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Party Conference Ends Second Day Amid Speculation Of A Shakeup

May 22, 1988

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ A leading Communist Party member on Saturday defended his plan to allow independent trade unions and political groups in a spirited attack on the ideals of aging party boss Janos Kadar.

Imre Pozsgay, a Central Committee member and leading reformist in the party, called for a ″broadening of civil law″ to give Hungarians more of a voice in national affairs.

Pozsgay made his speech to a national Communist Party conference amid speculation that Kadar would be replaced by Premier Karoly Grosz.

There was also speculation that Kadar, who has run the party for 31 years, would be appointed party president, a ceremonial post created to ease him into retirement. The 75-year-old Hungarian leader has been under pressure from many reformists to resign.

″He no longer has the support of the party,″ said one prominent official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Janos Berecz, the party’s chief ideologist, told reporters late Saturday he heard talk of creating a new post of party president and that ″if it is proposed, it will meet with the support of the conference.″

On Friday, Kadar lauded the benefits of single-party rule and condemned demands for political change that he said would undermine party control.

Kadar’s conservative assault was clearly aimed at Pozsgay and other advocates of political change who have expressed support for independent political and trade union groups in Hungary.

Pozgay launched his defense.

″We need a new socialist pluralism so that we can work to make socialism more attractive, a socialism based on individual responsibility,″ Pozsgay said.

″We must do away with barriers, or barriers will destroy us.″

Hungary’s first independent trade union was formed last week, and a growing number of other groups are seeking official recognition outside the umbrella of the Communist Party.

Pozsgay on Saturday reaffirmed his support for changes to the constitution that would guarantee the independence of interest groups outside the party.

He also said Saturday that Hungary was considering merging the posts of party general secretary and premier in a move that could lead to Kadar’s ouster.

″This could happen provisionally, although I am not certain that it will,″ Pozsgay said. ″We have gone further than than we expected.″

Earlier Saturday, Grosz, 57, told the delegates that the party ″should break with the practice of secretiveness, self-isolation and inflexible working style.″

While he affirmed the role of the Communist Party leadership, Grosz said the party must ″rid itself of ideological prejudices″ if economic and political reforms are to succeed.

Kadar pioneered economic reforms that led Hungary to relative prosperity in the late 1960s and 1970s but is increasingly blamed for recent economic setbacks and for resistance to political change.

A Western diplomatic source, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said there appeared to be ″a growing consensus″ within the party that Kadar would be asked to step dowen.

But the diplomat said Kadar, who has led the party since the Kremlin crushed an anti-Soviet uprising in 1956, may still have considerable support among the party’s old guard.

Personnel changes are not expected to be announced until after the conference concludes Sunday.

Reformists say economic reforms will fail without sweeping political changes.

Inflation in Hungary reached 18.5 percent in the first quarter of this year, and its gross foreign debt has mounted steadily to $18 billion.

Austerity measures implemented earlier this year to curb inflation and economic stagnation have hurt many Hungarian pocketbooks.