Az újkonzervativizmus és a jobboldali radikalizmus története (1867-1918)

TitleAz újkonzervativizmus és a jobboldali radikalizmus története (1867-1918)
Publication TypePublication review
AuthorsSulyok, Izabella
Author(s) of reviewed materialSzabó, Miklós

Title translated:
The History of Neo-Conservatism and Right-wing Radicalism (1867-1918)

PublisherBudapest: Új Mandátum Könyvkiadó
Review year


Full Text

Miklós Szabó’s magisterial book on neo-conservative and radical right-wing political ideas between 1867 and 1918 was originally conceived as the introduction to a monograph dealing with political ideas in the first half of the 20th century which the author’s premature death prevented him from realizing. The first part of the book examines the constituents of neo-conservatism in Western European countries such as sociability, the formation of mass base and virulent nationalism which differentiated it from previous, static-defensive conservatism. Besides the presentation of these commonalities of various neo-conservatisms, Szabó also draws on the social history of Western European countries in order to show the precise origins and embeddedness of neo-conservative ideas.
The second, larger part of the book analyses the ideology and activity of neo-conservative and radical right-wing organizations and thinkers in Hungary of the Dual Monarchy. Szabó points out that neo-conservative ideology was primarily supported by the National Party (Nemzeti Párt), the Szapáry-group that left the Liberal Party (Szabadelvű Párt), the Catholic People’s Party (Katolikus Néppárt) and the Agrarians. The author underlines that neo-conservatives rejected the liberal economic policy of Hungary, but they did not criticize the political side of liberalism. Their aim was to establish a controlled economic system on the basis of their social organizations. Their criticism of economic liberalism also led to the elaboration of a social ideology. Their aims were justified by the newly emerging concept of a consistent national character that resulted in the modification of the concept of the gentry’s character drawing on an anti-bourgeois predisposition motivated by the resentment at the growing economic dominance of the bourgeoisie. 

The opposition between gentry and bourgeois constituted the core idea of right-wing radicalism. According to Szabó, right-wing radicalism derived from the anti-Semitic tendencies of neo-conservativism and became widespread within the Catholic People’s Party. He maintains that the anti-Semitism of the Catholic People’s Party explains why an anti-Semitic party similar to Győző Istóczy’s Anti-Semitic Party was not established in the early 1900s. Besides gentry anti-Semitism, right-wing radicalism aimed to create a mass base and even the violent overthrow of the liberal system by a conservative “preventive” revolution which right-wing radicals desired already during the last years of the First World War. Their critique of liberalism extended to political liberalism as well. Radicals wished to deprive foreign ethnic groups of their civil rights. However, prior to 1918 the rejection of the parliamentary system, the most characteristic institution of political liberalism, was not part of their rejection of political liberalism. Szabó explains this peculiar phenomenon by the image and former role of parliament in Hungarian history which turned it into a symbol of national resistance. Szabó also investigates the relation between Hungarian and Western European radicalisms and finds that Hungarian radicals frequently employed vulgarized interpretations of French sociologists and German philosophers. 

Besides a detailed presentation of the ideological streams examined, Szabó also gives an account of organizations representing neo-conservativism and right-wing radicalism including agrarian organizations, the kereszt-mozgalom (Cross movement), Mária Kongregációk (Mary Congregations) and the views of significant individual thinkers (including Ottokár Prohászka, Győző Concha and Zsigmond Bodnár). Szabó also places his analysis in a broader context by comparing the organizational strategies of right-wing radicals and neo-conservatives to that of social democrats and others. However, these thematic pursuits at times clash with the intention of the author of keeping to a chronological order and reflect on the changes within the entire field of neo-conservative and radical right-wing ideological development and individual organizations. 

In sum, Miklós Szabó’s book is an extremely well-documented, uniquely precious analysis on the transformation of right-wing ideologies in Hungary prior to 1919 that also properly places this story in a European framework, and is likely to remain a standard reference for decades to come.