A World Lifted off Its Hinges: The Social Impact of World War I on Hungary
Eötvös Loránd University
Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4 (2022):702–732 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.702
As was true virtually everywhere, World War I brought about significant social changes in Hungary. As a consequence of the wartime mobilization of the economy, the relationship between employers and workers in industry was transformed, as was the relationship between owners of different sizes of estates and farms and agricultural workers in rural areas. In both spheres, groups emerged which were much better organized than before. Some of them were capable of coordinated political action, and the balance of power between them changed rapidly over time. The wartime government tried to ensure continuous coordination and reconciliation of interests between the various ownership and labor groups in agriculture and industry, but it ultimately failed. Beyond the military defeat, this failure was the primary determining factor of the events of 1918–19 in Hungary. By analyzing the group dynamics of wartime society and the wartime economy in Hungary, this paper seeks to outline the social and historical background of the political struggles that came in the wake of the war. It ventures two core contentions. First, the emergence of various agricultural and industrial interest groups and their coordination with one another and with the government in the aftermath of the war constituted mechanisms of integration that had not existed before the war. As a result, the diverse socio-professional groups in Hungary became more integrated into one society within the framework of the state. The second finding contention is that the counterrevolutionary regime that took over in late 1919 was more successful than previous governments had been in establishing a balance between the different groups of owners and workers and learning from previous experience, and this was why it was able, ultimately, to consolidate its hold on power.
Keywords: World War I, Hungary, social history, labor history, history of rural society