Hungary Table of Contents
In mid-1988 the HSWP had about 817,000 members, or 10.3 percent of Hungary's adult population. Nominally the party of the working class, the HSWP actually was dominated by members of the intelligentsia. Men outnumbered women.
Since 1956 the proportion of workers and peasants in the party has declined. In 1962 industrial and agricultural workers made up 59 percent of the party. This figure dropped to 38 percent in 1970, and by 1985 it had declined to 31.9 percent. By contrast, in 1975 members of the intelligentsia made up 40 percent of the membership, and by 1985 that figure had risen to 42.4 percent.
Other statistics showed that members used their membership to raise their social status. In 1985 about 62 percent of party members originally were workers when they joined the party and 8.9 percent originally were peasants. As a result of the influence that party members held in society and the favors that the regime granted to party members, about 40 percent of the party membership was able to climb into the ranks of the intelligentsia from the working class and the peasantry. Thus, children of workers and peasants used the party as a vehicle of upward mobility. Having joined the "political class," party members, particularly full-time party officials, could pass their new status on to their children.
Statistics on the educational background of party members confirmed the dominance of the intelligentsia. In 1985 approximately 21 percent of party members had received degrees from a higher educational institution. The corresponding figure for the population as a whole was only 6.1 percent. In 1985 about 43.9 percent of the membership had a high school or special secondary school education. The figure for society as a whole was 27.1 percent. Between 1975 and 1985, the proportion of members who had no more than a primary-school education declined from 55.4 to 28.4 percent.
Historically women have formed a minority of the party's membership, although since the 1960s their percentage of the membership has risen. In 1966 women made up 22.9 percent of the HSWP, and by 1970 this figure had risen to 24.4 percent. By mid1988 women made up approximately 32.1 percent of the party. In the late 1980s, however, women generally had not advanced into positions of power. For example, in the Central Committee elected in 1985, a mere 11 percent of the members were women. In early 1989, only two women sat on the Politburo.
Data as of September 1989