Fidesz, Viktor Orbán and Gyula Gömbös

Another topic I have been thinking about for some time is whether Gyula Gömbös, prime minister of Hungary between 1932 and 1936, was a model for Viktor Orbán. For years I was struck by the similarity of their visions and their methods. Actually I wrote about the topic more than two years ago (June 21, 2008) under the title "Gömbös and Orbán?" I recommend reading or rereading this post because there are many predictions about a future Orbán government that have since become reality. Moreover, I gave a fairly good description of how Gömbös built a mass party in a country where there was no such thing before. Why do I bring up Gömbös again? Because the Fidesz-led local government in the town of Orosháza restored the title of honorary citizen to the former Hungarian prime minister, a title that had been withdrawn in 2002.

Péter Boross, the subject of yesterday's blog, was asked in one of the many interviews he gave between 2006 and 2008 about the political orientation of his family. The answer was that they always voted for the "government party"; he mentioned the three parties that were considered to be "the government party" during that period. The assumption was that they were pretty much the same. Indeed, even historians have a tendency not to distinguish between István Bethlen's Unified Party (Egységes Párt) and Gyula Gömbös's Party of National Unity (Nemzeti Egység Pártja). However, the distinction is clear even in the party names. Bethlen's Unified Party was the result of a conglomeration of several smaller parties, while Gömbös strove for a unified nation without an opposition. Orbán, consciously or unconsciously, follows the lead of Gömbös; he calls his new order "the regime of national cooperation/collaboration/cooperation/consensus" (take your pick), which pretty well represents the idea that Gömbös had in mind. One country, one party.

Gömbös is a controversial figure today as he was in his lifetime. Boross's family "disliked him" but, as Boross said in one of his interviews, not because he was a fascist "because that is rubbish." However, others thought that if he had had time he would have introduced a fascist-type regime in Hungary. By now the majority view is that Gömbös was working on a unique Hungarian road to dictatorship, borrowing ideas from Italian fascism and German national socialism but adding his own ideas as well.

The historian who is currently the expert on Gömbös is József Vonyó (University of Pécs), who happened upon a priceless find in the Baranya County archives: an almost complete set of documents dealing with the way that Gömbös's party (NEP) was organized on the local level.

Gömbös was a professional army officer who became known in 1919-1920 in the National Army of Miklós Horthy, a gathering place for radical right-wing officers. First he joined Bethlen's government party but left it in 1923. A year later he established a party that was commonly known as the Party of Race Defense (Fajvédő Párt). The party first and foremost wanted to reclaim the leading role of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin, which would have required an economic leading role as well. In his eyes the Jews of Hungary were an obstacle to achieving this economic supremacy. Hence his anti-semitism.

It seems that his first attempt at establishing a party of his own was not a success. The Party of Race Defense closed its doors in 1929 and Gömbös was taken back into the fold of the "government party," but only after he promised to stop his anti-semitic agitation. At this point and later during his tenure as prime minister he didn't have much choice because he didn't have the majority of parliament behind him.

He must have been painfully aware of the limits of his political strength. Soon after he became prime minister he began working on building a party of his own. He launched a grassroots program. First Gömbös convinced a few illustrious citizens who, tapping into their social network, invited others to join the party. To my greatest surprise in Vonyó's book I found the name of my mother's lawyer, who happened to live and practice into his later eighties, as one of the leading lights of Gömbös's party. Each new member had to sign a declaration that included the phrase: "the idea of national cooperation that is the prerequisite of the renewal of the nation." Doesn't this seem to find an echo in Orbán's "declaration of national cooperation"?

In each hamlet NEP established a local chapter; their charge was to sign up all those eligible to vote. The ultimate goal was to have only one party in the country.  Every new recruit had to promise "to follow the leader (vezér/Führer)."

Each position was personally filled by Gömbös. (That also sounds rather familiar, doesn't it?) By the end of 1934 he managed to establish a totally centralized party in which the "leader" handled every detail. By early 1935 out of the 2.9 million voters 2 million were members of NEP. Thus it was not at all surprising that at the 1935 elections NEP won hands down. Of the 170 members of parliament 98 were followers of Gömbös, representing 57% of all seats. That also sounds rather familiar.

Gömbös didn't succeed in introducing his vision of a totalitarian state, not because of the weakness of his party but because of his death in 1936. Actually, Miklós Horthy wanted to dismiss him earlier, but he postponed his decision because of Gömbös's serious illness. Back then Hungary had a governor who could dismiss the prime minister if he considered his activities to be injurious to the country's interest. Today there is no strong president who could do the same.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

The same, incredibly boring and ridiculous topic again. To make a modern conservative leader look like a fascist.
Don’t you get bored of this?

Sandor
Guest

My dear Szilard, you are right.
This topic and the endless carping about Orban is dreadfully boring and lacking in imagination.
However, it is not the writer’s fault.
She is completely innocent in the utter lack of imagination and colour in the Hungarian right-wing. They are the ones repeating for ever the tired cliches of the 1930s and following to a T the recipe of Gombos and Mussolini.
“Let us therefore, brace ourselves to our task,” and prepare to endure Orban and his dull coterie, so, “if the Hungarian ’empire’ stands for a thousand years, men still will say: this was their dullest hour.”

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest
Sandor: complete lack of imagination in the Hungarian right-wing? Is helping and embracing the middle-class, the families and national pride a lakc of imagination and colour? Whereas the opposition, the “left-liberals”‘ only topic is “more money for the people”? (While they are stealing from all public money sources.) And please tell me, what “recipes” of Gömbös or Mussolini is the right-wing following? Are they building work camps? Are they deporting people? Are they restricting any of your personal freedom rights? Of course no is the answer for all of the above, and you know it. In Hungary it was only the “left” wing that took such anti-democratic actions, but that simply doesn’t disturb you. You all know you are accusing the right wing of what the left has always been doing but it’s your “tactic” – since you can’t raise one single argument to support yourself as to why and in what manner your “left-liberal” companion is or has been useful to the country, the only possibility that remains for you to justify the necessity of your own existence is to constantly battle against a virtual “fascist” right-wing from whom you set out to save the world. You play a… Read more »
GW
Guest

Pásztor Szilárd,
How does a loss in value of the Forint help the middle class who have purchased their homes in Swiss Francs?
How are making across-the-board cuts in the wages of civil servants a way of helping and embracing the middle class?
And of “more money for the people” taken from “public money sources” which parties went to a popular referendum to halt a small degree of privatization of the public health system?
FIDESZ has long abandoned any conservative policies in favor of populism and nationalism, and a not-too-heavily hidden return to a de facto socialism. Making a comparison to hisotorical populist/nationalist/socialist regimes in either Hungary or other countries is completely legitmate.
As for “anti-democratic actions”, I ask you simply to consider the question of which of the Hungarian parties show any possibility of decision-making from the base upwards rather than from the leadership downward. One of FIDESZ’s strengths is its strong top-down leadership structure; regrettably, that is not a democratic strength. It is scarcely imaginable that the base of FIDESZ could successfully initiate either a policy or a personnel change.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

GW: nice try to hold the new right-wing government responsible for the financial hardships of today’s Hungary, caused by the government of the last 8 years.
A nice but completely ridiculous try.
You mindfully forget to mention all actions taken since the government change that all go towards making Hungary independent of the external setback factors like the IMF-loan.
And you obviously purposely fail to mention that the “across-the-board cuts in the wages of civil servants” apply to monthly wages above 2 million HUFs, which are actually very far from middle class. And all in order to meet IMF’s demands while avoiding further economic austerities that would mean making more people jobs and raising taxes, which would hit the middle class the hardest.
Your comments are clear falsifications of the basic facts and twist reality to seem coherent.
Just the same with what you write about democratic behavior. You fail to answer any of the questions in my previous comments, instead you mix up a party’s internal structure with the behavior of a government towards the society. A party, as an instrument of exercising power, is a hierarchical organization in every country. This has nothing to do with what democracy means in a country.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

“making more people jobs” = “making more people lose their jobs”

John T
Guest
Szilárd – How on earth do you reach the conclusion that GW is an apologist for the previous government. Nobody can deny that Fidesz has inherited a terrible mess. But all GW has pointed out is what has happened since Fidesz took office – namely that the lack of a coherent economic message has spooked the forex / stock markets and made investors jittery. That is a fact and shows a lack of understanding in the highest levels of government about how to communicate. And as for the economic policy – what exactly is it? Nobody in Government has spelt it out and won’t until after the local elections. All we know is that the Government no longer wants to rely on the IMF. Thats a perfectly legitimate and desirable goal. But where is the detail in how they’ll achieve this? Also, the language used against the IMF is irresponsible – if the global economic crisis resurfaces, Hungary may find it impossible to finance its debt just like Greece and will then have to go back to the IMF. After effectively painting the IMF as the “devil”, how willing do you think they will be to grant favourable terms? Additionally,… Read more »
Pásztor Szilárd
Guest
John T: don’t you think it’s far too early to blame the new government for any of the most serious problems of Hungarian economy? As for GW, it’s evident for me that he is a supporter of the previous, mess-making governments of the past 8 years as he named the most relevant actions of the new government, taken to tackle the most urgent problems created by the previous govts, as the ones having a severely negative effect on the country. About IMF and economic crisis, you have valid points but I think things are simpler than how you paint the picture. The IMF, practically a representative of financial markets, is simply counter-interested in what the Hungarian economy needs. IMF wants austerity measures to be imposed on Hungary in order to draw more profit out of our economy. And we want the exact opposite. There’s no way in the middle: either our way or their way. The IMF wanted to have an influence on the government to an extent way beyond they could have the right to do so for “lending” money. This is not a simplified search for an actual enemy: it’s very obvious that as long as we pay… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Pásztor Szilárd: “Are they deporting people? …… In Hungary it was only the “left” wing that took such anti-democratic actions”
Either Pásztor Szilárd is a Holocaust denier or he is woefully ignorant of what happened in Hungary in 1944, when the Regent, the ruling party, and large sections of local administrative elite colloborated with German occupiers in the deportation of over 438,000 Jews. And given that, I’m not sure why we should take his attempts to deny anyone else making historical parallels remotely seriously.

John T
Guest
Szilárd – Of course Fidesz inherited a mess. But have they really steadied the ship. I think not. The rhetoric ay please the domestic audience, but international, commentators are simply confused by the messages coming from different members of the government. Look at the reaction to Lajos Kósa’s comments in June. And you mention the Hungarian way – if the Hungarian way is to succeed, it will rely almost completely on the global economy picking up. And it is extremely difficult to predict if that happens. With regard to the IMF, I think their remedies are often too harsh, but their rational is to try and get countries to live within their means. What they won’t want to do is lend money if it isn’t going to be used effectively. Would you lend someone money if you knew they might behave recklessly with it? Probably not I would guess. I think you are misunderstanding the role of the IMF here. And do you really think most market analysts are left wing? If you listen to Bloomberg, CNBC or read the FT, most commentators predict Hungary will need IMF help. And if that is the case, don’t you think that after… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@Pásztor Szilárd@
There is a Pavlov-reflex to any criticism of Fidesz policy: either one is a follower of MSZP or even worse one is an enemy of the Hungarian people. See:
http://nol.hu/belfold/20100903-_olvasoi_levelek_
Probably Fidesz and V.O. will soon claim infallibility like the pope. Hungary seems on its way to such a state of affairs with the declaration of national unity in every public office.

Passing Stranger
Guest

“IMF wants austerity measures to be imposed on Hungary in order to draw more profit out of our economy.”
No, at the end of the day what they want is to make sure you can pay back the money you borrowed. Why should the IMF – or European taxpayers – fund Hungarian corruption, a bloated collective sector, wasteful government spending and a ‘flat tax’for the Hungarian rich?
Whether their market oriented analysis of how to run a economy in a time of crisis is a good one is up for debate. However, the Orban government does not present an alternative in its economic plans, because it has no economic plans other than populist sloganeering

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

@Passing Stranger: not true. The new government is taxing the banks and the IMF did everything in its power to prevent that. They wanted the government to raise taxes instead and this is the point where it is completely obvious what interests they are defending.
The Orban government has economic plans, it’s not the government’s fault if you’re not aware of them. It’s funny that you mention wasteful government spending and say the new government doesn’t have economic plans while one of their primary actions was to cut government spending.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest
John T: you seem to think that a few politicians’ not very lucky comments are major showstoppers. But they are not. International commentators may have been puzzled by such comments as the one from Lajos Kósa, but these are luckily transients and it’s actions that matter in the long run. Don’t make the mistake of considering Bloomberg (yuck) or even FT reliable and “independent” sources. They, as almost everything else, are heavily influenced by interests of the financial markets. And most financial markets are not interested in Hungary’s economic growth, they are interested in giving more loans. An independent and strong economy is not something you can easily draw profit from. I’m not saying that all of their comments are garbage, but they are very far from standard-setting sources of information in my eyes. And where were these “respectable” sources when they should have predicted this worldwide financial crisis? I can’t remember… And what you say about debt being increased temporarily by reducing taxes is true, but that’s exactly what the government is making up for by imposing tax on the banking system. They have already done similar things between 1998-2002 and they succeeded, despite what most “international commentators” said,… Read more »
John T
Guest

Szilárd – The IMF had no power to prevent the levy. It merely argued, as did the EU that such a levy might harm growth and investment. I also don’t recall the IMF asking the Government to raise taxes. It has concentrated on asking the government to cut spending to stick to the deficit target.
Of course, the key issue on tax is that far to many Hungarians don’t pay what they should.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Yes, the IMF had no power to prevent the levy and that’s why it’s entering force. That’s our “luck” and this tax is something the previous government would never, never have even thought of. (Because they were serving financial interests too.)
And AFAIK the IMF wanted the govt to raise the local business tax and impose austerity measures on the middle class instead.
That’s what is a no-go with the new government, regardless of what “independent” analysts say.

John T
Guest

Szilárd – I don’t consider them showstoppers, but they are certainly unhelpful and Kósa’s case showed he had no understanding of the market. I was in Hungary at the time and I can’t reprint my cousins comments on him. My cousin voted Fidesz by the way. And if the currency fluctuates as a consequence of his stupidity, how does it help those with Swiss Franc mortgages.
Who says Bloomberg and FT are independent sources. But they can state a position, just like you or I am doing on this blog. But the view they have expressed seems to chime with many others. Ultimately, time will tell who is correct.
I’d be interested in your definition of an independent ecomony but the way, just so I can better understand the point you are making.

John T
Guest

Szilárd – I guess the test will be whether it harms foreign investment coming into Hungarian. Again, time will tell.
There is no point in raising the business tax, when many businesses are fiddling them at the moment. I remember seeing the figures for how many business are making losses and was surprised at just how many were. Makes you wonder how these same business owners are the ones with the large houses and expensive cars. Its this contradiction that means I don’t have much sympathy for the view that “external factors” are to blame for all of the countries economic woes.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

I’m sorry that I couldn’t write a blog yesterday and I couldn’t participate in the lively discussion above. However, my Windows got corrupted and I had to reformat the whole disk. It was no fun and there are still many things to fix. For example, I don’t have any sound for some strange reason.
I have the feeling that there will be no time to write anything today either but I guess some people will outright happy about that. Like Szilard.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

John T: there isn’t really such a thing as an independent economy, I know, but being a debtor slave of an international financial institution that doesn’t hesitate to try to extend far beyond its scope of authority is certainly a no-go for a government that assumes responsibility for its country.
I’m not in the position to assess if companies are fiddling business tax or not. I would think it’s one of the more difficult tax types to evade.
In my eyes the suitable tax system is something of lower tax rates with strict enforcement. And that’s what’s going to happen if said things are to be true.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Eva: I’d be delighted to see more posts if they weren’t so boring and predictive.
But the very uncomplicated and persistent topic of “everyone is a fascist who is not an anti-Hungarian ‘left-liberal'” has been very pointless in the past 20 years.

John T
Guest

“I’d be delighted to see more posts if they weren’t so boring and predictive.
But the very uncomplicated and persistent topic of “everyone is a fascist who is not an anti-Hungarian ‘left-liberal'” has been very pointless in the past 20 years.”
Szilárd – Sorry mate, but what a daft post this is. And you seem to throw the “left liberal” tag around very easily, so I could say you are doing the same as you are accusing the host of doing!
How do you define a left liberal? My political views are a combination of “left” and “right”. No one party would cover everything I believe in. But one thing I’m particularly clear on is that if someone puts themselves forward to be an MP, they should be competent, serve the whole electorate to the best of their ability, be democratic and treat people with dignity and respect. And over the last 20 years, the political “elite” of every Hungarian party has failed abysmally. I think the difference perhaps between our views is that when I see rubbish, I’ll call it rubbish regardless of my political “allegances”.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest
John T: I wasn’t referring to you with the “left-liberal” tag. It’s not really important what this tag by definition means anyway, in Hungary this expression is used for a very characteristic group of people with severe hatred towards every aspect of Hungarian patriotism and everyone and everything related to it. I usually consider myself tolerant and open-minded but I have no tolerance for the aforementioned behavior which has caused so much distress for Hungary in the past 80-90 years. And I honestly believe that those days are finally over, for which I should be (and am) a very happy person in some respect. As for your views on the last 20 years of Hungary, I don’t agree. I see extreme differences between some of our past governments. The first one (Antall) was both good and bad, they were very naive and inexperienced but of good will. the second (Horn) was experienced – but for the wrong direction as old communist comrades have returned to claim again the power they thought they inherently deserve. (In reality it is exactly the opposite: they deserve anything but power.) The third one (first Orban) was by far the best of all in my… Read more »
Sandor
Guest
The actual damage was caused by nationalism and insularity. Also, by the policies you and your fidesz are advocating now: nationalistic rhetoric combined with simpleminded pseudo-actions. The best example of this is the bank tax. The banks are already over-charging their clients. When the tax will hit, they will transfer the burden to the clientele. The banks are in business to make money and if the government would interfere with that they will have to take defensive measures, or go out of business. Since they cannot afford that and since no country can survive without banks, the Orban government will have to learn a bitter lesson in finance before the day is out. The same goes for the IMF. The fidesz scuttled the modest money-saving reforms of the socialists, by the referendum and with the help of the Constitutional Court, but came up with absolutely nothing to compensate the budget. However, they are the government now and their options are woefully limited. One solution would be the loan from the IMF, that would give a bit of room for manoeuvre, but that would be an admission of fumbling. The other option would be an increase of revenues and cutting of… Read more »
Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Sandor: your assumptions are completely wrong in every possible aspect. Nationalism has not done any damage, the banks will not transfer the tax to their clients and the action to refuse the IMF’s claim to impose more austerity on the civilians was a good and necessary move.
Therefore, as you are wrong in every detail, your predictions can’t be any truer.

John T
Guest

Szilárd – How do you know Sandor is wrong? Let us see in 18 months time who is right or wrong – it might be you, it might be him. Who knows how the global economy is going to progress during that time?

Sandor
Guest

Denials will get no results.
All you have to do is waiting a few months.
Together with all the other duped Hungarians, but perhaps a bit slower, you will find out soon enough how wrong I have been.
It doesn’t take a genius to calculate the effects of the damage they are wreaking.
You are paid in the useless currency of false words and you will cry all the way to the bank.

Odin's Lost eye
Guest
Sandor I agree with you. I fear that Fidesz have already set out their position carved on tablets of stone. To me I think they cannot retreat from that position. They have nailed their colours to the mast and I cannot see how the ‘Mighty One’ (Orban Victor) could allow any retreat from that position without huge damage to his own political position and an immense loss of face. You mention ‘fraudsters’, these characters seem to turn up time and time again in recent Hungarian history why? Pásztor Szilárd you write ** “in Hungary this expression is used for a very characteristic group of people with severe hatred towards every aspect of Hungarian patriotism and everyone and everything related to it.” As Dr Johnson remarked, “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. Dr Johnson was an arch Tory (now a conservative). Who decides what ‘Hungarian patriotism is’? Who decides that Mr X’s point of view is non patriotic? What do you do with Mr X? Lock him up? Re-educate him? or (and this is cheaper) just disappear him? Hungary has done all of this before and has allowed others to commit these acts for them. If you do not… Read more »
Pásztor Szilárd
Guest
@Sandor: what you say I could call, with some malice, “wishful thinking”. How cunning, it’s the uncritical supporters of the previous “socialist” governments who now talk about the new govt wrecking everything. I’m not saying you are one of those supporters, but your statements are exactly the same. You say time will show that I’m wrong, but you fail to take into account that it’s not the “socialists” who are governing Hungary now. What you say about banks transferring the tax to the client is wrong already. Why would the financial sector have made so much noise, aided by the IMF, if it were as simple as that? They know they won’t be able to do it. It should need a very idiotic government to tax the banks without ensuring it’s actually the banks who pay the bill. There is a very obvious need to take measures that prevent levy transfer. I know the “socialists”, when judging others, the point of departure is always themselves – but they are wrong again, as always. For example, there is Károly Szász, director of the state supervision of financial institutions (you know, the guy that got beaten up by our socialists for sparking… Read more »
Peter
Guest

Szilard: ” I wasn’t referring to you with the “left-liberal” tag. It’s not really important what this tag by definition means anyway, in Hungary this expression is used for a very characteristic group of people with severe hatred towards every aspect of Hungarian patriotism and everyone and everything related to it.”
Could you define a bit more this “characteristic group” for me.
Thank you in advance.

wpDiscuz