Ferenc Gyurcsány, the former prime minister, after about half a year of silence has returned. And he is his old fiery self. An excellent and inspiring speaker. His reception by the party faithful at a public assembly of the Hungarian socialists was most enthusiastic even before he opened his mouth. Frenetic applause before and after. And he deserved every bit of it because he brought back a glimmer of hope that perhaps not everything is lost. Or at least this was the message he came with.
He asked his audience not "to give up hope and our belief that we are on the right side." He kept emphasizing that MSZP, practically alone by now, represents "national progressivism." The only party that wants to combine patriotism with a steady march on the road that leads the country to western European values. As he put it, "to combine Hungarian pride with the European whole." The Hungarian socialists are the only ones who want to build a country with a strong middle class in the true sense of the word. Here I'm sure Gyurcsány had in mind the often used adjective "polgári," a very difficult Hungarian word to translate, by Fidesz. In fact, Viktor Orbán and his friends fell so completely in love with the word that they incorporated it into the name of their party. The official party name was changed several times, but the latest is Fidesz–Magyar Polgári Szövetség or in English, Fidesz–Hungarian Civic Union. Gyurcsány, and he is not alone, considers Fidesz not at all "polgári." Middle class values and Fidesz don't mix easily.
Gyurcsány tried to arouse MSZP from the stupor the party is in at the moment. He emphasized that it doesn't really matter what the most recent opinion polls show. "We have to find our way to the heart of the people." He warned them that self-criticism is okay in general but that now is not the time to dwell on mistakes. Instead they have to learn to be proud of what they have achieved. (The audience liked that. Applause followed.) They built 500 kilometers of super highways instead of seven. Poor children receive free lunch at school. The Orbán government took away monthly assistance for families with children and instead introduced a system that compensated families through taxation. The problem with that strategy was that the poorest people didn't pay taxes and therefore only the better-off families received the helping hand of the state while the really needy lost. The party must emphasize that today pensioners' income is 30% higher in real terms than it was in 2002. "If we cannot say all that, who will tell the people instead of us?" he asked.
Yes, people can say that the socialist-liberal coalition did more than the country was capable of. "One can say in hindsight that less would have been more. But that is not a sin. It is only a mistake." Surely nobody is happy that the thirteenth-month pension had to be taken away, but "those should be ashamed who didn't give it in the first place." (Applause.) "One mustn't apologize but must reject all the vile accusations that Hungary is destroyed as if it had gone through a devastating war." Then Gyurcsány didn't mince words: "They are lying! Anyone who says things like that is a scoundrel. The people of this country worked hard all through seven years."
Then came the warning: "Democrats! Awake!" Without mentioning Viktor Orbán's name or that of his party, Gyurcsány made it clear that he foresees a regime introduced by an Orbán-led government where democracy is in danger. Democrats surely don't want a country that is led by politicians who don't utter a word when innocent Gypsies are being murdered. Or worse, they try to find excuses. If "we don't raise our voices, who will?" Moreover, if the opponent is coming from the other direction "we mustn't retreat." According to Gyurcsány, what the other side wants is "to frighten us." But "wake up!" What kind of country will Hungary be where the possible next prime minister after hearing one of his politicians' views about Gypsies, Jews, and gays can say only that "yes, it is awkward. This is not awkward, this is shameful."
"My friends, democrats. You're the last hopes of democracy…. Awake, democrats!. . . Please stick together. Something is awaiting this country that I as a man of the left, an ordinary citizen, a father, a normal Hungarian male must reject. We don't want a world like that…. The struggle against these forces must be organized by us and for that we need collaboration, loyalty, discipline, support of the leadership. Support the party or be quiet."
And finally he praised Gordon Bajnai and his government and asked the party to wholeheartedly support him. "The stake is great! Everybody to the deck! There is a lot to do."
And as he always finished his speeches: "For a democratic Hungary, for the republic!"