Political commentators have noted recently that Viktor Orbán, by refusing to be engaged, by declining participation in different political and economic gatherings, is depriving himself of a platform. He is becoming less and less relevant. There are clear indications of the declining popularity of Fidesz although it is still way ahead in the polls. Well, Orbán decided to make a major speech. The occasion was the general assembly of the Batthyány Circle of Professors held at the Saint Margaret High School.
First perhaps a few words about the Batthyány Circle of Professors. It was established in June 1995 by a group of university professors of a conservative bent. Members must be full professors or researchers who have posititions equivalent to a full professorship in a university setting. Looking through the names of the 141 members one is struck by the preponderance of medical school professors. Actually, this shouldn't be surprising because it is a well known fact that the majority of Hungarian physicians supports the right. There are also a lot of science and engineering professors on the list. A few professors teach at law schools–for example, János Martonyi, Orbán's foreign minister who took up the teaching profession once Fidesz lost the election. There are very few professors of the humanities.
How active are they? I have the feeling not very. I actually had a personal encounter with them, if you can call it that. It was in 1998 at the time of the infancy of the Internet when there were no Internet editions of Hungarian newspapers. Followers of Hungarian news had to rely on the services of a young man employed by the Batthyány Circle of Professors to summarize items appearing in Hungarian papers. Well, one nice day sometime in the late summer of 1998 the service stopped. We kept sending e-mails to the Circle inquiring, then complaining. No answer. Eventually I asked a friend in Budapest to phone the Circle's number. There was no answer. He tried for days! It seems that the group of full professors does little more than give Viktor Orbán the opportunity to speak here and there.
Well, let's get to the speech. First of all, the speech was long. More than an hour. According to Orbán one must "courageously admit" that he and his party have long-range plans. In the short run the aim is to get into power and govern the country. But then his plan is "to make Hungary the most cultured, best educated nation in Europe." And in the long run they want "to create a most self-possessed, unified and proud community." For this Orbán and his party will need a lot of time. Let's pause here a bit: How long a time? At the moment things don't look very good. There are more than half a million people who haven't even finished eight grades. The number of university graduates is still relatively small and the new graduates are not up to snuff. Not one Hungarian university is in the top 200 in the world. There are not enough skilled workers, and according to the latest poll only 25% of the population knows any foreign language. I don't want to sound too pessimistic, but to make Hungary the best educated and the most cultured nation in Europe would take at least 25 years. Somehow I don't think that the Hungarian public would put up with a Fidesz government for that long. They could hardly wait to get rid of Fidesz after four years.
Let me quote Orbán verbatim. "We need more time than four years because for us not only the electoral success, the possibility of governing, the revenge is important–and people can pick and choose among these according to their taste–but we have far-reaching plans for which we need time, time, and time." He hopes to achieve the great success because of past defeats. He quoted a French saying (but one must be careful about Orbán's quotes, it might not be genuine) that "if one wants to jump far one must step a bit backward." Thus, the great goals that he outlined at the beginning of his speech can be achieved only after a chain of defeats. Six years in opposition is a very long time, but he and his party learned a lot during these years. In order to achieve success "it seems that one must go through purgatory." He thinks that the stay in purgatory is coming to an end, but he added cautiously that a two-thirds majority win is an illusion.
He emphasized that he is still in favor of "néppárti politika." The reason I used the Hungarian is that I would like to figure out the precise meaning of "néppárt/néppárti." On the surface it is easy: people's party. But that is surely not the real meaning of it. I am coming to the conclusion that in this context and in Orbán's head it means the gathering of all forces of the political right under one umbrella, under the leadership of Fidesz. That is, from the moderate MDF to the far-right Jobbik. If I am correct, this is not good news because it means making some kind of deal with the Hungarian far-right. In western Europe the far-right doesn't have a chance of getting into power because neither the moderate right nor the left will cooperate with them. Fidesz refuses to follow suit.
Finally, Orbán detailed his ideas about world affairs and the current international financial crisis. This is not his strong suit and therefore I'm not sure whether I can intelligently summarize what I consider to be a convoluted and confused set of ideas about the world. According to Orbán (and everyone else in the universe), power in the world markets is shifting. There is a struggle for the Asian markets in addition to Asian capitalism that wants its share of the western markets. He claims that the struggle will be "rational." It will not necessarily bring about wars because it is not military but a struggle among huge corporations. The West will not be able to win this struggle without the help of an Eastern European axis from the Baltic States to Croatia. Within this region there must be commercial and economic cooperation. A joint investment bank should be established to aid the development of the region financially. North-south superhighways should be built. These countries should cooperate in order to ensure the region's energy supplies owned at least partially by the states in the region. Hungary's interest can be found in this regional cooperation.
I'm too tired to comment on these ideas. But somehow I don't think the European Union would be too impressed with the East European Union.