Hungary will end censorship and create a multiparty system by 1990. This bold statement comes from no dissident, but from Imre Pozsgay, a member of Hungary's ruling Politburo. In an interview with the Monitor, Mr. Pozsgay outlined a bold plan for stretching the limits of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in the most reform-minded communist country in Eastern Europe.
``I think the multiparty system is unavoidable,'' he said. ``It should be realized within two years.''
Pozsgay's word, though, is not final. He is the most radical reform-minded Politburo member. Other members, above all General Secretary Karoly Grosz, emphasize that it will take years to establish a functioning multiparty democracy.
By staking out an extreme position, Western diplomats and Hungarian observers interpret Pozsgay's statements as an attempt to force his colleagues to move faster and to create new boundaries for debate.
``Pozsgay is pushing out this position so that the issue of a multiparty system can never be put back into the bottle and forgotten,'' one Western diplomat says. ``He's the in-house intellectual throwing out new ideas.''
Liberal ideas have made Pozsgay without a doubt Hungary's most popular politician - and an indispensable partner to the less-popular Mr. Grosz. The common wisdom is that Grosz struck an alliance back in May with the radical reformer to win his position.
Pozsgay in turn was promoted to the Politburo. In his spacious, well-appointed office in Parliament overlooking the Danube, he acknowledged resistance from hardliners but seemed satisfied with the momentum of reform.
``We are confronting the critics,'' he said, ``meeting them head on, and moving ahead fast.''
As evidence, he described his victory in getting the Politburo to agree to free the press.
``At our last Politburo meeting we voted to establish new information,'' he explained. ``It should end all censorship'' and ``permit any private person to set up his own printing establishment.''
Under the new proposal, some editors fear a burdensome registration process. Pozsgay said these fears were groundless.
``The authorities will not be able to block any registration,'' he assured. ``Only radio and television will remain under the government's control.''
Under his plans for building a multiparty system, independent associations, which eventually could develop into full-fledged political parties, must be formed under a proposed law of association. This law is scheduled to be passed by parliament next month. Then a new constitution must be written by 1990 that would allow the formation of options to the Communist Party and partially free elections. Full, free general elections could be held in 1995.
``We must guard stability as we move toward freedom from dictatorship,'' he said. ``Bridges must be built to get us from one phase to another.''
Other communist countries already have other legal parties besides the Communist one. In Poland, for example, there is the Democratic party and the United Peasant's Party. But they enjoy little independent power.
``When I think of a multiparty system, it's not like Poland,'' Pozsgay added. ``It's more like Austria.''
Many Hungarians still doubt that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would accept such a dramatic step to redefine communism. But Pozsgay seems confident. ``Gorbachev has many more responsibilities than us: One needs a much greater maneuver to change the direction of his ship than our motorboat,'' he concludes. ``Hungary has no differences with the Soviet Union. We want to show ourselves as a model, as a laboratory for changes.''