church, though it is unknown whether she allowed herself to be baptised.

Exiled from her homeland during the Nazi occupation, Weil worked for the Free French in London, and there is reason to believe she had been accepted for training by the Special Operations Executive before ill-health intervened. In 1943, weakened by tuberculosis but refusing to eat more than was permitted to citizens of occupied France, Weil succumbed to cardiac failure in a Kentish sanitorium. Her resting place can be found in the Catholic section of Bybrook Cemetery, Ashford.

Weil’s writings have found enthusiasts as ideologically diverse as Albert Camus and T. S. Eliot. Her detractors range from Susan Sontag (for whom Weil was ‘fanatical… ridiculous…’) to her boss Charles de Gaulle, who derided her as ‘crazy’.


In 1942, the Free French invited Weil to submit her thoughts on the regeneration of France, post-liberation. Weil’s paper outlined her vision for the spiritual reinvigoration of her homeland, and is her most systemic treatise on political issues. Published posthumously as ‘L’Enracinement’ in 1949, the book was translated into English in 1952 with the title ‘The Need for Roots’. Originally published by Routledge, it appears in a new translation by Ros Schwartz, under the Penguin Classics imprint.

The Need for Roots is an eccentric and uneven work, too baggy and unfocused to offer a blueprint for political action. Like the best of Weil’s writing, its strength is in the originality of her thought – even where she is wrong Weil is wrong in interesting and original ways. Weil’s analyses, and her critique of the social cost of modernity – rooted in an organicist conception of society – will be of interest to the kind of conservatives who read The Mallard.


‘Roots’ and ‘rootedness’ – ‘racines’ and ‘racinement’ – enjoyed a vogue on the French right before Weil. Maurice Barrès, author of Les Deracines, outlined a republican vision of ‘la terre et les morts’ – the mystical bond shared by a people living on, and working, the land in which their ancestors enjoy their eternal rest.

Weil, ironically perhaps, understands roots in less mystical terms:

‘Human beings have roots by virtue of their real, active, and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape particular treasures of the past and particular expectations for the future.’

For Weil, roots arise organically among people thrown together by circumstance, and are multifaceted – anchoring the individual in, for example, a community, a nation, a professional milieu. Through these spontaneous bonds of language, culture and place the individual finds identity and meaning.

When roots are severed, the individual feels himself estranged, and is deprived of an opportunity to participate in the pursuit of a Good beyond himself. Enracinement provides the individual with meaning – imbuing his everyday relationships with eternal, even supernatural significance.

At a political level, roots give the individual ‘a sense of personal ownership’ of ‘public monuments… and the lavishness displayed in ceremonies’. The rites and rituals of civic religion orient the individual toward the Good, as his culture understands it. The individual witnesses a great ceremony of state – a coronation, or a military parade – and understands that the rite is just as much an expression of his identity as, for example, Sunday Mass at the village chapel. Through racinement, the individual understands himself to be a participant in his culture, and feels that he has an interest in the spiritual and cultural health of his community and nation.  

Deracinement, then, is a spiritual malady, an alienation from one’s culture and the conceptions of the Good that have shaped it. Uprootedness on a grand scale can be occasioned by revolution, military conquest or population displacement. It is interesting to speculate on what Weil would have made of the mass immigration that has transformed Europe in the post-war era.


Empathy, for Weil, is the soul of patriotism. It is easier to feel empathy for people with whom one shares bonds of language, culture and place. It is from these bonds of trust and social solidarity that, in a healthy society, order arises.

For Weil roots are the basis of order. Order is the pre-eminent human need – the guarantor of all subordinate needs. In a healthy society, order flows from the bottom-up; a product of ‘compassion’ and trust. This naturally-arising order is distinct from the ‘top down’ constitutional politics of liberalism.

Freedom, like order, cannot be imposed upon a people, rather it must emerge from among them. This is perhaps Weil’s most important lesson for the contemporary right. No western libertarian cites Somalia and Haiti as an ideal for his society to follow, despite both countries’ longstanding traditions of limited (or at least, weak) central government. It is not sufficient to simply limit the reach of the state. Rather, certain social preconditions, principally a culture of mutual trust, must exist if a free, orderly society is to flourish.

Whereas man under liberal democracy understands his relationship with the state formally, in terms of ‘rights’, through ‘enracinement’ the individual understands the interrelatedness between his rights and the obligations that he owes his fellows:

‘A right is not effective on its own but solely in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds.’


Liberalism, founded on a universalistic conception of human nature and the absolute sovereignty of the individual, is hostile to rootedness, and thus the organic ties of heritage, culture and place in which healthy identities are founded. And, as Weil observes, uprootedness has the dangerous quality of propagating itself.

Marxism, Weil suggests, is not merely driven by uprootedness, but seeks its universalisation – the reduction of everyone to the status of the proletarian. For Weil, uprootedness was exemplified by the industrial working class of her day; condemned to repetitive and physically exhausting labour, and forced to live in unlovable slums.

Industrialisation elevated the material standard of the common man, but did so at tremendous spiritual cost. The lot of the peasant was hard, but he at least enjoyed the consolations of meaningful labour and a life lived among natural beauty – often on land worked by his ancestors. The proletariat, by contrast, are inescapably aware that they are interchangeable cogs in an economic machine.

The strange revival of Marxist (or at least Marx-ish) politics in the post-Soviet era can be understood as a manifestation of alienation. It is not that Marxism offers a compelling alternative to the current order; rather, Marxism retains an enduring appeal to the uprooted. When people feel estranged from their culture, they desire its destruction. It is not enough for the Communist to triumph over the old order, he must destroy all vestiges of the past. Witness the mad vandalism of the Cultural Revolution, or, in our time, the toppling of statues by those who have been taught to consider western history as uniquely shameful.

In our era ‘deracinement’ manifests in many ways. Witness the proliferation of bizarre sexual subcultures; notably ‘trans’ and ‘non-binary’ identities; among educated left-leaning whites. Ersatz identities such as these provide a sense of belonging and an opportunity to pursue imagined ‘Goods’, in the form of liberation and ‘social justice’. But they thrive on angst and guilt – and propagate the dangerous idea that fulfilment is impossible without radical transformation of the self and society.
Contemporary uprootedness takes other, less dramatic forms: a tendency (found on both left and right) to confuse one’s personal and political identities, for example, or an exaggerated identification in the struggles of peoples very unlike one’s own. Alienated from their own political culture, Zoomers often fail to appreciate the cultural specificity of foreign issues – or, conversely, to map American racial politics onto their own (this writer recalls one especially pathetic incident in which demonstrators in London, protesting the homicide of George Floyd, an incident that occurred on another continent, chanting ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ at unarmed constables of the Metropolitan Police).

The European right, too, is tainted by the uprootedness of the modern world. Witness the awe in which post-war ‘conservatives’ have held America, a land of uprooted individuals, where history is shallow and order proceeds from the top down in the form of a Constitution and a Bill of Rights.


Weil’s most important lesson for the conservative movement is that man has needs beyond the economic. She stands against an era in which:

‘money and the state have come to replace all other bonds of attachment.’

An authentically conservative politics should define itself against the reduction of people to mere economic units; and towns, regions, countries as mere places. We are the custodians of the institutions and traditions that we have inherited. The triumph of capitalism over feudalism has undoubtedly improved life in material terms; but capital, unchecked, uproots peoples from traditional ways of life, destroying communities and cultures. As Weil argues, the destruction of the past is ‘perhaps the greatest of all crimes’, for, once destroyed, the past can never truly be recovered.

The ills that Weil identified in her own age have grown more acute in the post-war era, thanks both to the moral revolution of the 1960s and the triumph of the market in the 1980s. It is a sad but inescapable fact that ‘conservative’ parties, today dominated by different flavours of free-market liberal, have played their role in accelerating this process of deracination.

Conservatism – authentic conservatism – offers a politics that understands men as more than the sum of their appetites and ambitions. Weil’s prescient vision of European revitalization deserves a new audience on the right. It is time for conservatism to rediscover its roots.

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Mania by Lionel Shriver (Book Review)

Lionel Shriver’s latest novel, Mania, imagines a world in which the concept of intelligence has become taboo. ‘Dumb’, ‘stupid’, ‘moronic’ and every other synonym that might adequately describe the mentally deficient have become unspeakable terms of offence, while IQ tests and entrance exams alike are outlawed on the grounds of elitism. Idiots are not a protected class, however, because the prevailing ideology posits that idiots simply don’t exist. In this egalitarian utopia, everyone is equally smart. To suggest anything to the contrary is to commit a hate crime punishable by professional ruin and social ostracism.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Mania is a pointed parody of the socio-political logic of what Shriver, in a recent piece for UnHerd, described as the ‘collective crazes’ of the last decade: transgenderism, #MeToo, Covid lockdowns and Black Lives Matter. Her journalism has tackled each of these movements individually and collectively, but Mania is her first work of fiction to deal with the twin forces of political correctness and cancel culture head on. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that her recent novel, The Motion of the Body Through Space, featured as part of its subplot a diversity hire whose incompetence leads to the breakdown of the transport system in Hudson, New York – which landed Shriver in hot water during a promotional tour of the book. But critics will struggle to condemn Mania as offensive. For while the novel is implicitly critical of radical progressive politics, the Mental Parity movement is a squarely fictional creation. Even in the fragile political climate of 2024, the foolish remain fair game as an object of ridicule.

Mania’s characters are recognisable archetypes of any cowed and paranoid society. Plucky, witty and dangerously opinionated, Pearson Converse is one of Shriver’s most autobiographical protagonists, mirroring everything from the author’s overbearingly religious upbringing to the rebellious mentality it imprinted on her. Her defiance in the face of the Mental Parity movement makes Pearson a black sheep in polite society, but stems from a desire to protect her two eldest children, a pair of prodigies who in any other age would have a bright future lined up for them. It is the third child, Lucy, who, having grown up in an age in which Mental Parity has become the mainstream, constitutes an unlikely antagonist, blackmailing her mother and policing her language and behaviour. It is telling that Lucy’s ideological and cognitive equivalents throughout Mania are the teachers, politicians and television presenters, and that perhaps the only other thing they have in common is an unmerited power over those who dare to speak out.

But the real conflict that rages like a dynamo from Mania’s first pages to its dramatic conclusion is more nuanced, more complicated than a simple black-and-white battle between critical thinking Davids and knuckle-dragging Goliaths. Despite Pearson’s career as a university professor, the book focuses less on the shadowy cabal of academics pulling the strings of Mental Parity than on those who are complicit with the regime, or merely undecided. It is complacency that drives a wedge between Pearson and her comparatively apolitical husband, Wade, whom she accuses of ‘sit[ting] this whole thing out on the sidelines, watching, or declining to watch.’ Far more sinister is the character of Emory, Pearson’s lifelong pal, whose position on the whole thing is not neutral but ambiguous. What makes Emory particularly villainous is not that she is a believer, but that she is a non-believer, prepared to manipulate the burgeoning climate of paranoia for her own gain, advancing her career as a talkshow host by producing disingenuous op-eds on microaggressions or thought crimes and thereby embodying, by Pearson’s account, ‘the intelligent face of stupid’.

As Emory rides the coattails of this movement, Pearson’s own career – not to mention her family life and reputation – begins to spiral. Her first brush-in with the tyrannical power of Mental Parity comes when she assigns her literature class a novel that the self-anointed censors have exorcised from the Western canon. The scene is reminiscent of the opening of last year’s American Fiction, in which Monk, a black professor, writes on the class blackboard the name of a Flannery O’Connor story, only for a blue-haired white girl to object that she finds the title – ‘The Artificial Nigger’ – offensive. Monk is laid off from his job as a consequence. Pearson doesn’t quite lose her job for assigning Dostoevsky’s The Idiot to her class, but the stunt earns her the resentment of colleagues and students both, as well as a stern warning. What leads to her eventual dismissal is her later deployment of the word ‘retard’ during a tirade in class. Typically, the scene is filmed by every student in the class and uploaded to the internet. 

Pearson is not even safe within her own home, which she considers a sanctuary of normality – only for Lucy to report her to social services. As a result, Pearson is required to take a six-week Cerebral Acceptance and Semantic Sensitivity class, with the aim of weeding out elitist language from her vocabulary: 

Considering that ‘grasp’ could convey mastery some people lacked, we should instead ‘grip’ or ‘seize’ our coffee mugs. ‘Command’ could also mean an unjustifiable sense of intellectual dominion, so in a position of authority we should issue an ‘edict’ or ‘direction’. Admiring classifications such as ‘savvy’, ‘scholarly,’ and ‘erudite’ couldn’t help but imply the existence of benighted characters who exhibited none of these qualities, so if we were hell-bent on acclaiming colleagues, we should keep to wholesome, simplesorry, uncomplicatedcompliments such as ‘I like you’ or ‘That is good.’

If the attempt to jettison every contaminated word in the English language seems overkill, recall the institutional scramble only a couple of years ago, in which colleges across America issued ‘harmful language’ lists to students, singling out problematic obscenities such as ‘field’, ‘blackboard’, ‘straight’, ‘American’ and – you guessed it – ‘stupid’. Shriver herself conducted a highly entertaining takedown of this phenomenon for the Spectator. One gets the sense that this sterile dumbing down of the English language is what irks her the most, since the straitjacket of minimally offensive newspeak could not be further from the vibrancy and elasticity of the author’s own style. The unfortunate fact for her enemies is that Shriver is one of the most capable writers around. Her insights are profound and her prose is lucid, every sentence an immaculately crafted marvel of colloquial lyricism.

There is a disconcerting familiarity to the events of Mania, which echo some of the more maddening episodes of the last few years. From Sherlock to Columbo, films and TV shows which are seen to promote the notion of ‘cleverness’ are taken off air and removed from circulation. And a campaign to rename the city of Voltaire gains traction, since the views espoused by the author of Candide are no longer in step with those of its residents. 

In a conversational aside we learn that the rest of the world thinks the West has lost its marbles. It’s clear that Shriver has borrowed liberally from the events and controversies that have defined the zeitgeist, but Mental Parity is a creation all her own. Indeed, the titular mania is such a powerful force that it has the effect of sidelining all other social justice movements. Anders Breivik receives public sympathy after murdering 69 members of the Norwegian Workers’ Youth League for exhibiting ‘less than spectacular intelligence’. Not only is the concept of Islamophobia absent from political discourse, but Western society’s fascination with race itself has become blessedly passé – to President Obama’s detriment. ‘Nobody gives a crap anymore about his being a black president,’ Emory states, when the Mental Parity movement is still in its infancy. ‘He’s a know-it-all president. It’s death.’ His replacement is the ‘impressively unimpressive’ Joe Biden, acclaimed for his ‘delectably leaden’ speaking style. But when even the doddering ineptitude of a potentially demented president proves insufficient to satisfy voters, the Democrats find a new champion in the form of Donald Trump. Across the pond, meanwhile, the UK’s decision to leave the EU becomes a win for progressivism, given the tendency of many Remainers to demonise Brexiteers as stupid.

The good thing is that this imagined mania is so much worse – and therefore more entertaining – than any of the real manias currently afflicting the Western world. Thanks to the Mental Parity movement, food produced in the US is no longer safe to eat, nearly all fatalities in the armed forces are caused by friendly fire and a brain drain has left America stunted, handing China and Russia the keys to world domination. 

But while Mania is funny, razor-sharp and extremely readable, it’s also eerily realistic. For the seeds of Mental Parity may already have been sewn, and not just in the soil surrounding the R word. Universities are increasingly eschewing standardised examinations, while columnists wage war against the very idea of meritocracy. What’s more, in a further affront to the English language, last month it was announced that a new version of Scrabble was being released with simplified rules, in order to make the game ‘more accessible for anyone who finds word games intimidating’. If Lionel Shriver’s alternative history becomes the actual future, this fine novel will be the first for the chopping block. Read it while you still can.

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On Science and Conservatism: Is the Relationship Dead?

Why have conservatives have turned against science? This question is a fundamental mischaracterisation of the relationship between science and right-wing thinkers. As a young scientist and a conservative, I find myself straddling this so-called divide and in the unique position to offer analysis on the state of the relationship between the right-wing and science. It is true that today, with issues such as climate change and vaccine efficacy, right-wing criticisms of the scientific elite have overwhelmingly dominated the discourse on scientific distrust. But if one is to truly interrogate the disconnect between modern day conservatism and the scientific mainstream, you must also consider the converse; why has science turned against right-wing thought? Or perhaps more notably, how have left-wing idealogues used science against conservatives?

The left-wing bias of modern academia is well documented, with one recent study published by Nature revealing that only six percent of researchers self-identify as conservative and less than ten percent of academic political donations support conservative candidates. With this troubling trend of progressive overrepresentation in scientific circles, the left has used their advantage to co-opt and manipulate science for its own political ends. This threatens to undermine the very principles of intellectual freedom and academic integrity upon which scientific inquiry depends.

With the left having such a hold over modern science, the tendency on the right has, somewhat justifiably, been outright rejection of scientific thought and practice. This seems a self-defeating proposition. Sustainable prosperity will only be practically achievable if we look to make technological progress within our own borders. To do this we must address some major flaws which have become inherent to scientific thinking, causing both alienation of conservative thinkers and degeneration of the scientific practice.

Suppression of Dissent

Central to the ethos of scientific inquiry is the freedom to question the prevailing orthodoxy and challenge established thought. Yet, in recent years, the left has sought to suppress dissenting voices and enforce ideological conformity within the scientific community. This manifests itself in two ways, firstly through the development of a culture within academic institutions which is antithetical to conservative viewpoints and, perhaps more importantly, through political discrimination in grants and publication, prohibiting conservative viewpoints from being spread in scientific literature.

An often-understated consequence of the leftward shift in academia is the comprising impact on peer-review. Peer-review is the process which underpins science. Academics review the work of other researchers to assess the scientific validity and rigour of their experimentation and argument before the work can be published. Whilst a noble concept, it is easily victim to confirmation bias. If only six percent of academics identify as conservative, how likely is it that the handful of reviewers of a grant proposal or paper will be ideologically conservative or even supportive of controversial proposals? This fear is not merely the musings of a scorned conservative scientist but a reality backed up by research. Half of academics would mark down a right-wing grant application. Four in ten American academics admit they wouldn’t hire a Trump supporter. A third of British academics would not hire a Brexiter. Not only does this inhibit the volume of conservative scientific literature, but it restricts a conservative’s earning capacity from grants and promotion, and therefore their academic influence.  What this leads to is the self-censorship of conservative thinkers looking to progress their careers, thus creating a spiral of worsening conservative intolerance on campuses and in academia.

One striking example of this phenomenon is the case of postdoctoral researcher, Dr Noah Carl. Dr Carl graduated from the prestigious University of Oxford with a thesis titled ‘Cognitive ability and sociopolitical beliefs and attitudes’ and was subsequently awarded the Toby Jackman Newtown Research Fellowship at St Edmund’s College in Cambridge. For early-career researchers, such a postdoctoral fellowship is invaluable in gaining a foothold in the cut-throat academic industry. Yet Dr Carl was never able to assume his position as he was dismissed by St Edmund’s College for his alleged association with far-right figures. This so-called association involved attending a conference also attended by race researchers and publishing in a journal with a controversial editor. He advocated for free inquiry into how stifling debates around race can do harm and his research examined common stereotypes. Even a cursory assessment of this reasoning shows how Dr Carl was only guilty of challenging the left-wing orthodoxy. The University had no issue with his research when they appointed him, but guilt by association was sufficient to effectively end a young researcher’s career after left-wing student backlash.

Another case is that of esteemed Professor of Public Law at Macquarie University in Sydney, Andrew Fraser, who published a letter in 2005 in his local newspaper calling for restriction of African immigration, due to its effect on increasing crime rates. Macquarie University initially defended Fraser’s right to free speech, but after pressure from the local Sudanese community, Fraser was suspended, with the University citing how Fraser had affected the university’s ability to operate and offering a public apology to those who were offended. Again, absent from the response was any criticism of Fraser’s scientific rigour. Fraser has long been a proponent of the role of immigration in increasing Australian crime rates, the evidence for which remains strong to this day.

Regardless of your own views on these issues, its inarguable that both scholars faced vilification and professional repercussions for conducting research and providing comment which deviated from the left’s ideological agenda. The cancellation of scholars like Carl and Fraser serves as a chilling reminder of the dangers of ideological conformity in scientific discourse. By stifling dissent and enforcing orthodoxy, the left undermines the very foundation of scientific inquiry, to question and hypothesise, thus relegating it to a tool of political expediency rather than a genuine quest of understanding.

The Rise of Scientism

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of the left’s control over science is the rise of scientism,a quasi-religious belief in the infallibility of scientific authority. In the eyes of leftist ideologues, science has become not merely a tool for understanding the natural world, but an all-encompassing worldview that supplants religion and morality. There is no phrase I personally detest more than, ‘Trust the science.’ This phrase has become a mantra of progressive politicians, but it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific practice. In trying to project science as objective truth, they are committing a major offence of scientific thought, presenting a theory as fact. The scientific method is built around making hypotheses and proving them wrong based on observation and evidence. Anyone that tells you science can prove truth is lying to you. It is fundamentally impossible to prove truth by using the scientific method, as more evidence can always be uncovered to refute any such assertion. In the leftist zeal to elevate science to the status of an objective truth, they conflate empirical evidence with ideological principles, compromising the integrity of the scientific process.

Science was never intended to replace religion or morality but rather to complement and enhance our understanding of the world. Renowned scientist Isaac Newton, for instance, integrated his Christian faith into his exploration of natural laws, aiming to inspire others to appreciate the beauty of divine creation.

“When I wrote my treatise about our system, I had an eye upon such principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity; and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.”

– Isaac Newton

Modern scientists are increasingly unravelling new frontiers, from artificial intelligence to genetic modification, prompting profound ethical questions. But unfortunately, as science has progressed, secularism and scientism have gained traction in intellectual circles, causing the influence of religion on scientific discourse to wane. This trend has left a moral vacuum within the scientific community at a time when it is most needed. As we look to address the ethical questions of new scientific frontiers, the increasingly fervent belief in the infallibility of science among the elite is a dangerous precedent to set in our quest for knowledge. 

How do we fix it?

It was easy during the Covid-19 lockdowns to argue against science, as it was used to justify draconian government laws. But now this period has passed, such a trajectory is self-defeating. Countless right-wing figures have continued to prosecute against science, yet they largely remain excluded from serious political discourse. Clearly though, a total embrace of the scientific establishment ignores a long-standing hostility and prosecution of right-wing thought.

As we look to wrest control over our own countries back from the leftist elite, conservatives and nationalists ignore science at their own peril. Across the Anglosphere we see conservative parties stagnating. Young people are disengaging from politics. Idealogues are pursuing their agendas. If a truly right-wing presence is going to be felt in politics it must champion cultural revival, national progress, and self-reliance. By leveraging national resources and driving scientific and technological innovation, we can build a future focused economy to our own benefit. Importantly, science can be reclaimed from leftist control by promoting independent domestic research to replace our current bureaucratic institutions, prioritising the protection of conservative thought in academia and rebuilding confidence among the right-wing populace.

So, is the relationship between conservatives and science dead? From suppressing dissenting voices to the promotion of quasi-religious faith in scientific infallibility, the left’s agenda threatens to degenerate scientific practice and undermine its capacity to investigate the world around us. But this should not catalyse right wing rejection of science. Science may have turned its back on right-wing intellectuals, but in a constantly evolving world it would be counterproductive for conservatives to concede science to the Left. It’s only with the input of conservative thinkers that truly free scientific endeavour can help lead us away from regression and embrace a vision for right-wing progress.

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On Repression in Communist Hungary

The Hungarian People’s Republic (HPR), a communist puppet state which lasted between 1949 and 1989, is sometimes characterised as being propped up solely by Soviet military intervention. However, while Soviet intervention proved decisive during flashpoints such as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the HPR’s existence was largely due to its intricate systems of internal repression.

In this article, we shall explore the HPR’s methods of social and political repression by looking at its three pillars: dismantling the Hungarian nationality, restrictions on speech, and political infiltration.

Dismantling the Hungarian Nationality

Nationalism directly contradicted Marxist-Leninist ideology, since loyalties to national identities were incompatible with global solidarity between workers. The HPR, like many Warsaw Pact nations, thus saw nationalism as an existential threat to its continued existence.

Rather than merely tackling the political manifestations of nationalism, the HPR sought to undermine the concept of a distinct Hungarian national and ethnic identity. By eroding the Hungarian identity, the HPR would eliminate any kinship ties that could challenge Marxist-Leninist universalism or be fed into nationalist political movements. Removing nationalistic feelings would also reduce domestic resistance to Soviet military and political interventions within the HPR during times of crisis.

The most important part of this strategy was the HPR’s project of educational “reforms”, which systematically undermined the historical basis of the Hungarian people. The regime rewrote school textbooks and university curricula to promote the idea of Hungary as being a ‘nation of migrants’ from its very outset. Rather than being founded in the 9th century by semi-nomadic ethnic Hungarians, this new history claimed Hungary was originally a ‘melting point’ of varied European, Eurasian, and Middle-Eastern peoples – one that was forcefully subjugated and “colonised” by a new elite that fabricated the Hungarian ethnicity.

The first Hungarian ruling dynasty, the Árpáds, was a particular target for HPR censors and “educationalists”, given its role in Hungarian ethnogenesis. As part of its efforts, the HPR claimed many historical figures were of foreign extraction: for example, HPR state media frequently portrayed King Saint Stephen (who reigned 1001 – 1038), as being an Ethiopian originally sent by his land’s Orthodox church.

Along with undermining the historicity of the Hungarian people and state, the HPR’s anti-Hungarian project also saw the state work to rapidly erode the presence of Hungarians across civil society. The HPR invited hundreds of thousands of migrants from the USSR and other Warsaw Pact members, initially justified on the grounds of replacing dead or missing Hungarians from WW2. Along with offering heavily subsidised social housing for these migrants, the HPR instituted quotas and incentives for these migrants across the economy – along with granting them preferential access to institutions like universities. Through quotas and subsidies, the HPR nurtured a non-Hungarian class in rapidly obtaining outsized influence across society and key institutions. Along with eroding the presence of native Hungarians in relevant institutions, these new arrivals were used by the HPR to justify its claims that Hungary was a “diverse melting pot” to the public.

Restrictions on Speech

It’s well-known that the HPR did not tolerate anti-communist or anti-state speech in public or private life. However, speech controls in the HPR expanded well beyond the remit of clamping down on challenges to the ruling party. Rather, restrictions on speech within the HPR largely were based on defending “Hungarian Values” – an undefined set of principles that roughly corresponded with support for egalitarianism, internationalism, and anti-nationalism.

The HPR was notoriously staunch in its defence of “Hungarian Values”, to the point that it would summarily arrest even senior functionaries for public utterances that were at tension with them. Decorated public careers could be brought to an end with even the vaguest nationalistic sentiments, with the courts fiercely prosecuting “racially aggravated public order offences”.

The HPR’s pursuit of “Hungarian Values” extended to the policing of private correspondence. Citizens were convicted, fined, and jailed for sending letters that included off-colour jokes about migrants or ethnic minorities. Suspected Christians were arrested on the spot for standing within a hundred metres of abortion clinics, under suspicion of silent prayer. Proto-nationalistic sentiments expressed in work canteens were reported to functionaries, who promptly forced workers to attend “diversity and equality training” – sessions which, in practice, required workers to explicitly announce their full commitment to “Hungarian Values” or face destitution.

Non-political newspapers and radio were often shut down based on non-conformity with “Hungarian Values”, via the HPR’s culture and propaganda ministry. Arts councils required productions to build endorsements of inclusivity, diversity, and other key state values into scripts from the outset. Even sports matches and their respective commentators were required to open and close games with pronouncements about the importance of “Hungarian Values”, with players and fans berated if their commitment was felt to be wanting.

Political Infiltration

So far, we have touched on how the HPR manipulated Hungarian society to preclude the existence of political opposition. However, the HPR also devoted considerable resources to defusing organised political opposition throughout its existence. The HPR’s secret police used whatever legal and extralegal means they had available to stop any serious political movement from gathering momentum.

The HPR did not simply “disappear” political dissidents on discovery. Instead, the HPR adopted a policy of “controlled opposition” via the infiltration of dissident political groups. This approach offered some significant benefits – the HPR could keep tabs on dissidents, and also draw out “extremists” who may have otherwise remained nonpolitical if there was a complete crackdown. Infiltration also ensured that dissident groups, no matter how large, directed their energies towards ineffectual and embarrassing ends that often served great propaganda value to the HPR.

For groups that were not sufficiently infiltrated but at risk of attracting popular support, the HPR employed a hands-off method to destroy them. One of the most notorious cases was that of the Hungarian National Party (HNP), a small nationalist group rapidly growing in popularity. The HPR destroyed the HNP by stealing a copy of its confidential membership list and “leaking” it to state media. Rather than the state having to arrest HNP activists, the movement simply imploded as most members found their employment abruptly terminated, and financial contributions ceased.


In this article, we have explored the three pillars of the HPR’s system of political and social repression.

  • How the state deliberately eroded the idea of Hungarian nationhood through mass migration and the rewriting of Hungarian history.
  • How an insidious concept of “Hungarian Values” was used to coerce speech to a degree impossible through brute force alone.
  • How the secret police engaged in widespread infiltration of opposition political movements, with economic and social ruin being a resort when infiltration was insufficient.

At this point, I must now make a confession: the above article doesn’t describe Hungary. At least, not entirely or without occasional and selective embellishment. It describes the Britain of 2024.

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