9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN25 Social Movements

Hidden Threads - Feminist initiatives within the framework of the underground movement of the "Democratic Opposition" in Hungary in the early 1970's

Social movements aiming to restore democracy were not tolerated by the one-party, state-socialist systems of the ex-Soviet block. That was the context in Hungary as well, within which circles of "alternative thinkers" tried to find their ways to reach and mobilize people against non-democratic practices of the Soviet-type system. Feminist ideas had a particularly complex reasoning in that setting, as the state-socialist system had an explicit propaganda aiming for women's emancipation, yet, in practice those endavours of the state resulted very controversial end-results. Women were supported to get employment until the late 1960's. Women were encouraged only in a limited way to take part in public life. Yet, in private life many aspects of traditional gender relations were not challanged. These facts became reflected in the feminist discourse of activists of the opposition movement.
The paper aims to explore the facts about the only-known independent grass-root initiative of a collection of signatures (supporting a pro-choice campaign) and that of the feminist activities by mostly university students. It will be explored why the initiatives remained marginal and how the activists became harrassed and criminalized by the authorities. Furthermore the value system and arguments of the activists will be analyzed (whether arguments were based on second wave "western" feminism or rather a genuine criticism of the non-democratic policies of state-socialist system). The research is based primarily on personal, oral history interviews with participants of these feminist actions and members of the movement of democratic opposition and also based on review of contemporary archive documents.