Hungarian Fruit by S.K.

I confess, I hate the custom of Hungarian journalists who always start their writings with some silly quote or anecdote to legitimize what they have to say. It is a crutch that helps them over the hump of starting.

Yet, I am compelled to do just that. Not for a crutch, but for establishing the principle on which my exposé rests.

While tipping my proverbial hat to King James and his Bible, let me remind you of Matthew and his 7:15-20, namely, that “by their fruit ye shall know them.” Simply translated: don’t look at what they say, but rather what they do.

It was many years ago that I first had the eerie feeling every time I was looking, or listening to Viktor Orban that I had experienced this before. As they say in the US, déjà vu all over again.

Since his election to the premiership in 1998 I had the niggling feeling that Orbán resembles Mussolini more and more. It started out inadvertently, I thought first, but by now I don’t have any illusions. So, I humbly submit my assessment to you; let the plurality of opinion render the decision.

Mussolini was the quintessential poseur. Although a truly odious character, nevertheless, as a journalist he was well educated and beneath his overbearing style of oratory, he genuinely possessed the learning and literacy required for cultured intercourse. He had it and misused it to his own aggrandizement.

Viktor Orbán, no stranger to self-aggrandizement himself, has none of the learning, nor the literacy. Whereas Mussolini, a large beefy man, often relied on classics for quotations, Orbán, small and gradually pudgy, for years quoted bogus Dakota proverbs to support his oratory. In his gestures and oratorical techniques he is eerily similar to Mussolini. Not only the frequent scowl on his face, the gestures he uses, but most of all the incredible things he says that are very similar to the ideas and sayings of Mussolini. Look at the bored facial scowl:

Mussolini-OrbánI could trick you by quoting statements from either of these worthy gents, and you could not separate which comes from whom. But let us stay honest and examine each example. Particularly because, as you shall see, the original article is much more concise and expressive, more “artful” than the cheap Orbánian copy.

I admit, having come this far, it was impossible to stop half way. Especially because, during his time in office Orbán wittingly used ideas and expressions occasionally that were direct transliterations of the most hateful Nazi slogans. For example, in a radio interview he spoke about Lebensraum. No wonder that a quick look at Hitler’s golden sayings was also a temptation.

Following the famous “Speech of Őszöd” in a series of demonstrations Orbán innovated a "legitimacy deficit" for the Parliament and the government that just a few months before was elected with a clear majority. He claimed and ever since has never tired of saying that whatever is going on in parliament is irrelevant, it is communist chaos, a new election should bring the politics to the street and the people should govern directly.

What does Mussolini say about this? "The truth is that men are tired of liberty."

It is no accident that Orbán is often called a populist. He is always appealing to the “people” (jokingly in Hungarian "a zemberek" instead of "az emberek") the simple everyday “men.” His arguments are as simplistic as can be, and devoid of the complex concepts, like economy, policies, governance, democracy, etc. that are the basic ingredients of governance. He always makes promises he could never keep, even if he were governing.

What does Mussolini say? "It is the State that educates its citizens in civic virtue, gives them a consciousness of their mission and welds them into unity."

The more effective the demagogue, the more concise is the maxim. And Hitler was the grand master indeed.

About the same subject this is what Hitler recommends: "All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach."

Orbán practices this maxim with dogged determination.

When asked, Orbán unequivocally claimed that he never lies. This was a distinction as opposed to Ferenc Gyurcsány, who admitted institutional lies, though not personal ones, to elevate Orbán into greater heights of moral superiority. In fact, in the name of Christian morality he condemned the socialists, accusing them of lying, thieving and cheating, demanding that the government depart to the Fidesz’s benefit, demanding immediate elections, now. It was his Christian duty to rid the country of the “liars.”

It was easy to hammer this theme since Hitler had already advised: "As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice."

Following the election defeat of 2002 that was in large measure a result of his awful performance in a televised debate with his opponent, Orbán became vengeful and autocratic. A few weeks after the lost election he convened a mass rally in the castle district of Buda, where he expostulated that “the Nation cannot be in opposition.” He also hinted that the election could only be wrested from him by crooked means. With this an unprecedented personal hate campaign commenced against the winner, Gyurcsány, that escalated for years. Every right wing media started their agenda daily by ranting against the prime minister. Some days even 2-3 items were dedicated to this campaign.

Mussolini did not need to address this subject, but Hitler did. "The art of leadership… consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention."

Orbán declared a new strategy at that famous rally in 2002, because the parties he used in his coalition had performed even worse than his own did and yet refused to meld into Fidesz, declaring that from now on all the right wing political forces should and will belong to Fidesz: “We are one camp, under one flag!” Following this he enhanced his grip over the leadership of the party, so now he has full personal control over the party’s affairs.

Already after the rally many people found themselves reminded of the famous adage from Nazi Germany: "Ein Volk ein Reich ein Führer!"

In the last two or three years Fidesz and Orbán have relentlessly attacked liberalism. All the ills of the country are the fault of the liberal-Bolshevik-Jewish mafia, that is the government. But liberalism, personal responsibility and personal advancement are anathema to him. Instead, national unity, patriotism, the return to state-owned systems are in the forefront of his rhetoric. He announced more than once that liberalism was dead. As if it were a forecast, as well as the announcement of things to come, as Hitler said: "The day of individual happiness has passed."

So, Orban having completely installed his control over his party, standing in the doorway to a super-majority to lead the country to happiness, is already thinking about ways to extend his power over society. Countless times he expressed his conviction that the State is the best custodian of the nation’s happiness.

Mussolini himself couldn’t put it better. As he said:  “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." And “Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy.”

Fidesz is accused of not having any program for their future government. It is true that they have not published a traditional election program so far. But as I look over the derived wisdom of Fidesz applied daily in towns, villages and especially in the party’s headquarters, I am inclined to think that the program of this party is ready and ready for a long time.

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However much I dislike Orbán’s policies (populist, authoritarian, nationalist, mixing traditional right wing values like order, family, and church with orthodox left wing economic slogans, I also dislike this strange tendency to want to put Orbán on one line with Mussolini or Hitler. And that on the basis of some quotes plucked from who knows where.
It is plain wrong (you can’t compare policies, circumstances, and above all the historic outcome of war and genocide and all its horrific connotations), it is counter-productive (this is the way to convince conservatives who dislike Orbán’s policies?), it doesn’t help our understanding of what is happening, and in fact I would go as far as to say it is plain hate speech. Like socialist leaders are no jewish bolsjewics, Fidesz leaders are no fascist Mussolinis and Hitlers, and through all the sophisticated wording, that is what is being implied.

Well Hank, it is sure nice to be nice. We should be always nice, or as often as possible. The rice is nice. But as you know, the liquor is quicker. How long should one be nice to people whom are not nice? Who have no idea how to be nice and what’s more, even if they new, they are not interested in being nice. I am at the end of the process of loosing patience with nice wimps too, no longer willing to pussyfoot around the facts and the trends showing clearly what is happening and going to happen. Orban and the Fidesz in general was not nice calling everybody else commies, liars and thieves, they really didn’t earn the entitlement to be nice to. But what is even more pertinent, the fact that only so much tolerance is permitted in the face of naked aggression. Whimper a bit too long and you can find yourself out manoeuvered. There was already too much tolerance and “liberal” preciousness in Hungarian public life. As a result, by now twenty-something spokesmen can stand up and call mature elected officials names in the name of partizan righteousness. Hungary for the Hungarians! Do not… Read more »
I’m with Hank on this one. Don’t stoop to “their” level. It won’t work and it is unprincipled. It isn’t being “nice” – it is trying to be rational, or at least reasonable. If you are dealing with a raving loon, should you remain calm and wait, or would it be better to start barking yourself? In the end perhaps you just have to let people (and countries) make their own mistakes, because very few of us ever bother to learn from other people’s. Look around the region and most CEE countries have ditched their Post-communist parties and already been through the Great Patriotic Party phase (whether it got into power or not.) The people don’t still vote for parties which were formed back in 1990 – those parties have mostly imploded. The problem is, most Hungarians don’t tend to look around the region, and even if they did they would be too proud to learn from others’ mistakes. If I were a Hungarian voter I’d like to see a credible (new) opposition party form when Fidesz gets into power – or even before the next election. (Who knows, perhaps Bajnai could be involved, unless he is already too “tainted”… Read more »

I too need to express my concern over this article by S.K. and his reaction to Hank. I do not think I have to add any arguments here, believing Hank and Pistefka gave them sufficiently.

Matt L
I agree that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, its probably a duck, or in Orban’s case a fascist. Also, in the case of European politicians, its a legitimate avenue of inquiry to see how their policies, words and deeds stack up against either right wing or left wing extremes. Its not so legitimate in American politics, lacking as we do the history of an indigenous fascist state. That said, I think your article would have been more damning without the Mussolini and Hitler quotations. The more important question would have been, how did Orban and FIDESZ veer so far to the right in the last 20 years and why? I know you addressed this in an earlier post. But I am not so sure its simply the maneuvers of a willy political tactician. After all, in 1989 Orban and Fidesz stood as the youthful opposition party of Liberalism and Capitalism . They seemed to be the Hungarian emanation of Reagan/Thatcher thought. Now it appears that the best Orban can offer in terms of economic policy is warmed over Kadarism: populist economic handouts to buy off the ordinary folks and a complete disregard for the… Read more »