We have finally arrived at the most controversial part of Viktor Orbán's speech. He describes the Hungarian political situation at least until very recently as a "dual field of force." In Hungarian it is "duális erőtér." That is not a term used in any kind of political discourse. People are not even sure what it means. But it looks that this dual field consists of the government on the one hand and its opposition on the other. The existence of these two poles is not a good thing according to Orbán because "there are no common values, no common goal in this dual field … but a constant battle about the most fundamental questions." And he gives an example. If Fidesz wants to introduce family support through tax cuts, MSZP-SZDSZ puts an end to it. If Fidesz says that it wants to give dual citizenship to Hungarians living in the neighboring countries, MSZP-SZDSZ opposes it. These disagreements are not only about politics but also about values. And according to Orbán that is a dreadful situation.
But there is hope. It looks as if Fidesz is gaining such overwhelming strength that soon enough "a central political field of force" will become reality. Thus there is the possibility that "the next fifteen-twenty years will not be characterized by a dual field of force" and thus one will be able to avoid all those useless arguments between the government and the opposition. Instead, "for a long time a big government party will be in charge that will be able to formulate national goals and be able to do it without constant bickering." In fact, according to Orbán, they "should build such a governing system that would reduce to a minimum the possibility of the dual field of force's return. Instead, a central field of force would handle political questions. Otherwise counter-government and the dual field of force will return." Orbán is convinced that one mustn't continue this "counter-governing." Instead, "one must realize a government of national affairs." In place of "constant battles we must choose constant governing." So, instead of "a two-party system" a big government party without much discussion will govern as they see fit.
Well, that sparked a huge outcry in the ever shrinking liberal camp. In spite of the strange talk about central and dual fields, the message seems to be clear. Orbán would like to see an opposition so weak that it wouldn't be able to create a counterweight to a very strong government party. Once a party, in this case Fidesz, gains overwhelming power it could institute a system that would prevent the opposition from ever effectively opposing its will or unseating it.
Such a scenario reminded everybody who knows anything about twentieth-century Hungarian history of the political monopoly that István Bethlen created in 1922. Through a system of ballot manipulation, handing out government jobs, and changing the electoral law to enfranchise supporters, he was able to form a political machine that was unstoppable in Hungarian politics. It was a multi-party system, but the opposition to the Party of Unity was powerless.
Yesterday I briefly mentioned József Orosz's radio program Kontra. On Friday two people were invited to comment on the events of the week: András Gerő, whom I mentioned yesterday, and Gábor Bruck. Bruck very rightly pointed out that politicians don't have to be intellectual powerhouses. There must, however, be an intellectual elite who can supply them with ideas. He finds the Fidesz brain trust wanting.
Surely all this talk about dual this and that wasn't born in Orbán's head. Someone had to supply him with these ideas. Whom were they reading? What was their source of inspiration? Tamás Ungvári dropped a line about Carl Schmitt, a political philosopher with whom I was not familiar but whose views have seen a resurgence of interest in Hungary. So I did a little research and here's what I found.
Schmitt was an academic who got mixed up with Hitler's Germany. For a whole year he was in an American internment camp. After his release he never again taught in a German university because he refused to adhere to the de-Nazification required for such a post. I might add that he was an anti-Semite. His complicity with Nazi Germany left him discredited. But he is recognized as an insightful, if flawed critic of the modern democratic order. Jürgen Habermas noted that Schmitt's arguments have a potentially fatal appeal in the contemporary world. It seems that Hungary is no exception.
Schmitt was a sworn enemy of pluralism and liberalism. He described politics as a serious game of war and peace. He preferred unity to duality and talked about a strong government. For Schmitt every government capable of decisive action must include a dictatorial element within its constitution. In one of his works on dictatorship he says that dictatorships can be more meaningfully democratic than democracies. No wonder that I found his name crop up in books such as Anti-democratic Thought, or Law as Politics: Carl Schmitt's Critique of Liberalism. The title of a book about him is telling: The Dangerous Mind: Carl Schmitt in Post-War European Thought. His books are available in English, some of them in paperback.
In Hungary there is a definite Carl Schmitt revival. Between 2000 and 2008 four of his works were translated into Hungarian. His theories are included in the university curriculum at the University of Pécs. And recall that it was in 2006 that Orbán began talking about the distinction between legal and legitimate. He kept saying over and over that Gyurcsány's government wasn't legitimate. That adjective, in ordinary parlance, meant much more than not being popular. Interestingly I found that Schmitt's book of the same title came out in Hungarian the very same year, Legalitás és legitimitás (2006).
All in all, I have the feeling that the philosophical foundation of Orbán's speeches is the tainted Carl Schmitt. I for one am mighty uncomfortable with a politician who instinctively finds the give and take of democracy nettlesome being influenced by a political philosopher who thinks that dictatorships trump democracies. And this, for any readers who have kneejerk reactions, has nothing to do with liberalism or conservatism. I happen to believe that democracies trump dictatorships, pure and simple.