LMP or can politics can be something else?

I mentioned that one of my problems with LMP (Lehet Más a Politika/Politics Can Be Something Else)  is that it is an offshoot of a environmental organization that suggested László Sólyom to be president of the republic. It seems that I'm not the only one who finds this an "original sin." I recommend an article by Ferenc Lendvai, a philosopher, about the "center" in Hungarian politics. I laughed heartily this morning when I read this piece in which, among other things, Lendvai complains that this party's "predecessor is the organization that let loose on us our current president, that odd creature who successfully combines the characteristics of Don Quijote and Tartuffe."

Lendvai doesn't even like the name because in his opinion the very name means turning away from the last twenty years. Although one could conduct politics in a more civilized manner in Hungary, rivalry among parties is part and parcel of democracy. Lendvai adds that Jobbik does the same thing from the right, admittedly in a less moderate form. This party, says Lendvai, is not left of center despite its greenness. Hungarian environmentalists, unlike their western colleagues, never really supported any reform movements. They simply opposed a limine every piece of investment even if the locals had no objections. Therefore, with their opposition to all foreign investment they actually strengthened the far right.

I even have problems with the predecessor's name: Védegylet/Defense League. It is linguistically quaint because it harks back to 1844 when Lajos Kossuth established an organization called Védegylet that was supposed to urge people not to buy foreign goods and to rely only on Hungarian products. Given the absolutely backward state of the Hungarian economy in the first half of the nineteenth century, one can imagine what happened to Védegylet. A huge flop. Yes, the city folks could buy Hungarian food at the local markets, but when it came to buying cloth to have a suit made that was a different matter. This economic nationalism spread to other spheres as well. Sándor Petőfi, a contemporary, refused to wear western style cloths and wore an outfit he thought was purely Hungarian. Apparently when he first appeared in this outfit on the streets of Pest people made fun of him.

Perhaps the founders of our modern Védegylet didn't think in terms of what I just outlined when deciding on the name, but the thinking of the nationalistic Hungarian politicians in the 1840s is not too far from the thinking of the modern Védegylet. András Schiffer, the number one man on the LMP list, made an appearance last night on MTV where it became obvious that this party is anti-capitalist and especially antagonistic toward foreign investors. Their ideas about taxes on polluting agents, for example, trucks, could have very serious negative consequences. Their whole economic program simply doesn't add up. There is not enough savings from a green economy to balance the expenses they consider essential at the other end. For example, they want more money for healthcare without any change in the present structure which is extraordinarily wasteful. But the source of the money is vague.

András Schiffer further undermined his and his party's credibility by appearing on György Bolgár's call-in show today. For those of you who don't know Bolgár, he is an extraordinarily polite man with a very mild manner. However, at the same time, he in his quiet way can be very hard hitting mostly because he knows his stuff. He was trained as an economist although after graduating he became a journalist and a writer. However, he seems to remember his economics pretty well. Mr. Schiffer crumbled during this interview. The transcript of this conversation will be available either tomorrow or on Sunday on galamus.hu and then I will be able to quote from it more precisely. But put it this way, voting for LMP is a real waste in my opinion.

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Paul
Guest

WARNING: THE ABOVE LINKS ARE TO A JAPANESE PORN SITE. DO NOT OPEN!

Erik the Reader
Guest

Eva S. Balogh is just afraid that LMP will take the voters of MSZP. With great probibility LMP will be part of parlament.

Mark
Guest
“Their whole economic program simply doesn’t add up. There is not enough savings from a green economy to balance the expenses they consider essential at the other end.” Undoubtedly reading LMP’s programme it suffers from the problem of a document that has been written by committee, where the editors of the document have had to resolve some opposed positions. Actually, I would have said reading it, that the party cannot really decide whether it is a left-wing anti-capitalist party, a greenish liberal party, or a party of economic nationalists. And although I don’t think the ambiguities are going to harm them they will have to resolve these over time. I do want to comment on Éva’s critique of the notion of a “green economy” because I think she assumes too readily that this “greening” is a kind of luxury the Hungarian economy cannot afford. I take an opposite position – Hungary is way too dependent on fossil fuels and faces an energy crunch that will choke growth very soon if it does not address its current energy consumption model. Looking at the global situation, when growth resumes throughout the world economy there will be an imbalance between demand for carbon-based… Read more »
Mark
Guest

The LMP’s programme is actually worth looking at. I think that in terms of an economic programme it is confused on some of the crucial issues, but it is considerably better than anything else on offer (though that is not saying very much):
http://lehetmas.hu/upload/9/9/201003/LMP_Program_2010_1.pdf

Paul
Guest

mark,
reread those 4 points you made. all four of them will reduce the quality of life in hungary. who would vote for that? people are struggling as it is. the last thing they need are more taxes to pay for “green” policies that don’t benefit them in any way. problems:
1. more taxes
2. telling people to use less energy will reduce quality of life.
3 people like highways. public transport and rail can’t cover everything.
4. “public subsidies” = higher taxes, to pay for “renewable energy” which just is not economical. western europe is learning this the hard way.
green issues are simply not relevant in a country where most people are struggling to make a living. only the budapest elite would find these issues interesting.

Mark
Guest
Well I think Paul has either not read, or not understood (not sure which) what I wrote. Firstly, I’m not a politician, nor a representative of any party. I’m an expert. My responsibility is to tell the truth as I see it about the situation of the country. Getting people to vote for things is not my problem – but I would have hoped that if voters had learned anything from the last twenty years, ignoring problems doesn’t mean that someone won’t force them to pay to clear them up. Secondly, all of the trends (and most independent experts)suggest that everyone within the EU will have to pay much more for energy than they do now. That’s not a choice – it is simply the workings of supply and demand. If energy conservation is not carried out, then energy bills will either (a) swallow up far more of peoples’ incomes than they do today, or (b) energy prices will have to be subsidized heavily increasing the tax burden. If heating bills doubled – think through the social (and if you consider that businesses must also pay these bills – the economic) consequences. People may like highways – though it is… Read more »
whoever
Guest

LMP are certainly cannibalising what remains of the younger MSZP support – it will be interesting to see how they do in Budapest itself.
There are criticisms that could be made of the LMP, but, as with Mark, I feel the positive outweighs the negative.
Paul, the high levels of air pollution in Hungary are responsible for many deaths, many illnesses, and usually affect the poorest worst. Social justice always needs an environmental focus – especially in relation to planning.
Éva, what you have written perhaps reveals more about your own perspectives. The LMP is “not really left-wing,” and then you accuse it of being “anti-capitalist.” Your version of “left-wing” is therefore, obviously very pro-capitalist.
Eva, would you not agree that your conception of “left-wing” is NOT related to that which is considered “left-wing” in almost every other country in the world, apart from perhaps Hungary? Because on this blog, such labels lose all meaning, and black becomes white. Whereas – I know – it ain’t.

Mark
Guest

whoever: “There are criticisms that could be made of the LMP, but, as with Mark, I feel the positive outweighs the negative.”
I don’t blame them too much for having a confused programme – that I think is the price of a new party, that has grown massively in recent years. I do have all the main party programmes’ from 1990 and 1994, and the more established parties’ programmes were equally (if not more) confused then.
My question about the LMP relates to how much they really do offer something different. I’m reminded of the Humanist Party’s Tibor Várady explaining why they withdrew from the electoral pact with the LMP after the European elections: “the LMP more than ever came to take a mainstream line, which criticism of the system came back to spice up. From time-to-time they said favourable things, but that wasn’t their basic line”.
This comment (and this is a quick and dirty translation which is not perfect)leads me to wonder how far they represent a real change – after all a democratic, ecologically minded, left-wing party is sorely needed – and how far they represent an attempt to reincarnate the SZDSZ, with a kind of green shading.

whoever
Guest

Mark,
Have you thought of putting these old programmes online? It might be interesting…
The LMP offer something different by simply being a set of new, relatively young faces, which on the surface sounds superficial, but actually means a lot, given the stagnant basis of most of the party lists. If you actually pierce the rhetoric about renewal and anti-corruption, the LMP’s main message is that “we are not them.”
No doubt the corruption charges which have entered the public domain are simply the tip of a massive iceberg. So in Hungary, in 2010, the argument for “new faces” is not so trivial as we might consider.
What isn’t clear, is whether the LMP can learn from mistakes, maintain a certain discipline, whilst developing a genuinely radical edge. Our friend Mr Várady, who is himself one of the best and brightest prospects for the Hungarian left, correctly identifies a drift within the party that could be a result of a certain degree of political illiteracy. The ability to learn will be crucial, if the LMP is to avoid being a one-hit wonder.

Mark
Guest
“Have you thought of putting these old programmes online? It might be interesting…” I might at some point. I have a private archive – collected by myself and friends – of the programmes and election publicity going back as far as 1990. Incidentally the programmes up to 1990 have all been published, so: http://www.eotvoskiado.hu/tankonyvek-szakkonyvek/5693-magyarorszagi-partprogramok-1988-1990.-4.-kotet.html ” If you actually pierce the rhetoric about renewal and anti-corruption, the LMP’s main message is that “we are not them.” Absolutely. This is the point that Ferenc Lendvai doesn’t really get. The last twenty years are widely seen as at the very least a huge disappointment, and for all but the 1989 generation, who are now in the middle age, there are very few votes in defending what has happened since (I do think that while the economic record since 1989 has been poor, and the social record utterly dreadful, this feeling does not take into account the real achievement of ending dictatorship and overcoming the division of Europe). Therefore, and certainly among the younger generation, there is an overwhelming need to move beyond this period. I have worried that the only people seeking to fill this political vacumm were on the far right, and… Read more »
John T
Guest

Mark – “I have worried that the only people seeking to fill this political vacumm were on the far right, and I think it is important they have a competitor on their left.”
I agree with you that there needs to be a decent, untainted democratic left alternative further down the line. But more important in the near term is to have a decent centre party, that can actually bring some healing and common sense to the current political turmoil, The existing political climate is vicious and Hungary needs to go beyond this. What they need is someone who can bring some consensus and common sense to proceedings, coming up with a programme to take the country forward in a more united way. They also need to properly assess Hungary’s position in the world and set decent, achievable goals. A rational view is missing at the moment. I don’t know who’s capable of achieving this though!

Paul
Guest

john, i agree with you on the “decent centre party” point. according to recent opinion polls, most voters seem to think fidesz match this description fairly well. particularly in regards to achievable goals, consensus and taking the country forward in a (somewhat) united way. the majority opinion seems to be that (for whatever reason) jobbik and mszp don’t seem to match these criteria quite as well as fidesz – hence fidesz’s overwhelming popularity.
as for an untainted left party further down the line – i suspect this is exactly where lmp intend to position themselves. i personally don’t see mszp or mdf/szdsz recovering enough credibility to fill this position in the foreseeable future.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Anyone who thinks that LMP is a left-of-center party is entirely wrong. It is closer to Fidesz as I tried to explain but obviously I didn’t convince anyone.
The last straw for me is that among the luminaries in the party there is Gábor Ivády, mayor of Ivád. Anyone who would like to learn more about Mr. Ivády should read what I had to say about him here:
http://esbalogh.typepad.com/hungarianspectrum/2010/02/promises-up-to-now-whats-waiting-for-hungary.html
He started off as a member of Fidesz, four years later he was in MDF and now he is in LMP. This tells it all.

John T
Guest

Paul – not sure I see Fidesz in the same way, but to be fair, I’m viewing it from afar – I only spend 4-5 weeks in Hungary each year, which doesn’t give me the detailed perspective.
I don’t see Orban as a “healing” influence or someone with the commonsense approach – two examples of his foolishness from the top of my head are the cancellation of the contract to run Ferihegy and his recent comments on the state of Hungarian finances, where he basically implied that IMF and EU finance officials were idiots.
He is a survivor, I’ll grant you that, but I think he is a “legend in his own lunchtime” character with a Napoleon complex. What I’d like to see is someone fresh and new.

Mark
Guest
John T: “I agree with you that there needs to be a decent, untainted democratic left alternative further down the line. But more important in the near term is to have a decent centre party, that can actually bring some healing and common sense to the current political turmoil, The existing political climate is vicious and Hungary needs to go beyond this.” Alot of the viciousness though is not the function of what I would understand as left-right division. In fact, as many MSZP supporters have found – there is nothing very left-wing about their party, at least on the sort of core social and economic issues that define the left. And as FIDESZ voters are about to discover over the next few months there is no practical difference between them and the MSZP when it comes to issues of taxation, unemployment, wages, welfare, and spending. There wasn’t in 1998-2002, and wasn’t after, and won’t be now. Instead there is a kind of “culture war” difference – nation, religion, family, versus Europe, personal liberty, and the individual. It isn’t to say that these differences aren’t real ones, but the choice in Hungary is not between right and left, but between… Read more »
Mark
Guest
Éva: “Anyone who thinks that LMP is a left-of-center party is entirely wrong. It is closer to Fidesz as I tried to explain but obviously I didn’t convince anyone.” Perhaps the reason people are not too convinced is that they don’t sound like right-wingers. I’m just going to provide some quotes from an interview András Schiffer gave to the English-language Budapest Times: http://www.budapesttimes.hu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14056&Itemid=219 On the responsibility for the rise of Jobbik: “It started with Fidesz beginning to rattle the constitutional limits and undermine democratic institutions, long before the “lies speech”. Even before the rise of Jobbik, resentment towards Roma and homosexuals was being fuelled by pro-Fidesz publications. That seed is now bearing fruit. Even today many Fidesz supporters could not clearly define the line between their party and Jobbik.” On the question of left and right: “Since 1990 criticism of the system has essentially been left to the right wing. As soon as anyone on the left addressed such topics they risked being vilified as fascistic, or at least populist. By contrast the question of the privatisation of utility companies in Western Europe, for example, is dealt with by green and left-wing parties” On tension surrounding Magyar-Roma relations: “We always… Read more »
prof. Béla Lipták
Guest

I am the editor of the Environmental Engineer’s Handbook in the USA and was the Zöld Párt candidate 1n 1990 against Gyula Horn in Somogy and also lead the failed effort against Bős-Nagymaros and prepared the Compromisre Plan for the second Duna ruling in Hága. I would like to ger in touch with András Schiffer. Can anybody send he his E-mail? Thanks, BL

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