Peace group in Hungary calls it quits

One of Eastern Europe's best-publicized independent disarmament groups has called it quits -- apparently due more to internal disagreements than to police harassment.

Hungary's 50-member organization, Peace Group for Dialogue, which is composed primarily of university students, decided late last summer to disband. Citing both ongoing conflict over future strategy and a failure to build support among Hungarian youth, Dialogue leaders have netherless pledged to continue their activities individually.

Dialogue was founded about a year ago. Like other peace organizations in Eastern Europe, the group responded to a perceived one-sidedness on the part of the official Peace Council, which blames US military policy for the current danger of nuclear war.

During its brief existence, the Peace Group for Dialogue organized a series of events, including a public demonstration May 9 in Budapest, Hungary's capital. The group attracted widespread attention in Western Europe for its position that both superpowers were equally responsible for the arms race.

With the Hungarian government's relatively liberal approach to political dissent, no Dialogue activists have been arrested -- although there are unconfirmed reports of members facing interrogation and threats of dismissal from their jobs. Three Dialogue leaders were reportedly charged and fined for traffic violations during the May 9 demonstration, which attracted 150 supporters. That march was organized in opposition to a Peace Council march of some 20,000 the same day.

One of the Dialogue leaders, who insisted on anonymity, said such intimidation was not the major factor in the group's dissolution. He added, however, that "despite this so-called liberalism, we were certainly aware of the unstated limits placed on our activity."

More important in his consideration was disagreement over Dialogue's future direction, specifically over an invitation from the Peace Council to affiliate with the official peace movement.

Hungary's other independent peace groups, the Anti-Nuclear Campaign (mainly high-school students) and Flowers Against Weapons (a group of artists), accepted the Peace Council's offer. They are cooperating with official peace groups while maintaining their separate indentities and orgainzational structures.

"These groups now take the risk of being entirely co-opted," the Dialogue leader asserted, suggesting that only a "truly independent" movement could have maximum political effect.

But other Dialogue members felt they could accomplish more from with the Peace Council -- and this brought about the split.

A recent rejuvenation within the official peace movement, as well as the Peace Council's conciliatory approach, may explain why the unofficial groups have not attracted larger numbers of young people.

The Anti-Nuclear Campaign and Flowers Against Weapons apparently organized independently because of the lack of enthusiasm and initiative within the Peace Council, more than political differences with the official committee.

Thus when the Peace Council began to embrace the high-energy forms of activity characteristic of the Western peace movement, including demonstrations and cultural festivals, the unofficial orgainzations -- with the exception of Dialogue -- decided to cooperate.

Leaders of the Peace Council and affiliated groups intend to continue this "process of invigoration," said Andras Bard, head of the recently formed Youth and Student Peace Commission.

"Certain signals reached us from the youth" as a result of the peace Council's idleness, Bard admitted. And as for the group's new, more energetic style of activity: "One should never be ashamed of accepting good ideas from others."

The Communist Youth Union is even considering forming its own "Green" movement, according to Gyorgy Karoly, one of the union's top activists.

"This will not be like the Green Party in the Federal Republic of Germany, but environmental concerns will certainly be a higher priority in our activity," he said.

As for the remnants of Hungary's independent peace movement, Bard maintains his organization's conciliatory approach. "We want to continue the discussion and debate with [the Dialogue members]," he said. "The peace movement needs each and every one of them."

With Dialogue's dissolution, only a radical pacifist movement within the Roman Catholic Church remains outside the peace Council's folds. Headed by a young priest, Gyorgy Bulanyi, this group works primarily against the armed forces' conscription program for young men.

Official figures list four Hungarians currently imprisoned for refusing military service, but a new government policy allows religious conscientious objectors to do civil service in lieu of military training.

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