Viktor Orbán’s speech on March 15

Unfortunately there seems to be no hope of changing political discourse in Hungary. At least this is my impression after reading a few newspaper accounts of Viktor Orbán’s speech this afternoon. Today is a national holiday: it was on March 15, 1848, that news of the revolution that broke out in Vienna reached Pest. It is on March 15 that the birth of parliamentary democracy is celebrated in Hungary.

The police were well prepared because by now no national holiday passes without some disturbance. Those who create trouble are small groups of extreme rightwingers who seem to go from event to event and try to fluster the speakers. This year at least there was no egg throwing because a few months ago a judge with some sense decided that throwing eggs is not a legitimate expression of free speech. Thus the “brave” men of the right held up pieces of paper on which one could read that the person would like to throw an egg at Gábor Demszky, mayor of Budapest, but under the circumstances this piece of paper will have to do. By the way, according to Hungarian law the organizers of demonstrations in the past that created havoc (rocks thrown at the police, cars burned, etc.) can continue to organize demonstrations with impunity. The police have no right to cancel their demonstrations although there might be good reason to believe that last year’s disturbances will be repeated.

A few people demonstrated in front of parliament. But the greatest attraction for the demonstrators was the National Museum where Petőfi allegedly recited his famous poem, “Rise Hungarians!” It was in front of Petőfi’s statue that Gábor Demszky spoke. While at other places there were only a handful of people, here the reports talked about at least a thousand. Whatever their numbers, they were certainly noisy. They kept on going even when Demszky asked for a moment of silence to remember the deaths of Marian Cozma, the handball player, and the father and son who were killed in Tatárszentgyörgy. One would have thought that at least in Cozma’s case they would show some respect. But, no. They went on. Altogether the police arrested nineteen people at these demonstrations.

No one disturbed the speech of Viktor Orbán. A few years ago Fidesz tried to find a place that was big enough to hold many thousands, but this year Orbán spoke on a relatively small square in the Castle district. There were still a lot of people spilling over to the side streets, but in the cramped medieval castle with its narrow streets crowds look bigger than they actually are. It had been raining all day, but by the time Viktor Orbán began his speech the rain stopped. March 15 After Orbán’s earlier “state of the union” speech everybody commented on his relative moderation. He tried to talk to the middle, commentators said. He didn’t want to alienate anybody. That was certainly not his tone today.

He again talked about his political opponents as the enemies of the country. The people currently in charge are “pitiful men of hopelessness” who in the last seven years have completely ruined the country. The current crisis is not economic in nature but political and therefore only a political solution can solve it. He and his followers must take the country back from the representatives of the old world. Orbán accused the current government of trying to return to the socialism of János Kádár. “Our trouble is that the country is ruled by a political clan whose members can’t resign themselves to the demise of the socialist regime.” This is, of course, nothing more than a brazen lie because if anyone is using socialist slogans it is Orbán and the representatives of Fidesz. According to him, the government of Gyurcsány achieved nothing; it only ruined the lives and work of millions. Hungary should belong to those who worked, who struggled, who sacrificed, those who love this country, its people, its language, its earth, and its air. Those who love its past, its present, and its future. Those who remain in the country, those who see it as great even when it is small. Those who believe in it.

Orbán made no secret of his plans: “Day by day we must destroy the resistance of the Hungarian government.” He is actually doing a very good job. Attack after attack, trying to make the government’s work impossible. The government was accused of heinous crimes: “It terrorizes people, it tries to intimidate independent institutions, tries to break up the judicial system.” If anything, the problem with the current Hungarian government is its helplessness while Fidesz and its supporters everywhere–from the ministerial offices to the courtrooms–are doing their best to render it impotent.

According to Orbán there are two kinds of men: “the captives of yesterday and the free men of tomorrow” and “the time will come when the free men of tomorrow will turn Hungary in a different direction, toward a future where Hungary will be a strong, a much valued nation.” The free men of the future, I assume, are Orbán and his political friends, but unless one is swept off his feet by his oratory one must remember that after all Viktor Orbán has been a politician for twenty years. He has been a prime minister, a member of parliament, and always a major player on the political scene. In his place I would not try to cast myself as the man of the future. Someone who has nothing to do with the past. All in all, I consider this whole speech nothing more than a falsification of history and a distortion of facts.

Meanwhile, Jobbik had a meeting with thousands in attendance and the Magyar Gárda has 650 new members. No question, it’s growing. The size of the new class of recruits seems a bit frightening. I’m sure that it is frightening to Viktor Orbán as well. The radical right is growing, and at the next elections it will be Fidesz who will lose votes as a result. Perhaps the shrill voice of the speaker had something to do with that fear.

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Op
Guest

On March 15 Hungarians remember an unsuccessful uprising. We have many of those, what we need is something new: a successful revolution. The sooner the better.

Andras
Guest

Op., you may want to follow up how the Great Leader of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe have initiated a revolution from above to have better life for people of Zimbabwe and whether ordinary people, like you I guess, are better off now or not, after the revolutionary events. Worthwhile reading.

Op
Guest

“In a democracy there is no need for revolution”
Depends on what we call “democracy”, and if it actually exists anywhere.
What we have here is not even close.
Fortunately I have an idea: select our representatives randomly, just like it’s done for jury duty in the US. Never mind parties and the good old guys system.
If the random reps do well, they can be re-elected or voters may choose “anyone but him” and another random selection will follow. Average Joe cannot be a lot more incompetent then the current bunch, and mutual mistrust would be helpful to cut down on corruption. It’s a brilliant idea, and I let it go for free. A statue would be nice though…

ticonderoga
Guest
Coup d’etat? Hungary was subjected to disaster capitalism (the way N. Klein describes it) since years before the recession, and its resources have been depleted mostly by the help of a group presently in power. Since the whole process took place without proper democratic control, the state itself ended up with diminished democratic authenticity. Liberal orthodoxy should acknowledge that democracy needs a well functioning ‘etat’ which is not destructed or even deformed. The basic condition for the restoration of democracy would be a public trust that has been forfeited. A similar crisis of democracy is happening all over in the globalizing world, but weak states are dangerously affected. (The problem is aggravated when the desire/determination for rebuilding this trust evaporates, which can lead to bad consequences). A great analysis of the present situation is out from TGM (http://www.nol.hu/belfold/tgm__unnep_helyett_katasztrofa). Sadly for many, and certainly untested as for its path, the only morally acceptable option now would be the empowerment of the opposition of this impotent government (which has no public support as confirmed by others). In my view it would be the time by now for even the successor of a Gyurcsany government going under – unless successful in implementing reforms… Read more »
Op
Guest
“The current government was democratically elected” I guess this is a failure of “democracy” then. There are campaign promises and then comes reality. Even if we realize early on that we made a huge mistake, we must live with our choice for a long time. Even if the winners admit to lying and misleading the people in order to win, there’s still no way to get rid of them. Even if they are corrupt and incompetent to the level of disaster, we have no legal way to dispose of them. I suppose a working democracy needs a better election system and an emergency exit in case of obviously bad choices. Similar to the idea I read in a sci-fi anthology many decades ago. Elected officials must wear a badge. There are voting booths all over the country, where people can vote on the performance of their leaders. When too many negative votes are collected, the badge will blow up, along with the person who’s elected to wear it. Now that’s democracy. Of course it’s sci-fi (I believe it’s Bradbury) but makes a lot of sense. No matter how you grab office, you’d better try really hard or responsibility kicks in… Read more »
Mark
Guest
I don’t think that either the populist right, nor the radical left (TGM) offer any viable solution to Hungary’s problems, but at least we might admit that there is a problem. The problem here is that any parliamentary democracy based on competitive elections is only as good as the political elites who offer those choices. And for quite a long time now those choices have not been very attractive. No democracy has perfect choices, I know, but both of the leaders of the parties in Hungary are especially morally and politically flawed (though for different reasons). One doesn’t have to advocate the political solutions of the leaders of Zimbabwe or North Korea to make the point that something went very seriously wrong in the 1990s and since because of a series of policy mistakes and an almost theological commitment to neo-liberalism on the part of the economic establishment(even if it is a misrepresentation to compare them to the scenarios of Klein in her book on “disaster capitalism” – even if one accepts her premise there). Unless those problems are addressed by those who support democratic principles then all kinds of horrible things are likely to happen. I’m writing this in… Read more »
Tünde
Guest

Ticonderoga: “Coup d’etat?
Hungary was subjected to disaster capitalism”
“You may want to emigrate to North Korea. There is no disastrous capitalism in that happy land.”
In America before 1989 the standard response for many complaining of capitalism as it is practiced there was “well look at the alternative, waiting in line for toilet paper in the Soviet Union”. I take it now that the response is “you can always move to North Korea”. What will be the example when North Korea falls? Perhaps they will keep it going, for that reason.
Disaster Capitalism is an important book, and its lessons are important for those in the US as well. Hungary is a prime example of disaster capitalism, and it is certainly no misinterpretation to compare it to Klein’s scenarios. The shock doctrine in the US happened with Katrina, New Orleans, and is now in action in the US with the bailout.
And until there is campaign reform, elections in Hungary being democratic is questionable.

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