Ferenc Gyurcsány’s long-awaited speech (III)

Although the opposition and commentators close to Fidesz predicted that Ferenc Gyurcsány's speech would be mostly about Viktor Orbán the villain, actually only a small portion of it concentrated on Fidesz and the Hungarian right. Mind you, it might have been short but it was hard hitting. There are some statements that people find exaggerated, even untrue. However, on the whole it was a valid description of the Hungarian political scene.

It is undoubtedly true that for the current not too rosy political situation the government is not the only one responsible. As Gyurcsány put it: "the government is not a lonely warrior." The government has allies and it has rivals. The various parties have different ideas and therefore there are political debates. That is natural, but "it is not natural what Fidesz, unable to accept defeat in 2002, is doing to the country…. This is not natural rivalry. The Fidesz politicians have been instigating a civil war. One wouldn't waste much time on this question if MSZP were the only victim of this warfare. But the trouble is that it isn't only the Hungarian left that suffers as a result but Hungary as whole." Gyurcsány claims that the current confusion, people's losing their sense of direction, is due mostly to Fidesz's anti-government propaganda that went so far as to compare the current situation to 1945 when half the country was in ruins.

Gyurcsány doubts "the patriotism of an opposition that is beating into citizens' heads that this country is not worth anything, that the country has been left behind, that the country is shrinking, that the country trails after everybody, and that this country is not a good place to live." Finally, Gyurcsány comes to the meat of it. "I want to be clear. My government gave enough reason for criticism … but the country didn't do anything that would deserve its faith and its bearing being broken." And now he comes, in my opinion, to the most important message:  "I want to confront the chairman of the opposition party that while he wants to hurt us, wants to hurt me personally, in the end … he managed to undermine, crush the self-respect and optimism of the nation and instead of providing a rational alternative he created irrational hatred in Hungary."

After this indictment Gyurcsány turned to the Fidesz voters and asked them whether they really think that it behooves a democrat to use words against his opponents like "filthy," "miserable wretch," "bastard," or "trash." Actually, one could find even worse epithets, especially those directed against Gyurcsány himself: "blabbering idiot," "half-wit," "pathological liar," and "psychopath." József Debreczeni collected most of them and perhaps one day I will take the trouble to translate them for my readers. That is if I find enough good English equivalents. In addition to this verbal abuse Gyurcsány also complained about Viktor Orbán's silence when physical force was being used to frighten socialist members of parliament.

Gyurcsány then turned to Fidesz's election campaign and their total silence on what they are planning to do once in power. The former prime minister said that while Fidesz politicians at least fifteen times a day call the socialists liars, he thinks that "in comparison to nothing–and they haven't told us anything yet–everything is a lie." Gyurcsány thinks that this strategy is "a betrayal of the voters…. Yes, I think that this is cowardice and betrayal…. It is not a betrayal of the Fidesz voters but it is their deception."

Ever since 2002 warlike events have been taking place, starting with the occupation of the Elizabeth Bridge in the summer of 2002 and continuing with setting fire to the Hungarian Television building. These people managed to ruin every national holiday since 2006. Gyurcsány then went into the question of the storming of the television building. He understands that people were indignant, but no criticism can go so far as to end in violence. In his mind there is no question that the police were there to defend "our national institutions … the third republic. This police force was defending us and we owe them as much as to defend them. There were the police on the one side and the disorderly mob on the other side. Everybody must decide which side he is on in this struggle. False myths are being created. I must say that one must stand on the side of the police against the mob. Fidesz stood on the side of the rabble."

It is an easy step to move from the storming of the televison building to Jobbik. As it turned out lately, one of the Jobbik candidates in the upcoming elections was an important player in the mayhem. He was the guy who set one of the police cars on fire. He received a suspended sentence, but apparently that blemish on his record doesn't stand in his way. Moreover, he has a fairly good chance of winning his district.

Gyurcsány again expressed his understanding at people's disappointment and their dissatisfaction with their lot as well as with the government. However, he doesn't understand how it is possible that people who are so proud of being Hungarians can turn against their compatriots who don't share their ideals. Neither does he understand that these proud Hungarians ruin every national holiday and frighten their fellow citizens. Gyurcsány here is sending a direct message to the Jobbik electorate. He has never seen any debate that could be solved by hatred, aggression, and intimidation. "I must warn you that there is no such thing as radical democracy and I don't know one country that has been successful by using antidemocratic and radical methods. Extremism and radicalism are not lifting the country into a political-historical heaven but sending it to hell. Even if you think that you are serving your country. You're mistaken… you are hurting Hungary."

The part that will undoubtedly receive the most scrutiny, especially from the right, are Gyurcsány's words on the relationship between Fidesz and Jobbik.This part of the speech begins with a rather confrontational sentence. Let me quote the appropriate passage verbatim. "We could say that it is really meaningless to talk separately about Fidesz and Jobbik because they are in essence not two separate parties. I think that Fidesz and Jobbik are two parties but one party system (pártrendszer) and principally one idea." Well, this is muddled at best. Not two parties but after all two parties but one party system. It doesn't make much sense. This is a good example of the pitfalls of extemporaneous speech. When he realized that this was anything but clear and could be misunderstood, he elaborated. "My dear friends, here we are confronted with the sameness of an idea. The problem is that Fidesz, and even Jobbik, considers undemocratic law and order more important than democratic freedom. Fidesz and Jobbik find the state more important than the individual. Fidesz and Jobbik consider antidemocratic force more important than democratic dialogue. They see eye to eye on these matters…. It is true that in comparison to the extremism of Jobbik Fidesz may even seem democratic, but looking at Fidesz from the community of democrats Fidesz represents only a milder form of extremism. Instead of using openly aggressive and filthy discourse they use only a language of abuse. (A difficult translation problem. In the original: "a nyíltan erőszakos és mocskos beszéd helyett a mocskolódó beszéd.")

Further: "The democratic center is not a geometrical concept. Orbán doesn't become a democrat because there is a political force that is more extreme than Fidesz. To avoid misunderstanding, I don't think that the voters of Fidesz are extremists. I think that Fidesz's politics are extremist. Perhaps the marching guards by now are an inconvenience to Fidesz. But, to tell the truth, there is no doubt that the Guard expresses everything Viktor Orbán thinks of the world. The Hungarian Guard is the improper [actually: szalonképtelen, unfit for good society] Viktor Orbán."

Needless to say I saw an article about this speech in which a subtitle read:  Guard = Orbán. Of course, what Gyurcsány wanted to say here is not that crude. What he claims is that the two parties are cut from the same cloth. Indeed, there are telling signs that the flirtation with Jobbik ideology in the hope of electoral gain is continuing. István Tarlós, on paper not a party member but the head of the Fidesz delegation in the Budapest City Council who with Jobbik support ran at the last municipal election, pretty openly said that Fidesz shares Jobbik's goals. They differ only on the road leading to these goals.

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You wrote:
“Gyurcsány again expressed his understanding at people’s disappointment and their dissatisfaction with their lot as well as with the government. However, he doesn’t understand how it is possible that people who are so proud of being Hungarians can turn against their compatriots who don’t share their ideals.”
In November, 2007, you wrote:
“It is noteworthy that Hungarian émigré organizations invite people like Morvai to deliver lectures. This is what happened in Toronto, New York, and several other places. According to people I know in Toronto, the leadership of the Hungarian House (Magyar Ház) comes exclusively from the right. Therefore, they don’t really serve the whole Hungarian community of Toronto but only the politically like-minded crowd.”
I find this interesting because here we have different countries, different leadership and the same divisions! But I understand, sort of. I know where our local Magyar Ház is but I have no interest in their activities or their attitudes. None.
I agree with Gyurcsány’s comments on the relationship between Fidesz and Jobbik. To a large extent, they’re different sides of the same coin.


All three major parties have used the “the other two are the same as each other argument”:
-Fidesz claims that both mszp and jobbik are “extremists”.
-mszp claims that both fidesz and jobbik are “undemocratic”.
-jobbik claims that both mszp and fidesz are “liberals” or “internationalists”.
i guess the hungarian people will decide which of these three claims they believe is closest to the truth when they vote in april.