Great discovery of the Hungarian left: Orbán is not a democratic politician

The Hungarian liberal media, the little there is left of it, has been buzzing ever since last night when an article appeared in Index, a popular online paper. It reported that a speech by Viktor Orbán was published in a relatively new weekly called Nagyítás (Enlargement). I must say that I had never heard of Nagyítás before, but it turned out to be a Fidesz publication. The editors advertise the connection: on the cover there is the famous orange circle that is Fidesz's symbol.Nagyitas The weekly's publisher is the Foundation for Central-European Culture that is governed by a board headed by Sándor Csoóri, an eighty-year-old poet who started off writing hymns to Stalin but who by now is the revered old man of the right. His name was specifically mentioned by Viktor Orbán at the beginning of his "assessment speech." In fact, Csoóri's name was uttered right after that of the former president, Ferenc Mádl. Who is funding it the paper? The Foundation for Civic Hungary, the István Barankovics Foundation, and The Foundation for Civic Culture. They are all foundations close to Fidesz or possibly even financed by it with the possible exception of the István Barankovics Foundation that is most likely a Christian Democratic organization. I tried to find out more about the Foundation for Civic Culture because I had never heard of it, but it has a most peculiar website: it looks like a functioning website except it is empty.

Let's get back to the speech. In the online version one couldn't read the whole speech, only a summary, but Index obviously got hold of the published paper and summarized the speech that was delivered on September 6, 2008. The outcry on the liberal side was incredible. Suddenly people discovered that Viktor Orbán is actually planning to put an end to the multi-party system and envisages basically a one-party system. Well, it wouldn't be a dictatorship, there would be other parties in existence except they wouldn't amount to anything. They would be made perfectly insignificant for a very long time to come. Orbán was talking about a twenty-year rule for himself and his party. Ildikó Lendvai, chairman of MSZP, this morning announced that until now she believed that Orbán was a democratic politician but after reading this speech, she is no longer convinced.

As soon as I read the summary I said to myself that if my memory doesn't fail me this is not really fresh news. I read about it in the Hungarian media and even wrote about it on this blog. Soon enough I found my post of September 8, 2008, entitled "Viktor Orbán's vision for Hungary." The last paragraph was devoted to this speech. Let me quote myself in connection with Orbán's speech at a "civic gathering" at their usual picnic at Kötcse.

"Kötcse is a picturesque village about nine kilometers from Lake Balaton. Only members of the 'friendly' media were invited, but even through the right-wing media the future outlined by Orbán sounded absolutely horrific. The conclusion was that 'in essence the chairman of Fidesz wants to have a one-party system.' At least this is how Népszava summarized his speech. I don't think that this is an exaggeration because Orbán was talking about the undesirability of a 'dual system' in which the opposition is doing nothing else but 'counter-governing.' He talked about 'governing in the interest of the nation' when Magyarország will be 'magyar ország.' A rather frightening prospect. He emphasized that 'political fights' are injurious to the country. The two sides argue about different 'values' and surely only one political force and only one value system can exist. He envisaged that his party will be in power for fifteen or twenty years. 'There will be only one big government party.' A phony kind of democracy à la István Bethlen's strategy when there were some small parties and one big Egységes Párt (Party of Unity) that governed almost all through the Horthy period."

How is it possible that Fidesz's political opponents didn't discover this article in Népszava? I looked up the September 7th issue in .pdf form; the article was front-page news with a font size that was almost blinding.

During the day all sorts of hypotheses were proposed about the reappearance of this speech. Some people put forth the idea that perhaps Fidesz is testing the waters. They want to know what the reaction is. Some other people thought that perhaps it was just a mistake. I suspected from the very beginning that a Fidesz paper wouldn't just publish a speech of Viktor Orbán that was not available on his own website without Orbán's consent. And indeed, later in the day I discovered that the text of the whole speech was made available on line on Viktor Orbán's own website.

Let me quote László Kéri's description of what this new Hungary will look like. Kéri, a political scientist, has been moving closer and closer to Viktor Orbán whom he knows from Orbán's university days. In fact, he is one of those commentators who thinks that a two-thirds victory for Fidesz would be beneficial to the country. So let's see what Kéri had to say about this happy new Hungary.

There was a conference yesterday organized by the Association of Employers and Manufacturers. There were two speakers, Kéri and István Stumpf. The text of Kéri's answer to a question was published by Zsófia Mihancsik on Galamus Csoport's website. The text is a transcription of a video on Ustream.

Let me quote Kéri's vision of the Hungarian future under Fidesz rule and please keep in mind that he is a friend of Orbán. Stumpf, Orbán's right hand man in his government, praised him for his common sense and was pleased to hear that Kéri wasn't trying to create hysteria unlike others such as Tamás Bauer or József Debreczeni. So here is the world without any hysteria whatsoever.

"There will be depolitization to a large extent. The whole process will be quite smooth. It will proceed by itself because Fidesz has already managed to occupy every corner of society that is capable of political action…. A lot of people switched sides already and those who made the mistake of not doing so will move later. There won't be any other possibility. I don't know what 'active resistance' means, but put it this way, to belong to the left or to the liberal camp will not be a pleasant situation after April 11. … I am not saying that it will be like in the Horthy regime. Perhaps these people will not be persecuted but they will not be favored for sure…. There won't be a dictatorship, but those political forces that don't belong to the mainstream will not get any help. … In any case, I believe in future serious depolitization of society after the elections. The situation will resemble the period of consolidation after 1963 until the middle of the 1970s: those who don't question the regime can live and work in peace. They can travel. There will be plenty of time to read fiction and listen to music. It will be a familiar kind of life for many."

I would like to remind everybody that it was in 1963 that János Kádár announced that "those who are not against us are with us" and the regime greatly encouraged turning away from politics. Just stay at home, build your weekend house, and trust us with governance.

I'm not sure whether the publication of this speech was such a good idea. Today even Nézőpont, a public opinion poll financed by Fidesz, announced that by the second week of February Fidesz had lost a lot of potential voters. A few more descriptions of the future like the one that Kéri gave and perhaps those who don't like Orbán will actually go out and vote.

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Vándorló
Guest

@Esbalogh: Would a better translation of ‘Nagyítás’ in this context not be ‘hyperbole’, ‘exaggeration’ or at least ‘magnification’ rather than ‘enlargement’?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Certainly not “exaggeration” or “hyperbole.” “Magnification” is perhaps better.

Vándorló
Guest

@ESbalogh: I wanted to point out that there is this other meaning to ‘nagyítás’ that may not be the intended meaning, but can certainly be taken as such given the contents of the articles it publishes. It can in literary texts be interpreted as a synonym of ‘exagerated, hyperbole, puffed-up, over-stated, fisherman’s tale…’ (nagyított, túlzott, kiszínezett, felfújt, szertelen, túlzás, felfúvás, füllentés, anzágolás…)
n.b. If I am not ranting, then I am generally being sarcastic in one way or another. It is in this context that anything I write need be read.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Vandorlo: “I am generally being sarcastic in one way or another.”
Sorry, I didn’t get it.

Öcsi
Guest

In a political sense, nagyítás means power.

Vándorló
Guest

@Öcsi: “In a political sense, nagyítás means power” without a doubt, which comes back to Éva’s ‘enlargement’ with it’s implicit reference to the Hungarians beyond the (current) historical borders (“határon túli magyarok”). This is a classic Orbánism, an indirect reference in pallid prose to his ambitions and intentions. Unfortunately for him and his camp, this indirect use of language just opened the trap door for others who spoke their minds in a fashion the disenfranchised electorate could better understand.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Vandorlo: “Öcsi: “In a political sense, nagyítás means power” without a doubt, which comes back to Éva’s ‘enlargement’ with it’s implicit reference to the Hungarians beyond the (current) historical borders (“határon túli magyarok”). This is a classic Orbánism, an indirect reference in pallid prose to his ambitions and intentions.”
Well, I think that your imagination has carried you away. I really do think that Nagyítás simply means “magnification” and nothing more.
By the way, I just learned that only nine issues appeared to date. The editor-in-chief blandly told to János Betlen on MTV that the weekly has nothing to do with politics. Only culture. And the Fidesz symbol on the cover? It means nothing, said the editor-in-chief.

Gabor
Guest

Eva, two of the foundations are official party foundation, the Barankovics and the Foundation for Civic Hungary. They receive founding from the state every year.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Gábor: “two of the foundations are official party foundation, the Barankovics and the Foundation for Civic Hungary. They receive founding from the state every year.”
It would be high time to stop financing all these party foundations. Don’t you think?

Vándorló
Guest

ESBalogh: “By the way, I just learned that only nine issues appeared to date.” Print isn’t really a good as both Nagyítás and the work of Fidesz backed organisations such as the Perspective-Institute work as a network. Both have a presence in other media formats that further amplifies their output and impact. For example their membership numbers on Facebook are small, but overlap enormously with other parts of the reticulating network of front organisations/media outlets.

Gábor
Guest

Eva: “It would be high time to stop financing all these party foundations. Don’t you think?”
I think the system is based on a good principle but the realization is seriously flawed. When these foundations were established the often invoked model was the German system. And if you consider the activity of the FES or the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung you could not have too many onbjactions and doubts regarding their usefulness. And even these Hungarian foundations had produced something not-so-worthless.
The problem is not the sytsem, but the quality of intellectual life and as a consequence the quality of the public debate. With Stumpfs and Kéris (and you can add to list at least 50% of the intellectuals and at least 75% percent of political “scientists”) hyped as great political scientists – and with the younger generation of the Giró-Szász-type, completely immoral guys – you will necessarily have this kind of quality. I don’t really know whether it is good reason to abolish them, but I’m biased, I recieved twice a research grant from them and wrote two acceptable pieces in exchange, although they never used them in a meaningful way.

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